Throes of Winter | Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

The last few weekends have been pure Bri-bliss. Grey, cloudy, rainy, general miserable weather. Monday’s small talk around the coffee machine end in my gleeful recounting my weekend tales – ‘I didn’t leave the house once‘ – and then my colleagues looking at me like I’m mildly crazy and back away slowly.

You see, that is my heaven. In the throes of winter (as much of one as we get in our fair city), you bet your ass I’m going to build a nest on my couch, read books and drink more cups of tea than recommended.

I was struck with idea lightning on one of these weekends – all the tea I was drinking needed a side of cake to go with it. The idea came to me fully formed: I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen (it was a really good book I was reading), I wanted the lightness of ricotta, nothing too sweet, but maximum Wintry spice flavour. And so, this came to be.

This is one of those perfect cakes that you serve up for a friend who’s come over for coffee and a catch up. Then, once they’ve gone home, it just sits on the kitchen bench, and every time you walk past, you cut off a sliver to munch on as you go about your business. Sliver by delicious sliver, the cake won’t last the weekend!

Spiced Strawberry Ricotta Cake

Adapted from Bon Appetit

1½ cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1½ cups ricotta
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cardamom
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
57g unsalted butter, melted
1 cup strawberries (or any berries, fresh or frozen), halved of large
Icing sugar, to dust.

Preheat oven to 180°c. Grease a springform cake pan with butter or oil, and line the bottom with baking paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl.

IMG_3160

In a medium sized bowl, beat together the eggs, ricotta, and vanilla until smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the butter, and again fold to combine.

Pour the batter into the cake pan, and then poke the strawberries evenly into the mixture.

IMG_3161

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. When ready to serve, dust with icing sugar.

IMG_3166

IMG_3168

Advertisements

Hand Made Heaven | Salted Caramel Apple Crumble

I have a lot of cook books. Like, a lot. I’ve just realised that, of the bookshelf that is entirely dedicated to cook books, it’s full. I have come to the conclusion that I can never ever move from my current house, because moving the books is just too damn hard.

Whether you have overflowing selves like me, or no shelves, or you just want a book that covers all your day-to-day baking needs, get your hands on this. Hand Made Baking is an instant classic, and will be your go-to bible for years to come. Everything is practical, within reach of beginners, but with enough finesse to please a more seasoned baker. His tag line of simple, sophisticated, delicious is just about the perfect description for every recipe.

And Kamran? He writes over at The Sophisticated Gourmet, a gorgeous blog that I’ve been following for a little while now. Oh, and he’s 22. That’s right, TWENTY BLOODY TWO. To be so good, so young, Kamran quite simply had to be born to this. And we are all the better for it.

The forecast for Perth this weekend is pretty monstrous – storms, wind, rain, and cold, AKA Bri’s dream weather, on the proviso I can spend it in bed with books and movies. And probably a bowl of this, because why wouldn’t you? 

This apple crumble is perfect all on its own, but I couldn’t help but add lashings of salted butter caramel that I had tucked away in the fridge. There are few recipes that I make more than once, but I made this every weekend for a month, for the guys at work, for Rob, for friends at a party, because there is no one who won’t love this recipe.

P.S. Kamran’s tip of using half sweet apples and half tart is the perfect way of getting a balanced, not overly sweet crumble. Genius.

Salted Caramel Apple Crumble

Adapted from Hand Made Baking by Kamran Siddiqi

2 tsp lemon juice
6 apples, cored and thinly sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup caramel sauce (store bought is fine, or something like this)

120g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
85g cold unsalted butter, chopped
150g traditional oats
70g brown sugar

Heat your oven to 200*C. Spray a brownie pan with oil, or grease with butter.

Combine the sliced apples in a large bowl with the lemon juice. Combine the sugar, salt and cinnamon, then add to the apples and carefully stir to coat. Pour into the baking dish, scatter tablespoons of caramel over the apples.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl large enough to get your hands into. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the oats and combine.

IMG_4145

Cover the apples with the crumble, then bake for 20-25 minutes until the crumble is golden. Serve with custard or ice cream

 
IMG_4150

Head & Heart | February

So, we’re back to Head & Heart. Check out what everyone else is up to over at Helarious, and join in!

 

What I’ve been grateful for:

Support. Last week was one of those weeks. It was manic busy, incredibly stressful, and just hard. Find your tribe. They make your world better.

 The person who’s responsible for this. It’s my new standard for mind blowing adorable.

The person who sent me this, because this is pretty much going to happen, and he doesn’t find that weird about me.

Grown up

 

What I’ve been thinking about:

Doughnuts. Because, always doughnuts. What would be your dream flavour?

Love this post (and all of her work) by Elise from I Fucking Love Science to celebrate the really cool discoveries by women in science that you probably didn’t know anything about. Fuck yeah!

IMG_3815

What I’m excited for:

RAIN. Please, please, please, please, please, rain.

Stationery. I was given some gorgeous stuff by Kelsie from K Gets Organised, and I’m pretty sure she’s unleashed my inner monster. I need pads! books! pens!

The new Avengers movie. I’m a massive nut for Marvel, and I’m pretty sure 100 of these views are from me alone. 7 weeks to go!

The Good Food Month Night Noodle Market. Photos from the events over East flood my Instagram when it’s on, and my jealousy knows no bounds. I’m pretty keen to see what the guys from Lucky Chan’s can do in the lead up to their opening, as well as stuffing my face with Low Key Chow House’s mantou buns (which is the best thing on their menu). It runs from 18-29 March, from 5pm on weekdays and 4pm on weekends, in the Perth Cultural Centre (around the Library and Art Gallery). The event is free, and dishes cost less than $14. Woooo!

IMG_3594

New Openings:

  • Max + Sons
    The gorgeous, light-filled coffee shop that is just what 140 William needed! They serve 5 Senses coffee (using a gorgeous Synesso machine) and doughnuts by my dough-bros at Top Dup.
  •  Asado
    I attended their launch recently, and was impressed by their beautiful space, the quality of their meat (I tend to walk into barbecue joints with slightly low expectations, because it’s hard to get right) and the lovely attitude of their staff. I haven’t had a chance to get back, but I assure you, it’s on the cards.
  • The Old Laundry
    A new haunt on Angove Street. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’ve heard lovely things from multiple sources.
  •  Sauma
    A pretty gorgeous Indian restaurant on the corner of William and Francis Streets (next to Lot 20), Sauma is a welcome addition to one of my favorite strips. I hear the servings are veeeery generous, so take a group to get a good taste of the menu.
  • The Modern Eatery
    Some seriously fancy looking Japanese has come to Freo. Check out Miss Eats a Lot for her review.

IMG_3708

What I’ve been doing:

The recent long weekend saw me down south (I’m sticking to my promise of more time out), which was amazing as always. Vasse Felix. Morries Anytime. UGH, FANTASTIC. From here on in, I’m putting miso butter on everything.

IMG_3714

I finally won my office bake-off. I’ve been competing against Alex from Little Red’s Cupcakes for 3 years, and at long last, I am triumphant. My savoury dish kinda sucked, but panna cotta lamingtons saved the day! You can get the recipe here, and it’s bloody fantastic. It’s not hard at all, you just have to be organised.

My new day job has a more political skew, and has introduced me to my new addiction: Parliamentary Question Time. It’s like your favourite reality TV soap opera. I love it. There’s yelling and petty name calling and it’s amazing.

I’m only 1 million years too late, but The West Wing. I love you, CJ. And Rob Lowe.

IMG_3819

 What I’ve been reading:

The Obsession issue of Lucky Peach. This piece on making gnocchi is a beautiful read.

I’ve got my hands on copies of Bad Feminist and Trigger Warning. I’m going to build a pillow fort and hide for a couple of days while I devour them.

This post from my friend Michelle at Foodie Cravings.

 IMG_3730

 

What I’ve been spending money on:

Of course, I came home from my weekend down south laden with goodies from Providore, the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, Bahen and Co and Olio Bello.

Flowers from Debra Hayes Floral.

IMG_3801

I swear, I start nesting in the lead up to winter. I’m all about homewares right now. Blankets! Pillows! Vases! A Cup of Chic is responsible for most of my current lust list.

More Cards Against Humanity (I bought booster packs), because I love this game. From Planet Books, if you’re looking.

 

Tell me about your month. What’s news?

The French. Is there anything the can’t do?

Is it any wonder that the rest of the world is in love with the French?

They own the term champagne. If you put ‘French’ in front of a product description, you can charge 700% for it (French butter? TAKE MY MONEY). Their accent is the stuff of dreams/fantasies. They don’t diet or need face-lifts (apparently), their children simultaneously eat everything and nothing (how else do you stay skinny?!), and if you believe the internet, French women basically invented style. Look, I may have to conceded that last point, I do own at least six Breton striped tops. That’s normal, right?

If none of that impresses you, the French are also responsible for the framework of modern cooking, so, you know, there’s that. I’m not going to lie to you, traditional French cooking isn’t something I know a hell of a lot about. It’s never been my scene, though I respectfully acknowledge its contribution to food.

However, when you live with someone who is all about all things Paris and it is their birthday (Happy birthday Lou!), you shut up and pull out Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Soupe à l’Oignon is a pretty excellent entry into French cooking. The recipe for French Onion soup is relatively effortless, but is still chic enough to serve at a dinner party. Impressionnant, non?

My advice to you, is this: as always with recipes with so few ingredients, the strength of your dish depends on the quality of those ingredients. Buy the best you can afford. and you can’t go wrong.
I also advise you to get your hands on a mandolin, because it will take you forever to thinly slice all those onions without one, unless you’re a pro with impeccable knife skills. They’re a pretty cheap bit of kit, and worth having in the cupboard for times like these. Make sure you buy one with a safety guard!

Also, even with a mandolin, I cried the whole time. Stupid onions.

20140708-214222-78142705.jpg

 

Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

From Smitten Kitchen

680 grams thinly sliced yellow onions (I sliced up 6 large onions)
42 grams unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons plain flour
8 cups or 2 litres beef stock
1/2 cup (118 ml) dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cognac or brandy (optional)

To finish (Optional)
1 to 2 cups grated cheese (I used Gruyere)
Thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard (2/3 toasts per person)

 

In a large, heavy based saucepan, melt the oil and butter together over low heat. Add the sliced onions and gently stir until coated in oil. Put the lid on the pot, and allow to gently cook for 15 minutes.

20140708-214221-78141182.jpg

Once this is done, ditch the lid, stir in the sugar and salt and raise the temperature ever so slightly. For the next 40 minutes, stir the onions frequently until they are a deep golden brown. This caramelisation process builds the soup’s flavour, so make sure you take care!

Once the onions are golden, add the flour and continue to stir for 3 minutes. Add the wine to the pot and scrape any delicious brown bits from the bottom. Add the first litre for stock, a little bit at a time, continuing to stir. Then add the second, and season with salt and pepper. If you’re adding the cheese later, go easy on the salt – it’s easier to add more at the end, but you can’t make it less salty if you add too much now! Add in the brandy or cognac and stir.

To finish, cover the toasted French rounds with Gruyere, and grill until golden and bubbly. Stir any leftover cheese into the soup, taste and season accordingly. Divide soup between bowls, and serve with toasts.

20140708-214223-78143964.jpg

 

Idle hands and duck ragu

According to Bunnings commercials, long weekends are the perfect time to get things done around the house. I wholeheartedly agree, if by ‘get things done’, you mean ‘take a nap every day, eat cupcakes and watch a whole season of Grey’s Anatomy’. That’s how these things work, right?

With a very busy week under my belt and a flu-ravaged boyfriend, a quiet weekend was in order. Except it turns out, there’s only so much nothing you can do. After two solid days of couch time and the relentless screams of whoever it was Blair was killing in Battlefield 4, I went a little stir-crazy. Kitchen therapy was the only way to go – obviously – and I wanted something worthy. I wanted something special. 

The deal was sealed having never cooked with duck, and knowing the result was going to be rich and comforting. Fear not, the recipe is still easy, you’re just slow cooking meat. There’s no real technique required (oh god, I have to stop watching MasterChef); and if cutting up a duck is out of your range, use one duck breast per person, which is totally what I did. Because, who has two thumbs up and didn’t know that you can’t just buy a whole duck on a public holiday Monday? This chick.

What are you loving now that the winter weather has kicked in? Do you have a favourite recipe for when you’ve got some time up your sleeve?

Duck Ragu

From Taste Magazine

1.8kg duck
100g diced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 dried bay leaves
250ml pinot noir
2x 400g diced tomatoes
250ml chicken stock
3 rosemary sprigs
1/4 tsp Chinese five spice powder
110g pitted green olives, chopped
Cooked pappardelle pasta, to serve
Shredded parmesan, to serve

 

Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut along both sides of the duck’s backbone, and discard. Quarter the duck, and season with salt. In a flame and oven proof dish, cook the duck in batches, skin side down over high heat until golden, around five minutes. Turn and cook for a further 2 minutes, then transfer to a place.

20140606-184507-67507093.jpg

Heat the oven to 130*C. Cook the pancetta, onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaves for 8 minutes or until soft, stirring occasionally.

20140606-184529-67529011.jpg

Add the wine and stir, scraping and brown bits from the bottom.  Add the duck, tomato, stock, rosemary and Chinese five spice. Cover, place in the oven and bake for 2 – 3 hours or until the duck is tender.

20140606-184511-67511465.jpg

Once cooked, remove the duck and set aside on a plate. Simmer the liquid over medium heat for 20 minutes or until thickened and reduced by a third. Carefully remove and discard the duck bones. Shred the meat and return to the sauce with the olives. Season to taste. Serve with pasta and parmesan.

20140606-184510-67510415.jpg

The cure to all your problems

It took no more than 3 days after Perth’s cold weather kicked in for one of my housemates to come down ill.

The Plauge Man-flu is as merciless as it is swift and incapacitating. The sniffles and aches, headaches and sneezing; it’s truly a wonder that health organisations don’t take it more seriously. There is, of course, only one known cure for man-flu – the magic of chicken soup.

Now, before you tell me that’s an old wives’ tale, science has my back (thanks, science!) on this one. With its anti-inflammatory properties and congestion clearing super-powers, getting a big bowl of this into your belly is probably the best life choice you can make when curled up on the couch with a box of Kleenex and 6 seasons of Sons of Anarchy.

I loved this recipe because it’s packed with vegetables for nutrition, pasta to fill you up, and plenty of juicy chicken, which is everyone’s favourite part. The stock base for the soup can even be made in advance and frozen if you’re a little short on time.

So, as soon as man-flu kicked in, a pot of this went on the stove, because there’s nothing in this world that is more comforting than this soup. Promise.

 

Chicken Noodle Soup

Adapted from Jamie Oliver

4 carrot
4 sticks celery
3 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
sea salt
4 whole peppercorns
1 free range chicken (see note)
1 large knob butter
olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
200g fresh egg pasta
200g baby spinach
1 lemon

 

Roughly chop 2 carrots and celery sticks, then add to a large pot over medium heat with the chicken carcass, 2 diced onions, bay leaves, peppercorns and a big pinch of salt. Cover the chicken completely with water – roughly 1.5 litres. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.

 

20140516-211634.jpg

While the stock simmers, dice the remaining carrots and celery into even pieces. In another large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat; add the garlic, remaining onion and parsley and gently cook until soft but not brown. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes.

When the stock is done, remove the chicken and shred the meat, setting it aside. Discard the carcass. Strain the stock, reserving the liquid and discarding the vegetables.

Add the stock to your second pot. Bring the soup base to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add the egg pasta, baby spinach and shredded chicken and simmer for a further couple of minutes until the pasta is cooked. Remove from heat, add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with a really good piece of sourdough slathered in butter. Seriously.

 

20140516-211700.jpg

 

 

NOTE:
So, in terms of the chicken you use, you can go two ways.
1) If you use a whole, raw chicken, you can break it down into parts following a video like this one. Breaking it down makes the chicken easier to handle once it’s cooked.
2) If raw chicken freaks you out, you can simply use a roasted chicken from the supermarket. Pull roughly 2/3 of the meat off the bones, shred it, then leave it in the fridge until a few minutes before serving – stir it though and simmer for a couple of minutes to warm it up. Add the carcass and remaining meat to make the stock in the first step.

Dinner in a brisket

I’m going through a phase. We all go through them. Sometimes it’s a black lipstick and creeper shoes-wearing thing. Or bad boys with leather jackets and motorbikes. Scuba diving. Knitting. Dance classes, because you marathoned all of the Step Up movies in a weekend, and you can totally do that.

At the moment, I’m obsessed with Jewish cook books. The transition into winter is probably the catalyst, following on from all the Lent-inspired recipes. Jewish cooking looks so comforting. If any kind of food felt like a warm hug, it’s definitely this. A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Monday Morning Cooking Club: The Feast Goes on. I liked it so much, I immediately picked up their other book. We’re going to come back and talk about this another day, but the important thing to note is: brisket. These books love brisket. I was immediately inspired.

Brisket, if you’ve never come across it before, is cut from the breast or lower chest of beef or veal. It’s a tough piece of meat which benefits from some super slow cooking to render it tender and melty. I picked mine up from the magical team at Gingin Beef at the Subi Farmers Markets. Ask your local butcher for it, because you won’t find it at Coles or Woolies.

Diagram-Of-Cuts-Of-Beef

Now I know what you’re thinking. This looks like a lot of work. I mean, brisket sounds fancy and complicated. But fear not! It’s incredibly simple, I promise. Would I lie to you?

The barbecue sauce is made up from stuff that you’ve probably got in your pantry. The spice rub is super easy to throw together, but if you’ve got a pre-made rub in the back of the cupboard, feel free to use it. Mac and cheese can be thrown together is 10 minutes. The recipe can even be doubled, or tripled, and divided up and frozen for future can’t-be-assed-cooking nights – and with the impending cold weather, we all know there are plenty of those comin’.

Now. The recipe that follows serves 6-8 people, so feel free to halve it all. The piece of brisket I used was 900g, which was a touch small for 4 people, so maybe aim for 1.2kg for 4 people.

Beef Brisket and Mac and Cheese

From Daily Life

Beef Brisket

A piece of brisket, about 5kg

Barbecue Sauce
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
500ml tomato sauce
100ml Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp malt vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp chopped thyme
Spice Rub
2 tbsp each chilli powder and mustard powder
1 tbsp each paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, ground black pepper, castor sugar
1 bay leaf, crushed

To make the barbecue sauce, cook the onion and garlic in the oil, in a large fan over medium heat. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and blend with a food processor to form a smooth puree.

20140430-165451.jpg
Heat the oven to 150*c. Mix all of the spice rub ingredients together with a good pinch of salt, then rub all over the brisket.

20140430-165635.jpg

Add the sauce and two cups of water to a roasting tray, pop in the brisket, then cover tightly with baking paper and then foil. Place in the oven and roast for at least 4 hours (maybe 5 if it’s a big piece), until it’s fork-tender.

20140430-165510.jpg
Once it’s done in the oven, grill the brisket in a hot frypan for a couple of minutes each side, until lightly charred. Cut into thick slices and serve.

 

Mac and Cheese

500g macaroni
olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
4 rashers streaky bacon, diced
600ml cream
150g grated aged cheddar
350g grated gruyere
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp seeded Dijon mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
100g  breadcrumbs

Place the pasta in a large pot boiling salted water, and cook according to packet instructions until al-dente. Drain well and set aside.

20140430-165500.jpg
Heat some oil in a saucepan over medium heat, then cool the onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon is golden. Remove from the pan and leave to drain on a paper towel. Return the pan to high heat and add the cream, brining to a boil. Lower the heat and add the garlic, mustard, paprika and cheese.

20140430-165641.jpg

Simmer for 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and sauce thickens. Return the onion and bacon to the pan and season with salt and pepper.
In a large baking dish, add the pasta and sauce, stir until the pasta is coated, then top with the breadcrumbs and parsley. If you’re prepping the mac and cheese in advance, refrigerate until the brisket comes out of the oven, turn up the heat to 200* and cook until warmed through, 15 to 20 minutes.

20140430-165534.jpg

In the interest of your arteries, serve with some kind of token salad. It definitely cancels out.