Monday, July 30, 2012


I've long been a fan of ginger. I enjoy it in just about any form - pickled, crystallised, in its beer or ale variety or ground up and baked in cakes. Up until recently I had a pretty cast iron stomach when it came to motion sickness but apparently it's good for that too and for nausea, something patients undergoing chemotherapy can benefit from. That's why I take it to my Dad. Coated in dark chocolate or crystallized, its a small something I can do to help in the face of big uncertainty.

Sometimes when the ground shifts underneath with the disorientation that illness can bring the best path to tread is a familiar one. It requires less cautious navigation and a sense of firmer footing. I think this is why despite owning so many cook books I tend to turn to the same few again and again:
Homecooked: Favourite recipes from Australian kitchens
The Australian Women's Weekly Classic Cakes
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Leftover Makeovers by Sally Wise

Reading and cooking from these books is like meeting up with old friends. They might not be the most gourmet or fancy of tomes but there's something in each of them that speaks to me when I wander into the kitchen and think about turning on the oven and creating something comforting or nourishing.

Writing this now I just realised, they were all given to me as gifts (by a former boss, a childhood friend, Kristian and his sister respectively) which makes them even more special.

In search of the reassurance that familiar things can bring, I thought for this month's cooking club challenge - a dish from your current favourite recipe book - what better than ginger cake from a well loved cake book.

Ginger Cake with Caramel Icing
Adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly Classic Cakes

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 cups self-raising wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 Tbs ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
250g butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (or half a cup yogurt, half a cup milk)
1/2 cup golden syrup

Caramel icing
60g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbs milk
3/4 cup icing sugar

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced and grease a square cake tin.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add in all your remaining ingredients and beat with an electric mixer or wooden spoon until well combined. If using a mixer, crank up the speed and beat the mixture for an additional few minutes or until it is smooth and pale.

Pour the mixture into your pan and bake for approximately 1 1/4 hours. Stand the cake in your pan for about ten minutes and then cool on a rack.

Meanwhile make your caramel icing by stirring butter, brown sugar and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and simmer stirring for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in sifted icing sugar. Spread over the cooled cake and cut into slices or squares. Share with loved ones.

To see what wonderful things the other cooking club members cooked up this month, check out the links below:
Lucent Imagery (cooking club host)
Down by the Sea
Anything Squirrel Squirrel
Chi Garden
Under Lock and Key  


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

a few degrees

In search of a few degrees extra warmth and some down time we recently headed up north to the Gold Coast for a few days. It was a funny trip.

The weather held out its end of the bargain and was sunny and mostly warm enough for t-shirts and shorts to both make an appearance. We also enjoyed some pretty great food and an apartment with a glorious view of the sky and the sea.

And then... we both got head colds, Kristian suffered a minor foot injury, I cricked my back and managed to fulfill one of my most feared experiences by spectacularly throwing up on a crowded bus coming back from Dreamworld. Not my finest hour let me tell you. I now know that multiple roller coaster rides (including the horror inducing kiddie-spinning-boat-thing that goes around and upside down) coupled with painkillers and egg salad sandwiches do not mix. Even writing that sentence is making me feel nauseous.

On the plus side there was plenty of relaxing and down time. We walked on the beautiful but also slightly apocalyptic looking beach up to Surfer's Paradise, got some quality vitamin D action and even caught up on some classic episodes of Cheers and Family Ties. Good times indeed.  Oh and we made some awesome food - burgers, epic breakfasts, bacon sandwiches, tacos, banana desserts. I also managed to fly through the 5 novellas of Wool, which were utterly mind-blowing.

Now begins holiday recovery mode. Roll on vegetables, vegetables and copious amounts of health.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

dancing with cake

A few weeks ago I put on a leotard, tights and shoes and fronted up to the first ballet class I've been to since I was a teenager. I was nervous as hell but to my surprise and delight I actually enjoyed myself. I was not the most uncoordinated person there nor the tallest, oldest or curviest (all worries I had entertained beforehand) and I was surprised to find that I still remembered some of the moves and dance step names, including the tasty sounding fondu which, rather aptly, describes a lowering of the body by bending the knee of the supporting leg and sliding the other leg along the floor.

There is something to be said for seeing your body in figure hugging gear in a massive mirror a few times a week and I have been a bit more conscious of eating my greens and standing up straight since starting the classes... but I have to admit that I crumbled last week and ate a rather large amount of carrot cake. Lydia, my whippet thin ballet teacher, would not be thrilled.

I haven't eaten or made carrot cake in a really long time, not as long as I haven't done ballet, but still quite a while. Carrot cake seems like one of those overlooked classic cakes, not as popular as chocolate, not as straightforward as lemon or banana, and much like with ballet I can't remember why I personally left it so long in between takes.

So last Saturday afternoon, tired after doing hilariously bad pirouettes all morning and feeling like baking something, I realised I had a few carrots in the fridge and the idea was born. The marvellous thing was that I even had a good reason to bake as we were having Kristian's sister, brother-in-law and niece over for lunch the following day.

Unlike say a plié or a rond de jambe, you can bend the rules a bit when it comes to making carrot cake - there is no right way to do it. By which I mean that if you want to add sultanas or walnuts or leave nuts out entirely go right on ahead. It's your cake after all. I went with the sultanas no nuts option for mine to make it niece friendly.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Women's Weekly Classic Cakes

For the cake
olive oil, to grease
3 medium carrots, grated
1/2 cup sultanas
1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1/2 cup golden syrup
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the icing
175g cream cheese, softened
100g butter, softened
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease well a 20cm round cake.
Peel and grate the carrots and set aside.

In a large bowl sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. In a separate bowl combine the brown sugar, oil, golden syrup, eggs and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Stir through the grated carrot and sultanas.

Pour the mixture into your pan and bake for 1 hour. It should be looking nice and brown on top and a skewer should come out relatively clean. Set aside for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, place the softened cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl. Use a wooden spoon to mix until well combined. Spread the icing over the cool cake. Cut into generous wedges and serve to your guests with a hearty cup of tea.

Kristian's little niece burnt off her cake running up and down our stairs all afternoon having a wonderful time. As for me, I think I'll be doing some more penance at the barre.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

a week of breakfasts

There is something to be said for seeing the passage of time in food. You get glimpses of your own patterns and behaviour, something that has a tendency to slip past in the normal course of the week. Looking through my camera recently was an interesting insight into what I've been preparing for breakfast.

I realised after my last post just how many avocado toasts I've been having for a start and I also noticed a certain proclivity for extravagant weekend breakfasts. Not that this is representative of a typical week in our household. I don't usually make a habit of feasting on cake or pie for breakfast (although when I do it is magnificent). 

The Banoffee Pie was courtesy of our lovely friend Bec, who had made it for a games night we hosted recently. There was some leftover and on Sunday morning, bleary-eyed and a little tired after a late night of games related hilarity I opened the fridge and thought 'Yes, that pie is going to be breakfast.'