Monday, 22 September 2014

How to make a Date, Carrot & Walnut Cake

It's school holidays here.

My favourite time.

Sleeping past alarms, breakfast at lunchtime and a revolving door of people coming and going.

I like to have a cake baked to offer with coffee when friends drop by.

Yesterday I baked a carrot and walnut cake and although it was delicious it wasn't as moist and fluffy as I would have hoped. I used this recipe.
Although I have to admit that any cake slathered in Cream Cheese frosting has to be a winner to some degree right?

Today I made up my own recipe and unbelievably it worked ( I am a pretty intuitive cook with savoury food but I am not usually as successful with baking- soooo many rules!)

It turned out exactly as I wanted yesterdays attempt to.

So happy.

Even better as it is a one bowl wonder- the BEST kind.

I hope you make it and love it as much as I do!

It will definitely be getting made again.


DATE, CARROT & WALNUT CAKE:
I loved the amount of walnuts in yesterdays cake - they add delicious bite- but it needed extra fluff and moisture and the dates are what provided that.
I also snuck in some shredded coconut for a bit of added texture and bite. 

I am also a big fan of cakes that use olive oil. I only had extra virgin in the pantry - I was worried that the flavour might ruin the cake but there was no hint of it.
A very forgiving cake it seems!

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:


1 cup chopped dates
3 grated carrots
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 eggs
3/4 cup oil
1 cup SR flour
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 tsp Bi carb
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder

150g cream cheese
130g icing sugar
50g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest & juice of a lemon

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 175C.

Place all ingredients in bowl, mix through & place into greased and lined 23cm springform tin.

Place in oven for an hour or until skewer comes out clean.

Let completely cool before spreading cream cheese frosting.(made by mixing icing sugar, cream cheese, butter, vanilla, lemon zest & juice together).


This song is getting a lot of airplay in our kitchen by my big kids at the moment.
Also.....look out for the Pikachu plane- I didn't even know that existed!
HOW AWESOME!!! *faints*

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Family Table: Part : Part 12. CHARLIE GLADSTONE from PEDLARS.



A couple of years ago when I first started writing this blog I thought about what it was that I wanted to share.

It started as a way of me sharing my food knowledge and my passion for preparing real food for our families.

More importantly though I like to think that I give people the confidence to appreciate that the magic that is the Family dining experience is NOT just about the food.


While the food is what draws us to the table it should be considered but ONE of many things that are shared and indeed NOT the most important one.

LOVE to me should always be the single most important ingredient that is shared at our family table. Without LOVE the food and the entire dining experience is just another meal. But with it our souls as well as our tummies are nourished.

It is with this in mind that on Fridays I will be sharing with you my new series- The Family Table- where super special guests share their family dining experiences with us. It is a way of appreciating that there are infinite ways of dining together.
My wish is that every single one of my readers makes The Family Table part of their own family life.


This week I am sharing with you a friend from across the globe.
We share a common love of large families, collecting vintage goodness, laughing & not being too serious, music played on record players, campfires, Land Rovers, and generally seeing the positive side in life.

Charlie Gladstone is the owner of Pedlars, a business he created & runs with his wife Caroline selling Wonderful Stuff for your home- some new, some Vintage. They have an online store and a real life store (Pedlars General Store and Cafe) that you can visit in Notting Hill, London .  They have made a gorgeous family with six children.



They also run a super doop Pub called The Glynne Arms in Wales, that they painstakingly renovated in 2012 as well as their fab award winning shop in Wales, Hawarden Estate Farm shop.
Together they have created a gorgeous brand that centres around celebrating life and love.  They split their life living in the Highlands of Scotland & London and spend Summer in France with their six children and five dogs, all the while travelling around the globe purchasing the fabulous Vintage treasure that is sold weekly via the Pedlars website.
Added to this amazing list of accomplishments is the publication of their very lovely book The Great Outdoors- all about taking the time to put everything down in favour of heading outside and the benefits that this gives all of us. Every family should own a copy!
Phew! AMAZING right?! What lovely people to share all of their great ideas and super stuff with us.  I am so thankful for people like Charlie & Caroline- as they help remind us to see that it is about how valuable it is to take the time to make opportunities for our families and to see the value in celebrating the simple pleasures in life.
This weekend they are hosting their very first Good Life Experience festival. I have loved watching the ever growing line-up of amazing guests. It really is a celebration of their Philosophy on life.
This day long event will be held at their Hawarden Farm Shop in Wales and is all about celebrating Culture, Food and the Great Outdoors- how RAD is that?!
I know it will be an enormous success - I just wish I could be there!
Thank You so very much Charlie for being this weeks guest at my Family Table.
xx

1.) Can you please share a little about how your family shares food?

We are very old-fashioned. We always eat at the table, we lay things up properly, we decorate it as well as we can.  Phones are banned. We always drink wine in the evening, always. Now I think about it, this is fundamental to the way we have brought up the children and developed as a family.

2.) Do you have hard & fast eating rules? 

Other than those above....well, breakfast is quiet and no-one needs to talk. Reading is encouraged at the breakfast table. We always sit down to lunch together in the holidays.

3.) Can you share with us where your cooking influences/inspiration are from?

All over. I tend to imitate pictures I have seen because I lack the patience for following recipe instructions. Caroline, my wife, is the opposite, as is our eldest, Jack; they are much more precise. Having said that, Caroline is an incredibly intuitive and adventurous cook, with a real understanding of flavour, and I am not sure that can be taught by a recipe book.

4.) Do you have a favourite cuisine?

While travelling I have probably enjoyed Vietnamese and Indian food best, but I also love Spanish, Italian and British. French is a bit of an odd cuisine, not really sure what it is anymore. We have been to Morocco- we love the place- many times but I loathe their bloody Tagines- it makes me feel sick just thinking about them.

5.) Can you recall a super special meal or eating experience that has stayed with you forever? 

I always come back to an incredible dinner we had in Bogota. We had just arrived and we were knackered and slightly anxious as Colombia had a reputation for danger back then.  The hotel told us to remove our rings and watches to be safe on the streets. Anyway, we found a restaurant and it was just what we wanted.  We both ate a sort of warm chicken and corn soup with cold avocado and it hit the spot in a way that I will never forget.  I don't know why I will never forget it, but food does that sometimes.

6.) Would you please share the recipe of your favourite family meal with us?

If I am cooking my default would be a campfire in our fields or one of our wood burning ovens.  I would marinade some thin steak in Olive Oil, with loads of Rosemary, masses of Lemon and even more Garlic for a few hours.  Then I'd slap it onto the fire, on a grill, covered in masses more rosemary. When it was cooked, I'd let it rest and then slice it thinly and chick it back into the marinading bowl. With that I'd serve a gently pickled Cucumber Salad made by peeling the cucumber, thinly slicing it and putting it in the fridge for an afternoon smothered in whatever white vinegar I had to hand and some toasted Mustard seeds.  I cooked that the other night on a hot fire and it rocked.


7.) What music would be playing? 
And on the record player I'd have something like Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I'd used to think that early 70's stuff was for smelly old hippies but recently I have been buying loads of second hand vinyls by artists I have heard of but never really listened to, and it's a treat (probably because I am now a smelly old hippy). xx







Monday, 8 September 2014

The Gift of Giving

Did you grow up in an area where when you wandered the local streets there would be bags of citrus fruits out the front of people's houses waiting to be taken by those who needed them?

On the weekend we did a garden clean up.

The last of our building works are very nearly done and so we turn our efforts back to the garden.

As soon as the majority of the renovation was done very late last year I got the veggie beds ready to re-plant & started growing seedlings.

The beds are now filled with  Broccoli, Silverbeet, kale, Cime de Rapa and the now plentifully flowering Broad beans. The beds are looking verdant & plentiful.

As well as the veggies I plant a lot of herbs.

These are almost more important to me.  I use them in all of my cooking.
I can not imagine food without herbs & spices.

In our garden we have Rosemary, Oregano, Italian Parsley, Chives, Sage, Coriander, Tarragon, Thyme & Mint.

Our Rosemary bushes are in full flower and getting enormously BIG.

They needed a good ol' trim back & there was way more than I could possibly use.


I guess the trimmings could have gone in the green waste but I immediately thought to bundle them up & hang them on my fence to gift to those who needed it.

I shared my gesture on Instagram & my Facebook page and the response was phenomenal. It left me thinking. I hadn't thought that much of what I did. I just kind of thought it was a neighbourly thing.
The response made me think that maybe it was really unusual.
I was pleased that I had inspired others to give it a go too. Sharing ideas can be a really cool thing.
A way of giving others the courage to give something a try.

I have always loved giving away produce from my garden.  I always have more than I can use.

The past few weeks I have gifted several Edible Bouquets to friends- for birthdays and just 'because'.

I love giving.  It fills the heart. To see the joy of the recipient. A smile.  A hug. The pleasure of doing something nice for no other reason than that it feels good.  No need for a reason. No hidden agenda. Being good for the sake of being good. Sometimes it's not important to even see the recipient receive- it is just nice to throw a bit of kindness out to the universe and hope it gets caught by someone in need.

I encourage everyone to do it.
Let's all do it together this Spring.
Let's dust off the Winter grumps and leap into spring with the Gift of kindness.

The idea is to Give for no other reason than giving itself.  Maybe you will give something from your garden too or maybe it will be a random act of kindness, a donation to a charity via the Shout for Good app, maybe a cake to a pal who needs some sweetness, or a dinner for a family in need of a bit of support, or a letter to tell someone they are ace, or perhaps a note to a friend, or even just a hug- hugs are best!

Let's all dive in and give the gift of kindness this Spring.


I never tire of listening to Kurt......


Friday, 15 August 2014

The Family Table: Part 11. STEPHANIE ALEXANDER


A couple of years ago when I first started writing this blog I thought about what it was that I wanted to share.

It started as a way of me sharing my food knowledge and my passion for preparing real food for our families.

More importantly though I like to think that I give people the confidence to appreciate that the magic that is the Family dining experience is NOT just about the food.


While the food is what draws us to the table it should be considered but ONE of many things that are shared and indeed NOT the most important one.

LOVE to me should always be the single most important ingredient that is shared at our family table. Without LOVE the food and the entire dining experience is just another meal. But with it our souls as well as our tummies are nourished.

It is with this in mind that on Fridays I will be sharing with you my new series- The Family Table- where super special guests share their family dining experiences with us. It is a way of appreciating that there are infinite ways of dining together.
My wish is that every single one of my readers makes The Family Table part of their own family life.


This week I am INCREDIBLY excited to share with you a cook I have long admired.
You probably have too!
She was a pioneer for real food before it became a 'thing' and finds herself in almost every Australian kitchen (including mine) with the book that I think is arguably THE most practically useful cookbook ever published - 'The Cooks Companion', which she recently transferred into a digital app form (you can read about the app here).

It's none other than STEPHANIE ALEXANDER!

Continuing her online presence, this week Stephanie launched her latest project, her new website, stephaniealexander.com.au.
It is exciting for me to see Stephanie making this transition from paper books to reach a whole new group of cooks via her online publications.
For me - the more people we can encourage to cook real food from scratch is a thing worth celebrating.
Her work with children in her Kitchen Garden Foundation is something that each and every Australian should be pleased to have in place. Thousands of children are gaining an understanding of where food comes from and learning the skills necessary to be able to transform garden produce into nutritious & delicious meals in Primary Schools around Australia. This kind of groundbreaking work gives access to skills that can possibly transform the health and wellbeing of our future generation. I am so thankful for her efforts in this area. 

Stephanie and I follow each other on Instagram where I love to see a little glimpse into her kitchen and travel adventures.
You can follow her too by clicking over here.  

I thank Stephanie so very much for being a guest in my series of The Family Table.

1.) Can you please share a little about how your family shares food? 
These days my girls lead independent lives but we regularly meet up for family dinners. Always sit down with properly-set table (water, bread, wine, butter, olive oil,  salt/pepper) and cloth napkins – never paper (hang the washing and ironing). Most often at my place. I plan a meal that means I sit and talk and listen, not fuss in kitchen. Slow-cooked casserole, pie, baked fish, salad washed and dried rolled in a towel at the ready, often a vegetable gratin or else quickly blanched greens of some sort. Priority is talk and exchange of news, and a good time. 

2.) Do you have hard & fast eating rules?
I permit a good stack of the dishwasher but no washing-up done by others. Assistance with dishing-up when necessary but prefer dishes to centre of table. Always a moment to admire, respect and comment on the dish before tucking in.

3.) Can you share with us where your cooking influences/inspiration are from?
The Mediterranean most often, especially France and Italy. Have travelled in these regions a lot. Been to a lot of markets. Love olive oil but also love butter. Love vegetables and salad and good sourdough, less keen on munching through too many grains.

4.) Do you have a favourite cuisine?
As above. Provence, Puglia, simply cooked seafood and shellfish either as done on Atlantic coast in france, or in Andalucia in Spain, or anywhere really where seafood is fresh. I love Asian dishes when others cook them for me. Don't cook them myself.

5.) Can you recall a super special meal or eating experience that has stayed with you forever?
So many. Warm nights, bare legs, roasted lobster and herb butter. 

A freezing night recently at Rosetta in melbourne and a stunning entrĂ©e of grilled seafood that included calamari, octopus and scampi. 

6.) Would you please share the recipe of your favourite family meal with us?
Can you beat a perfectly cooked lemon delicious pudding? Looks spectacular, is so easy to cook and quietly cooks itself whilst you are enjoying the earlier part of the meal. 

Readers can find the recipe on my new website here: http://www.stephaniealexander.com.au/what-to-cook/recipes/lemon-delicious-pudding/ 

7.) What music would be playing? 
No music at dinner – just conversation!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Hearty Beef Cottage Pie topped with Buttery Mash

Sometimes life serves you up a big warm hug just when you need it doesn't it?

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend Craft Victoria's Craft & Design as a Career conference at Fed Square.

I caught up with ace sorts and was surrounded by amazing creative people.

It filled me to the brim.
I'd had a tough time as I talked about in my previous post and this was just the sort of pick-me-up I needed.

One of the things I am SOOOOOO excited about after yesterday is attending the Lost Trades Fair in Kyneton next year. Have you heard of it? Maybe you have!
I hadn't until yesterday but now I am super happy to have found out about it. Hoorah.

The Lost Trades Fair is an event celebrating the trades that are at risk of dying out.
Old school magnificence.
Creative arts that are functional yet exquisitely beautiful in their forms.
I hadn't heard of this before but it is RIGHT up my family's alley.
Already Lisa and Glen have gathered 80 people to share their skills. I can't wait!

Listening to the passion with which all of the speakers shared their stories was soul filling.
There are so many GOOD people out there doing great things.
Plugging away at their thing unheralded.
So good at what they do, yet so many of them unheard of.

There was a common thread amongst the speakers of getting to their creative success via a wonky path. Life doesn't take us on straight paths very often. But every bit of the wonky is an integral part in the puzzle. None of us would be the whole that we are without all the other bits we gathered on our wonky ways.

Going to an event like this is a great reminder that there is so much unseen good going on around us at any one time.
And yet we tend to hear only of the bad.

I'm really grateful to Craft Victoria and in particular to Gemma Jones for such an inspiring event.

HEARTY BEEF COTTAGE PIE WITH BUTTERY MASH:
For some reason yesterday I was craving a Cottage pie.
I had a little of my latest delivery of Naomi's amazing butter left & some gravy beef  from Warialda.
Cottage pie usually uses Mince but I think it is better with large pieces. Gravy beef is the perfect cut as when cooked slowly it becomes soft and unctuous.

This recipe is so so simple but tasted absolutely incredible. A testament to the fact that food can be a simple as simple can be but if you use amazing produce it will take it to a whole other level.
Total comfort food.

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

  • 1kg gravy beef, cut into large chunks
  • oil
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 4 carrots, peeled chopped roughly 
  • 1/2 bunch italian parsley chopped roughly
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcesteshire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • S & P
  • 6 large potatoes
  • 100g butter ( i told you it was buttery mash!)
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
METHOD:
Heat a large non-stick pan to medium high. Add oil and pan & fry the gravy beef in small batches so as to brown and seal. Remove and set aside.
Add onion and fry till onion translucent.
Add garlic and fry for a minute or two. Add bay leaves, parlsey & carrot. Now add the flour and pop the beef back in the pan.
Stir well to coat.

Add Worcesteshire & Tomato paste. Stir and cook for a minute or two.
Add beef stock and S & P.
Bring to boil and immediately reduce heat to low.
Cover well and cook for 2 hours. ( you could do this in the oven - temp 170C).


Meanwhile peel & chop spuds into large chunks.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add potatoes.
Cook till soft.
Drain and mash lightly.
Now add the butter and mash until as smooth as possible (I do it this way as the butter melts well into the hot potatoes).

Add milk and almost use your masher to almost whisk the mash- this is how I get my mash super light and fluffy.

Heat the oven to 170C.

Add the cooked beef to an ovenproof casserole dish. Top with mashed potato and place into the oven until brown (about 20mins).

Serve piping hot.
Let's listen to this shall we?
My big two have been playing it loud at my place this week.
I reckon I was exactly their age when my mum listened to it about eleventy bazillion times as I played it our house too.
Some good things never change........