Archives for the month of: July, 2013

I read a lot of recipes, everyday on blogs, in the newspaper, magazines, websites. Some recipes cement themselves in my conscious, a bookmark so clear and vivid I have no need for an electronic or paper page marker. Sometimes I think there must be a part of my brain solely charged with storing food information. Like a niggle to not forget a dentist appointment or to pay a bill or return a library book, I have a niggle to not forget about this bread I just read about, or to remember a recipe for olive oil cake while Perrin still has a 20 litre container of his family’s press under his kitchen table.

red wine red wineciambelline al vino

Most recently I read about a biscuit, simple and straightforward enough on paper, five main ingredients, made mostly by hand in one bowl – the ease is appealing. But I only realised this as I made them; they first caught my attention with this summary – biscuits made with wine for dipping in wine! That was all I needed to know.

red reflectionsred wine days

And really, that’s all you need to know too. There is no story here, although I did start a draft post on a rather overwrought, melodramatic note about earthquakes and high winds and rumbling ground and beautiful Italian biscuits for dunking in wine. But in a bid to keep things real, I’ll focus on the biscuits.

swirly doughrolling and pinching dough

They look delicate but are hardy. They can withstand a good dunking and being carted about town in containers. They are sugar crusted and look like doughnuts with dark, caramelised bottoms and just blushed tops. They contain generous sprinkles of fennel seeds adding the sweet-savoury lilt of aniseed. When they bake, and this is my favourite part, the kitchen smells like baking bread, a yeasty, oily focaccia perhaps. Even after they have cooled, a biscuit brought to your mouth will still smell of yeast and grassy olive oil.

Fennel seedsready to bake

These flavours, a seemingly ill-aligned profile of oil and wine and aniseed, are a bit like chilli and chocolate, maple syrup and bacon, avocado and raspberries, that is, they work. In fact these ciambelline could be the most adaptable biscuits you make – we’re thinking they really could be dipped, dunked and spooned into all manner of things. Hot chocolate and black tea for slow days then stiff drinks for later – a sweet sherry, a dry sherry to compliment the savoury, yeasty tones; cointreau for a bit of zest; eaten with rosé at lunch or a hearty red on a dark night. Creams – perhaps lemon syllabub, or soaked prunes mashed into a thin creme fraiche or perhaps eaten on the side of a panna cotta.

There’s no story today – just biscuits with red wine for dunking in red wine – all you need to remember them by.

Ciambelline al Vino
Recipe from Rachel eats

On the original post no measurements are included in recognition of true Italian cooking style – a ‘feel your way/you’ll know when you see it’ approach. I have included measurements but the recipe should be easy enough to halve or double as you like. Equal quantities of sugar, olive oil and wine are key. Next time I might add a smidgeon of grated lemon zest.

1 cup sugar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup wine – red, white or fortified (I used red)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
flour – I needed close to 5 cups in total
sugar for dusting

In a bowl stir together the sugar, olive oil and wine. Add the salt and fennel seeds then begin to add flour in small measures, mixing at each addition until a soft dough has formed and comes away from the sides.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead lightly for several minutes, adding more flour until the dough is smooth. Cover and rest for at least an hour. Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with paper.

Break off walnut size pieces and roll between your hands or on the bench until a slim log forms – about 8-10cm. Wrap the ends around to meet and pinch together. If the dough gets too oily, rub your hands with flour. Pour a bit of sugar in a small bowl and place the ciambelline in the sugar until lightly covered. Place the biscuits on the oven tray and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Enjoy

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It takes me a while sometimes to recall the good food I ate as a child. If prompted for fond food memories I probably couldn’t tell you a great deal but over time moments from the past come to mind. Sometimes I forget it’s been a fair few years since I was seven and there’s not a hope of me remembering every evening meal and lunchbox packed. Sometimes this thought saddens me, other times, I find it a relief.

salad time

But I remember our kitchen, small and pokey with heavy wooden drawers and a smooth white door frame between the kitchen a round wooden table. I can’t remember the frame ever having a door but for me it was a climbing frame as I gripped my way to the top and would perch, my back pressed against one side, my bare feet firmly planted on the other, talking to my mother in the kitchen. I never fell.

This kitchen was eventually expanded, my climbing frame busted down and the room opened out. In the new kitchen and the old one and I suppose the other kitchens in other houses that have come since, the same sort of things happened. Hundreds of sandwiches would have been made in my childhood kitchen, oranges peeled and apples chopped, cereal poured. There would have been chocolate cake and banana cake, lasagne and roast chicken, lamb chops, mashed potatoes, tomato on toast, spaghetti bolognaise or meatballs, sausages – family food.

spring rootschickpeas and coriander

I remember special occasion foods – the marmalade glaze on the Christmas ham, the time Mum butterflied and roasted lamb and we ate outside in the middle of a summer day, roasting marshmallows in the flames of the brazier on summer nights. I’ll remember for always the avocado halves with slithers of cold smoked salmon we ate for Christmas entrée several years.

seedsdiced carrots

We had a few traditions too which I remember fondly. Every Saturday morning all four of us would do the supermarket shopping together. Even now, a family trip to the supermarket seems something to be celebrated, even if it’s just to buy yoghurt and bread. But those Saturday mornings were precious, if not exactly for wandering the aisles, but for what came after – Scottish malt loaf, toasted and slathered in butter. Our supermarket’s bakery section made the loaf, my Dad’s favourite, and often on a Saturday morning the bread would still be warm, the raisins soft and plump and the malty flavour almost caramel, the just overdone sort of caramel with near-savoury tones.

Another tradition: to shyly mock my Dad when he made his long-term go-to dinner, the same dinner he made on his cooking nights when flatting – grilled lamb chops with boiled and buttered potatoes, curried carrots and a green vegetable of some sort. Mock is not the right word, I’m not sure what is really, for we never complain – you cannot go wrong with grilled lamb chops and my Dad’s curried carrots are as good as they come. Perhaps mocking, lovingly, was our way of saying thanks for cooking Dad.

But in my food life, what has been as perennial as the grass, are my mother’s salads. She makes a darn good salad. Her green salad – mixed greens + anything really (feta, red onions, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, apple…), the house salad, as so aptly named by Food Loves Writing, continues to be good and I’ve been eating this sort of salad for most of my life. Her roast vegetable salad, potato salad, left-over-chicken salad, warm lamb salad, beetroot salad, fruit salad, rice salad, quinoa salad, any salad Mum puts her hand to is fresh and inviting, appealing and nourishing.

carrots and spicetossorange

I learned from watching and helping Mum make salads that anything, anything in your fruit bowl, pantry or fridge, can contribute to the texture and vitality of a salad. Take this roasted carrot and chickpea salad – a can of chickpeas and the bung up carrots from the market – but together with a little bit of manipulation, cajoling, becomes something else entirely, something quite wonderful.

toasted chicksprinkled with spice

The carrots, tossed in aromatic spices, were roasted until a dusky orange while chickpeas were toasted lightly in a dry pan, the pattern they formed in the pan reminding me of an open sunflower. Big handfuls of parsley and coriander were chopped up roughly with jagged edges and the kitchen smelled fresh. I drizzled oil and ground salt and pepper over pumpkin seeds and sunflowers, these toasted in the frypan so well they almost didn’t make the salad. A spring onion for crunch and oomph, then a strong, citrus dressing. Everything together, the spices, the herbs, the buttery warmth of spiced roast carrots, the ting of citrus, the salty crunch of seeds and the smooth nutty chickpeas make every bite bright.

roasted carrot and chickpea salad

This salad is for keeps, like my mother’s.

Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Salad

3 carrots, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons oil
1 can chickpeas (about 400 grams)
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh coriander and parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 lemon, rind and juice

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Place the carrots in a bowl with the spices and oil, toss until well combined. Pour onto an oven tray and bake for roughly 25 minutes or until tender.

Heat a frying pan. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Place in the hot pan and toss until warmed and slightly toasty. Place the chickpeas in a bowl with the roasted carrots, sliced spring onion and the roughly chopped herbs. Stir lightly.

Mix the seeds with a little oil, salt and pepper, then toast in a hot pan until quivering with heat. Sprinkle the seeds over the chickpeas and carrots.

Zest the lemon into a jar, add the lemon juice with a glug of oil and shake well. Pour over the salad.

Enjoy.

A fridge clean out

So, it’s July and I’m not entirely sure how that happened. The last time I posted I left on a high note of an optimistic future with new, challenging cooking and baking and bread making. But for the next few days, indeed the whole month of June, rather than buying new flours or attempting three tier cakes I thought about realism and the luxury of changing our minds.

I love how often I can change my mind at the moment. I say at the moment, because while I guess I have been enjoying indecision for most of my life, it feels as if I am on fast-forward to a time when I must make a decision and stick with it. Every week I have a new life plan, a new five year plan, or a new 6-month plan. But this latest plan feels like a keeper, something I can do. So in preparation for a time when I must make a decision and stick with it, I’m going to share it here. After complaining bitterly about university and study for over a year now, I’ve seen the light, so to speak, and had a change of heart. I’m thinking honours, perhaps not next year but definitely soon and looking towards a professional career. It wasn’t so long ago I was writing here of how irregular working hours would likely be the norm for me and trying to find balance (read: steady income) within a writing life. I’m grateful to be able to change my mind, to plan and re-plan my future.

Bacon and corianderPumpkin

In truth, the last post left me feeling overwhelmed and uninspired, because really, simple and understated is where I draw my inspiration. I like a meal to begin simply, the ingredients understated, perhaps the limp and the lonely from the crisper drawer, but the key is for the dish to be well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, delicious. I guess that has been the premise of cooking for most of history, so why change a good thing?

PattieMoulding pattie

So enter, an everything pattie, a leftover pattie – spicy pumpkin, bacon and quinoa. Our fridge gets full over the week with little bowls and containers of this and that, a small triangle of pumpkin that someone had the foresight to think would be useful, spring onions beginning to lose their springiness and the last few rashers of dry cured bacon, thick and dark pink in colour. The leftover quinoa had sautéed leeks stirred through it, I found a hunk of chilli and a curly bunch of coriander; people were getting hungry and lunch was coming together.

corianderLunchLa table

As I made these patties it never entered my mind the promise I had made to extend my kitchen education. For me it’s almost instinctual to take the leftovers and play around with them – which is what I encourage everyone to do.

I give a rough guide below but really a good pattie can be compressed down to this – a starch or grain (or both), seasoning (chilli, salt, pepper, coriander, or any herb or spice), plus a beaten egg to mould everything together.

Spicy Pumpkin, Bacon and Quinoa Patties

a piece of pumpkin
some cooked quinoa
spring onions, thinly sliced
fresh chilli, thinly sliced
garlic clove, minced
bacon, roughly chopped
a small bunch of coriander or other herb, roughly chopped
1 egg lightly beaten
salt, pepper

Cook the pumpkin until tender – mash. Mix in the quinoa.

In a frying pan heat a splash of oil, add the onions and fry with the garlic and chilli until lightly browned, add to pumpkin and quinoa. Cook the chopped bacon in the frying pan, then stir into the pumpkin mix with the beaten egg, chopped coriander and salt and pepper. If the mixture feels a bit too wet, add a sprinkling of flour or bread crumbs. Mould into patties, heat more oil and lightly fry the patties until browned.

Serve with salad, cold meats, chutney and preserves.