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Apple Cake

Apple cake with cream cheese frosting

Sometimes the baking mood can strike when I’m short on supplies, but as long as I have eggs, sugar, some sort of flour, and spices it’s usually possible to throw something together. It’s even easier when there is fruit that needs using before it gets too old.

Today I had 3 apples, an orange, and some cinnamon. So clearly the solution was to make an apple cake. I also had some lefter over cream cheese, which we had with smoked salmon and capers on turkish bread on the weekend, so that took care of the frosting.

I decided to use a mix of gluten-free flour and almond meal, to make the cake dense and moist (and allergy friendly).

The finished cake is rich without being too sweet, and would make a pretty good tea cake just as it is, but the frosting takes it to a whole other level.

Apple cake with cream cheese frosting Continue reading



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Pomegranate braised lamb shanks with creamy leek and potato

This recipe is heavily inspired by Danielle’s Pomegranate ginger saffron braised lamb neck on Habeas Brulee.

But it’s made with lamb shanks.

And the method is a little different.

And I was out of beef stock.

shanks 01

Here’s what happened:

It was my partner’s birthday on Thursday, so I went to the Fyshwick Markets to pick up some steaks from the organic butcher, and I noticed they had lamb shanks, which are probably my favourite cut of meat, so I grabbed four. I didn’t get home until 6.30ish, so I made the steaks for the birthday dinner, and put the lamb shanks in the fridge to cook on the weekend.

But a week or two before that, I was working at Oxfam one afternoon, and I took my lunch break at about 3pm, and went to the Italian cafe/deli place in the Canberra Centre, and as I was eating my pumpkin and chick pea pie and drinking my coffee, I spotted pomegranate molasses on the shelves, and they haven’t had any in months, so I bought a bottle, and since then I’ve been thinking about what to use it in. So when I got the lamb shanks, I knew they would have to be cooked with the pomegranate molasses somehow or another, and the other night I was skimming through the Habeas Brulee archives for inspiration.

Now, earlier in the week I’d told my friend I’d bake her a cake if she got into the gold and silver smithing course she was applying for at the ANU (and take her out for sweets and alcohol if she didn’t). On Wednesday she found out she got in, and she was free yesterday, so I baked the Chocolate raspberry pudding cake from Nigella Lawson’s How To Cook, which was very rich and chocolaty. But there wasn’t enough time to bake a cake and roast the lamb shanks, so we ordered Chinese food, and ate the cake. Then they left a little after 10, and we watched a tv show, and I went to bed and read until very late. I got to sleep before dawn, but probably not by much.

And today I woke up at the crack of 3pm or so, and stumbled around eating toast and catching up on the internets, as I do on the weekend, and all of a sudden it was nearly five, and I figured I’d better start doing something about those lamb shanks if we wanted to have dinner before 9pm.

So after flipping through a few different recipes for lamb shanks, I decided I would braise them on the stove for an hour and then put them in the oven to roast for an hour or so, and with any luck they would be tender and ready to eat by about 7.30 ( Which would have worked if I hadn’t received a phone call before 7- we didn’t eat until a little after 8.) Continue reading

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Sticky Date Ice Cream

It’s summer, and that means Ice Cream!

sticky date 03

This is a particularly rich and creamy ice cream, which works equally well on by itself, or accompanying cake or pudding. So if it’s not summer where you live, don’t let that stop you trying it. Seriously, what’s the point of indoor heating if we can’t have ice cream in the middle of winter.

Makes about 1.5 litres.

Very Basic Vanilla Ice Cream mixture sticky date 02
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1/4 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch salt
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract

Basically making ice cream is like making custard, and then freezing it.

Mix a couple of tablespoons of milk with the cornflour in saucepan and stir until smooth. Boil or nuke the rest of the milk and cream, then add to the milk/cornflour mix. Bring to boil, then let cool.

Beat sugar, egg yolks and salt until thick and creamy, add about 1/4 of the milk and mix together, then pour this back into the to saucepan and heat on medium, stirring continually until mixture thickens slightly. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in vanilla. Pour into suitable container and refrigerate.

(I often use a vanilla pod, which I heat with the milk and cream, and then slice lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the mix. But this time I just used vanilla extract.)

Sticky Date mix:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp butter
1 cup roughly chopped dates

Place sugar, water, and butter in saucepan and bring to boil. Turn heat down to medium, stir until sugar is dissolved, and add dates. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until the dates are gooey and caramelized. Cool.

Start churning the vanilla cream mixture in ice cream maker as per instructions. When it is just over halfway churned, add 1/2 the sticky date mixture, and continue churning. Then, when transferring ice cream to a container for freezing, fold in the rest of the sticky dates so that they form ripples of caramelized goo.

Freeze until needed. Eat.

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Banana Loaf

Banana loaf

This is a recipe I’ve been using and tinkering with for a few years. It started out as pretty simple recipe for banana muffins. One morning I was making them, and had half a pot of leftover coffee, and thought that banana and coffee are pretty much a match made in ingredient heaven, so I used the coffee instead of milk, which had the added bonus of being suitable for people who can’t have dairy (while at the same time making them completely unsuitable for small children).

Later on, I added some dates and walnuts, and poured the batter into a loaf pan, and the banana loaf was born. While I list wheat flour in the recipe below, I’ve made it several times using gluten free flours, and plan to try it with spelt flour in the near future.

Is it a bread or a cake? Well, that depends on how you eat it, and which of the optional ingredients you use. With dates and/or walnuts it’s more like a cake, and with seeds, or plain, it’s more like a bread. This time, I used sunflower seeds, so it was leaning more toward the bread end of the spectrum.


The other thing about using coffee as an ingredient is that, if you’re anything like me, you shouldn’t eat this in the evening. At least, not if you have plans which include sleep. Instead, it’s perfect for morning tea, or even for breakfast. After a day or two (if it lasts that long) it can be toasted, and spread with butter, or ricotta, or whatever takes your fancy.

Mostly, I like to have a slice or two in the morning with a cup of strong coffee.

Recipe: Continue reading


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Toasted Seeds

Toasted Seeds

This is so easy to make that it doesn’t really deserve to be called a recipe, but these seeds are very tasty and can turn a plain dish into something special.

I was first introduced to this method of toasting seeds with soy sauce in my teens, when I was living in a commune in Northern New South Wales. There were many pros and cons associated with that time of my life, which is not surprising seeing as I was young and trying to define myself, but being introduced to new foods was definitely one of the major pluses. A lot of those foods are available in supermarkets now, but in rural Australia in the early nineties, you still had to go to a health food store to get things like tempeh, fresh sprouts, and dried grains, pulses and seeds.

Toasted seeds are great in salads or on soup, and just to eat by the handful. They are an easy way to add some protein and salty flavour to a vegetable dish. These days you can find them ready made in some stores, but I prefer to make my own because it’s just so easy, and I like eating them when they’re still warm.

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Black-eye Bean Soup with Okra

black eyed bean soup with okra

I don’t often post recipes unless they’re something I’ve made up or heavily modified, but this was just too delicious not to share.

I wanted some soup, and and I wanted to use black-eye beans, so I put them on to soak. Then I searched the internet for suitable recipes and decided to use this recipe for Black-eye bean and Vegetable Soup, by Jan Pursey, at Taste.com.au. The next day I was grocery shopping, and picked up the rest of the ingredients.

I followed the recipe exactly, but when I was vegetable shopping I’d picked up some fresh okra which was on sale, and decided to add about 5 of them, sliced, about an hour into cooking the soup. It worked brilliantly.

black eyed bean soup with okra

Calorie Count
Total calories for the pot: 1370
Makes 4-5 serves at 275-355 calories each.
(We didn’t add the olive oil when serving)

Experimental Status: This is clearly a tried and tested, and it shows.
Repeatability: See above. I would definitely make this again. Might add a little more pepper and some paprika to add a little heat.


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Pumpkin & Leek Frittata

A bona fide experiment from my kitchen

 pumpkin and leek fritata

In which we begin calorie counting
My partner, to whom I need to assign a suitable pseudonym, has just returned from a 5 week trip to the US and Germany, and decided that a diet is in order. Since January I’ve been either recovering from surgery, or ill again, so my daily activity is much lower than is normal for me, and it shows. Consequently, we are both calorie counting for the next couple of months; him to lose some weight, and me to make sure I don’t gain any more. This means we have both set our daily caloric intake at 1700 calories per day.

In practical terms, what it means is that we calculate the calories in the foods we eat and enter them onto spreadsheets a friend made. When I cook, I weigh everything carefully and jot down the calorie contents, as well as the ingredients and the method. What this means for my recipes here is I will include exact weights of my ingredients, and calorie counts for each dish, and per serving, because I might as well share all the information I have.

Introducing the NOTEBOOK
Conveniently, one of the presents he picked up for me on this trip was a blank recipe book which is divided into sections with lots of lined pages as well as plastic pockets for recipes cut out of magazines or (much more likely) printed from the internet. In short, it’s very nifty and a decided improvement on my usual method of scribbling stuff down on loose pieces of paper, or whichever small notebook I happen to be using at the time.

recipe book starters fish notes

(click thumbnails for full sized photos)

Pumpkin and Leek Frittata
Makes 2-4 servings

1 large leek (175g)
1 stick celery (30g)
About 1/4 of a Japanese pumpkin (300g) – any other pumpkin would do.
2 small carrots (100g)
2 large eggs (63g each)
Cheese (30g)
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Mixed herbs: e.g. oregano, parsley, chives, garlic, marjoram
1 tiny pinch of cayenne
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