I grew up in a cake household.
Every now and then my mum would make muffins or friands. Rarely cupcakes. Quite often pikelets and loaves. But, as a rule, if we were to have one baked good on the countertop, it would be a cake. This cake, whether orange and almond, banana or chocolate, would sit proudly on a cake stand in the kitchen. My brothers and I would attempt to cut the tiniest of slivers, one by one, in the hope of not getting caught sneaking extra cake. Life lesson: there are only so many slivers one can slice before the cake actually disappears.
If this cake were to have icing, there would be numerous inconsistencies in it’s form. I feel I perfected the art of sneaking swipes of icing from the cake’s sides, however no matter how skilled I was there were always bare spots and a discernible amount of thinning across certain sections. A balding cake, if you will. I asked mum about this last month, whether she noticed my greedy finger marks (how rude). She denied knowing any better. Either she’s a forgiving fibber or I’m more stealth than I give myself credit for. I did want to be a spy when I was a child. Perhaps there’s merit in that still present aspiration…
Anyway, where was I? Yes, I grew up in a house that favoured our baked goods in cake form. And so naturally whenever I feel the baking urge, I gravitate towards a single circular creation. Only on occasion do I have any desire to make different shaped goods. Although I love the idea of a warm breakfast muffin, they do not sit at the forefront of my mind. So when I do get the desire to form individual muffin mounds, I roll with it. One Sunday afternoon, after quite a rambunctious brunch with friends, I felt this desire. And so I made muffins.
For those of you who do not love bananas, the flavour is certainly not overwhelming. And if you’re so inclined, try replacing the chocolate with cranberries, dried or fresh. Maybe throw some coconut in the mix as well. One more tip, I encourage you to warm these muffins in the microwave if eating the next day – it really helps to bring out the sweetness.
Almond and Oat, Banana Choc-Chip Muffins
Makes 5 medium muffins.
This recipe requires a hand blender to make your oat flour.
1 & 3/4 cup Almond Meal
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 & 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar, plus extra for scattering on top
1 very ripe Banana (medium-large sized, ~190g when skin on)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 cup Milk
2-3 tablespoons Dark Chocolate Chips (depending on how chippy you like it)
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, convection setting.
2. Pulse the oats in a hand blender until it resembles a flour (don’t over-pulse it, some more whole pieces scattered throughout are fine).
3. Into a large bowl add the oat flour, almond meal and salt. Stir. Sift in the baking powder and brown sugar. Stir.
4. Whisk the eggs in a smaller mixing bowl. Add the banana and vanilla extract and mash it all together. Add the milk and stir.
5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and fold through. Add the chocolate chips and gently fold once more.
6. Place paper muffin cups (or a little baking paper) in your muffin tray holes (without them these muffins can be hard to remove from the pan), and spray with spray oil. Spoon the mixture into the trays, filling them 3/4 and smoothing the surface.
7. Sprinkle rolled oats and a little brown sugar over the muffins, then pop into the oven.
8. Cook for 15 minutes then rotate the pan and cover with foil (so as to not over-brown the tops). Cook for a further 7 minutes (22 minutes total cooking time). The muffins are cooked when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Be careful not to overcook them, as they will become very dry.
9. Cool in the muffin tray for 20 minutes before loosening the muffins with a knife and carefully lifting out. If you remove them too early the bottom of the muffins might catch on the bottom of the tray.
10. Serve warm.
It’s the little things, like making toast, that make me smile on a fuss-free Saturday. Goodbye, oven toast.
On the Monday of the long weekend the weather was affectionately chilly. It was cool enough to encourage that extra layer of clothing often required during Winter, yet the the sunshine made it all terribly agreeable. It was lovely.
The bridle track, where we walk, was suitable muddy for this time of year. Red Hill, red mud. My socks were saturated. But that’s just part of the fun.
Let’s talk toast. I very rarely have it for breakfast during the week. I find toast doesn’t fill me up adequately. Unless I have eggs with my toast, and I find them a tad fiddly to make during the working week. Plus, I have no toaster, so it involves a bit of oven work, which quite frankly I do not enjoy at 7:30am on a Tuesday. Less of a favourite. Presently, it’s all yoghurt, fruit, flax and oats. But lately, weekends have called for toast. Fruit toast in particular.
Oh, and that toast holder above? I found it at a garage sale over the weekend.
Last week I was unwell, I had a bit of a virus. It was not nice. Not bad, but just not nice. I felt cloudy and drained and just plain unwell. Luckily, I was able to move my schedule around to rest for a couple of days at home.
On those luckily languid, lazy mid-week days I nourished myself with wholesome foods. Breakfast was all about big bowls of oats with banana and chia seeds. And honey and cinnamon. It was practically medicinal in it’s comforting perfection.
Almost instantly I was right back to being eight years old, Dad in the kitchen making us kids honey, banana, cinnamon toast for breakfast. The recipe was simple – grainy bread, an often generous spread of honey, thinly sliced banana and a purposeful scattering of cinnamon. This was Dad’s specialty. And, like my bowl of oats, it was all you would want from a breakfast. Nourishing, energising, homely, delicious. Comforting perfection.
I’m all better now. Let’s thank the oats, shall we?
What breakfast takes you right back to eight?
Are you ready for this? Brace yourself, folks.
I must profess, we started out with rather modest intentions for a little weekend getaway at my parents’ house in Red Hill. We envisaged rugging up by the fire, clasping mugs of hot tea in our hands and enjoying toe-warming meals. And indeed all this loveliness did take place. But then it turned into a bit of an eating extravaganza. More and more opportunities for yum popped up. It had been a while since we’d delighted in a Red Hill weekend of yum. And so we rolled with it, taking every pie in our stride.
It turned into quite the delicious three days.
Ben and I visited many locations and purchased an array of beautiful produce, re-familiarising ourselves with the wonder that is the Mornington Peninsula. It really is a special corner of the world.
Morning walks and jogs helped stimulate our apparently ravenous appetites. Walks at Red Hill are one of my favourite things. In the world. Ever. So that’s what we did. We walked and we ate food. We had a lovely time with my parents and grandparents, also. I’m lucky to have such beautiful people around me who appreciate deliciousness as much as I do. Yes, we had quite the fabulous long weekend.
So here we go, our eating long weekend.
A late breakfast at Shop Ate, in Mt Eliza.
Gravlax, poached eggs, fennel and parmesan salad.
Italian doughnuts. Otherwise known as heaven.
A late lunch at Somers General Store.
Calamari with lime, steak sandwich with caramelised onions and beetroot relish, chips with aioli and a rocket and fennel salad.
Chocolate cake. Soft, nutty, super moist, rich and decidedly nutella-esque. So understandably, it was completely delicious.
At Casa Mum and Dad.
Cocktails. I’m unsure what this was exactly. Although I am sure it was tasty.
Venison carpaccio with capers and horseradish cream (made using my parent’s homegrown horseradish).
Sicilian venison steaks with celeriac puree (recipe link). We were completely spoilt by Mum and Dad with that venison. It. Was. Divine.
Leftover wedding sorbet.
Pier Provedore in Flinders for breakfast.
We shared scrambled eggs with loads of veggie goodness and an egg and bacon ciabatta. Plus lovely lattes.
And then we bought apples. Which we left at Red Hill. Tear.
Wine tasting at Port Phillip Estate.
Then onto Foxeys Hangout for more wine and lunch-time eats. The food was all incredibly delicious. Foxeys is a real favourite.
Bread with olive oil and pistachio spice, quail, duck rillettes, mushrooms in vine leaves, leek with goats cheese and orange, lamb meatballs.
Vanilla ice-cream brick with hot chocolate sauce, plus blue cheese and figs in port.
And there you go, friends, a long weekend of Red Hill eats. Endless amounts of yum.
Did I do you proud? I think so. I highly recommend all the above deliciousness, I know some have been asking after Red Hill recommendations. Do head down there, it’s a beautiful place.
Now to save my pennies. It shall be soup and beans for a week.
Afternoon tea over the long weekend with my grandparents, Nana and Roo. We ate little cakes and drank tea together by the fire.
We spoke of learning recipes in school, and I developed a fervent desire for nana to make her golden syrup dumplings. These were my nana’s cookery books from high school.
The eats for the afternoon were varied and colourful. We had creme brûlée and quince tartlets, shortbread and soda bread. A slightly haphazard yet altogether lovely gathering of goodies.
Creme Brûlée Quince Tartletes from Johnny Ripe, a little gourmet outlet situated at the old tamarillo orchard in Main Ridge. The supremely talented and friendly young couple behind Johnny Ripe make and sell pies using produce from their orchard and eggs from their ducks and chickens. It’s a very new shop and I find myself rather inspired by it. I’m quite in love with the idea of making and selling pies from a quaint little shop front.
Their creme brûlée quince tartlets are pure heaven. As are their beef pies (we had a family sized one for our family dinner Sunday night). Apparently their apple pies are also superb, but I wouldn’t know about that because when we were browsing the shop, Dad boldly selected something other than said pie without me realising. I was devastated, to say the least. Dad, you owe me a pie.
Shortbread, made by my Dad. He snagged the recipe from a friend’s Scottish grandma. These bites were gleefully short, and encouraged a newfound respect for this classic afternoon tea treat. When done well, shortbread really are fantastic.
They’re quite the proud little bites, aren’t they?
We also dove into a fresh loaf of Soda Bread. Nigel Slater’s Lazy Loaf (recipe link). Dad was inspired after seeing my soda rolls last week, and decided to create a gorgeous loaf himself. Gorgeous indeed.
Now wasn’t that all lovely? Some sweet bites then a savoury soda slice with loved ones…
I quite fancy a good afternoon tea. And Nana, I haven’t forgotten about those golden syrup dumplings.
We started the morning with a jog around the park, before grabbing takeaway lattes. Fresh.
Quinoa Quince Pancakes for breakfast (recipe link), using the last of our poached quince. This fruit is endlessly sublime, I will miss them so. They have served me well these past couple of months. Until next Autumn…
Ben then felt compelled to cook a chicken over coals, as you do. So he did. Two chickens, in fact. Why not? One with a moroccan-style marinade, the other bathing in herbs de provence. With each hour on the spit, the aroma was increasingly alluring. Yep, really glad I bought him that spit.
A snack to tide me over, while continuing my Paris food and restaurant research. Banana Ice-Cream – frozen banana blended with a little vanilla yoghurt, topped with chocolate chips. Happiness in a teacup.
I sat for nearly two hours in bed researching. It was lovely.
After three hours. Proud.
Lunch was a lovely little affair. Hot, Spit-Roasted Chicken with a throw together Roasted Root Vegetable and Freekeh Salad, using leftover roasted sweet potato, purple carrots, sautéed mushrooms and freekeh plus spinach leaves, lemon juice and goats cheese. Wholesome, satisfying and just darn fantastic. Intoxicatingly so.
Later on in the day we gussied ourselves up for the Mercy Health Foundation Ball. I wore a long black lace dress I scored at the op shop years ago. It has a slightly low back, but beyond that feature it’s fairly conservative. Paired with red lips and a low bun I felt rather classy. I’m feeling a little more grown up these days, red lips and all. Although I did manage to frequently smudge lipstick across my face. Oh the embarrassment. And I’m back to being an awkward teenager. At least I tried.
The photo booth was a real treat. We visited far too often, posing hard like it was our job. So many props, so little time.
And that was Saturday. A little slice of lovely.
Here’s to even more loveliness this long weekend. We’re off to Red Hill for chilly country walks, local produce and more freedom floating.
I have a chocolate drawer. Yep. A whole drawer devoted to chocolate. My friends and family know this, they’re aware. They often request I open said drawer after a dinner catch up at home. It’s a quick dessert, you just snap open a block and pour some more vino. Easy. Done.
My chocolate drawer.
How did I create this drawer? It took a few good months of keen collection, involving purchasing multiple blocks of cocoa goodness when I saw a favourite block on sale. There’s a lot of Lindt in there, let’s be honest. And Koko Black dark chocolate slabs – yes, they’re slabs. They’re divine. Favourite. Ben will often buy me these for a treat.
But back to Lindt. I have multiple flavours in my drawer. I like to have a plethora of choices available for friends and family. We all have different tastes, you see. I like to cater. So when I was offered the chance to try Lindt’s Excellence Range a few weeks ago, what do you think I said…? Yes. I said yes. “Yes I do need more chocolate in my drawer. Thank you, kindly.” A week later I received a neat title package of Lindt, made up of the Sea Salt, Strawberry, Passionfruit and Coconut Intense blocks. Excellent.
I had already tried the Passionfruit Intense (mum promptly bought me some after seeing it for the first time a couple of months ago), and I must say I wasn’t a huge fan. It was too sweet for me. But I know of many who enjoy this flavour, the husband included. Last week I tried the Strawberry Intense and felt the same way about this block as I did the Passionfruit. I found it to be far too artificial tasting for my preference (despite the strawberry block containing freeze-dried strawberries). Give me the plain Lindt chocolate, without those embellishments, and I’m happy.
The Coconut Intense, on the other hand, was quite delightful. I suspected I’d enjoy this block, as I’ve been on a bit of a coconut rampage of late. It didn’t have the same crisp quality of the other blocks, due to all the soft coconut goodness in there, but it did have a beautiful flavour to it. It was a little on the sweet side (I’d prefer an overall greater dark chocolate percentage in these blocks), but a square would be a lovely way to finish a meal if you’ve got a coconut craving. I’d certainly reach for this block again. I feel it deserves a place in my chocolate drawer.
And the Sea Salt Intense? Well, do we even need to go there? I’ve been buying this block for a long time. It’s a thing. I adore it. The rich squares of smooth cocoa gold are exciting and spirited, and just full of salty sweet goodness. I have three blocks of Sea Salt Intense in my chocolate drawer, you know, just in case I need them. Yep, it’s a thing.
Thanks to Lindt for sending me your blocks to try. Coconut Intense will gladly join my beloved Sea Salt Intense in my chocolate drawer.
So there you go! In my chocolate drawer I have some Lindt, some Koko Black, some dark chocolate covered blueberries, and a few blocks of raw chocolate, thrown in for good measure (I enjoy Rawganic‘s range). Then it’s all cooking chocolate, baby. Chips, slabs and more. And some Wizz Fizz. What? Why is that in there? Never mind.
Clearly this chocolate drawer isn’t a good idea for people who don’t have great self-control. Some guys and gals are firmly in the “if it’s in the cupboard, I’ll eat it all in one go!” camp. But I think a chocolate drawer is a great lesson in practising self-restraint and portion control. A little square is all you need. Often half a square will do the trick. Things are a little different on girls nights, portions tend to inflate a little, but that’s life. I love my chocolate drawer. And so do my friends.
Do you have a chocolate drawer? If so, what’s in there? Any good brands I should include?
Gathering, stirring, sifting, kneading and forming. Then baking. I am awfully fond of the idea of making my own bread.
Breaking into a wholesome, risen mound fresh from the oven is a thing of true beauty. It’s kind. It feeds your soul. It’s an honest, simple love.
My Dad is particularly fond of the baking process, his crusty ciabattas, rustic olive loaves and general doughy escapades never cease to fulfil and inspire. Although I am yet to really get into traditional bread baking, I have been devoting a considerable degree of affection towards making soda bread of late. Soda bread uses baking soda as it’s raising agent, rather than yeast. It’s a quick and rather fabulous process. And I’m a little hooked.
I may or may not presently have a freezer full of soda rolls.
It all started when I was perusing Delicious Magazine a couple of months ago. One lazy weekend afternoon, my eyes flickered to a picture of Katie Quinn Davies‘ Seeded Irish Brown Bread. I wanted to smash my face into the picture, it’s rustic divinity was that enticing. An extreme reaction? Possibly. Nevertheless, it has resulted in two months of soda bread fun in our house. Hence the freezer situation.
These brown seeded soda rolls are my favourite version to come out of my doughy escapades. They’re wholesome, nutty and earthy. They’re rugged and rustic, and a whole playground of textures – crisp, light edges, slightly moist centre, crunchy seeds…
And when you hold a toasty, wholesome bun in your hands and then tear it open, you’re filled with warmth, with comfort. Breath it in…it’s an honest, simple love.
These rolls are excellent served warm with soup. I imagine they’d also be wonderful alongside soft-boiled eggs, or maybe with a sharp cheddar. Some avocado would be lovely. My most favourite way to enjoy these rolls recently is toasted, with butter and vegemite.
Honest, simple love.
Makes 6 rolls.
1/3 cup Sunflower Seeds, plus more for scattering on top
1/3 cup Pepitas, plus more for scattering on top
1 & 3/4 cup Plain Flour, plus more for scattering
2 cups Wholemeal Flour
1 heaped tablespoon Flaxmeal
1 & 1/4 teaspoon Bicarb Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Light Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 generous teaspoon Poppy Seeds
1 generous teaspoon Sesame Seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees Celsius. Line a large baking tray with baking paper (you might need two trays, depending on how big your oven is).
2. In a large non-stick pan, toast the sunflower seeds and pepitas over low heat for ~4 minutes until golden and toasty. Allow to cool.
3. Sift the flours and bicarb soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the flaxmeal, salt and cooled, toasted seeds and stir to combine, making a well in the centre.
4. Add the buttermilk and oil to the well, then stir to create a sticky dough.
5. Turn out your dough onto a generously floured surface. Separate your dough into 6 even mounds.
6. One by one, knead your dough briefly until it comes together, adding more flour if required, and form into round rolls (avoiding any cracks across the top). Place the rolls onto the baking tray, ensuring they are spaced ~10cm apart to allow them to grow.
7. Using a sharp knife, cut across the top of the rolls (~1cm deep) in a criss-cross shape. Brush the top of the rolls with water and then scatter a small handful of sunflower seeds and pepitas, as well as the poppy and sesame seeds, over the top of the rolls.
8. Place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes (covering with foil at ~25 minutes or when perfectly golden brown). You’ll know they’re cooked when the bottom is hollow, and the centre is fluffy (although the centre will remain slightly moist even when cooked).
These rolls freeze excellently once cooked. To serve, I remove them from the freezer and defrost in the microwave for ~45 seconds (on defrost setting) or until the bottom feels warm. I then cut them open and toast in the oven or under the grill until golden brown.