Macaroon Syrup Cake

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I was speaking to a girlfriend yesterday and she said that for her entire childhood, she remembered her Mum cooking, always cooking. I imagine and hope that my girls will grow up with similar memories, of their Mum always cooking. Of coming home from school and sitting down to a warm slice of cake, just out of the oven. Today, that cake was this macaroon syrup cake. It’s a beautifully old fashioned cake from an old Women’s Weekly cookbook. I love these kinds of recipes – quite simple, usually with ingredients I already have on hand. And they always turn out to be delicious and irresistible. This is no exception. A tender coconut cake, drenched in a hot sugar syrup scented with fresh lemon. Then it sits and lets the syrup drip through the cake, working its magic. Bliss. Here’s the recipe…

Ingredients

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
4 eggs
2 cups dessicated coconut
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
LEMON SYRUP
1 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup water
6 strips lemon rind

Method
NOTE: Start the syrup while the cake is still baking, so that you’ve got the hot syrup ready to pour over the cake as soon as you remove it from the oven.
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius.
2. Grease a 22cm springform pan and line the base with baking paper.
3. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
4. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating until combined.
5. Gently stir in coconut, then flour.
6. Spread mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes.
7. Remove cake from oven. Pour the hot syrup over the hot cake. Cool cake in pan.
LEMON SYRUP
1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan, stir over heat (but without boiling) until the sugar has dissolved.
2. Being to the boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered without stirring for 3 minutes.
3. Strain syrup (or just remove the lemon rind strips with a fork, which is what I did).

Enjoy x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gazpacho

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I first tasted gazpacho at a family-run bistro in France over 10 years ago. Jordan and I were staying in the most beautiful apartment in Aix-en-Provence, so classically French with wooden floors, white walls and big creaking doors. One evening we walked through the town, our destination the dubiously named Resto Charlotte. We arrived at what seemed to be a family home, wandering through a series of cosy rooms dotted with tables and chairs, out into the most magical courtyard. Pebbles underfoot, an enormous tree shading us from the late evening sun, fairy lights strung nonchalantly. It was like we’d entered a secret garden. And the food…..the FOOD. I still remember that meal, especially my first taste of gazpacho. Cool yet fiery. Smooth – but with texture. This dish of contrasts has reappeared on my table for the last few summers, a perfect way to enjoy an abundance of summer tomatoes.

Thank you to Mimi Thorisson for this beautiful recipe….

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
5 tomatoes, de-seeded and diced
1 red capsicum, de-seeded and diced
1 cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small onion, chopped
3 slices of stale white bread (I use sourdough)
150 ml extra-virgin olive oil
40 ml milk
1 tsp tabasco
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
1. Mix the diced tomatoes, red pepper, cucumber, celery, onion, shredded bread, olive oil, milk, tabasco, vinegar and pepper in a large bowl. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
2. Blend until smooth, add salt and vinegar to taste. Mix well. If you prefer a more ‘liquid’ consistency, add a little water. Keep chilled until serving time.

I serve this drizzled with extra tabasco for added kick.
Enjoy x

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins

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I like to bake for my girls; it’s nice to know exactly what’s in their food and I think home baked goods ALWAYS taste better. Plus, baking from scratch is way more budget-friendly and I’m sure as families we’re all looking at ways to stretch that grocery budget just a bit further.

I baked these apple and cinnamon muffins earlier in the week and they are so good – light, moist with apple and the cinnamon sugar sprinkle on top makes them irresistible. Make a double batch and pop them in ziplock bags in the freezer for easy snacks for school lunchboxes, park play dates or just snack time at home. Enjoy x

Makes 12

Ingredients
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I only had macadamia oil on hand, it was perfect)
2 large or 3 small Granny Smith apples, cored but not peeled, diced
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp castor sugar

Method
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees, pop muffin liners into a 12 hole muffin tin.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, beaten egg, milk and oil.
3. Into another bowl, sift the flours, bicarbonate soda and 1 tsp of the cinnamon. Stir in the diced apple until just combined.
4. Gently mix the apple/flour mixture into the sugar/oil mixture until just combined.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen, golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of any muffin comes out clean (I baked mine for 23 minutes).
7. Combine the castor sugar and remaining cinnamon in a small bowl.
8. Remove muffins from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and generously sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar while the muffins are still hot.
9. Serve warm, at room temperature or pop into ziplock bags and freeze for a later date. Yum.

Kids, eating…and not tearing your hair out

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In retrospect, I refer to it as ‘the white stage’. It was the period of time when Grace’s diet seemed to be entirely white. And the less nutrients the food had in it, the more she ate. As opposed to the nutrient rich, colourful and laborious dishes I’d been trying to tempt her with. I even bought a toddler cookbook (why?!).

Our days were filled with all things white – toast, plain pasta, yogurt, rice crackers.

Instinctively I knew she wasn’t eating well. She certainly wasn’t eating like me. And that just didn’t feel right to me. So I ditched the toddler cookbook. I braced myself for the tantrums. And I just started to cook the food that I loved.

I’ve always wanted to enjoy food together, as a family. And also, secretly, make things a little easier on myself. I have friends with school age kids who are still cooking 2-3 different dinners each night, to suit the fussy tastebuds of their kids.

I just had no desire to go down that road. And I knew we were heading in that direction with the white diet.

So I cooked. And we sat down for dinner every night, as a family, at the dining table. And Grace was served what we ate. Roast chicken. Salads. Brown rice. Cous cous. Roasted vegetables. Olives. Steak. Unsweetened Greek yogurt. Salmon. Everything!

And there were tantrums. And declarations of ‘I don’t like that’ before the food had even touched her plate. But I persisted. And I just kept serving her up our food, day after day. Eating with her; the same foods.

And lo and behold….slowly she’s embraced food in all of its glory.

My little girl eats all of the foods that she gets the chance to. Often she won’t like something straight away. Sometimes never (sweet potato – she’s missing out). But I keep trying. I figure she’ll like it eventually, after enough tries.

And we’re now at the point where I had so wanted to be – of having an adventurous, enthusiastic eater. A child who can go to a cafe or restaurant and eat happily from the menu. And most importantly, she’s learning to love food for itself, but hopefully, eventually, for what it represents – that special, happy (sometimes shouty- she is 4) time of day when she and her Mum, Dad and little sister sit together, eat and catch up on the day that’s passed. Because for me, food and family are intertwined. And hopefully Grace will grow up to feel that way too.

My top tips for getting your toddler to eat more than just plain pasta:

1. Eat together as a family – kids love to model behaviour and there’s no better role models at this age than Mum and Dad.
2. Try and try again – if she doesn’t like something, don’t write it off forever. Keep popping it on her plate intermittently and one day she WILL eat it, and perhaps even enjoy it.
3. You’re not a short order cook – my girls eat what we eat as a family. If they don’t want to eat it, that’s ok. But I’m not going to jump up and cook them something different. This is it, dinner is served. A piece of fruit for dessert and that’s that. Kids are surprisingly resilient and won’t let themselves go hungry.
4. When introducing a new food, always pair it with something you know she likes. For example, I cooked salmon fillets the other night for dinner. We ate it with some of Grace’s favourites – brown rice, red capsicum and some cheese. A few suspicious sniffs of the salmon but then she watched us eating it, and tucked into it herself. Helped along by her favourite things already on her plate.
5. Don’t hide veggies. I’m not sold on recipes that promise to hide veggies so kids will, for example, unwittingly consume beetroot while they’re eating a brownie. That’s a missed opportunity to introduce them to the gorgeousness of beetroot as is. If kids are going to grow up liking vegetables, they actually need to eat the vegetable in its basic form. And like it. And honestly, if I’m going to eat a brownie, I want it to be a brownie. Full of butter and chocolate. But that’s another story altogether. Hiding veggies will not help your little one to be a veggie lover.
6. Always eat dessert – but you might need to rethink your definition of dessert. In our family, dessert is a piece of fruit or Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey. Yet every night when I ask ‘who wants dessert?’ the girls scream yes. Knowing it’s fruit or pretty much plain yogurt. I just think it’s good to wind back on the sugar, to bring more fruit into their diet and also for them to have such a positive view of simple, whole foods.

Feeding kids can feel like a battlefield some days. But I think we all have the same goal – to raise happy, healthy eaters. So hang in there, persist and enjoy the small wins of sharing new foods with your little ones. Bon appetit x

Everyday Pear Cake

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There’s something infinitely comforting about baking on a cold winters Sunday afternoon. Warm and cosy inside, the oven humming and the smell of baking filling the house. I had some lovely ripe pears and a desire for cake….a perfect moment to bake Everyday Pear Cake, from Mimi Thorisson’s ‘French Country Cooking’. This recipe is one of those cakes that is simple… yet irresistible. Moist crumbs, a hint of vanilla and studded with pear, this cake is a favourite in our family. Just try stopping at one slice!

Ingredients
3 large eggs
3/4 cup / 150g castor sugar
1 & 1/4 cups / 150g plain flour, sifted
1/4 cup / 30g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (I accidentally added a whole teaspoon – perfect)
90g unsalted butter, melted
4 to 5 ripe medium pears (or 2 large ones), peeled and cut into chunks
Icing sugar, to serve

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line the bottom of a 23cm springform pan with baking paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until light in colour and fluffy.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, and salt. Mix into the egg mixture, along with the vanilla and melted butter. Fold in the pears with their juices.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until golden and a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before unmolding and peeling away the baking paper.
5. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with icing sugar.
Enjoy x

French woman’s ‘secret weapon’ soup

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I go through stages of googling French women – how they raise their kids, what they wear, what they eat. Meandering my way through google, I came across this recipe for vegetable soup – a French woman’s ‘secret weapon’ to balance out the rich and luxurious French diet whilst maintaining her very French slim silhouette (the original recipe is on the @mindbodygreen website). So I had to try this recipe….and it’s since become a constant in my kitchen, especially during the cooler months. It is SO simple to make, it’s delicious and it’s a very easy way to ensure we’re all eating our veggies. My girls love it, and I love knowing that I can balance out a weekend of indulgence with a Monday night meal of this soup. For a heartier meal, I like to add sourdough toast and a slice of good cheese, such as my favourite, gruyere.

Ingredients
2 onions
1 leek
2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 potato
3 Tbs olive oil
1L liquid chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you prefer)

Method
1. Chop up the onions, leek, carrots, zucchini and potato.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until they soften.
3. Add the leek and carrots to the onions and sauté lightly.
4. Add the potato and zucchini. Let all the vegetables cook together for a few minutes.
6. Cover the vegetables with the stock and simmer over medium heat (partially covered) for at least 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Puree in a blender, then season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve warm.
Enjoy x

Roast Chicken with Creme Fraiche and Herbs

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I love French food. The simplicity, the rich flavours. And there’s something a little perverse about embracing butter, cream and cheese in today’s world of calorie counting & food group elimination 😜. So what a joy it was to discover Mimi Thorisson’s cookbook, A Kitchen in France. I cook her recipes often and they are so beautiful – much like Mimi, her farmhouse in rural France and her tribe of kids and dogs.

Coming into the cooler months, there’s nothing better than a warming roast dinner, something that you can pop in the oven to do its magic while you have a glass of wine and savour the aroma that this gorgeous dish brings into your home.

Here’s the recipe…..

Ingredients
300ml creme fraiche
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 shallot, peeled and thinly sliced (look for the French shallots at your greengrocer)
A large bunch of fresh parsley, leaves removed and chopped
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (1.3-1.4kg)
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche, garlic, shallot, parsley, and thyme. Season with fine sea salt and pepper.
3. Spoon half the mixture inside the cavity of the chicken.
4. Truss the chicken securely with kitchen twine (I don’t do this step as I never seem to have kitchen twine!)
5. Rub the remaining cream in a thick layer all over the chicken (make sure to rub under the thighs and wings).
6. Sprinkle the coarse salt over the chicken and put in a roasting pan.
7. Roast the chicken for 1.5 hours, until golden brown and cooked through (the juices should run clear, not pink, when you prick the thigh with a knife).
8. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Your could serve this with creamy mashed potatoes, or mix it up and serve with brown rice that you cook in chicken stock, as I often do.  Enjoy x