Cook this: Orange, rosemary & olive oil cake

As a general rule, I’m not a fan of social media. I got off Facebook… wow, it was so long ago now I can’t even remember when. I don’t get the point of Twitter. I really don’t get Snapchat. I don’t have time for that crap in my life. But Instagram, I actually really love. I find it a happy, safe(r) sharing space. It’s where I go for travel inspiration and food inspiration and just generally finding amazing people who are living their dreams, which give me that little extra push to live mine.

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One of the accounts I’ve started following relatively recently is @dear_franny, which most people who know me would find kinda weird. Rachel posts mostly photos of her adorable little girl, and I’m not really an “awww look how cute the baby is” kinda gal. But she also bakes. And her baking shots always look amazing. One of her latest really caught my eye – a citrus rosemary olive oil cake. I’m a fan of olive oil in a cake for something a bit different, and I love the combination of citrus and rosemary, so I thought I’d take a peek. Rachel uses the rosemary just in the frosting, but I wanted a plain, simple cake sans-frosting, so I made it a bit more “me.” Here’s my version…

Ingredients:
– ¾ cup caster sugar
– finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
– 1 cup plain flour
– pinch of salt
– ½ tsp baking soda
– 1 tbsp dried rosemary
– ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
– ½ cup milk, at room temperature
– 2 medium eggs, at room temperature
– juice of half a medium orange

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Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC and grease a medium sized round cake tin.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest, rubbing them together with your fingers, which releases more of the oils from the zest (great tip, Rachel, thanks!).

3. Once combined, add the flour, salt, baking soda and rosemary, and mix to combine. Set aside.

4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, eggs and orange juice until completely combined.

5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, bit by bit, folding it in with a spatula as you go. Once completely combined, pour the batter into a cake tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until it passes the skewer test.

6. Cool in the tin until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. You can ice it, if you want – I like just a bit of icing sugar dusted over the top. Keep in an air-tight container up to 4 days.

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Cook this: mini matcha balls

One of my favourite Instagram feeds belongs to Matchaeologist; purveyors of high quality matcha, and sharers of the best matcha recipes online. The last recipe I tried from their feed was this batch of oddly coloured but VERY delicious matcha white chocolate muffins. Yesterday morning,  another one of their recipes caught my eye. With a little tweaking, I give you these ridiculously simple to make and full of goodness matcha balls.

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Not only do they require very few ingredients, they can very easily be made gluten free. They’re lactose and fructose free,  too. They take all of 3 minutes to put together before a quick bake in the oven. They come out like delicious little biscuit balls on the outside, with a soft, moist centre. Stop reading,  start baking.

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Ingredients:
– 80g plain flour
– 5g matcha
– 25g caster sugar
– 20g almond meal
– 2 tsp vegetable oil
– 4 tbsp water

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then stir in the oil and water.

3. Roll into small balls and place on the oven tray. Bake for 18 minutes, then transfer to a metal rack to cool.

4. Once cooled to room temperature,  dust with icing sugar and serve.

Cook this: almond & polenta cake

Apologies for the hiatus in baking of late; between the cookbook being prepared for launch and the rest of life, I haven’t had much time or inclination for it. But, I got back in the kitchen this weekend and finally made a cake that’s been on my “to bake” list for a while – an almond polenta cake by Therese at My Nordic Kitchen. I love almonds. I love polenta. It was an obvious one for me.

I played with the recipe a little, as I am want to do by upping the polenta ratio and making it a bit of a smaller cake. It’s delicious, so next time I’ll double it. It’s a super light and soft cake, and goes down perfectly with a good pot of Earl Grey tea.

Ingredients:
– 50g butter, softened
– 5 tbsp. caster sugar
– 2 large eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– finely grated zest of one lemon
– 150g Greek yoghurt
¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup almond meal
cup polenta
½ tsp baking soda
– pinch of salt
– handful slivered almonds

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease a bread tin.

2. Combine the butter and sugar with electric beaters until smooth and creamy, then add the eggs, one by one, and beat until combined.

3. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and yoghurt, and stir through.

4. Finally, add the flour, almond meal, polenta, baking soda and salt, and stir to completely combine.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cake passes the skewer test. Cool in the tin, and keep up to 3 days in an airtight container.

Oktoberfest V.3 – Cook this: Nussecken (German nut biscuits)

If this was our third annual Oktoberfest, does that mean it’s now officially a tradition? I really hope so, because a night of pretzels, meat and friends is a pretty good night!


And of course, dessert. My main department. For Oktoberfest 2014, I did black forest cookies. For Oktoberfest 2015, it was chocolate pretzels. I needed something different this year, and good old Google gave me a hand, fielding my “German desserts” queries. I finally came across Nussecken, a German biscuit that has a shortbready biscuit layer (yum), an apricot jam layer (my favourite jam, double yum), a hazelnut layer (yup), and finally dipped in dark chocolate (yes, please). It was the obvious choice.


It wasn’t as easy to find what looked like a good recipe for them, so more Google enquiries ensued, and The Frugal Chef came to the rescue with her recipe, which you can find right here. Don’t be scared by the multiple layers – it’s actually a pretty easy recipe to follow, and for this reason, I haven’t messed around with it like I usually would! I also didn’t want to bother copying and pasting the recipe I used, so I drew it up for you instead 🙂


I’ll also leave you with some photos of my Nussecken, and some of the other goodies we had…


Does anyone else do an annual Oktoberfest celebration with friends? Or any other annual party? You should, it’s really fun, especially when everyone gets dressed up and are happy to stuff themselves silly with food!

Cook this: iced animal cookies

Last weekend, we celebrated my delicious little niece’s first birthday! Which was totally depressing, because it made me feel so old… but also super exciting, because I love being able to celebrate with everyone 🙂

Because I’m pretty useless with kiddy stuff like games and what not, I got put on cookie duty (yay) and the order was brightly coloured animal cookies.

I’m gonna be honest – I probably had more fun making these than the kids had eating them. They’re actually incredibly easy to make; you just need a fairly steady hand, a bit of patience, and plenty of space to spread everything out in the kitchen… it gets a little messy…

Anyway, having seen how much some bakeries charge for these types of cookies, I thought I’d share how easy they actually are to make with you guys 🙂 For the cookies themselves, something plain and basic like these tea cookies (you obviously don’t need to add the tea leaves in there – leave them out for a plain vanilla cookie) will work perfectly.

For the frosting, there are a few things you’ll need. The first is some writing icing tubes. I just use these from Queen, which are nothing fancy, and available for a few dollars at any supermarket. You may also want some decorations, like sprinkles, sparkles, flowers, etc. Again, all pretty easy to get your hands on in the baking aisle of your local supermarket.

Then, to make the coloured frosting, the easiest thing to do is just DIY royal icing! All you need to do is combine 1 egg white with around 200 – 250g powdered icing sugar. That’s it! With those two little ingredients, I made enough frosting to cover my 2 batches of cookies 2 or 3 times over, so a little goes a long way. Once you’ve made that base mixture, divide it between smaller bowls, which you can colour individually depending on what you need for your cookies. Stir in your coloured food dye, and mix them all in evenly.

Once that’s all done and set up, take a cookie and a tube of writing icing. Outline the cookie with the writing icing, which will act as a guard for the royal icing when you add it later. Let the writing icing dry a little before you move on – you may want to outline a few at a time to give them a chance to dry.

To fill the cookies with the coloured royal icing, add a few drops of water the the icing you’re using, and stir it in. You want the consistency to be runny enough to drip off the spoon, but not so watery it looses colour. Add a little of the icing to the centre of the cookie, and use a small spoon or knife to spread it out to the edges of the writing icing border. Decorate your cookies as you wish, and lay them out to dry for at least a few hours before packing them away to take to party central – the frosting will dry hard, so you’ll be able to carefully stack them up in a container if you need to.

That’s it! So easy! And if you need an excuse to practice, Halloween is just around the corner, so get those pumpkin and cat cookie cutters out 🙂

Cook this: cacao, puffed quinoa & pistachio granola

I have the most ridiculous accumulation of cookbooks at home, and at one point had started to hoard magazines, as well.

When I realised how out of control it was getting, I decided to consolidate all of my favourite recipes from my magazines into smaller collections; I went out and bought a few large spiral notebooks and went through my magazines, cutting out the recipes I actually liked and thought I’d cook. I stuck them into the notebooks, and they now sit in a nice, neat little pile on my bookshelf.


I go through them every few weeks to find inspiration and ideas I’d forgotten I’d collected, and found some new breaky inspiration in one of my books last week; a Donna Hay granola recipe, using puffed quinoa, which I’ve been wanting to try adding to my breakfast oats for a while now.

I made a few changes to suit my tastes and pantry supplies, and ended up with an incredible mix, and the perfect way to enjoy a chocolatey breakfast without the extra sugar and calories – happy!

 

Ingredients: (makes 1 large jar)
– 1/4 cup cacao powder
– 1 tbsp brown sugar
– 6 tbsp water
– 2 cups puffed quinoa
– 2 cups rolled oats
– 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
– 1/4 cup chia seeds
– 1/2 cup cacao nibs
– 1 cup shredded coconut

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a large oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

2. Heat the cacao (or cocoa) powder, sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat, gently mixing until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat to cool a little.

3. While that cools, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

4. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to coat and combine.

5. Spread the mixture over the oven tray, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, mixing it around every 5 minutes or so to ensure it cooks evenly.

6. Cool completed on the tray, and store in an airtight jar or container 2 – 3 weeks.

Cook this: Gluten & sugar free banana bread (from Balance by Monica)

If you were reading last week, you might have seen this post where I introduced my sister’s brainchild, Balance By Monica; starting small with Instagram to share her food creations until she has her nutrition qualification to go along with her teaching, psychology and health instructor ones, at which point the empire will no doubt expand.

I also promised to share a recipe from her; I mentioned in my post that a lack of education is a big problem when it comes to making healthy, balanced choices, and when you have food intolerances, that only makes it all the harder. But, even though there are a lot more instances of food intolerances these days, we’re also lucky to have a lot more access to information on how to deal with and adapt to them. If you have issues with gluten, lactose and/or sugar, this ones’s for you!

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Ingredients:
– 2 ripe bananas, mashed, plus 1 more banana, peeled and cut in half length ways
– ½ cup rolled oats
– ¾ cup almond meal
– ¾ cup LSA mix (available from health food stores)
– 2 eggs, lightly whisked
– ¼ cup milk (regular, almond, soy, whatever!)
– 2 tbsp plain vanilla or Greek yoghurt
– 2 tbsp Stevia or honey
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tbsp chia seeds

Method:
1.Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease a loaf tin or line it with non-stick baking paper.

2. Add all ingredients (except the banana halved length ways and the chia seeds) into a large mixing bowl and stir together to combine completely.

3. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth it out with a spatula.

4. Top the cake with the extra banana and sprinkle with chia seeds.

5. Bake for 60min or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Rest in the tin until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.