Cook this: CWA’s lemon cake. As made by the husband…

Little known fact: my husband can actually cook. He likes to say he can’t, but that’s crap. He does great Mexican (not Tex Mex, actual Mexican), can throw together an amazing bowl of olive oil and roast veggie pasta, and can do steak and mashed potato better than any pub I’ve ever been to. Baking, however, has never really been his thing. Until last year, when he was looking for something to do, and decided to try baking a cake. We’re really not lacking in options when it comes to cookbooks, but we needed something basic and easy for the first attempt, to up the odds of a successful bake, and therefore the odds of it happening again!

The good old Country Women’s Association Classics came to the rescue; if you’ve never cooked from one of their recipes, you’re missing out. They’re all tried and tested, super simple, and rarely require ingredients that you probably don’t already have handy. But it’s a bloody enormous book, around 850 pages, so there are a LOT of options. Husband settled on a lime cake, with only 8 ingredients and a few short steps, it seemed pretty do-able. And, it was – the first attempt turned our perfectly! Somehow both dense and light at the same time, I hate the word, but it was moist and fresh, and the lime hit was fantastic. It was eaten pretty quickly, and a few days later, I arrived home from work to find another one on the table – buoyed by the success of the first attempt he went again, to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. Nope, perfect again!

Now, it’s his cake, and he made a lemon version of it the other night for mum’s birthday (because she loves lemon cakes), and it was every bit as good as the lime. He wasn’t real keen on the idea of writing a guest blog post on the recipe because “I just did exactly what the book told me,” but if this recipe was good enough for mum to ask for, I figured it was good enough to share here, too 🙂

 

Ingredients:
– 180g butter, softened
– 1 cup caster sugar
– finely grated zest of one lime (or lemon)
– 2 eggs, lightly beaten
– 1¼ cups self-raising flour
– ⅓ cup almond meal
– ¾ cup sour cream
– 2 tbsp lime (or lemon) juice

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and grease an 18cm square cake tin (though husband prefers to line it with baking paper so as not to risk it sticking to the tin).

2. Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the zest and eggs.

3. Into that mixture, fold in the sifted flour, almond meal, sour cream and juice.

4. Pour into the tin, smoothing over the surface with a spatula, and bake for 1 hour or until cooked through (check with a toothpick or skewer).

5. Cool in the tin until it’s cool enough to handle, then remove, slice and serve! A bit of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream goes really well with it, too.

 

* Keeps for around 2 – 3 days in an air-tight container. If you can make it last that long. Good luck with that, though, because it’s a damn good cake!

 

 

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Cook this: chocolate & Bounty cupcakes 

Happy Hump Day! How good is it when you’re given a box of chocolates? How much better is it when they’re your favourites?! Big thanks to my sibling’s legend of a boyfriend for the box of dark chocolate Bounty bars I used to make these fudgy, chocolatey, rich pieces of heaven, adapted from a Donna Hay chocolate cake recipe. If you haven’t got someone who’ll gift you chocolate, I suggest buying some for yourself so you can get involved in some mid week chocolate cake action, anyway.

Ingredients:
– 250g butter, softened
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1⅓ cup plain flour
-1½ tsp baking powder
– ½ cup coca powder
– ½ cup milk
– ½ cup desiccated coconut
– 3-4 king size bounty bars, chopped

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 12-hole muffin tins with cupcake cases.
2. Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, until light and creamy.
3. Add in the eggs and vanilla, and beat again until completely incorporated.
4. Sift in the four, baking powder and cocoa, and fold into the mixture.
5. Stir in the milk, then the coconut and Bounty pieces.
6. Spoon the mixture into the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean.
7. Once cool enough to handle, transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling before decorating; I’ll be honest, I cheated with the frosting this time and used the pre-made Betty Crocker stuff, along with a bit more coconut and Bounty pieces on top. Amazing!

Tea time: Rustica, Melbourne – and overcoming disordered eating

Rustica Sourdough Bakery
402 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
http://rusticasourdough.com.au/

I was sitting at Rustica last Sunday with a pot of tea and my husband’s coffee and a Milo cronut in front of me, thinking about how much things have changed over the past year.

While I’m pretty open about my depression & anxiety issues, the disordered eating side of the dice isn’t something I speak about much. I think maybe because of my background (I studied exercise science at uni, worked as a personal trainer for a decade and was a half decent martial artist who represented her state in competition) I feel like I should have been stronger or more immune to it. Like I should have known better than to buy into the self hatred and dysmorphia and media-induced insecurities. Fool; if anything, I think it just made me even more susceptible. I guess it’s those same reasons that have me referring to it as “disordered eating” rather than a straight up “eating disorder;” there are other big reasons for this as well, but nothing I can go into without pissing certain people off..

Anyway, without getting into it all too much, because honestly, it’s not particularly easy to talk about just yet, one of the things I’ve struggled with the most is exercise. If I don’t work out every day to balance out what I eat, that’s failure. If I’m going out for dinner after work (a very rare occurance these days), I need to be up early to fit in a good hour workout before work. If we’re doing weekend brunch, there’s no time to sleep in – even a 10am brunch date means a 7.30am alarm to get in a good workout first. Needless to say, it’s exhausting. Part of the recovery plan was to cut myself a bit of slack around the workouts and not see them as punishment for eating… That’s been WAY harder than it should be!

Anyway, this particular Sunday, the challenge was placed before me; go out for breakfast, THEN have a cup of tea & a nibble a few hours later, without getting up early to workout and also without a meltdown/freak out. Challenge accepted. Infinitely easier with the husband by my side.

You saw the breakfast portion of the morning last week, at Sir Charles, which was absolutely spectacular. Because we were in my favourite part of Melbourne, we took a nice, long walk around the streets of Brunswick & Collingwood so I could check out my favourite vintage shops, stock up on tea at Aunt Maggie’s. Then, a visit to Rustica. My suggestion because I love this place & still hadn’t taken the husband there to try a cronut!

The breads and pastries are actually picture perfect (as demonstrated by the never ending iPhone-wielding crowds by the front door), and taste every bit as good as they look. We noticed one last Milo cronut sitting in the display case and snapped that up, much to the disappointment of the couple behind us (sorry… not sorry, it was amazing), along with a pot of tea and a coffee.  Tea, coffee and cronut all magnificent – that cronut in particular! So big and rich and creamy, you’d most likely be a little unwell if you have a dodgy stomach like me and still ate the lot, so it was good to share! It’s also a beautiful space to spend a bit of time in if you want to just chill out alone and maybe read or write, or draw in a sketch book, day dream, or reflect on where you’re at in life at the moment… Plenty of natural light, a great spot for people watching, smells amazing because it’s a bakery, that comforting Fitzroy vibe (just the right mix of hipster and boho and real), friendly staff who give you your space to do your thing, and amazing cronuts. Have you got a good egg in your life that has your back no matter what? Take them out for a cronut this week to say thank you  : )

Cook this: orange, cranberry & rosemary cake

There are some really great things about being part of the food and travel blogging community. You make new friends all over the world, get some great ideas to add to the bucket list, always have like-minded people to bounce ideas off, and best of all, always have great new recipes to try  : )

I saw this one on Rachel’s site, Emerging Adult Eats, last week, and immediately added oranges and cranberries to my shopping list. I love orange and cranberry – one of my favourite old recipes is orange, cranberry and oat cookies. I was also really intrigued by Rachel’s addition of rosemary, for a savoury touch… I intended to make this as more of a cake than a bread, and planned on omitting the rosemary, but once the matter was made and tasted before being poured into the tin, I decided to add a little dried rosemary that I had in the spice cupboard anyway – it just seemed the right thing to do.

Anyway, I made my only little adjustments, as I am want to do, and here’s how it went…

 

Ingredients:
– 2 ½ cups self-raising flour
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– ½ cup olive oil
– ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
– juice of 2 oranges
– zest of 2 oranges
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup dried cranberries
– pinch of salt
– 1 tsp dried rosemary
– ¼ cup mixed seeds (I used pepitas and sunflower seeds)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease a bread loaf tin.

2. Combine the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yoghurt, orange zest and juice, and the vanilla.

4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the flour until completely combined – you may have to scrape out the whisk a few times.

5. Finally, stir in the cranberries, salt and rosemary, pour the batter into the tin, and sprinkle the seeds over the top.

6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cook this: mini microwave matcha pudding cakes

Monday morning. You’re meant to be rested and ready to go on Monday mornings. As I begin to type this on Sunday night, I get the feeling that’s not going to be the case for me. A lifelong insomniac, I’m also struggling with depression and anxiety and disordered eating. Throw all that into the cauldron along with how busy things are getting in the lead up to Christmas (not very compatible with a textbook introvert who gets her energy from being along rather than in big social situations), a particularly frustrating work situation that I’m stuck with at the moment, and my body struggling to adjust to some new medication, and it’s just, well…. yeah. So at this point, every Monday I can get through in one piece is a massive win right now!

I know a lot of people like to reward themselves for getting through another Monday unscathed; for some, it’s a beer or a nice glass of wine. For others, it’s a spot of online shopping. Or maybe watching their favourite guilty pleasure trashy TV show. Personally, I like a cup of tea on the couch in my PJs with a little something sweet to eat. So if I get through today, this is what I’m gonna be treating myself with.

This is a magical little cup of happiness, based on the recipe I used for the chocolate mug cake. Other than the matcha powder, it uses staple pantry ingredients that you should always have handy, and it only takes about 5 minutes start to finish, so it’s the perfect end-of-the-day treat 🙂 I also like to use pandan kaya on top of mine, because it tastes fantastic with the matcha – this is the stuff I use, which I get from ARC Asian Grocers at Preston Market. It’s SO GOOD!!!

 

To make one big pudding cup or two small ones:
– ¼ cup plain flour or almond meal (if I have almond meal, I like a 50/50 mix)
– ½ tsp matcha powder
– ¼ tsp baking powder
– ½ tbsp caster sugar
– ½ tbsp shredded coconut
– ¼ cup milk (I like almond milk for this)
– 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
– optional – a few strawberries or raspberries, pandan kaya

And then:
1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a coffee mug or tea cup.
2. Add in the wet ingredients and stir to combine completely.
3. If you want to add in berries, stir them in now.

4. Microwave for 1 – 2 minutes, depending on how strong your microwave is.
5. Take it out, let it cool for a minute, top with pandan kaya and a little more shredded coconut if you want, and enjoy!

I hope everyone has a good Monday; make sure you make time to do a little something for yourself, and if you need a little treat tonight, I hope you can enjoy a matcha pudding cup, too!

Eat here: Dominique Ansel Bakery, Tokyo, Japan

Dominique Ansel Bakery
5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
http://dominiqueanseljapan.com/en

A while ago I wrote about my January 2015 visit to Dominique Ansel in New York City; last month saw me visit another of their stores, this time on the other side of the world in Tokyo, Japan. You can read a little more about my New York experience here, but the Reader’s Digest version is that I was met with sass and attitude, sans cronut. Unimpressed, to say the least.

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Like my New York visit, I arrived at the Tokyo store around the same time, 9am-ish in the morning, not long after opening time. Also like New York, I was met with a wall of the most beautiful and colourful looking cakes and cookies and macarons. But, in complete contrast, the lady who served me this time around couldn’t get me my cronut quickly enough, or present it to me with a proud enough smile on her face! What a gem!

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Given that it was breakfast time, I’d already walked Takeshita Street, and had a pretty massive day ahead involving a LOT more walking, I decided to grab a beautiful green matcha cookie, too. I started on that, and it was perfection – a wafer like base filled with something closer to a dense cake than a cookie, the matcha flavour was every bit as incredible as you’d expect here.

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Then, finally, my much anticipated cronut. Which I’d been waiting 10 months for.
Every.
Bit.
Worth.
The.
Wait.

Wow. So, it was a sweet potato number spiked with whiskey and creme fraiche, with nutmeg spiced maple sugar. Rich and creamy with perfectly golden pastry. This is the cronut dreams are made of. This makes walking in the rain worthwhile. This is everything. When you visit, check out their Instagram for flavour of the month!

All in all, way better experience than the New York store, the offerings had a really disting Japanese flavour to them, the cafe itself was beautiful and light and fun, and the non-stop, smiling flow of traffic through the door was testament to how popular they are over there! Great move, Mr Ansel! Now let’s look at making the move to Melbourne!

Cook this: olive oil chocolate zucchini cake (low FODMAP)

Oh, hey Sunday! I know most people have a real love/hate relationship with you, but mostly I really like you. I especially love you in the Melbourne spring time – more often than not, you follow a semi-hectic Saturday, breezing in with your just-warm-enough sunshine and blue skies, lazy mornings and relaxing afternoons. Personally, I think that right now, you’re one of the best days of the week to enjoy a good cup of tea, because right now it’s not so warm that you don’t feel like hot tea, and it’s not so cold that you can’t sit outside in the sunshine to enjoy it. And you can’t really enjoy a good pot of tea without something delicious to nibble on.

Enter a recipe I adapted from Laura’s dark chocolate olive oil zucchini bread on Fork Knife Swoon. I’ve made this twice in the last 10 days, and it’s one of the best chocolate cake recipes I have now. Of course, the recipe I’m using isn’t quite the same as Laura’s – you guys know I like to do these things my own way! And as much as I like Laura’s effort in calling in “bread,” I’m not even gonna bother. Despite the fact that this is a relatively healthy cake compared to other fudgy chocolate cakes (olive oil instead of plain butter, plenty of zucchini, unsweetened cocoa powder instead of heaps of sugar and melted chocolate), it is rich, moist, chocolatey and completely addictive. I’m also a  massive fan of the taste of good quality olive oil, and it works so absolutely perfectly with the dark chocolate in this cake. Oh yeah, and it’s still gluten free (providing you use gluten free plain flour), lactose free, fructose free, FODMAP and tummy friendly. Amazing.

Use these..
– 2 small zucchinis
– ¾ cup almond meal
– 1 cup plain flour
– ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ½ cup caster sugar

– ¾ cup olive oil
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– ½ cup dark chocolate chips (I used Lindt 85% dark chocolate because it doesn’t upset my stomach like other chocolates do, and just chopped it up into small pieces)

.. to make this:

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease or baking paper-line a tin of choice – I used a medium sized loaf tin, but you can go round, square, whatever you want.

2. Grate the zucchini into a strainer or colander, and squeeze out a bit of the excess moisture (but not ALL of it, because you need some of it to keep the cake moist. I hate that word, but that’s what it is).

3. In a small bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.

4. In a larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Then stir in the zucchini.

5. Add about a quarter of the flour mix to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Continue adding the flour bit by bit, stirring as you go and making sure it’s completely combined.  Lastly, stir in those chocolate chips.

6. Pour the batter into your tin and bake for 35 – 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. Let your cake cool off until it’s safe to handle, slice it up and enjoy eating as much as you want, because it’s full of vegetables and what not 😉

Well, I’m off to enjoy lunch with my lovely in-laws (no, seriously) now, but I’ll be heading home to enjoy a cuppa and some of this cake when we’re done! And don’t worry guys – it’s not even midday yet, and this cake is stupidly easy to make, so you have plenty of time to get one in the oven to enjoy this arvo, too! Also, you really should get some extra veggies in today…  Here’s to you Sunday – thanks for the sunshine and down time to relax and eat cake before the start of another hectic week!