Cook this: ANZAC cookies

If you’re an Aussie or a Kiwi, you’re getting ready to deal with two days of work before the ANZAC Day public holiday on Wednesday. To make tomorrow go a little faster, make yourself a batch of these tonight after work – the sugar will pull you through Tuesday!

ANZAC Day isn’t all about a day off work, though. It’s a day for us to pay homage to those who were brave and selfless enough to give their lives so that we could contribute to live ours. And it might sound a bit lame, but I really do think about that every time I make these cookies. They’re super easy to make, and came to be when the mums and wives of the fighting troops wanted to send something over that wouldn’t spoil – they came up with these cookies, made from cheap ingredients that keep well for a while. That doesn’t matter anymore, because it’s impossible to keep a batch of these for more than 3 days without eating them all.

Ingredients:
• 1¼ cups plain flour, sifted
• 1½ cups rolled oats
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ¾ cup shredded coconut
• 2 tbsp golden syrup
• 150g butter
• 1 tsp baking powder

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/350°F and line two oven trays with non-stick baking paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar and coconut, and set aside.

3. Melt the golden syrup and butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then set aside.

4. In a small bowl, stir the baking powder in with 2 tbsp water, then stir into the melted butter mixture.

5. Pour the melted butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well to combine.

6. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto the prepared baking trays with a bit of space between, and bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until golden and just set for a softer cookie, or 15 – 18 minutes for a crunchier one. Cool for 5 minutes on tray before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 


This recipe is one of my all-time favourites, and it has a spot  in my cookbook, along with another 60-odd favourites! If you’d like to get your paws on a copy (with a fancy new cover), prices start from just $9.99 – click on through to get shopping 🙂

Read this: La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy by the Italian Academy of Cuisine

La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy
by the Italian Academy of Cuisine


So, at almost 1000 pages long, it’s not exactly a “curl up with a pot of tea and read it on Saturday morning” kind of book. But, it’s also a lot more than just a cookbook. I’ve found myself picking it up and flicking through it more than usual lately, and as you can probably tell by the top of the dustcover, I spend a bit of time with this book…

A few decades ago, some thoughtful, clever Italians came together with the idea of preserving their culinary legacy. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine and set their sights on the lofty goal of recording the classic Italian recipes from all over the country. Including/especially those very specific, regional ones that have (until now) only been passed down verbally through the generations.

With over 7,600 members across the country, they were able to get their paws on some 2,000 recipes, covering everything from pasta to vegetables to desserts and literally everything in between. These are the precious recipes that are cooked in only this or that region of Italy. Recipes that have graced the dinner tables for generations. Recipes that would have eventually been lost as the generations stopped cooking them, or stopped remembering how much flour and salt Nonna said the dough needed.

Not only are there the recipes, but like in the photo below, scattered throughout the book are little snippets of “local traditions;” with half of my family from Northern Italy and the other half from Southern Italy, there’s a lot in between I don’t know much about! And if you love to travel and learn about other cultures through their culinary traditions half as much as I do, you’re going to find a veritable treasure trove in these pages…

One of the most beautiful things about this book is the point made in the introduction – it is very much recognised that every Italian has their own way of making a dish their own (I can vouch for that), so this is not intended to be a “correct to the last letter” type of cookbook…

“Interpretation, improvisation – these are essential characteristics of Italian coking. Thus while we have strived to present the most iconic version of key regional dishes, it is up to you, the home cook, to make them your own.”

Pick up a copy here and start reading/cooking!

Project Cookbook complete: Meet THE KITCHEN PASSPORT!

Well this is mighty exciting to be able to finally post… Say hi to the little book I put together:

THE KITCHEN PASSPORT:
Getting Around The World & Bringing It Back To Your Table

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If you’ve been playing along for a while, you may remember this post, or this one; the little passion project I started two years ago got a little out of control and ended up as a kind of cookbook / travel guide / journal hybrid, almost 170 pages long, with 63 recipes, full colour photos and notes from around the world, and I’m pretty excited to say is finally finished and ready to fly out into the world!

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Let me tell you a bit more about it and why I decided that I wanted to share it…

This book is a collection of recipes inspired by meals I’ve enjoyed on my travels, as well as some of the stories behind them, the places I first ate them, the markets I visited, and the people I met on the way. My hope is that anyone who does find themselves with a copy can use it as part cookbook, part travel guide, part voyeuristic look into my diary.

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Food plays such a huge role in cultural identity and is one of, if not the best ways to get to know a new city. It has the power to bring together strangers, to communicate entire histories, and to create amazing memories which will still be with you as you eat that same dish 10 years later. My greatest travel memories can be recalled so easily through the senses of taste and smell; through food. I want to give others an easy way to either recreate food from their travels, too, and others still (and maybe more importantly) a way to taste a bit of the world they haven’t visited yet.

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I’m neither a professional chef nor writer. I have no training in photography or visual design. I’m just another girl who wants to leave behind some of that which I’ve been fortunate enough to experience. I hope this little book inspires some to travel and brings back fond memories for others. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed taking the adventures that are behind it.

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If you’d like a bit more of a preview of the book, or to actually purchase a copy, follow the link and head on over to Blurb Books, where it’s being sold in hardcover, softcover (unfortunately printing “real” books these days isn’t a cheap venture, I’ve done my best to keep the costs down!), eBook and PDF formats, with pricing (ex GST & shipping) below:

Hardcover: AUD$51.99
Softcover: AUD$36.99
eBook: AUD$19.98
PDF: AUD$9.99

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And if you do end up with a copy, I really, truly do hope you enjoy the escape from reality and return of fond memories while reading and cooking from it 🙂

Read this: Diner by Andrew Levins

Diner
by Andrew Levins

Written by Andrew Levins, a DJ turned restauranteur, back in 2012 when American BBQ was just starting to gain popularity in Melbourne, this is the perfect cookbook for getting started in the craft.

Full of mouth-watering photos and well explained recipes, I’ve been using this book semi-regularly since buying it a couple of years ago – he’s got some great salsas, dill pickles, and some unreal sandwich ideas. He’s also got some intimidating looking low & slow style recipes that I’d been avoiding.

But having won a gorgeous new Weber BBQ at the McCormick’s American BBQ Masterclass last year, husband and I decided to use the ANZAC Day public holiday to finally put our fears of meaty failure aside and give it a crack. We used my own personal special dry rub concoction with Levins’ recipe for smoked ribs, and I can’t believe I can say it, but they turned out magnificently!

This book also has really great and helpful tips on everything from how to get the perfect burger to how to slow cook properly; once I actually read through the tips, those intimidating recipes weren’t as scary.

If you’re into your American food, this is a fantastic book to have – everything from mac & cheese and hot dogs to fried chicken, cola & beer braised short ribs and ribwiches are covered, and they’re all doable; they also make for one hell of a feast!

Read this: Simplicious by Sarah Wilson

Simplicious 
by Sarah Wilson

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Do you remember that whole “I Quit Sugar” thing that was going on a few years ago? Sarah Wilson was the lady behind that. I’m a massive sweet tooth and don’t think I could ever actually give up sugar, so I didn’t bother with that, but after seeing her new book pop up on several Instagram accounts I follow and seeing it at KMart for a very reasonable price, I decided to check it out.

This is my kind of cookbook. It’s pretty simple and straightforward, plenty of info, beautiful pictures, nice and colourful. But it’s also realistic and helpful, which is something that cookbooks absolutely must be in order to justify spending money on them, particularly when Google brings recipes for almost anything to your fingertips within a few seconds.

Sarah’s book focuses in a big way on sustainability and doing it yourself. She starts off with her 5 step Simplicious Flow:
1. Start where you are with what you have
2. Buy in bulk when it’s advantageous
3. Sort & store
4. Park-cook, freeze & preserve
5. Use the leftovers
She also has a big focus on using food for health, which is so important these days, where so many health problems can be helped and managed with something as simple as the right diet.

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Recipes are all about making the most of your ingredients and doing as much as possible from scratch, but in the easiest possible way. Things like homemade stock, condiments, kombucha and fermented veggies are all broken down into less confusing and confronting steps, which makes this a great way to dip your toes in and start experimenting. It’s also designed to be incredible cost efficient, so if things stuff up the first time, you won’t have spend a fortune on it, which is a massive pet hate on mine.

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It’s also really great to see how many of the recipes fit together, and how creative you can get with your leftovers – for example, she has a great looking recipe for pulled lamb, but how often are you going to need 2kg of lamb in one hit? Doesn’t matter here, because she runs you through another few recipes you can use it in, and how to keep it all properly. Too easy.

I actually cooked a Simplicious fish pilaf for dinner last night which turned out to be pretty damn good, so I’ll share that recipe tomorrow as a bit of a taster for anyone interested in how the recipes actually work in real life, so stay tuned 🙂 And if you want to get stuck into it yourself, grab a copy here!

Read this: A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

A History of Food in 100 Recipes
by William Sitwell

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Like so many of the books I’ve amassed over the years, I found this one by chance; as a sometimes food blogger, traveller, history nerd and individual contemplating putting together another cookbook, how could a title like this not grab my attention?!

William Sitwell, writer, editor,food critic, British gastronomic stalwart, has brilliantly and entertainingly explored the history of cuisine through recipes that have been recorded over thousands of years, beginning in the 1959s BC with what is believed to be on of civilization’s earliest recorded recipes (Egyptian flat bread) right up to Heston’s 2011 recipe for “meat fruit.”

The journey in between looked at recipes “to salt ham,” recorded somewhere around 160BC, with these sage words: “Be they medieval fish buriers who cured salmon for a living or a Roman disciplinarian who salted pork in his spare time, these early innovators used their ingenuity to keep hunger at bay. Meanwhile, the techniques that once staved off real hunger in former times now sate the greed of the modern snacker today. For where would we be without all those salty, sugary goodies to make us obese and thirsty?”

We also learnt about our evolution in terms of cooking with heat and flames: “However it happened, man’s use of fire to cook was revolutionary. It wasn’t just the new flavour that it introduced to the food, but the inedible then became edible… As man consumed more nutrients, his health must have benefited too. Furthermore, his use of fire for cooking is one of the decisive factors that separates him from other animals… Animals may store food – dogs bury bones, raccoons douse their food in water – but only humans cook it. Having learnt to roast food, man then got all sophisticated and started boiling it.”

Come the mid1600s and we find that cookbooks were being produced in Italy, Germany and England, but not France, because a) recipes were still closely guarded secrets, and b) food was not considered a subject worthy of conversation. My, how times have changed…
Sitwell writes with good humour and refreshing honesty, fully embracing the commonly held world view that Britain HASD no real food culture, and rather than defending it, recognising the uphill battle Britain has faced in trying to establish a “proper food culture,” with one of those battles being the microwave coming along in the 1970s, encouraging people to buy processed food that could be stored almost indefinitely in the fridge or freezer, then re-heated and ready to eat in minutes.

Its a really great read for those of us who are interested in where this culture we’re all now so caught up in (all over the world) all started and how it evolved to the point its at today. Not to mention the fact that there are some really great recipes in there to try, and fantastic recommendations for further reading; grab a copy of your own here and enjoy the trip through food history!

Cook this: lamb & apricot tagine

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You know the whole conundrum of a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear? I’m not a girly girl with a crap load of clothes, so that doesn’t happen so much to me. My thing is that I have bookshelves (yes, plural, see below for the bulk of my collection) full of cook books and no idea what to cook. A lot of the time, I buy cook books because a) I like the pretty pictures, and b) I love to read different recipes, because I feel like it’s one of the best ways to learn about other cultures. Staring at the ridiculous amount of cookbooks I have after buying yet another one last weekend, I decided to start picking a book out each week and finding a random recipe to cook. This week, I plucked out Delicious: More Please cook book by Valli Little, food editor of Delicious magazine, which has been sitting on my shelf for literally years, after mum gave it to me for Christmas like five years ago.

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This book is beautifully photographed and laid out, in seasons – as in, here are some autumn recipes, using what’s actually in season. I love that concept. And the recipe for the lamb and apricot tagine jumped out at me again, like it did the first seven times I flicked through this book. It looked so rich and thick, a perfect dish now that the weather is getting colder. So why has it taken me so long to actually make this dish? Because, honestly, the very long list of ingredients and lack of 1., 2., 3. method really put me off. I really hate recipes that have the method written out in long paragraphs – I just want dot point steps!

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Anyway, it got me thinking about not only how many great recipes I haven’t bothered trying because they seem too hard at first glance, and also how many recipes other people gloss over for the same reason. For that reason, I decided to re-write this recipe to something a bit more simple and easy for a real person in a real kitchen to cook, using mostly ingredients already around the house. Because let’s face it – when you have to buy a stupid amount of ingredients like obscure spices that you’re only even going to use for the one dish, you may as well just go and order the dish at a restaurant, where it’s going to be quicker and cheaper. I don’t think my pared down version has lost too much – it was

Here’s my version of Valli Little’s lamb and apricot tagine (enough to serve 4) – hopefully it’s simple enough for you guys to try too, because it’s actually not as hard as it looks and a really delicious autumn meal!

 

Marinade for lamb
– 1 garlic clove, minced
– 1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely grated
– 1 heaped tsp cumin powder
– 1 heaped tsp sweet paprika
– sprinkle of salt
– 3 tbsp olive oil
– 500g diced lamb

1. Combine everything but the lamb in a larger plastic container into a paste.

2. Add the lamb to the container, mix the paste through until it’s well coated, and let it marinate away in the fridge for an hour or so.

 

Cous cous
– zest of 1 orange
– 2 tbsp golden raisins
– 1 tsp cumin powder
– 1 tsp sweet paprika
– 1 cup cous cous
– 1 tsp butter
– 1 tbsp toasted slivered almonds (optional)

While the tagine is finishing up in that last 10 – 15 minute simmer, prepare the cous cous:

1. Heat a small saucepan over low/medium heat, and add the zest, raisins and spices, and cook gently for a minute or two, until you can really smell it.

3. Add 1 cup of water, bring the the boil, then take the saucepan off the heat.

4. Stir in the cous cous, cover, and sit aside for 5 minutes.

5. Add the butter and work it through/fluff the cous cous up with a fork. Mix in the almonds if you want them, and it’s ready to go with the tagine!

 

The rest of the tagine
– olive oil
– 20g butter
– 1 onion, chopped- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas , drained
– 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
– 2 cups beef, lamb or vegetable stock
– 1 tbsp honey
– ½ cup dried apricots, cut in half
– toasted sesame seeds and coriander to serve (optional)

1. Heat a large pot over high heat and drizzle in a little olive oil. Cook the lamb in batches if the pot isn’t big enough to cook it all at once, just sealing it off/browning it. Then remove it from the pot and set aside.

2. Keep the pot on over medium heat and add the butter. Once melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it softens a little (around 5 minutes).

3. Put the lamb back into the pot and stir it into the onion. If you like extra spices/have them around, like cinnamon, chilli, ras el hanout, add in a little of them here, too.

4. Next, stir in the chickpeas, tomatoes, stock and honey – you should have enough liquid in the pot now to just cover the lamb. If you need more, add more!

5. Bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 45 minutes.

6. Uncover and simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

7. Last step of the simmering process – add the apricots, and simmer/stir for another 10 – 15 minutes.

8. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and fresh coriander leaves on top, and serve with cous cous. Enjoy!
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