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: Roast sweet potato, date & olive salad

In my precious Evernote app, I keep a folder of recipes that I continue to add to every time I see something delicious online that I plan to try at some point. One of those came from Little Market Kitchen last year in the form of a roast sweet potato, olive and date salad, and I kinda forgot about it… until now!

With Melbourne’s weather finally starting to turn a little warmer (sort of, in spurts…), it seemed the perfect salad for us – a good combination of fresh and roasted, substantial enough to call a meal, and with a brilliant twist of roasting not only the potato, but the olives and dates as well. I put my own twist on it, and here’s what I came up with…


Ingredients (serves 4):
– 1 large chicken breast
– 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
– 1 heaped cup of pitted dates
– 1 heaped cup of pitted olives (I like kalamata, but you can use any you like)
– olive oil
– 2 tbsp maple syrup
– 1 tbsp olive oil
– 1 tbsp seeded mustard
– baby spinach and rocket (as much or little as you like)
– a handful of crumbled feta cheese (or more, if you really like it)
– a handful of slivered almonds

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and spray a small baking dish with a little cooking oil. Add the chicken breast and drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle some salt and pepper over it. Into the oven to cook for around 20min, or until cooked through. Once it’s done, let it cool enough to be handled, then roughly chop it and set it aside.

2. Once the chicken is cooking, line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.

3. Spread the cubes of sweet potato over the tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes – you can do this at the same time as the chicken if your oven has enough room.

4. Take the tray out, add the dates and olives to the sweet potato, and roast for another 10 minutes, then take out of the oven to cool a little.

5. That’s the hardest part! To make the dressing, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil and mustard. To put the salad together, layer the baby spinach and rocket, followed by the roast potato, olives and dates, then the chicken, and finally the feta, almonds and dressing. Enjoy 🙂

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.

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 🙂

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: Orange & zucchini “muesli bars” (lactose, gluten & sugar free)

Remember how I said the other day that I wanted to try using puffed quinoa a bit more? I have a giant bag of the stuff at home now and have been experimenting with other ways of using it. Enter these muesli bars. But first, let’s backtrack a few steps..

I’m a snacker. I like to eat in dribs and drabs throughout the day, and I’ll snack on whatever is handy and convenient. If that’s a jar of cookies, I’ll have a cookie. If I come across chocolate before I notice carrot sticks, I’m having some chocolate. So, it’s in my best interests to have healthy snacks laying about the house instead. Many years ago, before fructose decided it wasn’t my friend, I used to make apple and honey “muesli bars” to snack on – the ones you buy are FULL of sugar, so I preferred to make my own healthier ones. It’s been a while since I’ve made muesli bars, though, so I had an idea to make some more – but without any butter, oil, eggs or sugar. Simple stuff.

I also wanted to create a snack that would fill me up and give me energy, and not be completely unhealthy. Something I could nibble on to tie me over between getting home from work and dinner time. Or post-morning workout before I get to work and eat breaky properly. I used the baked oats theory, and here’s what I came up with…

Ingredients:
– 1 cup rolled oats
– 1 heaped scoop protein powder (I like vanilla, but chocolate would work well, too)
– 1 cup milk (soy, almond, regular, whatever)
– zest & juice of 1 large orange
– 1 large zucchini (or 2 small ones)
– 1 cup puffed quinoa
– ½ cup sunflower seeds

Method:
1. Combine the oats, protein powder, milk, orange zest and juice in a tub, place the lid on and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (or overnight).

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C, line a medium-sized baking tin with non-stick baking paper, and grate the zucchini into a bowl. Squeeze out any excess liquid.

3. Combine the zucchini with the rested oats, puffed quinoa and seeds in a large mixing bowl, and mix until totally combined and there are no dry “lumps” in the mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth out with a spoon or spatula.

5. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top.

6. Cool in tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Slice up your “muesli bars” and store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.