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Monday, 10 June 2013

Kitchen potterings

Every now and then I get the urge to create something. Okay, more than just every now and then. Every time I watch Jamie or Nigella on TV, every time I catch a whiff of fresh basil leaves at the supermarket, every time I run on pavements stained with the juice of squashed berries, or run past a house at twilight and breathe in the smell of simmering stew. Food is all around us, hanging in the trees, growing underfoot, cooking in copper pots inside golden kitchen windows. Nothing makes me happier than trawling through recipes, picking ingredients and clutching them to my chest in the checkout line, imagining what I could create. Being a cook rather than a chef, and a humble cook at that, I have little to offer by way of original recipes. But what I can share are the tips and experiences I picked up on my merry way. So here is a sprinkling of a few (relatively) recent creations. Enjoy!

Marshmallow teacups
When everything in the pantry has outlived its expiry date, it's time to check the cupboard. And if you were to find these teacups inside, you would be in for a nice afternoon indeed. These teacups were assembled from Venetian biscuits, pink and white marshmallows, musk Lifesavers (cut in half) and chocolate freckles. Incredibly easy to assemble, just by dabbing icing in strategic places. The hardest part was cutting the musk Lifesavers in half to make the teacup handles. Those things put up a good fight.


Anzac biscuits 

An Australian favourite. But to differentiate my biscuits from the store-bought variety, I added coconut, orange zest and almonds. I was happy with the first batch that left the oven (being the warmest and gooey-est of their kind) but the more time they spent on the counter, the harder they got. However, I did enjoy the flavour combination. Might just have to tweak the ingredients for next time.

Orange and almond cake

People say that good things come to those who wait. An incredibly frustrating notion for an impatient soul like myself, who will stand and stare at the kettle, tapping my feet, despite being told that a watched pot never boils. But at least in the case of this cake, patience did prove fruitful. After watching two oranges boil for almost two hours, I was finally allowed to pulverise them to a messy pulp, mix in almond meal and sugar and send the damn thing on its way. After an hour of deep contemplation in the oven, the cake emerged, silent and proud and delicious. Every bite was as moist as I had hoped. Yum!


Pear and raspberry bread
I won't lie - banana bread is definitely my favourite. That warm rich aroma of brown sugar and butter as the bread is toasting is absolutely unbeatable. But because my guest was banana-averse, I picked up a packet of raspberries in the supermarket. And what a treat they were! Red, luscious, bursting and splitting with sweet tangy juices (after they had been defrosted of course). If I could offer any tips here it would be these:
  • don't defrost the raspberries before putting them in the bread mixture to make sure that they retain their form and are plump and juicy when you finally bite into the bread
  • don't skimp on the sugar - remember that raspberries are sour
  • save some of the frozen raspberries for decoration on top, and for breakfast the next day!




Raspberry pancakes


Avocado on toast
A simple breakfast but healthy and easy to make. All you need is some good bread (I like Sonoma's soy & linseed sourdough), some ripe avocadoes, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. If you want to take it up a notch, add finely sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with Persian fetta and chilli flakes. Amazing.  

Apple cinnamon teddy bear muffins
I have no excuse for this. Except to say that I had a teddy bear mould, some apples hanging around the kitchen with nothing to do, and a free afternoon! What better way to farewell autumn than with a picnic among the leaves. A teddy bear picnic. I used silver sugar balls for the eyes.

Flourless coconut & lime cake

I used a gluten free recipe that only called for limes, eggs, caster sugar, almond meal and coconut. Very simple to make. The hardest part was attempting to make candied lime slices for the top of the cake; I failed a little and just compensated with sugar flowers. Just before serving, I made a lime syrup which I poured all over the cake to make it uber moist. Delicious.

Happy cooking!

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