fresh ginger cake & vanilla roasted pears

As we’ve probably established, I’m all about having delicious things with my grandma. And so that inspired this column in Sunday Life magazine. I wanted something old-fashioned, spiked with sugar and spice, to go with tea, Grandma’s stories and precious time together. A cake made with spices and fresh ginger, served with roasted vanilla-infused pears. Use mild molasses with this one, the heavier one is cloyingly molassesey and overtakes everything. If you can’t find mild, go for golden syrup instead.  {READ MORE}

{drinking…} apero

If vintage is in, and who can deny it is, then vintage cocktails made from vintage-style fortified wine is what all the cool kids are drinking. The gorgeous bar crew at dynamite bar Eau de Vie in Darlinghurst met me and a bevy of drink writers and bar-tending guns at their beautiful long wooden bar yesterday to reveal how “apera” makes a great drink.

An apera, I learned, is Australia’s newly invented, and now official, word for an aperitif-style fortified wine. Sherry may well have been what grandmother used to drink, but apera is our reinvention of it and its stuffy cousins. Apera ranges from a dry to very sweet style, and is usually produced using a “solera” system, which involves drawing and storing proportions of aged, or vintage base wines from a pyramid of barrels. This is then used as a source of flavours and ingredients to create apera. After fermentation, apera is fortified with grape spirit, brandy or both. But, for our purposes, it’s just a really delicious way to make some drinks.

An “apera sour” {pic: top right and bottom left} is a spin on the old-fashioned sour, all bourbon whisky, lemon juice, egg white, sugar syrup, but with a rich sweet apera float to top it. I adored this drink, all sour and sharp and sweet. The neat and simple “crazy love” {pic: bottom right} is an elegant combination of dry apera, orange and vodka. A blow torch over the glass and a squeeze of the orange zest had the orange oils fire up in gorgeous bursts, giving a lovely burnt orange taste to the drink. While this was my favourite, the vote of most-delicious for the experts in the room went to the “apera cobbler”. One wine writer explained the notes of nut and the complexity of flavour made this a winner – we used “919 pale dry apera” for this one, Australia’s answer to Sherry – and here is the RECIPE for you.


{recipe} beetroot ravioli with homemade pasta

Making your own pasta can be fraught with mess. Flour gets stuck in those little cracks between the bench and the wall, your jeans get caked {aprons in the wash} and there’s lots of wondering whether it’s worth it. But of course it is, especially when you omit the step of cutting the pasta into matchstick-thick spaghetti or ribbons of pappardelle. Get the pasta impossibly thin here, trust me on this. You want that beetroot to shine through the transparent pasta sheet and you don’t want the joined pasta around the edge to be thick when pressed together. The beetroot (beet) element in this Beetroot Ravioli recipe is easy {recipe after the jump}. I add quite a bit of nutmeg because it’s heaven. And when the whole dish is topped with a knob of butter instead of the olive oil, that’s just pretty fabulous really. These recipes appear in my new book After Toast: recipes for aspiring cooks, which just came out this month. {READ MORE}

{recipe} asian chicken nuggets

Fast food without the calories, protein snack without the preservatives, chicken nuggets without the drive-through. I was asked to do a few healthy recipes for the Government’s Swap it campaign, which follows the premise that it’s easy to be healthy and fit if you swap a few of your less than ideal foods and activities for a healthier version of them. So swap an hour in front of the television with an hour’s walk. Swap investing in a new Playstation with a new kayak. And swap oily nutritiously-void nuggets for these {recipe after the jump}. They’re super easy to make and freeze well, so they can be fast food too. I’d LOVE to hear what swaps you’re making – have you got any clever ideas to make one of your favourite things just a bit healthier? Please do share below! Meanwhile, here’s my healthy chicken nuggets recipe. x {READ MORE}

{recipe for…} blueberry pavlova

If we don’t get dessert we can be fragile creatures. Sometimes we can wander to the dark side if there’s no pudding, erring on wicked-witch-of-the-west, mean and strutty, little blighter behaviour. Which is why a recipe like this is such a saviour {recipe after the jump}. So we can whip up some egg whites with sugar, pile on the blueberries and start apologising for our behaviour after the first creamy, billowing, crunchy mouthful. {READ MORE}

{recipe for…} lentil celery & nasturtium salad

Picked bouquets of nasturtiums, mint, parsley and lettuce just today from the garden and turned them into this bitey salad for (chilly) sunshine eating. Nasturtiums grow like crackers in Sydney right now, giant lilypad-like leaves and bright orange flowers, both a peppery fresh hit in a salad. I love them. If I go into a friend’s garden or on to my own balcony, I always return with floral-pepper breath that gives my leafy theft right away. So, I gathered a bunch of the newest tiny leaves and flowers I could find and made this for lunch. With thin stripes of celery, soft Puy lentils, and fried capers that turn all nutty when fried (who knew!), this was my healthy turn for the day. Add halved cherry tomatoes when they’re in season, or when you fancy. I added some marinated sheep’s fetta drenched in thyme-studded olive oil too, because I’m honestly never so virtuous as to give up something so good. {READ MORE}

{the perfect…} chinese pork belly

It was 8 degrees in Sydney last night. I had the duvet out and the Ugg boots on, and wrapped up in a pure wool blanket that grandma knitted (true), I proceeded to plan some perfect wintery night Sunday roast to make on Father’s Day tomorrow. And then I remembered this. This Chinese five spice and star anise infused pork belly is easy to carve, has the meltiest meat and proper crunchy crackling that makes everyone swoon. We ran this recipe in Sunday Life magazine back in July, but given these crazy temperatures I’m not shelving it as a winter-only recipe quite yet. {READ MORE}

{recipe for…} yoghurt waffles with strawberries

There’s a photo of me as a six year old holding up a plate to the camera, my pale blue Mickey Mouse sweatshirt (horror) obstructed by the enormous plate. My teeth are all gappy but it’s clear nothing will get in the way of me enjoying the crispy creamy-laden waffle I had somehow been allowed to order. It was a 1984 Disneyland treat and a breakfast epiphany, and I’d never seen anything like it in all my life. Piled high with strawberries and cream and I think possibly whipped butter, this inch-thick American-style waffle I’ve never forgotten. Determined to recreate the magic, with a little more sophistication, I bought an electric Breville waffle iron this week. Here you’re witnessing its first production. The first batch missed the crispy exterior I craved, so I added a little more sugar (which it needed anyway) and the whole banana, and the result is the chewy centre and outer crisp I wanted. Serve with dollops of cream or yoghurt (I’ve used the latter here), and then offer maple syrup for drizzling. I went with strawberries, but sliced banana or just plain also work well. I mashed up a few strawberries to make an elderflower and strawberry cordial to drink. {READ MORE}

{the perfect…} chicken & currant dolmades

Bring-a-plate gatherings needn’t leave guests cold. Raise the culinary stakes and see that at a table heaving with potluck options, everyone’s making a beeline for yours. These recipes were published in Sunday Life magazine a few weeks back – make sure you check out  my The Perfect… column this Sunday. Photography by the marvellous Katie Quinn Davies. {READ MORE}

{the perfect…} road trip

I love a road trip. Wind in your hair (or air conditioning in your hair), music strumming, a gorgeous destination and a boot packed with chilled nibbles for the route. It was this idea that inspired the latest The Perfect column in Sunday Life magazine. My New Zealand grandmother Marion used to pack homemade sausage rolls for my parents in their twenties as they headed off on some road trip to the South Island, or up to the Bay of Islands. My parents still remember these morsels, and I’ve always wanted to do them myself. Using shortcrust pastry instead of puff pastry is important – they hold together better, and taste so much better cold. The meat is chopped rather than minced, which I much prefer – there’s a real texture instead of the spongy sort. Soft chicken sandwiches, sliced almonds giving a pleasing crunch, are perfect palm-sized snacks for the road. {READ MORE}

{the perfect…} roasted pomegranate spatchcock

Did you see The Perfect… column in Sunday Life magazine on the weekend? It was one of my favourites so far. Cooking for the in-laws can be fraught with too-much-effort and disappointment. Instead, showcase domestic know-how and culinary spark when the in-laws are in town. It’s about being relaxed and remarkable. How to impress with minimal fuss. I made this three times to test the recipe, and while it’s hard to keep thinking something is delicious even though you’ve eaten it for three meals in seven days, this one was. The pomegranates give a bursty tart crunch, and the spatchcock are not fiddly and are gorgeous wrapped in these spices. Just serve with couscous and a simple do-ahead eggplant salad {recipe after the jump}. {READ MORE}