I’m in the middle of watching The Awful Truth with Cary Grant and Irene Dunn when out pops this nugget of wisdom from the mouth of Aunt Patsy (aka Cecil Cunningham)…
You know what rebound is? That business of trying to get over one love by bouncing into love with somebody else? It’s fine, except the rebound is rarely the real thing. As a matter of fact, it’s the bunk. There’s the first bounce, then the second bounce, and, well look at me. You wind up like an old tennis ball. Aunt Patsy, The Awful Truth (1937)
***DISCLOSURE: And despite what you might be thinking, I am not on the rebound.
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I should warn you that this recipe is not really grits in the ‘gritty’ sense of the word. The truth is all I had in the house was cornmeal which had no grit potential whatsoever. But these smooth grits (is that an oxymoron?) were a perfect match with mushrooms sauteed in Spanish onion and a dash of red wine vinegar.
As I am not American and have NO cultural grit heritage I turned to Alton Brown for this recipe (I consider him the quintissential modern man of the South). It turned out creamy and beautifully, beautifully yellow.
2 cups whole milk
2 cups waterr
1 1/2 tsps kosher salt
1 cup coarse groundd cornmeal (as has been previously mentinoned my cornmeal was not coarse)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
Place the milk, water and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the milk mixture boils gradually add the cornmeal, while continually whisking. Once all of the cornmeal has been incorporated, decrease the heat to low and cover. Remove lid and whisk frequently, every 3 to 4 minutes, to prevent grits from sticking or forming lumps; make sure to get into corners of pot when whisking. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is creamy.
Remove from the heat, add the pepper and butter and whisk to combine. Once the butter is melted, gradually whisk in the cheese a little at a time (I don’t measure the cheese and butter, I just add it depending on taste and how healthy I’m being – there’s cheesy grits and cheesy grits. Serve immediately.
Source: Good Eats, episode ‘True Grits’ with Alton Brown.
Best cooked to… Angus and Julia Stone. These siblings have some of the most relaxing, drifiting, wiggle your toes music out there.
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Two very different men plopped into my life today and they have the potential to change the way I cook, and therefore eat forever.
First was Alton Brown, who I found through a twisted backroad of google searches. I spent the morning watching dozens of episodes from Good Eats and my high school chemistry, in his food science orientated kitchen finally found it’s resting place.
Cooking shows are not dominant on Australian television screens, especially if they’re American. We have a lot of Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Nigella Lawson – but no American shows (I can’t think of one in my living memory, obviously the space is reserved for movies and sitcoms).
Alton Brown is therefore an unknown entitiy; I spent the morning learning about why pinky bacon isn’t necessarily the best (fake chemical nitrates), how to customise your grater to make perfect hash browns and why a pound cake is called a pound cake. Incidentally I learnt about the symbiotic and slightly parasitic relationship of yeast, sugars and ethanol that is behind the magic of alcohol.
Later in the day I discovered Nigel Slater, Britain’s favorite food writer (how this fact can be established I don’t know, but for the sake of Nigel adoration let’s agree). His weekly column in The Observer, posted online at The Guardian, has been around since my first day of primary school. What’s comforting is that he’s not just a food critic, but also a cook – and his food is heartwarming and easy to prepare. It’s rich in spices, ginger, fruits, pulses and beans… he’s also not afraid of old school oats, dried figs or a stick of lemongrass – yum.
I’m still trying to get hold of his Simple Suppers TV series, but clips of his A Taste of My Life can be found on YouTube. I love the one when Richard E. Grant’s wife cooks the actor’s breakfast porridge.
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Apple crumble is the stalwart dessert of Old English cooking. It’s hearty, warming and with this version deliciously aromatic. I love the apple slightly spicy and generally don’t sweeten them (unless they’re the green, tart kind). I also stew the apple prior to baking as this stops the dreaded drying out – the bane of any good crumble. To make it extra special I cook them in my favorite spicy herbal tea with some cinnamon and orange juice. Yum.
Before making the crumble I scanned the net looking for the best oaty topping (and yes, a good real crumble, according to my British dad should have oats). I couldn’t find any recipe I really and truly loved. Some had too much sugar, others were oily with butter. So I went with my gut instinct, some intense taste testing and the feel of the crumbs beneath my fingers to make this topping. And.. it worked! The crumble was moist, golden and not too sinful.
4 medium size apples
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 cups of boiling water
1 tbsp orange juice
75g wholemeal flour
75g rolled oats (not instant)
15g raw sugar
30g brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
squeeze of lemon juice
You can make the apple mixture well in advance. I made it this morning in between yoga classes and breakfast. Firstly peel, core and cube 4 medium sized apples.
Put them in a small pan with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of orange juice – make sure they’re all covered with this.
Then go to the cupboard and grab your favourite herbal tea. I have one with cardamon pods, cinnamon, lychee berries and it is divine. Put the ‘tea leaves’ into one of those metal strainers which you can close up (or just grab some herbal teabags) and bury them amongst the apple.
Cover the apples with the boiling water and put a lid on the pan. Bring to the boil for a couple of minutes, then turn down to a simmer for twenty minutes. You want the apple to be soft, but not mushy. When it’s done take out the tea and put aside until you want to make the crumble.
To prepare your crumble simply put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Cube 50g of the butter and with your fingers work it into the gritty flour and oat mix. You want it crumbly beneath your fingers. If you like the crumble topping more buttery add the extra 25g of butter and work in, otherwise you can leave it out and be healthyish. When it resembles oat like breadcrumbs squeeze over a bit of lemon juice and mix it in (this is barely tastable when cooked but matches the apple beautifully). Then put the crumble mixture in the freezer for 15-25 minutes until chilled.
About 15-20 minutes before you want to eat the crumble, dish the stewed apple with all its juices into a butter-rubbed baking dish – I have a small squarish one I love to use (no idea of the actual size). Finally, grab the crumble out of the freezer and sprinkle evenly over the top. I like to use my fingers to make some larger lumps of crumble and sit on top, going deliciously golden.
Bake in a medium oven of 180C/350F for 10-15 minutes or until golden (you might want to turn the grill on for an ‘oh so brief’ moment). Sprinkle with icing sugar mixed with cinnamon to serve.
Source: Me (yay, my first honest to goodness, highly indebted to the past recipe).
Best cooked to… well no music this time because there was aa fascinating program about organic farming on the radio (which partially inspired me to own chickens and live in the middle of nowhere).
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This cake is light, airy and obviously wind-bourne from heaven. It’s a bit of a twist on Martha Stewart’s Lemon Chiffon Cake which I discovered on the amazing 17 and Baking. I amped up the lime and decided to grace my new tube tin with its presence.
Also… drum roll… I’ve finally done my first long version post, with pictures accompanying (almost) every step. And sigh, this will be remembered as a recipe where both the photos and the cake turned out perfectly with only a few hiccups along the way. Enjoy!
First of all, as the Pioneer Woman would say… here are the cast of characters:
Sift together your flour, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup sugar.
Seperate the three eggs.
Zest your 4 limes.. the kitchen will smell amazing. (At this point in my chiffon baking adventure I paused the process and went to Pilates).
When I got back from Pilates feeling all virtuous I added the lime juice, oil, lime zest, vanilla and water to the egg yolks.
I then gave it a hearty whisk with the hand beater.
The dry ingredients were then plopped on top of the egg mix and stirred gently in.
Then add the cream of tartar (or vinegar in my case). Unfortunately this stage of chiffon creation steadily became more muscle burn inducing then my pilates class.. something was terribly, terribly wrong. Through sheer willpower I got them stiffish (no picture because you would laugh), but it is only now as I type this that I realise the magic 1 tbsp of sugar which makes egg whites peak was left out (where was my baking mind at that moment?).
Add a third of your stiff/stiffish egg whites to the batter and stir in. Then add the remaining two thirds and fold gently.
Pour the mix into a tube/bundt pan (to help with getting out grease and line the bottom – I had sooo much trouble getting this out.. let’s just say I did Masai style jumping movements). Smooth the top with a spatula and put in the 160C/325F oven for 45 minutes. When you take it out let it cool for as long as possible – two hours is good.
Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve (you could also do a glaze or something fancy with a lime curd if you are so time consumingly inclined).
And finally you can eat it.
3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar, divided
3 large eggs, separated, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 tbsp lime juice (I upgraded this to 3 tbsp)
2 tbsp grated zest (about 4 limes)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (panic stations after I realised we didn’t have any.. so I used white vinegar instead)
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F.
In a medium bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 cup sugar. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the three egg yolks, oil, lime juice, lime zest, vanilla, and water. Stir in the dry ingredients.
In an electric mixer, beat the three egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on high until soft peaks form, 1-2 minutes. Gradually add the tablespoon of sugar, beating on high for about 3 minutes until stiff peaks form.
Stir 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the batter, then use a rubber spatula to gently fold the remaining 2/3 into the batter. Pour into a greased (and lined – let’s just say I jumped around the kitchen trying to get this out) tube/bundt pan and smooth the top with the spatula. Bake 45 minutes or until a skewer poked into the cake comes out clean and the top is golden.
Cool the cake upside down by inverting the pan onto a bottle. Let cool to room temperature, at least 2 hours, before running a knife between cake and pan and inverting onto a plate. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Best cooked to… Well I thought this cake deserved something hitting the teenage girl charts – Ellie Goulding. This British 23 year old has some great dancey tunes (I like Under the Sheets). She also did the female voice part in Passion Pit’s best song, Sleepyhead.
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About a week ago I became obsessed with the idea of honey cake (some weird association between Winnie the Pooh and healthiness). Anyway I had a search around and found that, excluding Turkey and Backlava… the most culturally dominating honey soaked baking is to be found in Israel. Apparently honey cakes are a tradition for Jewish New Year because honey brings you luck (who knew?).
Recipes for Jewish honey cakes were everywhere and NONE of them were the same. Then in my growing bewilderment and indecision I stumbled onto one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen and there I found it, a perfect adaptation of Marcy Goldman’s Jewish Honey Cake (except Deb’s ones sunk for some reason – so not quite perfect).
The cake is beautifully spicy. I served it up with a dollop of yogurt mixed with orange zest. It’s also great toasted with butter later in the week. Highly recommended for all Winne the Pooh honey lovers.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup rye or whiskey … I didn’t have any so used brandy
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Generously grease pans with non-stick cooking spray (I used two loaf tins and lined the bottom).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Make a well in the center, and add oil, honey, white sugar, brown sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee or tea, orange juice and rye/ whiskey/brandy, if using. (If you measure your oil before the honey, it will be easier to get all of the honey out.)
Using a strong wire whisk or in an electric mixer on slow speed, stir together well to make a thick, well-blended batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom.
Spoon batter into prepared pans. If you want sprinkle the tops of the cakes evenly with almonds. AND MASSIVE TIP FROM SMITTEN KITCHEN: Place cake pan on two baking sheets, stacked together (this will ensure the cakes bake properly with the bottom baking faster than the cake interior and top).
Bake until cake tests done, that is, it springs back when you gently touch the cake center. For angel and tube cake pans, this will take 60 to 75 minutes, loaf cakes, about 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet style cakes, baking time is 40 to 45 minutes.
Let cake stand for fifteen minutes before you remove it from the pan.
Source: Treasure of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman .. via Deb from Smitten Kitchen.
Best cooked to… I was going to post a link to Mariah Carey’s Honey, but then thought that is going TOO far in the name of song title food association. What I actually cooked this cake to was Lady Antebellum, who I discovered on my sister’s iTunes playlist 3 months ago… you have to be in a romantic, dramatic, countryesque mood to enjoy them (and don’t be cynical about their overt emotion, okay?) … UPDATE: 2 minutes later … Haha I just checked out their MySpace and guess what they’ve just posted – a song called American Honey.
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I first made this salad on Christmas Day as it was perfectly color schemed for the festivities. Then I tasted it and was swept away by the lime, the bite of the onion, the salty tang of the feta and of course the pink of the melon. I pulled it out again to impress at yesterday’s Australia Day barbecue crowd (where it accompanied the Golden Yogurt Cornbread).
Putting it plainly the salad is gorgeous in a way only pink food can be. Pure beauty, (much like the picture above… how beautiful and relaxed do these women look? Trust me, that’s how you’ll feel after this salad).
As improbable as it might sound, this combination is utterly fantastic, both savoury and refreshing at the same time. You can pare it down to the essential contrast, and serve no more than a plate of chunked watermelon, sprinkled with feta and mint and spritzed with lime, but this full-length version is hardly troublesome to make and once made will, I assure you, become a regular feature of your summer table. Nigella Lawson
1 small red onion
2-4 limes, depending on juiciness
1.5 kg/3.3 pound sweet, ripe watermelon
250g/9 oz feta cheese
bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
bunch of mint, chopped
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
100g/3.5 oz pitted black olives
Peel and halve the red onion and cut into very fine half-moons and put in a small bowl to steep with the lime juice – this brings out the transparent pickness in the onions and diminishs their rasp. Two limes worth should do it, but you can find the fruits disappointingly dried up and barren when you cut them in half, in which case add more.
Remove the rind and pips from the watermelon, and cut into approximately 4cm triangular chunks, if that makes sense (you don’t have to have spot on 1.5kg… more or less will do as it’s not cake baking being undertaken here).
Cut the feta into similar sized pieces and put them both into a large, wide shallow bowl. Tear off sprigs of parsley so that it is used like a salad leaf, rather than a garnish, and add to the bowl along with the chopped mint.
Tip the now glowingly puce onions, along with their pink juices over the salad in the bowl, add the oil and olives, then using your hands toss the salad very gently so that the feta and melon don’t lose their shape. Add a good grinding of black pepper and taste to see whether the dressing needs more lime. Hava Negila! The taste of Tel Aviv Sunshine!
Source: Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson.
Best Cooked to… Swedish band Miike Snow. Any of their songs are sweet and dancey (if you don’t absorb the slightly depressing lyrics). Their biggest hit is Animal, but Burial and their remix of one of Vampire Weekend’s songs are really good.
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