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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Buttermilk Muffins


I was an invalid last week, and co-incidentally Quirky Niece 3 was also ailing. So I wanted to cook a healthy, light muffin as a restorative for both of us. I used a recent post from the always inventive Le Pirate as inspiration.

The buttermilk gave a lovely tangy taste, and the unrefined coconut sugar imparted a caramel flavour as well as being little more guilt free! You could substitute oil for butter, too.


1 Granny Smith apple or similar tart apple (pears or cooked quinces would also be great!)
130 gms self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
40 gms almond meal
50 gms dark brown sugar (I used coconut sugar in this recipe)
40 gms melted butter
1 egg, beaten
3/4 -1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1/4 cup chopped almonds
Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C fan forced or 170 degrees C non fan forced. Line a 6 cup muffin pan with muffin papers or grease muffin pan.
Mix flour, baking powder, bi-carb soda, almond meal and dark brown sugar in a large bowl.
Combine melted butter, egg, buttermilk and vanilla paste in another bowl.
Stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, being careful not to over mix.
Fold in the chopped apple and chopped almonds.
Fill the 6 muffin pan cups. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into a muffin comes out clean.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar while still warm.



Preserved Cumquats: Cumquats in Sugar Syrup


I have had a bumper crop of cumquats this winter from one little tree – best ever! So I have had to be inventive with ways to use all the wonderful fruit – hence there a few cumquat recipes recently posted on this blog.


I made a few jars of cumquat marmalade early in the season, and then the tree delivered a second fruiting. I rather fancied having some candied cumquats at hand, and began to consult my preserving books for recipes. True candied cumquats seem to be whole fruit that has been cooked in a sugar syrup several times over a number of days. A rather lengthy process.

However I found a couple of recipes that simply involve cooking the cut fruit once in a sugar syrup, letting the fruit soak in the syrup for a couple of hours, then draining the fruit and reducing the liquid to a sticky preserving consistency. Much simpler, but Cumquats in Sugar Syrup is a better description than Candied Cumquats for this method.

1 kg cumquats
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 vanilla bean (optional)

Cut the cumquats in half, leaving very small fruit whole.
Place sugar and water in a large saucepan and dissolve sugar over a medium heat. Bring the syrup to a boil, and place cut cumquats in the saucepan.
For a vanilla infused syrup, add the vanilla bean, cut in half longways, scraping the seeds into the syrup. Simmer the fruit until it is tender, about 20 minutes.
The fruit will have softened but will still have some resistance when cut with a knife.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave the fruit to cool in the syrup for at least 2 hours.

Strain the fruit from the syrup into a bowl, and return the syrup to the saucepan. Boil gently for 5-10 minutes until the liquid has reduced slightly and is thick and “syrupy”!
Place the fruit in sterilised jars, including part of the vanilla pod for extra flavour. Pour the hot syrup over the fruit. Seal the jars and store with your other preserves, then once opened, store in the refrigerator.
The fruit is both sweet and slightly bitter and can be used as a dessert over ice-cream, or with cream, or in steamed puddings, or baked into tarts and cakes. eg Blueberry and Cumquat Cake with Sugared Pecans:
The cumquats are also great as a sweet/ sour relish with ham, chicken or even fish.


Rum Baba


I used to make this classic in my early days of dinner parties when I was a lot more formal in my entertaining style!

It is sweet, slightly boozy, yeasty, rather heavy but a great end to a meal when sorbets and panna cottas etc just don’t feel substantial enough…


2 cups plain flour
7 gms or 1 sachet of dried yeast
1 – 2 tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large free range eggs, beaten
2/3 cup warm milk
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup mixed dried fruit


Place dry ingredients (including yeast) in a bowl, make a well in the centre, add beaten eggs and warm milk and mix well. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap, and stand in a warm place for 1 hour until dough becomes spongy.
Beat in melted butter and fruit and place into greased fluted baba moulds – 6 small size ones, or one large one. Cover with plastic wrap again and leave to rise in a warm place for approximately 1/2 hour.
Bake in a moderate oven – about 160 to 170 degrees C – for approximately 25 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon over rum syrup while still warm.
Unmould from tins/tin and serve with more syrup poured over the baba/s and lashings of whipped cream!

Rum Syrup
Combine in a small saucepan 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup apricot jam and stir until boiling. Remove from the heat and add 2 tbs dark rum.


Documenting a Contemporary Working Ruin


My fascination with urban ruins has made me very observant of just how many structures lie abandoned around Sydney, magnificent in their architecture or just a signifier of a former, now outdated use.

Power stations and sub stations, abandoned factories and warehouses, disused railway lines, even single crumbling walls, exist around Sydney, mostly with very little known or documented about them.

There is a truly unique group of buildings in Sydney that sits incongruously in its suburban landscape. Once a sail-makers’ premises, the buildings today seem oddly romantic – one building, a cottage on the site, sports wrought iron window surrounds, and charming blue woodwork on the doors that is peeling and decaying, but would now be regarded as fashionably distressed.



The premises is very much still in business and is an Aladdin’s cave of things lucent and theatrical. A further photographic project would be to document the contents of the Tardis like factory itself.



As with most urban ruins, nature reclaims territory wherever possible. Volunteer plants – beautiful weeds – entwine themselves among rusting metal and decaying wood. Perhaps a triffid is waiting for its moment…



The site, familiar to me for many years, still fascinates. Artisan like, quirky, dilapidated, not a ghost, clinging tenaciously to life, the spirit of this working ruin is palpable as you wander the site.


Pear Upside Down Cake


This is a revisit of my Red Wine, Pear and Almond Cake:

Having made the cake again, I wanted to add a couple of pieces of advice to the original recipe: you really need to line the baking tin with baking paper – the cake has a tendency to leak the red wine syrup from the bottom of the tin into the oven! Very messy!

Also I think that you could easily make the cake in an ordinary cake tin as it turns out quite well.

And of course the cake would work well without red wine syrup.  Without wine, apples or stone fruit work well.

You could also substitute a caramel syrup using butter and brown sugar.

In a small saucepan, melt the ¼ cup of butter and add 2/3 cup of  brown sugar. Stir to combine, and cook until the mixture comes to a boil stirring continously.

In this version you would pour all the caramel syrup over the fruit in the bottom of the tin and definitely line the tin with baking paper!

Cookie Sampler


This selection of cookies, presented as a cookie sampler, comes from a recipe from Annabel Langbein for Butter Cookies:

Annabel suggests making a quantity of dough and dividing into portions, flavouring each portion in whatever way you fancy!

I chose Carnival Cookies with hundreds and thousands, Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies, Chocolate with Chocolate Chip Cookies and Sultana and Cornflake Crisp Cookies.

The quantities I have used are half those mentioned in Annabel’s recipe. I ended up with about 3 dozen or so cookies.


250 gms butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
A few drops of vanilla extract
21/4 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

Flavourings of your choice (see below)

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Line 2 oven trays with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar. Beat in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla, then stir in the flour and baking powder.
To make Cookie Sampler, divide dough into 4 portions. Mix flavourings (see below) into each portion.
Chill mixture for 15 minutes. Roll into walnut-sized balls, place on baking trays and flatten slightly. Decorate according to instructions for different flavourings. Bake until lightly golden and set (about 20 minutes).
Allow to cool for 10 minutes on the tray then transfer to a rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or jar. They will keep for several weeks – if they become a little stale simply refresh for 5 minutes in an oven preheated to 180 degrees C.

Cookie Sampler
Once you’ve made a batch of Butter Cookie dough, divide it into 4 and mix a different flavouring into each portion (you’ll get about 8 -12 cookies in each flavour).

Carnival Cookies
Roll 1 portion of dough into balls, dip each ball into hundreds and thousands then flatten onto tray.


Cranberry and White Chocolate Cookies
Add ¼ cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries and ¼ cup coarsely chopped white chocolate to 1 portion of the cookie dough.
 Chocolate with Chocolate Chip Cookies
Add 3 tsp dark cocoa, 3 tbsp milk or dark chocolate chips to 1 portion of dough.
Sultana and Cornflake Crisps
Add 3 tbsp sultanas and 4 tbsp lightly crushed cornflakes to 1 portion of the cookie dough.

Deconstructed Caramelised Quince Crumble


What to do with more quinces…another visit to Orange Grove Markets and the quinces looked too good to resist. I have a few jars of quince marmalade in the cupboard from earlier in the season, so poaching the quinces seemed an obvious alternative. Add a toasted crumble mix and some cream (sour cream in this instance for some tartness) and the deconstruction was complete.

The quinces are poached in butter as well as sugar which creates a wonderful ruby red quince caramel. The recipe is based on Stephanie Alexander’s recipe Oven-roasted Pears and Quinces:

Caramelised Poached Quinces

80 gms butter
2 quinces
150 grams caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Melt butter in a baking dish that will contain the quinces snugly.
Wash and peel the quinces, halve lengthways and remove cores. Cut in quarters if you want smaller wedges.
Roll in the melted butter. Turn fruit so it is cut-side down in the baking dish and scatter over sugar. Squeeze the lemon juice over the fruit and place the vanilla bean (split) in the dish. Cover tightly with a doubled sheet of foil and bake for 2 hours.
Turn the quinces and baste with buttery sugar pan juices. Re-cover and bake the quinces for another hour until they are soft and a deep red ruby colour.


Macadamia Crumble
100 gms plain flour
75 gms  butter at room temperature
Pinch of salt
50 gms dark brown sugar
25 gms golden syrup
50 gms rolled oats
20 gms chopped macadamias

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl, and rub the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture forms coarse breadcrumbs.
Place mixture into the bowl of a food processor, add golden syrup, oats and chopped macadamias, and pulse gently to combine.
Turn out the crumble mixture onto the lined baking tray, spread the mixture evenly and bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time, until the crumble is toasted.
Remove from oven, and when cool, break up any large pieces. It’s important to have a combination of small and large crumble pieces.


Assembling the Deconstruction
Place on a plate a few wedges of caramelised quince, a handful of crumble and a spoonful of sour cream, and drizzle with the quince caramel.

Cherry, Raisin and Walnut Muffins + Cumquat and Almond Muffins


I wanted to make muffins recently and couldn’t decide on the flavour. What was in the store cupboard led to the design of a couple of new flavour combinations.

I think the cherry is my favourite – great for morning or afternoon tea. If you like a tarter, more “breakfasty” muffin – the cumquat one is delicious warm with butter.

The base mixture is the same before dividing the mixture into two for each combo.

Ingredients – Base Mixture

1 and 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bi-carbonate soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rapadura sugar* (or dark brown or brown sugar)
1/cup melted butter
2 beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon sugar for dusting

*Rapadura sugar has a lovely dark, treacly taste. Available from health food stores and bulk food stores.

Cherry Mixture
1 cup walnuts (1/2 cup walnut meal, 1/2 cup walnut pieces)
1/2 cup whole black cherries (tinned)
1/4 cup large raisins


Cumquat Mixture
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup cumquat jam (any citrus jam or marmalade would do)
1/4 cup almond flakes



Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin papers. Lightly spray papers with cooking spray.

For some reason I only managed to make 7 muffins from this mixture – I could have squeezed out 8 at a pinch. I think you should expect to make 8 good sized muffins or 10 smaller ones from these quantities.

Mix the dry ingredients for the base mixture with a spoon in a bowl until well combined. Divide into two bowls. In another bowl mix the butter, beaten eggs, milk and vanilla extract.

For the cherry muffins, add the walnut meal which you have ground in the food processor to the dry ingredients in one bowl. Add half the butter/egg/milk/vanilla liquid, stirring until barely mixed. Gently fold in the walnut pieces, cherries and raisins.

For the cumquat muffins, add the ground almonds to the dry ingredients in the other bowl. Add the other half of the butter/egg/milk/vanilla liquid, stirring until barely mixed. Gently fold in the cumquat or similar jam.

Spoon each mixture into the muffin papers. Sprinkle almond flakes on the tops of the cumquat muffins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, and dust the tops of all the muffins with cinnamon sugar.

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