by Anna on August 31, 2013
Spring doesn’t officially arrive until 1 September but you’ve been able to feel it in the air for a couple of weeks now. It’s been so warm that yesterday I went swimming for the first time of the summer and tomorrow my sister and I are going to walk from Watson’s Bay to Vaucluse. It is ridiculous how happy all this makes me. I loathe winter, even the lightweight version we have in Sydney. As soon as the days lengthen just a little and temperatures warm, I feel like a new person – happy, optimistic, so excited for the coming months. Each year, I’m shocked by how much I love the arrival of spring. So let this serve as a reminder – next year when I write another version of this post, I hope someone points me here.
This recipe for oatmeal pancakes (porridge pancakes! How cool is that!) has absolutely nothing to be with spring, apart from the fact that they make me almost as happy as spring. I started making them years ago. I forgot about them for a while, but we’ve recently been reacquainted and I intend to eat them until summer sets in for good and it’s too hot to contemplate anything other peaches and yogurt.
These aren’t the kind of pillowy pancakes that are meant to be piled high with mascarpone and berries and maple syrup. While I love those too, I always feel guilty for having indulged so early in the day, not to mention a little ill. No, these are the kind of pancakes you can eat on a perfectly average Wednesday. They make a very nice change to the normal toast and muesli routine (I don’t eat eggs - shudder) but they don’t make you feel like you should be eating salad for the rest of the day. Is austere the right word for pancakes? Probably not, but these are. They’re faintly sweet, light but with some heft from the oats and their edges go so crispy frying in butter. I like them best with a thin slick of jam but they’re very nice with maple syrup or honey too.
Oatmeal Pancakes (recipe adapted from Remedial Eating)
Makes about 10 small pancakes
Note that you need to start this recipe the night before you want to eat these.
1 c quick oats (see notes below)
1 c buttermilk or milk (I’ve used full fat and low fat successfully)
30 g butter (plus more for the pan)
1-2 tbsp honey, maple syrup or golden syrup
1/2 c plain flour (I often use a mix of wholemeal and plain flour or just wholemeal – my current favourite is wholemeal rye flour)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1. The night before you want to eat the pancakes combine the oats and buttermilk in a small mixing bowl. Cover with cling wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
2. The next day, when you’re ready to eat the pancakes take the oat mixture out of the fridge.
3. Melt the butter (I do this in the microwave). Add it to the oat mixture with the egg and honey. Stir until the mixture is well combined and smooth. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the oat mixture. Stir to combine. The batter should be thick and little elastic-y.
4. Heat a generous tablespoon of butter (or a mixture of butter and sunflower oil) in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat (there should be enough butter to just coat the bottom of the whole pan).
5. When the pan is hot, add 1/4 cup of batter to the pan. I generally get 3 pancakes to a batch. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the pancake is turning golden brown and bubbles are just starting to appear on the top of the pancake. If you’re worried the pancake is browning too quickly, turn the heat down a little. Flip the pancake over and cook for a further two minutes, or until the second side is golden and the pancakes are cooked through and slightly puffed.
6. Eat! Or if you’re cooking up the whole batch of mixture you can keep the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven until you’re ready to eat.
- It irritates me no end when recipes instruct you to use only the very best ingredients for a particular dish, totally ignoring the fact that buying half a kilo of single origin chocolate will make the brownies I’m about to make more expensive than going out for a three course meal. Nevertheless, I’m about to do just that. I’ve made these pancakes with the $1/kilo homebrand quick oats and the results were so heavy – leaden even. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong until I went back to my usual organic oats and the results were positively etherial in comparison.
- Any unused batter keps well in the fridge for a couple of days.
by Anna on August 27, 2013
I think I’m going to be the last person on earth to embrace the e-reader. Few things give me as much pleasure as seeing all my books exploding out of my shelves. Thankfully my love of overflowing bookshelves comes along with a love of reading. It’s been one of the joys of finishing uni and starting full-time work that I have time to read books that don’t include the words “evidence”, “intellectual property” or “contract” in the title (though there’s still a lot of that too).
Writing lengthy book reviews isn’t something I’m very good at but I do love receiving book recommendations from friends so I thought I’d share just a few of the books I’ve enjoyed recently and ask for recommendations in return (please do share!).
This was the very first book my new book club decided to read. It’s a fictional story based on the life of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. She was executed for her part in the death of two men, including a farmer called Natan, her lover and employer. There are aspects of this novel that are imperfectly formed (for example, the relationships between Agnes and some of the members of the family with which she lives while she is waiting to be executed) but we all enjoyed the book and I would definitely recommend it. For me, it highlighted how terrible it would have been to be a poor women during this period. Without financial resources, marriage wasn’t even an option, let alone education, so you lived totally at the whim of whatever man was prepared to hire you as a maid. Does that excuse murder? I’m not sure, but I suppose it’s that question that makes the book so interesting. In any case, the way in which Kent draws out the oppressive yet spectacular Icelandic landscape alone makes it worth it.
The Reverend still does not come. But winter has. Autumn has been pushed aside by a wind driving flurries of snow up against the croft, and the air as thin as paper. Each breath hangs in front of me like a ghost, and mists drop down from the mountains to swarm on the frozen ground. The dark comes; it has settled down in these parts like a bruise in the flesh of the earth; but the Reverend does not.
This is one of my favourite books of all time. I recommend it so often I think my friends are sick of hearing about it. The plot twists and turns across decades and continents (Europe, New York and so on) so I won’t try and describe it in detail. It’s enough so say that this book is elegant and intelligent and will make your heart hurt the characters are so flawed/stubborn/loveable (Once upon a time there was a boy who lived across the field from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was Queen and he was King. In the autumn light, her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls. When the sky grew dark they parted with leaves in their hair).
As I made my way through the first few pages of this book, I doubted that I’d make it though the violence that seemed to fill every page. It’s about a North Korean orphan who is dumped into the army during the horrifying famines of the nineties and gradually makes his way through a serious of assignments, only to end up on a spy mission to Texas. Despite the violence (maybe I’m too chicken for this kind of stuff), I really enjoyed this. It’s an incredible insight into North Korea (large parts of it seem to pretty realistic depictions) and despite the fact that the hero, Jun Do, has done some unbelievably violent things, I surprised myself by how much I was rooting for him.
The only Nora Ephron movie I’ve seen is Julie and Julia so I’m not sure why I even thought this looked appealing but it did. So I read it. Devoured really, over just a couple days. It’s a very funny, sad but touching story about a woman who finds out that her husband is having an affair when she is seven months pregnant. The main character, Rachel, is a food writer so there’s lots of food talk and recipes thrown in for good measure.
I have friends who begin with pasta, and friends who begin with rice, but whenever I fall in love, I begin with potatoes. Sometimes meat and potatoes and sometimes fish and potatoes, but always potatoes. I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.
by Anna on August 25, 2013
I was sitting in the Botanic Gardens, overlooking Sydney harbour with a very dear friend today, talking about all manner of things (dating – ugh, the abysmal state of public transport in Sydney, the shocking rate at which time seems to be flying past etc) when she noted that having a blog is kind of like having a diary. (Side note: same goes for instagram. I know that lots of people hate incessant photos of coffee cups and sunsets but they freeze in time what is often a pretty lovely moment and I’m glad to have those memories captured somewhere).
I logged on here tonight to write about a roasted eggplant extravaganza I’ve made a few times this year and realised how true it is that this little space is the closest thing I’ll ever have to a diary. I wrote the first draft for this post way back in April. It was a farewell to our much loved Paddington apartment that we’d just left. Obviously the post is now way out of date (see above re time flying!) but I thought I’d leave it as is, simply because that night I first made this dish was something worth remembering and that’s what this space if for, after all.
Phew. A couple of weeks ago my housemate and I said goodbye to our old apartment. We loved it dearly but old it was. It even had the original 1973 kitchen complete with a Fabulous 300 oven, mustard yellow bench tops and some very attractive orangey brown lino. Not exactly food blog material! Our new apartment has a modern kitchen and I’ve been going nuts taking photos on our speckled white bench tops. Expect many more recipes soon. First up, Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas and Yogurt-Tahini Sauce from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook.
I made this eggplant dish mid-week when my friend (and reader!) Emily came over for dinner. To be honest, I have no idea why I made it. I was pretty sure it was going to take me forever to put together and I have a fear of eggplant (there is nothing scarier than undercooked eggplant. It’s like eating a dry sponge and running fingers down a chalk board at the same time). Thankfully, silky bronzed eggplant emerged from the oven in no time at all. Paired with crunchy chickpeas and tangy yogurt and tahini sauce, it was a perfect, very easy dinner. We inhaled the whole thing (swotting away each other’s forks to get to the last chickpeas) followed swiftly by a baked apple pancake. (Which we also demolished but let’s not talk about that part of the evening. I have a dessert problem).
Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas and Yogurt-Tahini Sauce (recipe from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook)
This recipe is very flexible. Deb instructs you to use 1.5 kg of small eggplans but I couldn’t be bothered fussing with more than a couple of roasting dishes and so I stopped at about the 1 kg mark. Deb suggests you use teeny eggplants (100-200 g) sliced into halves but I couldn’t find eggplants less than about 250 g so rather than slice them in half, I chopped them into thick (1 – 1.5 cm) slices.
If you have sauce left over, I’d highly recommend you roast off whatever vegetables you have languishing in the fridge (zucchini, tomatoes, sweet potato, carrots etc) and toss them with the sauce, maybe over some brown rice or couscous. I promise it will be the best lunch you have all week.
For the chickpeas
1 425 g tin chickpeas, drained and patted dry on a tea towel or paper towels
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
For the eggplants
1 kg – 1.5 kg small eggplants (about 200 g each), sliced into thick slices
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the yogurt-tahini sauce
1/3 c tahini
2/3 c full fat Greek yogurt
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
salt and freshly ground pepper
about 1/3 c water
2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat the oven to 220′C/425′F. (My fan-forced over runs hot so I usually preheat to about 200′C/400′F).
2. Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil, salt, freshly ground pepper, ground cumin and chilli flakes. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast until browned and crisp, anywhere between 20 and 40 minutes.
3. While the chickpeas are roasting, get started on the eggplants. Brush two large baking sheets or roasting pans with 1 tbsp of olive oil each. Arrange the eggplants in a single layer and sprinkle with a little more oil. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until starting to soften and turn golden brown. Turn the eggplants over and continue roasting for another 15 – 20 minutes, until they are soft and browned. Remove from the oven.
4. Meanwhile, make the yogurt-tahini sauce. In a bowl, whisk together the tahini, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. The mixture will become very thick. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture is smooth and the consistency of thickened cream.
5. To serve, arrange the eggplants on a serving platter. Spoon over the chickpeas and dollop with lots of the yogurt-tahini sauce.
- Raw minced garlic scares me almost as much as undercooked eggplant so I only use a small clove but you can use two or three if you like it garlicky.
by Anna on June 30, 2013
For the last few weeks I’ve been living every cliche about corporate life that you can think of: 70-80 hour weeks, working on the weekends, eating breakfast/lunch/dinner in front of a computer screen, not enough sleep and zero exercise. (This is my life. And also this). It’s been stressful but exciting and challenging too. I’m learning a lot.* I’m full of adrenaline at the moment and I haven’t found an outlet for it. I need a holiday, enough time to go for a good, long run and a night out with my friends. Stuff it. I need all three. But until work calms down and/or I get better at switching off, it’s a struggle to hang out in my kitchen for much longer than it takes to make toast. And so, 10 minute meals are where it’s at.
Thankfully, I think the universe could tell that I needed a break and threw this recipe for one pot pasta my way. It is the ultimate in quick, easy, delicious dinners. Jamie Oliver can take a hike. (Not really – love you Jamie!). It’s done in under 15 minutes, uses pantry staples and tastes like summer in a bowl which is a very welcome thing right now – it’s been pouring rain for the best part of two weeks here in Sydney. I was sceptical when I first saw the recipe – how could an onion that is essentially boiled (and for less than 10 minutes at that!) taste anything other than repulsive? Honestly, I don’t know how it’s possible but that onion softens and takes on the sweetness of the oil and tomatoes and basil and the whole thing becomes this fresh, starchy, creamy mess of noodles. Don’t question it. Just eat.
350 g spaghetti or linguine
350 g cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
1 onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
Leaves torn from 3 sprigs of basil, plus more for serving
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
Flakey sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 c water
Freshly grated parmesan, for serving
1. Combine the pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli flakes, basil, olive oil, 2 tsp sea salt (it feels like a lot but go ahead and add it – the finished dish will be better for it), 1/2 tsp pepper and the water in a large straight-sided pan or pot (I used a Le Creuset pot). Bring to the boil over high heat. Boil, stirring from time to time, until the pasta is al dente and has absorbed most of the water, about 9-11 minutes (linguine will take longer than spaghetti).
2. Remove the pot from the heat and season to taste. Divide the pasta among four bowls and serve drizzled with olive oil (please, don’t skip this step!), more basil and lots of parmesan. Enjoy! (I was practically stupefied as I ate my first bowl of this magical stuff – how is it possible that such a simple, delicious idea never occurred to me before).
by Anna on June 5, 2013
I know, I know, yet another music post. I just can’t help myself – there’s so much good stuff out there at the moment and listening to it all makes me extremely happy, which is pretty important especially on those days when you wish you’d been born into royalty and didn’t have to deal with catching the bus to work. Most of the time I love, love, my job. Then along comes a day that is so frustrating/overwhelming/packed with trust accounting) I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose my marbles before lunchtime. On those days, I’d quite like to pack it all in and spend my days eating cake and listening to music …
*My favourite song is Instant Crush but I can’t find it so Get Lucky it is. I’ve never really listened to Daft Punk before. I knew who they were, that they wear weird outfits. I’ve dated boys who’ve loved them (is it weird that the thing I remember most about dates is the music they listen to?) and I’ve happily listened when they pop up in a playlist or on the radio but that’s about it. This new album though, I love – I’ve been listening to it on repeat for days.
by Anna on June 4, 2013
Many days/week/months after I promised, I finally have another recipe for you, as well as an update on going sugar-free. The first week or so was great – I completely eliminated sugar from my diet with the exception of a small amount of fruit and a single solitary visit to Messina. It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I anticipated and I felt really good – more energetic, a little less tubby. And then, for what feels like the hundredth time this year, I came down with tonsillitis. My appetite all but disappeared and if what my body craved was toast and marmalade, that’s what it was having and so out the window went my plan to quit sugar.
Though getting sick was annoying (and the tonsillitis is still lingering – it’s a long, boring story involving lots of penicillin, tests and a not very helpful surgeon) it’s brought me to a happy place with this sugar free business. Though I admire Sarah Wilson’s commitment to quitting sugar, being militant about any kind of diet is not for me. It’s stressful and unnecessary and life’s too short to live without an occasional post-dinner gelato. In any case, with the exception of a post-dinner piece of chocolate or dessert at a restaurant, my diet is more or less free of sugar. Breakfast is completely sugar free which is huge for me given that it previously consisted of honey toasted muesli, toast and jam or muffins/cake/crumble.
One of my favourite breakfasts is this nutty coconut muesli. I usually have it with natural yogurt and coconut milk (sometimes I leave it sitting in the fridge overnight which sounds weird but makes me weirdly happy) and it’s so good the lack of sugar doesn’t even register. The idea comes from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar but the recipe has changed so much it bears virtually no resemblance to the original. If you’d like it a little sweeter, add in a couple of tablespoons of rice malt syrup (Wilson’s preferred sweetener) or honey or maple syrup with the coconut oil or mix through some dried fruit at about the 45 minute mark.
Toasted Muesli with Coconut and Nuts
Makes approximately 5 cups
90 g coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 1/2 c rolled oats
2 c raw mixed nuts, roughly chopped (I use a mixture of pecans, walnuts, peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts , cashews and brazil nuts but one or just a couple of these would be fine. I imagine macadamias would be great too)
1/2 c desiccated coconut
1. Preheat the oven to 120′C/250′F and line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. In a medium saucepan heat the coconut oil over low heat until completely melted. Remove from the heat and stir through the vanilla, ginger and cinnamon.
3. Add the oats, nuts and coconut to the pan and stir until everything is evenly coated in the coconut oil. Spread it onto the baking tray in an even layer and bake until it is a gentle gold and crispy. This takes about an hour for me, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
4. Remove from the oven and leave it to cool. When it is cool, store it in an airtight container.
- I would love to replace the desiccated coconut with coconut flakes but I’m yet to find them in a supermarket near me. If you do find them, I’d use a one full cup and reduce the oats to 2 cups. Yum.