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Cooking From The Heart

Healthy Eating & Living Guide
cakes-rich-fruit-scones

The Show Part I

Regional Shows are the last bastion of home baking and preserving. Recipes for traditional cakes, slices, scones, puddings, biscuits, pickles, relishes, jams and marmalades are put to the test by Country Women’s Association judges at Agricultural Shows and in town halls the country over. Traditionally the domain of seasoned home cooks, a new dawn is rising in the world of competitive cookery with men, children and women bereft of any prior baking and preserving experience putting their grandmother’s recipes for pumpkin scones and choko pickles through their paces.

Dean’s chocolate cake, my plate of four scones and marble cake.

Last weekend was The Newcastle Show and I entered the cookery and jam competition for the first time. The categories I entered were plain scones (plate of 4), marble cake (round, not iced), strawberry jam and traditional orange marmalade. I persuaded my husband, Dean, to have a go at the chocolate cake in the men’s section for which a recipe is provided. I had woken early last Friday morning, the first show day and the day all entries are to be submitted, to bake my batch of scones.

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Pear

Entrée to Autumn

This week’s visit to the Farmer’s Market turned my attention to pears. Yet another signal of the arrival of Autumn, alongside getting dressed into jeans first thing in the morning and having to change to shorts by 11am. The joy of in-between seasons.

I grew up thinking pears were the poor cousins to apples because they never stood up to lunchbox brutality like a Red Delicious. But if treated with care and eaten at the peak of ripeness, which it seems you never can tell until the morning of, they offer a juicy tenderness in their give where the apple smacks of sharp crunch.

That being said, I don’t mind a pear on the crisp side of ripe to eat with a good blue cheese. Add walnuts and you’ve got the trifecta for stinky cheese perfection. Forget crackers. Simply take a slice of pear, add a triangle of blue and crown with a toasted walnut. Pop in your mouth and….Heaven.

This Stephanie Alexander salad takes this idea and moves it from hors d’oevres to entrée.

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Cook Book

Favourite Cookbooks Part 2

So, after last week’s Part 1 post I couldn’t help myself and went on Booko over the weekend to finally order Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries and Tender Vol 1, plus Rose Bakery’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea. Naughty I know, but after so many recommendations how could I not? Besides I am excusing flagrant cookbook buying behaviour as an upcoming birthday present(s) for myself. Anything to justify more cookbooks for a bookshelf already groaning under the weight of more than my fair share. I tell you though, I felt a whole lot better about the situation when I saw Rodney Dunn’s cookbook collection (above). No matter that he is a former Editor for Australian Gourmet Traveller and owner of the beautiful The Agrarian Kitchen just out of Hobart, Tasmania. My collection is measly in comparison. Let temptation lead us astray once more with recommendations for favourite cookbooks by some of the internet’s loveliest foodie and design bloggers, with this, Part 2.

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Indian Spiced Nuts

Indian Spiced Nuts

While the cinnamon sugar amaretto almonds that appear over on The Design Files earlier this week are exceptionally tasty and addictive, this version of spiced nuts is a fierce contender for the title of biggest habit-forming nut mix around. I should know because my Dad has been making them for years and they never last long, especially with a cold beer or glass of white wine. I made them last Christmas as little gifts packaged in little glass containers. You can omit or increase the ground chilli depending on your likeness for heat. I highly recommend it though.

I’m always on the prowl for new nut mix recipes, so if you a good one, please fell free to link to it in the comments section below.

Indian-Spiced Nuts
Makes about 5 cups

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YoGo To Yoghurt

From YoGo To Yoghurt

About as close as I got to yoghurt growing up was the chocolate confection known as YoGo. I remember trying real yoghurt for the first time as an early teen and wondering how there were so many passionate lovers of the stuff given it’s acidy, sour taste. How things change. I persisted and weaned myself off sugars and flavourings to the point where I was more than happy to eat plain yoghurt with a little honey and sliced banana every morning for breakfast. In fact, I was quite addicted to the stuff.

Given I practically live off yoghurt in summer I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to cotton on to homemade yoghurt. It has to be the most dead simple food to prepare. The best thing is it can be perfectly runny, unlike most commercial yoghurts that add stabilisers, starches, gums and gels to thicken and provide a ‘creamy’ texture. I make my homemade yoghurt is so runny I’ll be using it as a replacement for milk on cereal, which is good news for my granola breakfasts. And good news for people with lactose intolerance. During the fermentation process cultures (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus) break down lactose to lactic acid meaning yoghurt is the only dairy food people with lactose intolerance can eat.

 

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Gingerbread House

A Tale of a Gingerbread House

We attempted our first-ever gingerbread house last Christmas. By ‘we’ I mean ‘me’. It was a rousing success given we were completely unprepared for just how finicky building a miniature house of dough is. We innocently underestimated the importance of measuring and cutting the sides and roof with extreme accuracy. The saving grace was the No More Gaps royal icing that secured its wobbly roof and wonky walls like a fortress.

I was inspired by these great modern interpretations and decided to up the ante this Christmas. This year’s house was going to have cut-out windows and front door! I thought I was being rather cunning when I came across a recipe that used toffee for a less in-your-face mortar. It would also have a chimney (had I remembered to assemble it). (more…)