banana, strawberry and coconut bread

strawberries

Those who are regular readers of the Mess would be quite familiar with my occasional (okay, regular) complaints surrounding my lack of a digital SLR camera, tripod, light-box and everything else that’s required to take quality photographs at night. It might therefore come as a surprise to see a low light photograph as the header for this recipe post.

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Let me explain. It’s 11.30pm, Friday night. I’m sitting in my living room, watching a candle flicker on the coffee table after catching up with my beautiful friend Elissa (from Ethical is Easy) over a bottle of Taylors white, homemade tapas and salted caramel ice-cream. I’m feeling relaxed, energised in the best way possible. I start putting some leftovers away and all of a sudden, my eyes rest upon the image of a few over-ripe bananas that have been sitting, neglected, in the far corner of my fridge for the past six days. Yes. Let’s bake.

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You can probably imagine the rest. Out comes my mixing bowl, some leftover ripe strawberries, dry goods and coconut oil. I pull out our trusty camera and some spare batteries to experiment with candlelight photography, sans any of the equipment stated above. Over the next two hours, my ingredients gently fused with the speckled bananas to create a fragrant, brown-sugar-and-coconut-encrusted vision of baked happiness, whilst pictures were snapped, erased, then snapped again.

nightkitchen

Whilst the bread was baking, I sipped on a glass of leftover wine, cleaning the kitchen to the ethereal soundtrack of Emma Louise. The gentle, soaring sounds of her debut album, vs. Head vs. Heart, sweep you into an intricate, thoughtful narrative that is a perfect accompaniment to the inky blackness of the night sky. Now, whilst this is not in any way a full music review, I’d definitely recommend Emma Louise if you like London Grammar or any other band that combines gentle, thoughtful and honest acoustic guitar with elements of electronic syncopation. Check out more polished reviews of the album here and here.

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Now, back to the baking: this fruity loaf is based on my favourite banana bread recipe, stolen from my mother’s copy of Marks & SpencerGood Home Baking’ by Mary Cadogan (1983). I featured a loose variation of the recipe in one of my very first blog posts, Banana Bread: Two Ways as ‘Recipe 1’. Today’s version swaps raisins and walnuts for fresh strawberries, coconut oil and dessicated coconut. It’s topped with a crunchy, toasted coconut and brown sugar crust which, when cut, unearths a beautifully moist, fragrant interior studded with chunks of intense strawberry.

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This recipe is simple, delicious, and achievable for anyone with a mixing bowl, an oven and a loaf tin (actually, you could even bake it in a round tin if required!). It’s adaptable, even if you’re missing a few ingredients, and forgives many common errors that haunt novice cooks (eg. when to combine wet and dry ingredients, how much to beat an egg, whether to sift the flour etc). As this loaf was consumed in the daytime, there are also some natural daylight shots of the finished bread below… thank goodness! It’s so difficult to make brown look attractive by candlelight.

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Banana, Strawberry and Coconut Bread

Makes 1 x 1kg loaf

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 90g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp organic, virgin coconut oil
  • 175g soft dark brown sugar
  • 200g washed and quartered ripe strawberries
  • 1/4 cup dessicated coconut + 1 tbsp (for crust)
  • 3 large or 4 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 tsp natural vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp natural yoghurt (optional, replace with 1 extra tbsp milk if preferred)
  • 2 tbsp milk (dairy, almond, soy etc)
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar (for crust)

Grease the bottom of a 1kg (minimum) loaf tin with butter, then line with greaseproof paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees f).

Place the flour and salt into a bowl. Add in the butter, cut into small pieces, then rub in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sifted brown sugar, dessicated coconut and strawberries.

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Add the vanilla, milk and yoghurt to the mashed bananas with the beaten egg. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, then mix until well combined. Turn your mixture into your lined pan then smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and your 1 tbsp extra coconut.

Place the tin into the preheated oven and bake for 90 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown, risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Serve sliced and buttered if desired, or (my favourite) toasted, spread with mascarpone cheese and topped with toasted almonds.

goneNotes:

  • This loaf tastes amazing with the addition of 100g coarsely chopped white chocolate (reduce your strawberries to 150g). You can also substitute the strawberries for blueberries, raspberries or another berry of your choice.
  • Don’t like coconut? Just omit it, and add in 1/4 cup of rolled oats, nuts of your choice or flaxseeds.
  • If you don’t have any (or don’t like) coconut oil, just increase your butter to 100g.
  • To substitute plain flour with raising agents for self-raising flour, the general ratio per cup of flour is 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Sift together and use as required.

lime and burnt sugar meringue tart with coconut pastry

tartheader

Over the past few years, Tahitian limes have become a staple item in my shopping basket, mostly for use in salads (such as Mexican Corn Salad), cocktails (it’s great friends with gin), marinades and Mexican food. I absolutely love them… they’re both acidic and sweet, refreshing and adaptable, whilst their distinct floral aroma reminds me of Summer every time.

The only frustrating thing about limes is that their market price seems to vary greatly from week to week in Australia. In recent months, they’ve been up to $1.50 PER LIME at the supermarket… it’s, uh… definitely affected my cocktail consumption. So, you can imagine my delight when I was unexpectedly gifted with an entire bag of limes by a friend at work the other day. I almost danced in delight, holding the crinkling plastic shopping bag with two hands as I squirreled it into my office drawer.

limebox

When I got home, I counted my bounty whilst adding in three supermarket limes from the crisper compartment of my refrigerator. The total? Twenty two beautiful, shining orbs, stalks attached, some gently blushed with hints of ripened gold. They were perfect, like little juicy emeralds sitting on my kitchen table. A growing sense of excitement rose like a butterfly, fluttering in my stomach… what to do with twenty two limes? It was too late to start cooking there and then, so the limes were returned to their shopping bag. I placed them in the crisper compartment next to some friendly heirloom tomatoes, kale and beetroots… then I went to bed. With lime on the brain.

limes

So, let’s cut to today. I’ve been sitting in my kitchen surrounded by a week’s worth of lime-related productivity. There’s lime curd, chilli-lime pickle, lime simple syrup for cocktails, Mexican salsa and some frozen watermelon, tequila, mint and lime pops. I also candied some lime peel in sugar syrup for cake decorating; it’s been sitting in a sugary little pile on my bench top, waiting to adorn a spectacular creation. These little candied treats eventually inspired me to create a lime curd tart, topped with a cloud of Italian meringue and sugared strips of crunchy lime zest.

curdcrust

In homage to the end of Summer, I also decided to experiment with a recipe for coconut oil pastry. After reading several recipes including this one from Baking Bites, I ended up with a pallid, soft mess of a pastry shell that was (unfortunately) only fit for the bin. Take two: my own version of butter shortcrust pastry with coconut sugar and additional coconut oil. This pastry shell worked perfectly; buttery, short and golden with a soft, sweet hint of coconut. Unfortunately, both versions of coconut pastry completely solidified whilst ‘resting’ in the refrigerator, so if you’re going to bake the recipe as written, I’d encourage you to maintain an attitude of patient persistence whilst kneading. It’ll all be worth it in the end (or alternatively, if you want to avoid the solid coconut experience, just increase the butter to 125g and omit the coconut oil altogether). The burnt sugar meringue can also be a touch challenging, so if you’d like to increase the simplicity of this recipe I’d recommend only reducing your sugar syrup to the ‘soft ball’ stage, 6-8 minutes or 115 degrees C (240 degrees f). I’ve also included more tips for making Italian meringue under ‘notes’.

Happy cooking (oh, and now that I’ve scared you regarding the level of difficulty… this tart really isn’t so hard if you break it down into several steps. And once you taste it, I guarantee that the work will be all worthwhile).

pieside2

Lime and Burnt Sugar Meringue Tart with Coconut Pastry

Makes 1 x 23cm tart

This tart includes four components: coconut shortcrust pastry case, lime curd cream filling, burnt sugar Italian meringue and candied lime peel. I’ve broken down each element into an individual ‘recipe’ with instructions for assembly to follow.

crust

1. Coconut shortcrust pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups (250g) plain flour
  • 100g butter, chilled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin coconut oil or coconut butter (I use Loving Earth)
  • 1/3 cup (40g) organic coconut sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp chilled water

Place the flour and coconut sugar into a large bowl. Rub in the cubed butter and coconut oil with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the egg yolk and chilled water, then knead until the mixture comes together.

coconutmont

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the mixture is smooth. Mold into a flattened ball, cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3o minutes prior to using.

Now for the rolling part: lay a piece of baking parchment over your bench, then sprinkle it lightly with flour. Turn out your dough, and start kneading it again until it reaches a pliable consistency (let me tell you from the start; this is not a fun pastry to work with. The coconut oil makes it go rock hard if you leave it too long in the refrigerator so don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. You’ll just need to knead it consistently until it softens again).

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Once your dough softens, roll it out with a floured rolling pin into a large disc, 0.5cm thick. Drape it over your rolling pin then transfer it across to a 23cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Press your pastry into the edges of the pan and make sure that the surface is covered evenly (don’t worry if your pastry fractures, just pick up the torn pieces and press it all back together inside your tart pan). Prick the surface evenly with the tines of a fork, then place your pastry case into the refrigerator to chill for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees f). Remove your chilled tart case from the refrigerator and line it with foil or baking parchment. Fill the lined case with rice, ceramic pie weights or dried beans. Now it’s time for blind baking: place your weighted tart case into the oven and bake it for about 20 minutes.

After the time has elapsed, remove the case from the oven and take out the weights, foil and/or baking paper. Use a fork to prick and flatten any bubbles that may have formed in the pastry, then return the case to the oven at a reduced temperature of 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).  Bake for another 20 minutes, or until the tart shell is crisp and light golden brown.

Let the case cool completely before adding your filling.

 

curdjarlike

2. Lime curd filling:

  • 1 cup (130g) white caster sugar
  • 60g organic unsalted butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh Tahitian lime juice (I used about six medium limes, or to taste)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp lime zest (to taste)
  • 2 whole free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup heavy double cream (or clotted cream, if you can find it)

Place a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water to form a double boiler. Add the sugar, butter, lime juice and lime zest into the bowl, then stir the mixture over medium heat until the butter melts.

limeymont

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding your eggs in a gradual, steady stream. Whisk continuously until all of your eggs are combined with the lime mixture, then return the bowl over your pot of hot water and keep stirring until your mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 20 minutes).

When your curd is ready, place it into a clean bowl or jug then refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes to cool and thicken prior to whipping it with the heavy cream until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate your lime cream filling for 2 hours prior to filling your pastry case.

meringuetop2

3. Italian burnt sugar meringue:
  • 3 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (130g) white caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
Place the egg whites into a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand-mixer. Beat until soft peaks form, then set aside.
meringuemont
Place the white caster sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup of water into a medium saucepan over low heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve without stirring, then increase the heat to medium, or until the mixture reaches a slow boil. Continue to boil, brushing down the sides of your pan with a wet pastry brush occasionally (to prevent crystallisation) for about 10 minutes or until spots of toffee colour appear. Remove your pan from the heat at this point and swirl the mixture until it darkens to a shade of light toffee.
meringuebowl
Now’s the difficult part. Take your hot pan of burnt sugar syrup, and pour it slowly down the side of the mixing bowl whilst continuing to beat your egg whites (this is much easier if you have a stand mixer). Continue to beat until the meringue is firm, glossy and cooled (about 4-5 minutes).
Refrigerate your mixture until you’re ready to assemble your tart.
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4. Candied lime peel:

Always exercise caution when working with hot sugar syrup

  • 1 lime
  • 1 1/4 cups (160g) white caster sugar
  • extra caster sugar or powdered sugar, to coat
limeestmont
Using a sharp knife, carefully remove the peel (or ‘rind’) from your lime in 1-cm strips. Use a sharp knife to remove any white pith, then cut the peel into strips (about 2mm wide).
Blanch your lime peel in freshly boiled water for one minute. Drain, then refresh the peel immediately in an ice-water bath. Repeat process, then drain and set aside.
candzestmont
Heat the sugar with 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble, add in the drained lime peel. Allow to bubble and reduce for 5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the syrup becomes viscous and your peel appears translucent and softened.
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Using a slotted spoon, place the peel onto a wire rack to drain. Separate the strands and toss them in caster sugar or powdered sugar to coat. You can store this candied peel in an airtight container for up to three days.
candiedmont
To assemble:
Place your tart shell onto a serving platter. Fill it with a smooth, even layer of your lime cream filling. Take your Italian meringue and heap it into the centre of the tart, leaving a 2cm/1 inch border around the edge. Use a knife to sculpt the surface decoratively, then if desired, you can either brown it in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 220 degrees C (430 degrees f) or blowtorch the surface until toasted. Top with candied lime peel to serve.
tartlikey

Notes:

  • This page from Pastry Chef Online contains a great tutorial on making Italian meringue. It also outlines the importance of safety precautions when working with candied sugar.
  • Despite my complaints, all dough needs to rest in the refrigerator before rolling to allow the gluten in the dough to relax. Despite the difficulties of coconut oil in dough, do not skip this ‘resting’ process or you’ll end up with a tough pie crust.
  • You can save your lime-infused blanching liquid and sugar syrup to make a simple syrup for cocktails. Just add them together into a medium saucepan with the juice of three limes, then reduce the lot down into a syrupy consistency. Store in a sterilised glass jar… delicious with vodka or gin, soda water, muddled blackberries, a wedge of fresh lime and loads of mint.

pieside

Extra facts about Coconut Oil:

If you, like me, are new to using coconut oil in cooking, you might be interested in reading a little more about its stated health benefits here. I wouldn’t suggest that you start guzzling it by the litre (read this contrasting article by Kathleen Zelman, Registered Dietitian), however in moderation it contains many heart-friendly short and medium chain fatty acids, primarily lauric (44%) and myristic (16.8%). It also has a very high smoke point which means it’s an ideal oil for creating crispy, delicious foods with a delicate hint of fragrant coconut. Warning: coconut oil is contraindicated for those with hypertension (high blood pressure). Consult your doctor if you have any further questions about the suitability of coconut oil for your diet.

awards and acknowledgements

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received a total of three blogging awards. THREE. That’s enough excitement to last me for the rest of the year.

Now, as far as I can tell, these awards seem to come with strict instructions in terms of both nomination and acceptance. I’ll tell you right from the start: I’m going to… uh, bend these rules by posting about all three awards at once. With much gratefulness, of course, and some genuine apologies to those who might view my decision unfavourably.

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Second point to note: I’m also reducing the number of nominees for each category. Primarily because I want to focus on providing a personal, sound basis for each nomination whilst also choosing from my community of generous and talented blogging friends. This made much more sense to me than just searching for 39 (yes, THIRTY NINE!) nominees to fulfill three sets of stated award criteria.

So, I’ve got that off my chest. Hope that’s okay with everyone. Oh, and just to clarify… there are plenty more talented bloggers that I’ve connected with over the past few months who would also be very worthy of nomination on this page. I’ll leave you guys for the next round!

Now, on to the good stuff. I’ll explain each award as the post progresses, with appropriate credit as it’s due. Drum roll please….

liebsterblogaward

1. LIEBSTER BLOG AWARD

As far as I understand, the Liebster award started in 2010 as a way to express peer acknowledgement of up-and-coming blogs with less than 3,000 readers and quality content. Liebster means ‘dearest’ or ‘beloved’ in German, so this award is definitely a positive affirmation!

I received my nomination for the Liebster award from the beautiful Carla Sue at Eat Sweet. You can read her original post here. Let me tell you… I was so excited to be affirmed by Carla Sue! I’ve been following her blog for a while now and every recipe she posts is accompanied by sweet words and beautiful photography. Take a look at her fresh post for Raspberry Sorbet. It’s a perfect example of Carla Sue’s honesty, excitement and inspiration. Thanks again lovely!

Okay, on to the tasks at hand. Carla’s original post provided eleven questions for me to answer, as part of the ‘acceptance’ process. I’ve dutifully completed them as follows:

1. Favourite flavour of icecream? Okay, this is easy. Definitely Pralines n’ Cream, preferably from Gelare.
2. Relaxing holiday, or fast-paced holiday? I think I like a mix of both. Relaxation is definitely great, but too much of it leads to boredom.
3. Favourite brand of chocolate? Hard question. This definitely depends upon my mood… sometimes I just crave the sweetness of Cadbury Dairy Milk (this also has sentimental value!) whereas on other occasions I’d prefer something dark and mysterious, like Green & Blacks organic Maya Gold. Actually, now that I’m thinking… Green & Blacks is my favourite brand. I love their organic, fair trade philosophy. They also have a delicious range that caters to my every whim.
4. Wind or rain? Definitely rain. I love falling asleep to the sound of raindrops on the tin roof.
5. Favourite genre of music? Um… alternative? I love listening to the Australian radio station Triple J, which is pretty much representative of my style. Favourite bands are definitely Little Dragon, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Emma Louise (check her music out… amazing Australian artist), Snakadaktal, Laura Marling, Hot Chip, Angus & Julia Stone, Crystal Castles, Vitalic… ah, I could go on. I’m a bit obsessed with music.
6. Sleep with one pillow, or two? (or three…or four) One is definitely enough. Sometimes I sleep with no pillow, with a sheet pulled over my head. The first time my husband saw me do this, he thought I’d suffocated. I obviously need very little air.
7. Strawberries or raspberries? This is waaaay too difficult. I love any kind of berry, especially if they’re mixed together and combined with vanilla ice cream.
8. Cats or dogs? Dogs. No competition. I can appreciate the beauty of cats but darn, they’re selfish creatures (have you seen this video?). My favourite dogs are definitely Boxers, French Bulldogs and American Staffys.
9. Favourite vegetable? I like pretty much all vegetables. Some favourites include zucchini, eggplant, brussels sprouts, spinach, mushrooms and broccoli. Oh, and POTATOES… God’s gift to the carbohydrate family.
10. Day or night? During the working week, I’d definitely say night. It’s my ‘down time’, when I can relax, unwind, cook (a key relaxation activity for me. I look forward to it every day) and spend time with those I love. On weekends, I love both night and day! I love being able to stay up late, knowing that I can sleep in the next morning. Equally, I love being able to enjoy daytime activities such as walks in the park, lazy afternoons at the beach, barbecues in the sunshine at friend’s houses. We have some of the best weather in the world here in Perth, so it’s difficult not to be a ‘day person’ when you wake to sunshine and blue skies!
11. Favourite hot drink? At work, I’m a tea guzzler. As an English ex-pat, I grew up surrounded by tea and toast with marmalade, and I’ve grown to love it. On weekends, it’s definitely a latte or mocha from Antz inya Pantz Coffee Company…. they freshly roast their beans on-site to produce some of the smoothest, most delicious coffee around. Antz sell both single-origin batches of coffee beans and their own house blends. You can either enjoy a cuppa at their rather funky cafe (the walls are completely covered with sack-cloth from bags of coffee beans) or take some beans home to grind and enjoy in the comfort of your own home. If you live in Perth, try this place! (*I’ve received no compensation for this review and opinions are entirely my own).

Now, nominations! I’ve chosen FIVE very worthy bloggers for this award, each of whom I know is going to go far:

KOI Cuisine: Phil is one cool Canadian. He’s generous with his tips, advice and time, even though he’s an Electrical Engineer in another life! He’s also a strong advocate for health education and organic food from sustainable sources… something that’s very close to my heart. Yep, he’s cool. Go visit his space.

Kim’s Word of Wisdom: Now, I’m a little bit biased here as Kim is my mother, but… well, I love her beautifully honest, generous and inspiring way of writing. She’s experienced a lot in life and somehow, she’s managed to mold all she’s learnt into a series of ‘life lessons’ that I’ve been hearing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. She and Aaron are definitely the dearest, most beloved people in my life, so it’s natural for me to nominate Kim for the Liebster. I think you’ll enjoy visiting her patch of the internet.

High Tea & Trinkets: This blog is written by an amazingly gorgeous, talented woman named Talitha Sprigg. It’s still in its early stages but her baking, fondant and sugar work speaks for itself… not to mention her honest, informative writing that provides a little snapshot into her life. Aaron & I are privileged to know Talitha and her talented husband Roderick Sprigg personally. They’re both warm, generous and honest in every way.

Eat Pray Bake: In my opinion, this blog is a thousand times better than the movie starring Julia Roberts with a similar name (uh, sorry to those who are fans!). It’s written by Helen, a talented undergraduate in nutrition who lives in Toronto, Canada. Her blog is inspiring, in the sense that you can see her passion for wholesome, nutritious food spill over into her recipes and stories. As an added plus, she’s included lots of gorgeous photographs of where she lives. That squirrel…. naaaaw!!

Sips and Spoonfuls: This blog has been written and photographed by the beautiful Sukaina, a freelance food writer and photographer based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Both her writing and photography are top notch and I’m surprised that she doesn’t yet have a wall full of awards. Maybe they’re hiding in the broom cupboard of something (she definitely deserves them!).

Rules for the Liebster Blog Award (if you choose to accept)
1. Add the award icon to your post.
2. Link in your nominator to say thank you.
3. Answer the questions the nominator has set for you, and create eleven questions for your own nominees to answer.
4. Choose eleven (*uh… I chose five) bloggers to nominate for the award, and let them know.

Super Sweet Bloggers

2. SUPER SWEET BLOGGERS AWARD

My second blog award arrived via the lovely Lynne from A Life Worth Styling (see her original post here). Lynne is an American interior designer who has used her ‘corner of the internet’ to create a beautifully honest, inspiring and varied scrapbook of recipes, stories, fashion tips, colour and interior design advice.

I can’t remember the first time that I stumbled upon Lynne’s blog, but since that day I’ve revisited regularly… particularly to read installments of her ‘green’ series (I’ve been in love with the colour green since I was a little girl) such as the Pantone-inspired Emerald City. Gorgeous! Thanks so much Lynne… it means a lot to be validated by my talented blogging peers!

Now, onto the ‘sweet questions’:

1.  Cookies or Cake?  I’m definitely a cake girl. Cookies are great as a snack, but they definitely don’t compare to a warm piece of cake à la mode, served with a warm, syrupy river of toffee, butterscotch or chocolate fudge sauce (darn it, now I want cake).
2.  Chocolate or Vanilla? Does this question relate to ice cream? Hm. If so, I’d definitely say vanilla. I’m not really a fan of chocolate ice cream, though I love chocolate in all its other forms (cake, brownies, chocolate fudge sauce, truffles, candy… the list goes on). When made with real vanilla beans, vanilla ice cream is an absolute privilege to eat. My friend Miriam makes her own from fresh, home made vanilla custard. I’m pretty sure that I could eat an entire batch at once!
3.  What is your favorite sweet treat? Argh, hard question. Rocky road? Brownies? I also love apple crumble made with dark brown sugar, coconut and oats. Give me a bowl of this with lashings of fresh vanilla ice cream and I’m a very happy girl.
4.  When do you crave sweet things the most? When I’m tired, definitely. Every day at work I hit ‘three thirty-itis’ and start searching for chocolate or a muesli bar. And coffee!
5.  If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be? Uh… I have no idea. As I’m usually the resident caterer when my husband’s best friends come over, they have christened me ‘Chop’ (as in; 1. chopping ingredients to cook, 2. lamb chop, 3. ‘chop chop’ = move quickly!). I’ll just stick with that one (please don’t start using it).

Now, the following FIVE nominees are some of the most inspirational, sweet and talented baker bloggers I know. It’s a privilege to mention them in this award category:

Cityhippyfarmgirl: I love this girl. She’s a perfect demonstration of sweet, organic and sustainable living within a city space. She taught me how to make my first sourdough starter, and how to transform this little ‘yeast baby’ (my words, not hers) into the most gorgeous hot cross buns I’ve ever tasted. Visit her space. Be inspired and transform your views from ‘city’ to ‘sustainability’.

The Speckled Palate: Erin is sweetness, warmth and gorgeousness wrapped up in a smiling Southerner! I absolutely love her stories, recipes and photographs… every visit to her blog makes me feel a little bit better about life. I’m privileged to call her a blogging friend across the seas now and I hope we can meet one day, perhaps over a piece of her gorgeous pot pie. Love you Erin!

An Unrefined Vegan: Annie is a wholesome, honest and lovely soul who practices what she preaches. She adopted a vegan diet for health, weight and moral reasons and has somehow managed to turn health food into something delicious, nourishing and naturally sweet! I love this blog. I’m slowly adopting many vegan foods into my omnivorous diet and this is one of my favourite places to learn and be nourished.

Cooking Crusade: Christine. Ah, this girl makes me smile. She’s a vibrant Sydney food blogger with a beautiful blog that contains not only sweet (and simple!) recipes but also food reviews and food safety information for the general public. She’s also very generous in her responses to any questions… check out her patch of the internet and be inspired.

Cannella Vita: This blog is run by Erica, one of the sweetest, warmest teenage girls around. I’m pretty sure that she must’ve already been nominated for most awards under the sun, but hey… I’m going to give her another one! She’s an incredibly honest writer who somehow manages to keep her blog going amidst exam pressure. Not an easy feat for anyone… though, they do say that it’s easier for women to multitask! Take a peek into her cinnamon-sprinkled world of baking… you’ll love every word she’s written.

Rules for the Super Sweet Bloggers Award (if you choose to accept)

  1. Visit and thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.
  2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
  3. Answer the “Super Sweet” questions.
  4. Nominate a “Baker’s Dozen” (13) blogs for the award, add a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.
  5. Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

Best-Moment-Award

3. BEST MOMENT AWARD

On to the third and last award of this series: the ‘Best Moment Award’. This nomination arrived via Moment Matters, a website that’s been created as a public space for sharing moments of happiness, joy, sadness, travel euphoria, family milestones, shattering anxieties and everything in-between.

Now, I admit that prior to my nomination, I’d never heard of this initiative. However, after visiting their site, I’m sorry that I didn’t know about it earlier! Take a look at ‘Our Moments‘, where strangers from around the world have come together to share heartfelt glimpses of their existence in an honest, unedited narrative. It’s written excerpts of life, in one of the purest forms possible. Truly inspiring.

Now, as per my introduction to this awards entry, I’ll again clarify that I’m not exactly fulfilling all of the required ‘acceptance criteria’ for this award. I’m not posting their entire article and I’m not going to deliberate for hours about writing an acceptance speech. Instead, I’m just going to say a heartfelt thank you to the people behind this award… both for noticing my writing and for introducing me to more inspirational blogging friends around the world, with whom I was co-nominated.

For a full explanation of the ‘Best Moment Award’ and full acceptance criteria (should you choose to comply!) I’d encourage you to take a look at the original awards page on Moment Matters. As an introduction to their philosophy, I’ve included their inspiration behind the award in quote form:

Awarding the people who live in the moment,
The noble who write and capture the best in life,
The bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time.

I think you’d agree that this is a really lovely sentiment.

Now, on to my SIX personal nominees for this award. Each has been chosen for their ability to reflect life, meaning and honesty within their words. I can genuinely say that I’m transported to a little compartment of their lives as I read their latest blog entries:

Sniff & Snort: I love this blog. Aida (FlourVonSponge) is a vibrant, warm and humorous writer who reflects upon the challenges and triumphs of life in a truly honest, candid and refreshing manner. She’s presently working towards the opening of a sustainable cafe in her home town of Chichester, England and it’s been a privilege to read about her experiences along the way. I love Flour. She’s glorious. You’ll love her too.

Profiteroles and Ponytails: Ah, ponytails. Just reading that word brings me back to the days of my youth, hair floating in the breeze as I enjoyed a carefree merry dance through the complexities of life. It’s a perfect reflection of what Barb captures in the honest and humorous content on her blog. Barb is a Toronto-based writer and photographer who has two ponytailed girls. Profiteroles and Ponytails is a documentation of her experiences whilst trying to balance work, cooking and parenting… three demanding roles, to say the least. She does it with aplomb.

Gabriela Blandy: This woman is pretty much perfection in prose. She has an ability to capture moments in a beautifully honest way, drawing you into a little bubble of her rich experience. I’d definitely encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and spend five minutes experiencing life through Gabriela’s mind. I do it regularly, and I’m pretty sure it refreshes my mind in readiness for each day ahead. Gabriela – you’re brilliant. I can’t wait for more people to discover your work.

Easy Natural Food: Debbie, the beautiful woman behind this blog, is pretty transparent in her writing. She discusses the joys, hardships and uncertainties of life with both unfading hope and a pinch of realism. It’s a privilege to read about her experiences whilst also drooling over her gorgeous and achievable recipes. Deliciousness, in blog form.

The Kitchen’s Garden: I first stumbled upon this blog some months ago whilst trawling the internet for fresh, organic recipes. I was met with the image of a cow and… well, even though I didn’t find the recipe I was looking for, I was enthralled by Cecilia‘s beautiful photography, honest recollections and heartfelt stories about life on her very own sustainable farm in Midwest America. I’d encourage you to have a read and let Cecilia’s farm inspire you. It’s definitely worked on me!

Hippy Vic: This page is owned by the beautiful Vicky, who actually hasn’t updated her ‘About’ page but… hey, that’s reflective of her carefree, bohemian personality. I love this blog… it contains heartfelt writing, beautiful photography and glimpses into the personalities of people who enrich the tapestry of her life. Take nan, for instance. You can meet her via the Gnocchi post, where she teaches Vicky and the family how to make her time-honoured gnocchi recipe in the true, wholesome Italian way. I’d encourage you to visit Vicky whilst gently encouraging her to share more of her written inspiration with us. It’s okay, I know her personally… so I’ll apologise with my Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt and Walnut Cookies if necessary.

So, that’s it.

My gratefully accepted awards up ’til now, accompanied by links to some of the most beautiful, genuine and inspirational blogs I’ve had the privilege to click upon. I hope you’ll visit some of them and enjoy their recipes, stories, wisdom and humour as much as I did. My next post will definitely be recipe-based, so thanks for being patient with me. My life has been rather time-poor recently, due to family illness, dreaded work stress and other such things.

Thanks again to the beautiful bloggers who nominated me for all of the above awards; I appreciate you greatly. I also appreciate everyone (yep, that’s you!) who reads the contemplative words, stories and recipes that I publish. A while ago, I thought that no one would ever read them… so it’s a privilege to meet you all… I now count you as friends.

buttermilk corn fritters

imagelikefritters

I’m listening to the breeze. It’s whisper-soft and gentle, fragrant with the smell of nearby eucalyptus trees, dust and fresh rainfall. The sun is high in the sky, casting patches of shadow on grass as a nearby emu ambles along a wire fence.

As you may have guessed, this post hasn’t been written from the common confines of our shoebox apartment (contrary to popular belief, emus and kangaroos don’t wander free in Australian capital cities). Two days ago, my husband and I packed our bags for a weekender in Dunsborough, a quiet town 254km south of Perth on the shores of Geographe Bay.   leaflandscape

Dunsborough is a beautiful place, known for its white sand, artisan food stores, aged timber and quality wines. It’s a popular weekend escape for Sandgropers of all ages, particularly due to its close proximity to Margaret River, a premium wine region surrounded by world-class surf beaches and rugged timber forests.

We were lucky enough to score a last minute invitation to a friend’s farm stay property, five minutes from Dunsborough town centre and one minute away from the famous Simmo’s ice creamery. We arrived late on Friday night in a flash of headlights and immediately felt… different. All the troubles of the week faded into a fragrant tumble of eucalyptus, scratching happy chickens and fresh figs from the tree, the latter eaten with local honey and foraged sprigs of mint.

fignutnature

Over the past two days, we’ve spent hours at the beach, sunbathing and searching for tiny crabs before barbecuing fresh-caught fish on a gas camp stove. We’ve played the guitar in the moonlight, swirling glasses of wine whilst singing along to the chirp of crickets in nearby grass and the boom of the local emu.

After sleeping on creaking mattresses we’ve woken to natural light before eating fresh farmyard eggs and bacon cooked on an outdoor barbecue. It’s been perfection, in holiday form, made better by the presence of lifelong friends who in my opinion are some of the best people on the planet.

lau&melcrab

I’m writing this last paragraph two days after our return to Perth. It’s 7.00am, the sun is casting a warm glow through the window and my mind is flickering towards my office and the growing pile of paperwork requiring my attention. However, I can’t finish this post without the addition of a recipe, so below you’ll find a breakfast dish that was developed, cooked and devoured in the fresh air during our weekend in Dunsborough.

fritmont

These corn fritters are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and flaked with juicy nuggets of golden sweetcorn. They’re deliciously versatile, made even better during our time away by the addition of fresh organic eggs, hand-picked garlic chives and dried chillies (the latter were grown and harvested by my friends Patti and Mel). We enjoyed our fritters with smoked salmon, fried eggs (I attempted poaching over a camp stove but failed dismally), tomato chutney, lemon-infused sour cream, spinach and avocado. I’ve included some recipe additions and variations under ‘notes’ below if you’re feeling adventurous.

However you try them, I hope you enjoy these corn fritters as much as we did. Oh, and if you’re a Perth city slicker, I’d highly recommend a trip to the country. It’s refreshing for the body, mind and spirit… the way nature intended.

plate

Buttermilk Corn Fritters

Makes approximately 12, 6-8cm diameter fritters

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 315g creamed corn
  • 400g sweetcorn kernels (equivalent to 1 large sweetcorn cob, kernels removed, or 420g can corn kernels, drained)
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic chives
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • unsalted butter and olive oil, to fry

Sift flour into a large bowl, then make a well in the centre. Fold in your liquid ingredients: buttermilk, eggs and creamed corn. Taste, then season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. mixmont

Add in your corn kernels, chives and parmesan, then fold until just combined. Your mix is now ready to fry.

Warm a heavy-based, non-stick frypan over medium heat. When hot, remove from heat before adding a tablespoon of unsalted butter and some good quality olive oil. When the butter has melted, return the pan to the heat and add heaped tablespoons of the mixture, three at a time. Use the back of a spoon to shape the fritter mixture into 6-8cm diameter rounds.

forks

Cook your fritters until the edges begin to crisp up and small bubbles start appearing in the mixture. Flip them over carefully with a slotted spatula. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the fritters are crisp on both sides, lightly browned and firm to the touch. If it’s a cold day, I’d recommend placing your cooked fritters in a slow oven (150 degrees C/300 degrees f) to keep warm whilst you begin your next batch.

Drain on paper towels before serving 2-3 fritters per person. Great accompaniments include lemon-infused sour cream, crème fraiche, smoked salmon or crispy bacon, poached eggs, fresh herbs, sliced avocado and tomato chutney.

split

Notes:

  • Corn is a great source of dietary fibre whilst being low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It also contains beneficial amounts of thiamin, niacin (B vitamins), vitamin C, potassium and folate. However, being high in starch and natural sugars, it’s definitely not a low carbohydrate food (which is why it’s used to make sweet corn syrup). Watch your intake if you enjoy being sedentary!
  • If you’re feeling inventive, these fritters are very open to adaptation. Great additions to the basic fritter mixture include small pieces of crispy bacon, extra cheese (crumbled feta is fantastic), finely chopped herbs (try parsley or coriander), spices (try some cumin and coriander seeds for a deliciously Middle Eastern twist) or for extra nutritional value, grated carrot.
  • For a Southern American version, omit the chilli, pepper and chives from your mixture and mix in 1 tsp caster sugar before frying. Serve with crispy bacon and maple syrup or honey for a classic sweet-and-salty hit. Yum. Oh, and please don’t deep-fry them. It’s not necessary (repeat after me: you are not Elvis).
  • If you’re a vegan, I’ve found a deliciously suitable corn fritter recipe just for you. It’s by Nancy at The Sensitive Pantry and utilises an egg replacer alongside coconut milk and sorghum flour. I haven’t test-driven it yet, but I have absolute faith in this woman’s abilities. She is the queen of cooks for those with food allergies and intolerances.  forkplate
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