raspberry, macadamia and white chocolate muffins

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I like muffins. They’re ridiculously simple to make, quick to cook and easy to eat. However, despite muffins being in my regular baking repertoire, I’ve never posted a recipe. Why? Well… muffins are usually my go-to ‘quick fix’ option when I need to bake and don’t have available cooking time for a cake. Within half an hour, the muffins are mixed, baked and gently packed in paper for transport.

As any food blogger would know, taking photographs for a post slows down the cooking process considerably, so muffins never really hit my blogging radar. Until now. This muffin recipe is too good not to share.

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Based on this recipe from taste.com.au, my version of the classic raspberry and white chocolate muffin is studded with macadamia nuts, white chocolate buttons and rosy fruit. The batter is moistened with toasty macadamia oil and buttermilk, both of which are absorbed and retained by the additional coconut flour.

Raw sugar balances the tartness of the raspberries, whilst a sprinkle of demerara sugar creates crunch on the golden muffin top. When eaten warm from the oven, they’re positively heavenly… warm, gooey white chocolate contrasts against tart raspberry, moist coconut and earthy macadamias in a joyous tumble of flavour and texture.

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I took all eighteen of these muffins to my workplace as a Monday sweetener. Their box was empty by morning tea time and eleven emails soon arrived in thanks (plus two door drop-in’s calling for my entry to The Great Australian Bake-Off).

So, needless to say, if you’d like to win friends and make office alliances, make these muffins. They’re quick, easy and absolutely delicious. They’ve never failed me yet.

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Raspberry, Macadamia and White Chocolate Muffins

Makes 18 medium-sized muffins

  • 1 cup (about 200g) white chocolate buds
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) raw caster sugar
  • 3 cups (450g) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup (150g) organic coconut flour
  • 1 cup (250ml) macadamia oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (160g) raw macadamias, crushed lightly in a mortar and pestle
  • 2 cups (250g) frozen or fresh raspberries
  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly whisked
  • demerara sugar, for sprinkling (if desired)

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (360 degrees f). Line 18 (one 12-hole and one 6-hole muffin tray) muffin pans with paper cases.

muffincases1

In a large bowl, combine the white chocolate, sugar, flours and macadamia nuts. Gently fold in the raspberries (don’t worry if some of them get crushed, it creates a lovely rosy hue upon baking). Make a well in the centre.

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mix

Whisk the egg, oil and buttermilk together in a jug. Pour the mixture into the well in the centre of your flour mixture, then gently stir until just combined.

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Spoon the mixture evenly into each paper case, ensuring that the chocolate, nuts and berries are evenly distributed.

filling

filled2Sprinkle each muffin top with some demarara sugar. Transfer trays into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden and cooked through (insert a skewer into the centre of a large muffin; it should come out with only moist crumbs attached). splitaerial2Cool the muffins for 5 minutes before removing them from their trays. They’re wonderful served warm with a hot cup of coffee.

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spiced lamb burgers with beetroot relish and hand-cut chips

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I love a good burger. There’s just something about a crisp-edged, juicy meat patty atop crusty bread with a myriad of cheeses, soft herbs and condiments. It’s portable, hand-held deliciousness, infinitely variable but perfect in its simplicity.

At present, my favourite burgers are made at a small South Fremantle cafe called Ootong and Lincoln. I was first introduced to this eclectic venue by my best friend Vicky (aka Hippy Vic) who has long held an obsession with their dukkah-crusted lentil burgers. Yep, lentil burgers. They’re absolutely delicious, even from the position of a well-entrenched carnivore.

Perfectly seasoned, crisp-edged and soft-centred, these lentil patties are house-made and coated in toasted dukkah before being piled onto a fresh roll with melting haloumi, soft greens and homemade relish. Have I made you hungry yet?

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Anyway, after that three paragraph speal, I’m here to tell you that I don’t have the secret recipe for Ootong’s lentil patties. Or their relish, for that matter (but they do sell their dukkah crust in jars on site at the cafe, uh… well, that’s only marginally helpful).

What I do have is a recipe for completely non-vegetarian lamb burgers with a quick, throw-together beetroot relish. Perfect for a delicious after-work dinner when you can’t get your tired ass to Ootong in Fremantle.

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This entire meal is cheap to make and ridiculously easy. In fact, I threw it together in about 20 minutes (discounting the cooking time). Begin with your potatoes; chop then boil them whilst you combine ingredients for your patty mixture. Mold into patties, then refrigerate whilst you start frying the chips. When the chips are in the oven, start your beetroot relish, then leave it to macerate whilst you fry your meat. Before you know it, everything’s on the plate.

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The original concept for these burgers was from taste.com.au. However, as per usual, I’ve bastardized everything according to my own specifications.

The recipes for the chips, patties and relish are entirely forgiving so I’d encourage you to play around with them as you see fit. Add some toasted pine nuts, feta or chopped parsley to the patties if you like. Want some extra spice on the chips? Add in some chilli flakes, lemon rind or a pinch of cayenne pepper. The relish is also hugely adaptable; I’ve made it with grated apple, red cabbage, poppy seeds, caramelised onion, with and without extra lemon rind and brown sugar. It’s also wonderful with pomegranate seeds, finely chopped coriander and crushed pistachios. Infinitely adaptable. Like most good food should be.

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Lamb Burgers

  • 500g good-quality lamb mince
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 red Spanish onion, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 generous tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • plain flour, to dust
  • olive oil, for frying

To assemble the burgers:

  • 4 crusty hamburger rolls
  • soft goats cheese
  • garlicky hummus
  • washed rocket leaves
  • beetroot relish
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • avocado, if desired

Mix all of the above ingredients in a large bowl, ensuring that the aromatics are finely distributed.

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With moist hands, separate mixture into four equal-sized portions. Flatten each portion in the palm of your hand into a rough circle, approximately 1.5cm thick.

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Place each patty onto a lined tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before cooking (during this time, you can prepare your beetroot relish).

To cook: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C  (350 degrees f). Lightly dust each patty with plain flour and sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a heavy based, oven-safe frying pan. When oil starts to smoke, carefully place patties into the pan. Fry on each side until golden but not cooked through; transfer pan into oven and cook for another 5 minutes or until just cooked through.

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Whilst still warm, top each patty with a few slices of soft goats cheese. Toast the burger buns if desired, spread bottom half with hummus (and top half with avocado if desired) then top with a goats-cheese-topped lamb patty. Dollop on some beetroot relish, top with fresh rocket, grind over some fresh black pepper. Serve with oven chips (and aioli for dipping, if desired).

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Quick Beetroot Relish

Makes roughly 1.5 cups. Serve any remaining relish on crostini with soft goats cheese, or on toasted sourdough with poached eggs, hummus and fresh rocket for breakfast.

  • 250g peeled, cooked beetroot, grated coarsely
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 ground sumac
  • handful of mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
  • good splash (approx 1 tsp) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dark agave syrup or honey
  • extra virgin olive oil

Place chopped onion into a small bowl with the lemon juice. Mix well, then leave to macerate for 15 minutes. Drain well.

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In a medium sized bowl, combine the grated beetroot with the soaked onion, agave, red wine vinegar, olive oil and spices.

beetrootsaladingredientsMix well and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Mix in the mint just before serving (for a quick version, like I did, you can just dump everything into a bowl and mix it together; however the beetroot definitely benefits from marinating).

chipsrawHand-cut Chips

This amount serves 2 (allow around 200-250g potatoes per person)

  • 450g waxy potatoes; I used Ruby Lou (approx 3 medium potatoes)
  • 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • smoked sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil, for frying

Cut each potato into rough batons, around 1x1cm in width. Place in a pot of cold, salted water, then slowly bring to the boil.

potReduce heat slightly, allowing the potatoes to simmer until tender (but not falling apart). Drain well, then season with smoked sea salt and black pepper.

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Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Heat oil in a large, heavy based oven-safe frying pan or oven tray. Add in the garlic cloves and herbs. When smoking, toss in the seasoned potatoes and allow to crisp lightly on all sides.

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Transfer the tray or pan into the oven. Continue cooking the chips, turning them regularly until golden and crisp on all sides.

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Drain on paper towels prior to serving with assembled burgers.

chipbowl doneplatterEat, padawan. Eat. I know you want to.

*by the way, for those who read the Appreciation Post about Aaron, the board below is one of a set of two that he made for me. I still haven’t posted a proper shot of them, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.

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EAT. DRINK. BLOG. the classroom cocktail and cuisine masterclass

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There’s something surreptitiously naughty about drinking an espresso martini whilst sitting cross-legged on the floor of a room that resembles your school library.

Whether this was an intended effect of The Classroom‘s education-themed decor, I’m not sure. Either way, I felt fleetingly like the coolest kid in the class whilst attending the Eat Drink Blog Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass on Sunday 10th November 2013.

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The Classroom is a small bar situated on Charles Street in North Perth that specialises in ‘cocktail gastronomy’ or cocktail and food matching. Established in 2012 by chef Daniel Sterpini and his business partner Adam Keanes, The Classroom has since gone from strength to strength, winning the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) ‘ Mixology and Cocktail Menu of the Year’ in 2012 and ‘Best WA Cocktail Bar’ in 2013.

The team behind The Classroom describe the inspiration for their small bar to be ‘fun and education’… taking patrons back to the days when ‘learning was fun’. Upon entering the premises, it’s immediately obvious that they’ve executed their concept well: contact covered menus litter the front bar whilst neon backpacks hang joyously above the front entrance. Spirits sit snugly within a wall of modified lockers, right near to a pin-board of pencil drawings.

It’s school, the way it wasn’t supposed to be.

classroombags backroom

After acquainting ourselves with the surroundings, our ‘class’ was introduced to teacher number one: Andrew Bennett, The Classroom’s bar manager and resident mixologist. Andrew amiably introduced himself before leading us through a mysterious secret door from the ‘classroom’ into the ‘school library’ where he demonstrated the science behind one of the bar’s most popular cocktails: LN2 Espresso Martini ($22).

andrewNow, before you balk at the price, let me give you the rundown on this little concoction: one pure Darkstar espresso shot, shaken and strained with The Classroom’s secret espresso mix (apparently this has notes of vanilla bean, pure coffee and Pedro Ximénez) topped with mascarpone sherry foam and liquid nitrogen (LN2/-196 degrees C turning the drink into a delicious iced concoction) before being dusted with shaved couverture chocolate. As Andrew explains, it’s like the best parts of espresso, tiramisu and cappuccino in one deliciously boozy, science-dusted hit.

I was seriously impressed (even if he did forget his safety glasses whilst pouring the LN2). preparing liquidnitro2cocktail

Whilst the bar staff formed a production line to complete our class cocktails, we were introduced to The Classroom’s teacher number two: head chef Daniel Sterpini.

Daniel explained his very complex, gastronomically-matched dessert to us in the most ‘teacherly’ of ways: kneeling on the floor (my quick snap gave him an unfortunate magic hand; he was regrettably being bombarded by cameras whilst explaining the dessert elements).

dandessertDaniel’s dessert, the Asteroid Rocher, was apparently inspired by an affogato combined with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Upon tasting the dish, I could understand his train of thought.

The smooth nougat ice cream and rich coffee ganache contrasted beautifully against the crunch of homemade honeycomb and pop rocks, just like the textural qualities of a Ferrero chocolate. Pistachio dirt, crystallised violets and blueberries added an earthy, fresh element, rounding out the floral complexity of the smooth coffee ganache.

Surprisingly, the smoky, smooth roasted banana mousse was my favourite element of the dish; smooth, complex and light, with a perfect balance of roasted caramel. When eaten alongside sips of the LN2 martini, the sweet, smooth smokiness contrasted beautifully against the bitter, robust elements of the coffee in a happy revelation.

dessert dessertaerial

For a brief moment, I entirely understood the unique drive behind Dan, Adam and Andrew’s ‘cocktail gastronomy’. It’s an endless, complex and multifaceted journey into the science of food and drink; the building blocks of taste, texture, visual presentation and aroma.

Witnessing the passion behind their product was inspiring.

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dan

I drove home in a state of quiet, deliberate contemplation. Whilst I’m not entirely sold on the idea of matching cocktails to each course (partly due to my obsession with South Australian shiraz), I’m interested in furthering my ‘education’ in cocktail mixology and food matching over the summer months… starting with a ‘Moroccan Affair’ (house-made rhubarb cordial and Tanqueray gin with extra deliciousness).

glasssilhouette

The Eat Drink Blog: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass was hosted and sponsored by The Classroom bar, Unit 1/356 Charles Street, North Perth WA 6006. Thanks to Andrew Bennett, Daniel Sterpini and The Classroom team for their patience, time and generosity. This blog post is a non-sponsored reflection of my personal experience at this event. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog committee for their hard work in organizing this masterclass.

EAT. DRINK. BLOG. conference, perth 2013

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Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the fourth annual Eat Drink Blog conference at Perth City Farm in East Perth, Western Australia. Spanning an entire Saturday and half of Sunday, the conference included nine learning modules, a fully sponsored Saturday night pop-up dinner and three half-day elective masterclasses, all of which required huge amounts of pre-event organisation.

So, before I write about anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated, ever-smiling committee who organised this generous event for Australian bloggers. None of this would have happened without you.

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Saturday 09/11/2013: EAT DRINK BLOG Conference

Perth City Farm is a lush, green oasis situated by the scattered grey landscape of Health Department buildings on Royal Street in East Perth. Built on the remnants of a former scrap metal yard, it now incorporates a sprawling community garden, urban farm and organic cafe, the latter of which stocks organic artisan bread from Loafers.

On Saturday mornings from 8am – 12 noon, the Farm plays host to a market full of small-batch cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, biodynamic meats, homemade soaps and unrefined honey. Keen crowds mingle with passionate growers and producers in a happy dance, often to live bands or acoustic guitar.

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Upon arriving at the Farm, I immediately felt lifted by the smell of fresh apples and citrus bathed in soft morning sun. As I wove my way through groups of sticky children to the rear function room (a.k.a timber shed), I spotted a few people snapping photos of crusty bread with DSLR cameras. Bloggers? Quite possibly.

No, probably.

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The shed entrance was bordered by smiling fruit vendors who seemed slightly amused by the trickle of camera-wielding food bloggers who soon disappeared within. As I descended the stairs to register, I was greeted by the smile of an amiable volunteer. Lanyard, check. Program, check. My feet gravitated towards the steam rising from the 5 Senses coffee machine.

The first two meters of conference space were cluttered with slightly apprehensive, disquieted individuals who were assumedly attending a blogging conference for the first time. Their expressions mimicked the butterfly ramming the wall of my gut – excited, in a trapped kind of way.

As a fledgling blogger of eighteen months, I was completely unaccustomed to seeing groups of food bloggers (and their cameras) in a single confined space. Glazed pastries from Jean Pierre Sancho, Australian pears and ice-packed yoghurt from West n’Fresh were surrounded by a wall of bloggers searching for the best camera angles. I took some quick snaps before continuing my quest for coffee.

yoghurt pears

My coffee order was scrawled onto a paper cup by one of the deluged-but-smiling baristas at the 5 Senses coffee area. The air in the shed was hot due to external humidity and incessant sunshine, only slighty offset by oscillating fans.

I waited in the crowd, checking each appearing cup for the inked version of my name. Thankfully, the order was completed just before the official conference ‘welcome’ began. I squirreled myself, coffee cup in hand, into a nearby seat between Andrea from Noshbites and Jamie from Gourmet Male.

I sat, sipping thoughtfully as the beautiful Ai-Ling from Blue Apocalypse introduced the program for the day. Unfortunately, I remember very little apart from the toasty, rich, delicately floral coffee in that paper cup. Coffee can do that to you (thank goodness for paper programs).

coffee

The rest of the day was a haze of learning modules, panel discussions, food breaks and practical demonstrations including an interactive coffee workshop from Charles Stewart and Jeremy Hulsdunk (barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy) and a breakdown on mobile blogging and social networking issues by Thang Ngo (blogger and food writer at Noodlies, see his presentation and the results of his conference survey here).

The official program is available here, incorporating relevant topics such as working with media and Public Relations, ‘sponsored posts’, ethical and legal issues within the world of copyright, blogging and photography. The speakers were dynamic, varied and utterly enthusiastic (despite the heat and huge amounts of sleep-inducing food) including:

  • Adam Roberts – cookbook author, food writer and United States blogger at Amateur Gourmet
  • Ed Charles – internet consultant, journalist and blogger at Tomato
  • Jeremy Hulsdank – above mentioned barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy
  • Russell Blaikie – head chef and manager of MUST Wine Bar in Mount Lawley and Muster bar and grill in Margaret River
  • Michael Tucak – arts lawyer from Creative Legal
  • Cynthia Chew – food writer and blogger from The Food Pornographer
  • Phil Lees – social media manager and food writer from The Last Appetite
  • Max Brearley – freelance journalist and blogger at Pub Diaries
  • Emma Galloway – cookbook author, ex-chef and blogger at My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Sophie Budd – chef at Taste Budds caterers and cooking school
  • Anthony Georgeoff – editor of Spice magazine, blogger at Manthatcooks
  • Simon Park – photographer and blogger at The Heart of Food
  • Thang Ngo – above mentioned food writer, commentator and blogger at Noodlies
  • Paul Kilmurray – founder of Urban Locavore (project involving WA artisan producers, delivering fresh produce to your door)
  • Kiren Mainwaring – head chef from the incredible Co-Op Dining restaurant in East Perth

If you’d like to peruse some of the very worthy write-ups from other attendees of the event, please follow the media link here. There are also some incredible photo diaries such as Rachi’s snapshots on Le Bon Vivant.

I’d also like to echo the common thanks expressed by attendees to the incredibly generous food sponsors including the team at European Foods (the primary event sponsors) who created an incredible continental lunch spread with freshly-shaved jamon, Scotch eggs with truffle aioli, cheeses, antipasti, Baci chocolates and San Pellegrino drinks. Brownes dairy sponsored the venue whilst also providing creamy milk for coffees throughout the day (thanks again to the tireless baristas at 5 Senses coffee). Morning and afternoon tea cakes, tarts and other treats were provided by Littlesweet baking and Red Hot Spatula catering. We were well and truly spoiled.

littlesweetAfter the conclusion of the official program, we had just under two hours for drinks at the nearby Royal on the Waterfront before heading back to the venue for a Pop-up Twilight Market dinner. Thanks to Matt at Inspired Food, Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth, Jamie at Gourmet Male and Dianne at Travelletto for the ciders, laughs and perfect company. Two hours has never gone so quickly.

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Saturday 09/11/2013: POP-UP Dinner

The air had cooled considerably by the time we made our way back to the urban farmstead. Shadows fell on the pavement in dappled forms as dry leaves crackled underfoot.

We wove our way through the front gates into the main courtyard of the farm, where food bloggers congregated around plastic tables. They sipped from mint-tinged cups of Jax Coco and crunched on crisp-fried empanadas from Marcelita’s Colombian foods. Music hummed in the background, setting a merry rhythm as vendors assembled their wares.

galafrey hall Matt, Jemima and I decided to share plates in an effort to sample everything in one giant hit (we were slightly unrealistic, as we were still defeated by Butty’s burger van).

Our first stop was Jax Coco for incredible coconut water cocktails followed by a glass of 2010 Tempranillo Shiraz from Mount Barker-based Galafrey wines. The latter was delicious; peppery and fruit driven, a perfect accompaniment to chewy, hand-stretched Old Lira pizza and succulent pork and potato empanadas from Marcelitas.

empanadasAfter crunching our way through an empanada each, we visited Bangkok Jump Street for crispy pork crackling salad and Pad Thai. The combination of flavours and textures in the salad was incredible; soft herbs and dressed greens with crunchy crackling and cubes of tender pork. Great food made even better by the friendly vendors serving it.

jumpstreetIn reflection, my very favourite food truck was the Jumplings dumpling van. Juicy, soft Japanese-style duck dumplings in ponzu sauce with chilli and coriander? My version of dumpling heaven. I’d encourage you to check their facebook page often so that you can stalk them every day of the week. On hot days, they also wear Chux wipes as sweatbands. I like.

jumplings

I failed to get a picture of the Delish Ice artisan ice-pops van, but I can assure you that those girls know how to make a delicious popsicle. I tried their wonderful passionfruit, mint and lime (as they had run out of the very unique basil and elderflower with gin syrup).

The popsicle was ice-cold, tropical and refreshing, like the best parts of a fruity mojito on a hot summer’s day, as was an ice-cold gin and tonic with West Winds uniquely Australian Sabre gin (unfortunately they had run out of Cutlass, instilled with coriander and bush tomato… I’m on the hunt to buy myself a bottle).

By the end of the evening, we were full of heart, mind and stomach, ready for sleep before the next day’s elective adventures began. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog Committee and all of the sponsors for an unforgettable foodie experience. I can’t wait for next year.

*Click here for my experience at Sunday 10/11/2013: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass at The Classroom

aaron. an appreciation post

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A couple of months ago, the beautiful Amanda from i am baker posted a recipe for a classic vanilla cheesecake with a double-thick graham cracker crust. But it wasn’t just any cheesecake recipe, it was her husband’s favourite… right down to the extra-thick, buttery crust.

The aim of this post wasn’t just to share her husband’s favourite cheesecake recipe. It was the first of a series of ‘Appreciation Posts’ written by bloggers across the globe, the aim of which was to say ‘thank you’ to our long-suffering partners for their support, love and (endless) patience as we’ve embarked upon our food blogging journeys. A worthy cause indeed.

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bandroom

Now, if you read the list of existing ‘Appreciation Posts’ in Amanda’s original publication, you’ll realize that I’m a little behind in publishing my own. The main reason for this is the fact that I wanted my own appreciation post to tie in with our second wedding anniversary, the date of which is next Tuesday: 12th November 2013. Sentimental, yes. But hey, that’s me.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to my ridiculously handsome love, Aaron:

mylove

He’s my husband, best friend, encourager and creative partner. He’s been there through the highest and lowest points of my life, gently encouraging, challenging and supporting me as required.

Aaron kindly agreed to answer the set of routine questions posed in the ‘Appreciation Post’ series. His responses are as follows (with a few of my italicized notes in brackets):

1. What are the best and worst things about being married to a food blogger?

The obvious answer is that you get to eat incredibly well. But I also like seeing Laura have a passion for something that motivates her to learn and improve. And it’s great that she enjoys cooking for others. I get to have my good friends come over, have an amazing feast, then play a game of Settlers. I think that Kings didn’t live so well. Maybe the worst thing is going to the shops with her and watching her take 5 minutes to choose between identical loaves of bread.

3. Out of the props that Laura uses, what’s your favourite?

I’m a big fan of natural materials. Anything made of wood… Or things that are old and worn. I like our chopping board (Aaron made this for me out of a piece of discarded Jarrah. He polished it with organic beeswax and it’s become one of my very favourite things).

4. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve seen her do for a blog post?

Honestly, the weirdest thing for me is that she will intentionally get up an hour earlier every morning before work to write posts or respond to messages. I would choose sleep every time.

5. What’s your favourite recipe of Laura’s (not necessarily on the blog)?

Laura makes the most amazing salads. But my favourite is always crispy skinned salmon with some asparagus and roast potatoes*.

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6. If you had your own blog, what would it be called?

I have the beginnings of one on my website, MonsterBot.net. But if it was a food blog, it would probably be called ‘Steak is Good Enough’.

7. Do you have a favourite blog?

I constantly go back to boingboing.net. It’s a site with a number of contributors who write about a lot of different things. Some geeky, some arty, some political. It’s interesting.

8. How do you cope with the constant photo-taking/social media/blog world craziness?

Haaa, I love it because when Laura is working on her blog, I get to go play (PC) games.

9. Who does the dishes?

Laura used to insist on doing them because “…[she] made the mess”. I used to insist on doing them because Laura’s the one that cooks everything. Now it’s whoever gets to them first. Laura does more than me though.

10. What do you do for your day job and what are your favourite hobbies?

I used to be a bricklayer, which I am still sometimes involved in. Every now and then I go to a local film studio to work on an animation they’re doing. I spend most of my time working on a design and illustration business. As far as hobbies go, I love visiting cafes with friends, reading sci-fi/fantasy, playing games, watching movies and going to the gym or for a run. In summer, the beach and late-night volleyball are the go. Then there is art, travel and music… finding a good bar or chill out spot down some forgotten alleyway in the city. Car trips down south, nice wine. There is so much to do! I believe strongly that work-time is not time that’s written-off. In fact, it’s a privilege and something to be thankful for (even when work is sometimes horrible). But the best of life is in the in-between bits.

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So, that’s a very short introduction to the amazing man on the other side of the messy table (or more frequently, the couch). If you’d like to get to know him a little more, he’ll be sporadically blogging over at MonsterBot (where you can also see his evolving illustration and design work).

To Aaron: thanks my love, for two years of marriage. Thanks for being the strong but gentle, inspiring, loving and God-fearing man that you are. Thanks for putting up with my quirks, weaknesses, inadequacies and flaws… you’re constantly helping me to grow and to become a better version of myself. Thanks for believing in me, even when I succumb to doubt. I love you endlessly and I always will.

Laura & Aaronblog

Concluding photograph courtesy of Lance Chicote @ Lanceshotme creative photography. Other photographs by myself and Aaron during various walks around Perth city.

*I intended for this post to be accompanied by a recipe for crispy skinned salmon with asparagus and smoked roast potatoes (Aaron’s favourite) but an exceptionally busy week has defeated me. I hope to post the recipe some time in the next fortnight with a link back to this post.

baba ghanouj

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If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’d be aware that I have a slight obsession with smoky, creamy baba ghanouj. It’s become a staple favourite for weeknight dinners, games nights, picnics and after work snacks. I’d almost go as far as saying that it’s replaced my hummus addiction, but… well, it hasn’t. Yet.

lemonrind

lemonBaba ghanouj is a Levantine dish made from mashed aubergines mixed with olive oil, garlic, tahini and other seasonings. It’s eaten in various forms all over the Middle East as a starter, appetizer or side dish, occasionally topped with pomegranate molasses, mint, fruity olive oil or spiced tomatoes.

Though baba ghanouj is traditionally made with raw garlic, I recently tried it with roasted, sweet garlic cloves for a softer, more fragrant result. If you’re unaccustomed to eating raw garlic, I’d encourage you to try this method for a less in-your-face garlic sweetness: just splash a good amount of olive oil into a small pan, toss in some unpeeled garlic cloves and roast the lot on medium heat (180 degrees C/360 degrees f) for 15-20 minutes or until the cloves are softened and slightly golden. Squeeze the cloves from their skins before use (these roasted garlic cloves are also fantastic spread onto charred ciabatta with some sea salt, avocado slices and extra virgin olive oil. Yum).

garliccooking garliccup garlicpeeling

Despite the charring process, baba ghanouj is relatively easy to make. It takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and each second is completely worth the investment.

Try it next time you intend to make hummus as a smoky, creamy and delicious alternative. You’ll be glad that you did.

tahini

dip4Baba Ghanouj

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 medium aubergines (eggplant)
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • juice and zest of half a lemon (equivalent to about 1 tbsp juice)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed (roast prior to crushing for a milder garlic flavour)
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if roasting your garlic cloves, use the oil from the roasting pan)
  • 1/4 tsp toasted cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • to serve: extra virgin olive oil, za’atar, sumac or smoked paprika

Carefully grill the aubergines over an open gas flame, turning them with tongs until the skin is evenly blistered and the flesh is soft.

flame1 flame2

Refrigerate or soak in cold water for ten minutes to cool.

Peel the blackened skin from the aubergines and place them into a bowl or colander. Leave them to drain for 20-30 minutes.

cooked peeling2 peeling3

When drained of fluid, chop coarsely and place into the bowl of a food processor.

chopped

Pound lemon zest, chilli flakes and cumin in a mortar and pestle, then add to the food processor bowl with the remaining ingredients. Process until well combined and creamy.

mortar crushed blender

Taste and adjust flavours as required; you may wish to add extra tahini, lemon juice, chilli or salt.

Scoop the baba ghanouj into a serving bowl and make a small ‘well’ in the centre. Pour over some extra olive oil and sprinkle with za’atar, sumac or smoked paprika to serve.

dip3 debrisdipping fin

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