rosemary, sea salt and macadamia oil crackers

stackThis Sunday, it will officially be the first day of Australian winter. Three long months of cold nights, overcast days, frosted windows and patchy downpours of variable rain. All-in-all, it sounds pretty miserable. Unless… well, unless you’re someone like me.

I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that I love wintry weather and all that it entails; particularly hot soup, slow-cooking and the feel of soft leather against my skin. In fact, I’ve been in my element during this past week of rain. I’ve spent hours pottering in our tiny kitchen, coaxing spelt flour into elastic dough, chia into gel and charred aubergines into creamy bagaghanouj.

All without raising a sweat.

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Now, that’s not to say that summer cooking isn’t beautiful in its own way, but have you ever attempted pastry in a heatwave? One word: butter. Or more specifically, melted butter. It’s an absolute nightmare.

Something that’s not a nightmare is the gorgeous cold-pressed macadamia oil produced by the good folks at Brookfarm. Packed with monounsaturates, Omega 3 and 6, Brookfarm’s oil is perfect for quick snacks and salads alike.

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The recipe below is one of my experiments from the weekend-that-was: rustic flatbread crackers made with macadamia oil, fragrant herbs and a touch of flaked sea salt. When baked, we broke bread together, nibbling intermittently whilst sipping on organic red wine. A blissful combination; crunchy, salty and savoury in the most satisfying of ways.

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These crackers are wonderful as part of a cheese platter or as a stand-alone crunchy snack.

However if you’ve got a little time up your sleeve (ha! Who am I kidding) they’d be even better with a smooth, creamy white bean dip (like this one from David Lebovitz) or soft, mild, creamy homemade labne (like this beauty from Julie Goodwin). Snacking at its finest.

flatbreadsRosemary, Sea Salt and Macadamia Oil Crackers

Adapted from this recipe by Epicurious

Makes 3 rounds of about ten crackers

  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour, sifted
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped rosemary and thyme leaves (plus a few sprigs to decorate)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp flaked sea salt (plus about 1/4 tsp extra to sprinkle)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup macadamia oil (I used Brookfarm cold-pressed macadamia oil, you can substitute good olive oil in a pinch)

Set oven at 230 degrees C (450 degrees f). Place two heavy baking trays on the centre shelves of the oven to preheat.

Stir together the flour, chopped herbs, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

flourherbMake a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, then add the oil and water. Gradually stir into the flour until a soft, sticky dough forms.

doughTurn out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until a smooth, elastic dough forms.

Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Place a large sheet of baking parchment onto a flat surface and roll out one piece of dough until it is a 10×10 inch round (shape isn’t very important; just ensure that the dough is less than 5mm thick).

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Transfer the dough onto one of the preheated baking sheets and brush it with some reserved macadamia oil. Sprinkle over some of the residual sea salt and rosemary leaves, pressing lightly to ensure adhesion.

Slide the tray back into the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until pale golden with blistered and browned spots (the flatbread should be crisped).

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Repeat process with remaining mixture, macadamia oil, salt and herbs (do not oil the flatbreads until just prior to baking). Once baked, transfer flatbread onto a wire rack to cool. Break into pieces to serve.

Note: Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Brookfarm provided me with a sample of their cold-pressed macadamia oil for recipe testing, however I was not compensated and as always, all opinions are my own.

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brookfarm

 

life lately (and blogiversary number two)

eleanorblog2It’s been a busy week. Or rather, a ridiculous fortnight. Long work days, high stress, lots of autumn rain and late night milk runs in the dark. However, in the midst of all that, this little blog passed its second blogiversary on 21st May, 2014. Yes, number two.

Two years. That’s twenty four months of recipe notes, hastily snapped photographs, butter-smeared camera lenses and foodie dialogue with those whom I’m now privileged to call friends. I can hardly believe it, but yes… this blog survived its infancy. And the journey has been rather good.

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So. I guess it’s customary for the blogiversary celebrant to write a bit of an update on the blog’s evolution and other ‘happenings’ over the past twelve months. I wrote a rather extended post last year, loaded with growth points and facts about my humble (and somewhat ignorant) beginnings.

Well, this year will be a little different. In my ‘old age’, sunny enthusiasm for extended explanations has somewhat waned (I do now have a toddler blog, after all. Exhaustion is unavoidable). However, I do want to say a couple of thank-you’s and share some dot points about what will be happening for myself and Aaron as we travel into the tail end of 2014. Read on, amigos.

A huge thanks to:

  • All of you who have been following this blog since its first humble incarnation. Your comments, kind words and tips on the blog and via social media (facebook, instagram and twitter) make all of the late nights and frustrations seem worthwhile.
  • My family and friends for putting up with my food styling, photo snapping and fussing around meal times. I love you hugely.
  • The (rather large) handful of bloggers who have become beautiful friends whom I’m yet to meet. Your notes and internet hugs are always treasured.

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A few snippets of news:

  • I now have a second blog, Second-Hand Stories, which has been well-intended but woefully neglected over the past few months. It’s got nothing to do with food (very far from it!) but if you’re interested, click here to read about the contents. I’m hoping to devote more time to it over the next six months.
  • In approximately five weeks, Aaron and I will be jetting off to the Northern Hemisphere for a few months (partly for work reasons and wholly for adventures). I’m uncertain as to the availability of internet access in different places, so please understand if the frequency of my posts and other commenting seems to drop.
  • Leading on from the previous dot point, if any of you are interested in guest posting on the Mess between July and possibly November 2014, let me know via private message on facebook or twitter. Depending upon the volume of willing guest posters (ha! Or lack thereof…) I may not require every offer but I would love hear from you.

Facts and Stats:

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So, that’s it. Another blogging year completed! I cannot wait to see what the next year holds… a huge thanks to all of you for being on the journey with me.

Laura xo

*Thanks to my gorgeous friends Em and Pete for letting me use the above picture of their daughter in the opening shot. I love it. All other shots are from my Instagram account.

double chocolate banana bread

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I’ve recently been in a rather lamentable blogging slump. The kind of slump that results in persistent lack of motivation to create, write and photograph, other than a quick snap via Instagram (I must both thank and berate Sam, Jemima and Matt for convincing me to join that bewitching time-waster. I think I’m in love).

Not that I haven’t cooked anything in the interim. I’ve been cooking daily, but more for nourishment than blogging purposes. We’ve eaten warming kale and chickpea stew in a spiced coconut broth, spelt-crusted quiche filled with walnut pesto, bitter greens and Meredith Dairy goats cheese, cumin roasted carrots with crushed toasted pepitas and a fragrant orange syrup cake with dollops of thick Greek yoghurt. Everything was delicious, but no notes were taken. No photographs were snapped. It was just one of those weeks.

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Now, I know for a fact that I’m not alone in the ‘slump experience’. I’ve read similar posts from blogging friends (particularly those with day jobs like myself) who have echoed the same sentiment. But shared experience doesn’t lessen my personal frustration, particularly when speaking of diminished enthusiasm and productivity. Let’s just hope the cloud passes soon.

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Now, back to today’s post for double chocolate banana bread. I’ll say from the outset that the recipe isn’t mine, it was the result of three ripe bananas and a visit to Deb’s beautiful blog, Smitten Kitchen.

After playing around with the idea of ‘healthying up’ the recipe with coconut oil, cacao powder, agave and different wheat-free flours, I decided to bake it almost exactly as-is: with pure butter, granulated sugar, white all-purpose flour and Dutch-process cocoa.

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The result is a beautifully rich, moist and intensely chocolatey loaf that serves beautifully as a dessert (a la mode, with ice cream) or an indulgent afternoon tea (toasted and spread with smooth, rich peanut butter or Mayver’s tahini honey spread. You can thank me later).

In the true sense of a word it’s more of a ‘cake’ than a healthy ‘banana bread’… but you know what? On this dreary, grey, demotivated day, I don’t care. A cup of tea and cake was the therapy I needed.

Some days, you just need cake.

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Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Barely adapted from this recipe by Deb at Smitten Kitchen.

  • 3 large, ripe bananas (equivalent to just over 1 cup of mashed banana)
  • 115g organic butter, melted
  • 145g dark molasses sugar (substitute any other brown sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 125g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa (don’t substitute unprocessed cocoa here, it will give you a different result)
  • 170g (about 1 cup) chopped 70% cocoa dark chocolate (use chocolate chips if you have them)

Heat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 9×5-inch loaf pan, then set it aside.

mash

Mash the bananas, then place into a large bowl. Whisk in the melted butter, brown sugar (as my molasses sugar was very lumpy, I sieved it first and added a little water to make a paste), egg and vanilla extract.

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Sift over the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder, then stir to combine. Add in the chocolate and mix well.

flourcocoacocoa mix

Pour the mixture into your prepared pan.

loafprebake

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edge and invert it onto a cooling rack.

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Serve warm or at room temperature (or preferably, toasted and spread with peanut butter or Mayver’s tahini honey spread. Yes, I’ve said it twice now. Need further convincing? See below).

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This banana bread will keep for up to 4 days at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator, wrapped in foil or plastic wrap. It also freezes well for up to 2 months (make sure that you wrap it well to prevent freezer burn).

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bread in common, fremantle

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Over the past few weeks, I seem to have embraced my uncoordinated, klutzy alter ego. It’s been a painful experience, and… well, let’s just say that I’m hoping it’s a phase.

For example, exactly thirteen hours ago I arrived at my local church, hazy and bleary eyed from the week-that-was. Whilst setting up some microphones (I sing as part of the music team every three weeks), I managed to drop a heavy wooden lectern on my foot. Yes, a lectern. I’m not even going to attempt an explanation, but let’s just say that it hurt. Possibly like childbirth or appendicitis, but as I’ve had neither I can’t compare (I promise to revise this statement postpartum if my opinion changes). Straight afterwards, I felt very, very stupid.

Luckily, I managed to hobble around wincing for the next five hours with only one person questioning my uncharacteristic slow gait. After the service ended, I removed my shoe to inspect some swollen, purple toes. I have no idea if there’s a fracture but hey, it’s Sunday. I can readdress that question tomorrow.

Speaking of questions, you’re probably wondering what on earth this introduction has to do with a restaurant review. Well, let’s just say that another klutzy incident occurred on the same day that I visited Bread in Common. It involved my head and a suspended boat rudder attached to a sculpture on Fremantle Dock. See the picture below? Well, the incident occurred about five minutes after it was taken (in other news, do you think I look like a horse? I thought so). And again, I felt very, very stupid.

horse

The only good thing about my semi-concussion was the fact that it occurred straight after a rather satisfying breakfast at the above-named restaurant on Pakenham Street. Amidst the throbbing pain, plates of soft eggs and chewy sourdough swam before my eyes like small roadrunners around the Wile E Coyote. Okay, so that’s a slight embellishment, but… well, the breakfast stayed down. And it was good. That’s success, in my opinion.

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Our visit to Bread in Common took place on a quiet Friday morning. Being a public holiday, we expected large crowds by 10:30am but thankfully, the late opening time (of 10:00am) seemed to have averted a portion of the breakfast crowd. As our visit had been months in the planning, it was a great pleasure to actually sit down within the stripped-back, converted warehouse space. Our coffee orders were taken immediately and we were left to peruse the ‘brunch and dinner’ menu.

Bread in Common is the brainchild of Nic Trimboli (whom Perthians might recognise as the restauranteur behind Gordon Street Garage, Duende and Balthazar) and his partner, baker Gotthard Bauer (from the famous Yallingup Woodfired Bakery that I’ve raved about here and here). As the name might suggest, this place is all about communal tables, generosity and arguably the best woodfired bread this side of Yallingup. At $2 per person, nonetheless.

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Being a creature of habit, I immediately scanned the menu for smashed avocado on toast. Instead, I found share plates, house-churned butter, savoury spreads, toasted sandwiches and mouse traps (uh, it turns out that these are little pieces of toasted bread spread with Vegemite and cheese).

Needless to say, momentary disappointment melted into to excitement over the prospect of eating scrambled organic eggs with dukkah ($14), mixed mushrooms with toasted macadamias, thyme and bitter greens ($15), smoked zucchini spread ($3.50) and garlic sausage. Did I forget something? Oh, and bread. Beautiful, organic loaves baked with small-batch milled local wheat-belt flour.

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Soon after placing our food orders, the coffees mercifully arrived. I had reasonable expectations, seeing as Bread in Common uses Mano a Mano specialty coffee which is roasted in small batches at its sister restaurant, Gordon Street Garage.

Strangely, both Aaron and I found the coffee to be well-made but largely lacklustre. I sipped thoughtfully for at least ten minutes before deciding that it bore no resemblance to the signature blend at Gordon Street. Why? I have no idea. There was no bitterness, no body, just… milk. Brown milk. Rather disappointing.

coffee

Thankfully, redemption was found in a plate of warm bread with our chosen dips: smoked zucchini and garlicky sausage. Despite our two bread selection (common loaf and wholemeal sourdough) bearing only one half-piece of the wholemeal sourdough (that’s 16%, people), we ate it appreciatively, generously slathered in the accompanying spreads.

breadIf I had to pick a favourite food item from the day, it’d probably be the smoked zucchini spread with toasted black sesame seeds. It was beautifully creamy with hints of woodsmoke and toasted nuts… absolutely delicious. I could’ve eaten just smoked zucchini spread on toast and been rather happy (but of course, I didn’t).

Our next two dishes, mixed mushrooms and scrambled eggs with dukkah on toast, arrived together. My first thought was that servings were both rustic and rather generous. Thumbs up in my book. The eggs were soft and creamy, pale golden against lightly toasted sourdough. The smattering of toasted dukkah was rather delicious with the delicate eggs and bitter fresh rocket (arugula).

eggs

The mushrooms. Oh, the mushrooms. Juicy and caramelized with perfect amounts of acidity. The wilted greens added some wonderful bitterness and colour contrast whilst the toasted macadamias were buttery, crunchy and delicious. If I wasn’t stuffed to the brim, I would’ve mopped up the mushroom juices with more perfectly chewy sourdough. It was that good.

mushroomsBut no. After polishing off the last mushroom, Aaron and I were both in a blissful state of brunch satisfaction. We sat quietly, mesmerized by an apron-clad baker transferring loaves of dusty sourdough onto a wheeled trolley. Perfectly slow-fermented sourdough loaves, golden and crusty, spattered with organic flour.

These loaves are available for wholesale purchase or for hungry customers to take-home from the bakery. I would’ve done just that if not for the fear of devouring the entire loaf in the car. Or at home, slathered in organic butter and sea salt with an accompanying glass of red.

breadrack

In hindsight, it might have been tangible comfort for my head injury. Butter and carbohydrate therapy? I’m sure that’s been documented in a medical journal somewhere.

Or my foot injury. In fact, maybe I should hobble there now…

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Bread in Common

43 Pakenham Street, Fremantle WA 6160

(08) 9336 1032

Sun – Thurs: 10am – 10pm

Friday – Saturday: 10am – late

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pomegranate and star anise soda

jar2It’s late on Sunday afternoon. The air is cool, moist with lingering humidity from the warmish day-that-was. Rain birds call, their cries echoing from the trees to the thirsty earth. It’s going to rain tonight. The last month of autumn has beckoned the wet.

Not that I mind. I actually prefer the cooler months and their rain-splattered windows, worn leather boots and cosy, patterned blankets. Each rainy day brings opportunities for steaming hot porridge, six-hour lamb and melted cheese on garlicky toasted sourdough. My kind of bliss indeed.

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Admittedly, there are fleeting moments in winter when I’m sick of the grey. When my heart swells at the thought of sunshine, light cotton t-shirts and ice-cream by the seaside. During those times, I wrap myself in a blanket and eat a warm salad with as many colours as I can find. Between bites, I drink cold iced soda, preferably laden with fruit and heartening fresh mint.

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In hindsight, the above process is probably only suitable for the Australian winter. Here in Perth, our temperatures drop to a mean of about 7 degrees C (44 degrees f) in the evenings, definitely nowhere near freezing. However, this Aussie girl likes to eat, sip, snuggle under blankets and wait for cold liquid to travel from mouth to stomach. As I watch the ice cubes frost the side of the glass, I think of sunshine, bare feet and thick, wafting heat.

One of my favourite sodas of the moment incorporates sweet, red pomegranate, ripe citrus and fragrant star anise. When poured over ice, it’s my new favourite remedy for an exhausting day with bleary, overcast skies.

spoon

This drink is beautiful as a sparkling fruit soda for hot (or cold) afternoons with friends, however if you’d like to elevate it into the ‘cocktail’ category, feel free to add a shot (30mL) of vodka during the mixing process. It’s delicious either way.

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Pomegranate and Star Anise Soda

Adapted from this recipe by the Kitchn.

Makes about 8 x 3 tbsp/45mL serves

  • 1/2 cup pink or red grapefruit juice (from about 1 small grapefruit)
  • 1/2 cup navel orange juice
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice (from about 1 medium pomegranate*)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup white caster sugar
  • 2 star anise pods
  • ice cubes, to serve
  • chilled soda water, to serve
  • mint leaves and pomegranate arils for garnish (optional)

Combine citrus juice, pomegranate juice, sugar, water and star anise in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the liquid reduces by one quarter.

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Remove from heat and let sit 30 minutes. Strain and discard the star anise pods and any residual solids. Let syrup cool completely before using.

To serve, fill a 350ml glass halfway with ice cubes, add 3 tbsp of syrup (and 30mL vodka, if desired). Fill with soda water and stir well. Garnish with pomegranate arils and mint leaves.

*I removed the pomegranate arils (seeds) from the fruit, chucked them into the bowl of a blender and pulsed them briefly to extract the juice. If following this method, pour the extracted juice through a sieve to remove any seeds and residue. Feel free to substitute store-bought pomegranate juice if you can’t find fresh fruit.

You should be able to store any remaining syrup in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator indefinitely.

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