honey roasted pears with rosemary and hazelnuts

bowl

It’s been properly cold this week, overcast and rainy. The sort of cold that makes it difficult to get out of bed, for as soon as a limb exits the blankets (in the dark, mind you) there’s an inclement bite against your warm exposed skin.

If you’re me, that sensation results in ‘five more minutes’ under the covers before the secondary alarm goes off (by ‘alarm’ I mean Loki and by ‘going off’ I mean his tiny limbs pawing at the bedsheets) at which point I get up, wash my face and pull on something warm.

Turn on the lights, fill the kettle, feed the dog (whose enthusiasm defies both early hours and frigid weather), make tea (usually green tea with lemon or hot water with a hunk of smashed fresh ginger). Now for my favourite part: breakfast.

cup

I love breakfast. I’m sure I’ve written about this more than once, as a person who falls asleep dreaming of oatmeal or hot buttered bread. I’m one of the many who adhere to the Murray-ism that ‘sleep is like a time machine to breakfast’ (true, that).

These days, I’m working in the city which necessitates a short commute on public transport. It’s nothing to moan about, however my early departure has resulted in Weetbix, warm almond milk and banana on more days than I care to mention. It’s not a bad breakfast by any means, but as the week progresses I find myself dreaming about Saturday sleep ins and options like corn fritters, sautéed mushrooms and warm bowls of creamy porridge. Like this one, eaten a few weeks ago on a frosty morning with lashings of cold cream:

eatI had hoped to bring you a savoury recipe this week, something like zucchini noodles or creamy Jungle curry with brown rice. However, my aforementioned work schedule defeated me (particularly as the change of season has led to early sunsets, usually whilst I’m riding home on the bus) and whilst we ate such things for dinner, there was absolutely no light for photography.

So, that said, I’m posting a recipe that I had saved from our time in Balingup a few weeks ago: fragrant honey roasted pears with rosemary, cinnamon and a touch of citrus.

dish2

This recipe is dead easy. It sounds fancy (strangely, all roasted fruit sounds fancy to me) but all you really need is a sturdy pan and an hour or so for the pears to roast in their gorgeously floral honey syrup. The end result is perfect for a weekend breakfast or a lazy dessert with thick double cream.

If you’re a fan of oats, I’d definitely recommend trying this recipe as we did: atop creamy porridge with crunchy roasted nuts and a dusting of spice. It’s both simple and a little indulgent, perfect for cold mornings with a mug of hot tea.

chair

One little tip: if you are going to eat these pears for breakfast, I’d recommend disregarding my ‘serving suggestion’ (which features the haves in their entirety), taking out the core and dicing them prior to topping your porridge. It’s slightly less pretty to look at but altogether easier to eat (and easy to eat = win, in my humble opinion).

Happy first of May, lovelies x

bowl2

honey and rosemary roasted pears

Serves 6-8 as a breakfast topper or 3-4 as a dessert with cream

  • 3 large or 4 small pears (preferably bosc or another firm fleshed variety), halved
  • 1/4 cup quality floral honey
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or a good sprinkle of ground cinnamon)
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved
  • 1 orange, 4 strips of rind removed
  • small rosemary sprig (reserve a few leaves to serve)
  • good handful of hazelnuts
  • optional, to serve: old fashioned porridge (I cooked ours in a mixture of coconut and dairy milk, sooo creamy) and/or a good dollop of thick coconut or dairy cream

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Place the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and toast for 10 minutes or until the hazelnuts are aromatic and lightly toasted (the skins should have started to crack). Set aside to cool.

Combine honey and 1/2 cup cold water in a roasting pan. Squeeze in the juice from the orange, then add pears, skin-side up. Add cinnamon, vanilla bean, rosemary and orange rind.

preroast

Cover pan tightly with foil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove foil and carefully turn pears. Return to the oven, uncovered, and roast for a further 40 to 50 minutes or until pears are caramelised and tender, basting with the syrup halfway through cooking (splash in a little more water if the syrup is reducing too quickly).

Meanwhile, pour the cooled hazelnuts into a tea towel and rub gently until the skins have separated. Discard the skins and chop the nuts coarsely.

Remove pears from the oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

We served ours warm atop the creamy porridge, drizzled with a little more syrup and topped with chopped hazelnuts, fresh rosemary and a little extra cream. These pears are also wonderful for breakfast with thick Greek yoghurt or for dessert, try them warm with thick coconut or dairy cream.

salted tahini date caramel slice

sliceup

It’s been a couple of years since I first discovered date caramel, initially as a filling for some sort of decadent raw truffle at a friend’s dinner party. Since that day, I’ve mostly thought about date caramel rather than making it, for the simple reason that… well, I’d probably eat the whole batch. Straight from the mixing bowl, with sticky fingers and a caramel-smudged grin.

It’s that delicious, particularly with the addition of smooth nut butter and crunchy sea salt flakes. Dangerously addictive.

mix

But despite the best of intentions, it’s been that kind of week. I’ve had frazzled nerves and an exhausted brain that hasn’t wanted to sleep. Trips to the gym didn’t work (it’s usually a massive stress reliever for me) and neither did the odd glass of wine. Finally, when I did achieve some semblance of normality, this happened.

Ah, heck. I think it’s time for cake.

nectarI don’t often desire cake. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’d be aware that my sweet tooth left many years ago with my milk teeth and teenage demeanour. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a soft spot for Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate (largely due to childhood associations and sentimentality) however, upon eating it’s tooth-achingly sweet. Despite the glass-and-a-half slogan, it’s also got little nutrition to speak of (you need to eat an entire 200g to get that calcium, darn it).

Give me a hunk of protein-rich cheese any day. Even better, some smoked roasted almonds.

table

Anyway, I’m digressing (mmm, cheese): let’s talk cake.

On the occasions when I bake, I usually lean towards bitter cacao or a fruit-driven puddings made with rice malt or maple syrup. Yes, there’s an element of sugar, but additional nutrients result in a lower glycemic index and more benefits for my mind and body.

A good example of this is my previous recipe for sweet potato brownies with raw cacao and rice malt syrup. They’re completely delicious, refined sugar free and naturally nourishing with just the right amount of natural sweetness. However, it’s presently mid-summer. Even evenings are warm and sticky, so I’m gravitating towards refrigerator treats such as today’s recipe: salted tahini date caramel slice with glossy bitter cacao and a chewy oat and walnut base.

plate1

As far as sweet treats go, this slice strikes a pretty good balance between deliciousness and nutrition. It’s full of dietary fibre, iron, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from the dates alongside plant protein and good fats (monounsaturated, omega 3, good cholesterol) from the nuts, cacao and coconut oil.

It tastes deliciously rich without being overpoweringly sweet. Definitely a winner in my book.

sliceup2

cacao

In terms of honest dialogue, this slice isn’t nutritionally perfect. I’m not going to shout ‘…it’s guilt free!‘ from the rooftop in my yoga gear. Both dates and coconut nectar contribute a reasonable dose of fructose* to this recipe which, in real terms, is just a form of sugar. And any sugar, in excess (whether that be in the form of fructose, sucrose, glucose, lactose or maltose) is still bad for your body and mind.

However, let’s talk about small amounts. A couple of tahini-stuffed dates, a Honeycrisp apple, a square or two of dark chocolate or a coconut banana smoothie. They’re okay, right? I definitely think so, unless you have a medical condition specifying otherwise (e.g. diabetes, fructose malabsorption; that’s an entirely different story).

For what it’s worth, I’m of the opinion that some natural sugar in the form of whole foods (such as dried or fresh fruits, carbohydrates and dairy products) is both acceptable and beneficial in a balanced, predominantly unrefined diet. The body needs fuel, particularly if you’re combining this diet with regular physical activity.

grapes

So, where to next? I’m not about to tell you that ten pieces of this salted caramel thing are beneficial with one session of sweaty cardio, but if you want a small sweet treat, go for it. Eat. Eat with a sticky smile on your face.

Be thankful. Moderation is the key.

*If you want to read more about fructose, metabolism and energy, take a look here and here (or even better, consult a qualified dietitian or nutritionist on the issue). 

slicetable

Salted Tahini Date Caramel Slice

Makes approximately 18 squares

This slice is ridiculously easy to make. It involves a fair bit of food processing but otherwise contains no complexity. Don’t fret if your raw chocolate cracks after setting (this happens 99% of the time. Just heat your knife, breathe and try again). Just embrace the imperfections and how good that gosh-darn-salted-date-caramel tastes. 

Base:

  • 1 cup organic, raw rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw walnuts (or almonds, whichever you prefer)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup pitted soft Medjool* dates
  • a few drops of hot water, as required

Tahini date caramel:

  • 1 cup pitted soft Medjool* dates, about 11 dates
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tbsp almond butter or tahini
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • fine sea salt, to taste (I added around 1/4 tsp)

Raw chocolate:

  • 6 tbsp raw cacao
  • 2 tsp carob powder
  • 4-6 tbsp coconut nectar or rice malt syrup (to taste, I add as little as possible, a slightly bitter chocolate layer works perfectly with the date caramel)
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil or cacao butter (my coconut oil was liquid at room temperature, being summer in Australia, but melt it on low heat in a saucepan first if necessary)

Blend the oats and nuts together in a food processor until coarsely ground. Add in the dates and a little pinch of salt, pulsing again until well mixed and cohesive. If your mix is looking a little dry, add in a few drops of hot water and process until the mixture comes together. Press into an 18x27cm greased and lined tin.

Soak dates in the hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking water for later. Puree all the filling ingredients except the sea salt in a food processor, streaming in a little of the soaking water until you obtain a creamy consistency (add as little water as possible – too much and the filling won’t set properly. I added about 2 tbsp worth of soaking liquid). Add a little sea salt, pulse and taste, adjusting the level of ‘saltiness’ to your preference. Spread over the prepared base, then refrigerate for at least 15 minutes before preparing the raw chocolate topping.

Blend all of the raw chocolate ingredients together in a food processor, pulsing for at least 30 seconds to ensure the coconut oil is emulsified. Taste and adjust sweetness as necessary. Remove slice from refrigerator and immediately pour over the chocolate mixture, tilting the tray to ensure even distribution (try not to touch the chocolate layer or you’ll probably end up with splotches of separated coconut oil rather than a smooth, glossy layer). Return to the refrigerator for 10 minutes to chill.

After 10 minutes, score the chocolate into 18 pieces (this will make it much easier to cut without cracks later). When the chocolate layer is completely set, cut through with a heated knife. Keep refrigerated or frozen (this is also amazing straight from the freezer!) in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

*Medjool dates are larger and softer than traditional dried dates, with a more complex caramel-y flavour. However, they’re also a bit more expensive than the regular packaged supermarket dates (which are usually the Empress or Deglet Noor varieties, click here for more info). If you’re trying to save cash, I’d recommend splashing out on Medjool dates for the salted caramel layer whilst using traditional dates for the oat and nut base. Please note: I soaked and drained all of the dates that I used in the recipe above (separate to and including those specified in the salted caramel layer) as mine were a little dry. However, if you have extra soft and moist dates, feel free to skip the soaking. Just ensure you have a little hot water on hand to stream into the food processor if your mixture/s aren’t the correct consistency.

slice

old fashioned porridge in the country

porridge

It’s been a long time since I last put metaphorical pen to paper in this food diary of sorts. Too long. I’d offer excuses, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t click on this post to read about my annus horribilis (if you did, well… I’ve written previously about my elevated work stress and injuries, blah blah. Ironically, I’ve also found myself unemployed this week – one week shy of Christmas. Life, huh? It keeps on giving).

On a more pleasant note, I began writing this post two weeks ago from the confines of Green Cottage, an original shearer’s cabin in country Western Australia. Located on an 80 acre farm property, it was rough logged and tin-clad, full of cracks, dust and rusted fixings.

It was perfect, in an imperfect kind of way. The kind of place you visit to escape from cell phones and schedules. We booked the farmstay as a creative family retreat: for Aaron to draw, me to write and for Loki to… well, connect with nature as only a city dog can. It was beautiful to watch him embrace paddocks, sheep and dry horse manure with bright eyes and tousled fur. He’s tucked in beside me as I write, his little body heavy with sleep and wild forest dreams.

lokipathhaus apples

One of the main reasons why Aaron and I booked this particular cabin was the presence of an old cast-iron stove. A ‘Homesteader’, I think they’re called, with compartments for hot coals and kindling.

After booking our accommodation, I began planning meals of hot smoked potatoes, herbed damper and roasted vegetables with saffron aioli (in fact, I packed ingredients for most of these things into our vehicle, excitedly unpacking them into a mini-fridge upon our arrival). On night two, I was determined to make it work.

homesteaderb2

Fast forward to night four: I had set off the smoke detector three times, blackening my fingers and a depleting pile of kindling. Despite multiple attempts, the only by-product of my efforts were ash and disappointment.

I eventually abandoned the ‘Homesteader project’ for the hooded gas barbecue on the front porch, occasionally relieved by an ageing microwave. Both were effective in feeding us over the course of five nights, with reduced chances of carbon monoxide poisoning.

homesteaderb

By the end of the week, we created barbecued homemade pizzas with goats cheese, artichokes and pesto, various smoked barbecued root vegetables and a barbecued garlic ciabatta loaf. I also steamed beets and potatoes in the microwave, serving both with herbs and butter.

There were no further kitchen incidents, unless you count the unauthorised consumption of two pears, one banana and Aaron’s jam donut in the dead of night. We assume the culprit was a wily rodent, though any beady eyes escaped investigation (some sad evidence towards the end of this post).

My favourite cooking experience by far was also the simplest of our five nights in the south west. We collected kindling from the surrounding karri forest, stoked a fire in the front garden and drank wine whilst the larger logs caught aflame. As the sun descended in the sky, we prepared the most beautiful, basic dinner of barbecued local Italian sausages, rosemary fried onions and warmed, buttered Manjimup bread with mandatory condiments. Oh, and a little crumbled Cheddar because, cheese.

After eating our fill, we snuggled in plaid blankets with Loki at our feet. We sat, talked and laughed until our candle died and embers flickered in quiet, inky blackness. The best kind of country evening.

firepit1 sausages saucebreadhotdog closeuponions lamp

Whilst the original intention of this post was to laud the greatness of a cast-iron stove, I now admit that I’m rather inept at keeping the home fires burning… or even lighting them to start with. Despite retaining my fascination for ‘old-school cookery’, I’m more comfortable with modern heat sources which can nevertheless yield some rather old school results. I’ve produced many smoky dishes, slow cooked meals and charred crusts with the aid of a ceramic stone, gas oven, modern cooktop and good quality cookware, so rather than focusing on Homesteader cookery in this blog post, I’m praising something very old-school that can be made in any modern home: traditional porridge.

Despite being consumed for hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of years by varying methodology, porridge (or oatmeal, if you’re American) can be easily recreated on a gas or electric cooktop, or even in the modern microwave. I’ve been eating it since I was tiny and despite experimenting with various commercial evolutions (such as packaged quick oats and flavoured concoctions) my traditional childhood bowl reigns supreme over all imitations: full cream, slow cooked, simply topped with honey (my mother) or blackberry jam (yep, that’s dad).

lauraloki lokigrass

We prepared porridge frequently during our few days in Green Cottage. Despite being summer, the weather was unpredictably cold and wet which provided perfect opportunities for warm breakfasts, scalding cups of Builder’s tea and evenings by the traditional pot belly wood burner.

The first porridge morning was Aaron’s idea, after he discovered a jar of oats in the cottage pantry. I was already crumbling some Weet-bix biscuits into my cereal bowl, so I left him to his own devices until waterlogged oats overflowed from the boiling pan. Being Aaron, he ate the oats anyway with a glug of milk and some banana. I spent a few minutes scrubbing dried oats off the cottage cooktop. The next morning dawned with a cool breeze and a request for some tips on perfect porridge. He’s been using these ever since.

porridge2

Despite being more of a ‘guideline’ than a recipe, I’ve included my default method for porridge below with suggested quantities. I’ve also listed a few porridge toppings that rock in our household, my favourite being nut butter (pure peanut or tahini) and sliced banana.

I’m quite aware that my method contradicts that of Scottish purists (who advocate for only salt, oats and water whilst cooking). Despite my Scottish surname, I’m going to come straight out and say that I use milk for the entirety of the cooking process which creates extra creamy, delicious oats. Do as you will, I say.

horses apple2Wishing you and yours a beautiful, peaceful Christmas and a blessed start to 2016. May there be plenty of porridge.

– Aaron, Loki and Laura x

My kind of Porridge

Serves 2

  • 1 cup wholegrain rolled or steel-cut oats
  • 1 1/2 cups full fat milk (either dairy or plant based, I like coconut or almond milk but Aaron prefers creamy cows milk)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • a pinch of sea salt

to serve: dairy/plant milk or cream, honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup to drizzle, ground cinnamon, fruit (sliced banana, blueberries, grated apple, sultanas, sliced figs, mango and toasted coconut), toasted nuts or seeds (I like toasted, crumbled walnuts or pumpkin seeds), nut butter (peanut butter with sliced banana is divine), cacao nibs, chia jam or French conserve

If you’re organised, add your oats to the milk and soak overnight in the refrigerator (in a covered bowl or airtight container). Transfer to a small, heavy based saucepan in the morning with a splash of water to loosen. If you’re pressed for time, place the oats directly in the saucepan and soak for 20-30 minutes to produce creamier porridge.

Crank your burner to medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low, add a little more water to loosen and stir regularly, watching your porridge thicken and ensuring that no oats stick to the bottom of the pot. Keep adding water until the oats are soft, smooth and creamy (around 20 minutes).

Spoon your porridge into two bowls, top with a splash of plant or dairy milk and any other toppings you desire. For more inspiration, I’d suggest that you head over to my dreamy, super-mum friend Heidi’s porridge archive on Apples Under my Bed (second to my parents, she is my porridge heroine).

maushaus

sheeps

the life changing loaf. and authenticity

flatavo

It’s been a strange couple of months around these parts. Quiet, slightly uncertain, full of questions surrounding my future income, Worker’s Compensation, options and priorities. Weeks of diversion from my normal routine have resulted in extra time for sleep, walks with the dog, therapeutic cardio sessions and some dismal left-handed kitchen experiments (read more about my injury here). ‘Right hand dominant’ is an understatement.

Thankfully, the worst part is now over. I’ve commenced a ‘return to work program’ and I’m no longer the victim of bad daytime television. My application for Worker’s Compensation was thankfully approved and I’ve been fitted with what my therapist calls ‘sexy nighttime apparel’, aka a custom overnight wrist splint. I’m also strapping my wrist with Rock Tape so that I can complete some light upper limb work at the gym, which feels great after weeks of low activity. I’ve recommenced some independent cooking, though Aaron (my ‘sous chef’ – thanks baby) is still available for weight bearing or manual kitchen tasks as required.

I’m healing, my body is doing what it’s supposed to do, life is returning to some sort of balance. I’m thankful.

cut

I’ve still had fun in the kitchen during my weeks off. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you’d be aware that I’ve been doing a lot of recent experimentation with vegan cuisine, particularly salads and healthy treats. This has been a natural response to my growing interest in plant based nutrition and whole foods whilst also doubling as a cost-saving measure (my preferred dairy brands aren’t cheap and neither is ethical, sustainable meat, so we avoided both whilst my income was awry).

It hasn’t been difficult; in fact, it’s been delicious and edifying. However, my ‘online profile’ (a strange concept to me, however I’m referring to this blog alongside my Twitter account, Instagram and facebook) has become a little confused as a result, so I’ve felt a growing need to formally clarify things on here. I hope that’s ok.

So, before I start: I’ve spent a lot of time dwelling on my nutritional standpoint over the past week. A lot of time. I’ve revised the content of this post about twenty times as I tend to overthink things, so if you’re not remotely interested in my nutritional standpoint (and philosophical musings) skip on to the recipe. Secondly, I am very aware that my Instagram and Twitter followers aren’t necessarily blog followers and vice versa, so you may be wondering what the heck I’m talking about. I probably devote needless intellectual energy into thoughts of personal authenticity, but if I’m going to maintain an online presence I want to be accountable for it.

cocodishA lot can be misconstrued when scrolling through those little filtered boxes (yes, I know that they can be rectangles now but stay with me) on social media. They portray only a small part of a person’s varied, flawed and messy existence (usually the bits with good lighting and a timber backdrop), including my own. It causes me personal conflict, as I don’t want my social media accounts to be filled with images of burned grilled cheese under fluorescent lights. However, I equally dislike the idea that impressionable young people would stumble upon my account and view me as a ‘clean eating’, virtuous ‘fitspiration’ freak who demonizes animal protein and wakes with a passion to brew her own kombucha.

Here’s the (honest) deal: I don’t like labels. I care about my body but sometimes I’m lazy. I’m not an ethical vegan, a dietitian, a nutritionist or any sort of authority on physical health. I like beer (I have confessed this on many occasions, but just in case you’re uncertain), red wine, kale and oatmeal. I both hate and love cardio. I attempt to make good choices, but I don’t eat righteous food for every meal. There are many who do, and they have my respect. But I’m not one of them.

avo

Continuing with the theme of authenticity, I’ve written the notes below as an attempt to clarify my nutritional values for both myself and those within my network. It’s as free of hashtags, buzz words and media filtration as I can make it.

Again, I have no qualifications in dietetics or nutrition, so please visit your General Practitioner, a certified nutritionist or a dietitian (such as the beautiful Heidi, when she concludes maternity leave!) if you’d like any advice suited to your individual needs.

  •  In majority, I consume wholefoods (unprocessed and non-GMO, organic* if possible) and a vegetable-heavy diet (edit 06/2016: I previously termed this a ‘mostly plant based’ diet, however that’s caused some confusion with a vegan lifestyle. I’m referring to the terminology used in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food). However, I’m not entirely vegetarian nor vegan. I don’t eat much meat these days but when I do, I feel strongly about buying ethical, sustainable meat or fish from people who care about their animals.
  • I enjoy plant milks, creamy avocado and cashew cheeses but I also wholeheartedly support the inclusion of goats cheese, dairy milk, cultured butter and yoghurt in my diet (both for health benefits and enjoyment). I’m not really an eater of eggs (not that I’m philosophically against it, I just don’t really like them) but I purchase free-range eggs if/when required.
  • I’m resistive to extreme diets, fads and buzz words on social media. Though I’m not a dietitian, I believe that science has given us a solid basis for appreciating the benefits of a varied diet including some forms of cooked food, carbohydrates for energy and healthy fats in moderation (cholesterol is still bad, people). Crank nutritional information is rife within both social media platforms and the internet in general, as are extremist views from activists, so please, please seek professional dietary advice rather than excessively consuming the next ‘superfood’ (coconut oil is NOT a spiritual elixir. Whilst I do consume it in small amounts alongside other fats, I would go as far as saying that it cannot solve all of your dental problems, it will not cure you of high cholesterol, it should not replace all other fats in your diet. People talk complete rubbish).
  • I believe that dietary rigidity and categorization can lead to unhealthy thought patterns and disordered eating (speaking personally from my teen years, dietary rigidity can also act as a guise for disordered eating) whilst robbing an individual of the pleasure of social eating. I’m not saying that it’s not good to follow healthy dietary principles most of the time, but if it gets to the point where you feel guilty about eating a piece of chocolate (or you’re avoiding social events because there may not be ‘appropriate food’) then something’s out of whack. If a friend of mine serves me a lamb shank at a dinner party, I eat it (maybe not all of it, but at least some). Same goes for an occasional piece of cake or a fried donut made with refined sugar. I understand that some people may disagree on this point (and I’m not referring to those of you with medical issues such as coeliac disease or diabetes where compromise cannot occur) however I’m a person who demonstrates love and generosity through the preparation and offering of food, and I want to validate reciprocity in this area. This doesn’t mean that I abandon my personal food ethics and nutritional standpoint. An otherwise healthy human body will not be broken by a cheese and prosciutto pizza and a glass of wine at the weekend (and I don’t choose my friends by their nutritional preference).
  • *On the topic of unprocessed, non-GMO, organic, free-range: we’re not rich by any means, so this also affects my food choices. I buy a ton of vegetables and they’re not always organic as we just can’t afford it. I’ve recently been trying to keep my organic purchases to the the ‘dirty dozen‘ (produce that usually contains the most pesticides) whilst purchasing regular non-organic produce for the ‘clean fifteen‘ (products that generally contain the least amount of pesticides). I believe that a diet rich in vegetables, even if they’re non-organic, is preferable to a diet that lacks plants. Alternately, if I can’t find good dairy or meat from sustainable, ethical sources, I’d rather eat plant based sources of calcium and protein. I vote with my hip pocket (Aussies, click the following links to find some information on sustainable living and ethical meat suppliers) and my heart.
  • To sum things up, I’m just trying to cook, eat and live as responsibly as I can. I value and respect animals, but also want to value, love and respect my fellow humans. I want to enjoy food as well as nourishing my body. I don’t want to beat myself up if I feel like dairy milk chocolate or cultured butter on a piece of sourdough. I want to remain honest, true to my own conscience and principles. To be the best version of myself, not someone else.

bowl

Oh, and one last thing. I eat messy food. Simple food. Ugly food. I eat mushroom burgers with aioli running down my chin. I sometimes eat in monochrome (usually brown; oats and tahini with mashed banana ain’t pretty) from chipped IKEA crockery whilst wearing the daggiest of trackpants. I’m massively imperfect and it keeps me humble.

You’re probably always known it, but I’m glad we’re straight.

angle

That brings me to this super simple loaf of seeded goodness from My New Roots. It didn’t exactly change my life but it it’s good, oh it’s good. And so is Sarah, the nutritionist who created it.  She’s authentic. And that resonates with me.

The Life Changing Loaf of Bread

Adapted from this recipe from Sarah Britton, My New Roots

  • 1 cup (135g) sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup rolled flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 1 1/2 cups (145g) rolled oats
  • 4 tbsp psyllium husks
  • 1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt flakes
  • 1 tbsp rice malt syrup (brown rice syrup)
  • 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water

Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside. Whisk together the water, coconut oil and rice bran syrup until the syrup is completely dissolved.

Pour over the dry ingredients, mix well until everything is completely soaked. The dough should be adhesive but still ‘mixable’ (add a couple more teaspoons of water if it is too thick). Pour into a silicone loaf pan (silicone will make it much easier to turn out your bread; however, I successfully used a rigid loaf tin greased with extra coconut oil, plus a little baking paper to line the bottom) and smooth the top with a spoon or spatula. Set aside at room temperature to ferment for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight. When the dough is ready, it should retain its shape when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees f). Bake for 20-30 minutes on a centre oven rack until the bread can be carefully turned out of the tin. Place upside down directly onto the oven rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool before slicing.

Store in a well-sealed container for up to five days. It can also be successfully frozen; slice before freezing and defrost in the toaster as desired (this makes the best nutty, crunchy toast, top with smashed avocado and seeds, ricotta and honey or a bit of chia jam for a delicious treat).

chard, goat cheese and walnut galette with oat pastry

bet2

My mother is one of those thoroughly gifted, green-fingered people who breathes life into dwindled branches on a daily basis. When I was a child, she’d routinely rescue half-dead potted shrubs from local garden centres for one dollar apiece; a few weeks later, she’d be separating densely-packed roots into two separate pots of glossy green leaves.

She’d also frequently save seeds from fruit such as apples or papaya, drying them on the windowsill til their skins became hard and glossy.  She’d then plant them, with plenty of faith and a mound of organic mulch (she still swears by the efficacy of regular mulching).

We had thirty papayas from one of those dried seeds. Fledgling tomatoes and an avocado too. Each year, I benefit from her yield of apples and citrus fruit until my fridge is bursting at the seams.

But no. I haven’t inherited her gift.

I’ve tried. Oh gosh, I’ve tried. My front doorstep is frequently cluttered with dusty pots from plants-that-were; a sad memorial to my horticultural ineptness. I’ve spent a fortune on seeds and organic potting mix, only to be met with the rotting stench of dead foliage (and failure, obviously).

So you can imagine my surprise when a last-ditch effort to grow organic rainbow chard actually yielded results. Meaning, they’re STILL ALIVE. And thriving.

handchard

Since my initial planting in November last year, my little crop of rainbow chard has grown spectacularly; I’ve harvested handfuls of stems every other week and there’s no sign of waning yet.

Other than eating the leaves raw in salads, I’ve made many a thin-crusted chard pizza (with caramelized onions, pesto and goats cheese), variations of sauteed greens and a few toasted coconut sweet potato and chard based curries.

butterflour

However, a few days ago I happened upon the idea of making an oat-flour based chard galette, with fresh walnuts that my mother picked on a recent trip to Bright, Victoria.

This thing is glorious. Absolutely bursting with savoury deliciousness. The slight bitterness from the chard combines beautifully with the earthy toasted walnuts, sweet onions and rich melted cheese, all encased in flaky oaten pastry.

cu

If you haven’t got a glut of chard in your own garden, feel free to substitute with any other leafy green (Tuscan kale works exceptionally well) or just use a whole quantity of spinach.  Walnuts can be easily traded for pine nuts if you prefer.

This galette is beautiful served in thick wedges for lunch with a simple dressed salad and marinated olives, or perhaps accompanied by buttered sourdough for a light dinner.

sec

Chard, Goat Cheese and Walnut Galette with Oat Pastry

Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup (100g) organic, finely milled* oat flour
  • 1 cup (125g) plain (all-purpose) white flour + about 1/4 cup extra for kneading
  • 200g cold, cubed unsalted butter
  • a good pinch of salt
  • iced water, as required (about 2 tbsp)
  • a splash (about 1/4 tsp) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 free-range egg, white and yolk separated

*use a coarse mill if you prefer more of an oaten texture

Filling:

  • 1 medium red (Spanish) onion, finely chopped
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 100g fresh organic rainbow chard, stalks finely sliced, large leaves torn
  • 150g baby English spinach, leaves only
  • 50g raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 75g good-quality cheddar or ‘tasty’ cheese, grated
  • 50g goats cheese, crumbled
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 1 egg white, beaten with a splash of iced water (reserved from the egg used for the pastry)

For the dough: add the flours to a large mixing bowl with the salt and butter. Rub the butter in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add in the apple cider vinegar, egg yolk (reserve the white for glazing) and a trickle of iced water. Mix well with your hands, adding a little more iced water as you go until the mixture becomes smooth and cohesive (the dough will become a little sticky).

Tip out onto a well floured surface and knead until smooth. Form into a rough disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes whilst you prepare your filling.

For the filling: add the onion, herbs and garlic to a saucepan with a good splash of olive oil. Allow to saute on low heat until opaque (do not allow to brown).

Increase heat to medium, then add the rainbow chard stems and leaves. Cook, stirring for one minute until wilted. Add in the English spinach and cook for another 2 minutes or until just wilted. Season with salt, turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool slightly.

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Line large tray with baking paper and set aside.

On a well-floured surface, roll out your pastry to 35 cm diameter (about 0.5mm thick). Carefully transfer the pastry onto your lined baking tray.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of flour over the centre of the pastry disc in a thin layer (this will absorb any fluid from the spinach and ensure your pastry doesn’t become soggy). Evenly distribute the cooled spinach mixture over the flour, leaving a 3cm border around the edge of the pastry.

Sprinkle over the cheeses and walnuts, then grind a good helping of black pepper over the filling. Turn the edges of the pastry disc up to roughly enclose the filling (don’t worry if it looks ‘rustic’, this is what a galette is all about!). Press together any overlapping pastry edges until you have a well sealed pastry crust. Brush with beaten egg white.

Bake the galette on a centre shelf in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool for five minutes before slicing to serve.

chard

Note: if you have a pizza stone (and love a crisp pastry crust) I’d highly recommend using it to bake this galette. Preheat the stone for five minutes, then carefully transfer the galette onto the stone atop the baking paper. Bake as above.

like

cacao overnight oats + australian sun

cugood

It’s been just over a week since Aaron and I returned to the city of endless sunshine and eucalyptus trees. Despite initial apprehension, the Australian weather has been treating us kindly, with temperatures largely under 30 degrees C (86 degrees f).

Despite this fact, I’ve been struggling with the brightness and heat after four months of increasingly grey skies and chilly mornings. On the day that Aaron and I left London, we wore woollen hats and kicked autumn leaves whilst drinking hot mulled wine from paper cups.

pour

Today I’m dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, with bare feet and a scraggly ponytail. A glass of iced water sits on the coffee table in a dripping pool of condensation.

But it’s not all bad. Despite initial fatigue, jetlag and lack of internet (we are still awaiting a home broadband connection) we’ve spent many hours catching up on lost time with beautiful family and friends (and their adorable new puppies, eep! Say hi to Mooch below). I’ve rediscovered my balcony garden, planting rainbow chard, dark Tuscan kale and a glut of organic tomato seedlings.

sleeping paw

Cooler afternoons have been spent in our tiny, cramped but altogether beautiful kitchen kneading spelt pizza dough and making fragrant tomato passata. I’ve pounded basil for pesto and picked mulberries from a nearby churchyard (with permission, of course) for baked goods and fresh chia jam.

It’s been idyllic, really. All the things I’ve missed wrapped into a warm, fuzzy ball of eight days. I’d be happy for it to last forever but (understandably) four months of travelling has made a significant dent in our bank account. Cue our return to full-time work (with 6:00 am wake-ups, a million emails and 20 minute lunch breaks for me) next week. Sigh.

bowl mix

In preparation for our return to routine, I’ve been dabbling in healthy pre-prepared breakfasts, lunches and snacks over the past week. Transportable, nutritious deliciousness that can be shoved into an airtight container and snatched from the fridge as we rush out the door. First on the list were a million things in jars ranging from creamy nut butters to pesto, chia pudding and sauerkraut (from this recipe by my friend Graz) followed by healthy fruit slices and wrapped nut-and-seed bars.

In terms of breakfasts, I’m a big fan of homemade granola (I’m a sucker for this Christmas-y recipe from lovely Kate) but after reading this recipe from my beautiful dietitian friend Heidi, well… I had to make a batch. Before heading to bed last night, I folded the ingredients together, popped the bowl in the refrigerator and (as always) went to sleep with happy thoughts of breakfast.

cover

This morning, I awoke to a bowl of creamy, chocolatey overnight oats. Aaron and I topped our servings with tart raspberries, strawberries, toasted sunflower seeds, crunchy dried mulberries and plenty of sliced banana (Aaron doused his in extra milk because, well, that’s what he does) before happily tucking in. We’ve now decided to make one double batch per week (to be scooped into bowls or packed into transportable boxes) for health, deliciousness and convenience. It’s the perfect transportable breakfast for an active day.

bowlyelo

Now, in terms of the recipe – I’m not going to include it here as I don’t want to deprive you of a visit to Heidi’s beautiful blog, Apples Under My Bed. It’s one of my personal favourites, both for wholefood recipes and heartfelt, honest stories (the hashtag #wishwewereneighbours perfectly applies).

Heidi states in her recipe that the maca powder is an optional extra, however I was happy to include a large spoonful towards both mood and hormone regulation (post travel and cessation of, uh, certain medication). I’m still debating whether the investment is worth it, so if any of you have experienced any personal benefits (or detriments) from consuming maca, I’d appreciate your advice.

wood

As I finish this post, it’s just past six in the evening. The soft remants of daylight are slowly melting into an inky, cloud-streaked dusk. Aaron is sketching next to me, tiny templates of figures for a commissioned project. Light falls upon his face and as always, my heart melts.

We’ll soon be eating garlicky greens with smashed avocado, poached eggs, goats cheese and this seeded sourdough from Wild Bakery for dinner. I relish the simple things in life. Like oats for breakfast and home grown vegetables.

And the wet noses of puppies. Yep, I just went full circle.

nose

blackberry coconut slice

closeup

There’s something beautifully satisfying about a crumbly slice, particularly one that’s dense with buttery oats and sweet summer berries. They take me back to the hazy days of my childhood, small feet pounding on linoleum as I ran to the kitchen for afternoon tea.

When I was tiny, my mother had a knack for incorporating fruits, vegetables and wholegrains into her baking repertoire. It wasn’t just for ‘concealment’ purposes; rather, she just preferred carrot, lemon or apple spice cake over dense chocolate cake and Victoria sponge. Wise woman.

berriescu

In my own kitchen, I’ve adopted the same principles, partly for health reasons and wholly to please my own taste buds. Crunchy oats, earthy spelt and nut flours, moist fruits and ancient grains… they sing a grand chorus when mixed together into a cake, granola bar, muffin or pie.

I also habitually throw fresh leafy herbs and ground spices into my cake recipes (click here and here for some examples) for added complexity and flavour. The savoury notes both compliment and accentuate the fragrant baked fruits in the most beautiful of ways. Needless to say, it’s a habit that I’m disinclined to break.

board2

teacup

This slice celebrates everything that’s beautiful, sweet and unctuous about summer fruit. Plump, ripe berries picked from the last of the season’s brambles, sandwiched between buttery oats and earthy spelt flour.

As the heat of early March slowly dulls under a blanket of fallen autumn leaves, it’s getting harder to find fresh Australian berries. Admittedly, half of the blackberry fruit in this post was cooked from frozen due to low supplies at my local market. However, when sinking my teeth into a jammy oat slice with crunchy wholegrains and coconut, it no longer mattered. I was grasping summer’s bounty with floured hands and a happy heart.

egg

These bars make a beautifully transportable morning tea when wrapped in foil or brown paper. The fruit, cooked down to a jammy consistency, is slightly sticky but largely protected by the resilient oat crust.

They’re also lovely as a dessert, served slightly warm with a scoop of yoghurt or vanilla ice cream. Blissful, wholesome goodness (of which my mother would definitely approve).

aerial

Blackberry Coconut Slice
Adapted from this recipe by Good Food

Makes 24 squares

  • 240g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 50g wholegrain organic oats
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 275g organic panela or rapadura sugar (substitute light brown sugar)
  • 200g cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 75g shredded coconut
  • 2 medium free-range eggs, beaten
  • 350g fresh or frozen berries (I used blackberries and raspberries)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 31 x 17cm slice tin.

Place the spelt flour and baking powder into a flour sifter or fine sieve. Sift through twice to evenly distribute the raising agent. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl with the oats, butter and panela sugar.

butter

Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs (alternately, you can chuck the dry ingredients and the butter into a food processor and pulse it until it reaches the right consistency).

Stir through the shredded coconut. Measure 1 teacupful of the mixture (about 170g) and set it aside for the crumbly topping. Add the eggs to the remaining bowl of mixture and mix thoroughly.

mix

Spread the mixture evenly over the base of your lined baking tin. Smooth out firmly with your fingers or the back of a spoon.

Scatter over the berries, ensuring that they’re evenly distributed across the base. Scatter over the reserved crumble topping.

layer

Transfer the slice to your preheated oven and bake for 60-75 minutes, or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only moist crumbs attached.

Leave to cool before slicing into 24 squares.

piece

blueberry and peach porrij crumble slice

table2

It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this post on the fifth day of January, 2014. Where did the holiday season go? After months of expectation, the festivities and countdown have finished; twinkling lights and streamers have been cleared and returned to cardboard confinement. The new year is barreling full-steam ahead.

Over the past few days, I’ve heard many friends discussing their personal ‘new years resolutions’, a concept that I’m familiar with but have never practiced. More exercise, less sugar, less alcohol, more productivity… all very worthy ideas.

I guess I’m of a similar mindset, despite lack of proclamation. Aaron and I went for our first run of the year on Thursday, around 4km of varying terrain including Jacob’s ladder and the insufferable Kokoda track. On Friday, we tackled a sizeable walk around Tomato Lake, watching families picnic and waterbirds building nests.

bowl

From a nutritional point of view, I’ve also been focusing on fresh organic produce after the unavoidable excess of Christmas. Bowls of Brookfarm natural macadamia muesli with fresh blueberries and organic yoghurt, homemade hummus with spicy harissa and raw vegetables, grilled chicken with quinoa, homegrown herbs, pomegranate arils and plenty of lemon.

Simple, wholesome food, healthy fats, minimally processed. I feel better for it. Infinitely.

peachpits

peaches

One of the most beautiful things about Summer is the ready availability of fresh seasonal fruit such as blueberries, mangoes, peaches, sweet strawberries and nectarines. I’ve been lapping it up, eating fresh bowls of mango with plenty of mint, adding grilled peaches into salads and blueberries into jam and baking.

This Saturday morning, I decided to turn three punnets of blueberries into a healthy crumble slice, sandwiched with Vicky’s tiny homegrown peaches between layers of crunchy amaranth, oats, macadamias, flax and quinoa (courtesy of Brookfarm‘s organic Power Porrij).

The house smelled divine during the baking process; buttery crumble interspersed with sweet cinnamon, bubbling fruit and earthy grains.

fruit

After allowing the slice to cool, I roughly cut it into squares before devouring a piece immediately. The soft, moist fruit was a perfectly sticky foil for the crunchy, organic wholegrain crumble. Delicious. Definitely moreish. Slightly ‘healthy-tasting’ in the best of ways.

This slice is perfect as a transportable energy snack for work, school or leisure. In fact, Aaron and I have packed a few pieces into an airtight container to take to a picnic this afternoon… and I am certain that I’ll be taking a piece to work tomorrow.

lunchbox

Happy new year everyone. Thanks to all of you who regularly read Laura’s Mess, particularly those who take the time to comment and share ideas or thoughts with me. You’re a precious source of inspiration and friendship, despite the fact that we are yet to meet. May 2014 be the very best year yet.

table

Blueberry and Peach Porrij Crumble Slice
Makes 24 pieces

  • 1 cup raw caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 cups Brookfarm Power Porrij (find stockists here)
  • 220g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp)

For the fruit filling:

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups pitted, diced fresh peaches (about 4 medium fruit)
  • 1/2 cup white caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain (all purpose) flour
  • juice of 1 lemon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees f (190 degrees C). Grease and line a 9×13 inch shallow baking pan, then set aside.

Base: In a medium bowl, stir together the raw sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, flour and Porrij mix. Mix in the salt and lemon zest.

porrij

bowlmix

Using your fingers, rub in the cubed butter until the mixture comes together into a crumbly dough. basedough

Press half of the dough into your prepared pan. Refrigerate the pan and the rest of the dough whilst you prepare your filling.

base

Filling: In another bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries and diced peaches.

berryflourmix

Remove the crust from the refrigerator and spoon over the fruit mixture, ensuring an even distribution of blueberries and peaches. Crumble the remaining dough over the fruit mixture (don’t worry if patches of fruit show through).

layermont

Bake the slice in a preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling at the sides (it should look slightly ‘jammy’ in consistency).

Cool completely before cutting into 24 squares (I’d recommend refrigerating it for an hour to prevent the crust from crumbling). Store in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to four days.

handheld

This slice is also a worthy dessert à la mode, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… because everyone needs a little indulgence sometimes.

Disclaimer: Brookfarm is an Australian-owned, New South Wales based company that prides itself on the production of delicious, premium quality macadamia products and wholefoods. The company supplied me with samples of their Power Porrij for this recipe post, however I was not compensated and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

spiced pumpkin cake with cinnamon oat streusel

noice

It’s late on a warm Monday afternoon. The sun is slowly dipping towards the horizon, leaving weathered streaks of gold upon the sky. I’ve recently returned from work, mentally depleted and weary boned. A glass of cool, clear water sits on the kitchen bench as I move, trance-like, between the stove and the sink.

This is my wind-down space; a capsule of relaxation and creativity. My hands move on autopilot, chopping, stirring and selecting herbs as my mind slowly loosens from the demands of the day. Potatoes softly bubble in water. Steam hisses in a hot, starch-scented cloud. Garlic crackles in olive oil, fragrant gold spitting against glistening black.

oiloilwater2 I’m sure most of you would agree that there’s something beautifully organic about cooking. Something intrinsic and habitual, corporeal and instinctive, hands working in synchronicity with the subconscious mind. Most days, I can cook without thinking. In fact, my mind wanders elsewhere whilst my hands do the work. Today, I drifted by the ocean in a cloud of sea spray as sweetlip snapper crisped on the stove. When cooked, the flaky white flesh was devoured with a drizzle of lemon oil, smoked sea salt, charred asparagus, roasted potatoes and warm, tapenade-doused cherry tomatoes bursting from their skins.

It was good. It took care of itself. I just supervised the harmonious simplicity.

pumpkin

But today’s post isn’t about fish or potatoes, relaxation or heavy limbs. It’s about pumpkin; specifically, ‘pumpkin in a can’ sent to me by a beautiful woman named Mackenzie who lives in Minneapolis (USA) with her husband Mike and their gorgeous pup, Abby.

Some of you might recognize Mackenzie by her blogging moniker, Susie Freaking Homemaker. If you’re not yet acquainted, I’d encourage you to visit her beautiful blog space very soon. Mackenzie is the queen of candid photography, nourishing recipe posts, real life stories, biting humour and workout inspiration. She writes from her heart, and what overflows is an obvious passion for food, life, health and humanity. She’s beautiful inside and out, and I now feel lucky enough to count her as a friend (though we’re yet to meet). I hope that you’ll soon feel the same.

mackenziecard

Anyway, back to the pumpkin story. Some weeks ago, Mackenzie and I had a quick ‘chat’ on one of her blog posts about unique products from our respective countries; mostly those that the other dreadfully ‘missed’ or was yet to try (Tim Tams and Australian Kettle chips for Mackenzie, Reese’s peanut butter cups and Starbucks coffee for me). What followed was a casual agreement to send each other a tailored ‘care package’ full of these delicious treats… from one bank of the Pacific ocean to the other.

One week later, my package arrived (whilst I was still gradually scrambling to put Mackenzie’s together; organization is not my strong point). It was heavy, brown and curious. After ripping off some duct tape, I caught sight of the characteristic orange and black Reese’s candy packaging. I’m pretty sure my eyes beamed like headlights at midnight. A further rummage revealed two bags of fragrant Starbucks coffee beans, a gorgeous handwritten card and four cans of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin.

I stared at the cans curiously. Australians don’t sell pumpkin in cans. Heck, we hardly even eat sweet pumpkin things, with the exception of the Queensland Premier’s wife’s pumpkin scones.

mackenzieletter

One week after receiving my care package, I’d nibbled through some of the Reese’s candy whilst trawling the internet for recipes using canned pumpkin. There are many, particularly as Americans are currently in full autumn (fall) mode in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.

Mackenzie has some great ones on her blog, including chewy, pecan-crusted Pumpkin Whoopie Pies and a recipe for an amped-up Pumpkin Pie with a fluffy cream cheese layer and a salted pretzel crust. Both sounded delicious. However, after reading the ingredients I realized that both contained American ingredients that couldn’t be sourced in my home town. Darn it.

bowlI ended up putting the call out on facebook for favourite pumpkin recipes. I gratefully received lots of wonderful, gooey, pumpkin-y recipe links that I’ll be exploring further in the coming weeks, including this one from Stephie over at Eat Your Heart Out (yum!). However, Sunday’s bake-a-thon called for something simpler, something utilizing common ingredients in an Australian pantry: flour, oil, eggs, spices and oats.

I ended up with a dense, spicy, moist and delicious pumpkin cake based on this recipe from Food.com (however, I modified it significantly; you know me by now). It was indescribably delicious. Indescribably. I never thought that sweet pumpkin could be so good.

*Thanks Mackenzie! I hope that you get your Aussie care package soon.

cuttingcake2

Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Oat Streusel

Makes 1 x 22cm cake or 2 medium loaves

Cake:

  • 2 cups (425g/1 can) canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups organic raw caster sugar (substitute brown sugar)
  • 1 cup water, at room temperature
  • 1 cup rice bran oil (substitute vegetable oil/other mild oil)
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 3 free-range egg yolks
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut meal
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup, to glaze (optional)

Streusel topping*:

  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup organic raw caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup rolled wholegrain oats
  • 1/4 cup crushed hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup soft butter (test for consistency)

*this recipe will make extra. I like to freeze it in plastic wrap for later use. You can also bake it on a greased tray alongside the cake for a crumbly fruit or ice cream topping.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin or two medium loaf pans. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine your pumpkin, sugar, water, oil, eggs and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Sift your measured dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Add them slowly to the pumpkin mixture, whisking as you go.

mix2 mix3

The finished mixture should be thick, smooth and glossy. Pour into your cake tin/loaf tins, then set aside whilst you prepare the streusel.

To make the streusel: Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using your fingers, carefully rub in small chunks of butter until you have a crumbly mixture that sticks together in chunks.

streuselCrumble the mixture slightly and distribute it in small crumbles/chunks all over the surface of the cake (ensure that the layer isn’t too think or the cake won’t rise; any extra streusel can be baked alongside the cake on a greased tray and eaten with the cake or over ice cream).

Oven bake for 60-70 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges with only a few moist crumbs attached. Whilst still hot, brush with maple syrup (if desired). Cool on a wire rack.

glazecakestyled

I baked two of these cakes, one of which was eaten on Saturday night at a friend’s house with a side of Jamie Oliver’s summer berry and yoghurt pavlova (baked by my beautiful friend Erin). So good.  cuttingcake piecetakenThis cake is wonderful on its own, at room temperature, on its own or with a thin lashing of cream cheese. However, if you’re wanting a delicious dessert, warm up a slice and serve it à la mode with ice cream and/or cream and a drizzle of maple syrup.

streuselcupcans

With The Grains

Whole Grains, Words and Wanderings by Quelcy

Cashew Kitchen

vibrant food. quiet soul. wild at heart.

Brooklyn Homemaker

modern classic recipes, story telling, and a little bit of history. Oh yeah, and schnauzers.

better than a bought one

as homemade should be

Chompchomp

Perth Food Blog | Restaurant Reviews | Food & Travel Blog | Gluten Free

The Veggy Side Of Me

Deliciousy Green...