Friday, April 26, 2013

Mandarine and almond syrup cake

I get my fruit and veg delivered by The Local Grocer these days, partially because I can't deal with Woolworths and Coles, my local IGA is pretty shit, and they pay farmers fair prices for their goods. Everyone is a winner - especially those who have to endure me whinging about how evil the duopoly supermarkets are, or me whinging about why some IGA's are awesome and why mine is crap and THEY HAVE NO BREAD AT ALL? I'M GOING HOME! I just let The Local Grocer do it. I don't even have to make a decision about what I want that way, they just tell me - this is what is in season, this is what we can get, so this is what you have. You can choose, I just choose NOT to choose.

This time I got 6 mandarines. I don't mind them, but I don't really like the smell of them when you peel them, and it sticks under your nails and on your skin all day. Do not like.

Photo c/o The Local Grocer with the caption "Eating seasonally? Time to start on the mandarins as local valencia orange supply has stopped. Only Californian and Egyptian navel orange imports available in any quantities at the moment and we won't be selling those! Our local navels come in around late May to early November so if you can hold off on oranges for just a few weeks you can avoid any imported produce :-)"
So these were my options;

Option 1 - let them sit in the box until they go off without eating them.

Option 2 - let them sit in the fridge until they go off without eating them.

Option 3 - eat them.

Options 1 and 2 have happened before. Don't judge me, you too have left stuff in your fruit n veg drawer in the fridge so long it no longer resembles what it once was. I refuse to believe I am the only one this happens to.

Anyway obviously, option 3 has to happen, because waste sucks.

I made cake. It is delicious. 

Dense but not claggy, sweet but with a punchy lemon edge. Much better than a similar cake I had made before, which requires the lengthy boiling of the mandarins, that stunk the house out. This one is just gorgeous, all over.

It looks plain... Don't judge a cake by it's cover.

Mandarine and almond syrup cake

Adapted from Ottolenghi's cake from Jerusalem

200g unsalted butter
380g caster sugar
4 clementines, zest grated, and juiced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
280g ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
5 medium free-range eggs, beaten

1) Preheat the oven to 160C. Lightly grease a 24cm spring-form tin, and do what you gotta do to stop the cake sticking.

2) Put the butter, 300g of the sugar (the remaining 80g is for the syrup) and citrus zest in a mixer bowl, and use a paddle attachment to combine. Add about half the ground almonds a spoonful at a time and continue mixing.

3) Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as you go. Add the remaining almonds and ground cardamom and work until the mix is smooth.

4) Spread the cake batter inside the tin, and bake for 50-60 minutes - a skewer should come out a little bit moist.

5) When the cake is almost cooked, in a small pan bring to a boil the remaining sugar and citrus juices (the juices should add up to about 120ml), then remove from the heat. The moment the cake comes out of the oven, pour over the hot syrup, making sure it all soaks through. Leave to cool down in the tin. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ultimate Middle Eastern Feast!

Well it's been a friggin long time since I last posted... to be honest I was feeling a bit meh about the whole blogging thing. I realised that I don't actually really like sitting behind a computer editing pictures. I also don't really like being sat around with all the yummy food I've just cooked, styling it and making it look like all the magazines for the benefit of a good picture. Bazillion different vintage plates, planks of wood, napkins haphazardly placed across the table just so... The overhead shot with things strewn everywhere, placed exactly where they might lay if it were a family dinner (but there's no one there... 

Being online and active on social media exposes you to the way that so many people showcase their lives. It's not necessarily a bad thing... Instagram has resulted in people seeing beauty in normal every day things, and you see end up seeing the parts of peoples lives they want you to see, and in the light and filter through which you should view it. The thing is, that doesn't really suit me. I can display my life how I like on social media, but if what I show is not 100% true to life, I feel like a fake. I can take a photo of my basil plant and make it look like I grow everything and am totally self sufficient. Not true. But I could make it look that way...

Impression: I went shopping and am totes a
fashionista, yah.
Reality: I went shopping last minute for
a dress and the gold one makes me
look like a gay care bear
(little round legs and belly).

Impression: I'm like, super hipster and the
abstract lighting is a
reflection on my state of mind, amazeballs.
Reality: OOOOO pretty shiny things!
Impression: I'm super important at my job
and manage to juggle it all,
and make it look easy,
cos I've totally got my
shit together #awkwardlean #ditzygrin.
Reality: ERMERGEEERD kill me noooow #dies
You get the point.

I prefer to live a more honest lifestyle. When I cook food, I do it to eat it, to feed others, to show love. That sounds corny but I'm an emotional cripple - so if I cook for you, it means something. Sitting around styling food shots is not my style, I cook to eat, not to make everyone else look at it and say oooo. Just come over and let me feed you.

This dinner was one of the ones where I didn't spend much time making it look pretty. Because who cares, it was bloody delicious. No props, no white boards behind to reflect the light, no wooden slabs underneath to make it look like it was taken on a rustic French table. Just tasty food to eat, that might be something you've not had before. But you'll do it again!

I bought some local flatbreads and slathered on some olive oil and a generous sprinkling of zaatar, a Middle Eastern spice blend that is made up of sumac, salt, sesame seeds and thyme. A quick blast in the oven yielded a soft in the centre, crispy on the outer, base to start layering! As long as it's all in there, it doesn't matter how you layer it. 

Just make sure you style it and Instagram it!

Roasted Cauliflower with Citrus Tahini Sauce
Serves 4, adapted from Suzanne Husseini's Modern Flavours of Arabia.


1 head of cauliflower
Olive oil
sea salt
juice of 2 lemons
zest and juice of 1 orange (save some zest to garnish)
1 cup water
3/4 cup tahini
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 medium onions, sliced thin
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, to garnish
1/4 cup slivered almonds, to garnish


1) Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. 

2) Take the whole head of cauliflower and cut (core included) into 4 thick slices. Place on a large baking sheet, coat with oil and season with salt (I used some pretty awesome smoked salt that I picked up from Pimlott and Strand, extra layers n all that!) 
3) Roast until golden and crisp and cooked through, it should take about 20 minutes. 
4) Mix the lemon juice, orange juice and zest, water and tahini to make a creamy sauce and leave aside.
5) In a frying pan, heat 3 tbsp olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until golden and soft. Pour the tahini sauce over the cooked onions and bring to a simmer until  it thickens slightly. Taste and adjust seasoning as you need to. 
6) Serve drizzled over the roasted cauliflower and garnish with toasted nuts and orange zest.

Roasted red pepper dip (Muhammara)
Adapted from Suzanne Husseini's Modern Flavours of Arabia.


2 red capsicums
2 red chillies
1/2 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, mashed
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup fresh or panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for garnish
Extra nuts, for garnish


1) Pre-heat your grill until very hot. Place capsicums on a tray lined with baking paper and grill until the skins have blackened. Put the caps into a plastic bag or into a plastic container to sweat and cool down (this will make it easier for you to take the skins off later).
2) Peel the blackened skin from the caps and place into the food processor. 
3) Add the lemon, bread crumbs, garlic cloves, lemon, pine nuts, almonds, pomegranite molasses and olive oil, and blend until it reaches a consistency you like. 

Layer up the dip with the cauliflower, tahini sauce and chopped cucumber and tomatoes for a tasty, healthy, vegan dinner. It's so delicious you won't miss the meat - in fact, we cooked some chicken to go with it and I ended up taking the chicken off as it was better without it!

You can hashtag this recipe all day. #cleaneating #vegan #meatfreemonday #dairyfree #glutenfree (if you use GF wraps) all that stuff.

Get around it.

PS - Do you  have loads of tahini sauce left, like I did?

Try these recipes to use it up - they sounds fuggin delicious and are on my to do list!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar - Ottolenghi