Sugar and Herb Syrup for Desserts and Cocktails

Sugar and herb syrup for desserts and cocktails

I like making something that has multiple uses, particularly at this time of year when the kitchen is in catering mode and is grateful for small efficiencies.

A simple sugar syrup can make everyday things special. Pouring the thick liquid over a colourful bowl of fruit salad results in a glossy array of jewels, accented with a hint of emerald from torn mint leaves. Dressing berries in the syrup and adding a scoop of lemon sorbet is deliciously refreshing. And the same flavours work just as well with a big glug of alcohol in festive cocktails.

This syrup combines citrus and herbs to elevate it to a more posh offering. This fresh, zingy syrup is as much a pleasure for your nose as it is for your tastebuds. The lemon and lime are wonderfully fragrant and add a marmalade-like flavour to the syrup, with vanilla hitting the palate as a parting note. The herbs release their oils to add a depth to the sweet and sour syrup, making it a perfect accompaniment to grown-up indulgences. Continue reading

Cherries Dipped in White Chocolate

White chocolate dipped cherries

If you wander through the markets in Australia in December you’re sure to hear a fruit seller booming “The cherries are ripe!” across the stalls. Boxes of cherries line the aisles, ready to be given as Christmas gifts or simply to adorn the table in decoration, given their seasonally-appropriate hue.

Cherries are synonymous with Christmas and the relaxed living we assume during the Summer break. They are a fruit that encourages slowing down, given the whole pip situation, and the relatively little reward you get from each fruit. On a hot day, working your way through a bowl of cold cherries from the fridge, perhaps while watching the cricket on the TV, is an excellent past time if you’re in need of some peace.

I think we all need a little peace on Christmas Day, or at least a break from the heavy, rich food that is sure to be on the table. These chocolate-dipped cherries will provide both.

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Rosemary and Sea Salt Flatbread

Rosemary and Sea Salt Flatbread

Since humans worked out how to use grains around 10,000 years ago we’ve been making unleavened bread. It’s been a staple in many cultures, harking back to the birth of modern civilisation in the Fertile Crescent. You could say we’ve collectively had a decent amount of practice making flatbread, so I’m not sure why I thought it would be difficult. Turns out, all that practice was worthwhile. It’s really quite easy to make very tasty bread with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry (especially if your garden boasts a rosemary bush as my new garden does).

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Festive Nuts

Festive Nuts

The thing about Christmas in the southern hemisphere is that the rich, spiced, warming flavours associated with the holiday don’t really suit our weather.

Gently warmed mulled wine scented with cloves doesn’t go down too well on a 32c/90F day. And a generous slice of pudding laden with drunken fruits and topped with warm, similarly boozy, custard is also out of place in Summer. But it doesn’t matter. My Christmas days have always featured this festive fare and I’ve merrily consumed bowls of plum pudding while sitting at the table in wet bathers, post Christmas swim.

This year, my in-laws have set a theme of “Australia” for Christmas Day. Everyone has been assigned a course and the food must fit within the theme. I haven’t decided on what to bring yet, but I love the idea of thinking beyond turkey, ham and all the traditional accompaniments. Perhaps yabbies will make an appearance? Or a whole fish wrapped in something fragrant and grilled on the BBQ? (If you’ve got any ideas, let me know!)

But. I can’t let tradition go completely. Last year, in the appropriately chilly climes of NYC, I made these nuts to serve as an accompaniment to cocktails on Christmas Day. The smell of roasting nuts filled my apartment and set the mood for a traditional meal. They were so delicious, I had to make them again this year.

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Fried Halloumi with Mint Gremolata

Fried Halloumi with Mint Gremolata

Uprooting oneself and moving to the other side of the world is a delicate business. Like repotting a plant, it’s relatively easy to pull up a life by its stem and place it elsewhere. But it takes time, attention, the right conditions and a welcoming environment for a life to thrive in its new location.

I’ve spent the last three months finding a good pot to plant myself in back home in Australia. The desire I felt in NYC to slow down and focus on the things that make me happy has lead me to something new: a country life.

Last week I moved to Kyneton, a small town nestled in the Macedon Ranges, about an hour from Melbourne. 6,629 other people live here, which is around 8.2 million less than New York City. I have traded in my Brooklyn apartment for a large weatherboard home with a garden that boasts an apple and pear tree, and my new oven is roughly the same size as my Williamsburg kitchen (only a slight exaggeration). Life is definitely slower. And so far, I’m loving it.

All this decision-making and moving is hunger making work. And as Spring unfurled its petals here in Australia I found myself craving comfort food, but on the lighter side. Well, lighter if you call adding some mint and lemon to a lovely, fried hunk of cheese “light”.

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Outdoor Cooking

Australian damper

I’ve been cooking either on a campfire or a little camping stove for the last two weeks, while I’ve been marvelling at the beauty of Oregon, and loving it.

Cooking when camping is not difficult, mainly because whatever you cook will no doubt be gratefully received. The hunger gained from hiking, swimming and sleeping outdoors is not a fussy hunger. It wants for hearty, warm meals that refuel the body for another day in the elements.

My favourite thing to cook when camping is damper: a simple dough twisted onto a stick and baked over coals resulting in hot, smokey bread heightened with a thick spread of butter and jam. Heavenly.

You can get the recipe over at the Martha Stewart Living blog, where I am very honoured to be a guest blogger.

Get my damper recipe on Martha Stewart

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Baked Lemon and Thyme Mushrooms

Baked Lemon and Thyme Mushrooms

Here I am on holidays! And I am enamoured with California. We’ve driven from the foggy, rugged coast of the north to the searing heat and modernist architecture in the southern desert. The diversity and beauty has been startling and I’ve loved getting to know the West Coast. Next stop is Oregon and Washington by way of a camper van – more adventures ahead!

I’m taking a moment out from sitting by the pool at the deliciously mid-century Ace Hotel in Palm Springs (I know. Tough life, right?) to share a recipe of mine that has just been published in a magazine, a real-life printed magazine! Remedy Quarterly is a lovely little journal full of food writing and recipes. The latest issue is centred on the theme of Discovery and I wrote about my discovery of cooking as a way to find my sense of home in New York City. I shared this recipe for baked mushrooms that I cooked at least once a week over Winter.

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Peach, Hazelnut and Feta Salad

Peach Hazelnut and Feta Salad

The furnace that powers the NYC summer is burning at full capacity this week. That, combined with the fact that my apartment is in various stages of disarray in preparation for the international move, has meant that cooking has been nonexistent. I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying goodbye dinners at some of my favourite restaurants (Momofuku, Diner, Porsena, ABC Kitchen, any Mexican, Fat Radish – I will miss them all!) which has left my kitchen lonely. But I did need to eat something at home, and this salad was perfect. No cooking – just assembling. 

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Quickest Roast Chicken

Quickest Roast Chicken

Next week is my last week in New York City. I’m in the process of packing up my little apartment and sending everything home to Australia where I will join it in September after travelling down the West Coast of America (ROAD TRIP! Sightseeing suggestions welcome…).

New York is a city that changes you. It becomes a character in your story that exerts its influence whether you like it or not. New York made me focus. It made me prioritise what was important in my life, because there is no way you can do everything it offers. I was quite surprised to find that my priorities included simple, uncontrived things: cooking, friends, family, nature. The antithesis to a pulsating metropolis.

When I’ve told seasoned New Yorkers that I’m leaving, a look of pity crosses their faces and they nod in an understanding way. “You couldn’t take the pace”, they state, implying that they are made of tougher stuff than I. They may be right. Or I just miss home, the ocean, and stars. And a slower pace of life. And Melbourne coffee shops. I have loved my time here and will miss the convenience, the culture and the variety of people and experiences I encountered every day. Those interactions will stay with me as I head home to a wide open sky.

I’ll still be blogging while I’m travelling, though not as often as I have been. Here’s to new adventures! Continue reading

Peanut Noodle Salad

Cold Peanut Noodles with Prawns

One thing I miss about Australia is easy access to fresh, aromatic and cheap Southeast Asian food. I have cravings for a steaming bowl of rare beef Pho topped with fragrant Vietnamese mint, a squeeze of lemon and a squirt of chilli sauce that’s so hot it makes my nose run. Or a big mound of Pad Thai noodles piled with crushed peanuts, spring onions, fresh bean sprouts and herbs.

Although I miss my local Thai take-away, you will not find me complaining about the plethora of fantastic and cheap Mexican restaurants nearby in Brooklyn (that deliver!). I have happily swapped Southeast Asia for Mexico when in need of a I-can’t-be-bothered-cooking Thursday night meal. But this week I wanted a simple taste of Asia. And I had a picnic to cater, so a noodle salad was made. Continue reading