Wednesday 28 August 2013

Rhubarb crumble

This week, I've been craving summer fruit. Or more specifically, baked summer fruit, topped with nutty, buttery crumble and liberally dolloped with Greek yoghurt. I discovered Nigel Slater's recipe for baked peaches through my friend Elizabeth's blog The Backyard Lemon Tree earlier this year and was reminded of it recently when the same recipe was published on Smitten Kitchen at the height of northern hemisphere summer. With stone fruit out of my reach for a good few months yet, I needed a way to satisfy my craving for a juicy, crunchy, throw-together fruit dessert... at the tail end of Sydney winter. Apples and pears I love but I wanted something a bit more punchy in both colour and taste... and found it in rhubarb.  

I really wasn't prepared for how good this turned out to be. I'm not saying it's better than the Nigel Slater peaches - that would be blasphemy - but put it this way, in summer, when I've got stone fruit coming out my ears (so to speak) I'll likely be craving this: rhubarb, tossed in sugar and orange zest, baked til it slumps into a sweet, tart ruby red tangle, and covered in a blanket of crisp, caramelised oats. As with its summer counterpart I like it best with a spoonful of plain yoghurt, not out of any sense of restraint, but because the smooth sharpness of the yoghurt beautifully complements the crunch of the crumble and the sweet juiciness of the fruit. And, as an added bonus, it justifies eating any leftovers (in the unlikely event there are any) for breakfast.

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Rosemary flatbread

Let's get things straight. I am not one of those people who twist themselves into knots making absolutely everything from scratch. I'm much happier spending my time making one or two impressive things for guests and then supplementing with store-bought stuff. I'll make a curry and buy roti, I'll make a pie and buy the ice-cream... Crackers fall into the category of things I'd usually buy but when it's this easy, I make an exception. 

Flatbread is not so much bread as it is one enormous cracker. And in this case, a crisp, flaky, herb-infused cracker, sprinkled with salt and studded with fat sprigs of rosemary. The time it spends in the oven - barely 10 minutes - is by far the longest part of the cooking process. The dough is assembled in about as much time as it takes to throw the few ingredients together, and rolling it out is similarly speedy as you're not trying to conform to a particular shape - the more rustic the better. I like to put it out whole and let people break off pieces to suit their particular grazing needs. Somehow it feels very friendly, as you're really sharing food... I suppose the very definition of breaking bread. Just make sure you break off enough. As quickly as it's made, it disappears just as fast.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Lemon delicious

Winter has been downright summery in Sydney this year. If I hadn't been to the Blue Mountains (for a holiday in June) or Melbourne (for work last week), I doubt my scarf would have seen any action at all. As I type this, it's sunny and 25 degrees outside. That's Celcius for any of you northern hemisphere folk, which translates as 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Really, the only sign of the season so far has been the cold I came down with over the weekend, the hordes of people in football jerseys on buses I've been on, and my craving for lemon delicious.

Lemon delicious - or lemon pudding - is a dessert my mother used to make regularly when I was growing up. Comprised of pantry, fridge and fruit bowl staples, it came together quickly, looked after itself in the oven while we were having dinner, and was ready to eat before it was time to do the washing up. A self-saucing pudding, it's baked in a deep-sided dish set within another shallower dish filled with warm water, a technique that produces a golden, sponge-like top, and a pale yellow custardy sauce below. 

Sweet and tart in equal measures, with custard and cake in perfect proportion, this is an intensely satisfying winter dessert (even if the winter in question is a little wanting). And there's enough citrus (and therefore Vitamin C) involved to allow you to overlook the significant dairy component and convince yourself that eating it is actively helping you get over your cold. The name says it all. How could you resist?

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Nanaimo bars

Canada is responsible for so many of my favourite things - maple syrup, Neil Young, Alice Munro, Anne of Green Gables... it's got the best flag, wonderful place names (Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland...), two languages and these biscuity-cheesecakey-chocolatey squares, named after a town in British Columbia.

Traditionally, Nanaimo bars are a no-bake affair but this recipe, which I discovered on a Canadian food blog, calls for a tiny bit of oven time and takes a few liberties with ingredients. The end result is well worth it - a chewy, nutty biscuit-base wrapped in the aroma of toasted coconut, a robust, lightly sweet cheesecake filling and a rich, skating-rink-smooth layer of dark chocolate ganache to top it all off. What else is there to say? O Canada.