Linden Font

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The fanciest jam fancies

Jam fancies

I love, love, love jam fancies. So simple, so sweet. Dad used to pick up a packet of Kookaburra brand whenever we were in Kerang or Swan Hill and we'd scoff them all on the way home. No mean feat for a packet of around 20 sugary treats. I'm beginning to see where all my poor food habits formed. We'd pull apart the layers, lick off the jam and crunch on the biscuits in the back of the 1980s maroon Catholic wagon all the way back to the farm. Four kids would pile out of the car covered in crumbs and telltale pink sticky cheeks, all hepped up on sugar.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

What's in the box? Not Gwyneth Paltrow's head!


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Hester's owl

Owl brooch

Just a quick post to boast about a little treat I bought for myself recently. My buddy Hester Fleming runs the smartest vintage site and I've been agonizing over which piece I would purchase first. Well recently she featured some owl-themed costume jewellery and I knew I'd found the one. It was between this and a sweet little two owl combo, but ol' red eyes won out in the end.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Fried chicken fiesta

Fried chicken

I'm not sure what the Bureau of Meteorology says, but it feels like it's been over 30 degrees for the 30 days straight (if we were a fancy restaurant, we'd be called 30'30' humans or something). With no aircon and 1970's insulation (ie. none) our flat has a tendency to become something of a hotbox. It's not fun to cook inside these days, so we've been barbecuing our little hearts out recently. So you can imagine how it felt to stand over some sizzling hot oil on a particularly scorching day. To say my forehead was a little shiny would be something of an understatement.

I knew I wanted to do a fried chicken cook up for our friends, but to be honest I hadn't mastered a recipe. No matter - I found some good sources round the traps who knew a thing or two about chicken of the fried variety. Matt Wilkinson, from this post, recommended soaking in buttermilk and mustard. I can't deny he's onto a winner there. He also suggested a quick dredge in breadcrumbs or flour and frying. I went with flour, because another learned meat man, our lovely butcher from Skinner and Hackett, had kindly passed on a chicken spice rub from Peter Watson. It was a cracker when paired with flour, salt and pepper.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Birthday danishes

Danish pastries

It's been over a month since Matty's birthday. I've been meaning to post about these little beauties since then, but have been more than a little distracted. It's time to unleash their deliciousness on your unsuspecting eyes.

Danish pastry is basically a combo of a delicious yeasty dough and puff pastry. The theory is you mix the dough, roll it out, place butter in the middle, fold over and repeat for a couple of turns. Sounds easy, right? Hahaha! Fools!

This is a delicate operation, but great for a challenge if you have some hours up your sleeve. My tip is to soften your butter enough for it to be easy to work with, but don't make it melty (melty is seriously a word. It's French for galoopy, which is derived from the Latin word sloppy-galoppy). As with other pastries, you need to keep the handling to a minimum to avoid activating the proteins (aka gluten). You also want to keep the beautiful pastry/butter layers distinct, which means no tearing of the pastry - a tough ask when you're on the third fold. Resting time in the fridge is important too: you don't want to harden the butter too much, but you need to let the dough recover from each roll. 20 minutes between rolls is pretty good.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

My latest purchase: Mr Wilkinson's Favourite Vegetables

Mr Wilkinson's Favourite Vegetables

Matty is an avid reader. If we had his books alone, they'd fill a pretty decent bookshelf. He'll read a book a week, but is generally pretty good at passing them on when he's done. Sharing the literary love. The real problem is my complete inability to say no to a cookbook. I don't hear voices in my head, it's more that the cookbooks grow legs and jump into my hands, take out my credit card and pay for the purchase. They even know my PIN for heaven's sakes!

There was no buyer's remorse with this one. Mr Wilkinson's Favourite Vegetables has actual recipes you'd reasonably believe you can cook and won't stuff up. They're also interesting and creative without being naff. It's one of those cookbooks you open and instantly feel a connection to the dishes: approachable but impressive.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Spaghetti with panfried sardines

Spaghetti with panfried sardines

I have a favourite fishmonger. I'm sure by now this doesn't surprise anyone. It will also not surprise you that every time I visit said fishmonger, they are closed. Now, please don't mistake my message here - it's not because they open and close willy-nilly. Hardly. I think they've had the same opening hours for around 20 years. It's my crazy brain and sieve-like memory that allows me to roll up at 5pm on a Saturday and find the doors firmly locked.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Our favourite fancy meal

Les Ambassadeurs

My priorities when travelling are a little skewed. I book flights, then restaurants and months later, panic and book some accommodation. I have a comprehensive list of must-visit restaurants and normally miss half due to crippling indecision. There's one I never miss when in Paris: Les Ambassadeurs at Hotel de Crillon.

The first time I visited, it was my very first Michelin-starred restaurant. Not that that means much for the average Australian: the guide hasn't rated anything here yet and, given the tyranny of distance, is unlikely to do so any time soon. Regardless, this was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. An innocent three course set lunch descended into approximately 12 courses of creative, delicious, playful food. Even a rule-breaking dish of fish with rice and cheese was comforting and satisfying, but didn't feel out of place in the flow of courses. I suspect the platter of petite fours was intended for a table of four diners: I polished them off with little trouble (close your eyes and picture a young woman ramming a macaron into an already-full mouth and you'll be pretty close to the live-action picture). Like I said, amazing.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie

So the wedding diet is off to a smashing start. I have eaten fried chicken for the last two meals, and skipped breakfast more times than I care to mention over the last week. Doughnuts for dessert last night. Coffee in the form of affogato. This week, I swear, I'm back on track.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Last minute Valentine

I've already told you about our Valentine tradition. We don't go all out, but do make an effort to step out together and grab a meal. Presents aren't a huge deal either - maybe a rose from Matty, or I might make a special breakfast for him.

I think the best Valentine's presents are small little gifts that just show you took the time out of your day to pick up something special. No biggie, perfect for the tightarse in us all. Read on for my selection below:

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

A happy absence

Grapefruit cocktail

I promised you a week of Valentines recipes. My plan was to dish up cupcakes with turkish delight and buttercream, doughnuts (plain and simple) and a gorgeous little smoked salmon breakfast for Feb 14. But then life got in the way.

On Sunday, we planned a quick trip to Daylesford to the Regional Producer's Day. Held at the Lake House, we sampled fresh berries and cream, wine, cheese, truffled sausages, beer, biscuits: the works. We saw Matt Wilkinson (from the amazing trifecta Pope Joan/Bishop of Ostia/Hams and Bacon) whip up a fabulous potato salad with smoked yogurt and the world's most delicious beetroot salad with wagyu beef and a simple fried egg. It was my kind of day and I didn't think it could get any better.

Walking back to the car with an armload of treats, Matt decided we should take a detour: "Let's go for a walk around the lake". He loves to walk (seriously, 12km home each day is no exaggeration) so I thought nothing of it. We came to a sweet old pier. "Let's head out there". I began to smell a rat (albeit a terribly romantic rat). Out we wandered and in a shaky voice, he asked me to marry him.

I'd like to say I was totally cool at this point, answering with something along the lines of "You bet your sweet bippy I will". I won't even try to lie. I cried like a little girl. The most important thing is I said yes. Affianced!

I will try to do a belated Valentines series. I owe you that much. And you may have to excuse the soppy lovefest this blog will become. I know myself too well.

Hugs and kisses!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Sweets for my sweet

Grapefruit cocktail

I'm not a sap, I swear. People who know me would expect I hate everything Valentine's Day stands for: a Hallmark holiday, an excuse to ignore your significant other for the remainder of the year. I'm afraid you're dead wrong. I love the sap, the goo and the pink frou-frou that goes with Feb 14. Look at me, I'm a so deep in this romance I'm inadvertantly busting out sweet, sweet rhymes.

We have our own tradition for Valentine's Day, borne out of the horror that is a fine restaurant on this most romantic day of the year. Tables for two only, set menus and the pressure that comes with forced affection. It's a bit car-crash-esque, so we avoid the places we normally love and go cheap and cheerful. Supper Inn is our hot spot. It's normally full to the brim with students, city workers and oldies and at peak hour, there's a line down the stairs of hopefuls waiting for their table. VBs and some (western) Chinese classics, followed by a rom-com at Russell St cinemas make for a happy Valentine's Day (I'm thinking Silver Linings Playbook this year).

Grapefruit cocktail

Over the next week, I'll give you some recipes from my romance arsenal. Together, we will woo our significant others into submission. One sweet recipe at a time. The will have no idea what hit them. Ahhhh, food manipulation at its finest.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Pancakes with grilled nectarines and whipped vanilla butter

Pancakes with nectarines and whipped vanilla butter

Have you seen the ad where the man weeps because stonefruit season is nearly over? It may be a little dramatic, but that's how I feel at the end of summer. Nectarines are my absolute favourite and knowing their time in the sun is almost done is more than a little upsetting. I guess their demise signifies the end of barbecues, beers in the sun and icecream in cones for another year, so it's not all about healthy fruit.

It's not too much of a problem if you use firm nectarines in this recipe. Given you're sauteeing the fruit, they soften in the pan and caramelise nicely no matter how ripe they are. You could also use peaches in this dish - try to find a freestone variety so they're easier to cut up.


You might read "whipped butter" and reconsider making this dish. If you're anti-butter, this is probably the wrong place for you. By all means go easy on it but this dish really needs the moisture and richness the butter provides. The vanilla scent doesn't hurt either. And you can tell yourself it's whipped so it's mostly air. That would be mostly wrong, but whatever helps you sleep at night...

Matt and I enjoyed this in our sunny backyard one Sunday morning recently. In typical Melbourne fashion, it was spitting when I set the table, but the sun shone brightly as soon as we sat down to eat. Cup of tea, shot of coffee and fruity pancakes: a fabulous summer farewell.


1 cup self raising flour
1 egg
2 tbsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
100ml milk

Pancake ingredients

2 nectarines
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp butter

Whipped vanilla butter

100g butter, softened
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla

To make the pancakes, whisk together the ingredients briefly. Try not to over mix or your pancakes will taste like old boots. Chill for 30 minutes while you make your other components.

Cut your nectarines into eight pieces. Heat a heavy frypan over medium heat and add the nectarines. Caramelise on both sides, then add the butter and sugar. Cook and coat the nectarines.

Grilling nectarines

To make the whipped butter, mix all three ingredients in the mixer on high until the butter is pale and creamy.

Heat a frypan over low heat and add a pat of butter. Spoon 1/4 of the pancake batter in the pan and cook until the underside is golden. Flip over and cook until a similar colour. Repeat with the remaining batter, using more butter when required.

To serve, top the pancakes with the nectarines and a quenelle of butter.

Pancakes with nectarines and whipped vanilla butter

Friday, 8 February 2013

Friday cocktails: Ruby grapefruit, raspberry and orange blossom vodka cocktail

Grapefruit cocktail

I'm limiting my alcohol intake at present. Not a totally Sober Feb: a healthy one or two drinks a week can't hurt anyone. And when this little concoction occurred to me, I knew it would be perfect for the evening when one is all you can take. A treat for a quiet night in, or for others, just the start of a big one.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Rib eye, carrots en papillote and the creamiest mash

Rib eye, carrots en papillte and the creamiest mash

I remember the days of yore when I ate my steaks well done. Not a trace of the faintest pink in sight. My dad, a sheep and cattle farmer, likes his that way and I never second-guessed it. I doubt I even knew there was another way to have your t-bone (the steak of choice in our house).

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

An ode to Italian hospitality

Asiago mountains

Italian hospitality is something else. I thought I was a relatively good host. I make sure my guests are fed and watered, and they all seem to leave happy. In Italy, to simply feed a guest and provide them with a drink is selling yourself short: they should leave bursting at the seems, lethargic and with a serious case of the meat sweats (it's both as awful and wonderful as it sounds).

Monday, 4 February 2013

Tabouleh, white bean dip and grilled chicken

Tabouleh, white bean dip and grilled chicken

I feel like a broken record. After a weekend of indulgence, I need clean food. I'm trying my hardest to keep it simple over the weekend, but I normally take simple to mean butter, flour and eggs with some kind of fruity/chocolate/sugary flavour profile. I don't do healthy well.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Pickled cucumbers

Pickled cucumbers

You may have heard me speak before of Matty's War on Leftovers. He rages against egg whites, spits chips at pastry scraps. He calls me a hoarder, I call it being resourceful. You say potato, I say potato. That really doesn't translate well in print, does it?

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Lemon meringue pie


Today's post is a little delayed. I blame Kaye. She took five of us out for a couple of drinks and some karaoke. Karaoke lasted for around four hours; a couple of drinks turned into... many more. The night ended with some serious krumping action. I'm not ashamed to say I love me some krumping. But I'm feeling more than a little tired today. A couple of hours in the hairdresser's chair should remedy that.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Pappardelle with slow roasted tomato sauce

Roasted tomatoes

My friend Jacquie recently made her first batch of pasta - it looked amazing. She let it dry on her clothes rack with the rest of her washing. Around the same time, Nadia mentioned she had noticed I hadn't included any pasta recipes on the blog yet. I felt the universe was trying to tell me something, the gods were speaking to me, I felt it in my waters: it was time to drag out the pasta machine.