Linden Font

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns

hot cross buns

My family has a peculiar tradition with hot cross buns. Sliced open, toasted and slathered with butter and vegemite. Fruity, salty, savoury, sweet. Not appealing to most tastes, but classic Easter food for the Bennetto clan. Poor ol' Matty, he's going to need a tastebud lobotomy once we tie the knot.

These buns are traditional, to a point. There's the dried fruit, mixed peel (yes, it's essential), spices and cross. The cross itself is where things get tricky. I know they're meant to be baked on, but I think a hint of extra sweetness can only serve to improve the situation. 'Specially when they're spread with a black, yeasty spread.

The cross is a quick mix of egg white, icing sugar and milk. So easy, but super runny. If you don't watch out, you'll have hot cross splodges and that ain't appropriate for Easter.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Seven hour lamb shoulder

seven hour roast lamb

Roasting lamb for seven hours takes a lot of commitment. Roasting anything for more than three is a big ask. For me, it's not just the hanging around, fiddling with the meat, but the precious real estate it takes up. I could be baking a cake or biscuits in my oven during that time. Several cakes!

This weekend, with a pretty nasty hangover, I woke up and realised I had to get the lamb in the oven shortly. But before then, I had to make hot cross buns (stay tuned!) and profiteroles. They would take a good couple of hours. Before I knew it, it was 8am, I was out of bed on around 5 hours sleep and baking like a mad woman.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Pistachio custard in green egg shells

pistachio custard

So you've seen the glory that is pink egg shells. Today we have green - it's like the adult version. Totally way more mature, this green variety. Ok so maybe the shells are a touch childish, but I can guarantee you the custard inside will kick butt.

I'm not sure about you, but my favourite nut is the pistachio. I brought home a packet for a Christmas treat one year (I know, so generous). I poured a bowl and sat them next to my Dad and wandered back into the kitchen. I heard behind me "CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH." I turned around to see Dad with his face screwed up. "Emma, these are disgusting". Yep, they certainly are disgusting with the shells on...

Monday, 25 March 2013

Chocolate custard in pink egg shells

Pink egg shells

Good morning my pretties. If you feel like making a labour intensive, cutesy, impractical Easter gift, have I got the dish for you. These took a little over two days to make. They took around six minutes to devour. But in terms of sheer cute-factor (it's real measure. Disney invented it), they're the gift that keeps on giving.

I've been seeing countless images on Pinterest recently of dyed eggs. I knew they were all hardboiled, but that seemed like such a waste. I remembered my second visit to Vue de Monde - I'd been served little flavoured custards in eggs shells, sitting inside a carton. It's just the thing you expect (but totally didn't see coming) from the restaurant.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Temptress pies

Party pies

These are the pies that sealed the deal. They had Matty's name written all over them: typical Aussie food, loads of meat and the perfect accompaniment to beer. I baked a batch for the Australia Day party my brother Mark hosted four years ago. Matt turned up with his gaggle of friends and demolished the better part of a platter. His constant compliments led me think he had designs on more than just my pastries (I was right).

I've baked these in anticipation of the football season, about to start tonight. Adelaide versus Essendon. Meh. Anyone following the news in Australia (and not just back page news) will know any win from Essendon will be questionable. I always thought they were quite effete but I guess now we know that, at the very least, they're not afraid of needles.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Chocolate molasses self saucing pudding

Chocolate and molasses self saucing pudding

I don't know why, but I always consider desserts more of a female's domain. Maybe it's because Matt is just not interested. I'll dish up a grand dessert that will have all our guests oohing and aahing for hours, but Matt will normally pass. That said, my Dad used to buy 'heart attacks', otherwise known as a raspberry cream puffs whenever he had to go into town to pay the bills. But still, desserts seem more ladylike than anything else.

Not this recipe. This pudding is sufficiently sturdy, punchy and any other blokey adjective you might care to use. I think it's the molasses that adds the kick. You might also use some bourbon but I felt that, as we were enjoying it with a small nip of scotch (Glenlivet. Oh yeah!), bourbon might be a little excessive. News flash! Emma has declared something excessive! It MUST be over the top.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Chicken and sage sausage rolls

Chicken and sage sausage rolls
By the end of this week, you'll be full to the brim of recipes for your football shenanigans. You'll also have more than one use for pork fat pastry, because today, you get a second run at it with these tasty little treats.

Chicken and sage are a pretty brilliant combination. Even better when you add a little something-something with... pork fat! Yep, more animal fats. More clogged arteries. More deliciousness. Can't say I don't push the fatty boundaries.

But seriously, just mincing up chicken will surely lead to Dry-Town Chicken Mince, population: You. It needs more moisture than chicken fat alone can deliver, so the pork fat is just providing a little bit of a helping hand. A nudge in a tasty direction. Nothing bad can come of this.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Pork, fennel and chilli sausage rolls with pork fat pastry

Pork fennel and chilli sausage rolls

Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you. I said pork fat pastry. This stuff is the bee's knees, the cat's pyjamas. It's sweet, salty, flakey, moreish - everything a good pastry should be. Once you wrap your head around the fact you're making pastry with the most direct route to heart disease (pure animal fats), it's a cinch.

The fat I've used in the pastry is called leaf fat. It's the cleanest, whitest fat on the pig from near the kidneys. My butcher at Skinner and Hackett (you're right if you think I live there. I've made a few visits there of late in preparation for football fever), tells me a lady he knows makes a dreamy puff pastry with the stuff and fashions little plum tarts. My gluttonous brain just about went into meltdown at the thought of that. Must. Eat. Pig. Fat. Pastry. It's also the best stuff to use in salami - I think I've found the common denominator in my favourite foods.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Football figs with pancetta

Figs and pancetta

So this is our last weekend for a long time without football. The season starts on Friday and I'm thanking my lucky stars our television is still on the fritz. I'm not the biggest football fan and the thought of Sandie Roberts dulcet tones ringing out in the loungeroom for eighteen Saturdays in a row makes me shudder. I'm not exactly a great ambassador for the AFL, but really, I don't discriminate between codes. None of it is that appealing to me.

The real reason I dislike football may be that my team of choice has not had a great season since the year I was born. I like to think of myself as the ultimate bad luck charm: just being alive has ruined their chances of success. It's a crazy kind of power I wield. The Richmond Tigers tend to be the punchline of any lame football joke. It's hard to get excited about the game when you know your team will be relegated to last place from about four games into the season. No matter, they have the best theme song going 'round. That's all that counts, right?

Friday, 15 March 2013



Hummus could easily be mistaken for naughty food. It's smooth and creamy, goes exceedingly well with crunchy treats and has an amazing savoury, earthy flavour. Little does my greedy belly know it's a pretty healthy treat. "It'll give your insides a good sweeping" is how my eloquent father would put it.

I came to love hummus late in life. We never would have dreamed of eating chickpeas at home. Wheat was the only grain we consumed, and it came in the form of white bread or the flour used in sponge cakes. Chickpeas, barley and other "fancy" grains were found in the chook food, not in your dip bowl. The extent of our canned food was baked beans, spaghetti or tomatoes for Mum's famous savoury mince. That said, I think we ate very well in our house and I still have much to learn about how to feed a tribe from my lovely Mum. Our tribe of two is not so challenging at this point.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Rice paper rolls

Rice paper rolls

It's arrived! It's arrived! Melbourne, your cool change has hit and we're all on speaking terms with Mother Nature again. I can use my kitchen, ride my bike, walk at lunchtime. I can go to bed not dreading another night tossing and turning. It's cooled down (chilly even) and we're all walking around with foolish grins on our faces.

When it's as crazy hot as it has been and for as long as it has been, no one feels like lighting an oven. We fired up the barbie and grilled some chicken and steaks (though I realise in hindsight I shouldn't have even done that, being a total fire ban and all). Rice paper rolls are my hot night go to dish of summer - they're refreshing and cooling but you still get to knock up a nice meal (and I don't mean get it pregnant).

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Toasty with the mosty

Ham and cheese toasted sandwich

It's been 36 for the past couple of days in Melbourne. Normal people would have a salad for dinner and call it a day. Not I. I decide I can only manage a sandwich, but get carried away to the point I have the stove on for 30 minutes, heating the house beyond any reasonable person's breaking point.

Normally Melbourne is gorgeous in summer. Sure, it gets hot but a cool change usually sweeps in by 7pm and this Sweaty Betty can have a cool shower and sleep soundly all night long. The last few summers have been an entirely different story. We spend our evenings in front of a pathetic fan, wrestling sheets trying to get cool, slipping in and out of consciousness until the alarm sounds at 6.30am. If you think that sounds a touch dramatic, you'd be right. But you've probably also slept more than two hours straight over the past week, so our levels of acceptable drama are probably not equal right now.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The long weekend and a dried fruit smoothie

Dried fruit smoothie

My breakfast of choice is All Bran with skim milk and a banana. Enough energy to jump on my beautiful bike and ride the ten kilometers to work, and healthy enough not to worry about my arteries clogging before lunchtime. But there are some days where Boring Bran just won't cut the mustard, much less a banana.

We just arrived back from a long weekend at Golden Plains festival. It was an absolute corker. George Clinton, The Mark of Cain, Cat Power and a bunch of other talented peeps kept us entertained on the lush grasses of a sweet Meredith farm for hours on end. The rest of the time we played the card game Whist and I proved myself to be quite the erratic card player. I'd putter along with scores in the low teens and then pull a 77 from out of nowhere. Consistency is most certainly not my middle name.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Cinnamon almond cookies

Cinnamon almond cookies

Every once in a while, you find a new favourite thing. I have a pair of wedges I've almost worn through. My new black suit for work will need elbow patches in a month if I'm not careful. My shiny red bike is just about the best thing to ever happen to me. But a favourite new biscuit? Obsess much, Bennetto? How is it possible to bake that many biscuits you have a favourite? Biscuit Bonanza might give you an idea of how much I'm "into" cookies. Cookie-crazy. Bananas for biscuits.

This recipe is from Professional Baking again. I won't list the recipe cos that'd be cheating. But the theory is you make the dough from a sweet mix of butter, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, almonds and egg yolks, roll it up into a log and freeze it. Cut off as many rounds as you like and bake for about 20 minutes. It'll keep in the freezer for as long as you like. You can be all Martha Stewart-like and whip up some fresh biscuits whenever you have guests. They'll be totally taken with ease you seem to operate in the kitchen. You'll start being invited to all kinds of fancy soirees. The high society will sing your praises. Eventually you'll be admitted to the Order of Australia and you'll be up on the podium thinking about where it all began. You'll think of me. Or Wayne Glassman. He's the guy that actually wrote the recipe.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Passionfruit yoyos

Passionfruit yoyos

This biscuit bonanza has taught me one thing: biscuits are probably the quickest treat to whip up on a work night. Seriously, none of the recipes have been longer than a couple of lines, and they all generally start with "cream the butter and sugar...". All of these recipes have been prepared and popped into the oven within 15 minutes. The 10-15 minutes they take to cook has been spent cleaning the (minimal) mess. Biscuits are officially the lazy man's dessert.

We've had a little deal at work recently. Everyone is giving up one thing for the month and any loss of willpower results in a forced donation to a team fund. I've already slipped up twice (pastries on the weekend and an icecream tonight. You'd be eating icecream too if you rode home in 33 degree heat). Part of my deal was that I'd give up all sweets: icecream, cakes, chocolate, lollies and biscuits, but I could still sample one biscuit if I'd cooked it for my blog. I could hardly put up a recipe that hadn't been thoroughly tested. See how selfless I am? Taking one for my virtual team.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Vegan hazelnut cookies

Vegan hazelnut cookies

A guy in my team at work celebrated his seventh year with the organisation recently. When I remember to cook, I normally bake a little treat to acknowledge their hard work. This occasion represented a new challenge. When I first started at my new job, he joked that he was the 'V' word. Being the most inappropriate supervisor around, I automatically asked if he was a virgin. No Emma, not a virgin, but a vegan. Phew.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

These. These are classics. I know I'll be preaching to the choir when I tell you these are some of the best biscuits going 'round. And if you haven't yet discovered the joy that is peanut butter and chocolate chips combined, you're welcome/I'm sorry.

Matt and I were in Ballarat on the weekend with Mum. He was meeting the Burke side of the family for the first time. We managed to go a whole meal without an someone poking someone else in the boob (a genetic trait for all Mum's side of the family, one I seem to have inherited in spades). We enjoyed Nanna's ginger fluff sponge (by way of Aunty Margaret), cheese puffs, sandwiches, Mum's sausage rolls and a date loaf that wouldn't quit. Amazing.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The three Cs: cherry, coconut, chocolate

Cherry ripe cookies

Do you remember when the icecream-version of chocolate bars came out? In Australia, two of the most celebrated chocolate bars are the Crunchie and the Cherry Ripe bar. I distinctly remember the day Sarah and I stumbled upon the Icecream Crunchie in the local milk bar. She declared it the best icecream ever made. To this day, it ranks up there with Light and Tangy chips as a game-changing snack food (there's such a thing in the Bennetto household. We also have a deal-breaking spag bol, if you must know.)

The Cherry Ripe icecream was not met with such adulation. It was good - don't get me wrong. But the key to a good icecream crossover is to be better than the original. That's a big ask with the Cherry Ripe. This chocolate is hard to top. Even though the chocolate was dark (a big no-no to our teenaged tastes), the cherry and the coconut was such a cracker combination we couldn't pass it up.

Friday, 1 March 2013

The checker cookie

Checker cookies

You'll need some miniscule pieces to play chinese checkers on these babies, but at the very least you'll have an entertaining cookie to gaze upon. This, like the facecake, is a treat you'll need to explain to people before they'll take a bite. They'll doubt the veracity of your explanation. They might think them the work of the devil. They'll even suspect they're shopbought (you may notice I placed "the work of the devil" before "shopbought". This was not an accident). But only you will know the love and attention you gave these sweeties to bring them into this cruel world.