Linden Font

Friday, 28 June 2013

Strawberry and custard tartlette

Strawberry and custard tartlette

The final tartlette to round out our trio of pastry treats.

This is simplicity, tartified.

More suited to summer but we all need a bit of fresh zing in our lives, even in the depths of winter. By the way, did I mention my tulips are peaking their noses out of the soil? I musta looked crazy, staring nose to dirt squealing and clapping my hands at the ground. But it may explain my obsession with warmer seasons.

These little strawberries were shipped down from Queensland - the season's first. I opened the lid and that distinctive strawberry smell started floating out. My guilt about buying strawberries completely out of season was beginning to subside. But then, guilt over fruit purchases has never really kept me up at night.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Chocolate rhubarb tart

Chocolate rhubarb tart

Winter always seems so depressing: it goes on forever, dark and gloomy, and I can never seem to get warm. The other night, I hopped into bed and it was so freezing, the one side of my body not touching the electric blanket ached the whole night through. It didn't help I'd been krumping half the night and left the window open in our bedroom for the midnight chill to settle in.

But I actually love winter. By the time summer has petered out in Melbourne, I'm well and truly ready for a bit of cool relief. Our summers are a slow burn, and culminate to a three to four week stint of stupidly hot weather that is just unrelenting. Autumn rolls in and we're instantly drinking red wine and making stews.

I love getting home, turning up the heater full bore and snuggling under the blanket until Matty gets home. Dinner is baked (often accompanied by a healthy glass of red) and we watch telly or read. (Who am I kidding? The only thing I'm reading after dinner is celebrity gossip websites. Britney's daily grocery shops won't perve on themselves.) Then it's time to make the made dash to the cold half of the house and warm up all over again.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Quince and pistachio tartlette

Quince and pistachio tartlette

My friend Lesley and I have at least one thing in common: a very inappropriate sense of humour. We laugh as hard and as often as possible, quite often at the most inopportune moments.

Once, in a free meditation session at work designed to de-stress, we were doing neck stretches, turning our heads slowly side to side. We managed to face each other only once and as soon as we made eye contact we were away. We were asked more than once to stop laughing, but it was useless - I couldn't get the picture of her suppressed laughter out of my head. The snorts were unstoppable.

The 'out of order' attitude extends to our nicknames for each other: she's the Old Tart, and I'm the Tartlette. Some might be offended by these name tags, but I guess we're pretty assured of our affection for each other (either that, or we've both accepted the fact we're tarts and have moved on).

Monday, 24 June 2013

Engagement party: the food and more

Engagement party

This weekend we had a little do to celebrate our engagement. Given our teeny little flat was the venue, we had only about 30 friends and family. Matt's work schedule is a little crazy and there was no weekend that would work really well for anyone. One day we just picked a date and three weeks later we were hosting a party in our living room.

My mum came to Melbourne three days ahead of time to help me prepare. She did such a fantastic job baking for me: I would write a list each day, go to work and when I walked through the doors each night, my chores for the day were miraculously finished. It was as though the baking fairies had broken in, baked, did the dishes and disappeared before I came home. What a lady.

The food was months in the making: before we'd even set a date for the party, I was conjuring up recipes to serve to my lovely friends on the night. Hors d'oeuvres need to be substantial enough to mop up the free-flowing booze, but small enough to be eaten in two bites. No one needs wagyu burger walked into their carpets, especially in a rental.

Over the next week, I'll pass on some special recipes from the big night. We enjoyed a range of dishes, all small in a size but big in flavour. I had a couple of friends with dietary restrictions so you'll pick up some gluten and lactose free dishes to whip out at your next dinner party.

Engagement party

Desserts were abundant, as all good desserts should be. We loaded a table up with bits and pieces for people to load up their plates with. At one stage, my buddy Andrew was helping himself to a plateful of goodies. Mum approached him with an offer for plastic wrap, assuming he was taking it home. Embarrassed, he responded "No, I'm just going back to the couch to eat these." He didn't even bother to pretend he was sharing.

The food was only part of the celebration, of course. We had amazing artwork on display from my very talented mother (I like to think I inherited her multitude of talents, but really I just know how to gussy up a cake), gorgeous Edison-style string lights from my beautiful brainy brother, platters and glasses from Matt's family and friends and free-flowing champagne from two of my very generous friends.

We made a very short speech on the night and of course thanked my Mum for helping us put on the show. But I should have perhaps mentioned that my main man has been incredible to me recently. I've experienced a rough patch of late and he's been so solid, so dependable, so understanding. He makes it very easy to be sure about marriage.

I swear, I'll be back to my normal, sarcastic self shortly. You people need to stop being so nice - you're sucking my will to tease!

Engagement party

Friday, 21 June 2013

World's best roast potatoes

Roast potatoes

That's one inflammatory blog post title if I've ever read one. Everyone thinks they make the best roast spuds. That, or their mother's can't be beat. I'm here to tell you you're wrong. As usual.

Our roast spuds were always cooked alongside the lamb they were accompanying. The delicious lamby juices would penetrate the little starchy nuggets so they'd be not only crispy but meaty at the same time. If there's one thing that improves vegetables, it's meat. (Sorry vegetarians, I'm in one of those moods).

I've modified Mum's tricks but stuck with the key concept - potatoes are a great little vehicle for more dominant flavours, particularly when they're all crunchy and golden. I keep them out of the meat tray when roasting: sometimes the meat can cause the potatoes to sog up. No one like a soggy spud.

I also veer away from the regular old olive oil. How do you feel about duck fat? I know, I know. It's goose fat's poor cousin, but we will have to make do on this occasion. I kid. Duck fat is like a great tan: great in the searing heat, completes the look, but will probably kill you in the long run. Yolo, amiright?

Roast potatoes

You've probably seen some of these tips on the telly before. Boil the spuds beforehand. Rough'em up a bit like they talked smack about your mother. Garlic and something herby (not that herb). But the most important tip: patience.

Stop opening the oven door. I can see you lingering there, pacing back and forth wondering if they're done. When you're at that point, put the timer on for 30 minutes. That's how wrong you were. Totes wrong.

Don't turn the heat up either. Just leave them be. Jeez. Go do something else. Watched pot and all that, yeah?

Roast potatoes

What kind of tots to use? A coliban's good (and can be found in a supermarket pretty easily) and a King Edward also rocks, but is probably more easily found at a farmer's market. A sebago or pontiac will also do the trick. You're looking for a good floury morsel: probably the only time in this life you'll use that term. Embrace it.

You may have read all of this and still be thinking, "But Emma, I do all these things, my potatoes are pretty great, but not earth shattering." Well, my friend, you may have done all of these things separately, but it's the culmination of all these tips that hits the spud out of the park and splatters it against a mesh fence. A synergy, if I may.  And I may. And you should too.


8 medium floury potatoes, peeled
sea salt and pepper
4 tbsp duck fat
your favourite fresh herb (like sage, thyme or rosemary)
1 small head of garlic

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the duck fat in a roasting pan and pop in the oven around halfway through preheating.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Chop the potatoes into pieces around 4-5cm wide. Salt the water and add the potatoes. Boil for around 8 minutes and drain. Scuff up the potatoes in your colander.

Add the potatoes to your roasting pan and roast for at least one hour, turning half way through cooking. They may need another 15 minutes, but will take longer if you keep opening the door. You have been warned.

Roast potatoes

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Carrot, capsicum and currant salad

Carrot capsicum and currant salad

Have I mentioned I love alliteration?

We're in the depth of winter. The solstice is just around the corner and we'll begin to see the other side of the darkness. In these chilly months, it's easy to dig into the stodge until your pants are more than a little snug. Welcome to Muffintoptown: population 2.

After two very long days at work, I sprinted home a little early on my bike. My ride is leisurely. It gives me the chance to process my day, wind down and plan my dinner in my head. Some days I'm thinking of all the things I should have said to that smart-ass over the phone, others I'm laughing at Andrew and Kaye grinding behind a director's back. By the time I jump off the bike, I'm hungry, motivated and giggling about dance moves.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Creamy kipfler potato bake

Creamy kipfler potato bake

Some nights you need to climb onto the couch and not move until someone brings you food. That food should be stodge-tastic - comforting right down the the soles of your feet.

Tonight was one of those nights. It's rainy and cold and Matty had punctured the tire on his bike. I hurtled across town to pick him up, the spuds baking away all the while. Oh the anticipation - talk about keeping yourself in suspenders!

We arrived home to this little piece of heaven coming out of the oven. We pared it with a little grilled chicken and some green beans, though I have to admit I barely touched them. The potatoes were so melty and gorgeous. It was one of those situations were you start eating and realise 20 minutes later you've consumed the better part of 500g of potatoes. Uh-huh, like that.

Creamy kipfler potato bake

Kipflers are a beaut type of spud for this recipe. They hold their shape well on baking, even in liquid. But one bite and they're soft and luscious inside. They also take on the flavours they're baked in: in this case, a little cheesy, a little creamy, a lot yummy.

My word to the wise? Don't have any grand, productive plans for the remainder of the night. For the same reason you decided on comfort food, you will be completely unable to move after this dish. Pull on your fluffy slippers, queue up your favourite television shows and curl up under a blanket. You won't see the light of day for a little while. Food coma commence...... now!


1 kg kipfler potatoes
250ml cream
250ml chicken stock
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp mustard
salt and pepper

Creamy kipfler potato bake

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Chop each potato to around 4cm square in size.

Heat the cream and chicken stock over a low heat. Once the cream begins to simmer, add the mustard, paprika and cheese. Add the potatoes and seasoning and place into the oven. Bake for around 1 hour or until liquid has reduced and potatoes are soft.

Creamy kipfler potato bake

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sorry for the delays!

Hi guys,

I'm having a few troubles with getting my posts to launch. They're normally scheduled to publish at 6am, but for some reason they've not been going live. I'm having a fiddle around with things to see what's wrong, and hopefully I'll work it out in a jiffy.

In the meantime, pork, pistachio and sage sausage rolls have just gone live - dig in!


Pork, pistachio and sage sausage rolls

Pork, pistachio and sage sausage rolls

When we were growing up, no matter the occasion, birthdays, weddings, picnics, the kids always enjoyed Mum's homemade sausage rolls. It was our parents' default defence to the skirt-pulling, whingey-whiney, fusspot-extraordinaire children they had produced. A smear of tomato sauce and we were away.

Mum's recipe was simple: a healthy line of sausage mince over a square of puff pastry, finely chopped onions, some curly parsley and a little S&P. I must admit to this day I can't resist sneaking a few when Mum pulls them from the oven. But this woman is the high priestess of pastry so I'm bound to be powerless to her little savoury charms. As well as sausage rolls, she made family sized pies, pasties and all manner of sweet treats. It's any wonder I'm considering forming a support group for pastry addicts.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Canelles - the epic meeting treat


Ever sat in a meeting, nodding along like "Aw yeah, I'm with ya, I'm hearing whatcha bleatin'." But really, it's all in one ear, swirling about an empty cavity and out the other side? Ya, that's me on a semi regular basis.

Thankfully, I shed my inhibitions a long time ago. That, and the shame that goes with asking, "What? I totally wasn't listening." Today was one of those days.

I regularly daydream of winning tattslotto and what I'd say to my colleagues if I did. Truthfully, it's something along the lines of, "You guys were actually fun to work with and, I'm not yanking you chain when I say this, I really did learn a lot." I actually like my job.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A lazy day baking

Brioche with honey

So what are you guys up to today? Slaving away for the man, taking timed toilet breaks and drinking insipid instant coffee over a crumb stained desk? I thought so. I, meanwhile, have been tucked away in my warm little house, baking and watching cooking shows. It's a hard life.

Two days off (on top of the three we had for the long weekend in Victoria) has proven incredibly fruitful for my baking stocks. I've made some sausage rolls (pork with pistachio and sage), cronuts (uh-huh, those cronuts), regular donuts and some sneaky treats for a meeting at work. Happy days. But my greatest success over the last 5 days? A new brioche technique.

A long weekend

Matt and I travelled back to his family's property in Yackandandah, in northern Victoria for the Queen's birthday long weekend.

I took some amazing photos. Oh the visual wizardry I weaved with my little ol' powershot. You shoulda seen 'em. Unfortunately, I deleted the photos by accident. They will be relegated forever to the memory card of my brain, but nevermore my camera. Such a cruel world.

So while you don't get to see the lush rolling hills of Yack, I can give you a couple of handy tips if you're ever in the area. First, hit up the Yack bakery. The Beechworth bakery is about 30 minutes away, more famous and flashy, but the Yack bakery is where it's at. Plain old beef pies are a hit in Matt's household, and I can vouch for the pasties and the cream puffs.

Beechworth does hold a couple of real gems: Provenance is a two-hatted restaurant on the main street. Like the rest of this historic town, it's a gorgeous old stone building, ornate rooms and a well-stocked cellar where the bank vault used to live. The food (as I've been reliably informed) is fantastic, inspired stuff: dishes that would be at home in the city but all the better for it in the country.

Stanley is about a 45 minute drive from Yackandandah. My top tip? Ask a local how to get there. When visiting with our friend's Dom and Amanda and relying on the iPhone, we ended up driving through a national forrest, via old twisty dirt roads. If my memory serves me correctly, we may have had to move branches from the road at one point. Hairy times.

The Stanley pub is a picturesque little hot spot in the middle of a sleepy town otherwise famous for it's apples (and cider).

Friday, 7 June 2013

Our Berlin adventure

Holocaust memorial

It's been almost a year since Matt and I visited Europe. Their summer (dead of our winter) was the setting for our first trip together, and my first visit to Berlin. I'd been to almost all our other locations (apart from Turkey) and was excited to see something new. My cousin Jo had mentioned it reminded her of Melbourne, and I have to say I was totally on board with that assessment.

I was so excited to go, Matt was less so. When he asked what sights I wanted to see, I started listing them off: "Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate..." He started giggling almost immediately. I looked at him strangely, wondering why he was laughing at possibly the most inappropriate things. "Brandenburg Gate? You're making that up." He seriously thought it was a fictional name I had created as a joke. When we actually saw the Gate firsthand, he started laughing again. Nothing I could say could convince him it was a real place until the tour guide confirmed it.

Our first day there was tiring. The transport to and from the airport is not fantastic, which is surprising given how amazing their public transport is within the central city. Trains and trams are really easy to use (granted, we're public transport fiends in Melbourne).

Holocaust memorial

It was also our second time using Air BnB. We'd picked a place in Paris but to be honest, it was pretty underwhelming. Our Berlin apartment was a great surprise: high ceilings, minimalist decor and super spacious. It was also in a great neighbourhood with loads of bars and restaurants nearby to settle in after a long afternoon seeing the sights.

We took one of the best tours of our holiday in Berlin. Fat Bike Tours took us around the city to see most of the historic sights. I was a little terrified: I hadn't ridden a bike in decades and was sure I would fall/crash/die of exhaustion. Instead, I found my calling in this life: tootling around town on two wheels for hours and ending it all with a beer in a gigantic beer garden. It was this tour that convinced me to buy a bike when I returned home to Australia. My bike is from Papillionaire, and if you're interested, I get an average of two compliments for every ride (though that might be my hot ass.)

Berlin bike ride

One thing I was not expecting was the crazy heat. It was the middle of summer; I should have realised. But after a day of wandering I was a nasty shade of pink. There's nothing more embarrassing than sunburn: you're completely unaware of your surroundings and totally out of touch with your health. That pretty much sums me up, to be honest.

But it wasn't all beers and schnitzels (though there was a lot of that). We visited the Berlin Wall and heard stories of attempted escapes, most unsuccessful. It amazed me how recent all this was, particularly given the exceptionally peaceful vibe of the city today.

We also visited the Holocaust Memorial (otherwise known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe). For me, it was really important to experience this first hand: walk through the towering blocks, stand in silence, take it all in. It was far more haunting and kind of frightening than I had thought it would be. The museum is also a fascinating, albeit incredibly sad way to learn more about that point in history.

Holocaust memorial

Less sombre, more eaty? Let's talk food. Breakfast was pretty good. We visited a pub up the road on day and had a typical German breakfast. Did you know hard boiled eggs are a staple breakfast food? We enjoyed our breakfast and some great espressos but found we felt a little queasy afterwards. We're totally blaming the eggs and not the several pints of beer the night previous. I also sampled the second best potato salad I've ever eaten (my friend Marlena's is first - she's German too so it must in the water).

Our final night (after being drenched in a freak downpour) we visited a restaurant up the road from our apartment and tried possibly the best schnitzels we'd eaten. We both finished some pretty large servings and wandered back to our cosy little nook for a good night's rest before our flight the following day.

Holocaust memorial

Our departure was not quite as easy. We were all packed, ready and on time. But one thing was wrong. Our flight was not listed on the board. Probably because we were at the wrong airport. A mad dash across the city with the world's fastest cab driver and we arrived with literally seconds to spare. It's so funny, you go crazy trying to get to check in on time, but then spend an hour shooting the breeze waiting for boarding. Anyway, we made it.

How could I sum up Berlin? It's comfortable, relaxed and incredibly laid back in nature. The parks are amazing and people actually use them. Riding seemed like a preferred form of transport and the food, while pretty heavy, was so, so tasty. I just loved Berlin. And I think Jo was right, I felt so at home, it almost felt like I was in Melbourne.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Banana brioche bread and butter pudding

Banana brioche bread and butter pudding

I love aliteration. But onto more important topics.

My favourite episode of overeating - there have been so many I can narrow down a "favourite" - was at the Melbourne meateaters institution Vlado's. Meat on meat on meat. And a side salad. By the time dessert rolled around (strawberry crepes) I was actually nearly crying. I had, as Joey Tribiani would call it, the meat sweats.

I was at the stage in my life where I felt it would be rude to leave food on my plate. I'm over it now (mostly). Growing up, we were the family that couldn't leave the table until our meals were finished. On the positive side it taught us to sample different foods and be a little adventurous.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A Ritzy chocolate tart

Chocolate tart

You fool. You thought you'd had a chocolate tart before, didn't you? Well, I'm here to tell you you're wrong. This is the chocolate tart.

While planning our European adventure, I spent a little time (read: weeks and weeks) planning cooking classes. As it turns out, I only booked this one, but that's all I needed when this is the result.

We were in a rush on the day. We'd been to see Monet's garden and the bus ride took a little longer than we'd expected. It didn't help that I can't read a map to save myself and became hopelessly lost finding the venue.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Rigatoni with beef ragu

Rigatoni with beef ragu

So this weekend it rained constantly in Melbourne. Our garage flooded and the old rug we had on the floor now smells of wet dog. It's a glorious odour that is keeping us a healthy distance from the offending carpet.

The rain kept us indoors, snug as two bugs in a several rugs. I spent the weekend pottering around the kitchen, slow cooking marvellous creations. All this in between watching many, many movies. It's a hard life.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Chicken with forty cloves of garlic

Chicken with forty cloves of garlic

I was fortunate enough to be selected for a crazy week-long retreat at work late last year. Normally, I hear the words "work retreat" and start shivering with cynicism. I hate the touchy feely crap and can't stand networking. My beautiful friend Melanie had possibly the worst experience at one event. She was stuck with women she didn't really gel with and had completely run out of questions for a totally bland companion. "Emma", she told me, "I asked her if she liked sports. Sports, Emma."

I went and was surprised. It was amazing. I was challenged physically, emotionally, professionally. There was one aspect I don't think I'll ever forget. We made the trek out to a gorgeous wooded area. The trees were tall and connected by a series of ropes. This did not bode well for someone with a deathly fear of heights.