Friday, November 25, 2011

What's Happening at the Farmers' Market!

Tis the season for cherries at the Farmers' Market this morning - some were served up in pre-weighed bowls, some in massive piles of ruby red orbs and, disturbingly, some handed out by a man dressed in a large cherry suit (I kid you not) and scaring small children with his high-pitched squeals.  Truly frightening.


In other good news, the stonefruit vendor is back with his trays of nectarines and peaches - just follow the crowds to find him, and expect to line up for your tray.


Apart from that, oranges in their net bags are back, there are black buckets of green beans (snow beans and flat beans - this photo has not been retouched, they are just this shade of green!) and piles of lettuce.  Plaited garlic strands are back too, just in time for Christmas.

26 nov

Sadly, my favourite potato man has opened up a store in Orange and is no longer coming down to the market, or so Anne the Egg Lady tells me.  And he promised me Tasmanian pink eyes this season too!  Unfortunately, I think Orange might be a little too far for me to go for a bag of potatoes.  Sob sob.

So with cherries and stonefruit everywhere I look, it's time to put up the Christmas tree!

Farmers markets nov 26

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Buttermilk Choc-Chip Muffins


There are some things you just have to have and, when the craving strikes, you may need to make do with the contents of your pantry or fridge to get them from the oven to the plate as quickly as possible.  As fate would have it, when the hunger for a muffin fresh out the oven and oozing with melted chocolate chips struck, I was the proud owner of a quarter of a carton of buttermilk and a half-finished packet of dark chocolate chips.  Oh, and the small remnants of a packet of shredded coconut.

This is a great way to use up your leftover buttermilk which, if you're anything like me, ends up getting chucked out when I discover that it's out of date in the next fridge purge.  And you can substitute all the "flavouring" ingredients (coconut/cinnamon/choc-chips) with anything you happen to have handy - provided it all weighs 200 grams total.  So be creative and add in some mashed banana, crushed peanuts or grated apple instead.  Don't leave out the buttermilk though - it's the secret ingredient!


These muffins - which turned out so light and moist - are the result of the odds and ends in my pantry (and fridge) and nothing else.  Desperation is the mother of invention after all.  I recommend wolfing them down fresh out of the oven, preferably while still steaming, and they're even better if you have a cup of coffee on hand too.  Leftover muffins should be blitzed for 10 seconds in the microwave before you eat them - you want the chocolate chips melty and delicious when you dive in.

Buttermilk Choc-Chip Muffins

-  220 grams self-raising flour (sifted)
-  3/4 caster sugar (I love raw caster sugar)
-  1/2 cup sunflower oil
-  1 cup buttermilk
-  1 teaspoon vanilla essence
-  1 egg, beaten
-  150 grams chocolate chips
-  50 grams shredded coconut
-  1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Firstly, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius and line your baking tins with muffin liners (I have a large supply of various colours and styles but kept to a simple black liner for this very basic, unpretentious recipe).


Next, in a small bowl or jug combine all the wet ingredients (buttermilk, sunflower oil, beaten egg and vanilla essence) and combine thoroughly.

In a larger bowl, add the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, shredded coconut, cinnamon and chocolate chips).  Make a well in the centre and add your wet ingredients.  Combine quickly by folding and stop as soon as it's properly mixed.  You don't want to over-mix as this will make your muffins chewy and pretty average, to tell you the truth.


Spoon the batter into your lined muffin tins, about two-thirds full.  Don't dollop it any higher than the edge of your liner, as these rise quite a bit.


Sprinkle some reserved shredded coconut and a few choc-chips on top of each muffin, then pop the tins in the oven for 15-20 minutes.  My oven is hotter at the back, so I switched the tins around half way through.


I didn't bother letting all of the muffins cool down on the racks - I love them fresh out of the oven while the choc-chips are still melty.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Green Bean Salad


I have often been told that the recipes I describe as "easy" are anything but.  However, this time, I bring you a recipe that is really, truly super simple.  I promise.  It also has the benefit of being zesty and a crowd pleaser at a BBQ - having tested it out this weekend, I can attest to that!

This recipe is my attempt at recreating the green bean and pistachio oil salad introduced to me at Camont by Kate Hill.  I'm not sure I can top the atmosphere, but this turned out pretty well.  I guess the only trick to the recipe is sourcing the pistacho oil, which you can buy at Essential Ingredient and the Italian Deli at the Fyshwick Markets.  It jazzes up a salad dressing beautifully.



Green Bean and Pistachio Oil Salad

- 800 grams crispy, fresh green beans
- 1/4 cup pinenuts
- 3 tablespoons pistachio oil
- 1/2 lemon
- pinch of sea salt

Select the freshest, crispiest green beans you can find and don't forget to pick up some pistachio oil where you can.  This is the secret ingredient for this recipe.




Chop the ends off the green beans and drop them in a pot of boiling water.  Watch them carefully - you don't want them to go soggy.  This should take around 5-8 minutes.

While the beans are cooking, put your pinenuts in a glass or ceramic bowl and pop in the microwave on high for 1 minute.  You may need a second minute to roast them until they're golden brown but it will depend on the strength of your microwave.  Allow them to cool in the hot bowl, as they will continue to crisp up.

Drain the green beans in a colander.  You don't want them to keep cooking, so run them under cold water.


While the beans are still warm, place them in a large salad bowl and drizzle the pistachio oil over the top.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top and then grate the zest of the lemon over the top.  Finally, sprinkle the pinenuts over the salad and serve immediately.  The lemon and pistachio scents will waft up with the steam and beg you to eat them.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Holiday Memories



The jet lag has finally abated, my work in-box is looking a little more reasonable, the head cold I picked up enroute home is marginally better and the weather is, at long last, warming up and drying out!  I have tidied, slept, worked, jogged and shopped - finally my mind has turned to recording the last few days of our cooking course in Camont.  I know you've all been waiting to hear all about our Coq au Vin, Cassoulet and Confit of Duck since my last post.  And let's not forget the pate, the rillette and the fig tarts, the green bean and lemon salad, and everything that is meltingly delicious about a white bean and caramelised leek salad.



Thank goodness Kate provided us with some lighter, summery options to tide us over until cassoulet weather arrives again.  Lovely bean salads will be featuring at BBQs all summer, if I am in attendance.  But in the meantime, the sun is shining through the pinoaks outside my apartment (and they have leaves!).

The memories of Camont are taking on the golden glow of past holidays, so it's best to get them down for you all before they dim into the haziness of warm, wine-filled sunny Gascon afternoons around Kate's table at Camont.



One of the most incredible things about the trip were the farmers' markets we visited.  It seems that there was always a village somewhere with a market going on and most of our mornings featured a trip to another beautiful town to pick up fresh produce for the day's cooking.  From tiny strawberries so sweet I'll never look at a store-bought strawberry again, to every type of cheese you could possibly imagine and a range of charcuterie that boggled the mind.  My need to photograph their produce seemed to be a source of endless amusement to friendly store-owners and producers wherever we went.


One wonderful afternoon we picked the last luscious figs from the trees in Kate's backyard, some black grapes from the vines above her terrace and whipped up a beautiful rustic tart. The pastry was very simple - flour, butter, almond meal - rolled out and covered with goat's cheese mixed with egg yolk, lemon rind and a dash of armagnac (no goat's cheese for me, given my allergy to the stuff, just a layer of golden quince jam), all tucked in at the sides and baked until bubbling with sweetness. Easy peasy and so delicious.

Tarte aux figs

Tarte aux figs

Tarte aux figs




Take me back to Camont, Kate! This sure beats my work-night dinner...