My latest Gourmet Traveller magazine arrived in the mail yesterday. Whenever an issue arrives, my heart skips a beat. I put it in the bottom of the pram [I check the mail when we’re on our way back from the park], plastic wrapping untouched, and I give it pride of place on my coffee table until after Xander’s last feed, when I finally allow myself the pleasure of slipping off the plastic wrapping and lifting open the glossy cover for the first time.
It’s indulgent; a luxury I would not be able to justify except for the fact that I renewed my subscription before taking maternity leave, so I feel no guilt when each issue arrives. It’s like a free magazine!
What I love about this magazine is the inspiration and the courage it gives me to try new techniques and foods. I have had no professional training, so everything I know comes from magazines, cookbooks, dining experiences and cooking shows – and the hours of whisking meringue that I vaguely recall from childhood.
I love experimenting with flavours and food ideas. I am definitely not in the same league as Aki and Alex, but I like to think I am a creative spirit.
Take the meal we had on Monday night. My friend Hayley and her partner joined us for a barbecue dinner. I wanted to make it a little different, so I cut six steaks in half and marinated them three ways:
- honey + dark soy sauce + sesame oil;
- lime juice + kaffir lime leaves (about 4, finely chopped) + sambal oelek + olive oil; and
- crushed green peppercorns + balsamic vinegar + ground white, pink & black peppercorns + salt + olive oil.
Our three-ways-steaks went perfectly with the salad sides. For dessert, I gave our guests the choice of leftover sticky date pudding and mudcake – and icecream ginger kisses.
To make the icecream ginger kisses, I used softish gingerbread rounds and small scoops of softened vanilla icecream: I placed the icecream on one cookie, smooshed it a little as I pressed on another round, then I cleaned the excess from around the sides with a spatula. Put them on a tray in the freezer for a few hours, and voilá!
These worked out really well, and I would consider serving them in the future, perhaps wrapped with a strip of baking paper.
They were super-simple to make because I actually made the gingerbread before Christmas and froze half the dough. About two weeks ago, I thawed the dough and used it to make round and star-shaped cookies.
Recipe #5: Gingerbread. Makes around 80 cookies that keep for around 3 months in an airtight container. I can’t claim this recipe – it’s from Sarah Brigden.
You will need: 750g plain flour; 40g ginger; 1tsp bicarb soda; 1tsp baking powder; 450g brown sugar; 300g golden syrup; 150g butter. Note that you can substitute other spices for ginger (eg. allspice). Add some water & don’t roll it very thinly if you want softer cookies.
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl together and make a well in the centre. Melt the golden syrup and butter together until runny. Pour this into the dry ingredients. Mix into a firm dough. Rest it for around 30 mins before using. Cut into cookies and bake in a 170°C oven for 10-15 mins (until just turning golden). Delicious.
Don’t throw out your excess dough. Bake it, in whatever shape it’s left, let it cool and save it in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Smashed up biscuit and pastry remnants are perfect for cheesecakes bases!
I love it when experiments work out. Another one I tried in the last few months was choc-coated candied lemons. I made the candied lemon slices to accompany a lemon tart and had at least half leftover. I reduced them over a low heat then semi-coated the slices with dark chocolate, leaving me with a truly scrumptious after-dinner treat:
There was one issue that I will rectify for next time: I should have added more sugar to really harden the peel. I was enamoured with the slightly gooey result, however I would serve a more finished product to guests.
Until next time,