Lamington cake

My first visit to Australia was a very short one. It happened almost unintentionally as Sydney airport was the last stop on our way to New Zealand. We landed at 5am. The first thing I noticed was the heavy rain outside. Somehow I didn’t expect that! The picture of Australia I imagined had nothing to do with the reality I could see through the windows. Also, I guess after being high in the air for so many hours we expected the same light to meet us on the ground. Certainly not heavy rain!

My thoughts switched very quickly to my immediate needs as after a very long and emotionally difficult flight all we needed was a cup of coffee and a quiet place to enjoy it. It was quiet at the airport, that’s for sure! Hard to see a living soul if I want to be precise, not to mention a coffee or any kind of treat. All the coffee shops were closed and all the treats one could see were behind the windows of display fridges. That was a sad picture. All I could think was: “Is this how things are on this side of the world?” It makes me feel sad just thinking about it, even now. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect much from visiting an airport but visiting Australia for the first time I thought even airports would be more exciting. At least that’s how I saw things back then. (In our defence, we were very young).

Sometimes we see the world through different eyes. Sometimes things might look sad, and other times happy but that still might not be the real picture. So I’ll tell you about my first real visit to Sydney.

Just a few years later I had a chance to visit Sydney in a much happier mood to start with. The fact that our trip was to happen just after celebrating the new millennium in New Zealand attributed to the whole happy arrangement. Still happy from a glass or two of wine and most importantly for surviving the biggest threat mankind experienced, the millennium bug and all other unnamed bugs, we headed for another new experience. An Australia Day to celebrate in Sydney and I dare to say – the most glamorous city in Australia. How exciting!

Needless to say those days were as nothing we experienced before especially when it comes to watching the fireworks, eating the lamingtons and coping with the rain! Unexpectedly and far from our expectations, on that magnificent day it rained almost throughout the whole day and when it didn’t it was so humid that we wished for the rain to start again. We needed an excuse for hiding within the plastic raincoats we had to invest in on the spot (and I am never ever to show that picture of me in a raincoat of an undefined blue colour standing on an open field covered with wheat hay).

But I have to tell you that the fireworks around Darling Harbour were magnificent! And the lamingtons, well I still do remember those. These are their reincarnation. Beautiful, moist and festive. Enjoy!

Lamington cake

I used my favourite sponge cake, enriched with olive oil. Olive oil will give the cake an extra flavour as well as a different texture. This way the lamington base is thicker or sturdier if you like to see it that way.

110 g plain flour

145 g sugar

1/2 teaspoon aluminium free baking powder

3 eggs

100 ml milk

130 ml olive oil

150 g strawberry jam (I used this jam)

For cocoa icing:

120 g cocoa powder

220 g powdered sugar

50 ml warm water (or more if needed)

200 g desiccated coconut, to coat

Pre heat the oven to 180C. Grease a baking tin on the sides (I used 22cm round cake tin) or line it with baking paper.

Separate the eggs and whisk egg whites. Whisk for about 3-4 minutes or until they reach soft peak.

In a separate bowl sift flour, add baking powder and stir.

Whisk egg yolks with hand whisker add milk and good quality olive oil as this will affect the taste of the cake. Add flour to it and mix until you get smooth and thick batter. Add egg whites while gently string with spatula. Try not to brake the fluffiness.

Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 25 minutes. Check the cake with a cake tester before taking out of the oven.

Leave on the cooling rack to cool completely.

Slice the cake horizontally in half  and spread one half with the jam. Top with the other half and leave it to set (I left in in the fridge overnight).

To make the cocoa icing you need to sift the cocoa and the icing sugar into the bowl. Add hot water just to combine, melt and mix all ingredients. My suggestion is not to make it too runny.

Spread desiccated coconut onto a baking sheet.

Cut the cake into 12 slices. Dip each into the cocoa icing and leave for minute or two on the cooling rack for the extra cocoa liquid to drain. It is less messy that way.

Roll each slice of the cake in the desiccated coconut and leave on the cooling rack to dry before placing into cake box.

New year’s resolution and buckwheat waffles

I am definitely not one of those people with a New Year’s resolution thing or at least I don’t call them that. When I am ready, whether it’s the beginning of the year or not, I just go for it. Quite often  the change will be followed by a good or a bad thing, either stress or happiness, as those are the times when we need a change. And it has always worked for me.

This year, for some reason, it was different. Just approaching the New Year felt like I needed to do something for me, or at least call it my New Year’s resolution. The first thing that was inevitable was to have more rest! An unplanned holiday followed and I’ve begun to like this New Year’s resolution thing already. The other inevitable thing was to work more! I know! It’s an oxymoron really, but if you put things in the right order – it actually works! To explain; “to rest more” means to be more efficient at work so you don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter! You see, it’s simple really.

Now, the only thing that is staple in this story is the many different flours and other goodies that make wonderful things when combined together. That is present all the time, New Year’s resolution or not. It’s actually a rather good blend as making and baking feels like rest to me and at the same time you can call it – work. I told you it’s a simple and most logical explanation!

I’ve always seen waffle batter as a thicker version of the pancake batter, so that was my starting point when I started making waffles. Sadly, I am the biggest fan of waffles in my family, the rest of the family favours pancakes more, so I don’t make waffles often, and certainly not often enough to my satisfaction. So when one wants to indulge herself, what one does? She makes waffles and she chooses one of her favourite flours. This time it’s buckwheat flour.

Buckwheat and oat flour waffles with herb butter and maple syrup (gluten free)

150gr buckwheat flour

100 oat flour

250 ml buttermilk

2 egg – separated

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

butter for greasing the mould

Herb butter

100 gr unsalted butter

lemon zest

cardamom seeds

Maple syrup for serving

Separate eggs and whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until nice and fluffy and leave aside. Mix all dry ingredients (buckwheat and oat flour, baking soda, sea salt and cardamom) in one bowl, and mix all wet ingredients (egg yolks and buttermilk) in a separate bowl. Combine all in a large bowl then fold  in egg whites. Leave it to rest for half an hour, or up to an hour, before use.

Heat and grease waffle maker. Pour a big kitchen spoon of waffle batter and bake following the instructions of your waffle maker. I’ve got mine from my mother-in-law as a present but it was my father-in-law who gave me all the instructions as he was the main chef in their house when it came to waffles. I have to say that it all worked well, I just had to convince the rest of the family that waffles were the way to go for breakfast!

I’ve chosen to serve mine with herb butter and maple syrup. Butter can be made days in advance and I find this very helpful in the kitchen. Whip the butter with lemon zest and add cardamom seeds. Depending on how you like cardamom to appear in your meal you can keep if whole or grind using mortar and pestle. Wrap the butter in a clear wrap (making the shape of sausage) and leave it in the fridge overnight (or 30 minutes in a freezer if you are in a hurry). Serve on the top of warm waffles allowing butter to melt slowly. Top up with extra lemon zest and maple syrup. Mint goes really well with these waffles as it’s very refreshing.

Happy waffle making!

Christmas in september

Something rather interesting happened today but let me start from the beginning. I haven’t been shopping for a long time, but today I had to buy a Birthday present for a young boy and since I didn’t have a clear idea what to buy, I had to spend some time looking for the right present. In the beginning the shops looked the same, you know a book here and a toy over there and a lovely dress just the right shape and size (which I don’t really need because you have to be invited to a nice dinner or a party in order to wear a dress like that) and I see a big problem finding the right shoes…oh but do forgive me, we were on a completely different subject. Well, when a lady goes out shopping, she might as well make the most of it!

So I went into one of the big stores and just when I stepped off the escalator, still hoping that the perfect present (a book) would be there waiting for me, I found myself in the middle of a virtual forest of Christmas trees – plastic but amazingly authentic! And no sight of the shelves and a huge surprise. Strangely enough, we finished reading the Narnia book just a few days earlier and with an imagination like mine, even on a perfectly bright and sunny day, for a moment, I got quite a strange feeling that I am not in the right place or time! So obviously I had to snap out of it, just to realise that Christmas starts in September – in retail, and that sunny days are ahead of us as well as summer and I am living in the Southern hemisphere where December brings Summer and Christmas. No snow or cold weather, you have to walk through the big wardrobe for that purpose! Continue reading “Christmas in september”