Elizabeth David's Spiced Buns

Spiced buns

These buns are a bit of a classic in my family. My Dad is an excellent baker and every year around Easter I would always ask him to make hot cross buns. Once I had successfully convinced him to do so, he would pull out the old Elizabeth David paperback and get to work. Patience was definitely required, as the bread needed to prove twice and the finished rolls always needed to cool before he could put an icing cross across the top. During this process I would quite simply lose my mind, as the sweet and spicing scent of cinnamon would waft through the house. 

It wasn't until I started making these buns that I realised it was simply a spiced bun recipe, that could optionally be turned into hot cross buns. I was outraged - Dad had been holding back on me! I could have been eating these beauties more than once a year. This was likely the start of my adventures into atheism and my love affair with cinnamon. 

Recipe for 24 buns

  • 500g baking flour
  • 125g currants
  • 30g (1 sachet) of yeast
  • 280g of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 280g light brown sugar
  • 60g butter
  • 2 tsp of mixed sweet spices (mix of all spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar

Warm the milk to room temperature and use a few tablespoons to cream the yeast. Add the flour, salt, sugar and spices to a big mixing bowl or Kitchen Aid. Make a well in the centre and slowly pour in the creamed yeast, add the softened butter and the whole eggs. Gradually add in the rest of the milk, keeping an eye on the consistency. The dough should be soft and sticky, but in no way liquid. Once everything has combined add the currents and knead for 5-7 minutes.

Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rise for about 2 hours until it has doubled in size. I used our baby's changing room, as it is slightly warmer than the other rooms. Once the dough has doubled in size, bring it back to the kitchen and take out your aggression in bringing it back down to size. Divide the dough into small balls and kneed to shape. They should be plump and sticky. Resist the temptation to add lots of flour when kneading so they don't stick. This results in dry buns.

Place the buns on baking paper and allow to prove again until they have doubled in size. The should feel soft and light to the touch. Bake the buns at 190-200 degrees for 15-20 minutes, depending a lot on your oven and the size of the buns. Before the buns are ready to come out of the over (not a euphemism) boil the milk and sugar glaze until it is bubbly and syrupy. Brush the buns with the glaze while they are still hot. Provided that the dough was well matured, the crusts will be fine and soft and the glaze shouldn't be tacky or overly sticky.

[Big thank you to my mum for hunting down the cookbook and sending me the scans]

Who knew a cot could be so useful in proving bread!

Who knew a cot could be so useful in proving bread!

Hildegard von Bingen Biscuits

I first had those biscuits at my aunties place a few years ago. I remember how much I loved the taste of all the spices and how I thought they were the perfect biscuit to accompany a cup of tea. A few weeks back when we moved from Sydney to Hamburg I had the urge to make them and asked my aunty for the recipe.

I was surprised how super easy they are to make. It will take you under an hour from preparing the dough till trying the first biscuit from the hot baking tray. They are not as sweet as your usual biscuit and are perfect to store in a tin for a few weeks to have as a treat with your coffee or tea break (but they probably won't last that long as they are highly addictive!)

Recipe

  • 400g spelt wheat flour
  • 250g soft butter (unsalted)
  • 150g raw sugar
  • 200g almond flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp grated cloves
  • 2tsp grated galangal  (like ginger)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp nutmeg 

Beat butter and raw sugar until light and fluffy, then slowly add the eggs. Add flour, the almond flour and spices to the mix. Once the ingredients have combined into a dough roll into a cylinder form and slice into 1cm thick discs. Shape them as you like, the more rustic the better. 

Put the formed biscuits on a tray into the preheated oven at 170C for roughly 15minutes until biscuits start to slightly colour. 


Mary's Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup finished

My Mum is an extraordinary cook. Some of my earliest memories at home are of dinner parties that my parents threw. The pizza oven cracking and popping with red hot jarrah embers and the smell of good food wafting through the house. Even on a regular night, without guests or fanfare, my Mum will elicit moans of delight at the dinner table. She has a long repertoire of 'simple' dishes. For a good few years, we would eat this mushroom soup once a week. While she doesn't make it as often now (not sure why), I got thinking about it the other day. It's a nourishing soup that has a deliciously rich flavour and is very easy to make. I have added a few tweaks to the recipe, as sons are prone to do.

Recipe

  • 3 brown onions
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 500-700g mushrooms (champignons, field or button)
  • 1 handful of dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in a cup of boiling water
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1.5 litres of water
  • Good quality olive oil

Sweat the onions, celery and parsley*. Add the garlic after a few minutes, but don't allow to colour. While the sofrito is slowly frying clean up your mushrooms by peeling them or brushing them... which ever takes your fancy. Add as soon as the onions start to take colour and fry on a high heat until the water from the mushroom's is almost all evaporated. At this stage I added the soaked porcini and fried for a few minutes. Then add the potatoes, water from the porcini** and 1-1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes. Use a hand blender to bring to a think consistency. My mum famously says "we'll all be eating pureed food when we are older, so until then make sure there is some texture in your soups!". Words of wisdom I say. Season and serve with fresh olive oil, more black pepper and some crusty bread.

* Tweak 1: After making a few River Cafe soups with fried parsley in the sofrito, I haven't looked back and use it for nearly all soups.

** Tweak 2: I can't remember mum ever using dried porcini. Probably because they were imported from Italy and very expensive. Luckily you can now find quite affordable dried porcini in most good delis.

 

A little hiatus

Hamburg Home.jpg

It has been a while since we last posted, 5 months to be more precise. While we intended to only take a few months off, we ended up taking longer than expected. From October onwards Maria and I were very much in the throws of preparing our move from Sydney to Hamburg. I got a job offer and we thought it would be great to try life in Northern Europe again. Not that we weren't head of heals in love with Sydney, but with Maria being German and me spending a lot of time learning the language it made sense.

It also made sense as Maria was pregnant with our first child and it worked out perfectly for her to be able to spend her maternity leave surrounded by her German family and friends. Moving to the other side of the world, while pregnant is no mean feat. Add to that moving from summer to winter, an apartment hunt, customs enquiries, Christmas, 2 birthdays and work travel (for me that is), and you have a very busy few months.

The good news is that our beautiful daughter was born on March 1st and we are absolutely besotted. In lieu of sleep, we spend nearly all our time soaking her in and watching her gorgeous little face slowly discover her surroundings.

So, with that summary of the last 5 months behind us, it is back to our plans. We are hoping to integrate the blog into our lives again and share some more recipes from life in Hamburg. Likely optimistic with a newborn, but that is our intention. As she gets older we may also start sharing with you stories for her meals. This will of course require a bit of a disclaimer, as we wouldn't want people to think we feed our daughter 'mostly on Saturdays'!

To everyone that wrote nice comments and gave us feedback, thank you so much. My mum was particularly happy to find out that so many people liked her cannellini bean, artichoke and parmesan dip. 

Here's to more good meals as 3!!

Artichoke, Cannellini beans & Parmesan dip

When Maria and I were last in Perth visiting my family, my Mum (who is a fantastic cook) organised a big family dinner. As is the norm, we all stood around in the kitchen talking while my Mum put all the finishing touches on the evening's dishes and snacked on freshly made dips and matzos. They were all delicious, however the highlight was a this artichoke heart, cannellini bean and parmesan dip. We liked it so much that Maria and I have made it three times in the last 4 weeks. It's incredibly simple with the tartness of the artichoke hearts and lemon juice balancing the creaminess of the cannellini beans. The parmesan and parsley add a great depth and flavour as well. I have no doubt Maria and I will be making this for many years to come.

Recipe

  • 1 small tub of artichoke hearts
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans
  • Half a bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • Half a clove of garlic
  • Grated parmesan
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Good quality olive oil
  • A few tablespoons of water (should it not be creamy enough)

Combine the drained cannellini beans, artichoke hearts, parsley, garlic and 2 tablespoons of water in a blender. Blend together and add olive oil to loosen until the dip is the same consistency as hummus. Add half of the lemon juice to start and finely grated parmesan to taste. Continue to add lemon juice, parmesan and olive oil until the dip is well balanced. Should the parmesan thicken it up too much, add a few more tablespoons of water. Season to taste, garnish with coarsely chopped parsley and olive oil and, most importantly, serve with good bread or crackers and an aperitif!

Leek, Potato, Cavolo Nero & Cannellini bean soup

This soup is a staple in our house. It is essentially an adaptation of a classic potato, leak and rocket recipe my mum put us on to from Elizabeth David and the traditional potato and leak soup recipe from Maria's childhood. We added Cavolo Nero and cannellini beans to make it heartier and (even) more comforting. In colder months we make it about once a week, as it can be prepared so quickly and is exactly what you need when it is raining outside. There are two ways to make this soup, and both are good. Below is the long way, which is certainly the way you would make it if friends were coming around. However, dried beans can easily be replaced with drained tinned cannellini beans and a good quality stock cube can replace the broth and/or bean water.

Recipe

  • 2 large leeks
  • 1 bunch of cavolo nero
  • 5 waxy potatoes (we tend to use the dutch or desiree)
  • 100-200g of dried cannellini beans
    • Soak overnight, cook on a low simmer for 1-2 hrs with a few bay leaves and peppercorns. When in doubt, always go for slightly undercooked as the alternative is mushy beans.
  • 1.5 litres of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • Parmesan

Thinly slice the leek and sweat in a large cast iron pot at a low heat. When the leeks begin to become translucent add the chopped garlic and half of the bunch of parsley, finely chopped. Continue to sweat until they just start to take on colour. Remove the cavolo nero from the stalk, wash and roughly chop. Add to the leek mixture and cook for another 5 minutes. While the cavolo nero is slightly wilting, peel and chop the potatoes into smallish cubes. Add to the pot and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the stock and/or reserved cooking liquor from the beans.

At this stage the soup should be quite liquid. Cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender and puree a small portion of the soup. We use a Braun hand blender, but you could also a liquidiser or magimix. The important thing is to puree only a quarter, otherwise it will very quickly lose it's mix of textures. 

Finally add the cooked beans and cook for another 10-15 minutes. To serve, chop up some fresh parsley, drizzle with a peppery olive oil and grate some fresh parmesan. A good slice of toasted sourdough is also always appreciated.

The perfect beetroot dip

I don't know how often I have already made Ottolenghi's Puréed beetroot with yoghurt & za'atar recipe. It is so easy to make, is super tasty and lasts in the fridge for a few days. It is perfect for a quick snack before dinner and we tend to eat the spread it with matzo bread or for lunch on a fresh piece of baguette or sourdough. We always drizzle a bit of olive oil on top and add salt or black & white sesame seeds. 

Recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi (slightly altered) 

  • 900g medium beetroots (500g in total after cooking & peeling)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 250g Greek yoghurt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil plus extra to finish the dish
  • 1 tbsp za'atar
  • salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Wash the beetroot and place in a roasting tin. Put them in the oven and cook, uncovered, until a knife slices easily into the centre (ca. 1h). Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut each on into about six pieces. Let them rest a bit to cool down. 

Place the beetroot pieces, garlic, chilli & yoghurt in a food processor bowl and blend to a smooth paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in olive oil, za'atar and one teaspoon of salt. Season to taste and enjoy!