I was going to be a baker, but I couldn’t raise the dough.

Bread. Whether baguettes or bagels, focaccia or flatbread: it’s delicious, and something all of us can enjoy, Unless you’re gluten intolerant, in which case it can kill you. Celiacs aside, Bread has been a staple for over 12,000 years and is one of my favourites.

It’s Paris and your appartment is just off the Rue de Rivoli and not too far from Hôtel de Ville. You wake to the smell of freshly baked bread and you’re instantly compelled to find it and make it your own. “You stay here and make coffee while I pop downstairs to retrieve breakfast”. This bakery is so small that they only bake a dozen loaves at a time, so they bake all day, and it’s all day that you get this amazing aroma filling the street, Paris is not the city for dieting. But I’m not in Paris today, nor do I feel like dieting, so it’s time for a spot of bread and the baking of it.

Many people have trouble baking bread, Some use packet bread mixes or even go as far as to buy a bread maker. They may be considered shortcuts or not really baking by many but I personally have no problem with whatever method you chose. Whatever it takes to get you out of the supermarket aisle and into the kitchen is fine by me. Its not all that difficult and here is a great recipe I’ve used for some time now that works a treat.
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But first some tips.

Flour, Get some good bakers’ flour, 10kg of good bakers’ flour can be purchased from any good market for under $20. Yeast, I use freeze dried yeast that I add to a 1/4 cup of water with a pinch of sugar and let it sit for 20 minutes prior to adding it to dough. And time, dont rush your baking, a good bread shouldn’t be rushed.

  • 500 grams baking flour
  • 320 mls Warm water
  • 15 grams Yeast
  • 15 grams Salt
  • 15 grams Sugar
  • 15 grams Olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or mixer and knead into a dough for about 5 minutes. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise for at least half an hour.

photoFrom here I knead and shape the dough and in this case I’ll sprinkle a course flour (Semolina or Polenta) of the top, then I cut some lines atop the loaf, this isn’t purely decorative, it also helps to prevent bursting. It also adds extra crust which every bread lover knows is the tastiest part of the loaf. Let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes and preheat your oven to as hot as it will go.

I use a stone to bake on, you can pick up a baking stone or pizza stone from most kitchen shops and is well worth it. A preheated oven with baking stone is as close as you’re going to get to building a brick baking oven and for now it’s a great start.

After your dough has re-risen, sprinkle your baking stone with some course flower and slide your dough into your preheated oven, turn the temperature down to 180-200C and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  When baked place bread on a wire rack to cool and listen to the crust cracking. Serve with anything!

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Biscuits Rigoni

Just out of Cleveland, Tasmania on the Midland Highway  you will find the Saint Andrews Inn, Its always worth stopping here.  It’s a stunning old couch house and B&B with a menu of classics, Tassie’s curried scallop pie is always worth a try but for me I can’t go past a biscuit, any biscuit, all the biscuits! During my first visit here some years back, a friend bestowed to me the tag Biscuits Rigoni and I love it. The Best Lemon Shortbreads I’ve ever had are made by Pat Williams of Ross, who for some time supplied the biscuits for the St. Andrews. Nice work, Pat.

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But we’re back in Victoria and it’s late April and getting colder by the day, Anzac day is just around the corner so time to get baking. There are many variations of the recipe, some people love them crunchy and some insist that they have a chewy centre. The Presbyterian or Country Women’s Association Cookbooks are a must for any kitchen and both offer Anzac biscuit recipes. But here’s one to get you started.

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  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • grated rind of one lemon
  • 125g butter
  • 1 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl with the grated rind. Put the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan on a low until butter is melted. Mix the boiling water and bi-carb soda in a cup. Then mix all that in with the dry ingredients. Roll into balls (approximately one teaspoon of mixture per ball). Place on oven trays and flatten with a fork. Cook at approximately 170 degrees for ten or 15 minutes, or until golden.

IMG_0896Share with friend or family with a cup of tea, beautiful.

not kasoundi

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We have a certain number of cookbooks. Its more than we use, and yet of course not enough. However, the cook books we’ve been buying lately lean strongly towards the good life. That is, a hefty proportion of our shelves are devoted to preserving. Our book shelf looks like it comes straight from nineteen-diggity-six.

The one we keep turning to more than any other (and amazingly, doesn’t even have any pictures) is Sally Wise’s A year in a bottle. Ohhh, this book. This book is a dreamboat. Because from this book comes this recipe.

Tomato chilli pickle.

tomato harvestI think the name is a bit misleading, and we call it things like ‘that amazing tomato thing’ and ‘kasoundi man’ even though it is probably nothing like a kasoundi, it’s what we imagine a kasoundi would be like. The ingredients are pickle-like, but the end product is just so much more than the sum of it’s parts.

This tomato season has been a darling. Last week Daniel harvested over four kilos of cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes and mini romas. Just in the nick of time before a storm came through. Having more tomatoes than you can eat is a novelty to us and so we thought it ‘wise’ to preserve some in a delicious way. This recipe came to our attention through friends that own the same book. We tasted some at their house, were gifted a jar, and haven’t looked back since. It’s easy, but it will take half a day. This is our second batch from this season (the first batch has nearly run out, I can’t stress how good it is).

It’s a combination of tomatoes and chillis obviously, but with the tangy flavour of vinegar and mustard, more-ish garlic and ginger notes, tumeric for a warm colour and taste and cumin. So. Much. Cumin. Keep sticking your nose over the cumin. Happiness.

We serve with poached eggs, ham sandwiches, cheese boards, or stir into curries, I think it would work spooned into sour cream or yoghurt as a dip too. Or just eat it with a spoon straight from the jar. Um, what?

chilli tails  photo 1  photo 2