F*ckin’ blueberry pies

I ate my first blueberry when I was 16. It was just days into my kitchen career. Ray was the pastry chef left with the new boy. He was a good natured Kiwi with a foul mouth and a permanent grin. As he scooped a mound of reddish-blue berries into a sweet pastry case, he…

Anzac cake

There is NOTHING as cosseting as a homemade Anzac biscuit. Especially one still warm from the oven. It’s the combination of crisp and slightly chewy, and that sweet mouthfeel of oaty, syrupy, coconutty goodness. And the memory. It’s baking gold! I’ve just read Allison Reynolds’ little book with a big title, Anzac Biscuits: The Power…

Ephron on certainty

What I love about cooking is that after a hard day, there is something comforting about the fact that if you melt butter and add flour and then hot stock, it will get thick! It’s a sure thing! It’s a sure thing in a world where nothing is sure; it has a mathematical certainty in…

Capon on the pleasures of drudgery

I despise recipes that promise results without work, or success without technique. … Technique must be acquired, and, with technique, a love of the very processes of cooking. No artist can work simply for results; he must also like the work of getting them. Not that there isn’t a lot of drudgery in any art…

Cherry and hazelnut cake

I don’t recall nuts when I was a kid. I do remember mum passing around a square each of Cadbury’s fruit ‘n nut after the fish & chips were done, and dad’s Christmas jar of chocolate coated peanuts not so generously shared. But apart from those, nuts were not a thing. I like them now….

Lemon tea cake

There were lemons in the Garden of Eden. I’m sure of it. To imagine a place of perfection without these yellow jewels of acidity is impossible. Though northern India claims its origin, the lemon has been regarded the most significant fruit in Middle Eastern and European cuisines for centuries. And for good reason. In the…

Fruit cake … with plums

I have a thing for apricots. Dried. Every week I buy a bagful from fruit-n-nut-man at the market. They’re not those dry, inedible nuggets you get in sealed plastic at Woolies. These are large, moist, succulent. I love them. A few weeks back I arrived at the stall to collect my stash. Fruit-n-nut-man smiled, looking…

Comfort food #8: Jelly slice

The communion table brings comfort. No matter what flavour our Christian faith — Anglican, Baptist, Catholic or some other— the table at the centre of our churches is a heady reminder of the grace that colours our lives. As often as we meet there to break bread, we rediscover our connections to God and each…

Comfort food #7: Leek and asparagus tart

Let’s be honest. The pursuit of comfort is no fast track to virtue. In fact, there are moments when it’s more like a detour into decadence  — think a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, a block of Lindt chocolate, or a large bag of salt and vinegar chips munched down in front of the TV….

Comfort food #6: Ricciarelli

The taste of comfort travels. Most commonly it’s found in close proximity. Comfort is the taste of home, family and a culture that’s familiar. Sometimes, though, comfort comes from places far away — the tastes of beautiful places that have, momentarily, nurtured our souls. It’s the comfort of memory. I confess that in this season of…

Comfort food #5: Lamb, barley and vegetable soup

I call it Gospel soup. In my memory, it was one of those things served up before we headed to church on Sunday nights — a bowl full of a hearty and warming goodness served with toasted white bread slathered with melting butter. Mine was a church-going family, committed to the core. Though Sunday morning…

Comfort food #4: Tuna casserole

Comfort and sophistication are awkward friends. The truth is, the food that is more comforting to me than any other is entirely devoid of kitchen glamour. It is my mother’s tuna casserole.  It’s an embarrassing admission. As a self-respecting cook, I normally dismiss recipes that include a can of anything. I’ve sniffed at those contributions…

Comfort food #3: Apple pie

In an early issue of the journal Bread, Wine and Thou, editor Yossi Klein reflects on the role of the ‘maternal’ in our table life and its connection to our need for comfort. He describes the maternal broadly as “things that make us yearn, make us whole” but includes the more particular “dishes that feel like…

Comfort food #2: Mum’s fruit cake

Comfort has a smell. Sometimes it’s an aroma so potent it can knock you a six. When I first gathered supplies to recreate my mother’s unfortunately named ‘boiled fruit cake’, I was not ready for it.  Standing at the stove, my saucepan filled with a buttery mound of fruit and a blend of sugar, cinnamon,…

Comfort food #1: Seafood chowder

I need comfort. In times like these, we all do. In the uncertainty of lockdowns, we crave reassurance. We need somehow to hold and be held — to be reminded of life’s love and security. Food is comfort. It certainly is for me. All those sourdough starters bubbling on suburban benchtops across Melbourne suggest I’m not…

Priya Basil on recipes

“A recipe is a story that can’t be plagiarised. Compare cookbooks by cuisine and you’ll find recipes that are almost identical, distinguished by minor variations of ingredient quantity or slight deviations in procedure. Debts are gladly acknowledged, sometimes in the name — ‘Julia’s Apple Tart’ — or in a sub-line — ‘Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’. Recipes…

Lemon and poppy seed cake

You could call it my opium cake. I prefer the more genteel descriptor: lemon and poppy seed. It’s a delicious cake, made all the better when, straight from the oven, you douse it in a lemon glaze that seeps all the way through. It’s a lovely addition to afternoon tea. In fact, it reminds me…

Barnes on stove-splash

“In China it’s taken as a compliment if the table cloth immediately surrounding your place is, by the end of the meal, a site of major spillage. … The same principle applies — without any shadow of ambiguity — to cookbooks. The more decorated their pages are with stove-splash, peel-drip, edible Rorschach stains, oil starbursts, beetroot…

Conrad on recipe books

“Of all the books produced since the remote ages by human talents and industry those only that treat of cooking are, from a moral point of view, above suspicion. The intention of every other piece of prose may be discussed and even mistrusted, but the purpose of a cookery book is one and unmistakable. Its…

Mum’s sultana cake

Mum’s cake repertoire was slim. At one of end of things, there were those heavy fruit cakes stuffed full of dried fruit and spices boiled together; at the other end, her simple butter cakes in three varieties — plain, chocolate or rainbow — and covered with icing. To be honest, my natural love of cakes…