16.10.16 - Native Foods are Incredible

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

What I cooked:

Warrigal Green Pierogi
Bunya Nut Satay Tofu
Thai Salad with Native Pepper Crusted Kangaroo
Davidson Plum Sauce Chicken
Roasted Baby Vegetables
Lemon Myrtle Tart with Wattleseed

There’s been a lot written about how the way we eat now is so far removed from the process of farming and growing, and how disastrous this has been for the environment. How mass production and factory farming destroys the land and causes incredible suffering to other people. Slowly, steadily, among middle class people who can afford it, there’s been a push-back, a move towards locally grown, sustainable produce.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

But there’s one thing that’s been largely ignored: almost every single thing we eat in Australia is not meant to be here. Ever since Europeans invaded Australia we have wreaked havoc over lands that were once incredibly fertile with imported animals produce. Fertile lands being farmed by skilled agriculturalists in the indigenous population. The fact that when white people arrived in Australia the first people were already growing and farming grains, vegetables, berries, seafood and livestock, living in permanent dwellings, storing food – doing all the things that so called ‘civilized’ people do has been so largely, shamefully ignored, so European invaders could continue to subjugate a race they saw as less than themselves because of the colour of their skin.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

And it continues. I had no idea the advanced agricultural, governmental and engineering practices of the first Australians – and I did indigenous studies at high school. I graduated in 2010. I had no idea until I idly picked up a book called The Oldest Foods on Earth, because NOMA chef Rene Redzepi’s interest in native foods had sparked my interest. Reading this book blew my tiny mind. The foods Newton talked about were so fantastic, so interesting and unique and nutritious that I knew I had to investigate more about why they were practically unused.

 photo by Josh Watson

photo by Josh Watson

I turned to Bruce Pascoe’s Black Emu for more information, and found the answer was, as usual in this country, racial prejudice and white settlers refusal to recognise any of the agricultural work that the first Australians were doing, even as they themselves were dying of starvation, with crops shriveling and animals rotting all around them.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

As self-righteous as I often am, I do not think that reading two books and doing a bit of internet research makes me an expert on Aboriginal agriculture and native cooking. I do not think that someone writing about this topic for their 150 follower blog is going to change anything. However, in Black Emu Pascoe is adamant that if more people knew about the advanced, thoughtful, skillful ways that indigenous Australians were using the land, we might go some way to creating more understanding and respect in a culture where Aboriginal people are still marginalized, victimized, and brutalized every day. While I was reading Black Emu I sat outside my house and looked out at my surroundings and thought about how for tens of thousands of years, up until very recently, the people who lived on it were ingenious caretakers who looked after the land and made it the best it could possibly be. And how much damage we have done in such a short amount of time. I felt in incredible amount of shame, and respect and sadness for the first people who have lived on this land for so long.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

My emotions don’t matter, but actions do. If we start using more native ingredients, and, most importantly, ensure that the means of mass production are left in the hands of Indigenous people, we can go some way to restoring respect and dignity for the land and its first people. It will take a long time. It will take a lot of agricultural reform and changing the way we think about farming. But, with climate change drying out our country and making continued irrigation practices unfeasible, to my mind huge changes are the only thing that will enable the human race to survive. When we start growing things that are meant to be here, that can handle this climate, when we start farming animals that don’t make the soil unusable, and require huge amounts of grain to eat. When we finally stop enforcing colonial rule over the land and the people who were here so long before us. Maybe then there's some hope.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

Many of the native ingredients I used in the recipes in this blog came from a nursery called Wijuti Grub Bushfood Nursery in Obi Obi on the Sunshine Coast.We also visited Dreamtime Kullilla Art in Redcliffe to buy some things we couldn’t grow in the timeframe and they were selling Dale Chapman’s terrific cookbook Coo-ee Cuisine, which has so many great ideas for inventive, interesting, but approachable recipes using native ingredients. I recommend it to anyone even vaguely interested in native foods.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

We drove to the Sunshine coast in late winter, hot sun offset by cool wind and looming clouds that, of course, broke open as we were driving along the narrow dirt paths up the mountains into Witjuti nursery. We sat in the car in the rain in a field outside the lush green property, admiring the view but unsure what to do, for a while before I finally called owner Veronica, who came down with a giant multi colored umbrella to show us around.

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

Veronica was so incredibly kind and knowledgeable in helping us work out what the best things to buy and grow in our time frame would be. I knew I wanted to do the dinner party before the end of October, so we bought warrigal greens, a kind of native spinach, saltbush, native violets, and mint. Veronica also kindly gave me some frozen Davidson plums, riberries and bunya nuts. I let the ingredients, and a heavy dose of sentimentality guide the menu.  For instance, I used the warrigal greens in pierogi, a kind of Polish dumpling, because I have a vaguely Polish background, though have never really cooked or eaten polish food.

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

There are a lot of ways we try to manufacture cultural connections. When I cook with native foods I can try and convince myself that I am doing something to help the land that I love so much, to try and add my voice behind the chorus demanding respect for Aboriginal culture. When I cook pierogi, I am trying to connect to my own personal history – my great grandfather was a polish Jew, and came to Australia after WWII with his English wife. I never met him, my nana - his daughter - born and raised in Australia by an English mother, never cooked Polish food. But still I say my background is slightly Polish, trying to grasp at a more interesting cultural connection than just ‘British’ or ‘white’ or ‘mayo af’. This is a small vanity I have allowed myself – to cook a polish dish for my friends and feel lightly sentimental about it.  

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

For dessert I made a lemon tart because going on the little road trip out the Obi Obi with Sam and Josh brought back a strong sense-memory of long car trips and stopping at country bakeries for a lemon meringue pie when I was a kid. We had one at the Obi Obi bakery on our way and it was INSANE. Josh had the shiniest raspberry tart I’ve ever seen and I had a super tasty, creamy chicken pie as well. Would recommend, worth the 90 minute drive.  Originally I was going to try and make the meringue for the top as well but as we were pushing 10pm by the time dinner was served something had to give. Also who the fuck owns a blowtorch?

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

I knew from the moment I heard about Davidson plums that I wanted to use them to make a plum sauce roasted chicken, and it turned out better than I could have hoped. The pleasant sourness of the Davidson plum, balanced out with, honestly, a lot of sugar, matched perfectly with clove, ginger and five spice Chinese flavours. I’ve been super interested in Chinese food recently – now that people are finally moving past perceptions of it just being cheap and easy to make, and recognizing the incredible skill of Chinese chefs, there’s more of a market and interest in traditional and authentic Chinese restaurants.

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

I always knew kangaroo had to be cooked very rare, and initially I wanted to do something like a rare beef pho with it. Though I soon realized cooking soup to share would be dumb and difficult. But the flavours – mint, chili, fish sauce, sprouts, would all work great in a salad. Kind of a hybrid thai salad thing. Simple but really really tasty.

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

The final, and probably tastiest, thing I made was bunya nut satay tofu. Originally this was going to be bunya nut satay crocodile, which would have been much more impressive. But ah, the butcher was closed on the day I tried to buy it. Stupidest reason to not follow through on something? Yup! But I am stupid. This sauce was incredible though, honestly. Mildly nutty flavor, crunchy and burnt caramel-y.

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

I’ve always been a gigantic satay fan – one of my best friends as a kid was Indonesian and her mum not only used to make great satay (and spring rolls, and curry puffs and curries, and…. Everything), but often took us to Jakarta Indonesian restaurant, which makes the best satay sauce I’ve ever had in my life. One of my favourite restaurants, cheap and BYO. If you’re in Brisbane and you haven’t been yet, run don’t walk.

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

As well as the native ingredients, the cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, and herbs also came from Sam George Allen’s garden. Since she started getting into gardening a bit over a year ago we’ve been cooking stuff from whatever comes out of her tough, wild garden out the back of that West End trash house and feeling pretty bloody pleased with ourselves for it. Using ingredients she grew was really special – also, kept costs down a bit.

 Photo by Dom O'Donnell

Photo by Dom O'Donnell

I make no promises about any of the recipes attached being accurate – I make a lot of this off the top of the dome. I’d use them just as inspiration and a rough guide rather than following them to the letter (just saying, if you do and it fucks up you can’t blame me).

 Photo by Josh Watson

Photo by Josh Watson

Bring A Thing 2 - Thing Harder

I really wanted to have this up in time for the long weekend - so I could use the conceit of 'having a long weekend get together? Maybe you could BRING THESE THINGS!!!! But then I found out that it wasn't even a long weekend in Queensland and I lost the will to blog/live. 

Then I ate some leftover poached chicken dipped in mayonnaise and felt much better, so here it is. Not long weekend, but maybe you'll find these recipes useful for your winter solstice gathering on June 20. Only 6 more shopping days to go people! 

Fig, Rocket and Feta Salad with Hazelnuts and Caramelised Balsamic

 All these photos are by me lol

All these photos are by me lol

If it's possible for a salad to be lux, this one is pretty bloody lux. I made it for my best mate's birthday dinner and got exactly the amount of compliments about it that I wanted (heaps). Probably only make this one in fig season (late summer-autumn? Google it) if you don't wanna pay like six bucks a fig. If I could eat figs all year round though I would - they're my favourite fruit (bougie bitch). Rocket works so well with any dried fruit cause it's so bitter - then chuck some dill, fetta and hazlenuts on that baby and you've got a lot of fancy flavours working together. Suddenly you're a genius and everyone loves you.

HERE'S THE RECIPE USE IT WISELY

'Bahn Mi' with Ginger Poached Chicken, Cucumber Salad, Spicy Carrot, and Wombok Mayo Salad.

I was a vegetarian for about 5 years, and for 3 of those I was vegan. I broke my vegetarianism on June 4, 2013 at the Madrid airport. We'd been delayed for 8 hours. I'd been smoking upwards of a pack of cigs a day for the month I'd been in Europe (they're real cheap ok) and going cold turkey was fucking hard when all I had to distract me was the bad YA novel I'd bought with my last ten euros,cause it was the only English book in the shop.

I was freaking out that I was gonna miss my connecting flight back to Brisbane. Then an airport worker came over and put something in my hand. A five dollar voucher for Starbucks. I walked straight up to the counter and bought a chicken lettuce and mayo sandwich and felt cvery slightly better. That combo of cold chicken and mayo is so comforting to me - white trash as hell, sure - but comforting. 

This 'Bahn mi' is my attempt to make chicken and mayo a little bit more interesting. I put bahn mi in quotes cause even though it's  'asian-ish stuff in a bun' (what most Western places mean when they say bahn mi) these flavours are a mishmash of chinese, japanese and thai mostly more than vietnamese. 

I brought these to a couple of friends houses, and I just put everything in tupperware containers and assembled the bahn mi there. Slightly higher maintenance than some of the recipes below, but worth it. 

 Check out the recipe HERE

Spicy Pumpkin, Mint and Feta Filos

I use the word 'Spicy' very loosely here. In that there is 'some chilli' in there. These are really good when you have to throw something together for a 'bring a plate' with quite a few people, especially if it's a standing up party. Mine kind of exploded in the middle (I think because of the steam? There wasn't time to get the coroner in) but still tasted really good. 

Come out to the coast, we'll get together, have some laughs... (recipe) 

Miso mushroom and Dates on Toast

I lifted this flavour combination pretty much wholesale from my new favourite cookbook purchase, 'Savour' by Peter Gordon. Except he used eggplant instead of mushrooms, which I only like when it's cooked properly like in great Chinese dishes and I had no confidence in my ability to do that. You're gonna be like 'Miso! Feta!??? yogurt!???' but miso just provides the nicest salty-savoury flavour you can put it with heaps of stuff that you don't necessarily associate with Japanese food. I'm promising ya that these flavour combos work - but you don't have to believe me. Plenty of chicken and mayo for us all to enjoy. 

Enough jokes, here's the recipe. 

03.04.16 - Late Afternoon Brunch

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

What I cooked:
Fruit salad with lime and ginger syrup
Fruit toast crackers & Labne with pine nuts, fig and honey
Yemeni pancakes with savoury stuff and yoghurt sauce
Shakshuka with misc. leaves
Vine leaf pie with Chermoula

I’d be lying if I said I was always a big fan of breakfast or brunch. For most of my life these meals were just an inconvenience that meant that I had to get up more than 5 minutes before school started. Still, one of my favourite things to eat as a kid was my mum’s ‘Spanish omelette’, an omelette of caramelised onion, olives and chorizo baked in the oven with heaps of pasta sauce and cheese melted on top. Now I'm heaps an adult I goddamn love breakfast food. I’m rarely optimistic, but a big morning meal makes me slightly more so.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Whenever I have enough money I take myself out to brunch at Anouk in Paddington and try something off their always changing menu. I also love Shouk, the middle-eastern breakfast place in Paddington, and this whole event was really inspired by wanting to eat there every day but not being able to afford it. And because I just refuse to line up no matter how delicious everything is.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Turkish banquet-style breakfasts are often lots of small things - breads, cheeses, fruits, stewed vegetables and chutneys – all served together. I don’t really know how to do small things, so these are all large meals with heaps of ingredients. One day I’ll get there.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

The traditional ‘Big Breakfast’ that we think of now (in terms of English culture anyway; middle-eastern countries were enjoying luxurious much earlier) came about in Victorian times as a sign of wealth. If you had guests staying you’d serve a long lazy breakfast to show that you had time and money and eggs and ham coming out your butt.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

This meal wasn’t really like that. For one thing – it was at 4pm. This was for reasons logistics (fuck off if you think I’m gonna start cooking at 6am for any reason. Also Sav had to work in the morning) and because I’m not really interested in any ‘dinner party’ that you can’t drink at.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

But it was still a celebration of abundance, of love and friendship and really really good food (I reckon – the vine leaf pie was surprisingly great). Earnestness makes me sick usually so you know I’m serious.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

 It was so great to be able to use a house with a big dining room table. You’ll notice a distinct increase in charm and good taste in these photos and a distinct lack of ‘trash’ and that was cause my friends Dom, Lou and Liv let me invade their beautiful home and stomp around their kitchen sweating and swearing all afternoon to make this all look so goddamn good. Though Liv’s beautiful cat gave me the most horrific hay fever, so my face is all red and watery in all the photos, and I had to make a real effort to keep the food snot-free.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

All these meals would make delicious shared breakfasts on their own, I just got really ambitious and decided I wanted to make literally everything I’ve ever wanted to eat for breakfast at once. Most of them were not that hard or time consuming to make (except for the pancakes. Don’t try and make slow-cooked pancakes one at a time for 12 people if you don’t wanna have a little cry).  

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Beyond how the food tasted, I love trying to think differently about what kind of foods we can eat when, what goes with what, and what food traditions and rituals are unnecessary and what need to change, so this was one of my favourite meals I’ve done so far. 

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Work Work Work Work Work Work (lunch)

You know how you always say you’re gonna cook all your work lunches for the week on Sunday, and save heaps of money? Yeah well imagine if you did that ever. Here’s a series of recipes that I think are good straight-from-the-takeaway-container-that-still-kinda-smells-like-last-weeks-panneer. They go well with sitting at your desk and dreaming about all the things you'd say if you weren't so passive aggressive. 

Probably the best salad

 Food Styling Is My Passion

Food Styling Is My Passion

I hate whenever recipes describe something as ‘delicious AND guilt free’ or like ‘you won’t BELIEVE it’s healthy’ – cause usually they’re talking about stuff with heaps of weird fake-sugar chemicals or under-salted microwave meals. Also if something is delicious you can’t feel guilty about eating it that’s the rule. But this salad, with honey and nuts and a bit of chili, tastes good (not as good as a grilled cheese but better than a can of tuna) and is relatively healthy. You could probably eat it for at least 3 days before you started really wanting a chicken burger.  

This recipe is very easy and you probably could have made it up for yourself – but I know sometimes it’s hard to think of a lunch idea that won't make you feel like shit, so here it is.

Ingredients:

¼ of a big pumpkin
2 cans of Butterbeans
300g Brussels Sprouts, halved
1 cup of nuts, roughly chopped (I used Brazil Nuts, but walnuts, pecans or cashews would work fine too)
Half a red onion, finely diced
200 grams of Rocket
1 Sprig Rosemary
Olive Oil
2 teaspoons Sumac  (you could use Dried Chili if you want more heat/don’t want to buy sumac)
3 tablespoons of honey
Half a lime
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 108 degrees. Cut the pumpkin into bite sized-ish pieces.

In a baking tray, coat the pumpkin, nuts and Brussels sprouts in the honey, sumac or dried chili, rosemary and a big glug of olive oil together until everything is evenly covered. Bake for about 30 minutes – checking after 20 if you cut your pumpkin fairly small.

When the pumpkin is soft, take the tray out of the oven and leave it to cool.

Drain the butterbeans, then add to the cooled pumpkin and nut mixture. Mix the rocket and onion through, and finish with a squeeze of lime and salt and pepper to taste. 

‘Spicy’ Noodles.

 Shit photo/dirty bowl by me! Sorry it's so shit. I started following an instagram account called 'the art of plating' so I assume I'll absorb something from that eventually

Shit photo/dirty bowl by me! Sorry it's so shit. I started following an instagram account called 'the art of plating' so I assume I'll absorb something from that eventually

This is pretty much a direct rip of the ‘Asian ragus’ from the Lucky Peach Cookbook – I just made it a bit easier and removed some ingredients. I had a lot of trouble finding Asian blackbeans (I went to one shop, couldn’t see them immediately, gave up) so just used the Mexican tinned ones and they were fine. Look harder than me though.

I reckon this should keep comfortably and still be delicious for 3 -4 days. I was still eating mine after 7, but I’m disgusting. 

Ingredients:

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped/crushed

1 Brown Onion, finely diced

250g mushrooms, roughly chopped

½ wombok cabbage, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons crushed ginger

1 leek, cut horizontally into 1cm circles

1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (crushed chillies, sometimes with other stuff. They should have it in the ‘Asian’ section of your 'local supermarket'  – I started buying this cause I wanted to learn how to use chilli but whenever I cut it up my hands burn for hours. It’s good in everything)

Vegetable Oil

Soy Sauce                                

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

400g canned black beans

4 shallots, roughly chopped

Handful of bean sprouts (optional)

4 ‘cakes’ of ramen noodles (I don’t know what the serving sizes are called, but like 4X what’s normally in one packet of mi goreng. The plain ones usually come in 3-4 packs so you’ll work it out.)

Heat a splash of oil in a wok/frypan, add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes until it starts to get soft. Add the ginger, garlic and leek and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add the sambal oelek and the cabbage – put in a few big splashes of soy sauce and the hoisin and fry until the cabbage is cooked.

Cook the ramen to instructions (generally you pour boiling water over it, then cover for about 3 minutes).

When the ramen is cooked, add it to the wok with the mushrooms and black beans. I like to cook mine quite hot for a while, because I like when the noodles get a bit charred and that burnt soy sauce taste comes through, but just keep tasting and see when you think they’re cooked.

Add more soy sauce of hoisin as you go for taste.

To serve, top with bean sprouts and shallots for crunch. If you’re packing it in tupperware container to reheat, the bean sprouts will get soggy, so decide if you want to leave them off/bring them to work in a ziplock bag to add at the end. 

 

Five cookbooks from 2015 that I liked a lot

Hey, here's a new twist on an old favourite: a best-of 2015 list when we're already almost in MARCH (get fucked) of 2016. I've been busy, but I love all these cookbooks so much that I couldn't not Do A Thing about them. And I'm glad I did, especially for vanity reasons, cause look how nice these photos came out! Sav is a gem and a genius and working with her is one of my fave parts of this whole goddamn thing - Thanks Sav!

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Calling this a best-of is a bit wrong, cause so many terrific cookbooks came out this year that I didn't get to buy (even with a bookshop job those things are pricey as hell), like Nopi (from my guy Ottolenghi) and (also my guy) Adam Liaw's newy, AND Summer Berries and Autumn Fruits from Annie Rigg, which looked insanely beautiful and inspired. But from the (way too many) books I actually bought this year, these ones were my faves. 

Lucky Peach: 101 Easy Asian Recipes
Peter Meehan and the Editors of Lucky Peach

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

I love the Lucky Peach magazine so much it’s starting to seem fake. But it aint; they taught me that food writing didn’t need to be pretentious and over-serious, that it could be really fucking fun and cool. They’ve also produced some of the best longform food journalism around (you gotta read this piece about prison meals) and know how to tackle important topics as well as making a magazine that’s readable and exciting. Their first cookbook, 101 Easy Asian Recipes, brings all that irreverence and cool to ‘100% inauthentic Asian cooking’. They know how ridiculous the title is – invoking the special kitsch of those ‘Jimmies Asian Kitchen’ restaurants that were next to the internet café at every small seaside town you visited as a kid.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Meehan and the other Lucky Peach editors (including, of course, Best Dude Ever David Chang) tackle gloriously unhip recipes like Moo-Shu Vegetable Pancakes (which I made so glamorous here), Sweet and Sour Soup, ‘Mall Chicken’ (you know what it is – that incredibly sticky-sweet glazed gristle from every foodcourt) and Satay Skewers with a love and skill that you won’t find anywhere else. There’s also the wacky stuff like Pesto Ramen and ‘Asian’ ‘Ragus’ that push the boundaries of cusines and tastebuds. It’s also genuinely funny, which is so rare and special in a cookbook. I love everything about this book.

The New Nordic
Simon Bajada

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Essentially, cookbooks are aspirational: we buy them because we wanna be the kind of people who cook and eat beautiful things every day. Whether this happens or not is kind of irrelevant – every new cookbook is like a tiny reset button where everything is possible. No cookbook this year has been as aspirational for me as The New Nordic. The recipes here are often challenging, in flavour and technique, but every recipe inspires excitement and curiosity. I’ve never been to any Nordic countries, but in within these  pages it’s a place of vibrancy and of extreme beauty. Now I want to go to there for more than just the blonde dudes (though them too. G’day.)

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

I cooked one of the simpler meals for this blog: a Sill (pickled herring), Dill and Omelette Sandwich – and it was perfectly balanced and full of flavour. When (if) it gets cold again I’m itching to try heartier stuff, like the Scallops, Porridge and Radish, or Beef Brisket, Spiced Wine and Cauliflower Steaks. With recipes for traditional open sandwiches, Waffles and Gravlax, and lovely light soups and salads, there’s something for any season and slightly adventurous palate. And oh my god the sweets: Almond Milk Ice, Redcurrents & Yoghurt Loaf, or Baked Apple, Baked Chocolate and Chestnut… I’m gonna stop listing recipes now, but you get the picture – a little bit weird, and a lot exciting.

Honey & Co: The Baking Book
Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

As has been well documented on earlier blogs on this site: I can’t bake for shit. I refuse to weigh or measure things because I have the patience of a tiny sugar-crazed baby. Unfortunately, I also AM a BIG sugar-crazed baby and love cakes and baked sweets more than anything, and not being able to make them myself en-masse has haunted me daily. But Honey & Co. are giving me hope. Their beautiful fusion of Middle-Eastern and English baking techniques and flavours inspired me to give baking another go – and I’m actually cooking stuff that’s edible!

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Sure, I might never pull off something as perfect as their plaited Tahini and White Chocolate Loaf, or as delicate as the Raspberry and Rose Kadaif Nests, but simple treats like Date and Pine Nut Maamol Cookies and the above Peach, Vanilla & Fennel Seed Mini Loaves (ok mine are obviously muffins – but do you own a mini-loaf tin? Of course not. No one should.) are within my shaky grasp. This is a lovely cookbook with straighforward recipes that I’ve never seen anywhere else, written in a sweet and conversational style. Buy it especially if you’re a good baker, and make me that goddamn Coffee, Cardamom & Walnut Cake.

Tokyo Cult Recipes
Maori Murota

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Izakaya-style Japanese resturants are going TF OFF in Brisbane at the moment, which is awesome because I’d eat Japanese food every day of my life if I could. However, there’s more to love about it than just sushi, yakitori and fried chicken, and Maori Murota has given us a broad and loving take on the more popular and delicious recipes in Japanese Home Cooking. 

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

On the surface, it’s probably the best looking and best designed cookbook of this whole bunch, with intimate photography from the streets and homes of Japan and well as unpretentiously lovely food styling. Then there’s the recipes: ranging from traditional on-to-go lunches like Yaki Soba and Curry Udon to hearty homecooked hotpots for sharing, and Stuffed Cabbage and Sake Steamed Clams for impressive snacks. I cooked one of my favourite simple dinner recipes: Rice with Green Tea and Grilled Salmon for this blog, because I love how deceptively flavourful and delicate it is. Also: it looks really great. I scoffed it down about 5 seconds after these photos were taken.

Cornersmith: Recipes from the Café & Picklery
Alex Elliott-Howery & James Grant

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Here’s something: I don’t really like pickles. I don’t mind a bit of pickled cucumber on a cracker with lot of cheese, or Japanese pickles when they’re mixed with rice, and I’ll eat kimchi (as long as it’s fried in a pancake) but otherwise fermented foods just don’t really do it for me. So it says a lot that this book, which, at least on the surface, is all about pickling, is one of my favourites of the year.

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Mostly I like how cheerful and positive it is – two things I generally hate! It makes making your own pantry items, jams and sauces (which I DO love) look easy, achievable and miraculously unpretentious. There’s also plenty of recipes for whole meals using the fruits of your preserving labours – like Meatballs, Broadbeans and Yoghurt (with your homemade tomato sauce) and Escabeche of Whiting (hand-crafted aoli, of course) that are fresh, balanced and interesting while still being absolutely achievable for a weeknight meal.  I love the impressive little snacks too – like the Roasted Eggplant & Ricotta with Walnuts & Pomegranate that I made in these pics, and the Red Cabbage, Pickled Corn, Chilli & Corriander Slaw and Citrus Braised Fennel that I’m definitely gonna make next time I need to bring something to a party that gets me compliments. 

Photo by Savannah van der Niet
Photo by Savannah van der Niet

29.12.15 - Christmas Come-Down

 Photo By Savannah van der Niet

Photo By Savannah van der Niet

What I Cooked:

Empanadas for idiots (pumkin and blackbean pastries with green ‘mole’)
Mini Chicken Bastillas
(Shoulda been) Soba Salad
Total Fluke Roast Chicken
‘Fuck Minimalism’ Salad
Cherry and Rosewater Ice Cream

I think (hope?) I can get away with posting this so long after Christmas cause none of this is 'Christmas food'. It's just like 'stuff that makes me feel kind of festive'.

In Australia it's hard to get excited about christmassy food cause no one wants to do a roast turkey in 40 degree heat. Sure, the seafood and white wine is good. But it never feels like the movies. And someone always puts FUCKING CELERY in a coleslaw and then everthing's ruined

 Photo By Savannah van der Niet

Photo By Savannah van der Niet

I've been cooking for Christmas for my family for years, but because of one thing or another we couldn't get together this year. I spent the day with my mum eating cheese, drinking gin and watching Brooklyn Nine Nine and it was absolutely perfect. But it was nice to have this friend party as well, with all the all the yelling and drink-spilling and overeating that you expect from an Australian Christmas.

 Photo By Savannah van der Niet

Photo By Savannah van der Niet

For this dinner I just made what I wanted to eat when it's summer and hot as fuck. As such it's a little haphazard, there's roast chicken with yoghurt and tahini, japanese salads  Little pastry things (very festive. Crumbs everywhere: festive) and ice cream with the ubiquitous cherries. 

Also - you'll notice that the house in these photos is markedly nicer than mine. I have not recently won the lottery or succeeded in my desperate attempts to sell out to corporate sponsorship (Seriously, I have 43 followers on Instagram and will totally pretend to do a juice cleanse, hmu).  

I was just house sitting at my mum and her housemates' beautiful house in New Farm so decided to have the Christmas dinner there, with an actual oven that works. It's still a sharehouse but! Just with a fuck-off nice view and like, real art, not just cartoons ripped out of Lucky Peach on the walls. But I'm sure everyone was sick of looking at the ugly outdoor furniture at my house anyway (if not, don't worry, it'll be back).

 Photo By Savannah van der Niet

Photo By Savannah van der Niet

I always wanted to have a movie-style 'orphan's Christmas' - where we've all been exiled from our families because we're TOO REAL and they don't understand our delicate artistic temperaments. But my family is actually, disappointingly, pretty cool, so I never realised my dream. 

 Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

This dinner was close enough though. There were old friends and new friend hanging out, lots of compliments to me, a really great dog (Jack Murphy, king of pooches) and even a dance floor (no photos of that though - some things you gotta be there for). 

 Photo By Savannah van der Niet

Photo By Savannah van der Niet

In 2015 I had a surprisingly intense breakup, got a job that I always wanted, moved in with my best friend, discovered the highs and lows of spending too much money on clothes, and started this silly vanity project website so I could have a place for nice photos of my friends and the food that I cook. It wasn't too bad. Thanks for reading.

 Photo By Savannah van der Niet

Photo By Savannah van der Niet

08.11.15 - Cheese for dinner

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Yeah, I'm getting kind of sick of the weird cult-like love of cheese and constant lists like FORTY MAC AND CHEESE RECIPES THAT WILL MAKE YOU QUESTION GOD too. But fuck it - I love cheese boards. I love eating lots of little things for dinner cause it makes me feel refined (see also: bento boxes, antipasto, etc.)

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Also: this was one of the least stressful dinners I've ever done - the pickles and cured salmon and preserves could be done days before, so I had a nice week of prep and then just made the breads on the day while drinking a few beers. Recommend. 

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

All the crispbread and ryebread recipes I made are from The New Nordic cookbook - cause I've finally realised I'm no natural baker and should stop trying to just make up my own recipes: they just turn out shit and I feel bad. 

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

I didn't write them out here cause I'm sure the Swedish Copyright Police are as ruthless as they are sexy, but maybe you should buy it (I'm not getting paid for this stuff but if you've got money I'll hold as many fancy cookbooks as you want, Murdoch Press) 

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

They turned out pretty good - especially the Knackerbord which was full of delicous fennel seeds. In the book they said to hang it up on strings to dry out - I'm sure this was just for aesthestic, but fuck it looked cool.

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

This dinner was just a big messy pile of things that I love: salmon, kimchi, bread, cheese, dolmadesfancy beer nuts, pickles,  sweet buns and fruit preserves. I feel like most of the recipes here could be altered to suit your tastes so mess around with the ingredients if you want (I nailed it though you won't do better).

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

I definitely recommend having a go at curing your own salmon at least once - if you've got a bunch of money that you hate and were just gonna burn for warmth otherwise. The salty-herby-ness of it went great with pretty much any cheese, and the dense savoury rye bread... I wish I had some now, rather than the jar of green olives (worst ones) and half a preserved lemon that are currently the only non-alcohol things thing the fridge.

 Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

Photo By Savannah Van der Niet

I had this big plan to lay butchers paper out on the outside table and just pile everything on artistically with rustic wildflowers everywhere. But then it decided to piss down with rain for a week prior, and storm on the night, so we had to sit inside on our dirty floor on shitty beanbags. This just made everything more lowkey and intimate though, so I only mildly freaked out for the first 20 minutes, then drank enough Pims punch to not care about anything much.

Coming up to the holiday season! What will be my hot take on Christmas Dinner that will through the whole tradition on it's head and send several major world religions into anarchy? Stay tuned to find out!!!** 

**If I live that far into Brisbane summer.  

30.08.15 - Big meals and bigger champs

 Photo by Savannah Van der Niet

Photo by Savannah Van der Niet

WHAT I COOKED:
Spiced Chicken and Rice
Stuffed Zucchinis and Mushrooms
Fatbreads with Olives, Tomato, and Yoghurt Sauce
Fattoush-ish Salad
Pistachio Trifle with Pomegranate Jelly and Rosewater Custard

Whenever I talk to people about 'entertaining', they generally mention how stressful it is to be a host, having to make sure everyone's happy and everything runs smoothly and all that. Generally I say to be chill, and know that not everything's going to go according to plan and know that it's gonna be a good time no matter what cause your friends are there and they're good people. 

 Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Taking your own advice is sometimes impossible though, and after the 6th person cancelled at the last minute on this dinner I started to freak out - Will anyone have a good time? Why do my friends hate me? What the fuck am I gonna do with the three kilos of chicken I just bought? - etc. Lucky my housemate/ best bud James was around though to tell me I was being insane, that there were still like 15 people coming, and to remind me that we own a freezer. 

 Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

I wouldn't usually have dinners this close together (the last one was about a month and a half ago), because as much as I love it it's still a bit of stre$$$$$. And I think I put a lot of pressure on myself for this one because my beautiful friend Sian was visiting from Melbourne and might be moving to Canada soon, and I really wanted her to have a good time and everything to go smoothly - and mostly it did. I planned a lot better than the last dinner, cooking the rice and the dessert the day before,  and stopping myself from being too ambitious with the stuffed veges (recipe here), making only two different kinds instead of the original five. 

 Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Usually I don't let people help wash up or anything because I don't want them to feel like they've gotta do chores, but this time everyone really pitched in and wouldn't take no for an answer, which helped me stop stressing a lot too. And made me rethink my 'gotta do everything myself and not let anyone help' attitude towards cooking/life. 

 Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

I think the most surprising success was the breads with tomatoes, olives and yoghurt sauce (recipe here) - I was just kind of wildly cutting stuff up and frying bread and then it all came together into something really tasty. 

 Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

The least surprising things was that I bought way, way too much chicken (I rarely cook with meat and really have no idea how much a person eats) and also that the sponge in the trifle was way too dense and heavy (I was expecting the CWA to bust in any moment and butcher and bake me into a perfect shepherd's pie), but neither of these things are worth losing your shit over, so I remained chill. Very good advice from me. 

 Photo by Savannah Van der Neit

Photo by Savannah Van der Neit