cheese board

'Fruit Toast' Crackers & Labne with honey, fig and pine nuts

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Making labne is very easy (there's one ingredient and it's greek yoghurt) and way cheaper than buying it - but you'll have to start the day before you want to serve it cause it takes at least 12 hours to hang and get less watery.

These crackers are similar to the ones I made for the cheese board dinner, but I added fruit and cinnamon to give them a kind of 'fruit toast' vibe. Fruit toast is one of my favourite childhood breakfasts, but there's no way I would have been able to make it. 

Makes a couple of bowls of crackers and like HEAPS of labne.

Labne Ingredients:
500g Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/ cup finely chopped dried figs
1 tablespoon of tahini

Put a sieve on top of a saucepan (so it's not touching the bottom). Line the sieve with a chux, 'cheese cloth' or other kind of clean fabric. Put the yoghurt in the sieve and leave to 'hang' for at least 12 hours, so most the liquid gets sieved out. 

Mix the chopped fig with the tahini, then stir it through the labne. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top, and drizzle with honey before serving. 

Cracker ingredients: 

250g Plain flour

150g linseeds
175g Sesame seeds
150g sunflour seeds

1/2 cup dried figs, finely chopped
Handful of dates, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
500ml cold water
1 tablespoon of sugar

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Mix together all the ingredients except the sugar. It should be the consistency of wet cement, so add more flour or water if the ingredients aren't holding together properly. 

Line a large oven tray with baking paper. With a spatula, spread the mixture out on the paper as thin as you can (you may need to do a couple of batches if you have too much mixture). Don't worry if you get a few holes, you're going to  break them up into rough crackers anyway. Sprinkle sugar evenly over the dough. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, then turn the big sheet of cracker over, peel off the baking paper, and bake on the other side for about 10-15 minutes, until it's completely dry and crispy. Leave to cool on a cooling rack. 

Break up into roughly-cracker shaped bits, and serve with the labne. 

Photo by Savannah van der Niet

Photo by Savannah van der Niet


Photo by Savannah Van der Niet

Photo by Savannah Van der Niet

Why is kimchi so gd expensive outside of Asian grocery stores? I was pretty surprised how easy and cheap it was to make - you just have to resist eating it for a few days before it's done fermenting (your kitchen might start to smell a bit dank in this time - but in a pleasing ginger-y way rather than teen-bedroom-in-summer dankness)

Makes one pack 500ml jar's worth


Half a wombok cabbage
1 chilli
1 carrot
(Julienned as fine as possible in matchstick size or smaller)
Finely cut up coriander stems (from about half a bunch or so. You could also use shallots or spring onions, which are more traditional, but I just had a bunch of coriander with all the leaves ripped off that I wanted to user) 
Thumb-sized knob of ginger, crushed
8 cloves of garlic, crushed

Cut the wombok in half, then cut it horizontally in 3-ish cm peices. Put a couple of teapoons of salt, the carrot, garlic and ginger in and then get your hands in and really beat the crap of it. Rub the cabbage and squeeze it out and mash it up with your hands. This might take 10-15 minutes but soon you'll start seeing a lot of water come out. Take a break and then go at it again. You want there to be enough liquid that when you push the cabbage down the water comes up over the top.

Then add the chilli and mix it around (I'm always worried about burning my hands with chilli, so I don't add it before I'm done bashing it. If you're tough maybe you could add it at the start). Put a plate on top of your mixing bowl that almost touches the edges of the bowl but not quite (so it's touching the kimchi) and weigh it down with some cans or something else heavy. Wrap the whole thing in some gladwrap, or cover it with a clean tea towel and leave in a shady corner of your kitchen. In winter you could leave it out for 3-4 days before you put it in the fridge, but in Brisbane summer 2 is probably enough. 

Pickles! (Cucumber and radishes)

Pickles and kimchi and all that are getting more popular cause of the 'probiotic' health benefits and stuff (something to do with 'gut health'??? Fermentations??? I'm an expert.) - so go on and load up on the cheeses and breads. Pickles are there for you.

You can use the brine in this recipe to pickle almost anything - I did classic cucumber and some baby radishes because they look good. You can leave out the salting and draining step for veges that don't have a high water content like cucumbers do though. 



6 Lebanese cucumbers
500ml white wine vinegar
250ml water
125g caster sugar
2 teaspoons tumeric
2 teaspoons coriander seeds

1 small brown onion, sliced as thin as you can
1/2 cup dill, pulled off the stalks
Small pinch of peppercorns

8 baby small radishes

Cut the cucumbers into thin circles (about 1 cm), sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a collander/sieve for an hour or two. Make the brine by boiling up the water, sugar, vinegar and tumeric until the sugar is disolved, then leave it to simmer for a couple of minutes after that.

Mix the cucumber together with the onion, peppercorns, dill and coriander. 

Put the cucumbers into a jar - packing them down firmly. Then tip the brine slowly in, making sure there's no air bubbles (tap the side of the jar until they all bubble out. Refrigerate.  

Dill and mustard cured salmon

1kg Salmon fillet
1 1/2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1/2 cup of fresh dill,
pulled off the stems
120g caster sugar
80g table salt

Go to your local seafood shop and say 'hello, I'd like a fillet of salmon, skin on, costing approx *this much* money'. The fillet I got was $60 because I just said 'give me a big-ish' peice and then couldn't back out once I knew the price. It fed ten people well and was really delicious though so  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Get half a cup of caster sugar and one third of a cup of table salt and mix them together. Fry your mustard seeds until they start to pop, then crush them with a mortar and pestle/give them a go in the food processor (you don't technically need to do this, they're fine whole). Cut up your dill, make sure it's very dry if you washed it first, and mix it with the salt, sugar and mustard seeds.

Lay your salmon, skin-side down on a big piece of cling wrap (at least twice the size of the salmon. Pat your salt, sugar and herb mixture over the top, making sure it's fully covered. Wrap the salmon up in the gladwrap, and chuck it in the fridge weighed down with a couple of plates. Leave it for 2-3 days, turning it over at least twice in that time.

Slice it thinly on a diagonal, and serve with sour cream on little toasts with some cracked pepper, or just drop thin slices into your mouth whole while lying shirtless on the couch watching SVU**

**serving suggestion


I thought hand making dolmades was going to be really difficult and I was stupid for trying cause the ones from the can are so good anyway. BUT these were actually easy as and soft, tangy and delicious - without that kind of weird chemically can-y taste we all know and love. These would be perfect for a bring-a-plate situation, or to just have in the fridge for snacking. 

Makes about 20 dolmades


Olive Oil
250g short/medium grain rice
Half a cup of olives
One small onion,
finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
A quarter of a preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/2 cup continental parsley, finely chopped
About 20 - 30 vine leaves (some may rip. I got mine off a grape vine at my mums house, but if there aren't any around you you can buy them in packets at a lot of delis/speciality grocers)
Salt & Pepper

Put the rice on to boil, and in the meantime fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil. When they're getting soft and translucent, add the preserved lemon and the olives. When the rice is done, add it to the vegetables and fry until well combined. Add the parsley, and taste it - if it's bland it might need salt, pepper, or a bit more olive oil. It's probably good to leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours - or make it the night before - before you wrap the dolmades, because the rice will clump together better.

To prepare the dolmate leaves for wrapping, place 5-10 on top of each other and roll into a cylinder shape. Tie with a piece of string, then repeat with the rest of the leaves. Then dip them in boiling waters for a second or two, and pull them straight out. This will make them soft and easy to roll.

The actual rolling bit is hard to describe but really easy to do. You can kind of see how I've done it in the picture above, but if this was too confusing there's plenty of videos on Youtube. Lay  a leaf down veiny side up, then spoon about a tablespoon of rice in the middle. Roll the top of the leaf over the filling, then tuck in the side bits of the leaf (like a burrito) and roll the rest up.

To cook the dolmades, line a baking dish with spare leaves (lettuce also works) and lay the rolled dolmades on the top. Put some slices of lemon, butter, and cracked pepper over the top. Pour a splash of boiling water in the bottom of the dish (just so it's about 1-2cm deep) and bake at 180 degrees for ten minutes.

I prefer my dolmades warm, so served mine pretty much straight away.

Apricot, vanilla and thyme Preserve, baked ricotta, sweet breadrolls


**If you're making the baked ricotta you have to start it 3-4 days in advance!**

This was a simple, not-to-sweet dessert after a pretty heavy, cheesy meal - I had seconds, then lay on the ground for a while. The combination of the soft buns, creamy ricotta and tart preserve was, and I hate to praise myself, QUITE GOOD. How sweet the preserve is will depend on how soft your apricots are. It was early in the season when I made this and the ones I bought were pretty hard, so my preserve was slightly sour, which I like.  You might want to balance it out with a bit more sugar though if you like a sweeter dessert. 

I'm not going to add a recipe for the buns, because I got it straight out of a book called Honey & Co. The Baking Book. I've (...for now...) given up trying to make up my own baking recipes - This year I've made one too many rock-hard sponges for my delicate ego to take. If you have a good scone/sweet bread roll recipe you should use that, otherwise you can Google one, or just buy the Honey & Co. book cause it rules.

Serves 10-12



1kg Ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon melted butter
Crushed nuts

About 3-4 days before your dinner, you have to hang the ricotta up to drain it. Line a strainer/colander with some cheese cloth or clean chux (or pretty much any clean material - I used a cheap cotton shirt I'd never worn) and tip the ricotta in. Put the strainer in a big bowl or pot in the fridge to catch the water.

After a few days, tip your ricotta gently out onto an oven rack covered with baking paper. Rub it gently with a bit of melted butter, then bake for 10-20 minutes, until it's golden brown on top. Drizzle a heap of honey over the top, then sprinkle cinnamon (you could use other spices too, like cloves and cardamom - my tum was just pretty full by this time and I wanted to keep it simple) and crushed nuts over the top. 



10 apricots, halved
A few sprigs of thyme
A few strips of lemon pee
l (use a potato peeler)
Juice of one lemon
350g brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (I use this 'vanilla bean extract' stuff that's like $8 a bottle but pretty good (actual vanilla beans are like $5 each, but if you wanna use them go nuts) - vanilla essence would probably do too though).

Lay the halved apricots out on a tray, scatter the thyme, lemon peel, and vanilla over the top. Squeeze the lemon juice over the top, then sprinkle with the sugar, covering all the apricots. 

Cook for 5 minutes at 190 degrees, then turn the oven down to 170 degrees for 15 minutes. Take them out of the oven - by now a syrup should have formed at the bottom of the tray. Using a spoon, pour this syrup over the apricots, basting them.

Put them back in the oven at 140 degrees for another 10-15 minutes until they're completely soft and jammy. Spoon into jars and cover with syrup to keep for a few weeks - or just put it in a bowl in the fridge if you're using the preserve in the next couple of days.

Roasted almonds with fennel, dill & orange salt

These fancy beer nuts rule. All other fancy beer nuts get fucked. 


500g Almonds
The peel of one orange, peeled into strips with a potato peeler
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Handful of dill
Table salt

Put the orange peel strips into the oven at 200 degrees until they're almost dry (5-10 mins). Put the dill in the oven too and cook for five more minutes until the dill has dried out. Crush the dill, orange peel and fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle, or any other grinding implement you might have. 

Lightly cover the almonds in olive oil. Mix the herb and orange mixture through, then add as much salt as you want, to cover the nuts.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the nuts are roasted. Drain on some paper towel, then serve/snack.