For those who like cooking, there are recipes that define us, like an actor who is typecast into playing certain types of roles. These are the recipes that are generally our “go to” when we have people around for a meal or more importantly, the ones we use to impress our significant others. They also can also be a trap, discouraging us from exploring and trying something new.
Below are some of the dishes that have brought me some level of praise and no longer require me to open up the recipe book to right.
Bill Granger’s Sydney Food was the inspiration for this one, though the versions (lets face it, one bircher is never exactly the same as the next) bear little resemblance to that featured in the book. Key ingredients that will always be: oats, cinnamon, Greek yoghurt, freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice and increasingly, cocoa nibs and some type of berry. Added extras include almonds, pumpkin seeds, grated apple and flaxseeds. Bursting with flavor and extremely healthy – it’s a great way to start the day!
Banana and maple porridge
Another recipe from the Sydney Food cookbook. My version has now evolved to include homemade peanut butter (see below) and is usually topped off with a scoop of Greek yoghurt and fresh berries. The first few times I made this, I remember annoying my brother by delicately slicing up the banana, while he was more inclined to just rip it apart, throw it in and mash away.
Chocolate and almond torte
An absolute classic from The River Café Cook Book. This recipe rarely disappoints the dinner party crowd and is as simple as: equal parts dark chocolate (I like using 85%), butter, almonds and sugar, along with six eggs. Decorating it with fresh raspberries and icing sugar makes it look just as good as it tastes. I have found blitzing the blanched almonds instead of using packaged ground almonds provides a nicer texture.
I’ve been through phases in my life where I simply had to have scone or two a day, most often purchased from franchised bakeries (none of us are perfect!), or Batch Café in Melbourne. They are now more of a weekend food to keep some poached or boiled eggs company at breakfast. Thanks to Mathew Evans and his beautiful Real Food Companion cookbook, I now have a scone recipe that is pretty much failsafe. While I no longer follow the recipe exactly (I tend to leave out the milk powder, add a little extra butter and more often than not add some grated parmesan cheese), the core components remain the same. I also make my own buttermilk by adding lemon juice to the milk. Other variations on the base recipe that my wife and I have enjoyed included zaatar and cheese, beetroot and feta, as well as date and cinnamon.
For this I use basic pasta recipe from Jamie Oliver’s classic The Naked Chef. Such a beautifully simple recipe of pasta flour, salt and three eggs, I do feel I’m cheating a little by using the food processor to mix the ingredients and an electric pasta machine to finish it off. So far the pasta dough has made its way into lasagna, cannelloni, fettuccine and with varying degrees of success, some form of ravioli.
River Café slow cooked tomato pasta sauce
When I first made this, I was working off a recipe written on the back of a A4 piece of paper. It was only much later did I realize it was yet another classic from The River Café Cook Book. The process of making this is a prime example of my much recognized capacity to make a big mess in the kitchen, with splattering’s of the sauce usually found on the stove, up the walls, the kitchen floor and the food processor that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My wife says, however, it’s worth the mess.
Beetroot pasta sauce
A recipe that exists only in my own head, it’s one that reminds of one of my Mum’s favourite saying when I asked her what was in one of the thousands of great meals she made my brothers and I when we were growing up; “a bit of this, a bit of that”. The recipe usually includes varying amounts of roasted beetroot, feta, ricotta, garlic (often a little too much!), lemon juice and ground almonds. If not enjoying with penne or fresh made fettuccine, it doubles as a pretty handy dip served with homemade toasted bread.
Inspired by the obscene cost of good quality peanut butter in the supermarket, this recipe ranks very high on the reward/effort scale (i.e. very little effort for lots of reward)! It’s taken from the wonderful Kitchn website, though I do not add any oil or honey, just a generous amount of salt and sprinkling of cinnamon. Best served on a large tablespoon straight from fridge (I have to be very careful not to double dip!!), mixed in with some Greek yoghurt or through porridge, or for pure indulgence, on a square of dark chocolate.
Time now to brush off the cobwebs of the aforementioned cookbooks and indeed open some new ones, so that one day my dinner party guests can have something besides homemade lasagna and chocolate torte, with a jar of peanut butter to go.