A Year of Mindful eating: Food stories that take you home: Salad Provencal

September 10, 2020

In 1970s Australia there was no doubt what constituted sophistication. It was French. That’s the beginning and the end of it. If it was French it was stylish, if it wasn’t French it wasn’t. This applied to all walks of life, not just food and fashion. Even in Kangaroo Flat we learned French. It was compulsory, though very few of us would ever get to France, and if we did it would most likely be as side trip on a long visit “home” to Mother English.

This salad, based on one in the complete Margret Fulton cookbook is called Salad Provencal, even though it has no garlic. Who knows if it’s really from the region, and here in the 2020s who cares? French cooking just doesn’t have the cache it had when the likes of Margret Fulton in Australia and Julia Childs here in the US ruled the kitchen.

A google search revealed many a Provencal salad but none of them had fennel, instead I saw a lot of potatoes, beans, hard boiled eggs, and parsley. These weren’t going to solve my problem of what to do with the abundance of fennel and tomatoes in my CSA box.

Although this recipe is from the 70s, I don’t recall eating fennel until I got stateside. It grew wild all around Kangaroo Flat, but none of us ever thought to eat it. I can remember running my hands up through the fennel fronds – it’s a tall fernlike plant – setting the aniseed aroma loose into the air. I loved that smell, but never considered digging up the bulb and eating it.

So perhaps this is a faux French salad, but I can’t say I care about that either. It’s delicious, the crunchy fennel softened by the dressing and made delicate by the thickness of the slices. I’m not sure how recipes for salads come about, but I bet its via improvisation – made up of whatever was on hand at the time, as mine was.

French or no this bowl of fennel, tomato, black olives, parsley, basil, and mint made a perfect lunch, and as I ate it I looked back on the days when my siblings all sat around the dinner table eating tomato, lettuce, and cucumber while speaking French to each other, our special way of keeping our parents out of our business.

Home made dressings takes moments to make and is delicious and much healthier than commercial chemical filled dressing

Salad Provencal


1 large ripe, but still firm tomato

2 small or one large fennel bulb

10 black olives, preferable kalamata

A TBS each of chopped fresh basil, parsley, and mint (or a combination of any other fresh herbs you have on hand)

3 TBS of extra virgin oil

1 TBS Balsamic vinegar

A squeeze of lemon

½ tsp of dry mustard

Salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the tomato into thin wedges.

Slice the fennel very thinly

Toss with the olives

Roughly chop the herbs, be gentle, basil bruises easily and sprinkle on top

Combine the oil vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper and whisk until it thickens

Pour dressing over the salad and toss gently

A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: Dutch Baby

September 3, 2020


Discovering Dutch baby pancakes has had the biggest impact on my breakfasts since I discovered egg hoppers in Sri Lanka. Breakfast can be pedestrian. When I was a kid, cereal with milk and sugar was standard. On a good day we might slice a banana to add to the bowl. Once I began school, the most important meal of the day usually consisted of two slices of vegemite toast and a cup of tea. Too often my mother delivered these to my bedroom in a desperate attempt to wake me from the dead.

As a kid, I was such a heavy sleeper I could wake up, eat the toast, drink the tea, and go back to sleep with no memory of any of it. One time, brat that I was, I yelled at my mother, “How can I go to school without breakfast?” She pointed at the empty cup and crumb covered plate on my bedside table. All I could do was grimace, get dressed and run off to school.

Yes, we had pancakes, but they were the delicate, lacey dessert, served with lemon and sugar or fruit. We do have drop scones, known as pikelets. Made with self-rising flour, milk, egg, a little sugar and butter, they’re literally dropped into the pan, cooked on one side until bubbles form all over the surface and then they’re flipped. American readers are thinking, “pancake,” but these are served at afternoon tea, not at breakfast. Mum would whip up a batch if someone dropped in unexpectedly, and by some miracle she had none of her famous cakes or slices on hand. Just thinking about them makes me hungry.

Stuck with close to half a pound of “cheek” bacon from my CSA meat share (what is cheek bacon?), I racked my brain for ways to use this mostly-fat-with-a-sprinkling-of-bacon meat lump. Quiche Lorraine came to mind, but I wasn’t in a mood for making pastry. Egg and bacon pie? Ditto.

What to do? Then I happened on a Melissa Clark recipe for Dutch Baby with Bacon and Runny Camembert. Bacon? Camembert? Say no more, I was hooked. Then last week, another CSA inspired dilemma arose. As well as my vegetable and meat share, I get a fruit share. Last week it was nectarines and yellow peaches. Wonderful, but I hadn’t got through the apples I got the week before. Not to mention the raspberries I used to make the yoyos from last week’s post, or the blueberries I bought, just because. What to do? Make a huge fruit Dutch Boy for brunch, of course!

Here’s the thing about Dutch boys. They are simple to make, and impressive to serve. This is Sunday brunch when the kids bring their new squeeze to meet you, food. Or pandemic lockdown pick me up brunch. They’re cheap to make, dramatic, and turn tired old use it up food into a delicious, light as a feather, gourmet breakfast.

Dutch baby with Fruit from Ed Kimber’s “One Tin Bakes,” via Becky Krystal at The Washington Post (August 26, 2020)

Note: I made this for myself, so simply cut the ingredients in half. It was so yummy I wish I made the full recipe.

Note: this recipe uses US measure, so the grams and milliliters are less than the original British incarnation.
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
Scant 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (240 milliliters) whole or reduced-fat milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter
10 1/2 ounces (300 grams) fresh fruit of your choice, such as mixed berries, sliced peaches or diced apple (I used all of the above)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting


  1. Position a baking rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Place an empty 9-inch-by-13-inch pan on the rack while you prepare the batter.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar for 30 seconds, until the sugar dissolves, then add the flour, milk, vanilla and salt, whisking to form a smooth, thin batter. Set aside for 20 minutes while the oven heats up.
  3. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and add the butter, swirling the pan until it melts and coats the bottom. Pour in the batter, sprinkle the fruit on top and bake for about 20 minutes, or until puffed and golden. The pancake will begin to deflate almost as soon as it comes out of the oven, but will largely retain its puffy edges.
  4. Dust the pancake with the confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.


A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: Sweet Tooth

August 27, 2020

YOME Sweet tooth


To say I have a sweet tooth is an understatement. I can’t get enough sweets, although I’ve paid a price for this love. Major dental work has sent me into a depression. I’ve sunk the price of a NYC apartment into my mouth. It’s ongoing and never ending.

Then my friend @glens_cakes brought back childhood memories of false teeth. My parents’ false teeth brought envy. A nightmare when it happened, but after that no more pain. Well, that’s not true, they often complained about the things they couldn’t eat with dentures.

False teeth were a right of passage for my parents’ generation. Both had them. My father went against public opinion and held onto his teeth longer than was considered normal. Even so, the dentist managed to deprive him of them one at a time. I can remember looking up at the gaps between teeth when I sat on his knee as he read me stories. When he did eventually get a set of choppers he did tricks with them. So did all the elderly aunts and uncles who used their falsies to entertains us kids – pulling faces and letting them slip so we could see their gums.

About 25 years ago at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival Perter Carey spoke about trying to reconcile growing up in rural Victoria and growing old in NYC. He’s from Bacchus Marsh. It’s closer to Melbourne than Bendigo is, but the culture is familiar.

He’s older than me, but he talked about the birthday tooth loss. His outsider status came from keeping his own teeth beyond 15. Did he say it costed a quid, (a £)? After thinking about it, he might have said that you got a quid if you agreed to get all your teeth out. Memory is a strange thing. I wonder what that was about? If anyone remembers I hope you’ll fill me in.

The road to extensive oral renovation is still paved with crooked dentist, see https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/05/the-trouble-with-dentistry/586039/. But even they could be hampered if only something could put me off eating sweets. I didn’t know the whole thing with dentures was British too. I’ll have to make a cuppa and think it over as I bite into one of my delicious homemade biscuits (cookies).

Rasberry Yoyo

Link to cookie Recipe in the Australian Woman’s Weekly:


Vanilla yo-yos with raspberry butter cream

A classic afternoon tea biscuit with added raspberries for a modern touch.

Aug 17, 2014 10:00am

  • 7 mins preparation
  • 20 mins cooking
  • Makes 12 Item


200 gram butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 1/2 cup plain flour mixed with ½ cup cornflour

150 gram butter, softened

2 cup icing sugar

1 drop red food colouring

1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line two trays with baking paper.
  2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric beater until pale and fluffy. Add vanilla. Turn mixer speed to low, combine flours and add to mixture, mixing until you have a soft ball of dough.
  3. Roll dough into 24 walnut-sized balls and place on trays, leaving room for them to expand slightly. Gently flatten each one with a fork.
  4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Leave to cool before sandwiching with butter cream.
  5. For the butter cream, beat the second measure of butter and icing sugar for 2-3 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add food colouring and raspberries, then beat until well combined. Chill until required.

Link to my Instagram Post of 8/20/2020

Link to @Glens_cakes comment:



Ah that post has brought back so many familiar memories Jillian! Pocket money spent on comic books and penny sweets, no soda as we had The Lemonade Man that came around every Friday afternoon and sold every flavour and colour of soda in big glass bottles from crates on the back of his flat back wagon. My personal favourite flavours were cherryade and cream soda!😊 My memories of some of the biscuits you have named came from visiting my grandmother. She had a very sweet tooth, the irony being that she didn’t have a tooth in her head! 😂 Not caused by her love of sugar, (another irony being that she worked at the Tate & Lyle sugar factory) I’ve no real answer to why she had all her teeth removed to be honest, I suspect that if you had dental problems in those days it was easier to have them all removed and have a set of dentures and I’ve even read that it was quite common to have this done as a 21st Birthday present!😨 My grandmother did have a set of dentures but she found them so uncomfortable she never wore them but it didn’t stop her eating any of those biscuits!!😂 I specifically remember chocolate coated teddy bears and biscuits with a clockface on one side and others which were filled with jam and buttercream. My particular favourites were Toffee Pops which we still buy today, shortbread rounds topped with caramel and coated in milk chocolate 😍 Anyway I hope all my talk of dentures and having no teeth doesn’t put you off eating any of those delicious looking Jam Drops Jillian! 🤣🤣 xxx



A Year of Mindful Eating: Food Stories that take you home: Jam Drops

August 20, 2020


Jam Drops 4

My mother was a great baker of cakes and deserts, but the few times I can remember her making cookies (called biscuits in Australia), it ended in tears, burned black bottoms, and soft tops. This is remarkable when you consider the delicate sponges that came out of that woodstove of hers.

We ate store bought biscuits (cookies) which, once she got her driver’s license, arrived home Friday afternoon when mum did “the weekly shop.” My favorites were Monte Carlos (see earlier post). Tim Tams were another popular choice, along with iced VoVo’s, chocolate covered teddy bears, and tic tocks, plain biscuits embellished by a clock face on one side and brightly colored hard icing on the other.

I can still remember the anticipation of Friday afternoon. If I got home from school before she cruised into the driveway, I’d pace the lounge room. It wasn’t just cookies either. Friday, a day of plenty, included soda which my siblings and I would down like we’d just emerged from the desert. My mother was no fan of soda but compromised on shopping day.

Writing this seems so strange. Up until the pandemic at least, kids nowadays had their own money for soda. Back then our only source of income was pocket money in exchange for chores or our own after school or weekend job. The idea of wasting that hard earned cash on soda was unthinkable. Mine all went on How and Why books and comics, my sisters bought necessities such as nail polish.

When the Australian Woman’s Weekly arrived in my inbox with a link to recipes for classic Aussie biscuits I couldn’t wait to get started. Sadly, there were no tic toc secrets included, and iced VoVos with their cookie, pink marshmallow, jam, and coconut topping would have taken me a day to make. I settled on Jam drops.

I don’t know about you, but if I were to identify the one quality that sets a great cookie from a good one, it’d be red jam. Think sandwich cookies, think linzer, think raspberry jam pinches. And so, it was with great anticipation that I removed them from the oven. The result? They were fine, especially if you don’t mind blackened bottoms and soft tops.

Link to recipes for classic Australian cookies (biscuits)


Jam Drops (as Copied and pasted from the Australian Women’s Weekly, link above)

Jam drops

Jam drops are a classic biscuit that perfectly combine the sweetness of plum jam with the buttery flavor and crumbly texture of a good biscuit.


  • 80 grams 80g butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup (75g) raw caster sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup (110g) self-raising flour
  • 1/4 cup (45g) rice flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • icing sugar, to serve
Quick plum jam
  • 500 grams plums, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (55g) raw caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger


  • 1 Make quick plum jam: Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan with ¼ cup (60ml) water; bring to the boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until a spoonful of the jam wrinkles when pushed with a finger on a chilled plate. Cool.
  • 2 Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced) Line three oven trays with baking paper.
  • 3 Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale; add egg, beat until just combined. Stir in sifted flours and cinnamon. Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes.
  • 4 Roll 1 1/2 teaspoons of the chilled dough into a ball; place on tray. Repeat with remaining dough. Press a deep indent into the centre of each ball; fill with the plum jam. Bake biscuits for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.
  • 5 Dust with sifted icing sugar, if desired.


Jam drops will keep in an airtight container for up to two days. Suitable to freeze. Not suitable to microwave.

A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: Peach Upside Down Cake

August 13, 2020

Peach Upside Down Cake

A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home

Peach Upside Down Cake

Fresh peaches straight from the tree have stopped being a dream. Now it’s a battle against time to put a plentiful summer harvest to good use. I decided to give the NYT’s peach upside down cake a go.

Every Saturday, my mother made enough cakes to get our family of 7 through the week. Back then, anyone looking for a snack would head for the cake tins found in every kitchen. I always wanted to help. I took pleasure in watching her go through the familiar steps. Even though I had memorized her routine – sift the dry ingredients three times, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, and then whatever special flavoring ingredients – I was nonetheless full of excited anticipation, as if each time was the first.

The smells wafting out of mum’s kitchen were comforting and alluring. It wasn’t unusual to find myself pacing the room waiting for the moment she opened the oven. Once I was grown, a high point of a home visit was access to those cakes. She kept on baking after we had gone, with my father playing a more prominent role, taking the place of us kids pacing in anticipation of her delicious cakes.

I went through the motions of making the cake, but the process, and even the result left me feeling empty. Just as the tree falls in the forest, is a cake a cake if no one is around to enjoy it?
As a child, the prospect of baking cakes alone in NYC wasn’t on my radar. I baked cakes with my mother, and sometimes my friends. I baked them when I was a stay-at-home mother for my kids, and I’ve been baking through lockdown. Before COVID I would take leftovers to work. My colleagues and students gobbled them up gleefully.

I have kids too, but they are either far away or banned from my house by COVID concerns. Besides as vegans they aren’t fans of my baking. As this cake cooked my house filled with the aroma of peach and caramel. Once it was cool, I took a slice. But somehow it didn’t matter how tasty it was, or how frugal I had been in putting abundant peaches to new uses, this beautiful cake left me feeling forlorn, and more than aware that my house is now empty.

Peach Updise Down Cake slice

Here is a link to the recipe, which I’ve pasted below:


The only comment I have is that I did not like the bourbon cream. I think this is a tip to the “Southern” theme of the cake, but I wish I had gone with my usual cream whipped with a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar.

I don’t have a cast-iron skillet, so I used a Dutch oven. In terms of conducting heat, this worked very well, however, getting this cake out of the bottom of a large (10-inch) Dutch oven was a challenge, and the cake doesn’t look as beautiful if it might. Next time I’ll use my good, heavy, but not cast-iron 10-inch skillet


For the cake:

  • 4 medium peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds/680 grams), unpeeled and cut into 1/3-inch-thick wedges
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup/130 grams cake flour, not self-rising
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup/200 grams granulated sugar
  • 5 ounces/140 grams unsalted butter (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons), at cool room temperature
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup sour cream

For the bourbon whipped cream (optional):

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. (This is in case the cake bubbles over during baking.)
  2. In a large bowl, toss the peaches with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, cook 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sugar melts and turns a deep amber color, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately add 2 tablespoons of the butter, stirring vigorously. The mixture may appear curdled and broken; don’t worry, it will smooth out. Arrange the peach wedges in concentric circles over the sugar mixture, overlapping as needed to make them fit.
  4. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the remaining sugar, butter and the vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract) on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add the sour cream and beat until blended. With the mixer running on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture, beating just until blended and stopping to scrape bowl as needed. Spoon the batter over the peaches in the skillet and spread to cover.
  5. Place the skillet on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.
  6. Make the whipped cream, if desired: In a large bowl, preferably metal, combine cream and bourbon. Refrigerate, along with a metal whisk or mixer attachments, for at least 15 minutes. Once chilled, whip the mixture until it holds soft peaks, 3 to 5 minutes.
  7. Let the cake cool in the skillet on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge to loosen. If you see liquid around the edges of the skillet, carefully pour off into a measuring cup and set aside. (It’s O.K. if you don’t have any excess liquid — it all depends on how juicy your fruit is.)
  8. Carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate and drizzle with any reserved liquid. Let cool about 10 minutes more, to set. Cut into wedges using a serrated knife and serve, topping each slice with whipped cream if you like.



A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: Peppers

August 6, 2020


1976: My final year at high school. I was at a barrel (keg) party in a farmer’s paddock somewhere out of town. Everyone had told their parents everything about it except the barrel, and so each student arrived with a “plate” of homemade barbeque food.

One of my classmates, a robust red head with a liking for the good life had shown up with a salad in an elegant glass dish. The boys had been drinking for a while when she got there, and so she had to navigate her way around the puke to shepherd her salad to food table. I noticed a rather strange looking element in the salad, a slice of something green. It was hollow, with uneven corners and periodic indents.

“It’s Capsicum. God, you’re a peasant,” she said.

Yes, well, there it was, in attending the inaugural year of Bendigo Senior High, I’d joined a more cosmopolitan, central city set, leaving my old mates from Kangaroo Flat behind.

Though skeptical, not wanting to appear the bumpkin I was, I dove in. What an explosion of flavor. My first 18 years had been spent in a nation in denial. Though most of us were born Aussie, we considered ourselves British through and through. We pretended we weren’t living in the Southern Hemisphere. That meant our Easter was a harvest festival, whereas for the Brits it was all about spring, renewal, and fertility. We cared for none of that, to us it was the last long weekend before the cold weather set in.

Capsicums were exotic, almost dangerous; they tasted of escape. I’d always known there was a world beyond the aptly named, Great Dividing Range that separated my inland Australia and its populous coast. As a young child I’d put my return address as Kangaroo Flat, Victoria, Australia, The World, The Solar System, The Galaxy, The Universe. That pretty much covered where I placed the boundaries of my possible future. My senior year of high school was a time of rebellion and anticipation. At that moment, that first tantalizing encounter, the humble capsicum, green pepper, or bell pepper embodied all of my hopes and dreams.

A Year of Mindful Eating: Food Stories that take you home: Soft shell crab

July 30, 2020


Like most Australians I spent a lot of time on the beach growing up. The smell of the ocean, and the grit of sand between my toes is part of who I am. But the images of crab infested beaches and creature filled rock pools didn’t hold true. I rarely saw crabs, and but for one blue-ringed octopus sighting, never saw much in the way of rock-pool fauna. Crab was a rare delicacy, and when I first heard the term soft shell crab, I had no idea what that was, or why it elicited such excitement from those who did.

These were happy days in my family, and we, the kids and I, were regular guests at my then husband’s aunt’s East Hampton beach house. She’s a foodie too, and our visits were guaranteed to please the palate. When she announced that we’d be sailing over to Greenport for soft-shell crab sandwiches, I trusted that we were in for a treat. No kidding. The next day we (me, my children, their grand aunt), headed for East Hampton Marina where the crew, and ever present 20+ hangers on joined us. Slipping our shoes off, we boarded her yacht and motored across to the north folk. At Greenport we moored the boat and poured into a dockside restaurant. I remember very little else, except for the moisture on the outside of my beer glass, the sunshine, and the simple summertime feeling of wellbeing. As to the soft-shell crab, it was love at first bite, and I couldn’t wait until I had my next encounter.

There is a wonderful fish store near me, and each year I wait for the sign “We have live
soft-shell crabs” to appear.  The best part is they bread and cook them, and at less than $8 each they’re a bargain. As an immigrant, the old normal was a new normal for me, but I crave some semblance a routine. Each summer I make a point of recreating that wonderful sandwich, and this year I was determined to keep to the script.

“Soft-shell crab is a culinary term for crabs which have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft.” – Wikipedia. That’s the key, no time wasted on getting at the meat. Who needs rockpools when you have a sandwich this delish?

Cooking the crab can be complicated though, the crabs must be cleaned, breaded and deep fried. If you can find a fish store that will cook them for you, I highly recommend it. While the reward is well worth the effort, frying crabs in a heat wave isn’t the most fun thing to do.

For the crab


Vegetable oil for frying

4 soft shelled crabs, cleaned

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and black pepper to taste


Combine the flour, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper and mix thoroughly (I use a plastic food bag which is great for mixing in the seasoning, and even better for coating the crabs).

Dredge (or if you are using a plastic food bag, shake), the crabs to coat with the seasoned flour.

Heat the oil until shimmering hot. Drop the crabs in in a single layer. Watch out, there might be some spitting. Cook approximately three (3) minute, then, when golden brown, flip and cook until crisp and brown and cooked through, approximately another three (3) minutes.

Tartare Sauce


½ cup good mayo

Half a small onion, chopped finely (I used a whole Walla Walla onion (they are tiny), but any sweet onion will work)

Small dill pickle or sweet gherkin, finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

Few drops of hot sauce (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbs. rinsed and finely chopped capers


Combine all ingredients, mix well

To assemble

4 bread rolls or eight pieces of good toasting bread

Lettuce leaves, finely shredded

Tomatoes thinly sliced

Sweet onion, finely sliced

Extra lemon wedges for serving


Warm rolls or toast bread.

Spread a generous amount of tartare sauce on the rolls/bread

Place a crab on the bread, then build up layers of thinly sliced tomato, then the onions, and finally the lettuce.

Top with the roll or second piece of toast.





A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: Apple cake

July 23, 2020


A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home

Apple cake

At five children my family ranked about average for its day. The outliers back then were the couples with one or no children, or those with 16 – 20 (it happened). If you were over 18 in 1960s, rural Australia you were married, irrespective of your sexual preferences, and if you’d been married for more than a year, chances were you’d had one baby. The upshot of all these mouths to feed was that not much got wasted and our mothers were pretty canny when it came to putting food to good uses.

I bought some apples a while back and just didn’t get around to eating them. While few fruits keep growing after they are picked, apples are one of the many that shrink and wizen. Contemplating them, I decided to implement one of my mother’s prime directives: if it’s beyond the point where you’d want to eat it raw, cook it.

She didn’t just apply this to fruit, but to everything. Fruit was a special case. I’m pretty sure she had a fear of raw fruit (see posts on stewed fruit). As for meat, she felt that cooking it when its best days were behind it was a fine way to extend its life.

I can still smell the cakes cooking and feel the warmth from her old wood stove filling our home. There’s nothing like it. The hardest part of her prolific cooking was waiting until the cake cooled enough to cut. When I was very young, not hacking in was hard, especially because if I didn’t get in first, by the time my older siblings were done, there wasn’t much left for me. Not a problem now that my kids have grown up and left home. I get all the cake I want, a situation I would happily give up if I could have my kids able to visit without the fear of Corvid.

What to make with a couple of wrinkly old apples? An apple cake of course. This one is so simple anyone could make it. Mum was right, them apples taste great.

A note about the glaze: the recipe calls for gelatin. I didn’t have any on hand the day I made the cake, so I used arrowroot. There are pros and cons.

The upside of arrowroot is that it’s vegan, which means that all of my kids will eat it. The downside is that the glaze was cloudy, and sticky. It never quite set the way the gelatin one does. And gelatin, well it’s gelatin, and that I know of, there is no such thing as clean, organic gelatin. While it does the job beautifully, it’s a scary product.  It’s all about priorities, and it’s your call. If you want a perfect transparent sheen that sets completely, go for gelatin. If you want something vegetarian, and you don’t mind the cloudiness and stickiness choose arrowroot.

This recipe is from an Australian Woman’s Weekly Cookbook, in this case, Cakes and Slices, page 97.

Apple Cake


6.5 oz butter

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

2/3 cup of sugar

3 eggs

1 cup of self-rising flour

½ cup of all-purpose flour

1/3 cup of milk

2 apples


Grease an 8-inch springform pan

Cream butter, sugar, and lemon rind until light and fluffy

Beat in eggs one at a time

Stir in flour and milk

Spread into pan

Peel and core apples, cut in quarters, and slice the rounded side almost all the way through (as for a hasselback potato)

Arrange the apples in the batter in the tin

Bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.


1 teaspoon of gelatin

2 tablespoons of cold water

2 tablespoons of strained apricot jam


Dissolve gelatin in water over a hot water bath, add strained jam and mix.

Spread half the mixture over the hot cake.

Let the cake cool in the pan.

Remove cake from pan, warm remaining glaze and spread it over the cake.

Glaze (Vegetarian/Vegan)

1 heaped teaspoon arrowroot

2 tablespoons of cold water

2 tablespoons of apricot jam


Mix arrowroot in two tablespoons of cold water.

Heat jam gently, strain and return to the pan. Add arrowroot and stir until the glaze boils and thickens. Cook for a minute (watch closely you don’t want it to burn, possible even when cooked over water).

Follow instructions for Glaze from here.

Serve with a dollop of cream and a cup of tea.

A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: Peach Pound cake

July 16, 2020

Peach poundcake final

When I saw a pic of @chocolateforbasil’s peach pound cake in the New York Times food section I had to cook it. I love peaches and I love cake so what could be better than combining the two? Besides, peaches are at their peak right now, and while they’ll be good until September, better to get going so I can cook this cake more than once.

Pound cakes weren’t a thing when I lived in Australia. Aside from an occasional fruit cake – a cake made with dried fruit such as mixed peel, raisins, glacé cherries, etc. – cakes were mostly round. I’m not sure if my mother ever tasted banana cake, and carrot cake would have horrified her, but she did make a delicious, round peach upside down cake.

Here pound cakes are available everywhere, including an Entenmann’s version, which as near as I can tell is equal parts sugar, flour, butter, and preservatives. By some miracle it’s light and fluffy and leaves no mark, that is, you eat a slice, and you can either eat the rest of the cake, or a full meal immediately afterwards, or both. I looked them up in my old Joy of Cooking and they only rated a paragraph. The only clue I found was that pound cakes are traditionally dense, but if I wanted a lighter, fluffier cake, all I have to do is separate the eggs.

Always a stickler for tradition (so long as it serves my purpose), I kept the eggs together and got at it. There is much to like about this cake. First it has peaches, second, it’s a cake, and third it is mixed by hand which has a big impact on the washing up. But there were some problems. I used my Pyrex loaf pan which I measured post bake. It is 8.6 x 5 inches. The recipe calls for a 9 x 5 inch pan. This has never been an issue before, but my instincts, which told me it was a bit full when it went in the oven, were spot on. A good inch thick layer spilled over the top and landed on my oven floor.

Next came the icing, a combination of ripe peach, a drop of lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar. Now this is seriously one of the most delicious frostings I’ve ever tasted. The problem, it never set. The recipe says make it in advance, which was strange in and of itself. My experience with icing is to always make it at the time it’s being used, the basic idea of glaze being that we must pour it on and shape it before it sets. According to the recipe, “The icing should be thick but thin enough to drizzle. Add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken or a splash of water to thin. . .” Mmmm, still it didn’t set.

And here’s my point. This is not the first time that I’ve cooked something from the NYT because it looked and sounded delicious, but the recipe didn’t work. Makes me wonder if they have a test kitchen. Certainly, someone cooked this cake, there is a great pic of it. No wait, I’ve never forgotten that article in Harper’s Magazine in the 1980s deconstructing food photography. Maybe the cake was styled, rather than cooked? Oh dear. I want recipes that work. I want real authentic food that works for me and my family. I’m as much a fan of food porn as the next fat girl, and I have to say, the finish product was yummy, dense and rich, if missing its top. And the frosting never got old.

As my old mother always said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This one is worth a go, but make sure your loaf pan is at least 9 x 5 inches and have some ice cream on standby. You might want to cover it in some of that no-set peach frosting.

I am just copying and pasting the recipe from the new York Times by Jerrelle Guy. All credit for it to her. here’s the link to the original: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1021204-peach-poundcake?action=click&module=Collection%20Page%20Recipe%20Card&region=Our%2010%20Most%20Popular%20Recipes%20Right%20Now&pgType=collection&rank=1


  • 1 cup/230 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled to room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 ½ cups/320 grams all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 3 medium, ripe, red-hued peaches (about 1 pound), pitted (see Note)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup/125 grams unsifted confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed
  • 1 ½ cups/300 grams granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.
  2. Dice 1 peach into 1/3-inch pieces. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining 2 peaches and the lemon juice to a food processor or blender, and blend on high until completely puréed. Measure out 1 leveled cup of the purée and transfer it to a mixing bowl along with the melted butter, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla. Whisk to combine and set aside.
  4. Completely scrape down the sides of the food processor, and make the icing using the small amount of puréed peaches still remaining: Add 1 cup of the confectioners’ sugar to the remaining peach purée in the food processor and blend on high until combined. The icing should be thick but thin enough to drizzle. Add more confectioners’ sugar to thicken or a splash of water to thin, as needed. Cover and set aside until it’s time to ice the cake.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine. Pour the peach mixture into the flour mixture, and whisk well until the batter is thoroughly combined, then fold in the diced peaches. Transfer the batter to the loaf pan, spread evenly to the edges, and bake until crusty and golden brown on the top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 75 to 80 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
  6. Stir the icing a final time and spread it on top of the warm cake, allowing the extra icing to drip down the sides. Cool the cake to room temperature. Slice and serve, or wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store on the counter for up to 3 days.


  • Use the boldest-colored peaches you can find, as their skins will lend blush to the glaze. However, you can also peel the peaches, if you mind the specks of skin.

A Year of Mindful Eating: Food stories that take you home: CSA Pesto

July 9, 2020

CSA 722020

When I got my stimulus check I signed up for a CSA box (Community Supported Agriculture). With the pandemic fueled price rises in the supermarket the CSA seemed especially compelling this year.

I added a meat share, my first. Now I will have a box of farm fresh organic vegetables every week until the week before Thanksgiving (well every other week, the box is too much for one, so I have a share partner). And I’ll have a big bag of fruit each week from early August until late October. As to the meat share, it’s monthly, and the meat is from small family farms. It’s not always organic because sick animals might have been treated with anti-biotics while sick, but it’s pretty much as clean as meat comes in the US.

A CSA box can be slim pickings in the spring – you’ve got to love lettuce and other salad greens – but as the growing season picks up, the box gets heavier and the variety expands. The key to these shares is that by paying in the spring, I lock in the price for the whole season. The farmers get the money when they need it in the spring, and I get the food through the growing season. Win, win.

While you can buy dairy shares, I didn’t, and yet last week at pickup we were all offered a free dairy box. I couldn’t say no. And so fresh mozzarella, butter, and other yummy cheeses were added to the mix. My veggie box last week had carrots, cucumbers, beets, and a bunch each of parsley and basil. Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil salad!

A very hot July has followed a hotter than usual June, so the basil is early. This is the first summer that at least one of my daughter’s hasn’t swung through town, and if I’m not serving them poached salmon, I serve linguine with basil and summer sauce. Summer sauce is a raw tomato sauce I’ve only ever seen in The Australian Women’s Weekly. I mixed it with pesto one day years ago to stretch a meal when a couple of my kids’ friends showed up unexpectantly and the combo was an instant hit.

Sadly, this year, even my New York City son isn’t coming around for meals yet. So, I took a pic of the food, and ate it during our Sunday evening Zoom.

Pesto (adapted from the Golden Earthworm farm recipe)

Pesto and summer sauce


2 cups of fresh basil leaves

Half a cup of chopped parsley
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (…the best quality you can find!*)
1/4 cup pine nuts, almonds, walnuts or a combination of these+
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Combine the basil and nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

+NOTE: The quality of your olive oil is very important! While pesto is one of my favorite flavors,

*I’ve tasted many a pesto made with inferior oil that ruins the entire batch.

Note: I dry roasted the nuts before blending them, which increased the nutty flavor.

Summer (from the Australian Woman’s Weekly Italian Cookbook)

The name of this pasta sauce is very apt. It tastes like summer in a bowl. I can’t wait for the peak season tomatoes to arrive to make this sauce, which can be served by itself or, in a family favorite, combination with pesto.


1LB firm, ripe tomatoes

1 onion

6 green olives

½ TBS capers

½ tsp oregano

1/3 cup chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic

1/cup of extra virgin olive oil


Finely chop unpeeled tomatoes

Peel and finely chop onion

Stone and chop olives

Finely chop and crush capers

Crush garlic

Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl. Mix well, cover, stand overnight.

Serve cold over hot pasta