Thursday the 23rd is the September Equinox. On the Equinox, the hours of day and night are roughly equal. Following the Equinox, the days will become longer than the nights or the nights longer than the days, depending on where you live. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you’ll be celebrating the Autumn/Fall Equinox so your daylight hours will slowly decrease as nights become longer. For those of us in the southern hemisphere, we are celebrating the Spring Equinox so our hours of daylight will slowly increase and the days become longer as we head towards the Summer Solstice.
After grating too much carrot for a recipe, I decided to use the extra carrot to make something for the Spring Equinox. I’ve always wanted to make carrot cornbread or a cornmeal carrot cake so I decided to play around with some of my cornbread recipes and my previous Easter Bunny Cupcake recipe. With some trepidation I baked my carrot and cornmeal concoction in a loaf pan and hoped for the best. Thankfully the cake turned out to be sweet and moreish – perfect for the Spring Equinox!
Carrot and Cornmeal Cake
Ingredients 1/2 cup cornmeal 1/2 cup flour, sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 cup milk 1 egg, room temperature 30g (2 tablespoons) butter, melted 1 tablespoon maple syrup 1/2 cup grated carrot
Instructions Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Line a medium sized loaf pan with baking paper. Mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, melted butter and maple syrup. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the grated carrot. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
One of the things I love doing on the weekends is going for a drive and popping into a bakery for a sausage roll. I have a few favourite places I go, but am always keen to try out new places. Unfortunately we’ve been in lockdown for a while and are restricted in how far we can travel. So if I can’t get to the sausages rolls, the sausage rolls will have to come to me! Thankfully my partner makes a great sausage roll so I spent the weekend indulging in these fresh baked pastries. 🙂
A sausage roll is basically puff pastry rolled around seasoned sausage meat and baked to golden perfection. The beauty of the sausage roll is that there is no exact recipe for what it should contain. You can use all ground pork or a combination of meats, vegetables are optional and seasonings can vary from simple salt and pepper to any combination of sauces, spices or herbs.
The recipe below is really just a guide. You can experiment with what meat, vegetables and spices you like. You can even sprinkle them with sesame or poppy seeds before baking. Sausage rolls are great piping hot from the oven and equally tasty cold the next day. They also make great picnic food.
For those who like a bit of trivia, sausage rolls are a plot device in Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera The Grand Duke; or, The Statutory Duel. Part of the story involves characters eating sausage rolls. I would have loved a starring “roll” in that opera!
Ingredients 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot 1/3 cup finely chopped celery 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds 1/8 teaspoon ground aniseed good crack of black pepper 2 slices of toasted white bread 250g pork mince 250g beef mince 2 sheets of puff pastry, partly thawed 1 egg, beaten
Instructions Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the carrot and celery and fry until soft. Stir in the salt, caraway seeds, aniseed and pepper. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Blend the toasted bread in a food processor until they form breadcrumbs. Place the pork, beef, vegetable mix and breadcrumbs in a bowl and mix with your hand until combined. Cut each sheet of pastry into two. Lay out a rectangle of pastry with the long edge closest to you. Roll a 1/4 of the meat into a sausage shape and place it along the long edge. Make sure the meat is tightly rolled and that there are no gaps. Roll the long side of the pastry around the sausage. Crimp the long side to seal, leaving the shorter edges unsealed. Place on prepared tray, seal side down. Cut into three pieces (or four if you prefer smaller). Repeat with remaining meat and pastry. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 30 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
This year I thought I would commemorate Bram Stoker’s April 20th Deathiversary by exploring Quincey P. Morris, an important but often overlooked character in Dracula.
Quincey P. Morris is a young, rich American from Texas. He’s a larrikin who carries a bowie knife. He has travelled and had many adventures and is a bit rough and ready. He loves using American slang when he is with friends but is also a gentleman with impeccable manners. Quincey is close friends with both Arthur Holmwood and Dr Seward. All three are in love with Lucy Westenra and all three propose to her. Although Lucy chooses Arthur, Dr Seward and Quincey remain loyal and devoted friends to both Arthur and Lucy. When Lucy is bitten by Dracula, Arthur, Dr Seward and Quincey join forces with Abraham Van Helsing to try and save her life. Sadly they fail and Lucy becomes one of the undead and is eventually staked by Arthur.
When Mina Harker becomes the next target of Dracula, Arthur, Dr Seward, Quincey and Abraham Van Helsing join forces with Mina and her husband Jonathan Harker, to do battle with Dracula for the life and soul of Mina. After mighty struggles and an arduous journey to Transylvania, Mina watches as Jonathan and Quincey fight a band of gypsies protecting the fleeing Dracula. As they fight their way towards Dracula’s crate, Quincey is stabbed by one of the gypsies. Undeterred, Quincey makes it to Jonathan’s side and together they pry open Dracula’s crate. A horrified Mina watches as Jonathan slits Dracula’s throat and Quincey stabs Dracula in the heart with his bowie knife. Dracula’s body crumbles and disappears before their eyes. A dying Quincey watches as the symbol of Mina’s corruption, a wafer burn scar on her forehead, vanishes. He dies a happy man knowing that Mina’s soul is restored.
On the anniversary of Quincey’s death, Mina gives birth to a son. Quincey Harker has a bundle of names that link all the vampire hunters together but they call him Quincey in honour of his ultimate sacrifice. Quincey P. Morris is in many ways the true hero of Dracula. As a big fan of Quincey, I’m happy that his name and spirit live on.
To pay tribute to Stoker’s fascinating yet underrated character, I was considering making a Texas Funeral Cake. This way I could honour Quincey’s Texan heritage, and also enjoy a chocolate sheet cake topped with chocolate frosting and pecans. But as I thought of Quincey, I couldn’t help thinking of quinces. The name play being too tantalising for me, I started working out how I could add quince jam or paste to a Texas Funeral Cake. As I pondered whether to add quince to the cake batter, the cooked cake, or add it to the frosting, the thought hit me that as Dracula dies he crumbles. My mind then went straight to a Quince Crumble!
The joy of using fresh quinces is that, as they cook, an amazing alchemical process takes place and the white flesh slowly transforms to a reddish pink colour. Watching the quince change colour naturally makes me think of blood, which is so appropriate for a recipe honouring the deaths of the author of, and a character in, a vampire novel! I’m sure Bram will enjoy my playful take on Quincey’s role in Dracula’s crumbly end. 🙂
Ingredients 750g quinces, peeled, cored and quartered 1/4 cup caster sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 + 1/4 cups plain flour 175g unsalted butter, diced and chilled 4 tablespoons brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Instructions Place the quince in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the caster sugar, vanilla extract and enough water to just cover the fruit. Bring to the boil then simmer for 3 – 4 hours or until the quince have turned a pinkish red. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Add the flour and chilled butter to a medium sized bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the mixture together until you form large crumbs. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and mix through until combined. Spoon the quince into a baking dish, leaving behind any excess liquid. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit. Bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown. Serve with cream, ice cream or custard.
During the lead up to Easter, a recipe for a Cadbury Creme Egg “Scotch Egg” was doing the rounds and the reactions ranged from Yum? to Yuck! When a friend asked me what my take on this twisted treat would be, I put my thinking cap on and did a bit of research.
First step was to check the ingredients in the Creme Egg. Palm oil is an ingredient which was a concern because of its environmental impact, however, Australian Cadbury products are supposed to use palm oil sourced from sustainable producers which is great. The next ingredient that caught my attention was the red/orange food colouring 160c – aka paprika – yes paprika! I am allergic to paprika and all other chillies, so I couldn’t use that egg for my recipe. Undeterred, I decided to use Caramello easter eggs which I know don’t contain paprika. 🙂
My next step was to decide what coating I would use to wrap around my eggs. After some thought I went with a condensed milk and biscuit (cookie) crumb truffle mix. I couldn’t decide whether to add cacao powder into the mix so I made one batch with cacao powder and another one with milk powder. The milk powder mix is drier than the cacao mix which is really sticky, making it slightly challenging but heaps of fun to work with. I can’t decide which one I like best as they are both so tasty!
You can experiment with your own flavour combinations by mixing and matching different flavoured easter eggs such as Turkish delight or peppermint cream. You can also experiment with different toppings such as crushed cookies, sprinkles, grated chocolate, cocoa or cacao powder.
Easter Egg Truffles
Ingredients 125g shortbread cookies 25g cacao powder 25g milk powder 150ml sweetened condensed milk 12 mini caramel filled easter eggs shredded coconut for topping
Instructions Crush the shortbreads into fine crumbs in a food processor or by placing in a ziplock bag and smashing with a rolling pin. Divide the shortbread crumbs evenly into two bowls. Add cacao powder to one bowl and mix until combined. Add milk powder to the other bowl and mix until combined. Add half the condensed milk to the cacao powder mix and stir until combined. Add the remaining condensed milk to the milk powder mix and stir until combined. Place coconut in a bowl. Remove wrapping from the easter eggs. Place a tablespoon of milk powder mix in your hand, top with an easter egg, then shape the mix around the egg. Roll in coconut. Repeat until 6 eggs are covered. Place a tablespoon of cacao powder mix in your hand, top with an easter egg, then shape the mix around the egg. Roll in coconut. Repeat until remaining 6 eggs are covered. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can serve them straight from the fridge or bring to room temperature if you want a gooey centre.
This weekend is the March Equinox. One half of the world springs into Spring while the other half falls into Fall. I’m in the half that is falling into Fall, or as I more often call it – Autumn. I love this time of the year, when day and night are balanced. I love it even more knowing that colder weather is on its way! There are still sunny days ahead but the cooler nights remind us that the seasons are turning.
The Autumn Equinox is the second harvest festival on the Pagan calendar. Grains, fruits and nuts are traditional foods, as are breads, cakes, pies and other baked goods. Beer, cider and mead are great drinks to help wash down hearty Autumn fare while warming drinks such as mulled wines, ciders and piping hot chocolates provide comfort for lengthening nights.
When I think of Autumn, I think of apples and when I think of apples, I think of caramel apples! While holidaying in Las Vegas one Autumn, my best friend and I saw a store window filled with caramel apples. We were both too full to try one, so he took a photo instead.
When I got home, I just had to create a cupcake version of a caramel apple. I think the perfect drink for these sweet apple cupcakes would be a warm mug of spicy mulled apple cider. 🙂
Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Ingredients for the apple cupcakes 1 cup plain flour, sifted 1/3 cup almond meal 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 150g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature 2/3 cup sugar 1 egg, room temperature 2/3 cup milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
for the salted caramel frosting 115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter 1 cup dark brown sugar 1/3 cup double cream 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 2 – 3 cups icing (powdered) sugar, sifted
Instructions Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with 12 paper cases. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the milk and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed until just combined. Fold in the apple pieces. Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter evenly into paper cases. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Make the frosting by melting the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat to medium and add the sugar and cream. Stir continually with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Add the salt and allow to cook for 2 minutes, being careful not to burn the caramel. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place the caramel in a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, gradually beat in the powdered sugar until frosting is smooth and reaches a piping consistency. This will take a few minutes of beating to achieve. Spoon frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.
One of my favourite treats growing up was a visit to the Cookie Man in the Myer department store food hall in Melbourne. The Myer food hall was an adventure all of its own, but it was the Cookie Man that always lured me with its siren smell of freshly baked cookies.
Once lured, I would stare at the colourful and tantalising display of cookies, excitedly trying to work out which ones I would get and how many! I loved slowly picking cookies and watching them drop into the foil bag. My assortment always included Californians (flavoured with cinnamon and topped with a slivered almond) and Coffee Walnut (lightly flavoured with coffee and topped with a walnut half). I loved eating these cookies with a glass of milk or a cup of tea, but that didn’t stop me from opening the bag a few times before I got home. Luckily the bag was resealable!
Thinking about these cookies made me yearn for a cookie that combines the cinnamon flavour of a Californian with the flavours of a Coffee Walnut cookie. I decided to play around with some of my cookie recipes to create my very own Cookie Woman cookies. 🙂
Coffee, Cinnamon & Walnut Cookies (Makes approximately 18)
Ingredients 1 cup plain flour, sifted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 teaspoons ground coffee (or to taste) 1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped 125g unsalted butter, room temperature 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1 egg, room temperature approximately 18 walnut halves for topping
Instructions Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Mix together the plain flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, coffee and walnuts. Set aside. In a medium bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Drop tablespoons onto prepared trays. (Using a cookie scoop makes it much easier and gives a great shape). Gently press a walnut half onto the top of the cookie. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the outer edges become slightly darker than the centre of the cookie. Place on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before serving.
When my 50th Anniversary Edition of Traditional Macedonian Recipes arrived, I couldn’t wait to to see what tasty offerings it contained. I was happy to see some familiar treats like Chicken and Baked Rice (Kokoshka Sus Oris), Egg Custard Banista (Mletchneek) and Lenten Crepes with Garlic Sauce (Posnee Peetoolee Sus Tulchen Luk). These recipes brought back happy memories and took me on a culinary journey through my childhood.
Traditional Macedonian Recipes was originally published in 1969 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by the St. George’s Macedono-Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church and Ladies’ Section Mara Buneva. I was intrigued by who Mara Buneva was and, after a quick search, I discovered a female revolutionary who is as fascinating and divisive as the Balkans themselves.
Mara Buneva was a Macedonian Bulgarian revolutionary. She was born in 1902 in Tetovo which was then a Vilayet of Kosovo in the Ottoman Empire and is now part of North Macedonia. After the Serbian annexation of Tetovo, Buneva moved to Bulgaria. She studied at Sofia University and married a Bulgarian officer. They divorced in 1926. Buneva then joined the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in Sofia.
In 1927 she returned to Skopje and opened a store. When members of the Macedonian Youth Secret Revolutionary Organization were arrested and sentenced to long-term imprisonment, IMRO ordered the execution of Serbian official, Velimir Prelić.
On January 13th, 1928, (ironically Friday the 13th), Mara Buneva assassinated Velimir Prelić. After shooting Prelić, Buneva committed suicide by shooting herself. Prelić died a few days later in hospital. Buneva was buried by Serbian police in an unknown place.
Buneva is viewed by some as a traitor and terrorist while others celebrate her as a heroine and martyr, fighting for the freedom of Macedonia. Attempts to place a commemorative plaque at the place where she died have failed as they are destroyed not long after they are erected. I don’t know if there is one there now, however, there is a wax figure of Buneva in the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle.
While I’ve only explored the tip of the iceberg in relation to the controversies and legacies surrounding Mara Buneva, it’s a journey I’m eager to pursue. And speaking of icebergs, Buneva Point in Antarctica is named after Mara Buneva.
To celebrate my discovery of another controversial revolutionary woman, I thought I would make one of the cakes from Traditional Macedonian Recipes. To honour Mara Buneva’s deathiversary, I’ve chosen the Marmalade Cake, which is a special Lenten recipe and contains no fats, dairy or eggs. Thankfully it contains lots of flavour!
Ingredients 1/2 cup oil (I used extra virgin olive oil) 1 cup marmalade 1 cup water 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped zest of 1 orange 2 cups plain flour 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon cloves 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) 1/2 teaspoon salt
Instructions Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Line a 20cm (8inch) square baking pan with baking paper. Mix together the oil, marmalade, water, walnuts and orange peel in a bowl. Sift in the dry ingredients. Mix until combined. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing and cutting into squares. Can be eaten warm or cold.
November 8th is Bram Stoker’s birthday. As I thought about Bram and his special day, I was drawn to the concept of birthstones and the magical attributes of gems.
A birthstone is a gemstone that represents an aspect of a person’s birthday. When people choose a birthstone, they usually choose one associated with their birth month. However, you can also choose birthstones associated with the day you were born or your hour of birth. The birthstone I was most interested in exploring for Bram was the one associated with his star sign, which is Scorpio.
During my research I discovered there was no consensus about which gems represented Scorpio. I also discovered that many of the gems chosen for Scorpio just didn’t feel right to me. That changed when I read Astrology for Wellness: Star Sign Guides for Body, Mind & Spirit Vitality by Monte Farber and Amy Zerner. They chose Obsidian for Scorpio with Onyx, Ruby and Black Opal as added extras. For me, these gems sing with the essence of Scorpio. These dark and gothic gems inspired me to come up with my own choice for a birthstone for Bram Stoker that symbolises both Scorpio and the dark world of Stoker’s most famous creation, Dracula. The gemstone I have chosen is Jet, in particular, Whitby Jet.
Jet is an organic gemstone which is naturally formed from fossilised wood. It is such a beautiful and intense black colour that it inspired the terms “jet black” and “black as jet.” Jet is smooth, lightweight and can be polished to such a high lustre it can be used as a mirror.
Jet was used in Roman Britain to make jewellery such as hair pins, pendants, necklaces, bracelets and rings. The Romans also made amulets and talismans out of Jet as they believed it contained magical protective properties and could ward off the evil eye. Pliny the Elder believed that Jet could drive away snakes.
Whitby Jet became popular during the Victorian Era. The new railways brought tourists to Whitby which created a demand for Whitby Jet souvenirs. Whitby Jet was also showcased at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Whitby Jet jewellery became fashionable when Queen Victoria wore Whitby Jet jewellery as part of her mourning dress.
Not only is Whitby Jet associated with the Victorian Era and mourning, but Whitby is the place where Dracula first lands in England. As a Victorian author and creator of the world’s most famous vampire, Whitby Jet is the perfect birthstone for Bram Stoker.
With my mind on gems, I knew exactly what I would make for Bram’s birthday – gem scones. These delightful treats are not actually scones but light little cakes. Gem scones are traditionally baked in cast iron tins called gem irons but shallow patty pans are good substitutes. They are great served with butter, cream and your favourite jam or preserve. I’m using blackberry jam to reflect the black gemstones associated with Scorpio.
Ingredients 1 cup plain flour 1 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder pinch of sea salt 2 tablespoons caster sugar 20g unsalted butter, melted 1 egg 1/2 cup milk
for serving butter jam cream
Instructions Preheat oven to 200C / 400F. Grease your gem iron or patty pan and heat in the oven. Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl until they form a slightly runny batter. Carefully remove muffin tin from the oven. Dollop batter into the holes, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until springy to the touch. Serve warm or cold.
Recently I shared a recipe for Curd Cake in a post about a colouring by numbers phone app. I’m happy to say the app has added a few more recipes such as Bruschetta, Chocolate Granola and Cottage Cheese Pancakes!
Today I’ll be sharing my version of the recipe for Lemon Cookies with Olive Oil. These cake-like cookies are perfect for the coming spring weather (southern hemisphere).
I dunked mine in tea flavoured with honey and lemon but they would also pair well with fresh lemonade/squash, lemon barley water or Limoncello.
Lemon Cookies with Olive Oil
Ingredients 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup olive oil 2 eggs, room temperature 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest 2 + 1/2 cups flour 2 teaspoons baking powder pinch salt icing sugar (optional)
Instructions Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Line 3-4 baking trays with baking paper. Place the sugar and oil in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat until combined. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Dollop spoonfuls of batter onto lined trays. Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until golden. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before placing on a rack to cool completely. Sprinkle with icing sugar if desired.
Additional notes: The recipe said 3 eggs but I used 2 eggs. It didn’t specify the amount of lemon juice or zest so I made a judgement call based on how lemony I wanted them. It didn’t specify the oven temperature so I went with the standard 180C / 350F baking temp.
One of the ways I reconnect with the Macedonian food of my childhood is through cookbooks. As I read the names of recipes and browse through the ingredients lists, memories of food and fun times come flooding back. I recently started reading The Melting Pot: Balkan Food and Cookery by Maria Kaneva-Johnson. Here, in the pages of this wonderful book, were some of my favourite foods. When I came across a recipe for Cake Soaked in Fragrant Milk, something odd clicked in me. What was strange was that it brought back a memory of a cake that I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had. No one in my family remembers it, but I was sure I had it at a Macedonian picnic. Could I be confusing it with another cake? I don’t know. All I know is that when I read the recipe it was familiar and I had to make it.
I followed the recipe and made a beautiful cake, but it was not the one I remembered. The cake from my memory had coconut so I made the cake again and added shredded coconut. This was close to the cake I remembered. I’m still not sure if this is a cake from my childhood but it is certainly a favourite cake and whenever I eat it I have memories of Macedonian picnics, delicious food and circle dancing with family and friends.
Instructions Mix the vanilla into the milk and refrigerate until the cake is cooked. Preheat oven to 180C / 350F. Grease and flour a baking pan, approximately 20cm x 20cm. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer. As they start to become frothy, add the sugar and beat until pale, thick and frothy. Using a metal spoon, gently fold in the flour and baking powder until combined. Do not over-mix the batter. Gently fold in the coconut. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown. Remove from oven. Pour the chilled milk over the hot cake. Allow to cool, then refrigerate. Cut into squares or slices to serve.