May 25, 2011
Buns in the oven

New post coming soon, and sorry for the delay! I have no excuse, except that spring is upon me in London, and my greedy hands are too full of berries to type properly.

I promise, there will be Roman markets, Puglian bread making and a three course meal eaten on a dirt floor in a nursery…


…and also an incident involving me, a large artichoke and a blunt knife (guess who won that fight? Hint: It wasn’t me)

April 23, 2011
Hot Cross Buns

This recipe is a bit of a work in progress. - over the past few weeks, my house mates have been subject to dozens of test batches as my attempts at hot cross buns have evolved from lumpy golf balls to more palatable breads. The buns are still not quite as light and fluffy as I’d like them to be, but it’s seasonally appropriate to post this weekend. Watch this space for further recipe improvements! Happy Easter :) - KS

Dry mix

  • 350g strong (bakers) flour

  • 40g caster sugar

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 1 and ¾ teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

  • 80g sulatnas

  • 20g raisins

  • 20g currants                          

  • 30g dried mixed peel

  • 15 g dried apple (finely diced)


Milk mix

  • 15g unsalted butter (melted)

  • 25g caster sugar

  • 25ml water

  • 215ml milk

  • 15g dried yeast

  • half an egg


  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

  • 30g plain flour

  • 245ml milk

  • 65g caster sugar

  • 3 egg yolks


  • Weigh out dry mix ingredients and place them all in a mixing bowl

  • Add milk, water, caster sugar and melted butter to a saucepan and heat to lukewarm (approximately 40C), then remove from heat and whisk in dried yeast (adding the yeast to the lukewarm milk mix will help to activate it)

  • Pour milk mix over dried ingredients and add the egg.

  • Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. It’s easiest to knead the dough with an electric mixer using the dough hook attachment, but if you don’t have one you can knead the mix by hand. If you’re kneading by hand you might need to add an extra tablespoon or two of flour as the dough will be quite sticky.

  • Cover the dough and allow it to prove in a warm draft-free place for approximately 40 minutes.

  • Knock back dough and roll into balls (approximately 60g each) place buns 1cm apart on a baking tray and allow to prove for a further 40 minutes.

  • To make crosses, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until thick and creamy, then whisk in flour until combined.

  • Place milk and vanilla bean paste in a pot and bring to boil

  • Gradually pour boiling milk and vanilla mix into the bowl with the egg yolk mix, whisking continuously to combine

  • Pour this mix back into the pot and bring it to boil, whisking continuously to provent mix from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Mix should thicken to a custardy paste

  • You can use the crosses mix straight away whilst its still warm, or keep the leftovers in the fridge for future hot cross bun batches.

  • Preheat oven to 160c. Bake buns until lightly browned on top but not quite completely cooked (approximately 20mins). Pipe crosses on to the buns using the crosses mix, then return buns to the oven until buns are evenly browned and sound hollow when tapped(approximately 5 to 10mins).

  • You can glaze the buns by brushing them with some melted breakfast marmalade to make them all shiny and glossy, but this is more of an aesthetics thing than for taste.    


November 30, 2010
The grand high King of Paprikas

Under the beautiful iron archways of Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid (the gourmet food market), I had a brief moment of foresight where I purchased a little tin of biter-sweet smoked paprika, before descending once more into tapas gluttony. My brain was short circuiting with all the 1 euro tapas signs…smoked salmon and caviar, aged ewes milk cheese, jamon iberico, fresh oysters, candied fruit, mini cakes, sangria, vermouth….it’s actually frightening how quickly I spent 20 euros.

Anyway, I got home, cracked open the seal and was blown away by the smell. This is NOT paprika as I’ve known it. I’ve been using the cheap supermarket stuff which might as well be powdered chalk. I can go through a tablespoon of the stuff before it imparts any kind of flavour at all.

This stuff on the other hand…well it’s a deep russet red, like a pigment. And it has an intoxicating burning wood and sweet peppers smell. I’ve been dumping it in everything, and have come to the conclusion that there is NO FOOD that cannot be improved with the addition of paprika. Microwave popcorn- tick. Baba ghanoush- tick. Rice- tick. Toast- tick. Chocolate pudding- …well not yet. But no doubt, also, tick! 

Here’s a very simple recipe for baba ghanoush, an Arabic eggplant dip, which is good also as a spread. Or eaten straight out of the bowl with your finger….not that I have been doing that all afternoon. 

Baba ghanoush

  • Cut one or two eggplants into cubes, a couple of centimetres big.
  • Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil, and a pinch of salt. 
  • Place on a tray, and place under hot grill for 5 mins (when the top of cubes is getting a bit charred). Give it a shake, and place it back under the grill for another 4 mins.
  • Taste a cube…if it’s melt in the mouth soft inside, it’s ready. If not, toss and grill for another 4 mins.
  • Place eggplant into a bowl and add some or all of: a tablespoon of lemon juice, black pepper, teaspoon of tahini, a good shake of paprika, a tablespoon of greek yoghurt, 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. 
  • Stir and mash with the back of a spoon, and then eat straight out of the bowl serve like a civilised human on pita bread, or with dippable things like carrots, biscuits, your fingers.

November 18, 2010
You may call me the poacher of eggs

Poaching eggs is easy! 

There, I’ve jinxed it. Next time I poach an egg I’ll end up with a murky swirl of white threads in a rapidly bubbling pot of water, that I’ll feebly fish out with a slotted spoon and eat, wet and limp, on soggy toast. (Update: I poached an egg with my flat mate yesterday. Instead, I made egg soup. Sigh.)

But really, poaching eggs at least for me, will no longer be owned by restaurants and people’s mums. I love runny eggs, and the best runny egg in my mind is a poached egg. Served with bacon, haloumi, spinach, grilled tomatoes and chutney atop a giant hashbrown. Oh, sorry, was thinking of the Green Refectory’s legendary A$10 breakfast stack. Always makes me drift off…

Anyway, push came to shove at dinner time on Thursday when there was no food left in the fridge but two eggs, a piece of frozen pita bread and dill. Time at last to try poaching…

All you have to do is:

  • Crack one egg into a cup
  • Bring 15cm of water with a dash of (any) vinegar to an almost boil in a big saucepan.
  • Get a whisk and stir the water quickly into a whirlpool, and tip the egg into the centre.
  • DON’T PANIC! (as I did) The egg will stay mostly in tact, and much of the whispyness will wrap itself round the egg as the whirlpool slows. 
  • Leave it in for 2 mins for a nice runny centre, and drain on some paper towel.

I ate it with pita, tahini with lemon, dukka and dill. Seriously good, and very cheap.

Of course, I followed a Smitten Kitchen method. That Deb is my hero.

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November 4, 2010
Food Markets of London

London has food markets coming out of its ears, and for this I am thankful. The energy that comes from a food market gives me a little bit of a high…all of those yelling stall holders and bustling locals with big bags of produce. It makes me indecently happy and I’m not ashamed. 

There’s the midsection of Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill where you can buy chorizo seared on a grill in a fresh ciabatta bun, select olives from wooden barrels and purchase fresh fruit and veg for a (relative) steal. Not to mention cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery- a hyped up bakery that I reckon is worthy of the excitement. Taste their Red Velvet. Oh.

There’s pretty Leadenhall Market near Bank where a Malaysian man sells Nasi Lemak and fried delicacies beneath the brightly painted wooden canopy, right next to the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron (or where it was filmed, at least). 

Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets has food stalls where every sort of cuisine under the sun is bizarrely a uniform £4.50 to purchase.

And Columbia Road Flower Market, also in Tower Hamlets, which isn’t technically  food market, but which I visit primarily for the eats on Sundays. I always get a styrofoam cup of fried tiger prawns with thousand island dressing from Lee’s Seafood, who have been open since WWII and operate out of a big window at the front of a house. I might buy some herbs from the market (lemon thyme and lavender last time), and then pop in for some carrot cake and earl grey at Cake Hole. Or a salmon bagel with tabasco and lemon. Ooh. 

I like to go to Chapel Market in Angel for weekly fruit and veg because the grocers there sell really beautiful produce, and the prices are competitive. Nothing gets me quite so excited as holding two punnets of blueberries, a bunch of radishes and a nice leek. Though when I’m feeling lazy I’ll go to Berwick St Market during my lunch break, and pick up a bowl of limes, some eggplants, peppers and a brownie for a fiver.

All of those places are well and good and lovely, but none really compares to Borough Market in London Bridge. Borough Market is a gourmet foodies haven. It’s not cheap, but heck, groceries here cost 1/4 of the price you’d pay for an average night at a bad steak house, and where else can you buy your beloved a bouquet of zucchini flowers, slab of raw goat’s milk cheese, a handful of foraged mushrooms and some organic cider? (Forget lingerie, that’s the way into my heart.)

Yes please, I would love some molten cheese to go with my pickle and potatoes.

The most beautiful bouquet in the world.

I would be this happy too if I worked with cheese all day.

I have tried the brownies from all of the market’s bake stalls. I haven’t decided which one is best. Might just have to go and try them all again…

Look at those pretty tomatoes in the background on the left. In Lyon they called them le coeur de boeuf. Nicer to write then beefsteak, I think.

November 2, 2010
Yoghurt making fail

More to be written later, but just a quick note:

If you wish to make yoghurt using .1% fat milk, then be prepared for a healthy breakfast snack the texture of raw egg white mixed with snot.

Disgusting, but true. Sadly, I had to eat my cereal sans yoghurt this morning. 

Update: I added gelatine to the yoghurt. It turned the consistency of slightly firmer snot. I threw it out. 

October 9, 2010
The tastiest, ugliest brown lasagne

It’s getting colder here. While in Melbourne the cherry blossoms are almost finished dropping and there are touches of sun in the stormy weather, here in London the days are getting incredibly fresh. Of course, no one here actually likes a grey day, but everyone positively relishes any chance to scare me about the English winter.

You think this is cold? They say as I enter work, swaddled like a baby.  This is still summer. You’ll know it’s winter when it’s so cold that you want to die.

Thanks guys.

The last of the autumn squashes, stacked against a stone wall in Lombarda, a farming village on Korcula island in Croatia.

Anyway, I don’t mind winter so much because winter means warm, rich foods. Chestnuts, and stews, and bakes. And lasagne. 

As per usual, I was stalking reading the food porn blog of Smitten Kitchen while pretending to work on my lunch break. Deb made lasagne with pretty curly pasta sheets, and I remembered seeing the same ones on sale at the organic grocers for 50% off. FOOD + SALE = TOTAL SATISFACTION.

Lasagne is made of 3 things, layered on each other. Tomato sauce, white sauce, and pasta sheets. 

I warmed some passata (bottled cooked tomatoes) and zucchini for the tomato sauce, and made a mushroom and browned butter white sauce.

Then layered it all, tomato, white sauce, pasta, tomato, white sauce, pasta, ending in white sauce.

Grated some cheddar over the top, 45 mins in a 180C oven, and voila. 

VERY UGLY LASAGNE. Ooooh, it wasn’t pretty. But MY GOD it tasted amazing.

It was the brown butter & mushroom white sauce that did it…it was rich and brown, and also ugly and separated, but the flavour was nutty and deep.

Mmm, lasagne…king of the pasta bakes. Tomatoey and cheesy. And, surprisingly, not difficult to make at all. 

Ugly lasagne

Feeds 4 in greedy portions. 30mins prep, 45 mins cooking.

  1. Tomato sauce: heat up a tablespoon of oil with some chopped garlic and a chopped onion. When it smells good add a bottle of passata and a cup of water, or 3 cans of tomatoes. Let it simmer. 
  2. White sauce: Slice the mushrooms, and fry in a tablespoon of butter until they are starting to lose water, and smell delish. Tip these into a bowl. Then in the same saucepan melt 60g of butter with some chopped garlic in a pan. Stir it like mad, but let it get brown. Browner. Browner. It’ll separate, and you’ll get scared. This is OK. Then grab a whisk and quickly mix in two tablespoons of flour, breaking up the lumps. Now add 500ml of milk, some salt and pepper, and if you have it, a shake of nutmeg. Keep whisking. It’ll boil, but keep whisking. Let it get thick. Add cheese if you like, and the mushies that you fried.
  3. Get a tray (I used 30cm by 20cm, about 7cm high. You can use two bread pans too. Or a few cake tins.) Cover the bottom with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Now layer: tomato, white, pasta, making sure that the pasta sheets are totally covered with sauce. Try and make your last layer a sauce, not the pasta sheets because they won’t cook. Grate cheese of choice over the top. 
  4. Throw it in moderate oven (180C-ish) for 45mins or so. Test it by cutting out a spoonful, putting it all in your mouth, screaming because it is so hot, spitting it back onto a spoon, and frantically inhaling air. Now examine the pasta sheets. Are they soft enough? Is the inside of your mouth peeling? Excellent. 

Ingredients list:

  • Tomato sauce: 1 x 700ml bottle passata, or 3x 400g tin tomatoes. Also, garlic, an onion, and veges and red wine if you like.
  • White sauce: 500mls milk, 60g butter, flour, a punnet of mushrooms (I used brown, you can use button, field, portobellos, fresh shitake, anything really).
  • Pasta sheets (375g). I used dried, because they’re cheaper. Actually, I used wheat-free, brown rice, organic pasta sheets because, well, because I was sucked in by their pretty curly edges, and didn’t read the box. They still tasted like pasta to me :)

kt x 

September 19, 2010
Tempeh…be still my soul.

Well, I am off to Croatia for the next fortnight, leaving Three Banquets in the trusty hands of Kylie and GM.

Before I go I thought I’d post a few pics of the gorgeous food I ate in Bali when I visited late last year. Everything I had was amazing- exploding with flavours and textures, rich and flavoursome but fresh, and unbelievably cheap.

This is gado gado, with slightly bitter (in a good way) keropok (fish crackers) on top, and tempeh, as well as a thin and sweet peanut sauce. Eaten at a little warung (small, family owned restaurant) in Legian.

In this photo is the glorious dish of shredded smoked chicken, and deep fried chilli tempeh, raw and steamed veggies, on a pile of fluffy white rice. Amazing. 

A fresh seafood salad, in a light fried bread shell. Prawns, grilled fish, and a sweet spicy sauce. At a nice, if touristy restaurant near the market. 

Grilled seafood over coconut husks in Jimbaran Bay

A poor (delicious) lobster who knew where he was headed…

Grilled crab, eaten by the beach

Corn cooked on charcoals. The darkness in the back of the photo is the ocean!

Vanilla pods. The flowers are hand pollinated so that the beans form. 

Dried fish at the market…smells atrocious, but delicious in stock I’m guessing.

The delicate and sweet mangosteens (purple round fruits in forefront of photo) I ate by the kilo.

An offering left out for the kitchen gods before we started cooking class.

One of our creations- pork skewers with all kinds of spices (inc. fresh galangal root, tumeric and ginger) grilled on lemongrass spears.

And finally, back to where it all starts- in the rice paddy fields of Ubud. These ladies work all day in the intense midday sun reaping bundles of rice and beating the dried grains out of the stalks. Their salary? 5% of the harvest, shared between all the workers to feed their families. 

See you again in two weeks! kx

September 6, 2010
Grab your fork

Helen writes about Sydney eats. Photos that makes your tummy rumble, and writing without an ounce of food snobbiness.

September 6, 2010
Eating Asia

Glorious photos and write ups of Asian cuisine (the Malaysian posts make me feel hungry and nostalgic)

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