They assure me that Spring has arrived. The nectarine tree is in full blossom, and there are signs of new energy in the vegetable garden. But I’m not so sure, it still feels quite wintery to me. The fires are going, a big pot of barley soup bubbles on the stove, made just for Noah.
This jam filled oat slice is a sweet winter warmer and made in memory of Selma. It was going to be a loaf of bread, in line with the many sourdough tributes baked in loving memory of Selma, but then I noticed this easy jammy slice, posted last May on her blog. If you didn’t make it back then, I can recommend this slice for ease of preparation, taste, and for the excellent and very clear instructions.
My adaptations included substituting blackberry jam for the sour cherry jam, and desiccated coconut for shredded. You could use any jam that needs using up. I can’t wait for the littlies to walk in the door and see how they go.
I’m back in the small town of Cipanas, perched high in the mountains of West Java, a long way from the tourist trail. I’m in the kitchen often, but it’s not my kitchen and I’m not doing the cooking. I’m watching, learning and asking questions as chef Banardi glides barefoot around his kitchen. It is a culinary ballet and a delight to watch. Years of Chinese and Indonesian traditions, the food of old Jakarta, is conjured and recalled, sometimes retaining it’s authenticity, at other times drawing on modern influences from Melbourne, Australia or Bath, United Kingdom. Like all great cooking, there are no recipes, no choreographer of the dance; the ingredients provide the inspiration.
Banardi, mentioned in a previous post, was chef and owner of the famous restaurant, Djakarta, in Richmond, Melbourne from 1995 to 2001. Growing up in Angke, a poor suburb in north Jakarta, he learnt to cook by shopping for his mother and observing her techniques. His mother was Javanese, his father Chinese: his cooking reflects these influences. In his twenties, he moved to Melbourne to study hospitality then opened the restaurant. It was deservedly popular, based as it was, on Ibu Bakhar’s authentic recipes as well as Jakartan street food.
In his kitchen, the equipment is minimal: a huge wok and rice cooker, a two burner gas stove with amazing power, a few pots for soup, metal spatulas and bamboo strainer spiders. As this is a holiday house, the kitchen is simple and austere but the food certainly isn’t.
My contribution to the kitchen is to go shopping at the local market or at Ibu Atit’s wonderful little store down a dark alley behind a mosque. Although we have a fridge, shopping for ingredients is a daily adventure. In Barny’s kitchen the following edible jewels are always present.
Tempe and tofu are added to most dishes and are never boring. We buy freshly made spring roll wrappers, so easy to use with no wetting required, and fill them with leftover noodle stir fry, tofu or tempe, and bean shoots. Tofu also lands in curries or is coated with tapioca flour and fried as a side dish or snack.
Every meal is a feast. The herbs, spices and alum and rhizome members form the base of each dish, taking simple dishes to another level. Sometimes we grind these in the Uleg, sometimes they are torn or roughly chopped. Along with these and fresh vegetables, rice or noodles add the basic carbohydrates and salty fish, coconut and eggs add more protein.
On Tuesday night, Barny decided to make Pepes Tahu. (spicy tofu stuffing wrapped in banana leaves). I have often eaten Pepes Ikan in Bali, a mixture of fish mashed into a paste, spiced and then rolled in banana leaf and barbecued on hot coals. This tofu version was heavenly. The filling made from tofu, tiny salty fish, fresh coconut flesh, chilli, shallot and other spices, is mashed, placed into the centre of a large banana leaf and then rolled into a neat package, and secured with toothpicks. Coconut shells provided the charcoal for the barbecue: I love the way every part of the coconut is used. The little metal BBQ cost around $4.00 AU. I know what’s going back in my hand luggage.
I think the Pepes Tahu stole the show, but then the Lumpia Manis, sweet spring rolls based on an old Balinese recipe, Dadar, pancakes stuffed with coconut and palm sugar, were ambrosial. As you can see, Barny turned very Melbournian with the presentation of this sweet.The Lumpia Manis deserve a separate post.
Around this time of year, I turn to my large magazine stash for sweet inspiration. I pull out all the December Christmas editions of Delicious and Gourmet traveller and Donna Hay’s annual Celebration edition. Sticky notes flap from far too many pages. I’ll attempt some of these but make some old-time favourites too.
The following Upside down Mango and Coconut cake turned up on an SBS food site. Anneke Manning has a new segment devoted to baking. As a food columnist for many a magazine, and cookbook author, her recipes are always very reliable. This recipe happily coincided with the arrival of mangoes from the annual mango box fundraiser. It’s a light textured summer cake to follow a Christmas Eve seafood BBQ.
melted butter, to grease
270 ml coconut milk
135 g (1½ cups) desiccated coconut
200 g unsalted butter, softened
220 g (1 cup) caster sugar
150 g (1 cup) plain flour
100 g (⅔ cup) self-raising flour
cream or ice-cream, to serve (optional)
shredded or flaked coconut, toasted, to serve (optional)
3 firm but ripe mangoes (about 400 g each)
50 g unsalted butter
60 g (¼ cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 24 cm x 30 cm (base measurement) lamington tin with melted butter and line the base with non-stick baking paper.
To make the mango topping, cut the cheeks from the mangoes, remove the skin and then cut lengthways into 1 cm-thick slices (reserve the remaining flesh for another use, such as, a mango coulis to be used later on ice cream). Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir in the brown sugar and cook for about 1 minute until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and spread as evenly as possible over the base. Arrange the mango slices over the top of the brown sugar mixture. Set aside.
Combine the coconut milk and desiccated coconut in a bowl and set aside. Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until well combined.
Sift together the plain and self-raising flours. Add half the flour to the butter mixture and use a large metal spoon or spatula to fold until just combined. Fold in the coconut mixture and then the remaining flour until just combined.
Spoon the mixture into the tin over the mangoes and use the back of a metal spoon to spread evenly, being careful not to move the mango. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Stand the cake in the tin for 10 minutes. Run a palette knife around the outside of the cake and turn out onto a serving plate or large bread board. Serve warm or at room temperature with cream or ice-cream, or on its own, and sprinkled with the flaked coconut.
The cake will keep for two days in an airtight container in the fridge. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
I can highly recommend Anneke’s New column, Bakeproof, for sweet inspiration.
Two little girls, like chalk and cheese. The eldest, dark eyed, slender and tall; she is a dancer. Her little sister, blue eyed, pale and short: she has announced that she is a ‘cheffa’. They arrive early and gather some eggs for breakfast. The dancer choreographs the cooking while the cheffa sniffs things and picks the parsley. The tall one has salt and no parsley, the little one insists on black pepper and lots of herbs.
This old fashioned slice has been around forever and should appeal to their differing tastes. I remember eating this as a child and it was the first thing I ever made as a teenager. It incorporates a healthy breakfast cereal, coconut and cocoa and is simple and fast to make. Children love to crunch up the vita brits, the first step in this recipe. They share the tasks readily: my job is to find the ingredients in the chaotic pantry and melt the butter.
Heat the oven to 180c before commencing.
3 vita brits ( or other wholewheat breakfast biscuits)
1/2 cup (120g) sugar
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
2 tablespoons cocoa
150g butter, melted
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
knob of butter
a little milk.
Break up the vita brits until you have fine crumbs. Mix in the other dry ingredients. Add the melted butter. Stir well until all the dry ingredients have been moistened, using the back of a tablespoon.
Grease with butter a rectangular tray 26cm by 16 cm. Tip in the biscuit mixture. Press the mixture in and flatten with the back of a spoon, removing all air pockets. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Icing. Heat the butter and mik. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cocoa together, then pour in enough of the milk/butter mixture to make a firm, not too runny, icing. Pour the icing onto the warm slice, ‘a small puddle of wet chocolate’ in dancing terms, and then spread evenly over the slice. Cool and let the icing set. Cut into small squares when set and store in an airtight tin. It keeps well but is more likely to be eaten quickly by the dancer, the chef and their elders.