Monday, 27 February 2017

For the love of cookbooks...

Cookbooks hold a very special place in my life and I adore my collection.
Each one tells a story, not only of the recipes contained within their pages, but also the where and when I purchased or was gifted each book.
Many have pages splattered with various ingredients, or scribbles from my overzealous helpers, whereas others remain pristine as I have never cooked from their pages, preferring instead to adore their food photography and styling.
It’s not a huge collection compared to some; I vividly remember being jaw-droppingly astounded when I saw Sophie Zalakor’s cookbook “library” at her home in Pemberton.
One of my all-time favourite books is one I picked up on my Farm Weekly travels, at a favourite café in Balingup which at the time was owned by the wonderful Katrina Lane.
On a sidenote, Katrina is currently involved in launching WA’s first Food and Drink Symposium to be held in May (check out
Anyway, back then Katrina had a beautiful collection of carefully selected cookbooks from around the world and she directed me to one by a Tuscany-based author/cook named Tessa Kiros.
I was taken by the simple magnificence of Tessa’s recipes, with their charming blurbs of how each came to be. And, importantly, I’ve never had a failure following any of her recipes.
So when I was trying to perfect my banana bread recipe (the dreaded lunchboxes beckon again), I looked to Tessa for inspiration and wasn’t disappointed.
This recipe features in one of her earlier cookbooks, Apples for Jam.
No food lasts very long in the Everyday Baker headquarters, but bananas always tend to go black in the blink of an eye and I loathe food waste.
I like some crunch so I add some pepitas or sunflower seeds (to keep it nut allergy friendly for school), but the recipe also forms a delicious crust on top while cooking – which is another must for banana bread accordingly to my lads.
A handful of choc chips never go astray either.

Banana Bread
125g butter
180g dark brown sugar
3-4 medium sized ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons warm milk
Pinch of salt
½ cup pepitas or sunflower seeds

Pre-heat oven to 180C and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Cream butter and sugar until smooth and add bananas.
Add eggs, vanilla, cinnamon and salt, mixing well.
Sift in flour and baking powder, beating until smooth.
Mix the baking soda into the warm milk and fold into the batter.
Scrape into the tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Cooking up new family traditions

We kicked off the New Year by starting our own little family tradition.
It didn’t involve setting #goals or a #newyearnewme, but true to form it did involve food and making the most of glorious local produce.
I’m talking tomatoes; beautiful, plump, juicy tomatoes.
There are plenty of WA tomato growers dotted around the place, in areas close to Perth such as Carabooda and further north around Geraldton.
They are in their prime at the moment (we’re talking paddock-grown, not hydroponic), which means they are in abundance and they are red, like the real deep red that ripe tomatoes should be.
Mr Everyday Baker and I had often spoken of attempting to make our own passata and this year, we decided to go for it.
Passata is essentially a simple tomato sauce, added to pasta sauces and the like to enhance the tomato flavour.
The word passata is Italian for “passed”, which gives you an idea on how to make the sauce – it’s simply blanched tomatoes passed through a sieve.
Making passata is a massive event for many Italian families, many of who combine their efforts in mass production.
A few families we know from Merredin do exactly that, and they used one tonne of tomatoes to produce this year’s batch!
Ours was done on a much smaller scale and I was able to source the Roma tomato as seconds from a local fruit and vegetable grower for a very good price.
It’s well worth asking at your local store or contacting a tomato grower directly – often the tomatoes that don’t meet the aesthetic “standard” or are too ripe will be turfed, so you’re doing them a favour by taking them.
Anyway, I’m pleased to report that the first annual Everyday Baker passata making day went extremely well and our pantry is now well-stocked, along with a few gifts for family and friends.
Not sure we’re ready to tackle a tonne, but we may up the volume slightly next year.

8kg ripe Roma tomatoes
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
A bunch of fresh basil leaves

First of all, you need to sterilise the jars you intend on using, which can be done by boiling them in hot water or in the dishwasher (you’ll need about 4-5 litres worth).
Prepare your tomatoes by washing them and cutting off any yucky bits.
Fill a large stockpot with water, to about three quarters full, and bring to the boil.
Blanch the tomatoes in batches, adding them to water and removing as it comes back to the boil.
Put them in a colander and allow to rest for about half an hour to get rid of the excess water.
With your tomatoes blanched, it’s time for the therapeutic step.
We used a mouli, or potato ricer, over a large pot and added the tomatoes in batches – leaving the skins in for a few rounds to help get a thicker sauce.
Once you’re done, season the passata with the salt.
Place a few basil leaves (three or four) in each jar before filling, leaving about a 5cm gap from the top.
Cap your jars tightly and vacuum seal, which is done by boiling the jars in a pot of hot water (so they’re covered) for about an hour, before turning off the heat and allowing them to cool in the water.
If they don’t all seal properly, so the cap pops back up, repeat the process or make spaghetti for dinner.
Enjoy over the next 12 months!