Blue cheese biscuits

Blue cheese biscuits

I made these little crackers as a Christmas treat for my friends who don’t have a sweet tooth. I think they’ll make a nice addition to a tray of Christmas nibbles. I made three savoury biscuits this year, and cut them with a set of three cookie cutters I was given last year. One flavour, one shape. It seemed a no-brainer to make the blue cheese ones in the shape of a frosty snowman. Of course, if you want to make your life easier you could just cut the dough into little squares before baking. But I have a fabulous collection of cookie cutters, love a chance to use them, and think the Christmas shapes make a lovely contribution to the season. This recipe is super easy. Because my illness leaves me incredibly sensitive to sound, I didn’t use a food processor. If you are more interested in using the electric appliances, you can just pop all the ingredients in a food processor until they come together. I will definitely be making these biscuits again. I think they’d make a nice item to bring to someone else’s party too.

Makes about a 1 litre tup of biscuits

300 grams plain flour
100 grams Danish blue cheese, roughly chopped
150 grams butter, roughly chopped
1 free range egg
1 generous pinch of salt


Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Rub the butter and cheese into the flour. Break up the egg and mix all the ingredients till well combined. Cover the dough and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 170oC.

Remove the dough from the fridge. Working with half the dough at a time, roll the dough out to 3-4mm thick and cut into the desired shapes. Lay the biscuits on a lined oven tray. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the bottom of the biscuits is lightly golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight

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Gewurzhaus in Canberra is NOW OPEN!

Throngs of customers swooped on the Canberra Centre today to be the first buy in the new ‘lifestyle’ precinct of what is now dubbed the ‘Monaro Precinct’ but others know as the ‘old Canberra Centre’. The new section contains some of the food and homewares shops that Canberra has lacked until now. I have been waiting with baited breath for the opening of my all time favourite food store, the spice shop by the name of Gewurzhaus.

If you’ve been with me on the blog for a long time, you’ll know that I have pedantically shopped at Gewurzhaus for my dried herb and spice needs for a very long time. I fell in love with the business when they opened what was their second store, on Lygon Street in Carlton. When I moved to Canberra I used to traipse my empty spice jars across the country to refill them in Melbourne. A few years ago, they opened a store in Sydney, which meant my jars didn’t need to traipse so far. But oh, how I’ve wanted them to come to Canberra!

It was a crazy night for the retailers trying to be ready for opening this morning. It sounds like something out of a dreadful reality TV show. They were there till 5am making sure they’d be ready for the big day. My oh my, doesn’t the store look as wonderful as all there others! Big clear circular bins of heady spices, herbs, salts, teas and blends thereof line the walls. Though I still won’t be able to refill all of my ground Mexican chilli powders, I can refull my jar of ground chipotle, which is very exciting. This is one of many improvements on the Sydney store.

They are decked out with their usual panache of Christmas joy. I was offered a cup of delicious Advent Christmas Tea, a beautiful burgundy blend of seasonal fruits. It evokes the classic flavours of a German Christmas, but with an Australian twist. Along with hibiscus, currants, elderberries and raisins, it contains pineapple, apple, coconut and papaya. This brew would be just as wonderful as iced tea as it was hot. Lucky for me, it’s caffeine free too, which means I am more than happy to continue indulging.

While there are beautiful homewares and quality gifts on offer, I tried my best to curb my spending, knowing I no longer need to stock up between visits. I did pick up a few lovely treats in the first of my Christmas shopping, and maybe added a few just for me. While the stores have stocked beautiful enamelware and copper items for years, I adore the more recent addition of a collection of Japanese ceramics including plates, bowls and sake sets.

If you venture all the way to the back of the store you can awe at the most excuisite ‘smell me’ shelf lined with myriad herbs and spices in the signature brown glass jars, waiting for you to open and inhale the heady aroma of Aleppo peppers, Grains of Paradise, or amchoor. I was able to buy a few new jars of spices, and saw some which I’m sure are new to their collection.

I tend to blend my own herbs and spices, but all of their blends are exquisite. Accordingly, I have succumbed and keep two in regular rotation in my pantry. The ‘Italian herbs’ are truly divine and get a surprising workout in my kitchen, even though it wasn’t I who first wanted them there. They also have a wonderful Berbere blend, which I have come to rely on heavily for my expanding repertoire of Ethiopian dishes. To celebrate the occassion of the new store opening, I will soon post my recipe for Ethiopian lamb tibs, a popular dish that is impressively easy to make at home if you are armed with a good Berbere blend.


Canberrans, cooks, I commend it to you, the brand spanking new, and unsurprisingly, but relievingly wonderful Gewurzhaus.

Opening hours:

Monday: 9:00am – 5:30pm
Tuesday: 9:00am – 5:30pm
Wednesday: 9:00am – 5:30pm
Thursday: 9:00am – 5:30pm
Friday: 9:00am – 9:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Posted in Gastronomnom...nom, Produce, Thoughts | 2 Comments

A Rubock family recipe – crumpets

When I was visiting my grandparents in Burnie over the holidays, we called in on my great Uncle Lyal and his lovely wife Heather. I like them both a lot. The Rubock family span the whole political spectrum and Lyal falls at the left end of that spectrum. For some reason, they all got on the memory train and were relaying great stories of shenanigans they’d been up to when they travelled and worked together selling encyclopaedias. It was great fun, and a great revelation! Lyal pulled out the only album he had of old family photos and dared me to call my somewhat gruff great Uncle Bill, ‘Billy’ next time I saw him, as their dear mother had done before she died. I dared not.

For several generations, the Rubocks were bakers. I take great pride in that fact, and relish hearing stories of the bakery. Everyone always said that my Great Pop was the best baker, but the flour had wreacked havoc with his lungs, so he ended up just doing the deliveries. Uncle David was the one in Nan’s generation who continued the baking tradition. Uncle Lyal did deliveries too, but he told me about how he used to cook the crumpets on the hotplate, with the metal rings building up in rows on the spatula. Apparently Auntie Joy used to love to eat them fresh off the hot plate, dunked in sugar that sounds terrible to me. But Uncle Lyal said he thought they were the best crumpets he’s ever eaten. I liked the sound of that and immediately decided to track down the recipe.

Rubock family bakery in Burnie

Rubock family bakery in Burnie

Uncle David remembered the recipe for me, but having always made it in vast quantities he gave it to me in the bakers’ way, in percentages of the flour by weight. They were all very insistent that they’d always been made with biscuit flour, not the strong flour used for bread. For such a simple recipe, in which the flour mattered so much, I couldn’t resist calling into the Callington Mill in Oatlands to buy some freshly milled, locally grown flour. As he suggested, I’ve played around enough to be confident in this recipe for a small batch, produced by volume. The only thing you’ll have trouble weighing will be the fresh yeast. I calculate mine by dividing up the block of yeast based on the weight given on its label.

The only other tricky thing is finding a suitable ring to use to hold the batter in the pan. You want something a bit bigger than an egg ring, though that would do if it really was all you had. I had thought to use cookie cutters, but then I remembered I have a tiny cast iron skillet that I use to bake small wheels of cheese. It came from Bruny Island Cheese Co who sell it as an ‘Otto Pan.’ It is absolutely perfect.

Makes about 8 crumpets

4 grams fresh yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ cups warm water
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon oil
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 teaspoons salt flakes

Place the yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Add a little of the water whisking to dissolve the yeast. Set aside for about 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate.

Add the remaining water to the bowl and whisk in the flour and oil. When it’s well mixed whisk in the bicarb and salt. Cover and leave till it doubles in size. This may be an hour or so, depending on the temperature.

As is the trick with cooking in a cast iron pan, make it hot before adding your food. The pan wants to be hot enough to smoke when add a tiny bit of oil to coat the bottom and sides of the pan, then pour in about half a cup of batter. You may need to experiment with the volume of batter because you want it as thick as possible, but you need it to be able to cook through most of the way on one side, leaving good sized bubbles on top. I aim to keep my batter less than a centimeter thick when I pour it in the pan. Then I turn the heat down very low and let the crumpet cook gently. You will gradually see the characteristic bubbles develop on the surface. If you like, you can gently flip the crumpet to cook the top for a few seconds.

Remove the crumpet to a cooling rack and repeat with the remaining batter. Leave to rest overnight and toast in the morning. Serve with your desired toppings, but I’m a fan of butter and honey.


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Dairy free baked rice custard

I rent out my study on Airbnb to help me pay my bills. Occasionally guests leave behind various foodstuffs. Recently, someone left me a liter of almond milk. I had craving for baked custard, but low on milk I thought I could use the almond milk, with some of the delicious koshi rice from Randall Organics to make a baked rice custard. The result is the most delicious rice custard I’ve ever tasted. Now I find myself buying the almond milk especially to bake this dish. I use the unsweetened ‘So Good’ almond milk from the fridge section of the supermarket.

Dairy free baked rice custard

My oven is quite unpredictable at low temperatures, and the cooking time for this dish will also vary depending on the nature of your baking dish. I cook this in an oval ceramic baking dish with its own lid. The dish was a gift from one of my favourite people and has proven to be very useful. A thicker dish will increase the cooking time, a thinner dish will reduce the cooking time. You will know when the pudding is cooked when the custard is set and a tested grain of rice and it is cooked through.

Serves 4

½ cup Koshi or other shortgrained rice
1   free range egg
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 cups almond milk
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 160oC.

Combine the rice, sugar, vanilla paste and egg in a baking dish. Mix through the almond milk. Cover and bake for 90 minutes.

Mix the pudding thoroughly and sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Return to the oven for another 30-60 minutes.

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Chocolate chestnut brownies

Chocolate chestnut brownies

Ever since my favourite pâtissier left the farmers market, I’ve been craving a really good chocolate brownie. I used to always buy mine from Dream Cuisine, and am quite lost without them. One of my favourite things about the winter markets are the chestnuts. I do like to buy a bag of hot, roasted chestnuts to eat while I do my shopping or finish off in Canberra’s warm winter sun while I wait for my market buddy to take me home. Well, this year Featherdale Chestnuts have started selling chestnut flour that they mill with their delicious nuts.

I love an excuse to use chestnut flour. It is high in fibre and is gluten free. It also has a wonderful natural sweetness that I like to play with. I love my chocolate brownies good and fudgy, so I often make them gluten free. Chocolate and chestnuts are such a great combination that it seemed only natural to me to use this local chestnut flour for my home made brownies. I adore the finished product. They are rich, fudgy and not too sweet. They’re also super easy to whip up if you melt your butter in a big enough saucepan, it’s a one ‘bowl’ mix.


125 grams butter
125 grams good quality, dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa solids. I always use Fair Trade.
1 pinch salt
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup raw sugar
½ taspoon vanilla paste
3 free range eggs
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup chestnut flour


Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Melt the butter in a saucepan with the chocolate, mixing well to make sure the chocolate doesn’t stay directly on the saucepan. When they are just melted together, whisk in the salt and sugars, then the vanilla and eggs. Lastly, fold through the cocoa and chestnut flour.

Line a 20cm square baking tin. Pour in the brownie mix and bake at 180oC for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with small crumbs on it.

Allow them to cool completely before removing from the tin. Use a sharp knife to cut into pieces.

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Choc chip banana muffins

Choc chip banana muffins

Choc chip banana muffins

I have been craving choc chip banana muffins for over a week. I don’t quite know why, but there you have it. I bought up big at the banana stall at the farmers market last week and finally got around to making them. I think they’re great; they totally hit the spot. I used good quality chocolate (my favourite, Fair Trade, Green & Black’s) good vanilla and bananas of varying ripeness. I mashed the super ripe bananas almost to a puree and let the firmer ones in big chunks. This way you get the best of both worlds, you get the chunks of banana through your muffin, as well as the general sweetness and moisture of the banana throughout.

Makes 24 large muffins

2 cups mashed banana
1 cup raw sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100 grams chocolate
½ cup melted butter
3 cups self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Mix together the mashed banana and egg. Add the sugar, vanilla, and butter. Sift over the flour and fold through with the chocolate until just combined.

Grease or line your muffin pan. Fill the muffin cavities so the mixture is mounded a little over the height of the cavity.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Smaller muffins will take less time to cook.

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Rhubarb slice

This recipe is based on my Nan’s raspberry shortcake. That recipe is from her CWA cookbook and includes a layer of raspberry jam. I’ve swapped it out for fresh rhubarb and replaced the coconut in the topping with almond meal. The result is a moorish rhubarb treat. The tart rhubarb is sandwiched between sweet gluten free shortcrust and crisp meringue topping.

I developed the recipe for the Children’s Week activity at the Lyneham Commons. I wanted the spread to include things made from ingredients growing at the Commons. When we put the call out for rhubarb crowns to be planted in the winter, we were blessed with abundance so we should have quite a rhubarb patch when the weather warms. I bought the rhubarb for this batch from the Capital Region Farmers Market.


250 grams butter
1 cup caster sugar
4 egg yolks
3 cups gluten free flour blend*

*I use White Wings


1 bunch rhubarb
1 orange, zest only
4 egg whites
2 cups caster sugar
2 cups almond meal

Preheat the oven to 170oC and line a 31 x 21 cm slice tin.

To make the base, beat the butter and sugar together then add the egg yolks. Fold in the flour till well combined. Press the mixture into the prepared slice tin.

Arrange the rhubarb in rows atop the shortcrust and grate over the zest of the orange.

Combine the egg whites and caster sugar, then fold in the almond meal. Spread over the base.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the slice to cool. Cut the slice into fingers and store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Blackberry leaf tea

When I first started foraging, I was on the look out for all sorts of things I could do with the goodies I picked. I was staying with my grandparents in Tasmania, and was tending Pop’s berry patch. He had strawberries and raspberries. Having heard about raspberry leaf tea, it got me wondering about blackberry leaf tea. I did some googling and found people who made fresh blackberry leaf tea, but it didn’t sound too exciting to me. It was only when I discovered you could ferment the leaves, in the same process used for black tea, that I thought we’d be talking about some flavours that were worth delving into. I had, in fact, heard it was the herbal tea which most tasted like black tea.

Last year, I fermented my blackberry leaves for two weeks and found the resulting tea tasted much like Oolong. It is very pleasant indeed. This year, I’ve fermented the leaves for much longer, wondering if the tea will have a deeper flavour. It does indeed. After up to six weeks fermenting, it has more developed tannins and is much more like black tea. Making the blackberry leaf tea is a very simple process. I like to pick and prepare enough to last me the year. The best time to go foraging for blackberry shoots is in spring, before the berries have started to form. There will be many young shoots on the plants at this time of year, and they will be tender enough, that you may not even need gloves to break them off. You can however, find young shoots on the plants year ’round.

There are records of blackberry leaf being used medicinally in ancient Greece. Hippocrates, Dioscorides and Pliny recommended them as herbal medicine. Two thousand years ago, the roman army doctor Galenos had his soldiers chew blackberry leaves to strengthen gums and build up physical resistance; today, we know it was the vitamin C and tannins in the leaves that he was counting on to boost immunity and heal wounds. The young shoots are incredibly high in antioxidants. Indeed, the USDA has shown blackberry shoots have more antioxidants than the berries.

Blackberry leaf tea is most commonly used as a herbal medicine to treat diarrhea, sore throats, and wounds. It is used to treat inflammation of the mouth and throat, mouth ulcers, gum inflammation and sore throat. Traditional uses also include the treatment of illnesses and ailments such as bleeding, slow healing wounds, fever, inflammation, cystitis, gout, infertility, vaginal discharge, flu, colds and cough. Because blackberry leaf tea is so high in tannins, it should not be consumed in large volumes because it can then lead to gastrointestinal upset, affect liver functioning and some nutrient absorption.

  1. Pick the blackberry shoots. You want young, tender leaves that will be bright green. You can take the stalks too, if they are bright and tender enough.
  2. Gently wash them under the tap.
  3. Bruise all the leaves. Last year I used a rolling pin; it was great fun. You may want to use a meat mallet, or whatever you have lying around. This year, I passed the shoots through my pasta machine, which did a superb job.
  4. Tightly pack the bruised shoots into a sterilised glass jar. Close the lid
  5. Leave the leaves to ferment for at least two weeks. You can just forget about them. I’m told the best place to leave them is on the dash board of the car. Being that I don’t drive, I don’t leave them in a car. I just leave them in the kitchen. The leaves will turn black and the fragrance will change from the smell of cut grass, to something more fruity and floral.
  6. When you think they’ve fermented long enough, take them out of the jar, pull the leaves apart and dry them out. I do mine in the dehydrator, but you could lay them on a wire rack or put them in a paper or calico bag in a closet to dry.
  7. Chop or crush up the larger pieces and transfer to a tea caddy for storage.

I use about the same volume of blackberry leaf tea as I would black tea, to make a cup. I do not add milk or sugar.

I hope you like this trick as much as I do!

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Wild brassica and potato gnocchi

Wild brassica and potato gnocchi with burnt butter lemon and almonds

Wild brassica and potato gnocchi with burnt butter lemon and almonds

With all this summer rain, the edible weeds are going gangbusters. At this time of year the wild brassica is usually quite peppery. I simply adore the taste of wild brassica flowers during winter, when they taste just like broccoli. But the summer pepperiness doesn’t usually do it for me. I have a feeling though, that with all the cool rain and fast growth, the greens are not as peppery as they would otherwise be at this time of year. When I picked a good bunch for my three weed pie, they were beautiful, and it got me wondering what else I could be doing with them. I realised I’d like to make a gluten free gnocchi. I don’t often make gnocchi, but these were a great success. The green, slightly peppery, addition of the wild brassica really makes this simple dish something quite special.

I initially planned to serve the gnocchi with a rich and creamy goat cheese sauce. But I’ve decided they actually want something very simple, like brown butter and lemon juice. You can serve them how you like though.

You’ll want quite a good sized bunch of wild brassica leaves, thoroughly washed, in order to fill 2 cup when they’re finely chopped. My bunch filled the colander when I bought it home.

Serves 2-3 people

500 grams floury potatoes
2 cups finely chopped wild brassica leaves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 free range egg
¼ – ½ cup gluten free flour blend**

**I use White Wings

Cook the potatoes in their skins, till they’re tender all the way through. I baked mine, but you can microwave them or boil them. If you boil them, leave the skins on and don’t over boil them; you don’t want waterlogged potatoes for this. Remove the skins of the potatoes, mash the flesh and pass through a fine sieve into a medium sized mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, drop the chopped brassica leaves into a pot of rapidly boiling water and cook for five minutes. Remove from the water and strain in a sieve, pressing down on the leaves to remove all water.

Add the brassica leaves, salt and pepper to a small food processor or mortar and pestle and process till some of the greens have liquefied, but you still have some small pieces. You can add some of the egg to aid the process, but you don’t want to let the egg get fluffy, so only add a bit, and it’s best done at the end, so you don’t over mix it.

Make a well in the middle of the potato and tip in your brassica and egg. Gently combine the mixture. Add half the flour first, stirring to combine. Add more flour as needed, but being careful not to overmix. You need to add enough flour to bring the mixture together in a soft dough, that can be shaped into a sausage. It should feel softer than play dough. If you don’t add enough flour, the gnocchi will fall apart in the water when you cook it; too much and the gnocchi will be tough.

Divide the dough in two pieces. Cover the unused dough. Working in batches, roll the dough into a log two centromeres thick. Use a lightly floured knife to cut into 2cm pieces. Place each piece in the palm of your hand and roll it with a fork to shape and leave an imprint. Set aside on floured board or tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with remaining dough portions.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water, stirring gently to make sure they don’t stick to each other or the bottom. When the gnocchi rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon and drop straight into you preferred sauce.

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Buckwheat banana bread

Buckwheat banana bread with malt butter spread

Buckwheat banana bread with malt butter spread

I recently had an overripe banana on my kitchen counter, frowning at me the browner it got. It was quite late by the time I summoned the energy to do something about said banana. I think I was inspired by a visit from my grandparents. My Nan is an excellent housekeeper and my Pop loves banana bread. So go figure, I wanted the banana gone, and into banana bread. A medical specialist I’ve been seeing lately has asked me to drop gluten from my diet. So I’m trying my best at that. When I realised I still had a whole tub of buckwheat flour a friend gave to me before she moved to England, I thought I’d try my hand at a gluten-free buckwheat banana bread.

I figured the flavour of buckwheat would lend itself well to banana bread and did a bunch of research into gluten free baking and different types of flours. This recipe is what I came up with adapted from the banana bread with malt butter that I made for Pop when I was staying in Tasmania. I’ve increased the liquid, adding yoghurt and honey. I’ve also added chia seeds to help with the structure of the bread and added additional rising agent.

I added a little acid to my malt butter spread. I have come to love apple cider vinegar. I make my own with a natural fermentation process. It’s so good for you that I try to find ways to include it in things. It adds a lovely sharpness to the malt butter spread. If you wanted, you could use lemon juice for this instead.

Banana bread

75 grams butter
¾ cup Rapadura sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon honey
1-2 overripe bananas, mashed
¼ cup yoghurt
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups buckwheat flour
½ teaspoon bi-carb soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup walnuts, roughly broken

Malt butter spread

½ teaspoon cider vinegar or lemon juice
¼ cup malt extract*
¼ cup butter

*You’ll find tins of malt extract in the honey aisle of the supermarket.

To make the banana bread: Grease a loaf tine and preheat the oven to 180oC. Combine the chia seeds and milk and leave to rest for 5-10 minutes.

Cream the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg. Add the honey, chia, milk, yoghurt and mashed banana. Sift over the cinnamon, flour, baking powder and bi-carb soda. Mix to combine and fold through the walnuts. Tip the batter into the greased loaf tin and spread the batter evenly. You can make it higher on the edges than in the middle. Bake in a preheated oven for an hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Store in an airtight container.

To make the malt butter spread: mix together the cider vinegar or lemon juice and malt extract. Beat this together with the softened butter and spoon into a small ramekin for serving; cover and store at room temperature until desired. The malt butter will keep at room temperature for a week, or longer in the fridge.

Serve slices of banana bread fresh or toasted, spread with malt butter spread.

Buckwheat banana bread

Buckwheat banana bread

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