Coconut Christmas drink (coquito)

I have started watching the reboot of Charmed and am enjoying it’s intersectional feminism. The sisters are biracial, two of them with a Puerto Rican Dad. Anyway, it is via this fictional feminist family that I was introduced to the very real Puerto Rican Christmas tipple known as coquito which sounded absolutely delicious and very suitable to the hot Australian Christmas.

A bottle of coquito presented for a gift

Apparently some people think of it as coconut eggnog, but my research showed me that the addition of eggs is one of the hotly contested ingredients between families. As fabulous as eggnog is, I sort of think it’s a bit heavy for our summery Christmases. So the recipe below does not contain egg. It does contain the same beloved Christmas spices though: cinnamon, star anise and cloves…

My version is based on the one in this great YouTube clip by Puerto Rican-American, Evelyn Dominguez. But most coquito recipes call for cream of coconut, which is a sweetened coconut product not really available in Australia. So I’ve developed a base recipe based on quantities and ingredients available in Australia.

Coquito should be served over lots of ice. To serve it as a mocktail, I’d recommend serving it with coconut juice or water. To serve it as a cocktail, serve it with Bicardi or another white rum.

3wholecinnamon sticks
6wholestar anise
8wholeallspice berries
1cupraw sugar
1cupcaster sugar
395gramcan condensed milk
375mlcan evaporated milk
400mlcan coconut cream
400mlcan coconut milk
2teaspoonsvanilla extract

Place the whole spices in a small saucepan with about 2 cups of water and simmer for about 30 minutes. You want as much flavour to infuse into the water as possible.

Meanwhile, combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, coconut cream, coconut milk and vanilla extract.

When the spices have infused the water, strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Discard the spices and rinse your saucepan. You want about 1 ½ cups of liquid. Add the liquid, caster sugar, raw sugar and salt back into the saucepan. Bring the contents to the boil to dissolve the sugar and turn it into a simple syrup. Allow the liquid to cool.

Add the cooled syrup to the milks. Use a funnel to transfer the coquito into bottles.

Store in the fridge for up to one month.

Coquito should be served over lots of ice. To serve it as a mocktail, I’d recommend serving it with coconut juice or water. To serve it as a cocktail, serve it with Bicardi or another white rum.

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Savoury muffins

Savoury muffins

I was recently gifted a huge bucket of Kristen Allen’s incredibly delicious buttermilk ricotta that is sold at the Country Valley stall at the Capital Region Farmers Market. As such, I’ve been trying to come up with a range of ways to use said ricotta. I do believe this recipe is my favourite of those I’ve worked so far. It’s been a long time since I had a really good muffin, and longer still for a savoury one. I came up with the idea when my house mate bought more spinach that she could use.

While I suspect the superiority of these muffins comes from the quality of the ingredients I used, I expect they would turn out very well with the fresh ingredients you have at hand. I think the spinach and green onion provide freshness, the white part of the onion and sweetcorn provide sweetness, and the ham a deep savoury smokiness. All the flavourings make for well rounded flavour in the finished product.

If you don’t eat pork, you could substitute the ham with smoked salmon. If you’re vegetarian, you could leave it out entirely. But I do find it adds a lovely savoury smokiness to the muffins so if you happened to have smoked salt use that, or perhaps and smoked garlic if you had it. Or you could add semi-dried tomatoes for umami and remove the sweet corn.

I use the Tupperware muffin pan which is slightly taller and thinner than standard, but the muffins popped out beautifully.

Makes 12 muffins

Base muffin

1   free range egg
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup milk
1 cup ricotta
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
1 1/3 cup self-raising flour

Flavourings (all approx. measurements)

2   green onions
½   English spinach, well washed
150 grams free range ham
½ – 1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 cup grated vintage cheddar

Preheat the oven to 180oC.

Whisk the egg in a medium sized bowl. Add the ricotta, milk, oil, salt and pepper and blend.

Finely slice the green onions (including the white part, but discarding the roots) and spinach. Dice the ham. Strain the corn if it’s from a can. Add all these ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Add the self-raising flour and stir till barely combined.

Divide the batter into the holes for 12 muffins.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Tip the muffins onto a cooling rack. Arrange them upright to cool completely.

Posted in Brunch, Lunch, Morning or afternoon tea, Snack, Spring | Tagged | 1 Comment

Australian hot cross buns

I really don’t like Good Friday. For me, it’s a forced reminder of how cruel people can be to each other. I do not believe in the death penalty and I do what I can to alleviate human suffering. But I do like hot cross buns. Confused by the presence of the buns in shops for months before Easter, a few years ago I forgot which was the traditional day to eat them. Well, hot cross buns are for Good Friday, the day Jesus was killed on the cross, and Easter eggs are for Sunday, to symbolise the day he rose again.

A few years ago I was in America for Easter and made an American version of the classic, with cranberries, maple syrup and blueberries. This year, I was inspired to do a truly Australian version with native fruit and herbs. So this recipe uses cinnamon myrtle as the only spice, muntries as the only fruit and honey instead of sugar. Cinnamon myrtle is a rainforest plant, in the same family as the more famous lemon myrtle. The leaves have a wonderful spicy flavour and aroma. Muntries are a tiny little, delicious fruit that grow in south eastern Australia. They are about the size of a blueberry, but with a pretty two tone green and burgundy colour. They taste remarkably like stewed apples but with the richness closer to sultanas. I thought them a perfect candidate for hot cross buns. In this way, you only need to buy two new ingredients to make these wonderful hot cross buns.

Makes 20


1 cup milk
50 grams butter
1 cup honey
1 free range egg
16 grams yeast
500 grams bread flour
2 teaspoon cinnamon myrtle powder
1 teaspoon salt
250 gram muntries


2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon honey

Heat the milk and butter together till melted. Leave to cool to blood temperature and stir in half the honey then add the yeast.

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Crack in the egg and yeast mixture. Combine the wet ingredients before folding through the dry ingredients. Mix to combine then knead for about five minutes or until the dough is smooth and silky. Place the kneaded dough in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Add the remaining honey, cinnamon myrtle and muntries to the dough. Tip it onto a floured surface and knead for another five minutes before returning to the bowl to rise again, doubling in size.

Divide the dough into 20 equal portions. Knead each portion into a ball and arrange them on a lined baking tray. I lay mine in fie rows of 4 in a rectangular dish. Leave them to double in size.

Preheat the oven to 220oC

For the crosses, mix the milk and flour together and transfer to a small piping bag. Pipe this across the buns to form the crosses.

Bake for 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven or until the tops of the buns are golden brown. Brush the tops of the buns generously and thoroughly with the remaining honey. Allow the buns to cool a little, before turning them onto a wire rack.

If you can hold onto the buns long enough for them to cool completely, store in an airtight container or in the freezer. They are delicious toasted and served with butter.

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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.

Posted in Brunch, Morning or afternoon tea, Thoughts | Tagged | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Dessert | Tagged , | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in Dessert, Morning or afternoon tea, Snack, Winter | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

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.

Posted in In-Betweens, Morning or afternoon tea | Tagged , , | 1 Comment