Just one more cookie before bed won't hurt...

Peanut butter & chocolate chip cookies

I don't usually worry about this sort of thing, but I'm pretty sure I've put on weight in the last 3 days. Currently I'm working in the country, and Lucy (who is back from Japan! Yay!) came to visit me for a week. On the last night she was here she made a big batch of cookies then flitted off back to Adelaide, leaving me alone with the cookies for a whole weekend. Of course I did what any sensible person would, and I ate them in moderation... at frequent intervals.

The cookies in question were Nikki's peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and they're pretty damn damn tasty. My only criticism is that these weren't as chewy as advertised, which leads me to wonder aloud to all bakers: what makes for chewy cookies? Despite being a fan of chewy cookies I was able to nobly overcome my own personal biases for this recipe and eat about sixty of the things.

So I guess you could say that I have grown in more ways than one. It's touching, really.

Peanut butter choc chip cookies

Recipe from Nikki.

Ingredients (makes a bucketload of cookies):

  • 1/2 cup (110g) of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter
  • 1 cup of plain flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF).
2. Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the vanilla extract and egg. Beat in the peanut butter until the mixture until combined well.
3. Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt into the mixture until smooth, then mix in the chocolate chips.
4. Onto a sheet lined with baking paper, drop the dough in heaps tablespoons about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden.

The second pancake workout plan

Rhubarb cake

I've done it, I've figured out how you can eat cake for every meal and stay in shape. This isn't some fad diet, it doesn't involve skim milk, portion adjustments, forgoing cream, or partially hydrophosphorylated nanoengineered seafood-derived fat substitutes (or the previously unheard of medical conditions they precipitate). It's not complicated at all, and in fact I feel somewhat silly that it's taken me this long to work it out.

Are you ready? Okay, here is it:

Make the cake yourself.

"But Tim", you say. "I use my Kitchen Aid four times a day and I weigh 900 pounds". There's your mistake — I'm talking about really making the cake yourself — by hand. No food processors, no electric whisks, no immersion blenders, just two arms, a tall glass of water, and a light breakfast. Have you ever tried creaming sugar and butter by hand? It's hard work. I learned this for myself when I tried to make Amy's Rhubarb Cake using little more than a fork and a large square bowl. That's the other thing: use square mixing bowls, and you're guaranteed to burn off a brownie's worth of calories in frustration alone. Trust me, this is going to huge*.

You can probably tell that I'm not much of a pastry cook. I like the idea of sweets, and done well it can be a beautiful thing, but the truth is I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I do however have a girlfriend who is soon to return from a year overseas, and every intention of spoiling her.

It's rhubarb season here in Australia, and combined with my love of a a bit of sour with my sugar this seemed a natural place to start. Using what I had I replaced 'soured milk' with buttermilk and cooked it in a cake tin, adjusting times accordingly. Despite my modifications it turned out terrifically — a sugary crunch from the top, a moist banana-cake-like crumb, and bursts of tangy rhubarb flavour in every bite.

Rhubarb cake - slice

Rhubarb cake

Adapted from In This Instance by way of Amy.


  • 1.5 cups of brown sugar
  • 110g (1 stick) of softened unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of chopped rhubarb
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat your oven to 175ºC/350ºF. Cream the butter, brown sugar, and egg, then mix in the milk & vanilla.
2. Add the flour, salt, and baking soda and mix until there aren't any big lumps left. Finally stir in the chopped rhubarb.
3. Pour in to a greased 22 cm (9 inch) cake tin. Mix together the extra sugar and cinnamon, and scatter evenly over the cake batter. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

*Disclaimer: Individual results vary. May cause weight gain.

Stress-free Christmas dessert: Individual apple crumbles

Apple crumble

Kids, light your photos properly. Colour correction is a pain..

Everyone who has asked me what I'm making for Christmas lunch gets the same answer: nothing, if I can help it. Cooking is great, but at Christmas time all I want is to relax.

I want to drink a few beers, gorge myself on cheese and dips, enjoy the sun (woo Southern Hemisphere!), and chat to friends and family, all without having the nagging worry that the meat and vegetables might not be done at the same time. But if you do find yourself in charge, you can (and should) make things easier for yourself by getting prepared. Dessert lends itself particularly well to preparation, and with these individual apple crumbles you can serve your guests dessert straight out of the oven without any anxiety on the day.

Apple crumble is a favourite of mine because it's hard to unforgivably screw up. Even if the topping isn't perfectly crisp or the apples are a little crisp it's still pretty tasty (and some good custard on the side is even better for masking any flaws). A good trick I've seen involves adding oats to the crumble to boost flavour and texture. I used to do that until one day I ran out of oats and substituted wholemeal flour. With wholemeal flour you maintain the crumbly texture most people are used to, but still get that earthy, wheaty flavour you get with the oats.

The best thing about this dessert is that it can be easily scaled depending on the number of guests and prepared ahead. Refrigerate the uncooked crumbles until it's time, then on the day put them in the oven an hour before you want to serve dessert.

Individual apple crumbles

Ingredients (makes 2 apple crumbles):

  • 1 small apple (tart granny smiths are my favourite for this)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • g plain flour
  • g wholemeal flour
  • g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • g sugar
  • A pinch of nutmeg

1. Preheat an oven to 180ºC/350ºF. Peel, quarter, and core the apple, then cut each quarter into quarter-inch thick slices. Layer these in small ramekins until 3/4 full and sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp of lemon juice.
2. To make the crumble topping, place the butter, flours, sugar, and nutmeg into a bowl and combine by mashing with the back of a fork. You won't be shocked to learn that the texture should be crumbly but not completely bone dry. Taste a little to determine if it needs any more sugar or wholemeal flour.
3. Divide the crumble mixture in halves and use it to top each of the prepared ramekins. Pat them down rather firmly to ensure a compact package, then fluff the top of the crumble mixture up to ensure plenty of surface area to make it nice and crumbly.
4. These can be refrigerated now, or put straight into the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and crunchy on top. If you're cooking them from the fridge, allow an additional 5-10 minutes in the oven.

Chocolate & frangelico brownies

Chocolate & frangelico brownies

Brownies trigger fond memories in me. I wish I could say that they brought me back to the smell of my childhood kitchen as Mum baked a fresh batch, but the reality is far more prosaic and mundane. Rather, when I think of brownies I think of a bad day at work, coming to the end of a seemingly interminable ward round to find that some goddess among women (it's never the guys) has brought a plate of brownies to share in the tea room. It's not worthy of Proust, but dammed if a good chocolate brownie doesn't lift a bad day.

Like any man of good taste I prefer my brownies fudgy, and feel that adding nuts only serves to get in the way of that smooth, chewy texture. Unfortunately this is at odds with the fact that nuts taste great and pair perfectly with chocolate. But there is a third option. Ever since I learned that vanilla extract was simply alcohol infused with the flavour of vanilla beans, I've had fun experimenting with other liqueurs in its place.

Most nut-flavoured liqueurs are suitable substitutes for vanilla essence in desserts (especially custards), not because they taste the same but because they tend to pair well with the same things. Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, works particularly well owing to its status as the best damn liqueur there is.

Credit for the basic recipe that I've adapted goes to Martha Stewart by way of Emma. Even if you don't use Frangelico, this is an excellent go-to brownie recipe. Just be sure to share the love in your local tea room.

Chocolate & Frangelico brownies


  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter (85 g, 3 oz)
  • 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped roughly
  • 1 tbsp less than 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp Frangelico
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

1. Preheat an oven to 180ºC. Melt the butter, chocolate, and cocoa powder in a double boiler or (carefully) in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
2. Beat the eggs, sugar, and Frangelico together in a large bowl until the mixture becomes pale and thickens slightly. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into the egg and chocolate mixture, and stir together until just combined.
4. Transfer the mixture to a lined, greased 8 inch square brownie pan and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting for best results.

The eponymous post


The other day I came across an 'instant pancake mix' at the supermarket. The instructions said to add eggs, milk, and melted butter. Come on, that's like 75% of the way to homemade! I can't in fairness criticize anyone too strongly for choosing the 'instant' option since many people don't have the time to take photos of their food let alone cook it, but who is so busy that the hassle of mixing together flour, baking powder, and sugar is worth trading for an overpriced box of self-raising flour with, inexplicably, added preservatives?

The fact is, if you have time to measure milk and eggs, heat a pan, and cook the things then you have time to make them from scratch. You could conceivably make these on a weekday morning, but why bother? Leave cereal and toast to the 7 am starts and save making pancakes for the weekend, when you can enjoy the luxury of being able to jump back into bed to eat your cooked breakfast. You don't need to get fancy with whisked egg whites or ricotta cheese to make great pancakes (by all means try them for a change), and I've settled on a recipe that is easy, consistent, and delicious.


Ingredients (makes 14 pancakes):

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups of milk
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 60g melted butter

1. Whisk together the eggs and the milk. Add the caster sugar.
2. Sift in the plain flour and baking powder, then stir with a whisk to combine. Stir in the melted butter and let the mixture sit for at least 15 minutes before cooking the pancakes.
3. To cook, heat a non-stick pan1 to medium-hot and add about 1 tsp of butter. Pour 1/4 of a cup of batter into the pan2 per pancake and cook until bubbles appear on the upper surface (about 2-3 minutes). Flip and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.3

(1) You don't have to use non-stick but it makes things so much easier. Plus if you care about these sorts of things, you'll use less cooking oil/butter
(2) For round pancakes, pour the batter quickly and into the center of the pan, letting it pool into a circle naturally.
(3) It's important to wait until the pan is hot enough before you start cooking to avoid 'the second pancake' (hey, that's the name of this site!) syndrome. The heavier the pan, the longer it will need to be preheated (but the better it'll retain heat). Medium hot works on my stove with by pan, but yours may differ. If they're getting too dark on the bottom before the top bubbles, turn it down. If they're pale and slow to cook, turn it up.

DIY degustation


DIY Degustation

Ingredients (serves eight):

  • Seven friends and yourself
  • Eight dishes
  • Eight bottles of wine
  • Gorgeous house on a farm in the hills


Last Saturday saw my first ever degustation. It saw it, then gaped, then drooled, then ate more than it could stand and still wanted more. It's a fairly simple plan, really. Each person brings along a dish and a matching bottle of wine, and someone clever arranges it all into a course by course degustation.

Two soups: cauliflower, scallops & truffle; Pea, mint, bacon & tomato confit

We licked off with Tim's divine duo of soups: truffled cauliflower and scallop, then pea soup with mint, bacon and tomato confit. You'll have to wait for him to post the recipe here, but be quick- the second he does, I'm memorising it then destroying the entire internet so no one else can make it. Truffle is still a slightly peculiar taste for me- quite pungent on the nose and almost rotten with richness in the mouth- but I'm liking it more and more. It was a fantastic addition to the cauliflower, as were the scallops hiding at the bottom. The pea, mint and bacon was a brilliant (if unexpected) combination- the mint added a welcome spark to the peas, and the slightly crispy bacon did wonders for the sheer physical pleasure of eating. Tim matched this with a chardonnay from the Clare Valley, which worked wonderfully: the buttery roundness of the wine complemented the soups without overpowering them.

Salmon, prawns, tomato, avocado, dill

After Tim having set the bar so high, I was certainly glad I wasn't the second act. To her credit though, Sophie's Spectacular Seafood Stack superceded 'spectations. (I'm sorry. I promise I wont do any more alliteration at all, alright?). This was smoked salmon, prawn, avocado and tomato salsa wedged into a teacup and upended to form an Eyeful Tower of Tastiness, which was then drizzled with a chive and dill dressing. This elicited a chorus of NOM NOM NOMs around the table and though we were worried how we'd finish the rest of the six courses, no one could bring themselves to leave any of this uneaten. The matching wine was a big Barossa shiraz, and purists may say that this is a poor choice for seafood. Well, phooey to the purists. The dish was delicious, and the wine was divine. 'Nuff said.

Perfect peppers, tasty tarts, rabbit ragouts, mighty meats and chompy chocolates await after the jump. There may even be some recipes!

Sour sweets: Lemon & yoghurt slice

Lemon & yoghurt slice

Eh, sweets. Rarely am I craving cakes, cookies, or chocolates. They're nice and all, but most desserts are just too one dimensional — they may have different flavours, but the main taste that usually carries them is sweetness. That's why my eyes widened when I saw a recipe at Hungry Bruno for Lemon Yoghurt Cake by way of Molly at Orangette. Sourness? Now you're talking. Just a heads up: this is a damn delicious slice.

I've modified the recipe to adjust for baking this batter as a slice rather than a cake, and to boost up the sourness. I copied the instructions for the glaze from the original recipe, but in reality I didn't measure the amount of lemon juice I added as I kept adding more until it was sour enough. I slightly overcooked this one; yours shouldn't turn out as crumbly.

Lemon & yoghurt slice


  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1.5 cups of plain flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tbsp of grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup of canola oil
  • The juice from 2 lemons, strained
  • 1/4 cup of icing sugar

1. Preheat your oven to 175ºC/250ºF. Line the bottom of a 20 x 30 cm (8 x 12 inches) brownie tin with baking paper and grease the sides with butter or canola oil.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the yoghurt and eggs, then add the sugar (regular, not the icing sugar) and stir to combine.
3. Add the flour, baking powder, and lemon zest and stir to combine. Don't worry if there are some lumps. Add the canola oil, and stir to distribute throughout the mixture.
4. Pour the mixture evenly into the brownie tin and bake for 25-30 minutes.
5. While the slice is baking, make the glaze by whisking together the lemon and icing sugar. Once the slice is cooked, cut squares while still in the pan and pour the glaze over.

Lemon & yoghurt slice