What’s making me happy: September

What’s making me happy: September

Well here we are at the three-quarter mark. It’s been a funny old year. At times it’s felt like the ‘before’ with mask-free mingling and interstate holidays, but often, particularly in the last little while, the uncertainty and worry that dominates our COVID era life has been omnipresent.

Still a new season is upon us, and with that brings hope and light. In recent weeks there have been beautiful reunions with friends, great achievements by loved ones and a newfound appreciation of small-talk with strangers.

This is what’s been making me smile this month…

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Chocolate brownies

Chocolate brownies

Sometimes you just have one of those days. Those sorts of days when nothing terrible happens, but little thing after little thing happens and you get to a point where need a bit of a pick-me-up. I recently had one of those days and these chocolate brownies certainly helped. They’re decadent yet easy to make. Chewy, crunchy and goey all at once and can made and baked within a child’s naptime – if that’s when you need them the most ;)…

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Berry clafoutis

Berry clafoutis

I love having a few recipes in my repertoire that I know I can always whip up at a moment’s notice. There’s something very satisfying about being able to pull a few key ingredients out of your fridge and pantry and then bringing them together to create something a little special. Enter berry clafoutis. Sounds dead fancy, looks amazing straight out the oven (because let’s be honest, sometimes we do want to impress), but really is quite quick and easy to make.

If you’ve never encountered clafoutis before, it’s essentially a custardy-like flan, studded with fruit, which originated in France. It’s traditionally made with cherries, but virtually any fruit can be used. For this recipe, I had blueberries and raspberries that needed eating up, so in they went! It’s not too sweet, is light and creamy and can easily be dressed up. Really, what’s not to love…

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Adam’s jacket potatoes

Adam’s jacket potatoes

This weekend just gone has been a tough one for many people in Australia. COVID infection rates are on the rise again, there’s been new lockdowns announced and restrictions affecting day-to-day living are back. The situation is evolving rapidly and perhaps that, combined with the fact that it’s been chilly, wet and dark for a few days has got me craving comfort food.

Comfort food is highly personal. For some it might be sweet,but for me it’s savoury and specifically in the form of a potato. Yes, the humble spud whether it be mashed, roasted, in the form of a hot chip or a crunchy crisp, makes my heart sing.

In recent years the jacket potato has triumphantly made its way to near top of my potato products line-up. For years I was of the understanding a jacket potato was any potato in its skin, generally boiled, and then often cut open and served with sour cream, bacon and spring onions. Then I met Adam and he introduced me to jacket potatoes of the English variety and I’ve been a convert ever since…

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Old fashioned lemonade

Old fashioned lemonade

On a grey, cool morning just the other day I decided it was time to pick the first lemons from our tree. Big, bulbous fruit had been ripening on the branch for a few weeks and the lemons looked and felt just right. If you’ve been around here for a little while, you’ll know I love pretty much anything lemon-flavoured and normally when our tree bears fruit I gravitate towards making a dessert. After trawling recipe after recipe though, I just couldn’t find anything that really whet my appetite. Then one night I got a real hankering for proper old fashioned lemonade. The type that’s a cloudy lemon colour and not too sweet. The type you’d drink out of a straw from a nice glass, sitting under a tree on a sunny day while picnicking, Enid Blyton The Famous Five style. Again I trawled through recipes until I found one that had minimal ingredients and could easily be rustled up with little notice.

The end result hit the spot perfectly…

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Raspberry and chocolate hazelnut swirl muffins

Raspberry and chocolate hazelnut swirl muffins

I woke up the other day and the morning light outside looked different. The harsh, bright light of the summer had gone, and in its place was a slightly mellower, more golden glow. Right on cue, the change of season had arrived. The time of year where there are cool mornings and warm afternoons; bare legs and long sleeves; and golden leaves and green grass. That change of light also changed my mindset about food – suddenly frozen icy treats didn’t seem appealing, but something warm and pudding like – yes please.

So one afternoon I whipped up a batch of muffins. Half trusted recipe, half made up recipe and I’ve discovered they’re just the thing for these early autumn days…

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Pesto pasta with meatballs

Pesto pasta with meatballs

Not long after Paul was born my mum, dad and brother all came to visit. One night my brother whipped up this pasta for dinner. Still recovering from childbirth and breastfeeding around the clock left me very hungry in those early days and this dish just really hit the spot that night. I can remember going back for seconds and then tucking into another bowl again the following day for lunch.

It’s become a regular meal at our house since and when my brother was in town recently he kindly offered to make this pasta again, knowing it’d be a winner. It really is a very simple meal, but it’s quick (can be thrown together in around half an hour), satisfying and toddler friendly…

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Sweet potato salad

Sweet potato salad

The festive season is upon us and in Australia that means hot days, cold drinks and lots of alfresco eating. When the weather’s warm, I crave salads – not so much the stock standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and carrot variety with a basic supermarket vinaigrette, rather ones with cooked vegetables and pulses, nuts, herbs and creative dressings.

This sweet potato salad was first introduced to me at a family gathering many years ago. The recipe from another family, but so impressive at its first tasting that it’s been written down and recreated by my grandmother, mother and myself ever since.

I’ve taken it to barbecues, picnics and Christmas Day celebrations and it always receives rave reviews, so if you’re after a new salad to try this summer, perhaps this is one to consider…

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French toast with carameralised peaches and thyme

French toast with carameralised peaches and thyme

This recipe came about a couple of years ago, when Adam and I were gifted a huge basket of home grown peaches. The fruit had been picked a little too early and as a result the peaches never ripened properly. It felt wasteful to just toss the peaches into the green waste bin, so I decided to show them a little love.

With a little time, butter and sugar I was able to transform those peaches into something soft, sweet and syrupy. This dish has now become a well-loved favourite in our house, particularly at this time of the year when the days are long and warm and the stone fruit is abundant. The thyme seems like a slightly odd addition, but its subtle, earthy flavour works wonderfully with the sweet peaches.

This is definitely not an ‘everyday’ breakfast, rather best savoured on a slow Saturday morning, in pyjamas with a cup of coffee in hand…

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Spring vegetable and goat’s cheese tart

Spring vegetable and goat’s cheese tart

This tart is one of those dishes I don’t make nearly often enough. I always thoroughly enjoy it, its ingredients are fresh and flavourful and it’s surprisingly filling. It’s a wonderful combination of crunchy pastry, creamy goat’s cheese, crisp greens and herbs. For me though the standout ingredient is tarragon with its almost aniseed like flavour. It’s herb I don’t use often, but it gives this tart such a wonderful lift.

The creator of this tart is Wagga Wagga based commercial cookery teacher, Sara Morley. Sara shared it, many years ago, as part of a regular ‘foodie’ segment she had on ABC Riverina. I can remember tasting a sample on the day she spoke about the recipe, telling Sara how delicious it was. Sara kindly shared the recipe with me, so now I feel it’s time to share the recipe with you…

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