When I took my first bite of this savoury loaf, I thought I had a complete dud on my hands. However, having promised I’d bring something to work the next day, and it being around 10pm in the evening, I brought it along, hoping everyone would be polite about it. Instead, they were more than polite, so much so that I took this shot on my cellphone so you could see for yourself why my inner foodie had reservations. Basically, my homemade baking powder mixture seems to have lost its nerve, or maybe it just couldn’t rise under the crushing weight of all that melting cheese. Either way, it ended up dense and not fluffy at all. However, this seemed to be what a few people liked about it, since it was super moist, so by all means have a play with the quantities there (see below for recommendations).
Aside from the divisive attitudes about the texture, it had some serious cheesy umaminess going for it, tempered with a sweet/sour tang from the cherry tomatoes and a mild herbaceous-ness from the serious amount of basil in there. Slivered almonds (my new favourite thing to add to just about everything for a bit of perfect crunch) give the impression you’ve gone out and invested in pesto for this, whereas really, you just need a motherload of basil (which my community garden had plenty to supply). The other major bonus is that this is pretty easy overall (I’m trying to use one bowl for most of my baking).
Cheesy tomato basil quickbread
makes quite a lot – I used a deep pyrex 9″ square dish, but you can halve it to make a loaf tin or use the recipe as is for two loaves if that’s all you have tin-wise
- 200ml oil (I used extra virgin olive oil, but milder oils would be fine too)
- 1c water
- about 2c fresh basil
- 1 clove minced garlic (I actually used wild garlic greens, but since most people don’t have that, this is the next best thing)
- 1 T miso paste (or about 20g grated parmesan), or 1/2 T fine sea salt, but it won’t be as cheesy tasting
- 2 eggs
- 3 1/2c flour (pour the flour into the cups)
- 4 tsp baking powder*
- 200g feta, roughly crumbled
- about 1 1/2 c grated cheddar
- optional: handful of slivered almonds
- about 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
*If your baking powder works, then this should be plenty.
Place cherry tomato halves skin side down on a baking tray and pop in your oven, preheat it to 180C. Generously butter your baking dishes and dust with flour, knocking the flour around the pan to coat.
In a large bowl, blitz the first 5 ingredients with an immersion blender (or use a blender or food processor). Beat in eggs.
Sift over flour and baking powder. Scatter feta over top of flour, fold everything together until you get a very wet dough that’s bordering on cake batter (add water or flour to adjust if necessary). Scrape into your prepared baking vessels.
Remove tomatoes from oven, scrape over your batter and arrange evenly(ish). Scatter over grated cheese and then slivered almonds. Bake until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool and turn out. Cut into slices if your baking powder was dud too, otherwise cut however you like! Wrap in thick paper bag paper, and eat within 2 days.
PS. I’ve been enjoying some consistently delicious crusty artisan loaves thanks to Flour Water Salt Yeast (check the link for videos which really help show how easy it is). I’ve always been a lifelong fan of Artisan Bread in 5, however I had no idea why there was such variability in results when I slightly deviated from a recipe. Sure there are plenty of sciencier bread books out there (think Peter Reinhart), but all I wanted were the crucial things that would the make the most difference to me as a home cook. That’s where Flour Water Salt Yeast has really hit the nail on the head – empowering bread bakers to understand the variables that will affect various aspects of their bread without going overboard. I appreciate my digital scales a lot more, have reconceptualised time and temperature as ingredients in their own right, and have applied these new understandings to all breads that I bake, not just the ones in the book. It’s so liberating – I save a lot of anxious uncertainty about how a loaf might turn out if things don’t go exactly to plan.
Who can resist a magic custard cake? I found myself trance-like at the supermarket, buying some milk (a rare purchase, since I don’t seem to ever use it), just for this recipe. That’s in italics because I’ve been particularly lazy with following any sort of recipe recently. There is something fascinating about these special cakes which separate into fluffy sponge on top and curd or custard at the bottom. The base of this is admittedly totally different to curd – it’s as solid as the photo suggests but still soft, yet sturdy enough to endure extra gooey things like caramel sauce and raspberries without being overly sloppy. As a base recipe it’s excellent – mildly sweet, although very fragrantly eggy – so really it would work with whatever other desserty condiments you want to play around with.
The only thing I’d add next time are some toasted flaked almonds or crushed toasted hazelnuts for serving, and I think it could be one of those homely looking desserts that end up knocking your socks off. Or if you’re wanting to keep the cake plain like in the original recipe, I’d be inclined to get heavier handed with the vanilla – maybe even scrape the seeds of a whole bean in there, or go in a different direction and add some lemon zest. The cake is your oyster.
Raspberry magic custard cake with caramel sauce
makes one 8×8″ square cake
- 4 eggs, separated
- 150g icing sugar
- 120g unsalted Butter
- 480ml milk
- 1 T (15ml) water
- 115g flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- enough raspberries (fresh or frozen) to cover (I used about 3/4c?)
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 2-3 drops vinegar
- caramel sauce (optional – you will have some left over probably) or more icing sugar to dust
Melt the butter and set aside to slightly cool. Brush the inside of your pan with the melted butter generously, dust with flour to evenly coat. Preheat the oven to 160C (325F).
Beat the egg whites and vinegar to stiff peaks and set aside.
Warm the milk to lukewarm and set aside.
While the milk heats, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a medium/large bowl until they pale. Whisk in the melted butter and the tablespoon of water for about until evenly incorporated, then the flour, then the milk and vanilla. Fold in the egg whites a third at a time (a whisk will make this faster) only until no large clumps remain. The batter will be very thin with frothy bits on top.
Place raspberries in your pan and sprinkle with the regular sugar, then pour the batter over. Bake for 30 minutes, if the top is still pale, keep baking and check every 5-10 mins, but if it’s golden brown, test with a skewer, which will come out relatively clean when done. Allow cake to cool before turning upside down onto a plate and cutting. Dust with icing sugar or drizzle with caramel right before you serve.
Recipe submitted to Sweet New Zealand
I’ve only just discovered the deliciousness and versatility of white bean (otherwise known as cannellini bean hummus), which I reckon opens up waaay more opportunities for awesome vegan options in the dip and dressings department. I was
lazy lucky enough to pick some up pre-made which makes this dressing (or dip if you use less vinegar/lemon juice) a bit less effort, but of course you’re welcome to make it from scratch too.
Basically (and honestly, you don’t need a recipe for this, just willing tastebuds), you blitz the white bean hummus with a generous amount of basil (parsley could work too) and loads of mouth-puckery stuff to thin it – take your pick from lemon juice or vinegars (I used plain old white and a dash of sherry). I also added miso because I’m on a miso-adding craze at the moment (it adds a little umami to everything, and also happens to be crazily good for you and cheap…what’s not to love?!). Or you could add plain yogurt along with some salt to round it all out. Then if you want you can stir in some olive oil at the end. You can of course keep it less tart, but I happened to have lots of whole grainy earthy bitterness in the salad I was using it in, so I wanted plenty of tartness to balance it out. Also I do have a tendency to prefer acidy tasting things. Fair warning has been issued.
Since I had no idea how addictive this dressing was going to be, I don’t *actually* have a picture of it, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it. Instead I cooked up some bulgur (you could use another small easy-to-cook-grain you like, eg. couscous, millet, quinoa), and added raw shredded carrots and red cabbage for a refreshing crunch. Slivers of green radicchio made it in there, but you couldn’t really taste it in the end (you could use parsley instead, or mint if you like). I then half-smooshed some canned white beans, dumped them into the dressing so it’d niggle into the nooks and crannies of my beans, then mixed it all up with the rest of my salad. It lasted ok for the next day but it’s still nicer the day of making.
If you breathe blogs as much as I do, or even if you follow just a handful, the discontinuation of Google Reader is sad news. In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m on about, Laura at Hungry and Frozen has a good description of what feed readers like Google Reader do: “reading a lot of blogs can be a little taxing to the modern brain, so Google Reader lets you view them all in one place – a bit like subscribing to a lot of newspapers and magazines which then arrive on your doorstep every morning, rather than having to go to the shops every day to buy them all individually.”
As someone who now follows 380+ blogs from various genres (food, style, other lifestyle, politics), I wasn’t about to make a migration decision lightly! So, here’s my personal breakdown of two bigguns, based on a bit of research I’ve done online and from actually using the two, both on my laptop and on Android tablet (and some phone notes, but I have a Windows phone, so can’t be particularly comprehensive). Hopefully it’ll help you choose one that best suits your personal situation.
The feedly crew knew about Google Reader’s impending demise, and basically aimed to be the arms that lost GR users would leap into. And boy are they nice arms. As someone who follows what is probably an abnormal number of blogs, I felt spoilt for choice. However, it’s not necessarily for everyone:
To transition to feedly, install the browser extension, log in to your Google account, and in the blink of an eye, everything is imported and ready to go. However, because it’s a browser extension, it’ll only work with some browsers – Chrome & Firefox are good to go, but if you’re stuck using IE, then stop reading now and use bloglovin or something else.
The bloglovin transition is even easier at first than feedly, because it’s all done without a browser extension. However if you follow lots of blogs, the importing takes significantly longer. No clear winner either way I’d say – it depends on your personal situation.
Usability, design & customisability
The first thing that hits you with both is that they’re much prettier than Google Reader. I’d argue though that feedly is better designed, and certainly MUCH more customisable, than bloglovin. Here’s what feedly looks like without me editing any of the fonts or colours, on both tablet and laptop:
…and zoomed into how content is displayed, here are the four options you get:
Venturing into “themes” and “preferences,” you’re all of a sudden presented with a huge array of options you never even thought were possible or important, until they become essentials and you feel like a feed reader snob.
One thing I personally prefer too is that feedly maximises the space on your screen, but others might find that a little too cluttered. Just comes down to personal preference. If you follow a lot of visually-oriented blogs, feedly also seems to do a better job of showing you a sample image. I’m adoring the magazine view, which lets me skim through lots of blog posts in a much more visually captivating way than Google Reader ever let me do.
If you want to skim quickly, feedly also has an option where articles are marked as read as you scroll past them, which you can turn on or off. On bloglovin, you have to manually mark each as read, or mark everything as read (whether you’re viewing by blog or date).
All that said, bloglovin is ideal if you don’t follow lots of blogs, don’t have major preferences about customising, and have a serious aversion to tinkering with settings. On a desktop/laptop, you get one view, and that’s it. Sometimes it doesn’t pull the image very well either (see below – the image is portrait oriented, but instead of grabbing the centre of the image, you get the top half). If you use a tablet or phone, you can only view as a list of the blogs you follow (pictured below) or a feed of unread items, with a small thumbnail to the left and title/excerpt on the right.
Picking a winner in this department depends on what kind of blogs and social networks you participate in. Facebook and Twitter sharing is easy on both feedly and bloglovin, but feedly doesn’t have a pinterest button. Not a big deal for me personally, but it might be a write off for serious pinners.
One thing both reader lack is the ability to share entire feeds with your friends. Just above my Creative Commons garble in my right hand sidebar, you’ll see a link to my food feed, which is pretty cool. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get these urls for either feedly or bloglovin, which is a shame, because I’m not about to manually put hundreds of links to my favourite blogs on my sidebar.
Other downsides and upsides
There are still a few things that annoy me about feedly. I can’t turn off “featured” articles in magazine view, use feedly on my Windows phone, or seem to be able to determine if reads in feedly count towards a blog’s readership/stats. Also, this didn’t happen at first, but now I’m being prompted to log in almost every day, which is ok since I don’t have to enter a password or anything, but it’s still a bit irritating.
Bloglovin on the other hand stays logged in, and because you can “visit” it like any other webpage, it doesn’t matter what operating system or browser you use, you’ll be able to access it. Major thumbs up for this. On the other hand, I personally find the way they have kept things so simple is a bit dumbed down, making it hard to optimise your reading experience.
Personally, I can only recommend bloglovin if you for some reason can’t use anything but Internet Explorer, don’t follow lots of blogs, don’t have preferences about customisation, and have a serious aversion to tinkering with settings. Even so, there’s no harm or major investment in trying feedly. Their magazine layout has drastically increased my use of my feed reader, and has really helped me keep on top of the hundreds of blog I follow. Ultimately though, it all depends on your personal circumstances.
Is there a major feed reader I’ve missed that’s also free and blows both feedly and bloglovin out of the water? Or have I missed something with these two? Let me know in the comments! In the mean time, if you’re not convinced about either of these, check out the comments section of The Kitchn’s post that includes a whole lot of other suggestions.
Last weekend, I joined the wonderful Diego Bonetto of Wild Stories and several other mushroom hunters for a beautiful journey into the pine forests of New South Wales. As well as enjoying delightful scenes of the countryside rush past lit in golden sunrise light, everyone went home with bulging bags of foodie treasure, with plenty left for anyone who followed in our footsteps. At $40 a kilo, I was pretty keen to learn the art of pine mushroom stalking and squishing them tightly into my backpack.
As much as it’s tempting to sound far more knowledgeable than I actually am, I don’t want to give much away, because you really do benefit from going with an experienced mushroomer. It’s not only safer, but far more relaxing and enjoyable than trying to nut it out on your own based on a blog post! If you happen to be in the Sydney area, Wild Stories is running one last outing on April 20th at the end of the season after the last two sold out. It’s all very safe – there were even signs and brochures erected at both the locations we went to, declaring the treasures to be found amongst the trees.
Off we went, feeling very hunter-gathery but also politely not elbowing anyone out of the way when we spotted one – not that we had to, especially at the second place we went to! When I spotted my first mushroom I felt like I had struck gold – literally. The rich “saffron milk” that gives pine mushrooms its distinct golden colour is delightfully vibrant.
My favourite are still the small day-old babies, which aren’t as delicate as their older three-to-four-day cousins so they last longer and don’t get smooshed so much when you try to clean them. Texture wise they’re also more like button mushrooms as opposed to their larger counterparts – tighter and firmer. That said, the larger ones are nothing like the large mushrooms in texture once cooked – the skin is much more discernible when you bite into them.
Diego also gave us some important identification lessons, in a valiant attempt to ensure we all survived our mushroom feasts. Given that the same type of mushroom can vary in appearance due to the less controllable conditions in the forest and the various bits and pieces on the forest floor that bend the mushrooms into different shapes, it was important to know multiple characteristics to look out for. He also imparted some invaluable wisdom about the context of picking them, such as the effect of the weather and type of forest.
Here were some of our rejects that we collected and were unsure of, mixed in with a few edibles too. Just like recycling, if in doubt, leave it out!
To end our morning, we were treated to the fruits of our forage, with garlic, salt and olive oil, finished with a bit of parsley. My jeans still smell smokey from slicing mushrooms by the fire and it makes me drool a little every time I catch a whiff. The mushrooms themselves pack some gorgeous umami and earthy woodiness, with the slightest bitterness to offset their richness. They were not slimy at all, but nice and toothsome without being leathery.
When I got home with my greedy backpack full of mushrooms, I got lazy and cleaned them with water (you’re meant to just brush them clean), but the skins were a lot less absorbent than regular mushrooms, so the water just kind of slid off. Still, they didn’t turn out soggy at all – a bit of a miracle really. A little kiss of butter made them even more sublime. My freezer is now heartily bursting with boxes of precooked sliced mushrooms, waiting to be used in a killer risotto or creamy pasta. I think these would work best in something with a decent amount of moisture, as their intensity and firm, non-slimy texture would lift a silky sauce and help flavour a silky sauce or soup nicely.
So far I’ve enjoyed them with goats cheese over polenta chips (waaaay too rich), and in a grilled cheese with basil oil (yeah, I didn’t learn my lesson…).