Wintertime pear and almond cake

It’s currently wintertime in Sydney.

Now I know that for some of you, the above statement makes absolutely no sense. In fact, you’re sitting there thinking that it’s a pure contradiction in terms. Well I’m here to drop some knowledge people: yes, they do get winter in Australia.

Three whole weeks of it in fact! Burrrr.

I’ve  expressed my opinion previously on the Sydney winter, and therefore am not going to keep talking about it, lest I start to get into rant territory. Instead, I’d just like to share some small thoughts with the dear people of Sydney. For example, did you know that wintertime can be a whole lot less traumatic if you a) get central heating in your house and b) dress appropriately? True story. Another true story: winter happens all over the world. Honestly. Everyone gets it at some point, so you’re not special, sorry. And lastly, don’t you know that winter is the perfect time to stuff your face full of all kinds of calorific yumness? It’s like, why it was invented.

So you see, you’re missing the point! It’s a time for tea and roasts and spuds and pudding with sticky sauce and melting cheese on stuff and many MANY hot ports. Fact.

Today I did some seasonal celebrating of my own by making this delicious pear and almond cake; and I would strongly encourage you all to do the same as it was totally divine. Pears are one of my favourite winter fruits and pairing them with almonds seems to work really well. This cake is dense, sticky and crumbly sweet. It’s the perfect warming reward after a chilly Sunday afternoon jaunt. It’s also a great reward for getting to the end of your chapter, or for keeping the couch warm all day, or for intending to go out, or for….

Pear and almond cake

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Hot cross buns

Who doesn’t just love some religious iconography on their baked goods?!

As I was making these, and diligently piping out a cross on each one, I got to thinking: how does an atheist come to this? How is it these little buns are so loved that pretty much everyone, religious or not, eats them this time of year? Weird huh?

I was curious so I hit the interwebs and found out loads of interesting things about these yummie bunnies. Apparently they could have been eaten in pagan times, the cross (symbolising the four quarters of the moon) being a nod to the goddess Eostre. Which leads me to ask, did these Christians ever have an original idea?! But they were popularised in Tudor England, where they were so trendy with Catholics that Elizabeth I had to pass a law allowing them to be only made on Christmas and Good Friday. Hence how they are now associated with Easter.

Apparently there are all kinds of superstitions around them, like if you hang one in your kitchen you’ll make good bread all year, they’re also good luck to have on a ship. Who knew hot cross buns could be so interesting? If you fancy reading more try here, or here.

Or you could just skip to the recipe and enjoy these steaming hot from the oven with lashings of melted butter and a cup of tea. Yummo. It’s still the weekend after all, there’s no need to start being healthy until tomorrow.

Hot cross buns

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Hallowe’en barmbrack

It appears that Australians don’t do Hallowe’en.

It makes a lot of sense; obviously October evenings in the southern hemisphere are a lot less cold, dark and, well, scary than they are back home. Which I guess is why Hallowe’en never took off here, despite the influx of Irish immigrants over the years, and why it flourished in the States instead.

It does slightly bother me that the American version of Hallowe’en is all that’s widely known here; no one realises that it’s an ancient Celtic festival. Therefore, the focus is all on trick-or-treating, and nothing else. No bobbing for apples, no bonfires and no barmbrack. I have decided that I’m on a one-woman mission to change all this. I did have to go to stupid work today though, so I only got as far as the barmbrack, but every little counts. Right?

Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit bread made to celebrate Oíche Shamhna (Hallowe’en night). It’s not only totally delish but is also loads of fun as it contains some odd little things you don’t normally find in baked goods, such as a ring, a coin, a pea, a piece of cloth and a stick. These objects mean different things for the person who finds them. The ring and the coin are the two best-known ones, they indicate that the finder will either get married in the coming year or get rich. The others are not so optimistic. The pea means the finder will not get married that year, the piece of cloth means they will be poor and the stick means they’ll have an unhappy marriage. Presumably, the stick was to be used a weapon! Lovely!

Hallowe’en Barmbrack

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Christmas in July

OK, OK I know that it’s now August, not July. But those of you who know me, know that I’m probably going to turn up late to my own funeral. Punctuality is NOT my strongpoint. And also, if you’re picking an arbitrary date to celebrate a northern hemisphere winter style holiday, does it really matter when exactly that arbitrary date is? Eh, I don’t think so.

So this weekend, we’re going to Melbourne to celebrate ‘Christmas’ with our good friends Betty and Elms. The thing is though, none of us are really that pushed on the whole Christmassy element of this celebration, what with temperatures topping 23 °C in Sydney this week, it doesn’t feel particularly like Christmas (or even winter for that matter). So really, this is just an excuse to have a bit of craic and get a wee tincy bit langers (who said that?!), so actually, quite like Christmas at home really.

Anyways, these little mulled wine parcels are perfect for this celebration. Just add alcohol and hey presto, you have Christmas in a glass!

Mulled wine parcels

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