kumquat tea cakes

 

Here is a variation on the almond and orange cake I posted about a few weeks ago.

It came about after receiving my fortnightly veggie box. There is always some new and unusual produce included, and last week’s surprise was a handful of kumquats.

I must admit, I have never bought kumquats before, let alone cooked with them. I took a bite of one of these little egg-shaped citrus, expecting it to be sweet like a mandarin, and nearly spat it out: it was so tart, nearly bitter, like eating a whole lemon! So they sat on the kitchen bench for a while, while I figured out what to do with them. I knew they needed to be cooked to dial down the puckering tanginess, and also had to be made into something sweet. Marmalade was suggested, but I didn’t have enough of them. Instead, I revisited the concept of pairing orange and almonds, this time going for little cakes to match my little kumquats. 

These mini-muffin size tea cakes are very much inspired by financiers, these small French almond cakes, flavoured with beurre noisette, and usually baked in a small rectangular mould. Like a traditional financier, they contain egg whites, almond flour, plain flour and a lot of vanilla bean brown butter. 

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Mr T: “ There is a 3 day weather window this week. Let’s take the boat out somewhere. “

Me: “ Great, how about we go into Sydney Harbour ? It’s months since I have seen the city”

Mr T: “ Nahhhh…I want to see something different. Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River?” 

And this is how we find ourselves on this cold winter morning, motoring off Sydney Heads up north to Broken Bay for a 3-days cruise exploring the Hawkesbury River, NSW.

Motoring past Coogee beach

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Half a pumpkin, two beetroots and a few broccoli stems. That was the extent of our supplies one Monday night. 

To be fair, we did have some meat in the fridge, but after a heavy Sunday roast,  the whole family felt like a light vegetarian dinner. 

With my vegetable box due in the next 48 hours, I didn’t want to shop for extra and actually was keen to see if we could end up with a meal big enough to feed the four of us.

Truth be told, it was quite a fun challenge, reminding me of cooking on the boat. While cruising, it’s always been an exercise to come up with delicious and nutritious meals using whatever is available. I would read recipes of classic dishes and end up dreaming up ways to use the local produce, mixing up flavours and textures. Far from seeing myself as a recipe developer, it was more about making do with what was on hand and experimenting.   

Over the years, I have learnt a lot from locals showing me the ropes, reading tons of cookbooks and of course cooking. Drawing on this knowledge, and to this day, I mostly start cooking by focusing on one ingredient and building the meal around it. 

So I present you with our latest meatless Monday feast:

Roasted pumpkin with  garlic cream sauce

Puy lentils and broccoli stems salad

Warm salad of beetroot and red onions

A typical no-waste kind of meaI, I  am pleased to say that there was plenty to eat, thanks to a deep forage into the pantry and the crisper. A little imagination helps too. 

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“Just follow the Old Ghan Railroad north until Marree and turn left”

These are my instructions to Mr T, as we are on the lookout for the Marree Man.

We’re on day 2 of our Outback flying trip and heading north after circling inside the crater of Wiilpena Pound earlier.

The Old Ghan Railroad is not that obvious to spot from the air, but luckily it runs along the Outback Highway and that is easy to follow with the few trucks and caravans leading the way.

We fly over Parachilna, which was one of our potential stopovers with its famous Prairie Hotel until it turned out too complicated to arrange a lift from the airstrip ( save it for the Overlander trip, says Mr T ). 

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It’s been a while since we’ve had a family gathering at the house. Like everyone else, Covid-19 has been a real kill joy and we’ve been reclused since end of March, following instructions from those who know best, a.k.a experts.

Last weekend was a milestone in as much that 20 people were allowed to gather in someone’s house, up from the initial number of 5. Other rules were relaxed, I know, but that particular announcement made our day because with our family, a gathering attracts easily 15 to 20 people.

It also happened to be Sam’s 5th birthday, and since we missed out on big celebrations for the April and May birthdays, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to make it an occasion for a get together.

For these of you not in the know, Sam is our beloved Labrador. Yes, we are talking about a dog’s birthday party. We have officially joined “the other side” and become the kind of dog owners who consider their pet as family member ( he is known at the Vet as Sam Steen! )

So the family was invited for a Sunday lunch. As usual, everyone asked what to bring and my initial suggestion was for dog themed and friendly food. How different and fun!

While I am sure our guests were confused, I cheerfully searched for dog treat recipes that could be suitable for humans and proceeded to bake NQN’s bone biscuits and pup cakes from here. 

Sam was ordered to stay still for the photo, then I had to quickly take away the tray of biscuits before he devoured them!!

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