I really didn’t mean to let such a gap open up between posts – it’s been almost three months since my last recipe over here, I’m sorry. It felt like the longer it got, the more inertia there was to overcome to write something up here again. And it’s been busy. Ugh. The worst, most boring excuse in the world, I know, especially when evenings spent sleepily watching Killing Eve and Game of Thrones took priority. Six weeks in London slid past far too fast – crammed around weekdays of hospital placement were dinners out blowing any scrap of a budget I had, bargain show tickets (Nigel Slater’s Toast, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and Come From Away), Sundays spent perusing various markets and afternoons spent traversing London – walking through Kensington, Notting Hill, Marylebone, up through Hackney and the canals, round my local Peckham and Dulwich. Plus fleeting trips to Dublin and Amsterdam, the latter of which I published a travel guide on here.
I arrived back in Melbourne with a thump, straight into my next rotation, intensive care. Busy and confronting and fascinating and difficult all at once. It was (is) job application season too for next year, with CVs and cover letters to be written, documents compiled and the growing sense of incredulity that my six years as a student are all but over. And to bring you completely up to speed, I’m now spending a couple of weeks back home in New Zealand on my mid-year break. Recharging amongst lots of recipe developing (or just making an utter mess of the kitchen).
That brings me right round to this cake. It’s a whole orange, dark chocolate & almond cake, rich, fudgey and not too sweet. The chocolate is perfumed with oranges, boiled whole for almost an hour until your kitchen smells like a warm citrus vineyard (or what I imagine that to be). They are then combined with olive oil and blitzed in the Vitamix jug (or alternative blender or food processor) until silky smooth. Add the eggs and dry ingredients and briefly blend again, as your sunny yellow blend turns a deep chocolate brown. Meanwhile, the base of your cake tin is lined with honey-coated flaked almonds, sweet and nutty, so when the cake is finished cooking and is flipped, the ombre almonds end up on top. It’s impressive but easy, gluten and dairy-free for anyone with intolerances, and only gets better over a few days. The high powered Vitamix blender (I have the Ascent) makes it incredibly easy with minimal dishes, and also means there is no residual grittiness of orange peel that I have previously experienced with other blenders – it blends it absolutely smooth in seconds.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this cake and I promise I’ll be back here sooner than three months time! If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see more (or less) of here please let me know.
This post is sponsored by Vitamix. I received compensation, but as always, all opinions and content are my own. Thank you so much for supporting the companies that support The Brick Kitchen.
Whole orange, chocolate & almond cake
40 g butter (diced)
70 g soft brown sugar
30 g honey
120 g flaked almonds
2 small whole oranges ((400g))
80 ml olive oil ((1/3 cup))
60 g dark chocolate (melted)
250 g caster sugar ((1 1/4 cups))
65 g dutch cocoa powder ((1/2 cup))
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
170 g ground almonds ((1 2/3 cups))
Grease and line a 20cm round baking tin. Use a non-springform tin if possible.
Place the oranges in a deep saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.
For the almond topping, combine the butter, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan. Melt to combine. Add the flaked almonds and stir to coat the almonds. Transfer into the prepared tin and spread out into an even layer, pressing firmly into the corners of the tin. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
Cut the very top and bottom off each boiled orange and discard. Cut the oranges into quarters. Place into the Vitamix jug with the olive oil. Blitz until smooth.
Add the sugar, eggs and dark chocolate. Blitz to fully combine.
Add the cocoa powder and baking powder, and again blitz to combine.
Add the ground almonds and blitz to just combine.
Pour the cake batter over the almonds in the prepared tin.
Bake at 180° for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back to touch and a skewer inserted comes out with a few crumbs attached (if you used a spring form tin, set something in the oven underneath to catch any drips).
Set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack or serving plate so the almonds are on top and remove the baking paper carefully. If any almonds fall off, just set them back into place. Leave to cool completely before serving. Cut with a serrated knife for sharp slices through the almond topping.
It was the first blue-sky, t-shirt temperature weekend of spring in a city emerging from winter, and it was glorious. The canals were sun-drenched and sparkling, and seemingly every human in town was seeking out that vitamin D: couches pulled out onto doorsteps, cafe tables haphazardly dragged onto the cobbles, people reading while lounging on their front steps or sunbathing on balconies, and parks and canals full of picnics. Around every corner was another view – bridges adorned with bicycles or a strip of unnervingly tilted canal-side houses, narrow buildings with large windows that in the evening emanate golden light (with residents clearly not averse to being seen by passers by). Plus bustling street markets, world class museums, warm stroop waffels oozing caramel and an emerging restaurant scene – what more could you want?
This is probably at odds with Amsterdam’s traditional seedy reputation, which might be the impression you leave with if you stick to the tourist-filled city centre (which is very easy to avoid). But even in that there is history and stories, as I learnt on a walking tour, and it epitomises the Dutch culture of tolerance (as long as there are ways of turning a profit and minimising harm, that is). The tolerance of soft drugs (PS. A cafe is for coffee. A coffeeshop is not) and the infamous red light district are prime examples, and the stories of how they came to be are worth hearing.
It’s a compact city of just 800,000 people and is easily walkable: it’s also a city made for cycling, with dedicated bike paths criss-crossing canals. Great food did seem slighter harder to find than in cities like London, but with research, recommendations and a certain amount of trial and error, we ate extremely well. Below I have compiled some of my favourite spots for how to spend a weekend in Amsterdam – obviously not entirely comprehensive but based on four days packed full of eating. Read on for lots of photographs, where to find a Melbourne-worthy flat-white, canal side drinks, neighbourhoods to explore, farmers markets, museums and the best apple pie I’ve ever had.
We stayed in an airbnb in De Pijp, which is an area I’d highly recommend – much more local than the city centre (and more affordable), lots of cafes and restaurants, and walking distance to pretty much everywhere you’d want to go.
Coffee and Brunch
Scandinavian Embassy: a sun-lit spot in De Pijp serving up excellent coffee, with freshly baked cinnamon knots emerging on trays from the tiny kitchen every morning. The bowl of rye and barley porridge topped with berries and a splash of cream was also a treat.
Toki: the best coffee of the trip was found at this minimalist spot on the west side of the city, alongside a counter of shiny kouign-amanns and loaf cakes with the best frosting:cake ratio I’ve seen in a while. The lunch menu looked equally enviable.
Little Collins: a Melbourne-inspired cafe opened by XX which felt a bit like the place to see and be seen, with lunchtime bloody marys possibly more of a priority than the coffee. In saying that, the menu was much more innovative than many of the brunch spots around Amsterdam – just be prepared for a wait.
Dignita: this glass-house in a garden cafe feels like an escape from the bustle of the rest of the city – perfect for a slow morning or a late lunch on a sunny day. Try the chickpea and zucchini fritters with golden haloumi, herby yogurt and a poached egg.
Bocca Coffee: a central dedicated coffee roastery with a few small lunch plates and treats.
Buffet van Odette: a light and white-tiled canal-side restaurant dishing up seasonal, vegetable focussed food. It’s open all day – stop by in the morning for their famous truffle omelette or parmesan baked eggs, lunch time for the Ottolenghi-vibed salad bar or simply for their gorgeous desserts. Book ahead if you can.
Bakeries and Patisserie
Winkel 43: this APPLE PIE. I’m sure you’ve probably already heard it, but I’m going to reiterate it for good measure. Mind-boggling numbers of ultra-deep, cinnamon scented apple pies emerge from the downstairs kitchen of this restaurant throughout the day, and slices disappear from the counter as fast as they are cut. A buttery crisp pastry and a side of whipped cream – what more could you want? Go on a Saturday morning and wander round the Noordermarkt at the same time (just be warned that Saturday is also their busiest day for the same reason).
Original Stroop Waffels in Albert Cuyp market: the best freshly made stroop waffel I tried – the distinctive crisp and cinnamon waffled pastry filled with a gooey caramel centre and served hot and hand-sized with a smear of dark chocolate. Eat while wandering the market, and enjoy the sugar rush. The pofterjes made at a stall nearby were also worth trying- get them topped with a chunk of butter, a drizzle of maple syrup and a serious dusting of icing sugar (no nutella here).
Van Wonderen Stroop Waffel: a second best to the market version above, these stroop waffels are also freshly made (and therefore superior to any non-fresh version), but this time come with your choice of topping (and thus are also the most instagrammed stroop waffel in amsterdam, precariously held out of the edge of canals – note that I didn’t do this, ok?!).
Van Stapele: a tiny mahogany wood-panelled shopfront tucked in next to the fumes of a few coffeeshops, with the much more delicious smells of freshly made double chocolate cookies wafting from the door. So fresh you can literally watch them tuck white chocolate centres into balls of dark chocolate dough and peer through the glass oven doors as cookies spread and rise.
Patisserie Holtkamp: founded in 1886, this patisserie not only supplies the Dutch Royal family, but (perhaps the royalty of food) Yotam Ottolenghi described it as probably the best bakery in Amsterdam. They’re well known for the croquettes, but I also tried a slab of lemon meringue pie. There’s no room to eat in, but if it’s sunny have a picnic canal-side.
Massimo Gelato: I unfortunately ran out of stomach room to try this corner shop in De Pijp, but really wanted to – and the line of locals out the door all weekend affirmed this. Possibly the best gelato in Amsterdam.
101 Gowrie: a tiny space in De Pijp headed by Alex Haupt, an Australian chef who recently featured on the Netflix show The Final Table and has worked at Dinner by Heston in London. Described as New Dutch cuisine, the food was outstanding and (for a tasting menu) reasonably priced. A taste of a savoury pofetje, here made with potato and topped with caviar; mini boules of housemade spelt sourdough smeared thick with rich whipped cultured kefir butter; more starters and a choice of main. I would highly recommend booking a table here if your budget extends to it – a well thought-out tasting menu that didn’t feel pretentious or fussy, retaining the vibe of a local, neighbourhood restaurant with a fairly young clientele.
Sir Hummus: casual and fast, here they dollop up portions of hummus to rival Tel Aviv- fluffy, smooth and creamy, with your choice of toppings (mine was a roast eggplant salad, chickpeas and pine nuts) and a side of warm pita, salad and pickles.
Soup and zo: essentially salad and takeaway soup, but just the kind of food you want when you’ve been travelling for days: homely and full of vegetables and a cheap, easy meal. There’s a few locations over the city, perfect for lunch or an early quick dinner.
Other places I didn’t make it to but might be worth a try:
Tujuh Maret: because of Amsterdam’s history of trading and colonisation, international cuisines are prominent, and the Indonesian rijsttafel most of all. Essentially a set menu of many small (and spicy) dishes, I was disappointed not to get the chance to try it.
Bar Fisk: a tucked away seafood restaurant inspired by the food of Tel Aviv – casual small share plates.
Choux: a casual vegetable focused tasting menu that came highly recommended.
La perla pizzeria or Sotto Pizza: apparently some of the best pizza in Amsterdam (that also wouldn’t be out of place in Italy).
Wilde Zwijnen or their Eetbar next door: a daily changing menu of modern Dutch cuisine.
Fou Fow Ramen: for a quick dinner in a bustling ramen joint.
Markets, museums and things to see:
Albert Cuypstraat: a six-day a week street market (closed Sundays) in De Pijp – apparently over 100 years old and the largest street market in Europe. Perfect for acquiring bread, cheese, fresh fruit and vegetables if you’re cooking for yourself or having a picnic, or seek out the Original Stroop Waffels and neighbouring pofterjes stall.
Noordermarkt: a lively Saturday morning farmer’s market right beside the legendary Winkel 43 (see above) filled with everything from fresh produce to flowers, clothing and antiques.
Anne Frank House: a haunting tour through the largely untouched rooms that Anne Frank and her family hid in for 2 years during the Nazi occupation – the annex of the warehouse where her father formerly worked, and where she penned her diary. I re-read her diary in the days before I visited, and was overwhelmed by the somewhat precocious insight into relationships and humanity of a normal girl in extraordinary circumstances in a way I don’t think I appreciated when reading it age 12. Because of limitations on visitor numbers, tickets are exceedingly hard to come by – either book 2-3 months out, or get online the morning of your visit for the 9am release (my advice would be to get in the queue at just before 9, then keep reloading the page if it crashes. Mine crashed a number of times and I thought they were sold out, but finally at 9:10am it finally worked and there were still tickets available).
The Van Gogh Museum: disclaimer – I’m not a huge museum person. I enjoy them for a few hours, but I’m not one of those people who could stay all day and stare at a few pieces of art work. In saying that, this was probably the best museum I’ve been to (up there with L’orangerie in Paris – the water lilies are something else). Telling the life story of Van Gogh alongside a huge collection of his art, it was fascinating to hear more about the man behind some of the most recognisable paintings in the world. Again, book tickets ahead of time as they tend to sell out, particularly for the weekend, and I also really enjoyed the audioguide. Other people also highly recommend the Rijkmuseum, and we enjoyed a quick visit to the Moco museum of modern art.
Walking tour: for learning the basics of a city’s history and fascinating insights about places that you might ordinarily have walked straight past, as well as getting local’s perspective on their city, a walking tour is hard to go past. I did a Freedam tour on my first day and would highly recommend it – it was the only time I walked through the Red Light district the whole trip, but I learnt so much more about its history and current issues than I ever would have otherwise.
Vondelpark: essentially the central park of Amsterdam – on sunny days full of picnics, and on dreary mornings full of cycling commuters and joggers. It backs onto the museum district, so perfect for a wander pre- or post-museum visit.
Bike and explore! Amsterdam seems to be one of those cities that is best seen not through the grand museums or the tourist-crammed central city, but by exploring on your own two feet (or two wheels – hiring a bike is an inexpensive way to feel more like a local). Spend an afternoon exploring De Pijp’s concept stores and wine bars, discover one boutique store after another alongside the most beautiful canals in the nine streets, wander through Jordaan and spent a morning at at a market. In the summer, grab treats and picnic canal-side.
A tahini caramel & chocolate tart with sesame brittle, all crisp buttery pastry, vanilla and tahini caramel and rich, smooth swirls of chocolate ganache. Jump to Recipe
As part of most medical school programs, the final year includes a short elective rotation where you can organise to go (almost) anywhere in the world – a chance to experience a different health system from your own. I’ve just landed back in London for mine – partially an excuse for 6 weeks of restaurant hopping, weekends abroad and catching up with friends from my stint in Oxford last year. (I am actually really looking forward to the elective itself too!). It’s only been three days, but they’ve included stopping off for coffee and flaky citrus morning buns at my new local, Brick House Bakery; oat milk flat whites at the Shoreditch Grind (first time trying Oatly, not entirely convinced but also not bad); early jet-lagged runs around misty, boggy Dulwich Park, all rugged up in layers; keep-cups of Monmouth coffee (the best) and purchases of smoked Maldon salt and Aleppo chilli flakes at the Borough Market; a hearty bowl of dahl with eggplant and flatbread at 26 Grains; and gazing in at the cake displays of my dreams at Ottolenghi Spitalfields – it already feels like I barely left. I also already feel like I underestimated my food budget… (budgeting is really not a strong point over here).
I have a couple of side trips planned so far: one to stay with a friend in Dublin, and one to Amsterdam, so any recommendations for either of those places would be very much appreciated – to eat or to see!
Now to the recipe: a tahini caramel chocolate tart with sesame brittle. I made it multiple times to get it right, and each time one component struggled – once with a shrinking, crumbly pastry, the second with a far too chewy caramel, a few more times for luck – thank goodness I had family, housemates and work colleagues to feed it too (and luckily they didn’t mind/notice the flaws as much as I did). It’s a quick short and sweet pastry, buttery and crisp, blind baked and topped with a silky tahini and vanilla scented salted caramel sauce. Swoops of creamy chocolate ganache and nutty shards of sesame brittle top it off. Yes, it’s rich and intense and a bit of a sugar rush, but it’s a proper dessert, and you can always serve small pieces – a little goes a long way (though some will want seconds – i.e. me). My dad told me it was possibly the best dessert I’ve made, so I’ll take that. (Admittedly, he does love rich chocolate and caramel, so if you’re a fruit person you probably won’t agree!).
Tahini Caramel Chocolate Tart
220 g flour
60 g icing sugar
pinch of salt
150 unsalted butter (refrigerator cold, chopped)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
60 g sesame seeds
50 g caster sugar
50 g glucose syrup ((also called corn syrup))
25 g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
Tahini caramel filling
300 g caster sugar (1 1/2 cups)
80 ml water (1/3 cup)
85 g butter
125 ml cream (1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons runny tahini
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt ((to taste))
113 g dark chocolate (finely chopped)
125 ml cream (1/2 cup)
30 g unsalted butter
Using a food processor, blitz the flour, salt and icing sugar to combine.
Add the cold butter cubes, and blitz until only pea sized lumps remain.
Add the egg and vanilla. Blitz a few times until larger lumps start to form. It will still be quite crumbly at this stage.
Turn the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface. Quickly and gently bring it together with your hands into a smooth disc. Don’t ‘knead’ the dough – over working it makes likely to shrink back when baked and be tougher.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before using.
Lightly grease a 26cm tart tin with butter.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to just fit the size of your tart tin.
Gently lift the pastry (I fold mine over my rolling pin) into the tart tin, gently pressing into the base and up the sides. Trim the top where it comes over the side of the tin with a sharp knife. Press the edges with your fingers so they just pop 1-2mm up above the top of the tin.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
To blind bake the pastry, preheat the oven to 180°C.
Use a crumpled piece of baking paper or tin foil to line the tart tin, and fill the tin with baking beans or rice to weigh it down. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is dry underneath the baking paper. Remove the baking paper and beans, then return the tart to the oven to bake for a further 10-15 minutes until golden.
Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In a dry pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring constantly until shades of golden.
Cut 2 large pieces of baking paper to fit on a large baking tray. Lay one sheet out on a flat heatproof surface.
In a medium pot, combine the caster sugar, glucose syrup, butter and salt. Heat until the butter is melted, sugar dissolved and it is just coming to a boil. Add the sesame seeds and stir through.
Pour the brittle out onto the sheet of baking paper. Place the second sheet on top, and use a rolling pin to gently spread the brittle into a flat sheet (~3mm thick.)
Lift the paper and brittle onto the baking tray. Gently peel the top piece of baking paper off and discard. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Set aside to cool.
Tahini caramel filling
In a medium pot, combine the caster sugar and water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, swirling occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Meanwhile, measure out the butter and cream to have them ready to go.
Watch the sugar, without stirring, as it boils until it starts to caramelise around the edges. When patches start to turn golden, swirl the pan so that the sugar caramelises evenly.
When the caramel is golden, remove from the heat. Carefully add the butter and stir – it will bubble and steam, so don’t have your hand too close. Gradually stream in the cream, stirring constantly, until combined.
Stir in the tahini, vanilla and sea salt. Set aside to cool and thicken – taste to adjust the tahini and sea salt once cool enough.
When ready to fill the blind baked tart tin, check that the caramel is still pourable – if it is too thick, microwave for 10 seconds or heat gently just until it is.
Pour the caramel into the pastry case and use a spatula to spread out to the edges.
Place the tart in the fridge for at least an hour to set.
Place the finely chopped dark chocolate in a bowl
In a small saucepan, heat the cream and butter until simmering (almost but not quite boiling).
Pour over the dark chocolate, making sure the chocolate is all underneath hot cream.
Leave for 5 minutes, then use a fork to stir until the ganache is smooth.
Let cool until thickened – it needs to be thick enough to swirl on top of the tart.
Remove tart from the tin. Swirl the ganache on top of the tart. Top with shards of sesame brittle and flaky sea salt.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since starting university again in Melbourne, and I must admit I’ve really enjoyed being back in routine. A solid routine plus a smidge (ok, a little more than a smidge) of work pressure has equaled productivity levels through the roof – at least as long as I balance that with organisation (a diary + a to-do list, am I right?) and enough sleep (have I already mentioned that you all need to go and read Why We Sleep?)). The only negative is that discretionary reading time has disappeared. This is bad news for my New Year’s resolution, which is to read a book a week in 2019 (so a grand total of 52 over the year). Easy to stick to during the holidays; not so much now. That hour window before bed which can so easily disappear into social media (or Netflix) is what I need to start utilising. Speaking of, I just finished The Bodyguard and LOVED it – would highly recommend if you’re after a new manageable length (6 episodes) series.
On another note, I’ve been struggling with instagram lately. Engagement (the number of people that see and like/comment on posts) has been down the gurgler, which I know is also true for many other people. I know I shouldn’t let something as arbitrary as this bother me, but it DOES. When you put significant time and effort into something, its tough to see an online algorithm decide that it isn’t worth people seeing, or to not compare yourself to other accounts that seem to fare much better. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated! That’s part of why I maintain this website as well – I don’t want the value of The Brick Kitchen entirely at the mercy of fickle tech giants.
And to the recipe – it’s a fresh tomato and zucchini panzanella, and one of my favourite summer salads. Vibrant tomatoes are important – if you can splash a few extra dollars, this is where it is worth it. They’re thrown together with golden strips of fried zucchini, crunchy olive oil and salt laced croutons, chunks of roasted capsicum, lots of fresh parsley and basil, salty capers and whisper thin shards of parmesan, and creamy torn bocconcini (burrata and mozzarella are also great). The dressing is a simple combination of good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I’ve been serving it with panko-crumbed fresh fish, but you could also use canned sardines or any other kind of protein you have available. Because everything is fresh, it is the kind of salad where quality ingredients DO make a difference if they’re available and affordable.
Tomato & Zucchini Panzanella
1/2 a loaf of good quality bread (can be a little stale – I use sourdough but ciabatta works too)
1 large capsicum
2-3 zucchini (depending on size, sliced 2-3mm thick lengthways)
1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
800g-1kg tomatoes, mix cherry tomatoes and small vine tomatoes.
1/2 cup parsley (roughly chopped)
1/2 cup basil (torn)
1/4 cup capers (rinsed and drained)
small chunk of parmesan (30g or so) (thinly shaved with a small knife or peeler)
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
approx 200g mozzarella or bocconcini (torn)
serve with fresh fish, pan-fried, I do mine in egg and panko crumbs. Sardines or other protein works well too.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the capsicum (whole) on a tray and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the skin starts to blacken and bubble. Set aside to cool, then strip off as much of the skin as you easily can, discard the core and chop the capsicum into chunks.
Meanwhile, tear the bread into rough chunks. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over a pinch of flaky salt, tossing to coat. Roast for 10minutes or so, keeping an eye on it, until golden and crunchy at the edges.
Cut the zucchini into 2-3mm wide strips. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium fry-pan on high heat and fry the zucchini for a few minutes on each side until golden, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Set aside to cool.
Halve the cherry tomatoes and chop the whole tomatoes into wedges. In a large bowl, combine the thinly sliced red onion, the chopped tomatoes, capsicum, bread croutons, fried zucchini, parsley, basil, capers and parmesan. Dress with 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic and 2 more tablespoons of oil (this is really to taste, and depends how much you think it needs).
Spread out on a platter or serve up, then top with torn pieces of bocconcini and more flaky salt and pepper. Serve.
I’m a little late to my own party, but another year has swung around and I’ve managed to hit the four years of blogging milestone. The first year was a learning curve: a mish-mash of family favourite recipes thrown in with cafe reviews (I no longer consider myself qualified to be a food critic!) along with the struggle to get a handle on the technical side – apertures, photo editing, SEO and wordpress. At the end of that first year (I wrote about a Momofuku style German Chocolate Espresso Cake), I discussed the shift from school excellence to university prioritisation, and the utmost enjoyment that running a blog had added to daily medical school life. The following year heralded the arrival of hospital placement, and a reflection on my photographic improvements and the surreal week that was a trip to the Saveur Blog Awards in New York (alongside a peach & blackberry pie topped with olive oil gelato).
Year number three came and went with lightning speed – my most stressful, high intensity year at medical school to date with final exams looming, which dictated a slow-down on the blogging front in favour of time spent cramming. Around a mass of photographs for a chocolate, cherry and coconut layer cake, I wrote about four things I’d learnt through the blogging journey. To be honest, rereading them a year later, I’m still very much continuing to learn them – knowing them in my head isn’t the same as acting out, or embodying, those lessons day to day.
I can hardly believe it’s already year number four. 2018 was a whirlwind compared to all of those previously – I left not only New Zealand but my adopted university city of Melbourne for 8 months in Oxford undertaking a research project. The consequent lack of a (high functioning) kitchen meant significantly less action over here, but I instead ate and photographed my way around cities I’d always dreamed of visiting – Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Tel Aviv, Paris. I’ve now come full circle back to Melbourne to start my final year of medical school and it feels strange – as if one half of me had never left and the other has done and seen so much more that it can’t quite slot back neatly into university life.
As for this blog? I honestly don’t know what direction I want it to go in. All I do know is that I want to continue baking outside my comfort zone (and inside it), continue to cook up feasts for family and friends alongside easy weeknight student-friendly meals, and continue to explore food and travel photography. So that’s what I’ll do for another year at least, and I hope some of you stick around for it.
I haven’t gone for a celebration cake this year – I did attempt one (which still remains a work in progress), and instead this semifreddo was such a overwhelming success and seemed to me like the utmost celebration of summer stone fruit and relaxing warm evenings. You can take the stress out of the occasion by making it up to a week before you plan to serve, and then all you do is slice and plate up gorgeous slabs of tangy, salty sweet roasted plum ice cream, topped with a generous handful of buttery shortbread crumble.
Roast Plum & Miso Semifreddo
Roast plum & miso semifreddo – you can make it up to a week before you plan to serve, and then just slice and plate up gorgeous slabs of tangy, salty sweet roasted plum ice cream, topped with a generous handful of buttery shortbread crumble.
500 g stoned, quartered black or red plums + another 4 plums halved for serving
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup caster sugar, split in half
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups cream ((heavy cream in the US))
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 tablespoons white miso
110 g butter, room temperature
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
165 g plain flour ((1 cup + 2 tablespoons))
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C. In a baking dish lined with baking paper, combine the quartered plums, maple syrup and balsamic, stirring to coat the plums. Beside these, place the 4 halved plums cut side up and drizzle with a little maple syrup (1-2 tablespoons). (You want to keep these separate but roasting them at the same time saves time). Roast for 30-40 minutes or until the plums are tender and starting to release their juices.
Remove and set aside to cool completely. Place the 4 plum halves in a separate container and refrigerate. Place the quartered plums in a blender or similar and blitz a few times to break up – you want the plums to still be a little chunky, not a completely smooth puree. You could also mash them by hand to achieve this.
For the semifreddo, grease and line a 21 x 11cm loaf tin with cling film (not baking paper here!), smoothing out most of the creases.
Place the eggs and 1/4 cup of caster sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat on high for about 5 minutes until tripled in volume and very light and airy.
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl using an electric hand beater (or after the eggs, if you have only one beater), combine the cream, vanilla paste and miso and whisk to firm peaks.
Next, the aim is to combine the cream, eggs and plums while retaining as much air as possible: so add half the eggs to the cream and gently fold to almost combine. Add half the plum mix, and again gently fold. Add the remaining eggs and gently fold to combine. Add the last of the plums and swirl through, making sure you haven’t got all the heavy plum mix sitting at the bottom of your bowl – you want them fairly evenly distributed through the semifreddo.
Pour the semifreddo into the loaf tin, cover with clingfilm and place in the freezer overnight to set (bottom shelf near the back, if it’s summer!).
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a small tray with baking paper
Cream the butter, both sugars and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until very light and creamy, about five minutes.
Add the flour and salt and mix to just combine.
Tip the shortbread out onto the lined tray and roughly crumble up with your fingers, to resemble something similar to the crumble topping of a fruit crumble.
Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool completely.
To serve the semifreddo, run the a knife around the edge of the cling film and tip the semifreddo out onto a serving platter (upside down). If it is very firm, you may need to let it soften for a couple of minutes on the bench before you can remove it from the tin. Cut up slices of semifreddo and top with crumbled up shortbread and the plum halves you reserved previously.
After visiting Copenhagen this year, it didn’t surprise me that it was recently named Lonely Planet’s top city to visit in 2019. If it wasn’t for the long, cold winters, I might have moved there already. Though the Danes seem to have developed a solution even for that: the concept of hygge (pronounced hue-guh) which embraces all things cozy and comforting, like a giant hug of warm baths and candles, books by a crackling fireplace, long lazy dinners and snuggly sweatpants. Copenhagen well and truly won me over.
Copenhagen has experienced a culinary resurgence of late, spearheaded by Noma and their chefs making waves in their own ventures (think best-outside-Tokyo ramen at Slurp, and plates of fresh corn tortillas straight from Mexico at Hija de Sanchez) . We tripped between bakeries with pastries to rival Paris: yeasty knotted cardamom buns, the lightest koign amann, buttery almond croissants and warm cinnamon scrolls topped with chocolate ganache – with coffee to match. There was chewy sourdough served up with sliced cheese and thick cream (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), and cabinets of traditional sturdy smorrebrod with endless cold (and colourful) toppings. I was also lucky to be invited on a Foods of Copenhagen afternoon tour, and it was a highlight of the trip – a walking tour, history lesson and food guide to the city all at once. I can’t give away their secrets (though I hear the route changes regularly), but I would highly recommend it.
It’s a city made to be seen on two wheels: less than a third of locals own cars, and it’s the safest I’ve ever felt on cycle paths. Hire a bike and you’ll suddenly cover far more ground and feel much less like a tourist. The most inexpensive option we found were the ubiquitous orange Donkey bikes (maybe not stylish, but very functional). That’s the other thing – Copenhagen is big on style. Despite the odd moment of feeling just a little short and frumpy, it was people-watching central: effortlessly cycling and chatting in flowing dresses, meeting for sunset drinks on the bridge, stopping for coffee and picnicking in parks. There’s multiple royal castles and modern design museums if that’s your thing (I’ve had Glyptotek, the David Collection and SMK recommended), but even simply cycling and wandering the cobbled streets of different neighbourhoods was more than enough.
Yes, it is an expensive place to visit, but not drastically different to London. My student budget meant there was no fine dining, so here are a few of my favourite slightly cheaper eats and sights.
Bakeries and Coffee Shops
Anderson & Maillard: a bright airy cafe, roastery and freelance workspace – try the ultra-flaky and light koign amann, the espresso soft serve in summer, or the coffee brushed croissants.
Juno the Bakery: tucked down an unassuming street well away from tourists, we were greeted by the smell of cardamom and a line out the door of locals grabbing boxes of baking for the weekend. Cardamom buns emerged from the oven about as fast as they were bought, and it was definitely the best of the trip (the best I’ve had ever, actually). I also grabbed a loaf of the densest rye bread I’ve tried and a gorgeous pistachio and raspberry frangipane tart.
The Corner at 108: a casual off-shoot of Noma comprising a small plates restaurant and a relaxed cafe and bakery. The latter is where we found coffee and berry kombucha multi-layered pastries, and the best sourdough, sliced cheese and whipped cream/butter combination of the trip.
Democratic Coffee: coffee, workspace backing onto a library and the best almond croissants being made in full view of the counter.
Coffee Collective: located in a few different areas of the city , this was the best coffee of the trip – and watch out for the espresso soft serve if you’re here in summer.
Atelier September: another cafe to people watch (or be watched, who knows) and dive into their thick greek yogurt with zucchini jam, pecan granola and basil, or the ultimate avocado toast. It’s very central, so perfect for breakfast before heading to the Round Tower, a museum or castle.
Meyers Bageri: one of the more famous (and now a chain) bakeries in Copenhagen, it’s hard to beat the warm, flaky cinnamon scrolls topped with chocolate ganache if you’re walking past.
Sankt Peters Bageri: the oldest bakery in the city (it opened in 1652), and especially worth a visit on a Wednesday for their infamous extra large cinnamon scroll (otherwise known as snails, or onsdagssnegle)
Grod: though most famed for its hearty morning porridge offerings, the meaning of Grod goes further than the sweet breakfast oats we might imagine, including everything from rice puddings, dahl, risotto and congee. Savoury or sweet, warm or cold, there’s something here for everyone. Try to make it to the original store in Norrebro, but if not there’s also a stall in the Torrehalvane market.
Lunches and dinners
Slurp Ramen: I’ve never been to Japan, so I can safely say this was the best bowl of miso ramen I’ve tried. Line up at a fluorescent bar elbow to elbow with strangers for fast service, loud music and house-made noodles.
Baest: the ultimate farm-to-table sourdough pizza joint – almost everything, cheeses and charcuterie included, comes from their farm. We ate two pizzas and plates of fresh ricotta and stracciatella between the two of us, and staggered home via Nice Cream.
Mirabelle: situated in the same little precinct as Baest, Mirabelle’s highlights are its morning pastries – get a sourdough croissant – and daily specials of hearty house-made pasta plates.
Brus: a craft brewery next to Baest and Mirabelle, this is the place for as lazy sunny afternoon with a crowd – the food is just as good as the beer. They had me at fermented fries.
Manfreds: a local, seasonal and relaxed restaurant serving up vegetable focused small plates (though ironically the steak tartare with rye is probably the most hyped dish on the menu). Also reasonably priced, for Copenhagen and this quality of food.
Apollo Kantine: by the owners of Atelier September, this is more of a lunch/drinks version. The slab of sourdough topped with fresh ricotta stained with the mound of juicy seasonal blackberries above was epic.
Hija de Sanchez: opened by Rosio Sanchez, former Noma pastry chef, this taqueria was everything I’ve wanted since I ate tacos on the streets of Mexico two years ago. Small and packed with flavour – think fresh corn tortillas, fried eggs, slabs of avocado, bursts of lime juice and liberal coriander and tender pulled pork (it also avoids the oily cheesiness that haunts many Mexican joints).
Nice Cream: the best vegan ice cream I’ve ever tried. You wouldn’t guess it was vegan – and it comes in flavours full of brownie chunks, salted caramel, and peanut butter swirls.
A few more that I didn’t quite make it to:
Mahalle Cafe: for affordable Lebanese. Make sure to book ahead- we missed out.
Nordisk Falafel: for cheap and cheerful falafel and silky hummus that apparently won the best falafel of 2018.
Neighbourhoods and sights to see
A Foods of Copenhagen tour: an afternoon accompanied by a local with inside knowledge of the best mix of boutique, up-and-coming and historic eateries that Copenhagen has to offer – I’d done extensive research on where to eat before this trip, and the tour still managed to surprise me.
Norrebro for some of the best food in the city, craft beer, boutique shopping and the Assistens cemetery (the burial place of Hans Christian Anderson, and also a popular place to cycle through and picnic).
The city centre for Torrehalvane market, shopping, a trip up the Round Tower and a peek into the white and gold interiors of the church next door, a visit to Rosenburg castle and Amelianborg, a wander through the Botanical Gardens. In summer, spend an evening at the glittering, old school Tivoli Gardens and theme park.
Vesterbro for the red light district turned hipster hangout – graffiti and flat whites included.
Osterbro for the best cardamom buns at Juno and a more family friendly suburb.
Nyhavn for that iconic colourful strip of townhouses on the water – an entertainment district since the 17th century. Wander over the bridge to the Broens Gadekøkken street food precinct if you’re in need of fuel.
Cycle along the river fronts, ducking into the Black Diamond Royal Library, a swim at the Islands Brygge Harbour Baths, taking in the boats from the Inderhavnsbroen bridge and the tourists posing with the very famous and underwhelming Little Mermaid statue, and doing a lap of the pentagonal Kastellet Miliary Fortress.
Freetown Christiania for a unique look at an alternative way of living – a social experiment of sorts, a suburb completely out on its own since being occupied by hippies in the seventies. There’s a lot of pot, but also their own rules and laws separate from the Danish government, with a very different working and political system and concepts of ownership and currency.
It’s my final recipe and blog post for 2018. How did that sneak up on us so fast? I’m going to keep this short and sweet because I (and most likely you too) am a little consumed by the holiday season madness. Reading a lengthy blog post is probably not top of your priority list. What might be higher up is planning a Christmas menu – though I’m not huge on tinsel, perfectly laid tables and piles of presents, I do love the number of big group dinner parties and gatherings that Christmas brings. For us they are relaxed affairs: summer barbecues with a few big salads – think Ottolenghi’s Simple vegetable dishes, fresh tomatoes and peaches, broccoli tabouli, lots of hummus and fresh sourdough bread. There’s no pressure on timing with make-ahead, room-temperature salads, and we serve up whenever whatever’s on the barbecue is done. However, a centrepiece dessert is always a must for me – again, something that can be made ahead is best. Apart from this strawberry tart, I’d also recommend:
See you in 2019 for lots more recipes: both tried and tested here on the blog, and quick inspiration over on instagram, and more travel guides and where to eat around the world (yes, more travel is in sight). Do let me knw if there is anything in particular you would like to see more (or less) of – I’d love to hear from you.
Onto the recipe: it’s a festive, summery strawberry, pomegranate and pistachio tart. I’ve taken the classic strawberries and cream combination and served it up less English summer and more Ottolenghi-fied 2018. It’s my go-to shortcrust butter pastry, whizzed up in a food processor, topped with a rich, nutty pistachio frangipane studded with raspberries and pomegranate arils. Leave that to cool, and then dollop on a tangy, fragrant mascarpone cream tinged with pomegranate molasses and sumac. Then comes the impressive (or perfectionist) factor: strawberries carefully sliced up (middle pieces only for the prettiest result) and lined up in concentric circles over the cream.
It’s definitely at it’s best right after you layer up the strawberries (do this right before serving, it only takes 5 minutes). However, you can definitely make the tart right up until the strawberries and cream step the day before for ease on the day – just store in an airtight container in a cool place overnight. Another option is to make the pastry the day before, and then bake the pistachio frangipane the morning of – whatever fits into your entertaining schedule best.
Strawberry, Pomegranate & Pistachio Tart
228 g flour (just a smidge over 1 3/4 cups)
2/3 cup icing sugar
pinch of salt
165 g unsalted butter (chopped)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 large egg
115 g unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup 100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
70 g almond meal / ground almonds
70 g pistachios (ground to a similar texture to the almonds)
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 pomegranate, deseeded, divided into 2 parts
Mascarpone Cream and to top
200 g mascarpone
1 cup cream
1/4 cup icing sugar (sifted)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon sumac
2-3 punnets fresh strawberries ((600g), similarly sized for best results)
icing sugar to dust
more pomegranate arils to top
Blitz the flour, icing sugar and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until a bread-crumb like texture forms. Add the lemon zest, vanilla and egg and pulse 10 times. The mixture will still be pretty crumbly. Turn out onto a clean surface and gather and press together. Shape into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Grease a 26-28cm tart tin. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured bench to about 3mm thick and line the tart tin, pressing firmly into the sides of the tin. The pastry will be hard to roll out at first but don’t worry, it will soften as you go. If it rips at all or you find that one edge is too thin, it is easy to use the leftover pastry scraps to patch it back together.
Trim the pastry to form a neat edge – I usually just roll my rolling pin over the edge to cut through the pastry. It normally leaves enough extra pastry scraps to line another mini tart tin as well, but this is totally up to you.
Rest the lined tart tin in the freezer for 30 minutes while you make the frangipane.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until fully combined. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
Add the ground almonds and ground pistachios until just combined.
Spoon the frangipane into the frozen tart shell and spread into an even layer.
Scatter with the raspberries and half of the pomegranate arils (save the rest to top later) and gently press into the frangipane
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the pastry is golden.
Set aside to cool completely (in the fridge if you don’t have much time).
Mascarpone cream and to top
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or a hand electric beater), combine the cream, mascarpone, vanilla paste, pomegranate molasses and sumac. Beat until thick and creamy – thick peaks, but don’t go too far or it becomes grainy and buttery.
Spoon over the cooled tart and spread to the edges, with a thicker rim of cream around the edge.
Slice the strawberries long-ways into 3mm pieces, setting aside the edge pieces (you can serve these on the side, but not for the actual tart).
Starting from the outside and working inwards, arrange the strawberry slices in circles, stalk end down (see photos).
Dust with icing sugar, sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate arils and serve straight away. Cut with a very sharp knife so you can slice through the strawberries rather than squashing them!
I read an interesting article the other day, followed closely by a post by Erin from Cloudy Kitchen, which made me think a little about the way we consume content – both generally and about food. The gist is that it is has gotten faster and faster. We expect things to happen quickly and in abundance. We scroll past hundreds of photographs on Instagram or Pinterest in a day, expecting to hop straight over to a well-tested recipe in a few seconds. We scan a pages of news briefly on our many open laptop tabs, before skipping onto a new email, then maybe a text, back to the news and then back to work. Distraction arrives swiftly and easily. What does this mean for food content and food blogging?
It used to be more commonplace to sit down and have coffee over a lengthy magazine or newspaper article, accompanied by a recipe that you might tear out and keep in a folder, crumpled and stained. Or to page through a prized cookbook in the evening, earmarking recipes to attempt. Then blogs arrived, and we started to consume online blog posts as well as paper material – but the writing was still of importance. It seems as though this has shifted again in the last few years towards “Instagram content”: popular photos are those that grab attention on a quick scroll past, and might get themselves a double tap or comment (hello, beautifully lit gooey cookies and chocolate cake). Fewer people take the leap to the home of the blog itself, and those that do are less likely to read whatever the author has written above the recipe. Complaints about too many photos, too many ads, not wanting to “read your life story” and too much scrolling is common. (Obviously this is a generalisation, and I know many people still pore over magazines and blog posts – but I think it is safe to say it is to a lesser extent).
I would argue that there are two main things contributing to this. One is that it is easy to forget that all this content is free. Bloggers are, for the most part, unpaid. We spend time creating and photographing recipes because we love it, and if that means we put up a few more photos, add ads for some side income, and write down thoughts above the recipe that aren’t quite as well edited as a magazine, then that is our prerogative. There is no paywall, subscription, or cookbook price on these recipes.
The other is that living in an age of fast content means we aren’t as practiced at focusing. There is more frustration at anything (writing, ads, slow links) that slows down our rate of content consumption – too much friction, as they described it over at Vox. We are less likely to sit down to read, more distracted, and more likely to reach for our phone at every moment of potential boredom. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I’ll be making an effort to consume content with a little more awareness of the person behind the screen, make it my focus, and reach for my phone a little less.
This chocolate, pear and hazelnut babka is one that I teased over on instagram recently and was inundated with recipe requests for. It seems like I’ve been chasing babka perfection around the world this year, and it felt like time to make my own. In London was the gorgeously tall and light version by The Good Egg, changed up with dates and walnuts, and then the denser, dark and intensely chocolatey iteration by Honey & Co. Later in Israel there was the buttery individually sized halva and chocolate babkas at Dallal Bakery, and perhaps the most famous version at Lehahim Bakery (the original Breads Bakery in NYC) – only available by the entire loaf, and constructed with croissant dough for crisp layered interiors. I wasn’t going to ask anyone to make croissant dough at home (especially considering that I’ve never even made it myself), and so went with an easy overnight brioche. It took a while to perfect the ratios of dough to loaf tin size, brioche to filling and fluffiness to intensity, but I think I’ve gotten there.
It’s a buttery, fluffy brioche dough swirled up with a rich chocolate filling based on that of Honey & Co and layered with chopped toasted hazelnuts and sliced pear. While it’s still hot, a sugar syrup is brushed over – don’t skip this. It won’t make it soggy or too sweet. And it’s really must easier than it looks – see the step by step photographs for making the twisted shape. From my failures, I also know that even if you roll it too thin, or can’t quite fit it in the tin, or it looks little squashed – when you pull it out of the oven, it always looks 100x better and still tastes great. Christmas morning bake, anyone?
Chocolate, Hazelnut & Pear Babka
95 g butter
185 ml milk ((3/4 cup))
1 1/4 teaspoons active dried yeast
1 large egg
3 tablespoons caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
335 g high grade flour (strong flour)
90 g butter (cubed)
2/3 cup caster sugar
85 g dark chocolate
1/4 cup dutch cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
1 pear (unripe (I used beurre bosc), peeled and diced small)
60 g caster sugar
1/4 cup water
Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat. Turn off the heat, add the milk and stir to combine. Check it isn’t too hot (you want it luke warm, like body temperature), then sprinkle the active dried yeast over the top. (If this is too hot is can kill the yeast). Leave for a few minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer or the bowl you re going to make the babka in, whisk together the egg and caster sugar to combine.
Add the flour and the milk/yeast mixture to the mixing bowl and use the dough hook to knead for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is elastic, smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. You can also do this by hand – start off with a spoon because it is a very sticky dough, and it will probably to take closer to 10 minutes.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Combine the butter and caster sugar in a pot over medium heat until fully melted and combined. Add the roughly chopped chocolate and stir until melted through.
Add the salt and cocoa and stir to combine.
Leave to cool to room temperature.
Grease and line a 9x4inch (approx 23 x 10 cm) loaf pan.
On a floured surface, roll out the babka dough to a rectangle roughly 30 x 40 cm. Try to make the edges as square as you can.
Spread the chocolate filling over the dough, leaving about a 2cm gap around the edges. Sprinkle the hazelnuts and diced pear over the top.
From the long side, roll the dough tightly into a log. Use a sharp knife to cut the log lengthwise down the middle, to give you two equal long pieces (see the photos)
Place one piece of dough over the second to create an X then braid together the two pieces of dough. Shuffle and squash it into a shorter braid, then gently lift the babka into the loaf pan.
Proof in a warm place for about an hour.
Bake at 180°C for 30 minutes, or until deep golden.
Make the sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small pot over high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 2 minutes.
Use a pastry brush to liberally brush the syrup over the babka. It may seem like a lot, but trust me, it works!
Leave to cool in the tin for at least half an hour or so – I won’t say completely because it’s too hard to resist.
My first morning in Lisbon was not ideal. I woke up early, ready to be productive; I scrambled up the cobbled, slippery and steep streets up to a cafe straight out of a magazine, Hello Kristof; I plonked myself down on a communal table with the best flat white I’d had in a while and a bowl of thick greek yogurt and homemade granola – and I desperately rushed to finish my thesis, six months in the making. I vowed not to leave the cafe until it was submitted, a goal that was tested when I realised I’d miscalculated and still had another few hundred words to cull, and tested again when my battery read 5%. Luckily the girl next to me with her laptop charger saved the day. I was not going to let editing and re-editing these 15,000 words take over the rest of my time in Lisbon. So, taunted by the sunlight on the teal tiled buildings outside the window and the yellow trams rattling past, I pressed submit. I left that cafe about about 100kg lighter – ready to take on whatever Lisbon had to offer.
Lisbon more than lived up to expectations. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that it was even on my radar, without the force of reputation of Rome, Paris or Barcelona. It is only in recent years that it has undertaken some kind of culinary resurgence – labeled the next “it destination” by every other magazine, the “most underrated dining city”, the “hottest place to visit next” and coupled with glamorous instagram shots of multicoloured tiles, a hilly red roof-ed city overlooking the river, and the classic Australian inspired brunches (you know, the flat whites and acai bowls on asymmetric plates and a marble bench-top). Cue all the travel bloggers (ok, me included). Well, it was justified. It was that night in one of Lisbon’s most talked about cevicherias, a tiny sunlit place known by the huge octopus hanging from the ceiling, seated at the bar next to another freelancer living in Lisbon, greeted with house-made cornbread and seaweed butter, eating the freshest salmon ceviche topped with mango foam. It was the evening trek we made up the hill just to eat warm pastel de nata fresh from the oven at Mantegaria, crisp and flaky and dusted with cinnamon and icing sugar. It was the graffitied and slightly dilapidated sloping streets, where the higher you go the better the view. It was the gem around every corner – the stores trading solely in tinned fish (it’s big business here, and I came home with a bagful of my own), the traditional Portuguese eateries serving up cod and potato, ribs and rice next to more diverse and immigrant driven restaurants, particularly Africa and Asia – a different spectrum of flavour to other European cities.
Below are some of my favourite spots during my week in Lisbon – where to find the darkest chocolate gelato, the back (free) entrances to popular viewpoints, the flaky pastel de nata and fresh seafood. And yes, the flat whites too.
Coffee and Cafes
Comoba: a modern, plant-filled cafe just around the corner from the hostel I stayed at – the best coffee I found and a gorgeous breakfast and lunch menu.
Hello Kristof: the aforementioned location where I scrambled to finish my thesis : great coffee, a great place for breakfast or to freelance, great breakfast food if you’re leaning towards something a little healthier – an acai bowl, greek yogurt, and the scrambled eggs on sourdough were met with rave reviews by my neighbours.
Copenhagen Coffee Lab: if you’re looking for a bit of hygge, a quality coffee and a cardamom bun or avocado on rye, this is your place. They also do breakfast plates with a little bit of everything – perfect for the indecisive. There are 2 or 3 across the city.
Bettina & Niccolò Corallo: a little pink hued chocolate shop and roastery – sample some housemade chocolate with your espresso, order the halfway to molten brownie if they’re there, and don’t leave without trying their made-to-order dark chocolate sorbet- it’s just dark chocolate, water and a bit of brown sugar. For those who love their chocolate intense.
The Mill: an Australian owned cafe filled with blue speckled plates and instagrammers, but also a good feed too, and reliable coffee.
Others that I didn’t get a chance to visit but have heard good things about: Zenith, Bowls & Bar, Fauna & Flora and Talk to Me. All very pretty brunch spots involving coffee.
Sweets, Bakeries and Pastel de Nata
Manteigaria: known as the best pastel de nata in town, this place was worth seeking out. You can watch the pastry being made and tins being lined by hand, and the turnover is so high you’ll be eating your’s warm from the oven. Try the cinnamon and icing sugar on top, and a take a few for later! Or just drop back past- they’re only a euro each, after all, and open until midnight.
Pastels de Belem: the main rival of Manteigaria for best pastel de nata. They were a different beast entirely and I’m not sure I could pick a favourite – these were certainly more crisp and flaky, more pastry dominant, and perhaps had a little longer in the oven. You’ll just have to try both! Make a morning trip out to Belem and couple it with a visit to the Jeronimo’s Monastery (get tickets next door at the museum if the line is too long) and a wander past the Belem Tower.
Landeau chocolate cake at the LX factory: a very famous chocolate cake. Google it. Even the New York Times had a rave. If you’re a chocolate cake person and you’re at the LX market, I’d recommend giving it a try – it’s rich but light and almost mousse like, and comes dusted with cocoa.
Pastelaria Alcoa and Confeitaria Nacional: the top spots for more traditional Portuguese baked goods (a little warning – you may feel a little sugar overloaded by the end of your visit).
Mu – gelato italiano: so so good. By far the best gelato I had in Lisbon. Caramelised banana and dark chocolate? Salted pistachio? It almost rivalled Italy. I also heard great things about Nannarella Gelateria but didn’t quite manage to try it out. Gelados Santini, though ubiquitous, was nowhere near as good (though if you must, get the coconut).
Lunch and Dinner
A Cevechieria: some of the best ceviche I’ve had. Go early as it’s tiny and there’ll be a queue, though there is some outside space to wait with a drink if it’s a nice evening. Identifiable by the octopus hanging from the ceiling. The pisco sours are also A++
Ramiro: launched into superstardom and insane wait times by it’s feature on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. So yes, it’s touristville, packed and probably a little overpriced- but the seafood was **incredible**. So worth it. Tiger prawns as big as my forearm, clams swimming in a fragrant white wine and coriander sauce, garlic shrimp sizzling straight in the pan accompanied by piles of buttered white bread. If you’re up for it, get the steak sandwich for dessert – it brings new meaning to surf and turf. Get a reservation (you can before 730pm!) or go very early.
Taberna da rua das flores: tiny tables are crammed into this narrow space in the city centre, where the lunch menu is scrawled outside on a blackboard and no reservations are taken. Go for lunch for a more traditional Portuguese meal, or for dinner for a seasonal menu of more creative dishes, still using Portuguese ingredients. Expect to wait, or vist off-peak time.
Sol e pesca: a tiny rod and net adorned bar born out of a fishing shop down by the waterfront, almost solely selling canned seafood – which, being in Portugal, is probably the best in the world. It’s a good chance to test out what fish you might like to bring home – sardines, tuna, cod, mackerel, octopus, eel.. Get a few drinks and sit outside on a warm evening.
Time Out Food Court: I’m sure you’ve already heard all about this – I thought it was great for a quick lunch or dinner with the myriad of different stalls (and thus also great if you have a group of people with different tastes as you can get anything from tuna tartare to traditional Portuguese rice to pad thai to burgers), but it wouldn’t make top of the list for me. It’s fairly crowded, pricy and touristy. Manteigaria and Bettina and Niccolo Coralli are also located here in mini-form if you didn’t get a chance to visit, but I’d highly recommend dropping past their original stores. However, the morning produce market IS worth a stop by before the crowds arrive.
Other places I didn’t get to but came highly recommended:
Cantinho do Aziz: a casual and acclaimed Mozambican restaurant – think lamb ribs, coconut crab curry and samosas.
Pistola y Corazon Taqueria: a casual Mexican taco stop with rave reviews.
To see and shop:
Conserveira de Lisboa and Loja da Conservas: walls of hundreds and hundreds of brightly hued tins of fish. The former was established in 1930 and maintains the traditional shop style and countertops. At a few dollars each, they make the perfect memento.
Prada Mercearia: a turqoise painted specialty grocer with a particularly photo friendly wall of jarred dry goods. Pick up some bread, vegetables and a few cans of fish, or sit with the newspaper and a coffee.
Rua Augusta Arch: towering over the main pedestrian shopping strip one way and the plaza and the river the other, you can head up to the top of the arch for a unique view over the city. It was built to commemorate the reconstruction of the city following the devastating earthquake of 1755.
Explore the different neighbourhoods: the winding steps of Alfama with the Tues/Sat flea market, tiny homes and artisan shops and the view from Portas Do Sol; the backstreets of Barrio Alto with its night life and restaurants spilling onto the pavement (make sure to walk up Ascensor Da Bica and to the Santa Caterina Miradoura); peer down Ascensor da Gloria and wander past the towering front of Rossio station; up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, built by the Moors in the 11th century.
Sintra: (in my opinion) worth a day trip, but only if you have more than 3 days in Lisbon itself. Otherwise, I’d stick to Lisbon. All I can say is GO EARLY (as in, get there at or before opening time) and buy tickets online ahead to avoid the crowds. My favourites were Pena Palace and Quinta da Regeilara.
Spend a morning in Belem: wander through the Jeronimos Monastery (get a ticket from the museum next door if there is a line), walk past the Tower of Belem and tuck into morning tea at Pastels de Belem. Wander back towards Lisbon via the LX factory for window shopping, coffee at Wish Concept Store or browsing the floor to ceiling lined bookstore.
Christmas season has officially hit! Without the heavy coats, mugs of hot chocolate or the snow and fairy light dusted branches that I’ve been swiping past, here in Auckland it’s more muggy spring rain and barbecues. Pine needles are lining the footpath outside (thanks to the Christmas trees being sold by my brothers) and the Christmas mince tarts are rolling out the door – buckets of brandy and spice laden fruit spiked with dark chocolate, and tray after tray of buttery sweet pastry. Topped with a star and a light shower of icing sugar, they’re pretty festive – I’ll be hard pressed not to eat one a day until the 25th. Do let me know if you’re in New Zealand (Auckland in particular) and you’d like to order a dozen or two.
So if last week’s post was the anti-dote to all the sweet baking I’ve been doing, this post is one of those sweets. This week I’ve worked with Vitamix to create this Salted Peanut Caramel Slice. It’s the perfect recipe for any Christmas party, potluck, morning tea get-together, or simply to indulge in with coffee – it’s a hit in any situation, and I haven’t found someone that doesn’t like it. It starts with a slightly salty, buttery miso shortbread base, topped with a rich dark-roasted peanut caramel – like a regular caramel sauce but with the addition of homemade peanut butter and chopped peanuts stirred through for crunch. Normally when I make caramel slice I go for the classic condensed milk based caramel, but I think this is my new favourite – much less risk of sickly sweetness, and a bolder caramel flavour, matched with the slightly savoury peanut butter. It’s finished off with a layer of dark chocolate and a hint of sea salt. It’s addictive, sweet, sticky, salty, nutty and rich – everything I want in a slice!
The Vitamix Ascent with the new Blending Cups and Bowls makes this slice even easier: simply use the pulse function to blitz together the shortbread ingredients in the jug, and then use the new Blending Cup to make a quick, homemade dark roasted peanut butter for the caramel. I haven’t stopped using the Cups and Bowls with my Ascent since I received them – it means you can blend smaller quantities of ingredients that wouldn’t work so well in the full size container (like this small batch peanut butter, salad dressing, chopped nuts and individual smoothies) AND means less dishes. The Vitamix Ascent is my go-to blender and I use it almost daily – it blends the thickest acai bowls and icy sorbet, makes super smooth almond butter, you can make soup from scratch (it even heats it up!) and it comes in handy for the big batches of hummus I make regularly. Christmas present anyone?
This post was created in collaboration with Vitamix, and I received the high-performance blender as a gift. As always, all opinions expressed are my own, including my appreciation of this versatile blender! Thank you so much for supporting the companies that support this blog.
The homemade small batch peanut butter works extremely well in the Vitamix Blending Cup. It means you know exactly what is in it and can roast your own peanuts – it tastes better than any store-bought nut butter I’ve tried. If you MUST, you can use a dark roasted store-bought peanut butter, but make sure it is a smooth nut butter that is just peanuts (± a little bit of oil and salt). If you use a peanut butter with lots of extra fats, additives and sugar it will affect your end result.
Make sure the base and caramel are cool and set before you add the next layer on top. Pro tip if you are short on time – place the tin in the freezer. The base will chill super fast, and the caramel will set within an hour or two.
Keep the slice in an airtight container in the fridge and bring out just before serving. If kept at room temperature, the caramel layer gets too soft. It’ll last at least a week.
Salted Peanut Caramel Slice
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup caster sugar
113 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon white miso ((you can leave it out if you don’t have it, but add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt))
Salted Peanut Caramel
200 g blanched peanuts (shelled and unsalted, raw)
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon runny honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil ((or peanut oil))
200 g caster sugar
120 ml water (1/2 cup)
80 ml cream (1/3 cup)
100 g unsalted butter (at room temperature, cut into cubes)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
150 g good quality dark chocolate (broken into pieces or roughly chopped)
1 teaspoon neutral oil (like canola, rice bran or grapeseed)
Sea salt flakes to top
Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Place all shortbread ingredients in the Vitamix jug and pulse 5-10 times on high speed until it forms large crumbs that start to clump together.
Tip out into the prepared tin and press firmly and evenly with your fingers into the tin.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool completely, or pop in the fridge or freezer if you are in a rush.
Salted Peanut Caramel
Roast the raw, shelled peanuts in a baking dish for approximately 10 minutes or until golden – check these regularly and move around in the tin so they roast evenly. Leave until just warm (not hot).
In the Vitamix Blending Cup, combine 150g of the roasted peanuts, the sea salt, honey and the neutral oil. Blend until a thick peanut butter forms – you may have to give the cup a shake halfway through. Tip into a bowl and set aside.
Place the remaining 50g of peanuts into the Vitamix Blending Bowl and pulse until roughly chopped. Set aside.
In a medium pot over a high heat, combine the caster sugar and water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, and then leave to boil until it turns a golden caramel colour – about 10 minutes. When the edges start to caramelize, swirl the pot occasionally so it browns evenly.
Remove from the heat and carefully add the butter and cream, and whisk until fully combined -the caramel may bubble up as you do this. Add the vanilla paste and peanut butter you made earlier and whisk until fully combined. Add the chopped peanuts and stir to combine.
Tip this caramel onto the cooled shortbread base.
Refrigerate until the caramel is set – minimum 4 hours. If you are in a hurry, it will set in an hour in the freezer!
In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate. Stir in the oil until fully combined. Tip the melted chocolate over the set caramel and spread into an even layer. Tap the tin on the counter top to smooth out the chocolate.
Place in the fridge again until set (approx. an hour).
Use a warm, very sharp knife (run the knife under warm water then dry it) to cut the peanut slice into squares. Top with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Keep in the fridge in an airtight container – the caramel softens when left out.