Monday, February 18, 2008

Home, sweet home

Our backyard, the one in which I grew up, teemed with wildlife. Backing onto bush land (Patrick White territory, no less) my father’s garden, always beautifully kept, is a haven for birds of all kinds. In a week that saw an extraordinary outpouring of emotion from the sublime (a nation’s long overdue apology) to the ridiculous, I spent most mornings patiently coaxing the Rainbow Lorikeets into eating, literally, from the palm of my hand. They sang to me then danced on the table for the camera, hanging first this way, then that. Jesters the lot of them, dressed in vivid green, red and blue.

As usual, food was central to the week away. There was Jo’s birthday dinner, a sun-soaked lunch on a central coast deck with Emma (we’ve hatched a little visual project to keep us both in check), an exquisite lunch with mum and dad and a long overdue catch-up at Red Lantern with my oldest friend. There is something about the simple – no, simple won’t do - spare elegance of Asian cuisines that cleanse more than merely the palate. Who would have imagined that fresh lemon juice mixed with roasted, ground peppercorns would make the most amazing, ever, dipping sauce?

My mother’s cooking is a dessert-lover’s dream. Her cherry sorbet was blindingly good, especially when paired with another made of ripe, juicy nectarines. A marriage of two beautiful stone fruits in each little bowl – one scoop assertive and unctuous, best attacked in small spoonfuls; the other light and pink, a tart contrast to the rich, wine-dark red. The pantry boasts six kilos of chocolate at any given time; three of the creamy, buttery white variety and three of the wickedly dark and bitter stuff. I was brought up on a passion for dessert. But somehow, working my own way around the kitchen, it seems that the sweet tooth that defines my small family has, in my case, been firmly extracted.

Is it a remnant of teenage defiance? That sheer will and determination to set oneself apart from the flock? Actually, I think it’s all the washing up. Coming back to our quiet, sparsely decorated home, the baking bug bit in an altogether unfamiliar way. Like that teenager I recall, my brand of baking is stamped, decidedly, with my own, unfussy, thang.

Chocolate thumbprint cookies – makes about 20

A revelatory one bowl wonder this recipe is and, thankfully, there’s very little washing up. Based on a recipe in Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s now legendary book, Vegan with a Vengeance, these are utterly, spectacularly, delicious.

5 tablespoons of macadamia oil (or almond, grapeseed, etc, but not olive)
5 tablespoons of soy milk (or rice, oat, etc)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
½ teaspoon of almond extract (this adds a great, marzipan-like something)
135g (4 ½ oz) unrefined sugar
120g (4oz) of wholemeal (whole-wheat) flour
5 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
Good pinch of sea salt, finely crumbled
Good pinch of baking powder
Jam (fruit preserves), your favourite, to finish

Preheat the oven to 180 C (375 F). Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a roomy bowl with a fork. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder into the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.

Place dessertspoon sized dollops of the mixture onto the baking trays, leaving a little space for expansion around each. With damp hands, roughly mould each dollop into as round a shape as you can be bothered to, then gently press to flatten very slightly.

Bake for 5 minutes, retrieve from the oven and gently make shallow thumbprint sized indentations in each cookie. Fill each hollow with half a teaspoon of jam and return to the oven for 6 minutes. Cool on their trays for 2 minutes then cool completely on a rack.

And I'm baking another batch tonight.

For the boys, you understand...


shula said...

But ofcourse.

Johanna said...

cherry sorbet and nectarine sorbet - these sound like my sort of things - and I like a mother who has chocolate on hand at all times! Sounds like a lovely break! Your cookies look wonderful too - and must have tasted great having come from your own kitchen!

Ricki said...

Lucy, you've done it again. . . I'm agog at the photo of that Lorikeet! Stunning. And I must say your visits to the various restaurants sound terrific (also agog at the prices at Lucio's!!).

Funny, I have VwaV but have never tried these cookies (even though they're chocolate!). They do look yummy. Thanks for the virtual chocolate hit, anyway. . .another one to mark for later!

Sophie said...

I'm really glad you chose this recipe to share Lucy. One bowl, hand-shaped baking is *so* my level of baking expertise (I haven't got that sweet tooth that seems to motivate a lot of people to get baking either). Though I have got some luscious fig jam which I bet would taste great as the topping (though it's not very chunky so I suspect it might slide off!)

I haven't ventured into the vegan cookbook world much but I'm wondering about investing in Isa's new one (the Veganomicon) when it comes out in April.

winedeb said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful visit with your family as I had with mine this past week. I could use some of your cookies right about now! Yum!

Lisa said...

Welcome home Lucy! I always look forward to your posts. Such lovely pictures and delicious recipes.

Anh said...

So lovely! Both the recipes and the beautiful writing in the post. And did I mention your cookies are really wonderful? I may try to bake them some days when I can allow more sweet things in my diet.

I am glad you like Red Lantern. What did u have there? I love the restaurant, not much the decor but the care they put in the simple Vietnamese food. Also read the book about the Viet family behind the restaurant. Amazing read, really.

Susan said...

Lucy bakes! Film at eleven. ; )
I'm happy to be seeing more of your sweet side.

Speaking of sweet, who are these fine feathered creatures? I want to kiss them each on their cute little bills, the dears. It's a lucky papa to have such charming garden company.

Simona said...

Lucy, would using canola oil work?

Lucy said...

Indeed, Shula.

It's always good to come home to your own kitchen, Johanna!

He's a spunk, isn't he Rikki? Such show-off's. It was rather mean of me to post about chocolate given your recent changes...he he...Lucio's was a very, VERY special treat. Sigh.

My level exactly, Sophie. Mum's amazing - passionate about creating beautiful sweet things. Veganomicon (as hard to say as it is to write) looks great, so am looking forward to seeing it here some time soon, too.

Deb, they are so simple to make it's almost embarrassing...

Thanks, Lisa - love being away, me, but always happy to come home to Melbourne.

Anh, it was IN-credible, Red Lantern. I agree about the decor, but as I used to live around the corner as a student years ago, the building itself has come a loooonnggg way from what I remember! It's a very, um, Sydney sort of look. We had the squid - the lemon pepper sauce went with it - and then crispy-skinned snapper and kang kung. I bought the (beautiful) book at the airport - I'd love your take on it!

You do make me laugh, Susan! I don't know what has come over me...As for those clowns, I adore them. They ate, oh yes they did, from my hand before the week was out. Natives, they are, like little parrots. Amazingly, they blend into the bushland well, despite those screaming colours.

That would be ideal, Simona. Canola , an organic one for preference, would work really well.

Callipygia said...

Oh my two beautiful homes... and the lorakeets? Funny little guys, that must have been something to feed them out of your hand. I love the chocolate take on thumbprints too, something so cozy about the wollop of jam.

Nora B. said...

Everything sounds wonderful, Lucy. I want to pretend to be you that week with all that wonderful food and more importantly, wonderful company. My life is all about my thesis at the moment and it makes me a very grumpy person.

As I read this post, I did realise that your recipes were mostly of the savoury variety. I was pleasantly surprised to see your cookie recipe. I would have dash to my kitchen right now to make some (I need break), but the only ingredient missing is the wholemeal floor that I ran out of.

I have been enjoying the stonefruits, it's almost the end of the season. I bought a whole tray of nectarines last week, it's time to "binge" on them before it's too late!

take care,

Another Outspoken Female said...

Nice post.

Just letting you know Ed has some free tix to "Out of the Frying Pan" at the melbourne food and wine festival. Check if you are interested. It would be nice to have the festival sponsor an informal food blogger meet up!

Lucy said...

Calli, they're rather sweet the lorikeets. Lucky mum and dad, I say.

Nora, next time I'm up, we should meet up somewhere. What do you think? I promise I'm not a freak...well, I don't think so...I'm sad to see the end of the stone fruits, too. Good luck getting your work done!

Ta, AOF, very much. Alas, my fully-paid ticket arrived in the post (would you believe this) yesterday am! Would love to meet, though. Looking forward to it, immensely.

Wendy said...

Love that first photo more than I can say. It makes me so happy I'm going to try printing it out and popping it in a frame!

Rosa said...

Lucy, the baker inside you has emerged! I love the look of these cookies, and your beautiful post. Lucky you to be eating stone fruit.