Dear ana,

I’m sorry to hear you’re not having a very productive time of it, lately. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing? I’ve been baking frantically since the year began, it seems – for parties and barbecues and picnics and stitch n’ bitches, and… well, for every possible occasion that I can make people nom the things I’ve made :)

I’ve just gone back through all the photos I’ve taken over the past couple of months, and unsurprisingly a lot of them are of food. Most of them are worthy of reporting on, so I shall do so here.

Shortbread cookies Chocolate Chip Cookies

Picture one is of my first attempt at cookies. I googled a basic cookie recipe and stuck with it, except for substituting half the sugar with organic coconut sugar I’ve had around for a while. The coconut sugar went dark and kind of caramelised, which is the dark flecks you can see in the pictures above. The cookies turned out very shortbready – suppose I should have expected it, what with the vast quantities of butter – and while delicious, I was after a less crumbly, more chewy cookie consistency.

The next experiment (second photo) was with a chocolate chip cookie recipe, and they were much more what I’d hoped for. Except for the problems with my very fractious oven, which first of all refused to go lower than 200 degrees, no matter how much I adjusted the knob… Until I adjusted it so much that the gas just went off entirely. So the first batch turned out a bit crispier than necessary, what with the variety of cooking times/temperatures. I’m happy to report, though, that the second time I made this recipe, not only was the oven very well behaved and cooking time perfect, resulting in just the right softness/crispness/chewiness, but I also added about a teaspoon each of powdered cinnamon and ginger, which gave them a delicious edge of spice as well.

I also made (but neglected to photograph) cranberry oatmeal cookies, after picking up a big bag of dried cranberries at my local independent supermarket (rarer here than they are in France, I’m afraid). There was lots of improvisation going on with this recipe – I used quick oats instead of rolled oats (gave it a smoother consistency), didn’t have any baking soda so used half plain / half SR flour, and didn’t have any cloves or cardamom so improvised some spicing as well. I also totally botched the order of combining ingredients (neglecting to cream butter/sugar/eggs first). They turned out very tasty, but I would have liked to use more spice.

In trying out a few new recipes in the past couple of months (I also gave italian meatballs a try, and a fish cake recipe from a magazine I bought), I’ve come to the conclusion that generally, I need to double or even triple the ingredients that add the flavour. In the cranberry cookies, they definitely needed more spice; the fish cakes would have been improved immensely with double the amount of parmesan, or even some chilli. Though I suppose it depends on the source on the recipe – I guess I’ll learn from experience which sources enjoy the same flavour levels as I, though on the other hand I am getting better at recognising just what “1 tsp” will taste like in the finished product!

I’m also learning that the best way to overcome not having an electric mixer is to make sure my butter is well and truly softened before I start mixing, which massively improves my mood while cooking :)

Guinness Cake Toad in the Hole

As well as baking at home, I enjoyed a big BBQ party for my dad’s birthday, where my mum cooked up a delightful storm, including the two dessert dishes shown above – the first is a “Guinness Cake” which is, yes, a cake made from Guinness (with cream cheese icing, I believe) that mum discovered the recipe for in an old Women’s Weekly recipe book, I believe. The next photo is of a kid’s dessert, “Toad in the Hole” – basically cups of jelly with chocolate frogs stuck in them. I’m not sure about elsewhere, but that’s a pretty traditional kid’s dessert in Australia.

Home-grown Tomatoes Muffins

But, I will share a recipe, as well as a photo of the crop of baby tomatoes that my enormous tomato plants yielded. They’ve died off a little in the intense heat we’ve had in the past few weeks, but luckily I’ve got a nice amount of fruit off them nonetheless.

Now, the recipe. I had to ask my mum for this one, it’s another one that was circulated in the network of mothers when I was growing up, so it doesn’t have a proper name. Mum says she got it from Deborah in 1989, but I always identify them as being “those potato flour muffins”, so that’s what I’ll list them as.

Savoury Muffins (with Potato Flour)


  • 1 cup cheese (I recommend cheddar/tasty, with some parmesan, but you could use feta or any other flavoursome kind you like)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup potato flour
  • Salt & pepper
  • Tomato/pasta sauce or sweet chilli sauce
  • Optional additions/substitutions: Any kind of savoury deliciousness. In this batch I put in some grated zucchini and chopped fresh baby tomatoes, but you can add chopped ham/bacon, sundried tomatoes, olives, sweet corn… It’s up to you. In terms of quantity, I sometimes make the “1 cup cheese” include all the extras, but if you like it particularly cheesy, make the additions extras.


  1. Gently combine to make barely a batter. Less is more.
  2. Olive oil coat patty pans (spray oil is fine; I neglected this in my first batch and they were permanently fused with pans).
  3. Fill pans with batter, being careful not to over-fill.Put a dollop of your pasta sauce or sweet chilli sauce on the top of each muffin and swirl it in a bit with a knife point.
  4. Bake in moderate oven – 175-190 degrees C for 20-25 mins – until done.

When you take them out, they will look puffy and enormous, but settle down into something flatter. The cheese and potato flour have quite a dense and moist consistency – nothing like the cakeiness of sweet muffins. As a kid, I could live off them, especially the basic ham/cheese w caramelised tomato swirl versions. Om nom nom. I imagine you could make exciting multi-cheese-type versions that I salivate just imagining :)