Thursday, 26 January 2012

An excuse to make lamingtons

What does Australia Day mean to Australians? A public holiday, a chance to wear the national flag as a bikini, fake tattoo or car accessory and not look as much of a tool because there’s safety in numbers – ditto for T-shirts with racist slogans like: “If you don’t love it, leave.”

That shirt was at the same suburban bbq as me, worn by someone unexpected whom I cherish to bits, who tucked into the entree of lime, ginger and lemongrass prawns without so much as blinking.  

Oi Oi Oi, blah blah blah...I channeled my own national pride into making lamingtons, wiping my chocolatey hands on this treasure of a tea towel which came into my life with Mr LP.

The humble lamington is not something I expected to miss while living overseas, but I used to crave them in London as much as Mr LP craved chiko rolls. And they weren't as easy to get hold of in those Aussie shops in SheBu as a Tim Tam.

For the cake base, I used a butter cake recipe rather than a sponge as I find butter cake holds together better in the icing, but I’m just as partial to sponge lamingtons. It depends on your level of patience.

I added dark chocolate to my icing which gave it a thick, rich gloss and less of a sickly-sweet taste.

For best results in coating, use two long pronged forks to roll the cake through the icing and then gently toss in the coconut. I used plain desiccated coconut, but next time I’m going to try long shredded coconut as I think it looks nicer.

To serve, I like to slice my lamingtons in half and spread with raspberry jam and a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

They are fiddly, I know, but well worth the effort.

Larissa x

Classic Lamingtons

Makes 12

180g butter
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 cups self raising flour
½ cup milk
20g butter
¼ cup milk
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
¼ cup cocoa, sifted
30g dark chocolate chopped
2 cups appx shredded coconut

Preheat  oven to 180C
Grease and line a lamington tin or square baking tin with baking paper.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla together in a mixer until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time and beat until just combined.
Add half flour and milk and mix until just combined then add remaining flour and milk.
Pour cake batter into prepared tin and bake for 25 mins or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
When cake is done, turn onto wire rack to cool completely.
Cut cake into 12 even pieces.

For icing, melt butter in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
Stir in milk then add sifted icing sugar, cocoa and chocolate and stir until icing is glossy and dripping thickly from a spatula.

Place coconut in a large bowl or on a plate.

Roll each piece of cake in the icing using two long pronged forks until coated. Toss gently in the coconut and place on a wire rack.

Serve sandwiched with a generous smear of raspberry jam and a dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

On Holidays in Kingscliff...

Christmas was frantic in the Little Pudding kitchen so I have spent much of the past month blissfully zoning out. I have played in the sand with my son, read some fiction and rediscovered lazy afternoons, usually with a glass of something cold, crisp and white within reach.

This is the beautiful view from my Mum’s holiday apartment at Salt, just south of Kingscliff in far-north NSW. I have just returned home from a week up there with Mum and my toddler, the precocious Master N, while my very generous and organised husband continued to supply my city cafes each morning. I am indeed a lucky lady.

Summer on my table = throwing together the freshest ingredients I can find to create something simple and delicious. There are lots of spice rubs, marinades and salads going on and the hub of the kitchen shifts outside to the barbie. It’s a nice change from the oven.

Foraging for dinner is always a treat on the Tweed Coast and further afield in the Tweed Valley - from the little fruit and vegie stalls beside the road to the daily catch in Chinderah and the beautiful cheeses from Witches Falls and Tweed Valley Whey. It all makes its way back to our balcony table with the view. Bruschetta recipe below.

With Mum fresh out of a week’s detox at the new Cabarita Ocean Retreat, we did a lot of walking, swimming and riding. From Salt, it’s a pretty 20-min walk into Kingscliff, where we always like to stop for coffee and sometimes brekkie.

I’m a bit in love with the decor of Babalou, upstairs in the old pub. They do great poached eggs and Master N put a good dent in his doorstop fruit and nut toast.

We were generously treated to dinner by Peppers at the resort’s restaurant, Season, where I had the market fish (barramundi that night) with almond and spinach croquettes, fennel bĂ©arnaise, crisp fennel and cress salad.

The fish was perfectly cooked inside with lovely crispy skin on top and I’m not ashamed to say I ate all three of those croquettes. OK, I gave Mum a bite of one.

Master N also thoroughly enjoyed his lamb cutlets and happily gnawed on two at a time before hurling them in the direction of the next table, narrowly missing series two Masterchef contestant, Joanne, who was trying to have a low-key dinner with friends. She very nicely said she been there with her own kids and to keep persisting with restaurants because eventually they will start behaving.

Good advice, but I wasn’t trying it at Fins. With baby in bed and babysitter in the house, we frocked up on our last night and went to our sentimental favourite for dinner. And cocktails.

Espresso Martini at Fins

Taken at night, my photos don’t do justice to the beautiful food served at this Good Food Guide one-hatter.

We have been dining at Fins since it was housed in the pub at Byron Bay. It’s where we first tried French white varieties of Pouilly Fume and Sancerre, later prompting a memorable trip to the Loire Valley (full of stories for another post sometime)...

Chef and owner Steven Snow is a mate of Mum’s – both of them energetic, workaholic lunatics – and his passion for the freshest seafood and clean, vibrant flavours are prevalent in every dish he plates. And I have eaten almost everything on the menu.

On this night, I had the tian of tuna sashimi with tobiko, shiso cress, white miso dressing and fish chips, used as little scoops. It was a wonderful mix of textures, all crunchy, soft and salty in the mouth and the tuna was, of course, fresh and delicious.

For main, we both had Chilli as Anything. It’s a great name for a great dish and it’s full of the sort of flavours I love with seafood – loads of chilli and punchy spices, and a clean, refreshing salad of green papaya to the side. It’s my kind of yum. So good, I forgot to take a photo. Damn, did it again!

We don’t usually go for dessert at Fins but we always look at the menu and when we spied a new version of the chocolate torte with a layer of salted caramel in the middle, we had to try it. I find caramel tends to improve everything and this dessert was no exception. It was velvety and fudgy without being too rich and the accompanying honeycomb ice cream was extremely moreish.

Snowy has recently divided his menu into Fins Ocean and Fins Earth, offering a line of locally sourced steak options which he pairs with organic produce and herbs often from his own garden. No doubt Mr LP will be keen to sample when we return in late Feb.

Compared to Byron Bay or the Gold Coast, the Tweed Coast in the middle is still relatively unknown as a holiday destination and I kind of like it that way because I’m not a good sharer. But I’m also a bit rubbish at keeping secrets so here is a list of my favourite places to visit if you happen to be passing through:  

  • Babalou, Kingscliff. Also great for cocktails and tapas as the sun goes down.

  • Mavis’ Kitchen, at the foot of Mt Warning. Worth the drive. Best herb and vegie garden I’ve ever seen.



Local reading and info:

You time:


The sky is always changing up there. I never tire of watching it.

Larissa x

Summer bruschetta on the barbie

Serves 6 to 8

Half a loaf of stale sourdough bread, sliced
2 cloves garlic, halved
1 Spanish (red) onion, chopped
2 punnets of mixed cherry tomatoes or mini Roma tomatoes, chopped
Half a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked and bruised
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup quality olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh goat’s curd or marinated feta (we used Tweed Valley Whey’s marinated feta)

Preheat your barbeque’s char-grill.
Rub the bread slices with the garlic halves then brush each slice with olive oil.
Mix together in a bowl the tomatoes, onion, basil leaves, vinegar, and olive oil with a good grind of salt and pepper.
Char-grill the bread slices and place on serving platter.
Top with tomato mixture and some crumbled feta.

Serve with a cold glass of Rose, or, as we did, pink Veuve.

Put some tunes on, sit back and watch the darkness fall over the ocean. Life’s tough...