Salted peanut butter cookies

31 January 2015

We picnicked on a Brooklyn rooftop one night during our honeymoon with two friends from Sydney. One of the highlights, aside from the company and watching the sun set over Manhattan, was a salted peanut butter cookie from a nearby bakery. I've since tracked down the exact recipe.

The peanut butter cookie is the caramel coloured dome sitting right by the chocolate chip one. The chocolate one beside it was salted too! The cookies, along with a slice of the famous Brooklyn Blackout cake, all came from the Ovenly bakery in Greenpoint. Our friend Matt played host that afternoon and has a studio at the nearby Pencil Factory. He led the neighbourhood expedition that took us to Ovenly, a very cute wine store and later, a restaurant where Bill Murray's son is the head chef.

The Ovenly story is such a lovely one, the co-owners met at a book club and began hatching plans to start some kind of food business together.

Here is their recipe for peanut butter cookies. It is insanely good and I reckon the secret is the peanut butter to sugar ratio and total lack of flour (!).

I made a batch to send to our friend Garry who joined us on the rooftop that night. He sent us the very best souvenir right before Christmas - a one-off copy of his forthcoming book Eye Occupy that's filled with street photos from his time in New York and Portland. Ours has a special dedication, a photo of Tony and I as newlyweds snapped right after the three of us shared breakfast and art gallery tips at Momofuku's Ma Peche.

It felt like an extra special honeymoon memento and Tony and I began brainstorm our reply. I knew I wanted to replicate the cookies we'd shared and Tony worked on a picture of the four of us from that night. Miraculously, the cookies arrived in tact.

More Ovenly goodness and recipes here. Their cookbook is high on my wish list.

My week - All about Ruth Reichl

This week I've been a little Ruth Reichl obsessed. 

I started reading her novel Delicious! on Kristie's recommendation, listened to this excellent interview with the former New York Times food critic, which in turn led me to her honest article about watching her weight during her years on the job.

I happen to be reading Delicious! on my phone and iPad, using the Borrow Box app, which lets me borrow e-books from my local library for free. I'm stoked! Hopefully your library has it too.

On Australia Day, Tony made chocolate fondant and honey gelato with hidden chunks of homemade nougat. I may have insisted that we get stuck into it before it was properly set.

Flicking through Instagram this week, I loved this Valentine's Day cookie from a cute Melbourne bakery. 

I follow NPR's Asia correspondent Frank Langfitt on Facebook and he shared this eye-opening look at life underground in Beijing, where aspiring actors, families and migrants find affordable accommodation in cramped rooms with no natural light.

My colleague Alex in Western Australia published this kind advice from author David Sedaris just the other day. I can't believe she got to talk to him. 

And just in time for Sunday, how to make Sophie Dahl's strawberry ricotta pancakes.

Wedding: A ceremony surprise

24 January 2015

I am a terrible secret keeper, especially when it comes to surprises, so it's a small miracle that I managed to plan something for my wedding and actually pull it off.

Before the wedding, our celebrant Louise (who married my brother and his wife a few years ago and happens to be a psychologist during the week!) asked us to send through a few details about how we met so she could include them in the ceremony. We wrote something together and because I was the one emailing it off, I snuck in two extra lines and asked whether she could help me with a surprise.

Here's what I sent: 

Sonya and Tony had actually met years before they started going out. They ran into each other again at a house party six years ago, where the found the least romantic place to talk - an old outhouse in the yard.

When Tony learned that Sonya was on the lookout for Lego men for an art project she was working on, he offered to share a few from his childhood. He raced back to his parent's place to search for the tiny toys.

After the Lego man exchange, Sonya invited Tony to an exhibition of Orangutan portraits, which he had already seen. She took this to be a sign and they have been together ever since.

Not all of the Lego men that were given to Sonya that day ended up in her art project. She hung onto one, which she's brought today, tied to her bouquet for good luck.

And here's how Tony reacted when he saw the Lego man that he'd given me on our first date, it was totally worth the wait:

That morning, while my sister, mum and friend Marina were getting their hair and make-up done, I fussed around in another room trying unsuccessfully to wedge the Lego man into my bouquet. My Dad came over to help and had a genius idea of using fishing line. He fetched it and had the mini space man secured in two minutes flat! 

My Dad was a legend that morning, he made cups of tea and coffee for everyone, tidied up after us and helped to iron the outfits for our flower girl and page boy before it was time to go.

My week - Reading cookbooks before bed

We just bought this happy bunch from Sophie, whose zinnias bloomed this week.

Two cookbooks arrived in the mail for me this week and I've been reading them before bed :) I bought Sophie Dahl's Very Fond of Food (the title and this pancake post made me do it) and My Darling Lemon Thyme from the Western Australian food blog of the same name.

I was so excited to discover the This Is Radio series, which profiles game-changing independent and public radio producers like The Kitchen Sisters and Joe Richman in short videos.

On the topic of radio, I may be one of the few people who didn't love Serial. This post captures why listening to the series made me uncomfortable (I stopped at episode 4).

I spend a lot of time on Instagram so Tony showed me Amalia Ulman's tongue-in-cheek feed this week. The artist totally masters every kind of Instagram photo and user, from the baby pics (guilty) to the too-perfect food photo complete with hilarious caption.

Japanese writer Haruki Murakami's Q&A website is live! Thank goodness for Google translate. I want to ask a question around the simple meals that feature so prominently in all of his stories. A restaurant in Portland has even created a Murakami inspired degustation.

And now for the long weekend. We're going to make chocolate fondant and honey gelato for a lunch at a friend's farmhouse on Sunday, try out the new Vietnamese cafe in town and I'm going to watch Studio Ghibli's Porco Rosso - a cartoon about a flying pig!

Colour, light and bumping into strangers

19 January 2015

Will you see the James Turrell: A Retrospective at the NGA in Canberra? We went the day it opened and loved it. I'm even contemplating a second visit before it closes in June and another go in the much talked about Perceptual Cell.

Sometimes blockbuster art exhibitions can be really crowded. I remember one year we went to see the Salvador Dali show at the National Gallery of Victoria, where the crowd moved around the show politely in one giant queue. Tony spotted a guy who just stared at the back of the person's head in front of him when he wasn't positioned right in front of a painting. This show wasn't like that, in fact it was surprisingly quiet.

I found out later that it's ticketed in a very deliberate way to make sure there's only a certain number of people in the space at any one time. It really works, making it easy to explore some of the more enveloping built spaces in some solitude. It also had the effect of creating a temporary community and at times we found ourselves chatting about what was in front of us with someone we'd seen a couple of times before.

You experience this show in quite a bodily way, it's not just about looking but sometimes about feeling your way into a space or bravely entering it, particularly the one that is characterised by an extreme lack of light. I had actually thought I was inside that space only to realise that I was facing a wall and had a turn and a couple more steps to go. I worked that out and promptly walked into a stranger before I was finally in. That space (not to give too much away) was one of my favourites - it made me feel like I was in an underground tunnel of a Murakami novel, which was very surreal.

There were other spaces to climb into (very fun!) and one space so imaginative and bright that I stepped into it and said 'Wow,' a little too loudly, not noticing the other people already quietly observing it from the inside.

I won't tell you too much about the Perceptual Cell, only that it looks this giant white eye-ball of a thing that you'll spot as soon as you enter the show. Both Tony and I had a turn (you get an option of 'hard' or 'soft' for your personal 15 minute light show and we both went 'soft') and it was the very first artwork I could experience properly without my glasses. Just a practical tip, the gallery is very strict with the timing so follow the instructions on your ticket very closely otherwise you might miss out!

And just for fun, here are some photos of James Turrell's permanent Skyspace structure at the NGA, Within, Without. You can see it any time for free but the optimal viewing times are listed and updated on the gallery's website every day to match sunrise and sunset. We went at sunset a few years ago and settled back on the cold concrete wall as the sun went down to watch a light show and stare at the sky through the moon-shaped cutout in the middle of the dome.

My family has visited during the day, where they were too busy looking up to notice me sneaking this photo.

If you're lucky, you might bump into the artist who made a surprise visit to the show just this week. James Turrell's latest Skyspace has just opened in Hobart, at MONA and I would love to check it out this year! Along with burgers from The Standard of course.

P.S In Canberra, we love Silo Bakery for brunch and takeaway baguettes and coffee. I have dreamt about Brodburger and as big pasta fans, we really love Italian & Sons for dinner. The Palace Electric cinema in the super fun area of New Acton also seems to show whatever movie I'm trying to hunt down at that moment.

My week - Back to work

17 January 2015

The very best lunch break with the lovely Sophie, who brought me the sweetest mini bouquet from her flower farm

It's been the week of excellent packed lunches. There were yummy pea and pesto quinoa patties (especially good with a side of sweet cherry tomatoes yum!) and soupy noodle pots

And no packed lunch is complete without snacks.

I've long been a fan of Modern Love essays and like many people this week became fascinated by the 36 questions from 'To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This.' I love the idea of getting people to stray from the stories they tell about themselves and the questions are so probing and personal that I'd be interested in hearing pretty much anyone answer them. 

I made a surprising and delicious dessert last night, poached pears with cardamon and saffron for some great friends who are leaving town at the end of the month. Fun fact: there are black and green cardamon pods. You want the black ones for sweet recipes.

Two exciting Instagram discoveries - my dream handbag (it has eyes!) and a Rifle Paper co. diary is coming in 2016!

And a documentary recommendation from a friend at work (most of our emails end with a link to a doco we've enjoyed recently) - Joy Division

Just read: Worn Stories

12 January 2015

Every year my friend Vanessa sends me a book for Christmas, just in time for the holidays. This summer she sent Worn Stories by Emily Spivack. In it, ordinary people and famous folk share the story behind a special item of clothing and the memories it holds, inevitably revealing something about their past.

You get to see what people wore when they were invited to meet Barack Obama and what they happened to have on when they picked up an unlikely hitch hiker en route to the Grand Canyon.

The book is curated very cleverly and does a really great job of telling bigger stories about life in America, from stories of migration (and the acquisition of someone's first pair of Cons), to the impact Super Fly had on the every day street fashion of Harlem.

It is such a fun book to read and I tried to savour it as much as I could.  As I read, my eyes kept darting between the item of clothing and its story. I'm already itching to buy this book for friends, if only their birthdays would hurry up!

P.S Last year, Vanessa sent Letters of Note for Christmas and I loved it so much that two of the letters ended up becoming readings at my wedding.

My week - Summer in the kitchen

09 January 2015

I've been pottering around at home this week, trying out new recipes, taking naps and avoiding the heat before I head back to work on Monday. Here's what I've been up to in my last week of holidays.

We had a midweek pizza night and watched the delightful The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyakai's final feature length animation.

I've been living in this dress that Tony gave me for Christmas. It's the best striped/t-shirt dress ever, and 100 per cent cotton - win!

On Instagram I stalked graphic designer Jasmine Dowling's beautiful feed, which may have lead to the purchase of my first Assembly Label tee (they live up to the hype).

Also Carin from Paris in four months has been in Sydney, and I've loved seeing how she's captured my hometown on Instagram. Also, I need to go to Brewtown.

Sometimes you need the internet to tell you how to make a sandwich. Green machine sandwiches were our Saturday breakfast and they were so good.

And I've been taking advantage of my time at home to listen to radio shows that I usually miss while I'm at work, like Life Matters, which I love. I especially enjoyed this episode for its unique exploration of marriage.

Hope you have a great weekend! Tony's planning to make special hamburgers tonight (with Kewpie mayo AND tomato sauce) and then tomorrow we're headed to a hoedown at a friend's house for a very different kind of baby shower.

A simple cake for all reasons

05 January 2015

Have you ever missed a recipe? I'm not sure I had until I was away from home for four months and had a sudden urge to make this frosted marmalade loaf from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries.

This recipe reminds me of an orange syrup cake my mum used to make and the Madeira cake she would sometimes buy from the supermarket. It's dense, buttery and moorish, and a good one if you haven't had time to plan ahead. I've made it to cheer up my office and as a last minute gift.

When it's done, you can chop it up and take it to a picnic like this, it's a not-too-messy cake that you can easily eat with your hands.

Or if it's for something more special, decorate it. I made this for a New Year's Day afternoon tea, iced it as per the recipe and then took inspiration from Sarah's fruit and herb style of cake decoration. This cake is really cute too!

Unadorned is also just as nice. You'll find the icing is pretty runny, so you won't be icing a cake so much as you'll be pouring it over your finished loaf. Happy baking!

Goodbye 2014!

02 January 2015

On New Year's Eve we raced into the lane behind a friend's house to watch the midnight fireworks as they began to explode over our town. At one point, someone turned around to hug their friend and wish them a happy 2015. It was a hug that passed through the whole party and was the loveliest way to begin the year.

Here are twelve highlights from 2014, as inspired by Reading My Tea Leaves.

1. Summer by the sea in January

2. My indoor survival kit for the February heatwave (43 degrees for days on end)

3. My Mum's 60th birthday in March

4. An Easter reunion in the mountains with my two favourite girls in April

5. In May my annual apple pie came out looking a little freaky

6. A friend's backyard birthday party was the loveliest way to end the June long weekend

7. A quiet moment at home in July

8. Turning 30 in August surrounded by cakes and girlfriends

9. A first dance beneath a sprinkling sky in September

10. Reminiscing about our New York honeymoon in October

11. Rooming with Angie in Sydney come November

12. Landing in Wagga Wagga on Christmas Eve having spent four months away from home