It is Spring and that means a lot of creatures big and small come out to enjoy the balmy nights. That’s also when we humans throw caution to the wind and wander about without shoes on darkened cooling grass….and strike trouble.
I have been suffering from a very painful shoulder that has a little bit of restricted movement and when I lift my arm above my head there is intense pain. When I move it quickly or bump it I turn into a ridiculous blubbering idiot. On a recently new warm spring night with the promising scent of a voluptuously flowering Jasmin bush in the air, I stepped off the verandah and straight into a sticky groping spider web whose occupant was just as surprised as I was.
I am just a little petrified of Spiders and the blood curdling scream coupled with my flailing arms and then my anguished weeping whist still swearing at the top of my lungs brought Skater from the house. He saw that I was both in agony and petrified with terror and all I could do was yell get it off…. get it off….. He pulled me into the light and checked me over, looking for any Spider silly enough to be still attached, then lead me into the house. He even asked if I wanted a cup of tea.
I had walked straight into the huge web with a round fat bodied Spider in the middle at about my neck level. The poor Spider had no opportunity to run and I felt it swing into my neck with web wrapped around my ears before it could even run. My hand grabbed it off my neck and flung it with such force it almost pulled my sore arm out of its socket. In the panic I didn’t know if it was gone I was in so much pain I wasn’t sure if I was screaming or if it was someone else. Skater tells me with the eyes of a reliable witness that I was throwing my arms all over the place and screaming. I will never forget the feel of that fat little body on my neck.
My arm was probably damaged a little more in that moment. I lived through it but I still have nightmares about the feel of that Spider in my hands.
Times like this call for some comfort and that usually means cake ….don’t you think? This cake is not only made with beer and pears it’s comfortably caramel with a touch of salt added. It will cure just about anything except inflamed ligaments it seems. Why don’t you make it and see if it can fix you.
Pear, Salted Caramel and Beer Cake
My Kitchen Stories: Tania Cusack
- Line a 23cm cake tin with a removeable bottom and spray or grease well. pre-heat the oven to 170C/325F
- 50gm butter ( 2 tablesppons)
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup (60ml ) beer
- 1 T lemon/lime juice
- ½ cup water
- a pinch of salt
- 1⅓ cups flour (190gm)
- 1 cup sugar ( 200gm)
- ½ cup brown sugar (80gm)
- 150ml beer (5oz)
- 1 egg
- 60ml or ¼ cup of buttermilk
- 100gm, melted butter (3.5oz)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 large pears
- Peel the pears and cut into 8ths or similar. Not thin slices, nice chunks. Arrange on the bottom of the tin
- Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice and beer in to a wide bottomed pot and bring to a simmer. Boil over medium to high heat till it starts to turn golden brown. Make sure it is a nice brown colour before adding the ½ cup of water. stir and bring back to the boil before taking off the heat and adding the salt, stir well.
- Pour enough of the caramel over the pears to cover, you probably wont need all of it . Set aside.
- Mix the dry ingredients, then add the beer, melted butter, egg and buttermilk and mix well.
- Pour the batter over the caramel and smooth down. Bake for around 50 minutes or untill a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Let the cake sit for 5-10 minutes after you take it out of the oven. Run a sharp knife around the edge carefully and remove removable side of the cake tin. . Turn the cake over onto a plate and remove the cake base, then peel off the baking paper. My second and third attempt were amazing.
Recipe based on one from www.thebeeroness.com
A few weeks ago I found a 500 gm pack of Cipollini onions in a grocery store. I was excited to see Cipollini onions, well no actually I was shocked to see Cipollini onions. That’s because I have only ever seen them in jars imported from Italy, and most certainly I have never seen them for sale in their glorious raw state. So what are they?
They are a small flat onion with annoying papery skin that is sometimes hard to peel. Do not let this put you off because they are sweet and are perfect for roasting, or pickling or even in salads. They are bulbing onions that are harvested about 100 days after planting and are a yellow to brown onion but also come in a red variety too. If you are familiar with Italian food you will probably have eaten them in Italy fresh or roasted or out of a jar. They are a major crop in the North of Italy and have been growing there for hundreds of years. Well, guess what Italians, they are now growing in Australia.
I for one am very excited by this development. Ross and Colleen Arnott from Boneo on Victorias Mornington Peninsula harvested the first small crop this year. Ross is the biggest shallots (known as French eshallots) producer in Australia and has nine-hectares in crop with around 6 varieties . He has an eye for the right crop it seems as he also produces white radish (daikon) and suppilies up to 60% of Melbournes Diakon needs. So when Ross saw Cipollini onions at an expo in the US, he brought some back with him to give them a go. He planted a very small area and his first attempt has been very successful with interest from restaurants and the public at his regular market stalls. The next crop is being sown now, and will be ready for March. He hopes he will have more consistent sizes and a flatter shape and is quite surprised at his success. He seems a sensibly cautious man though and is still taking baby steps for the next planting. I can’t wait for more. They have also done well in America with more coming onto the market, increasing their popularity.
A great suggestion is to dip the babies into very hot water for a couple of seconds or drop them into boiling water to help remove the papery skins. I didn’t quite leave them in long enough. You might be able to see this from the picture above because they look leathery once roasted. I just peeled off the leathery bits and rolled them in the delicious balsamic glaze.
I got mine at The Fishmarket Sydney but have also seen them in Brisbane at Charlies Fruit market
Cipollini Onions with balsamic and BBQ Squid
My Kitchen Stories: Tania Cusack
- 1 x squid ( approx1 kg- 2.2lb) cleaned and sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 baby cucumbers ½'d ( or 1 small lebanese Cucmber)
- ½ cup black olives
- 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes - I used sweet orange ones
- ¼ cup sliced parsley
- 500gm cipolinni onions ( or quartered spanish onions)
- 4 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar (quality)
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 4 sprigs picked chopped thyme
- Salt and pepper
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 Tablespoon quality balsamic ( sweet)
- 1 heaped teaspoon dijon mustard
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 1 clove of garlic ½'d
- Salt and pepper
- Clean and finely slice the Squid ( you can score it if you like) and put it in a bowl with lemon zest, olive oil and chopped thyme. Put into the refrigerator till needed
- Set the oven 180C/350F. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Put the balsamic, honey oil and thyme into a bowl. Peel the onions by first dropping into boiling water for 1 minute and draining, to remove the fine skin, peel. Toss the onions in the Balsamic mix, then onto the baking tray. Cover with foil and roast for about 25 minutes before discarding the foil and roasting a further 20 minutes or till caramelized and soft. Set aside . You can make these the day before if you like.
- Put the olive oil, lemon juice, balsamic ( honey if using) , whole thyme and garlic and salt and pepper into a jar and shake till imulsified.
- Heat the BBQ or grill plate whiile you put the salad together.
- Put the cucumbers, olives, parsley, tomatoes and onions into a bowl. Then toss the squid onto the grill adding the thick tenticles first. Let them scortch and turn opaic for a 2 minutes before adding the remainder of the squid and cook till chared and opaque, approximately 3 minutes. let the squid rest for a coupkle of minutes or it will be tough.
- Add the squid to the salad and toss with ½ the dressing. Taste and add more if you like.