Australian Summer - Raspberry & Peach Upside Down Cake

Hello dear readers!

Welcome to my first post as authoress of our new-born blog. If you have found your way to our little corner of the internet, then welcome. I hope you enjoy what we have to offer.

As I am sure you have noticed, summer has well and truly descended upon those of us residing below the equator. Until this week, Melbourne had sparingly kept her temperatures below the 30 degree mark, but the mercury is rising now, and for me this rise in temperature outside usually coincides with a rise in the amount of time I spend inside, sitting in front of a fan with a cold glass of water in one hand and a good book in the other.

Recently however, some friends and I spent a sunny Monday afternoon in the foothills of the Dandenong's going berry picking. Now not much can tempt me away from my glorious air conditioning in the throes of an unforgiving summer, but there is one thing I'd just about walk across hot coals for, and that is fresh picked raspberries, so five of us hopped on a train and headed out to lovely Kallista (nestled between townships such as Sassafrass, Tecoma, and Ferntree Gully) where we enjoyed scenery such as this:

Ate berries as fresh as this:

And paid a meagre sum of just $10 to be able to leave the orchard with a kilo of berries each, not to mention another odd kilo in each of our stomachs (and all over our faces, as my sister pointed out when we went to have our harvest weighed...) Anyway, as of this evening a hefty portion of the raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries that I picked with my own two hands remain in my freezer, which is why my first ever posted recipe is a lovely berry upside down cake. I know it's hot, but turn your oven on for this one, it's worth it.

What you will need:

120 grams of raspberries (plus any other berry varieties you enjoy)

Two large peaches, sliced

Two tablespoons of butter or margarine

Two tablespoons of honey

125 grams butter

1 cup caster sugar

Vanilla essence

2 free range eggs

1 ¼ cups self raising flour

½ cup almond meal

1 cup milk

What you will need to do:

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the bottom of a 20cm spring form cake tin with baking paper, grease up the sides with a little extra butter.

Microwave tablespoons of butter and honey until they are melted and bubbling a little, then pour the mixture into cake tin and spread across the baking paper.

Arrange fruit on top of the honey mix. No need to be neat about it, although if your berries are particularly juicy I'd recommend draining them of a bit of their liquid, or else your cake tin might leak berry juice, and you'll have to scrape the resulting burnt on jam stuff off the base of your oven. (I've done this, it's not fun.)

Next, cream butter, sugar, and vanilla essence in a bowl. If you are partial to lemon then substitute the vanilla essence for the rind of a small lemon. Either option is delicious.

Beat in the eggs, then add all remaining ingredients and beat until batter is smooth. Don't worry if your cake mix seems thick, it's meant to be.

Pour batter into cake tin, then bang cake tin gently to make sure the batter seeps between the fruit, holding everything together nicely.

Cook for 40 minutes to an hour. I always rely on the good ol' 'cake is done when knife inserted into the centre comes out clean' chestnut, as oven temperatures vary.

Now the final step in the process can be a little problematic if you are impatient like myself. Make sure you leave your cake to cool properly before trying to turn it out, or else half your fruit might slide off, ruining the nice upside-down effect (the cake will still taste delicious though, I promise.)

Remove the spring form sides to the cake tin, place an upside down plate on top of the cake, and carefully turn the whole lot upside down (or right way up, depending on how you look at it) then remove the base of your tin and peel off the baking paper carefully. Voila!

Cake is best enjoyed with a little of this on the side:

Listen to: Australia (The Shins, Wincing The Night Away)

Here Comes the Night - Slow Roast Tomatoes

In celebration of the birth of this blog, I'm starting our first post half way through the recipe I plan to post. I figure it's in keeping with my cooking style – a little shambolic, a lot make-it-up-as-I-go-along, and plenty of learning-by-doing.

Firstly, your young ladies of means would like to thank Chris Thorpe for designing this lovely place.
And now, my first attempt at slow roasting tomatoes.

It's the height of summer in the Capitol, and after a trip to the markets this morning and a picnic on the lawns of Old Parliament House I'm left with the urge to cook, but not to eat.

A full belly and a face full of sunburn attest to a terrific lazy afternoon in the sun, celebrating a friend's birthday with cucumber sandwiches, mini frittatas, scones, and plenty of champagne. The mini frittatas will be the subject of a future post, but for now it's all about tomatoes.

Stripy or Russian, green, yellow or red, possibly demonic, a member of the deadly nightshade family, and perhaps introduced to Italy by two catholic priests sometime in the 16th century. And my, my, haven't they done wonders with it since.

My plan for the three kilos I bought super cheap at my local markets is slow roasting, and subsequently, pizza, pasta and lasagna. Tonight, I'm hoping I can stand the heat of the oven until the night hits and I can open the house up.

What You Will Need:

olive oil
black pepper
salt (rock or sea, fresh ground is best)
about 2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds
1 – 2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs
about 15 – 20 tomatoes

What You Will Need to Do:

Preheat your oven to 140 degrees celsius

Oil a large baking tray (shallow is fine – mine was about as wide as my oven, and fit 30 tomato halves)

Sprinkle the oiled tray liberally with fresh cracked black pepper and salt, and most of the Italian herbs and crushed fennel

Cut tomatoes in half , and place face down on oiled tray, rub the outside with a little extra oil, and chuck on some more s&p, herbs and fennel

Place in oven

Enjoy the smell of roasting tomatoes for roughly six hours, and then...

At this point (if you started at six in the evening like I did) it will be midnight, and your housemates will have gone to bed. Take the tomatoes out of the oven, and let cool. Slip the skins off (if you want, I didn't bother) and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

But before you do that last bit, put one half of a tomato on a piece of toast with some fresh ricotta, a dash of balsamic and a little more cracked pepper, stand near an open window and enjoy your very own home made slow roasted tomatoes (which go very well with a summer night breeze).