When advertisers talk about enticing potential customers to buy into a dream, I know they’re looking at me. I am that person.
I walk into a store like BCF (Boating Camping Fishing) or Tent World (what it says on the label but with every outdoor accessory you could ever need) and I’m transported to a life where we load up the landrover with camping equipment and drive off into the great unknown on an adventure. The truth is, of course, that we don’t have a landy, and even if we did it would probably have a manual transmission and I couldn’t drive it. Plus, after making the mistake of watching Wolf Creek, I’m more than a tad frightened of the dark and being alone somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And that’s before we get to the issue where I need a flushing toilet under the same roof as where I’m sleeping and am so fussy about said sleeping that my husband swears I could hear a frog fart in a car on the Bruce Highway (which is quite a way from our house). It’s a dream, but one I’ll never take into reality.
This cookbook – not that it’s just a cookbook – is the same. As soon as I began reading, I bought into the dream. In this case it’s a pastoral dream with sweeping hills one can drive up (probably in afore-mentioned landy) with wine and cheese and nibbly bits to watch the sun go down. It’s a dream of defined seasons (not just hot and raining and not hot and not raining) and community and gatherings. It’s a dream with large oak kitchen tables and dressers filled with vintage china and preserved vegetables from the kitchen garden or orchard. It’s a dream where creativity rules and artist’s picnics are a thing that should be beautifully catered for. And I bought into it all.
I’ve long been a fan of Sophie Hansen. A food writer based on a farm about 4 hours west of Sydney, her weekly newsletter – 5 Things To Be Cheerful About on Monday – brightens my inbox each Monday morning and her blog Local is Lovely is a real treat.
Her food style is simple, honest, generous, instinctive, and down to earth – and all that I wish I could be as a cook. Her photography style is the same.
In this book she joins forces with her mother, art teacher Annie Herron, to bring us not just another cookbook but one jam-packed (pun intended) with creative projects. Not only do I want to cook nearly everything in here, but I also want to head straight to the craft store and buy paints and paintbrushes, sketch pads and pencils.
While Annie teaches lessons on composition, colour matching, owning your style, and painting a scene, Sophie makes jams, preserves, cordials and peach vermouth. There are walks in the woods with cannellini bean and pancetta soup; artist’s workshops with roasted beetroot salad with yoghurt and mustard seeds, and baked ricotta; studio treats of toasted cardamom shortbread and honey jumbles; and spring lunches with strawberry and pecan streusel cake.
So far, I’ve made the lemon and pistachio cake (to take away with us the other weekend) and Annie’s five-minute choc-malt cake (to take to a morning tea with Grant’s niece and her family on the same weekend). I have more pages marked (so many pages marked) but the copy I have I borrowed from the library, and it seems they want it back. Luckily my dog was listening to the hints and has ordered one for me as a Mother’s Day present. She’s so thoughtful.
The recipe I’m sharing is for Annie’s five-minute choc-malt cake – or what we’re calling, the Milo Cake. If you can’t get Milo, you can substitute it by mixing 2 tablespoons cocoa powder with ½ cup malted milk powder. It’s one of those super easy chuck it all in together type of recipes and, if your ingredients are at room temperature, can really be put together in five minutes.
One note, I used a slightly smaller tin so had to cook it for about 10-15 minutes longer. When it comes to baking it really does pay to check and measure.
What you need
- 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
- 1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
- ¾ cup Milo
- 3 eggs (at room temperature)
- ½ cup (125g) softened butter, cut into cubes
- ½ cup milk
- Icing (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting
What you do with it
Preheat your oven to 180C, grease (and line the base) of a 23cm loose-bottomed tin.
Put all the ingredients (except your icing sugar) into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat (using the paddle attachment) for 5 minutes.
Spoon the batter into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the cake feels springy.
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out to cool on a wire rack.
Serve with icing sugar.