Balsamic Strawberries

I would not usually suggest anyone does anything with fruit other than eat it 'as-is'. I am a self confessed massive fruit-bat, and I just don't get why anyone would ever need to do anything with fresh, in season fruit. In our house, nothing hangs around long enough for me to even think about it! However, there are a few exceptions, in most cases related to early or late season produce.

Punnets of strawberries are just starting to appear in Perth - the strawberry season in WA starts earlier than most, thanks to our (relatively) warm sunny winter. However, these early season specimens are not quite at their best; a little pale, and not quite a sweet and flavoursome as those we see later in the season. When we were kids, my mum had a track for these not quite as delicious strawberries - cut into similar sized pieces, and douse with sugar and cognac (regularly gifted to dad for Christmas, but never drunk). My sister and I loved it so much, that we would often ask for these drunken strawberries at the peak of the season, but mum would always steadfastly refuse - it was a trick reserved for those less than peak strawberries, either at the start of end of the season.

Nowdays, I am less inclined to douse them in cognac, mostly because we rarely have it in the house, and also, The Husband does not share my dad's disdain for cognac, so if we were to have any, I doubt I'd be allowed to 'waste' it on strawberries. Balsamic vinegar is my new found preference, making a delicious, if slightly unexpected, substitute.

A friend recently gifted us a bottle of Pukara Estate Vanilla and Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar, and when I saw punnets of not quite ripe strawberries at the market this week, I knew I had the perfect dessert combination for an upcoming pizza night.

Balsamic Strawberries

Rough quantities;

  • 500g strawberries
  • ½ - 1 tbs sugar
  • ½ - 1 tbs balsamic vinegar (or cognac, for drunken strawberries)

This doesn't really need a recipe in the traditional sense - it's really a taste and see kind of thing. Wash (and dry) your strawberries if they're a bit grittty - I usually don't bother - then hull & chop into halves or quarters (roughly all the same size) and chuck them all in a bowl. Sprinkle over a bit of sugar (oooh! I imagine maple syrup would work well too! totally trying that this week), depending on how tart they are, and how sweet you want them, then drizzle with just enough balsamic vinegar to coat. Toss and leave for 1-2 hours to get all infused and delicious, then serve with ice cream, yoghurt, cream, or just eat them as is!

What's your favourite way to eat strawberries? Do you prefer them straight from the punnet, or something fancier?

International Orangutan Day

Today is International Orangutan Day. And this post is a little later than I would have liked as I have been busily organising a morning tea for both my office, and my sisters office, full of palm oil free goodies, to raise awareness and much needed funds for the the Center for Orangutan Protection, to assist them in building an orangutan sanctuary in Kalimantan.

 Orangutan mum & bub coming in for feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.

Orangutan mum & bub coming in for feeding time at Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary.

While I was baking up a storm, I pondered what to write on this post - I feel like I'm already bombarding you with palm oil information here, and I don't want to become a broken record - repeating the same stuff ad-nauseam. But then I thought back to when I was first learning about palm oil, and that I was always looking for more information, new blogs, more lists, anything I could dig up. And I'm still like that, always looking for more information, and still finding gems in among it all.

So, a quick recap. Palm oil is a cheap, shelf stable, vegetable fat found in everything from margarine to shampoo, and cosmetics to Tim Tams.

But how do you know if something has palm oil in it? Given the food labelling laws in Australia, it can be quite challenging, and cosmetics are probably more confusing! In food products, palm oil will occasionally be labelled as palm oil, but it is more likely to be labelled as 'vegetable oil', or possibly 'vegetable shortening'. In most instances if you see those words, palm oil is the oil behind it. The quick way to tell, is by the saturated fat content. Palm oil and coconut oil are the only vegetable oils with significant levels of saturated fat, so if a label states vegetable oil (and no animal fats), and then has a saturated fat content of about half the fat content it probably contains palm oil (it may be coconut, but that is unlikely is coconut oil is quite expensive, and also has a distinct coconut-ty taste).

In non-food products (mainly cosmetics and cleaning products), while palm oil itself is often used 'as is' it is also used in the manufacture of many other chemicals and raw materials used in these products. The Palm Oil Investigations team have over 200 ingredients listed on their website that are either synonyms for palm oil, or are likely to contain palm oil in some form.

I am the first to admit eliminating palm oil is a challenge. I have primarily focused on food products, as that's where I felt I could make the most difference with my purchasing power. And also, the lack of palm oil free (or CSPO) cosmetics and cleaning products has really hampered my progress in that area, although I am now seeing some good options slowly coming forward.

Also worth noting, palm sugar, as often used in south east Asian cuisine, does not come from the oil palm, so it is safe!

If you'd like to do more, there are a number of charities that are doing great work for the plight of the orangutans. Orangutan Appeal UK is one I donate to regularly, as it is linked to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, The Orangutan Project is a great Australian-based organisation, and obviously, you can donate to the Centre for Orangutan Protection directly.

Wish me luck for my morning tea, fingers crossed we raise a solid amount for the Centre for Oranguatan Protection.

Perth Farmers Markets

I bang on a lot about the importance of a good local farmers market. But I know for a lot of people, finding such a thing can be a challenge. So, last Sunday my sister and I went on what can only be described as a Market-ing Adventure (as distinct from a marketing adventure). We visited five farmers markets around Perth; chatted to stallholders, squeezed and sniffed fruit, located ATMs, bought ridiculous amounts of kale, and taste tested bretzels, all so you don’t have to (aren’t we nice).

The morning started early, and had us at the Midland Farmers Market by 7.30. We were a bit concerned we were too early, as some of the stallholders were still setting up, but the advertised start time is 7am, and most of the serious stallholders were set up by the time we arrived. It was a bit of strange collection of stalls, predominantly food based, but with a few clothing and (quite dubious) second hand stalls in the mix. Stalls of note include; a woman with a whole cabinet of cannoli (as we had not yet had breakfast, I refrained, sorry); The Mushroom Exchange, selling freshly picked Portobello & Swiss Brown mushrooms; a citrus stall, selling lemons, limes, mandarins, Bindoon oranges, and delicious ruby red oranges; three separate new season strawberry sellers, a plant stall, a florist, and three comprehensive general fruit & veg stalls. A note for the uninitiated, do not follow the google maps directions for an ATM, you will wander for at least half an hour, and end up back where you started, none the wiser (not speaking from experience, my sister is sharing her wisdom…). There’s an ATM on Helena St, opposite the library.
Details: Midland Farmers Market, every Sunday from 7am-3pm, Old Great Northern Highway Midland

 One of the three strawberry stalls at Midland Farmers Market

One of the three strawberry stalls at Midland Farmers Market

Next up was Kalamunda Farmers Market, where it was easily a couple of degrees cooler, but we sucked it up and trudged on (with the help of a warming gozleme…). This one was a bit tricky for me to find, but I think that’s because I had confused Central Mall, with Centro. If you keep the location straight (Central Mall), you should be ok. This one started with a bang, wandering up the mall, I spied the Wildthyme Natural Soap stall overflowing with wonderfully fragrant soap. Always with an eye out for palm oil free products, I had a bit of a look, and discovered that a number of them were palm oil free, and the remainder used CSPO. Winner! We had a chat to Judy, the owner of Wildthyme Soaps, and found out she used to live in Indonesia, and knows firsthand the devastation of the palm oil industry. Her baby soap is palm oil free, while the others use a majority coconut or olive oils, with a small amount of segregated CSPO, for stability. A little bit further on from Judy, we came across a Sunnydale dairy stall, selling unhomogenised Guernsey cow milk, cream and yoghurt, all in glass jars, with crates full of empties at the back of the stall – the idea is you return your jars next time, and they’re washed and reused. There were also three comprehensive fruit & vege stalls; a herb & leaf lady (bagged salad mix etc.), La Belle Sweets, selling macarons & biscuits; Kool Kakes, a cupcake stall; someone selling seedlings (including cute little kale seedlings!); Fisho Singleton, a fishmonger in a van; Artisan Spice, a local spice seller; free range WA smallgoods; an unwaxed citrus stall; and the previously mentioned gozleme.
Details: Kalamunda Farmers Market, every Sunday from 8am-noon, Central Mall Kalamunda

 Judy and her Wildthyme Soap stall at Kalamunda Farmers Market

Judy and her Wildthyme Soap stall at Kalamunda Farmers Market

After Kalamunda, we came back in towards the city, and stopped off at the Vic Park Farmers Market. By now it was a bit later in the morning, and the Vic Park market was definitely more bustling than the two previous. A noticeable difference at Vic Park, was the number of ‘ready to eat’ stalls; The Tapas Man, The Holy Bagel, Turkish Tucker, Shak Shuka, plus bahn mi, fresh juice, gozleme, german bratworst, the list goes on. On the ‘farmers market’ side of things, we found free range WA smallgoods, The World’s Best Pasta, Breadtime Stories wheat free sourdough bakery, Sunnydale Dairy, two fruit & vege stalls, and two stalls selling dog treats!
Details: Vic Park Farmers Market, every Sunday 8am-noon, John Macmillan Park Kent Street East Vic Park

Next was another inner city market – Leederville Farmers Market. I’d heard lots about this one, and I have to be honest, it was a bit disappointing. It was by far the smallest of the day, although it does have the basics covered with a fruit & vege stall, a butcher (Farmers Paddock), a fishmonger, and a bread stall. Excitingly, there’s also a knife sharpener, so you can drop off your knives, do your shopping, or grab something to eat, and collect your knives on the way home. Leederville was also home to the best buskers of the day – The Midnight Astronomers (?), playing great acoustic covers of pop songs. Also at Leederville was another Shak Shuka stall, a juice van, a pulled pork van and a few spice/spice blend stalls.
Details: Leederville Farmers Market, every Sunday 8am-12.30pm, 663 Newcastle Street, Leederville

By the time we made it to Stirling Farmers Market, they were just beginning to pack up, and to be fair, we were feeling a bit the same. Run by the rotary club of Karrinyup, the Stirling market packs a lot in to a small footprint. Even though they were all beginning to pack up, we spied Tammy’s Bakery; Get Cultured, a fermented foods stall; The Beef Shop; Australian Mushroom Growers, Bookara Goat Dairy (seriously the best haloumi); West Oz Seafood; Centre Forest Lamb; Colamena Honey; plus three fruit & vege stalls, two coffee vans, a crepe van (Wholey Crepe), Bobo’s Bratwurst, dumplings, and dog treats.
Details: Stirling Farmers Market, every Sunday 7.30-11.30am, City of Stirling carpark Cedric St Stirling

Not that it was a competition, but Kalamunda definitely gets my vote for Best Market, but it’s a bit far for me to go every week, so Stirling gets my vote as the market I am most likely to return to. It’s quite a bit closer than Kalamunda, but still has a great range of stalls.

 The haul from our adventure

The haul from our adventure

If none of these fit the bill for you, I’ve created an interactive map of all the farmers markets in Perth, so you can see what’s on near you, and when. Just click here, or use the link in the header bar.

Do you have a favourite farmers market? Do you go every week, or less often?

The Curry Diaries

I always have a couple of tubs of curry paste in the freezer, stored in little single recipe batches. Right now there's Vindaloo, Tikka Masala and Tom Yum pastes in there, but the stores are getting a little low for my liking!

 The current curry selection (yes those dates are right... I probably keep them a little too long...)

The current curry selection (yes those dates are right... I probably keep them a little too long...)

There are a number of reasons I make my own curry paste; I can control the heat - I love flavourful curry, but I can be a bit of wus on the chilli front; I love knowing exactly what's in there - no preservatives, and no palm oil; and I like variety - we've never got through a full jar of curry paste before it went off, but since I freeze my home made stuff, that's not an issue.

I've collected my curry paste recipes from a range of places, but the curry pastes in Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food cookbook are a great place to start, and probably where I first started really getting into making my own. Since then, my favourite Thai cookbook - The Food of Thailand - and Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery, have sealed the deal. They just taste so much better than bought curry paste, I don't think I'll ever go back.

Tom Yum paste is the most recent addition to my repertoire, whipped up after work last week when I had a hankering for tom yum, but no desire to buy a jar of paste. I already had most of the ingredients at home - I just had to grab the shallots, lemongrass, galangal (much to the grocer's surprise!) and some tomatoes. This recipe is based on one from the SBS Food website, but there's no way I was adding pineapple... so I tweaked it to suit us.

Tom Yum Paste

  • shallots, peeled
  • garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 cm piece galangal, roughly chopped
  • 2 red birdseye chillies, seeded (or more, if you like)
  • lemongrass stalks, white parts only
  • kaffir lime leaves
  • coriander (cilantro) roots, washed
  • large ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tbs shaved palm sugar

Put everything, except the tomatoes & palm sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. It will be quite dry, but don't be concerned.

Add the tomatoes & sugar, and blitz again, until a rough paste forms.

This will give you enough paste for 2-3L of Tom Yum soup, or 4-6 serves, depending how fragrant you like it.

Tom Yum Soup
serves 2

  • ½ quantity of Tom Yum Paste
  • ½ tbs oil
  • 10 large raw prawns, peeled
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 50g mushrooms, halved or quartered
  • 50g rice noodles
  • lime juice
  • fish sauce
  • coriander

Put a large pot over high heat. Add the oil & tom yum paste. Cook until fragrant. Add 1L water or chicken stock (or you can do some tricky thing with the prawn heads that I am yet to attempt...), and simmer for 5-10 minutes to let the flavours infuse.

Meanwhile cook the noodles according to packet directions - cover with boiling water for a few minutes is the norm - and drain.

Most Thai recipes tell you to strain out the solids at this point, but I don't bother (I would imagine its quite necessary if you had the prawn heads in there!).

Add the tomatoes & mushrooms to the soup. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Add the prawns and cook until they have just changed colour. Add fish sauce to taste.

Divide the noodles into two bowls, and top with ladles of soup.

Garnish with coriander, and add lime juice and more fish sauce as required.

(I usually add green veggies in with mine - beans/broccoli in with the mushrooms, or leafy greens like bok choy sliced and added on top of the noodles, cooked by the heat of the soup.)

Have you ever made your own curry paste? How did you go? Was it easier that you expected?

Palm Oil in Chocolate

'What!?' You ask, 'Not chocolate too??'. Unfortunately chocolate is one of the worst offenders in the palm oil sphere. The good news is there are a lot of chocolate options that are palm oil free. The bad news? There are still a lot that contain palm oil. Which makes it a bit of a minefield when you're tying to do the right thing.

Just a bit of a disclaimer first; I'm only going to cover the palm oil issue here, I'm not going to touch on fair trade, or the child labour and slavery issues with many African plantations. Sorry, one issue at a time is best here, I think. However, the database listings do highlight those that are fair trade and any other claims made by the brand.

Now, on to the topic at hand; palm oil in chocolate. Like peanut butter, it's a bit of a case of trying to squeeze every last bit of saleable product out of a raw material that lead to palm oil being a common chocolate component.

 Learning about chocolate production at the Lima ChocoMuseo

Learning about chocolate production at the Lima ChocoMuseo

Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, roasted then ground until they release their oil - known as cocoa butter. The cocoa solids are then reincorporated with the butter and some sugar to make chocolate as we know it now. Some chocolate, i.e. Cadbury Dairy Milk, also adds milk (or milk powder) at this stage to make a milder chocolate. But what if you could sell the cocoa butter - for cosmetics, moisturisers, or other food items, and replace it with something else? That 'something else' is usually palm oil (or 'vegetable fat' - the same thing).

Luckily most consumers have caught on to this fact, primarily because the end result doesn't usually taste as good. Cadbury suffered massive consumer backlash when it released a 'new and improved' recipe five years ago, which replaced some of the cocoa butter with palm oil. Luckily for the orangutans, us humans were not keen on the new product, and Cadbury were forced to return to the old, palm oil free, recipe.

However, that doesn't mean all chocolate is palm oil free. While most plain/base chocolates are now palm oil free, a lot of the fun tasty bits aren't. Things like Lindor ball fillings, caramel centres, and other soft fillings are prime candidates for palm oil inclusion.

All is not lost though. There is still a good selection of palm oil free chocolate available. Some of my favourites are;

  • Lindt Excellence block range - orange intense and roasted almond are delish!
  • Cadbury Crunchie bars, blocks etc - I just love those little crunchie bits!
  • And now that there's a salon in Perth, Koko Black for fancy-pants chocolates.

A more complete list of palm oil free chocolates has been added to my Palm Oil Free Database, so check it out!

Sustainable Trawling

I have been super busy over the last week. I have hardly had dinner at home, and have been subsisting mostly on leftover turkey and cauliflower. So I don't have a recipe post for you this week.

Instead, I'm going to share with you some of the things I have come across while 'trawling the internet' in the last week or so. Things that have made me think, squeal with delight, or, quite concerned about our future.

Ripe Near Me is a website set up to connect foodies with growers. Locally. You just punch in your postcode, and see what local growers have available. Near me I can get chillis, kaffir lime leaves & lettuces for free, and caulis and broccolis for $1 each. Winner!

The Monthly's August Essay: Supermarket Monsters, is a really though provoking and slightly depressing read. How the duopoly have managed to control the Australian grocery market so tightly (and how we have let them), makes me quite sad. So many growers, producers, small manufacturers and neighbourhood supermarkets have been driven out of business by their bullying tactics, and I think it's time the Australian public took a stand. It's a long read, but definitely a worthwhile one.

Which lead me to Who Makes My Wine? A small site that lists the wine brands owned by the Coles and Woolworths conglomerates. Because there's a lot of them, and they're not labelled 'Woolworths Select Shiraz' or 'You'll Love Coles Chardonnay' (direct quote from the site, btw). But the winemakers and growers are still treated as badly as the other private label producers mentioned in The Monthly's article above.

I've also been catching up on my recordings lately, one of which was The Checkout episode from July 3 which looked into Palm Oil. Worth a look if you didn't see it the first time around - The Checkout: The Good Oil

And something fun to end on. I am loving BlackMilk's Princesses and Villains Collection released this week. BlackMilk is an Australian owned company that makes the most amazing leggings (and a few other things...), all sown in Brisbane, so there's no need to worry about sketchy Bangladeshi factories here! I just wish I didn't work in an office so I could wear their awesome leggings everyday!

 Homemade butter. A wonderful accidental discovery.

Homemade butter. A wonderful accidental discovery.

Something else I learnt this week - it's really easy to make your own butter. Just start whipping cream and get totally involved in something else entirely and completely forget about the cream you had in the mixer... At least, that's how I did it! Then follow these instructions - Make Butter by the Pound in a Stand Mixer @ TheKitchn. 

What great stuff have you seen on the interwebs this week?

P.S. I've also added a 'links' page to the header bar, with a few more interesting things... 

Seasonal Recipes - Saffron Cauliflower

I have a slightly different take on the word seasonal this week. One that is usually associated with November & December... yep, it was Christmas at our place over the weekend. I love Christmas. Not the crazy consumerism, I hate that! But, getting all your loved ones together, and lavishing them with an amazing meal. That, I can get on board with. However, it is way too hot in Perth at Christmas time to even think about turning the oven on, let alone roasting a turkey for a million hours, so we always tend towards a non-roasted option - seafood, bbq, ham & salad, something like that.

But that all means, that although I have cooked some crazy feasts, I have never cooked a turkey roast. So this year I decided I was going to celebrate Christmas in July (with about a weeks notice...) I spent most of the week trying to track down a suitable turkey, and just as I was about to call it all off as I couldn't find anything other than the weird turkey loaf from the freezer section, I had a thought to try the amazing butcher I buy my Christmas ham from. Why I didn't put two and two together earlier I do not know! So with a hugggeee free range turkey buffe (bone-in breasts) sourced, I invited the usual suspects, and got planning!

Where am I going with this you ask? Well this weeks recipe was part of the Christmas in July feast, and I am still so excited about that darn turkey, that I'm going to share all of the meal with you.

But first, a little bit about cauliflower. I really, seriously, believe that cauli is one of the most underrated veges ever (on par with Brussels sprouts). I love it, but it has a really bad rap thanks to that funky smell that comes from overcooking (boiling is especially bad for that, with the bonus of making it mushy and tasteless - that's a lose-lose!). I am happy to eat it roasted with a touch of olive oil and salt, but there are many more great options too. In Australia, cauliflowers are in season from April/May to September, depending a little on your local climate. It's crazy high in vitamin C, with a healthy dose of vitamin K, and most of the B group vitamins as well.

Right, back to Christmas - we stared with Jamie's Mulled Wine, and smoked salmon toasts (Tassie salmon, dill, capers & cream cheese, on The Husbands soy & linseed loaf).

 The feast - I kinda forgot to get photos, so we had started serving here...

The feast - I kinda forgot to get photos, so we had started serving here...

Then progressed to the main course. More mulled wine; cranberry & pistachio stuffed turkey breast; roast pumpkin wedges; Yotam Ottolenghi's Beans with many Spices and Lovage, thanks to my sister; and Saffron Cauliflower - (another Ottolenghi recipe, you could say we're a little obsessed...)

 Yotam Ottolenghi's saffron cauliflower.

Yotam Ottolenghi's saffron cauliflower.

And then we rounded it out with sour cherry & chocolate fruit cake with brandy parfait icecream.

As I didn't change any of the recipes much, I won't replicate them here. All are linked below, with a couple of comments.

  • Yotam Ottolenghi's Saffron Cauliflower
    I 'only' used half the saffron, cos I'm not made of money, but otherwise, this was to the recipe. You end up with a kind of 'steamed' result, but I think this would be great if you took the foil off for the last 20 minutes and got some burny caramelly bits going on.
  • The Italian Dish's Stuffed Thanksgiving Turkey
    I replaced the pecans with pistachios as it seemed more Christmassy (I was pretty into theming, if you can tell...), and I had some great WA pistachios picked up at the Good Food & Wine Show a few weeks back. Also, it needed way longer than 1 hour in the oven, but that might have been because I started with a 5kg turkey buffe, not a 3-3.5kg one.
  • Yotam Ottolenghi's Mixed Beans with Many Spices
  • Ruby Violet's Brandy Parfait
    As per the recipe - I don't mess with ice cream - but I did need twice as many egg yolks to get the right volume.

Did you celebrate Christmas in July? Or maybe Harry Potter's Birthday (also this week - July 31 for non-HP nerds)?

Bread & butter

In my big ranty palm oil post, I promised a palm oil free database, because deciphering all those labels and collating all that info together can be really tricky. I have spent the last few weeks battling with the back end programming, trying to turn all my ideas for a catch-all database into reality. Unfortunately I have not been quite as successful as I would have liked. The ability to search and categorise entries is beyond me, but I have now got a basic list together, with links to product types, so you at least don't have to search the whole page if you know what your looking for.

So far the only entries are for spreads and nut butters (in line with this post), bread, and butter. Every week or so, I'll tell you about palm oil free alternatives for a product category, and add that information to the database at the same time.

So, putting two & two together, you might have guessed that this weeks palm oil post is about bread and butter. Two pretty basic food items. Both very likely to contain palm oil. It is quite baffling, how two products, that have been part of the human diet for centuries, long before palm oil was a common ingredient, are now very difficult to buy without palm oil.

 A selection of delicious sourdough from Sydney's  Bourke Street Bakery .

A selection of delicious sourdough from Sydney's Bourke Street Bakery.

I have touched on the bread issue before, in my Easter post, so here's a summary; a basic bread recipe contains flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt, with oil/butter, milk and eggs optional extras. While some bakeries use palm oil as the 'oil' component, for most, a palm oil derivative sneaks in along with the dried yeast. For a long time, that meant that only traditionally made sourdough loaves (not yeasted sourdough) were palm oil free, and you had to harass your baker mercilessly for details on every ingredient.

Sourdough is still a good choice (and my preferred choice), but there are now a couple of supermarket options as well. All Abbott's Village Bakery loaves are palm oil free, as well as Country Life Gluten Free breads, and the Mountain Bread range of flat breads, all of which are pretty easy to find at the supermarket. As well as those options, Healthy Bake is an Australian owned bakery, producing organic, wheat free, palm oil free loaves (the buns aren't palm oil free though), with stockists across the country.

To be fair, 'proper' butter is palm oil free. The kind you buy in blocks, or sticks for baking, is nothing but cream, water and maybe salt. But most people don't use this as their everyday spreading-on-toast butter. Maybe you use Flora margarine, or a spreadable butter blend, or even Nuttelex. All of which contain palm oil. Thanks to its high saturated fat content, its very stable, but doesn't solidify quite as much as butter, so is often added to spreadable butters to make them soft 'straight from the fridge'. Even margarine, accompanied by claims it's made with golden canola, sunflower, or olive oils, has a high proportion of palm oil, again, thanks to it's stability and more solid nature (ever wondered how they turn a liquid like olive oil into a spread?).

However, it's not all bad news, there are a couple of 'table spread' (wtf does that even mean...??) and margarine options that are palm oil free; AlphaOne Rice Bran Oil spread, Woolworths Macro Soy Spread, and Melrose Omega Care spreads. And there's always the old-fashioned butter option, with the bonus of getting to use a cute butter dish like these ones! Certainly an option if you live somewhere it doesn't get too hot. But, living in Perth, for most of the year, we can't leave butter out of the fridge without ending up with a puddle, so we are fans of Mainland's Butter Soft. It is proper old fashioned butter, with only three ingredients, processed to be spreadable. It's a win-win really!

See my new database (link, or in the header bar) for a list of everything mentioned here, links to product websites, and details on where to find everything. Hope you like it, and if you have any products to add, please let me know!

Seasonal Recipes - Orange Cake

I tempted you with a cake recipe a few weeks back, and I still haven't delivered. Sorry about that. After a week like the one just past, I think we could all do with some cake. As the chocolate beetroot cake is still a work in progress, I thought I'd share another special cake with you instead.

Navel Oranges are in season from June to October, and are more commonly grown in WA than Valencia Oranges (November to February), so the farmers markets have been flooded with beautiful juicy oranges for a few weeks now. There is a woman at my local farmers market who only sells citrus - oranges, lemons, mandarins & grapefruit - all from her orchard, and straight from the tree. While they are delicious eaten as is, standing over the sink to catch stray juice, they're also perfect for baking, as they haven't been through a processing facility, and are unwaxed (unlike supermarket produce). Most supermarket citrus has been lightly sprayed with wax to keep the skin bright & shiny, and provide a bit of protection during transport. However, if you are using the peel in a cake, the wax will come off as you zest the fruit. While the wax is not harmful, I'd rather just have the wonderfully fragrant zest, and no wax in my cake, thank you! (If you can't find unwaxed produce, a good scrub in hot water should get most of the wax off, then dry, and use as normal).

For the last three years I have entered into the cooking competition in the Perth Royal Show. And every year, I enter the Orange Cake category. The first two years I entered an orange cake that both The Husband and I felt was one of the best orange cakes we've ever had, to no success. After the second failure, I sidelined a 'cookery steward' and harassed them about the category. It turns out my trouble was what I had loved about that cake - it used the whole orange, peel, pith and all - was not what the judges wanted to see in an orange cake, as it made it 'too dense' (their assessment, not mine). So after a bit of experimenting, I ended up with this recipe for an Orange Butter Cake, and last year, I managed a Highly Commended for my efforts!


Piper's Show Orange Cake

  • 150g butter, at room temperature
  • 175g caster sugar
  • zest of 3 oranges (unwaxed, if possible)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups self raising flour, sifted

  • ¼ cup orange juice

  • ¼ cup milk

Preheat oven to 180°C and grease and line a 9 x 20cm loaf tin.

Cream butter, sugar and orange rind in a stand mixer until light & fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.

Fold through the sifted flour, and when mixed, stir in orange juice and milk.

Spoon mixture into the greased & lined tin, and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

To ice, mix 1 cup of pure icing sugar, with 1-2 tbs of orange juice, for just enough nice thick icing for the loaf.

I don't usually ice mine, as the Show rules prohibit icing in this category, and I usually want to eat it as the judges will. So I'll say it's perfectly fine without icing, but a good citrus icing is always welcome!

Yoghurt Culture

I bang on a lot about buying Australian made/grown/owned, and preferably in-state made/grown/owned. But what do you do if you can't reconcile your taste preferences with your ethical preferences? Then you have what I call The Yoghurt Dilemma.

I am a massive yoghurt fan. Eaten at least once, sometimes twice a day, I go through a lot of the stuff. Mostly of the plain, unsweetened, low fat variety. But a little full fat and flavoured stuff never goes astray either. However, I am pretty fussy about it, and that's how I ended up with a dilemma.

There is no shortage of WA made yoghurts, in fact there are three separate brands available in most supermarkets, plus a handful of smaller operators at farmers markets and the like. But I just  don't really love any of these options. There's nothing wrong with them, they just don't quite make me want to jump out of bed in the morning excited about my yoghurt brekky!


My favourite, everyday kind of yoghurt is plain Chobani. Made in Victoria, by an American owned company. And I guess I shouldn't be suprised that my favourite 'treat' style yoghurt is Gippsland Dairy, as it's owned by the same company. I have been struggling to reconcile this for a while, but I have recently reached some kind of peace. I've decided that, in general, I am a lot more vigilant about my choices than most, so even if this one's not the best, it'll be ok. And even if it's not the best choice, it's still better than buying the 'best choice' but not eating it because I don't like it and having to throw it out - nothing makes me crankier than throwing out food!

Is there anything you love that you just can't give up, even though it really doesn't 'mesh' with the rest of your choices? I'd love to hear about it, and how you handle it.