Dear readers… remember me? I’m feeling very remiss for the eight weeks of radio silence since my last post (and can hardly believe how many other events, commitments and everyday tasks have been packed into those whirlwind weeks).
The truth is – as much as I love styling and photographing for my blog – the longer one goes without sharing a weekly post, the trickier it sometimes is to get back to the keyboard.
It’s a bit like keeping in touch with friends and family with whom you don’t speak on a regular basis; you really want to get on the phone or write an email but you have the good intentions of giving a robust account of your comings and goings (not just a passing hello) but that takes more time, and the longer you leave it, as the weeks fly by, the more news and comings and goings you have to share, the bigger and bigger that conversation grows, and you keep putting it off because you’re so busy, and then what started as a genuinely positive desire to get in touch starts to feel daunting and a wee bit stressful…
Keeping that in mind, I’ll give you a much summarised version of why I’ve been so busy (more details to follow in subsequent, less haphazard posts).
It might not be eloquent but I hope you’ll bear with me and forgive me as I rip off the proverbial bandaid.
I had a dear friend’s wedding at the end of February and was honoured to be one of the photographers for the occasion (my respect for wedding photographers has distinctly increased as I’ve waded through the sheer volume of shots and the editing process). It’s been a big job but I thoroughly enjoyed capturing the many small elements that made up their special day and playing a part in preserving those memories.
As we (thankfully!) leave the heat of summer behind, I’ve gotten wildly enthusiastic about the possibilities of gardening and have taken things to the next level (by which I mean planting in the actual ground rather than my ever growing collection of pots).
I tackled the monstrous aloe vera jungle in the 1m x 3m patch of earth next to our front door, pruned it right back and then got to work on clearing the soil of its sprawling roots, stones, brick and years of neglect. After digging in mounds of lovely organic matter and soil improver, it was finally ready to be a garden bed! So exciting!!!
So far I’ve planted out fennel and kale seedlings (which have already doubled in growth) and I’ve also gone nuts with sowing seeds in little pots on our balcony – beetroot, dwarf green beans, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cress and more tomatoes. All have since sprouted and as they get bigger I’ll transfer them to the garden bed below. I’m seriously looking forward to spring and my first big harvest (fingers crossed, touch wood, etc.).
Another big project I’ve been working on with my friend Deneil is something we’ve coined the Secret Suppers Society, for Perth diners interested in something a bit different… I won’t go in to detail now but suffice to say it’s involved a lot of time in the kitchen playing around with ingredients, techniques, testing and tasting. If you’ve been following my Instagram feed, you’ll have seen some of our successful creations but stay tuned for the next post, as we hold our inaugural event tomorrow night!
These are just a few of the big projects that have been keeping me occupied while I’ve been nursing some writer’s block and creative frustration. Sometimes it pays to take a complete break and work on other artistic ventures for a while, to renew that passion for what you love.
Today I’m sharing with you a fig and goat’s cheese tart recipe that was made with a few crops of figs I’ve picked from the tree over the road at our local park. Free and foraged figs!
Although they’re ridiculously expensive in the shops, there are so many houses with giant fig trees hanging over the fence in our area and so much fruit going to waste. Do yourselves a favour and go do some foraging in your own neighbourhoods – I’m sure you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find and what you can score for free.
If you’re like me and your stomach doesn’t play well with gluten, I’ve developed a reduced gluten shortcrust pastry that is tried and tested.
I should emphasize that it is not completely gluten-free and therefore unsuitable for coeliacs, but I find I do better with this combination of spelt flour and gluten-free flour than with regular plain flour.
The technical bonus is that this shortcrust pastry holds its form much better than a pastry made entirely from gluten-free flour (I’m thinking of my Christmas mince pie mishap where I couldn’t even get the damn things out of the tin because they were so crumbly) as the spelt and arrowroot help stabilise the pastry. However, if you don’t have any problem with gluten you can certainly use regular plain flour instead of the combination below.
Look forward to getting in touch with you all soon and sharing more foodie adventures. x
fig & goat’s cheese tart
5 figs, sliced
150g washed, thinly sliced leeks (white part only)
150g goat’s cheese
½ cup pouring cream
handful of thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 tbsp butter
¾ cup spelt flour
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 tbsp arrowroot (tapioca flour)
1 tsp fine sea salt
190g unsalted butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
To make the pastry, sieve the flours and salt together, discarding any spelt fibers that remain in the sieve.
Blend the flours with the chopped butter in a food processor at low speed for 10 seconds until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Lightly beat the egg and yolk together, add to the crumbs and blend again for a few seconds until the dough comes together. If the dough is still a little dry, you can add a small amount of cold water – one teaspoon at a time – and process again in short pulses until the dough comes together.
Alternatively, you can mix the dough by hand by working the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the lightly beaten egg and yolk, working in well until the dough is an even consistency and comes together (you may need to add a little cold water, see above).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a ball without kneading. Shape the dough into a slightly flattened disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to a day).
While the dough is chilling, you can prepare the leeks for the filling.
Place a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the butter. As the butter starts to sizzle, add the leeks and thyme leaves. Cook for several minutes, stirring often, until the leeks starts to soften (but not colour). Season with salt and pepper.
Turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring regularly, until the leeks are completely soft and there is no residual liquid in the pan. Turn out onto a plate and leave to cool completely.
Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and lightly grease a rectangular tart pan (mine was 35 x 13 centimetres, or 13 x 5 inches).
Let the dough stand at room temperature before use, just long enough so it can be rolled without cracking – about 10 minutes or so.
Lightly flour a clean, dry surface and rolling pin before rolling the dough out to half a centimetre (0.2 inches) in thickness. Continue to sprinkle your work surface and rolling pin with flour when the dough starts to stick to either of them.
Line the tart pan with the dough, place a sheet of baking paper on top and fill with pastry weights to blind-bake. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, then remove the weights and baking paper, and bake for a further 7 minutes until lightly golden.
Tip the cooked leeks into the pastry shell and spread evenly around the base. Crumble half the goat’s cheese over the leeks, then top with as many slices of fig you can manage without them overlapping. Crumble over the remaining goat’s cheese. Whisk together the eggs, cream and a pinch of sea salt. Pour slowly over the top of the fig slices, letting the custard settle into the spaces, until it fills to just under the lip of the pastry.
Turn the oven down to 170°C (340°F) and bake the tart until golden and just set.
Serve warm or cold, topped with more thyme sprigs if desired.