Blood Orange and Buttermilk Ciambella

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I have never kept my dislike for winter a secret. I don’t do well in the colder months. It appears that my birthday, at the height of Italian summer (July 23! Yes, LEO!) has really built a need for sunlight and warm weather in the very structure of my DNA. So, in the colder months, well…I tend to keep busy, wallow the lack of sunshine, be a slight pain in the neck for anyone around me as I wait for spring to roll around once more. And now that blood oranges are back in season, I know the much awaited warmer season is nigh. These ruby jewels have a short season and come on the market towards the end of winter, so make the most of it, while you can. Squeeze them, turn them into jam, gobble them up as they are (well, peel them first!!) and, of course, use them as ingredients in all things baking! Try my blood orange and buttermilk ciambella, a soft, moist and sensationally perfumed breakfast cake (you know us Italians!!), perfect with tea or coffee or tarted up and served with chocolate sauce and ice-cream as a dessert. xxx

INGREDIENTS, serves 10/12

3 eggs

3/4 cup of brown sugar

zest and juice of 2 blood oranges (zest first, then juice them)

1/2 cup of mild olive oil or grape seed oil

1/2 cup of buttermilk

1-2/3 cup of self raising flour

HOW TO

1. Preheat your oven to 180 C, 350 F. Grease and flour a bundt cake tin

2. Beat the eggs with sugar until pale and fluffy

3. Add orange zest, juice and oil and whisk well

4. Add the flour and mix gently, alternating with the buttermilk to create a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the tin.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and a cooked through. Insert a wooden skewer in the centre of the cake to make sure it’s baked to perfection. If it comes out clean, happy times! Otherwise give it another 2-3 minutes in the oven

6. Cool at room temperature in its tin for at least 1 hour, before turning out onto a platter

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Serve as it is, or drizzle with chocolate sauce and dollop whipped cream or gelato for an indulgent treat!

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A Mighty Good Winter Stew

Although the sun is shining, the southern cold wind keeps picking up. It’s winter here in Sydney and we should stop pretending we don’t really have a cold season. I still stumble upon guys in shorts and flip-flops as I walk down the streets of Avalon bundled up in leather coat, hat, scarf and boots and still feeling my bum will freeze off! I see none but one remedy to fight this weather, whip up a pork stew. One that looks like this

Ingredients for 4 people

6 pork sausages, 6 porks rashers, bones removed

1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, chopped

1 spring of thyme

1 bay leaf

half a bottle of red wine

2 cups of chicken or veal stock

Finely chopped parsley, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, and finely chopped  1/2 garlic clove to scatter on top (gremolata)

Polenta to serve

How to

1. Brown your sausages and rashers in a little olive oil, then set aside.

2. In the same pan, fry off a soffritto (Italian for stir-fry) of the usual suspects: onion, carrot and celery, then add thyme, the browned meat and 1 bay leaf and cook together for a few minutes. Pour over half a bottle of red wine (I used Sangiovese) . Once the alcohol has evaporated, add half a litre of good stock, bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and forget about it for 3 hours. Your stew will look irresistibly indulgent and intense and the meat should be soft and sweet.

3. Sprinkle a gremolata (Italian for finely cut herbs and lemon zest) of finely chopped parsley, half a garlic clove and lemon rind.

You can serve this with mash potato if you wish, but I tend to find it too rich, mainly because it is! I think soft polenta is the perfect match to this stew. And to set the record straight once for all, you needn’t add butter and parmesan to your cooked polenta. Salt will do. Polenta is the vehicle to absorb your stew sauce, if it’s already loaded with extra fat, your meal will turn into a potential heart attack…

No need to dress the plate with lashings of extra-virgin olive oil either, I guarantee there’s enough robust flavours in there. Simply open a nice bottle of red and get stuck in.

I think Richard and I will give up red meat in our next life…

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