Sharing love of food and art

Sophie Hansen and her mother Annie Herron. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
Sophie Hansen and her mother Annie Herron. PHOTOS: SUPPLIED
For anyone with plans to get away for Easter or even just go on an adventure for a day, these recipes by Sophie Hansen are a great option to keep everyone fed and happy.

In her latest book, Australian food writer Hansen has joined with her artist mother Annie Herron to provide inspiration not just in the kitchen but throughout the house and garden.

The autumn garden.
The autumn garden.
Divided into chapters based on seasons and events, the book has plenty of inspiration for an autumnal long weekend — the pie and cake featured here are perfect for a day’s outing and if you put on the beans before you go, dinner will be ready when you return.

Hansen describes Around the Kitchen Table as a "celebration of doing things" combining her skills in the kitchen and on the farm with her mother’s ability to teach art and crafts. She often caters for her mother’s art weekends.

"We think food and art are powerful ways to communicate what we love, need and feel to the people around us. And creating something, a cake, a drawing or a garden, is the very best form of self-care."

Alongside the recipes are short art lessons.
Alongside the recipes are short art lessons.
Aware most people just need to get food on the table most days, Hansen says finding an occasional day, often a Sunday, to take time to slow down and "mist up the windows in our own kitchen" with good smells, tasty things to eat, music and solace is something people should do more often.

One of her key tips is that people’s hands are the best tool they can have.

"Replace the electric with your very own hands to chop, feel, knead and coax your ingredients into their new life together."

The pair invite readers to pause, to cook, to make, do and create something good every day.

So alongside the recipes are short art lessons aimed at encouraging people to capture their lives in an achievable way along with activities such as drying herbs and flowers, making a fence, collage and even making a Christmas wreath.

Herron says everyone is on their own creative journey, but they should slow down, and give themselves time to explore some new ideas and have fun.

"You might find a new creative direction."

THE BOOK

Images and text from Around the Kitchen Table, by Sophie Hansen and Annie Herron, photography by Sophie Hansen. Murdoch Books RRP $45.

 

Snacking cake

I love the idea of a snacking cake - a lovely slab that sits in the cake tin for a few days, just waiting to be cut and eaten with a cup of tea.

It’s not fussy, just plain yet delicious, and a good vehicle for any kind of fruit, preserved or fresh.

If that sounds good to you, then this is your cake! The quantities I’ve given do make quite a large cake, so if you think your household might snack less than mine, please go ahead and halve them.

Prep time 20 min

Cook time 45 minServes 8-10

320g unsalted butter, softened

2⅔ cups (420g) plain (all-purpose) flour

200g caster (superfine) sugar

2 tsp baking powder

A good pinch of salt

½ cup (130g) Greek-style yoghurt

4 eggs

½ cup (50g) flaked natural almonds

¼ cup (45g) brown sugar

Filling

4-5 apples, pears or a similar quantity of preserved fruit, halved and sliced

2 Tbsp white (granulated) sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

Method

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Grease and line a 30 x 20 cm cake tin with baking paper.

Combine the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low until the mixture just comes together. Add the yoghurt and eggs and beat on low speed for 10 seconds or until the mixture just comes together, then increase the speed and beat for a few minutes until the batter is light and fluffy.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Place the sliced apples or pears in a bowl with the sugar. Squeeze in the lemon juice, then toss to combine.

Spread about half of the batter in the cake tin in a smooth layer, top with the fruit and then add the remaining batter. Smooth the top and sprinkle it with the flaked almonds and brown sugar. Pop the cake into the oven for about 45 minutes or until the centre is springy to the touch. Leave in the tin to cool for 5 minutes, then gently turn it out on to a wire rack to cool completely. If the cake is quite fruit-heavy, you could cool and store the cake in the tin, as the fruit makes it more fragile and likely to break up as you turn it out.

Note: You can swap the apples with mulberries, or any other fresh or preserved fruit. If you're using preserved fruit, there’s no need to toss it with the sugar and lemon juice, simply spread it over the batter.

 

Potato, chard and cheese pie

This is a cross between a galette and a potato bake, with some greens thrown in for good measure. If you’re in a hurry, use two sheets of store-bought shortcrust or puff pastry.

Prep time 25 mins + 30 mins chilling

Cook time 1 hourServes 4-6

500 g waxy potatoes, peeled

1 large bunch rainbow chard or silverbeet (Swiss chard)

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 brown onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 Tbsp thyme leaves

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp smoked paprika

200 g creme fraiche

2 Tbsp dijon mustard

3 eggs

1 cup (100 g) grated gruyere or other mild, nutty cheese

½ cup (50 g) finely grated parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

2 Tbsp nigella seeds (optional)

Tomato chutney, to serve

Sour cream pastry

160 g sour cream

300 g plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

250 g chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes

½ tsp sea salt

Method

For the pastry, blitz the sour cream, flour, butter and salt in a food processor for a few seconds or until just combined. Turn the pastry out on to a work surface and gently bring it together into a disc. Wrap the pastry and pop it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes to a saucepan of water, bring to the boil and cook until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and set aside to cool.

Pull the chard leaves away from the stalks Tear the leaves into smallish pieces.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 10 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, thyme, cumin and paprika and cook for a few minutes. Add the chard leaves and toss everything around for a few minutes so the chard cooks down and softens. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

Combine the creme fraiche, mustard and two of the eggs in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add the cheeses and whisk to combine. Stir in the chard mixture.

Cut the pastry disc in half. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one half into a flat round about 5mm thick. Repeat with the second piece of pastry. Place one pastry round on the baking tray. Thinly slice the cooled potatoes and arrange them in a circle on the pastry, leaving a 4cm border. Carefully pour the onion and chard mixture over the potato. Place the second pastry round on top and crimp the edges to seal. Whisk the remaining egg and brush it over the pastry. Sprinkle the sesame and nigella seeds over the top, if using.

Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cut it into wedges and serve with tomato chutney and pickle.

 

Slow-cooked beans with ham hock

I try to regularly make a batch of these through winter so that there’s always something healthy and hearty in the fridge ready to reheat.

We all love this on toast and it’s a great filling meal to start the day, especially on those long, cold days when we don’t get home until late in the evening. These beans are also good for lunch and dinner, as per my serving suggestions below.

Prep time 20 min, plus overnight soaking

Cook time 6¼ hoursServes 6

2½ cups (500 g) dried white beans, soaked overnight in cold water

1 smoked ham hock

2 brown onions, diced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 cm rounds

2 thyme sprigs

400 g tin cherry tomatoes

2 cups (500 ml) tomato passata

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp dark brown sugar

1 Tbsp dijon mustard

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

Method

Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan of water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the beans are tender and cooked through.

Turn the slow cooker to high. Drain the beans and tip them into the slow cooker.

Put the ham hock in the saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the ham hock and place it on top of the beans in the slow cooker.

Add the onion, carrot, thyme, tomatoes and passata. Pour in 1 cup (250 ml) water, or enough to just cover the beans and ham hock. Gently stir in the vinegar, brown sugar, mustard and pomegranate molasses, if using. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours (or for up to 7 hours if that suits you perhaps add a little more liquid towards the end as those beans can get thirsty!).

Remove the ham hock and shred the meat from the bone, then return the meat to the beans and gently stir.

Notes:

You can use 2 x 400 g tins of white beans instead of dried beans. They won’t need soaking or pre-cooking simply drain and rinse them, then add them to the slow cooker with the ham hock.

Serving suggestions:

• Pile the beans on top of baked jacket potatoes and finish with a little plain yoghurt and chopped parsley.

• Divide the beans among small ovenproof plates, make a dent in each, crack in an egg, dot with feta and parmesan cheese and parsley, then cook in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes or until the eggs are just cooked through.

• Thin out the beans with stock and serve them as a stew or soup.

• Use the beans as a jaffle or toasted sandwich filling.

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