Australia has a new Prime Minister-elect. Before the election, some people planned to move overseas (unil the next election) if one political party won; and some others planned to leave the country if either of the main political parties won – guess they must be somewhere far away by now.
Political ‘stuff’ aside, if I was choosing a place to live for the next three years, where would I go? Would I be able to find goats cheese, fresh mozzarella, figs and quince in season? How far is a good vendor of xiao long bao, or pho, or green papaya salad or hor mok? What about crusty sourdoughs? And would I miss Clive Palmer’s Titanic II?
I probably would take an extravagant round-the-world trip instead.
The first stop? France. All that cheese, wine, and women who don’t get fat (what about the men?), and all that kuign amann.
After France, the possibilities are (almost) endless – Bolivia, Guatemala, Cuba, Argentina, India, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Spain, Portugal, Russia (with a ride on the Trans-Siberian railway), Iceland, some corner of the Middle East (Syria, I wonder if I could go back to Syria), Japan, and let’s not forget that blogger feast in a Medieval feasting tent I’ve been planning with Laura.
In the meantime, I’ll bask in the sunlight, clear sky, reading at the beach and riot-of-colours flowers that come with a Sydney spring. And bake things with a French accent. Such as this savoury goat cheese loaf (still working on that kuign amman…).
Reading the recipe for this loaf, my mind couldn’t imagine what it would taste like. Is it sweet, with prunes (or dates or figs)? Is it savoury, with goat cheese and olives? Is it healthy, with olive oil and pistachios? Do I serve it pre-dinner or post-brunch? And baking goat cheese into a loaf? What if I didn’t like the loaf, and – quel horreur – there goes good goat cheese!
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. And what a pudding (or loaf)! It was predominantly savoury, but with bites of sweetness from the dried fruit. The goat cheese was creamy, pistachios slightly crunchy, and the loaf overall smelled like a Mediterranean picnic rolled into a handy snack. The loaf is made with olive oil and yoghurt, giving it a clean, fresh flavour and a crusty exterior that reminded me of the fougasse. I added a few sprigs of thyme to the batter and on top of the loaf, which complemented the fruity olive oil.
The loaf reminds me of those people who manage to look casually sophisticated, and you find out really, they had five minutes to get ready, their hair just fell into place like that, and they just happened to wear the right thing for that last minute lazy lunch or casual cocktail.
We had friends drop by on Sunday, and it was an afternoon where we talked about everything except politics. We nibbled on the loaf with glasses of crisp white wine, and then sat in the park and watched dogs and children frolic / collide / fall over.
Next stop, blogger feast in Medieval feasting tent. Who wants to come?
Rachel Khoo’s cheese, pistachio and prune cake / loaf
(available at BBC Good Food)
250g or 9oz plain flour
15g or 1/2 oz baking powder
150g or 5 1/2 oz soft goat cheese, cut into small pieces
80g or 2 3/4 oz pistachios, roughly chopped
100g or 3 1/2 oz prunes, roughly chopped (I subbed dates and some olives)
4 free range eggs
150ml or 5 fl oz olive oil
100ml or 3 1/2 fl oz milk
50g or 1 3/4 oz plain yoghurt
1 tsp salt
pinch freshly-ground black pepper
(I also used 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line a medium 500g/1lb 2oz loaf tin with baking paper (note my loaf pan was larger, so I ended up with a flatter loaf, but it didn’t seem to affect the taste).
2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, goat cheese, pistachios and prunes (or dates/olives). At this stage, I added the leaves from a couple of thyme sprigs.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until fluffy and pale in colour. Then gradually whisk in the oil, milk and yoghurt. Season with the salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
4. Fold the flour mixture into egg mixture until the batter is just smooth and there are no flour lumps. Try not to over-mix as this will make a tough loaf. Pour the batter into the loaf tin. Here, I also sprinkled bits of thyme on top of the batter.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a metal skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin until warm to the touch, eat.