There’s nothing like a cozy winter dinner party with your closest friends. If you’re looking to step up your culinary offerings but still want simple, easy recipes to follow, Julie and Ilaria Biuso’s gorgeous collection, Shared Kitchen: Real Food from Scratch has you covered – here’s three extracts from their book that are guaranteed to knock your guests’ socks off!
Rhubarb Cinnamon Cake
Rhubarb is flourishing at the moment, and adds a zingy note and streak of pink to this easily made cake. If you don’t have a food processor, use a hand-held electric beater (or elbow grease) to whip everything together, but be sure to start with ingredients at room temperature so they will easily mix together.
600 g (about 1 lb, 3 oz) rhubarb, trimmed and cut into short lengths
50 g (1¾ oz) caster (superfine granulated) sugar
70 g (2½ oz) butter, softened
300 g (1 cup) sour cream
275 g (about 9 oz) brown sugar
2 large (size 7) free-range eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
275 g (about 9 oz) standard flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g (1¾ oz) brown sugar
Plain yoghurt or runny cream for serving
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Put rhubarb in a shallow ovenproof dish and sprinkle with caster sugar. Cover dish tightly with tin foil, then cook for 15–20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the rhubarb, or until rhubarb just starts to soften. Remove from oven, cool, then strain (the juices are delicious over porridge).
Line a 22 cm (8–9 in) loose-bottomed cake tin on the bottom and sides with baking (parchment) paper. Lower oven temperature to 180°C (350°F).
Put butter and sour cream in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a whipping blade (failing a whipping blade, use the chopping blade). Process for 30 seconds. Stop machine and add brown sugar and process for 1 minute. Break eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork to break them up, then add to sour cream mixture with vanilla extract and lemon zest. Process for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a bowl.
Stir flour, baking soda, salt and half the cinnamon together, then sift over the top of the bowl of whipped sour cream and egg and fold in using a large spoon.
Tip three-quarters of the cake batter into the tin, spread it out as best you can with a flat-bladed knife, then put in the drained rhubarb. Put the rest of the cake mixture on top in spoonfuls and gently spread it over the top of the rhubarb. Sprinkle with brown sugar and remaining cinnamon.
Bake for about 50–60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove cake from oven and cool in the tin for 45 minutes. Carefully remove sides of cake tin and leave cake to cool completely. Lay a second cake rack on top of cake, invert, remove cake tin base and paper and invert cake on to a serving plate. Serve with a bowl of plain yoghurt or runny cream.
Note: Rhubarb and cinnamon give this cake its tangy spicy flavour, and sour cream a lightness to the texture. For a variation, substitute apple for rhubarb. Choose a tangy type of apple like Granny Smith, peeled and thinly sliced, or a mix of both apple and rhubarb.
Winter Salad with Walnuts & Persimmons
Persimmons in a salad are sensational – sweet, juicy and crunchy – and contrast well with peppery and bitter-tasting greens like radicchio, rocket, watercress and baby beetroot leaves. Add a handful of fresh herbs along with walnuts and persimmons to the leaves and herbs and bring it all together with a honey and shallot dressing. It’s a healthy salad bowl that’s delicious enough to chow down on without any accompaniments.
A fresh, herbaceous bowl of salady goodness doesn’t need to be reserved only for summertime. Persimmons add a juicy sweetness to this dish, which balances the bitterness of walnuts, herbs and greens. Try serving alongside roast chicken or pork.
8–10 cups salad leaves and herbs (see Recipe Notes)
1–2 persimmons, peeled and cut into slim wedges
¼ cup fresh walnuts (if cracking your own nuts, start with about 8)
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped shallot
1 Tbsp white or red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp honey (soften it in a ramekin set in a bowl of hot water)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Finely grated lemon zest
Pick over the salad greens and herbs, wash and spin dry. Put salad greens in a large bowl (chilling the bowl first will help keep everything perky).
Add persimmons and walnuts. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour dressing over salad greens and toss gently but thoroughly. Serve immediately.
Notes: Choose a selection of fresh herbs and salad leaves using regular salad leaves for the base. Add interest with tangier and more bitter-tasting greens. Choose from buttercrunch, cos (romaine) or red and green oak lettuce, iceberg, radicchio, witlof (UK chicory / US endive), baby spinach, rocket (arugula), sorrel and small beetroot (beet) leaves. Add plenty of fresh herbs, such as: coriander (cilantro), parsley sprigs, fennel fronds, mint leaves, snipped chives, a smattering of thyme or marjoram leaves.
If you are preparing the greens ahead, transfer to plastic bags lined with paper towels, but don’t seal the bags, and position the bags in the fridge with the paper towels underneath the greens to capture moisture.
Persimmons are ripe when the skin changes from coral to deep orange. They will keep for several days at room temperature, or for a few days refrigerated once they have turned orange.
Non-astringent persimmons (astringent persimmons are the old-fashioned variety that tasted terrible until they softened into a gorgeous apricot-coloured jelly inside) are ripe when the skin changes from coral to deep orange. Persimmons will keep for several days at room temperature, but store refrigerated once they turn orange.
Oven-baked Potatoes with Garam Masala & Lime Zest
I just love the waft of lime zest and spices that fills the air when you sprinkle these ingredients over potatoes at the end of cooking. They are irresistible and Ilaria and I always scoff a few before we take them to the table. They’re good with anything – roast chicken or pan-fried fish, or a collection of vegetable dishes – just get making them!
Serves 6 or more
Raise the bar — finish a tray of baked potatoes with lime zest and a sprinkle of garam masala. Utterly moreish! Especially good with burgers. If you are feeding a crowd, throw in a few more potatoes — there’ll be none left for sure.
1.2 kg (2½ lb) floury potatoes (choose long oval potatoes)
Flaky sea salt
¼ tsp chilli flakes, or to taste
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest of 2 limes
1 tsp garam masala
Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Peel potatoes and cut into fat fingers. Soak potatoes in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes, drain and roll up in a clean tea towel to dry.
Put potatoes in a shallow ovenproof dish lined with baking (parchment) paper. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste, and chilli flakes. Drizzle with oil. Lift the paper to gently toss potatoes in seasonings and oil until evenly coated.
Bake potatoes for about 1 hour, turning once or twice during cooking. Stir through lime zest and sprinkle with a little more salt, then garam masala. Toss gently and serve.
Shared Kitchen: Real food from scratch by Julie and Ilaria Biuso, photography by Manja Wachsmuth, published by Bateman Books, RRP $39.99, Available now