Hutchy Kitchen: Granny’s Orange Cake

My grandparents’ home is one of my favourite places in the world. They have lived in that house all my life; it’s become the most familiar place I know. The kitchen, in particular, is special. It’s where people gravitate. It’s where we kiss ‘hello’, catch up, collaborate on the daily crossword, serve up the best home-cooked dinners, hover for warmth in front of the wood-fire oven, talk and laugh and talk some more. It’s the heart of a greater family home.

This kitchen is where my cousins and I  – and surely, our parents before us – were inducted as lifelong tea-drinkers. Tea is pretty much the lifeblood of our family. As youngsters we would drink weak, milky tea from Grandma’s set of miniature porcelain tea-cups, delighting in the simple act of being invited into the oh-so-adult ritual of the cuppa. And what a precious little ritual it is. The rumble of the kettle on the wood-fire stovetop, the swirl of steeping leaves in Granny’s Bodum tea press (though she’s recently upgraded to a pot with infusion filter, ooh la la!), and the scrape of an unabashedly large souvenir teaspoon against the inside of the sugar bowl. From serious conversations to the side-splitting silly ones – they’re done best over a cup of tea in my grandparents’ kitchen.

… With a little something sweet to nibble on, of course.

Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 1

Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 4

My grandma is a total pro at preparing for the Hutchy horde. Come a family weekend, containers are piled high with biscuits and slices, and the freezer is stocked with even more goodies. One of my favourite things to find stashed away in that freezer is Granny’s orange cake. Admittedly, my aunty Ros has usually found it long before anyone else. Even then we must endure a torturous wait for that golden loaf of deliciousness to defrost, before snatching up a slice in a high-stakes challenge of first in, best dressed. It’s a really, really good cake.

This recipe is an original creation of Granny’s. She told me that she experimented extensively to try and get a cake that had the perfect texture, and one that wouldn’t become dry. Granny finally settled on a simple, one-bowl recipe (“no fussy creaming of the butter and sugar!”) that she uses as a base for many cakes – but this one is my favourite. The icing, especially, is divine. You’ll have a lot of fun licking the bowl on this one.

Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 3

Granny's Orange Cake
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
INGREDIENTS
Cake
  1. 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
  2. 1 cup white sugar
  3. 125g butter, melted
  4. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 2 eggs, room temperature
  6. 150ml milk (approx. - depends on amount of juice from orange)
  7. 1 orange
Icing
  1. 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  2. 1 tbsp / 14g butter, melted
  3. 1 orange
DIRECTIONS
Cake
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a standard loaf pan.
  2. 2. Grate off the rind (be careful to avoid grating any of the white, pithy layer - this has a bitter taste), and squeeze juice from the orange.
  3. 3. You will only need 1 combined cup (250ml) of milk and orange juice. Adjust your milk quantity to make up 1 cup according to the amount of juice squeezed from your orange.
  4. 4. Combine all ingredients in one bowl. Beat with electric mixer for about 3 minutes.
  5. 5. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Test by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake; if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
  6. 6. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Do NOT begin to ice the cake until the cake is completely cooled! I learnt that one the hard way...
Icing
  1. 1. Grate the rind off half the orange.
  2. 2. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Add a DASH of boiling water and mix. Keep mixing in small dashes of boiling water. Do not be tempted to add more than a dash at a time; you don't want this icing to become too runny. Again, I learnt that one the hard way. If it does become too runny, simply add more icing sugar. You want a consistency that is still pretty thick, but will spread easily over the top of the cake using a butter knife.
  3. 3. Spread over the top of the cake. Allow to set. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. This cake freezes really well - make double and pop one away in the freezer for another day!
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/
Little Wanderings - Grannys Orange Cake 2

Hutchy Kitchen: Macaroni Beef

“There’s an important food culture at home of which I’ve either taken for granted or simply remained totally unaware. My family quite literally revolves around my grandparents’ Laminex-topped kitchen table, and it’s nice to be finally waking up to the craft and history behind that. So long as I care to look for them, there are perhaps as many moments, stories and recipes to be shared from home as there might be from my travels.”

The above comes from a previous post, A Fork in the Road, which I wrote back in May this year. I’ve since done a lot of thinking about my family’s food culture, and how I can begin to explore and express it. We’re a big bunch, you see; my mum is one of seven, which makes for rather sizeable family gatherings (on a monthly basis, no less!) and an even bigger spread to feed us all. There’s little fanfare – everyone simply brings a dish. It’s a potluck affair where plates are piled high, often balanced precariously upon knees (rarely is there enough table space for all!), and polished off quickly in time for seconds. And dessert. And countless cups of tea.

Now that I think about it – there’s really something quite special about standing in that dinner line. There’s a powerful sense of ritual there. I can’t help but feel a giddy sense of childhood as we quite literally line up in single file, empty plates in hand, poised to scoop up those familiars and favourites on which we grew up. I don’t even think any of the grandchildren, as grown up we are now, dare begin serving until one of the ‘adults’ has given the go-ahead. 

The food at a Hutchy gathering won’t win any awards for refinery or sophisication, sure. Rather, this food is comfort food. This food is the stuff that feeds many. These meals together have become one of our longest and most loved traditions, so really, this food is perhaps just one thing: family. And through a series of blog posts, I am going to share my family with you.

It’s as much a personal exercise than anything: I suddenly feel like it’s very important to learn and record this part of my family’s culture. And I’m beginning with a dish that stands out to me as one of the oldest, most prolific Hutchy recipes: Macaroni Beef.

Little Wanderings - Macaroni Beef 2

I like to think that my Grandma magically whipped up Macaroni Beef of her own creation; alas, when I asked her about this recently she told me she’d found the recipe somewhere or other many years ago. In any case, I think we ultimately consider it as hers. It’s simple, hearty and tasty. It is the definition of comfort food for me. I remember making it for Mat for the first time, and being quite stricken when he didn’t immediately love it. He later admitted I’d just gotten incredibly zealous with the mixed herbs – a bit of tweaking, and it quickly became a regular on our menu. I won’t lie – the passionate reaction he now has to a simple, simmering frypan of Macaroni Beef makes me a very happy Hutchy indeed!

I’ve been making my own Macaroni Beef for several years now, and I’m not sure at which point it happened – but it definitely started to taste ever-so-slightly different to Grandma’s. I think I just became more and more particular about the exact way I like it, right down to brand names and pasta shape. This is the version I’ve decided to share – not just because it’s easier to get blood from a stone than to get a precise recipe from my grandma, but because I like the way that for us, Macaroni Beef is kind of that great family dish that everyone can make their own.

And so, without further ado. The first instalment from the Hutchy Kitchen: Macaroni Beef.

Macaroni Beef
Serves 4
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 brown onions
  2. 4 rashers middle bacon
  3. 500g beef mince
  4. 1 tin / 420mL condensed tomato soup (I use Heinz Big Red)
  5. 2 cups / 500mL beef stock (I use Campbell's Real Stock - Beef)
  6. 300g pasta (I use Large Spirals pasta by San Remo)
  7. 1 Tbsp (approx.) mixed herbs (I use MasterFoods, and have painfully regretted ever using anything else)
Instructions
  1. 1. Dice onions and bacon (remove rind from bacon, but make sure to dice and include the streaky, fatty section alongside).
  2. 2. Using a large frypan, brown onions and bacon over medium-high heat with a little oil. Add half of mixed herbs about a minute into browning process.
  3. 3. Add beef mince. Break up mince with a wooden spoon and push through onion and bacon mix. Keep turning until mince is browned.
  4. 4. Add tomato soup and beef stock, and stir to combine. At this stage the contents of the frypan will look like a rather unappetising, brown meat soup. Hang tight.
  5. 5. Add remainder of mixed herbs, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for approximately 40 minutes. After this time the beef mix will have reduced to a wonderfully red, sauce-like consistency. Remove from heat.
  6. 6. Time the cook of your pasta (as per packet instructions) so that it is ready to add once beef mix has reduced.
  7. 7. Combine pasta and beef mix in frypan. Enjoy!
Little Wanderings http://littlewanderings.com/

Fodder for Failure

A couple of weeks ago I came upon the most gorgeous-looking recipe for Oven-Poached Quince from an equally gorgeous Melbourne-based food blog. I was mesmerised. The blogger sang of the riches of seasonal Autumn produce, the heady aroma of simmering spices and the generous ruby-red reward after hours of slow cooking. I was thrilled to try it. I’d not eaten poached quince before, but as a raving fan of quince paste, jam and jelly – I was delighted by the wonderfully arcadian idea of popping a few oven-poached quince wedges into my porridge each morning. I tracked down fresh quinces at my local organic grocer, almost sliced a(nother) finger off cutting them up, and piled my spices and water and sugar into a cast-iron dish. As the apartment filled with the tantalising scent of anise and cardamom, I started to feel mighty proud of myself.

Six hours later, however, when I lifted the dish from the oven and cracked the lid – my stomach fell with that dreaded ‘this definitely does not look like the picture’ feeling. Instead of plump, ruby-red pieces in a vibrant, juicy syrup – I had a thick, sticky mess highly reminiscent of True Blood -esque vampire remains.

My quince caper was a total failure.

Little Wanderings - April Baking 1

I’ll admit, the whole thing left me feeling very disheartened. For some reason, this didn’t just feel like a stuff-up. It was a failure. There would be no wedges of oven-poached quince in my porridge, and the tentative blog post I was excitedly dreaming up on seasonal foodie adventures was now kaput. I’d spent precious money on fresh fruit and spices, all for nothing. The fact that I’d initially been so thrilled and optimistic now made me feel naive and impostor-like. 

The very next day, I put my apron back on (but very nearly, almost didn’t) to tackle Cupcake Central’s Salted Caramel Cupcakes for the first time as a pre-Easter treat for the Ruby Slipper office. And as I took those cupcakes out of the oven, I felt a little flicker of hope. They looked kinda perfect. I  even took out my camera. Perhaps I’d not lost a blog post after all.

Little Wanderings - April Baking 2

After making up some salted caramel, my spirits were seriously lifting. I love making caramel – oh, that magical moment when the syrup turns amber, that great puff as you pour in the cream! And what fun it was to cut little cores in the cakes to spoon in hidden caramel pockets, before popping the tops back on. These cupcakes would be my saving grace, I thought.

Moments later, I realised my buttercream frosting had split.

I had no time or ingredients to start again. The frosting was useable – but I couldn’t un-see that ever-so-slight separation of the mixture. And so here it was. Another failure. I did the messiest, most frustrated frosting job I’ve ever done, and poured on some extra salted caramel. As I left home that night for dinner with friends, I messaged Mat – “The cupcakes I made look like absolute arse, I was too frustrated to try one properly before I left so you are welcome to try but the icing is just a giant fail. Not winning in the kitchen lately! :(“

A couple of hours later I received his reply.

“What. Are. You. Smoking. That was delicious. So yum. Yum. Yum. Yum.”

The ladies of Ruby Slipper and friends had rather similar thoughts. Despite my continual apologies for the ugly icing, no-one seemed to care – and in fact insisted I was bordering on delusional. It seemed that while I was determined to sell the cupcakes as a total failure, they were actually a hit. To realise as such was an interesting and perhaps even humbling moment.

Baking blunders certainly aren’t the end of the world. I started this blog as a place to share my explorations and wanderings – but to also share the journey of learning and discovery. Labelling something solely as a failure neglects the importance of the learning experience, and tends to rule out the possibility that something good may indeed still come of it. It’s also an awfully serious way of looking at the world, and I know that’s just not my style. In a world of beautiful blogs and carefully constructed Instagram uploads, it’s easy to imagine that botched quince and split buttercream simply don’t exist. Well, turns out they do. And I’m going to stop beating myself up about it.

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