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“These are brilliant! Why hasn’t anyone thought of square cookies before?”

Our old friend Dayalan was impressed. So was Pete – but less by the cookie and more by the application of the engineering directive that if something is tricky and time consuming, find a shortcut.

I’ve baked cookies in slab form before, but they’ve always come out a little gooey and brownie-esque. These ones are proper cookies – they keep well in an airtight container for ages and freeze brilliantly too. I used my half sheet pan from Costco and my tried and trusted chocolate chip cookie dough formula.

The original recipe is quite fiddly to make – the high chocolate to flour ratio (3:2) makes the cookies notoriously prone to spreading, so the dough usually needs a rest in the fridge overnight before shaping. By using a sheet pan, I was able to bake the cookies as soon as the dough was mixed!

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Here are the quantities I used – please scale accordingly to suit the size of your baking tray…

  • 330g plain flour
  • 70g bread or bakers flour
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 240g white sugar
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
  • 2 large (59g) eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (I used homemade)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), sifted
  • 300g semisweet chocolate callets (Callebaut 811, 54% cocoa)
  • 100g bittersweet chocolate callets (Callebaut 70% cocoa Sao Thome Origin)
  • 200g bake stable dark choc chips (Callebaut 44% cocoa baking sticks, broken into small pieces)

Note : Yes, you did read correctly, there is indeed 600g of chocolate in this recipe. I use all dark in my cookies, but please use any combination you prefer. Try to use the best chocolate you can get your hands on!

1. Preheat oven to 150C (with fan). Line a half sheet pan (18 by 13in or 46 by 33cm) with a large sheet of parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cold butter and sugars together, until they form a grainy paste.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until just combined. Do not overmix.

3. In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sifted bicarbonate of soda (it’s important to sift the bicarb, or you’ll get bitter lumps in the finished cookie). Add the chocolate to the flour and stir to combine. Add the whole lot to the batter and mix until just incorporated.

4. Tip the mixture onto the lined sheet pan and spread it out evenly with clean, wet hands. It will feel like you’re working with playdough – you might need to pull off chunks of dough and use them to fill in any gaps. When it’s reasonably well spread out, use an offset spatula to smooth out the top as much as possible.

5. Bake the tray for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown, rotating once at the halfway point. The shorter baking time will result in a gooey-er cookie. I usually bake them a bit longer as I find they cut and store better that way. The huge amount of chocolate means they still stay pretty tender…

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6. Allow the cookies to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then remove and carefully slice into squares. I like to wrap each cookie separately – they make less mess that way. This is completely optional, of course – I bought bundles of pre-cut greaseproof paper ($2/1000 sheets) from the clearance pallet at Southern Cross Supplies, so I use those…

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I usually end up with 48 cookies per tray – half go into an airtight container for immediate consumption, and the rest are either given away or tucked into the freezer for a cookie emergency (they defrost perfectly).

My three men adore these! And I love that their favourite chocolate chip cookies are now so easy to make!

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We’ve had a busy week!

On Tuesday, Mum and I discovered the Viet Hoa Fish Market in Flemington (now Homebush West). Everything was gloriously fresh – there were live abalone, mud crabs, spanner crabs, lobsters, mussels, pippis, barramundi and trout, as well as a wide selection of bright eyed, clean smelling fish.

I came home with three flatheads (which they kindly filleted for me) and two salmon heads. The salmon went into the freezer and the bones and skin from the flatheads were turned into stock…

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That night, we coated the fillets in sourdough breadcrumbs and deep-fried them. They were served with oven baked potatoes, homemade avocado oil mayo, sourdough bread baked that morning, and a 1997 McGuigan’s Hunter Valley semillon.

Big Boy and Small Man are thoroughly enjoying the old wines from our cellar, and this was one of those perfect moments shared with the people I love most in the world…

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. . . . .

The following day, I stopped by Southern Cross Supplies to pick up some nuts and noticed this damaged bag of bakers flour on the clearance pallet. At $10 for 25kg, it was impossible to pass up the bargain. There was a slight tear on the top, but the flour was fresh (expiry date of 2017) and I was happy to save it from being thrown out…

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The Perfection Bakers Flour is actually Allied Mills’ higher protein blend. It produced a pair of magnificent loaves…

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On Thursday, Pete and I caught the ferry from Drummoyne Wharf to Cockatoo Island to visit the Biennale of Sydney’s Embassy of the Real. If you’re in the Inner West, don’t make the mistake we’ve always made of catching the ferry from Circular Quay to the island. At Drummoyne, there’s lots of free street parking, and the trip takes less than five minutes (thanks for the tip, Diana!)…

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Even when there’s nothing on, Cockatoo Island is always a wonderful place to visit…

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Starting life as a penal colony in the 1800s, the island was home to the longest running Australian shipyard from 1857 to 1991. Remnants of its nautical history are everywhere…

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There are twenty-one Biennale exhibits at Cockatoo Island. Here are three that we loved…

Willing to be Vulnerable (2015 – 2016) by Korean artist Lee Bul is spectacular and glorious and humungous, filling the entire 1640m² industrial space with carnival themed pieces. I’m sure the artist had a deeper message to convey with her work, but I just found the whole installation joyous and immersive. Being able to see this one artwork made the trip to Cockatoo Island worthwhile…

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A photo taken from under the huge mylar blimp. It’s hard to convey the scale of this installation!

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. . . . .

Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 2. (2013) by choreographer William Forsythe is a large room filled with swinging pendulums. The plumb bobs on the end of long wires move to a predetermined pattern that repeats in a forty minute cycle. The spectator is invited to move through the pendulums without touching them – thereby “dancing” to a routine “choreographed” by Forsythe. Here is my Pete as art…

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Six Women (2013 – 2016) by English artist Bharti Kher is a series of life-sized sculptures cast from real women in the artist’s New Delhi studio…

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. . . . .

On the way home from Cockatoo Island, we met up with our friends Juan and Olivia of Time Flies Designs to see their new rings. They’re seriously cool – Juan is 3D printing the bands from mixed materials, combining plastics with metals and cement…

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I felt privileged to be able to sit with the designers in a coffee shop and discuss their art! They had just one ring with a band made from cast raw aluminium. It slipped onto my finger like silk and stayed there. If you’re interested, visit Times Flies Designs at Paddington Markets on Saturdays, and please say hi for me…

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Finally, at 5am on Friday morning, I crawled out of bed early to chat with Nick of Country Meats Direct who was dropping off our latest delivery. We were delighted with the Ajani pasture raised pork we bought from them last month, so we placed another order for May. A full half pig is a lot of meat!

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The Ajani Pork is delicious, and a bit leaner than other pork, which I find oddly comforting. I’d expect an animal who gets to run around outside all day to have less fat. It’s been a dream to cook with – here’s our favourite oven-baked meal of loin chops with potatoes and pears (it’s an old Jamie Oliver recipe)…

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Lovely Nick of Country Meats Direct and I had a great chat about sourdough bread. I gave him some starter and a bit of my bargain bakers flour, and he insisted on giving me an extra bag of sausages! So I passed some of the bangers to our English friend Will, who cooked them up for dinner last night, then complained when he had to share with his kids.

We turned six sausages into dinner, combined with pasta, garlic and broccoli raab from the garden…

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It’s truly been a great week! Wishing you all a happy, fun-filled weekend! ♥

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In 2012, our wonderful friends Roz and John gave us a great gift. They introduced us to the world of contemporary art.

From that first visit to Carriageworks, I was hooked. Now, four years later, Pete and I are members of the MCA and we make a concerted effort to get to as many local exhibitions as we can.

In Sydney, we’re truly blessed to have access to the White Rabbit Gallery, a privately funded space housing the extensive contemporary Chinese art collection of Kerr and Judith Nielson. Entry is free and the entire gallery is re-hung twice a year.

Their current exhibition is titled Heavy Artillery and I personally think it’s the best one I’ve been to so far. I’m a great fan of large works, and White Rabbit have really pulled out the big guns this time. Let me share a few of my favourite pieces with you…

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This enormous creation – European Thousand-Armed Classical Sculpture by Xu Zhen (2013 – 2014) – is a carefully positioned line of classically Western sculptures. When viewed from front on, they cleverly resemble the multi-armed Buddhist deity Guanyin

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The artwork is enormous, filling up the entire lower ground display area. I took this photo from the first floor balcony…

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. . . . .

Chou Chu-Wang has five paintings hanging in the exhibition. This is just a small section of The Hours (2015). When you see the painting initially, it’s hard to believe that it’s a) two dimensional and b) not a photograph. Instead, almost unbelievably, it’s meticulously hand painted.  The artist creates his works with minuscule paint flecks – around 350,000 dots per square metre…

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He Xiangyu’s Tank Project (2011 – 2013) is a recreation of an old T34 tank in Italian leather. Sitting like a giant collapsed handbag on the top floor of the gallery, it invokes memories of Tiananmen Square while making a statement about China’s obsession with expensive designer goods.

One interesting thing to note is how brilliant the curatorial decisions made by the White Rabbit Gallery are in terms of display. Apparently the artist was delighted with how Tank Project was exhibited – on a black vinyl floor (note the amazing reflections) with black rusty painted walls…

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. . . . .

Hsu Yung-Hsu’s 2011-27 (2011) is an interesting and substantial porcelain creation. The entire work was handmade by the artist…

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Shinji Ohmaki is a rare Japanese artist in the White Rabbit collection. His Flotage-Tectonics (2013 – 2015) comprises 283 acrylic cubes, assembled to create a floating wall with meticulously copied map contour lines. The artists reflects on what the earth’s memory might look like. Because of the translucency of the acrylic and the design, the lines and patterns appear to interact with each other as the viewer moves past them – something which is impossible to capture in a still photograph. It’s definitely an artwork to view in person if at all possible…

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Liu Wei’s Density 1-6 (2013) is glorious! He has recreated 3D geometric shapes on a gigantic scale – these appear to be made from concrete or stone but are actually created from compressed paper taken from used textbooks. I found the display very soothing…

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Finally, a very poignant set of  fourteen prints by Jiang Zhi.

Love Letters (2014) is a tribute to the artist’s wife Lan (Orchid) who died at 37. Each is a photo of a flower set alight and captured in that brief instant during which both the flower and flame are “in bloom”. I found them hauntingly beautiful, as if the burning flowers were on the verge of ascending through the flames to a higher plane…

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This is just a small snippet of the Heavy Artillery exhibition at the White Rabbit Gallery. The artworks are so substantial that it’s hard to do them justice in photos – if you’re based in Sydney and enjoy contemporary art, it’s definitely worth a visit in person!

White Rabbit Gallery
30 Balfour Street
Chippendale NSW 2008

Heavy Artillery is open 10am to 5pm, Wed-Sun.
The exhibition runs until 7 August 2016

I’ve bought a coat of many colours.

It was an impulse purchase – I was walking back to my car from Paddington Markets when I passed the Cash Palace store on Oxford Street. Do visit if you’re in the area – every item is currently on sale, and the shop is packed with Indian and Japanese pieces. There was everything from vintage silk kimonos for $50 to cotton kurta tops to the most magnificent hand embroidered wool coats.

I fell madly in love with this Kantha quilt jacket, as much for its backstory as its design.

Kantha is a form of embroidery used by rural Bengali women in Southern India and Bangladesh. It’s basically rows of running stitches joining multiple layers of fabric together. Kantha quilts are made using reclaimed saris, which are stacked together and then hand stitched to form a new piece. Each quilt is reversible and comprises up to six layers of thin cotton or silk. This traditional and frugal practice recycles old fabric into gorgeously warm and vibrantly colourful homewares such as blankets, throws and cushions.

The brilliant Elaine Townshend, owner of Cash Palace, imports vintage Kantha quilts into Australia and turns them into reversible jackets and coats. My calf length coat has in-seam pockets on one side, and patch pockets and carefully bound seams on the other. It’s very heavy in weight and cozy to wear. In the photo above, you can see the white rows of hand Kantha stitching. Any areas of wear and tear in the original vintage quilt have been carefully patched before the coat was assembled.

Edit: here’s a photo of both sides. Please excuse the quality of the selfies – it turns out the only full length mirror we have is at the back door, which is the darkest and messiest part of the house…

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So now I have a coat of many colours, made from a vintage Kantha quilt, which in turn was made from reclaimed sari cloth. It’s a unique, one-off piece. Can you see why I love it so much? ♥

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Cash Palace
139 Catherine St
Leichhardt NSW
(02) 9569 5977

Oxford Street
Paddington NSW
(opposite the markets)

Note: both stores offer a wide
range, 
but most of the sale items
are
at the Paddington shop.

We’re enjoying a very warm Autumn in Sydney!

Last week, Pete and I went for an excursion into town. We started at the Goods Line – a green space between Ultimo and Darling Harbour, built over a now decommissioned section of the rail line. The area is mostly used by students from the University of Technology Sydney, with UTS buildings fronting right onto the pedestrian walkway.

The highlight of our stroll was the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building (UTS School of Business). It’s a gloriously wonky structure designed by architect Frank Gehry and described in local media as resembling a squashed brown paper bag…

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Apparently the bricklayers found it “challenging”…

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After walking to Central, we hopped a train to St James station and wandered down to the Art Gallery of NSW to view their Biennale exhibits. The “Embassy of Spirits” has some wonderful pieces, many of which evoke quiet meditation.

Abstraction of Confusion (2016) by Taro Shinoda…

I wish I could fully describe the experience of this fascinating installation to you. Visitors are invited to remove their shoes and walk out onto the tatami matted platform where they can simply absorb the stillness and cracked whiteness of the empty room…

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Nyanpanyapa Yunupingu by the Gumatj People…

This collection of hollow log artworks created by a variety of indigenous artists is arranged into a forest of still trees. I loved it…

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Lluvias (Rain) and Sermón by Columbian artist Johanna Calle

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The Embassy of Chromatic Delegates by American fibre artist Sheila Hicks…

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Untitled (2014) by Daniel Boyd

I believe this painting is on permanent display at the Art Gallery of NSW rather than being part of the Biennale. I saw it from the other side of the room and it took my breath away – it’s the second time I’ve been awestruck by a Daniel Boyd work without knowing who the artist was. This 2014 Bulgari Art Award winner was created using indigenous dot painting techniques…

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Photo credit: The Guardian (article on Daniel Boyd here)

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The following day, I met my old friend Diana for a coffee. She passed me a bag of their beautiful garlic leftovers. I’m nearly out of local garlic, so I was very grateful to get these…

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I thought my cellar tidy up produced some treasures, but Dad’s included a 1947 bottle of Para Port, a bottle of Royal Salute 21 year old Scotch Whisky and a Polignac XO Cognac. As Mum’s not a drinker, I got to bring them all home…

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Inspired by the glowing bottle on my benchtop, I baked cognac coloured loaves on the weekend…

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A bit of experimenting in the kitchen…

I baked sourdough baguettes and then stuffed them with meat offcuts, cheese and antipasto before squashing them for a couple of hours to allow the flavours to meld. They were delicious…

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And I tried my hand at making chicken liver paté for the first time, using a Jamie Oliver recipe that is cream-free. It was a hit was Big Boy and the neighbours…

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A surprise gift in the mail from lovely Lorna! She sent me this wonderful ammonite pair. I was so excited I squealed when I opened the package…

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Earlier in the week at Costco, I ran into Dora, a friend of Carol’s and a fellow school mum. We got chatting about sourdough and on Monday night I dropped some Priscilla starter and a recipe to her (serendipitously, she lives in our suburb). I was thrilled to get this photo of her first loaf on Friday morning…

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Happy Days! Wishing you all a glorious week! ♥

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