photo Marina Oliphant

There is something deeply satisfying about making your own bread. Simply mix bread and water with yeast, then watch the miraculous transformation into a living thing. The act of kneading and shaping produces a dough that is silky, soft and elastic. It’s a wonderful tactile experience. Bread cannot be hurried, you must allow time for the dough to rise.  So take a moment, slow down, enjoy, then reap the rewards. Nothing beats the aroma of freshly baked bread, hot out of the oven. Even if you’ve never made your own bread, you only have to go into a bakery to know what I’m talking about.

So here are a few recipes to get you going. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook, it will speed things up, but the great thing about bread is that you can use your hands. The focaccia recipe is basic –a good one to start with. You don’t have to worry about visions of perfectly shaped loaves, as it’s a simple flatbread, meant to be rustic.

The grissini are easy to make, too. Great for entertaining. Get the family involved, as the kids will enjoy rolling these out. Use the dough as your base and experiment with different flavours.

The dill and lemon flatbreads are fabulous for dips, a welcome change from boring biscuits. You can roll them out super thin with a pasta machine, but they also work using a rolling pin.

So start baking, and you’ll reconnect with one of life’s simple pleasures.

According to Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of The Bread Bible, “Bread is like life –you can never control it completely. Come to think of it, bread IS life”. Maybe there’s a lesson in there.

Marnie’s fruit and poppyseed grissini

These delicious grissini are like mini fruit breads, bursting with luscious fig and dates. Serve as part of a cheese platter, or as finger food with a glass of something sparkling.

500g ‘00’ bread flour

pinch sugar

1 ½ (one and half) tbsp instant yeast

2 tsp salt

¾ (three quarters) cup poppy seeds

6 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to brush grissini

300ml warm water

100g fig paste, warmed

8 medjool dates, finely chopped

1 tbsp fennel seeds

1-2 tsp cinnamon

prosciutto slices to serve

Preheat oven to 200C fan forced.

Place flour, sugar, yeast, salt and poppy seeds in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix on low speed. Add olive oil and water and knead for 5-7 minutes to form a smooth dough.

Place on an oiled tray and roll out to a rough rectangle shape, approximately 5 cm thick. Brush with oil and cover with cling film. Allow to rise for about 1 hour.

Spread warmed fig paste roughly all over the dough. Sprinkle over dates, fennel seeds and cinnamon. Fold the dough over to enclose. Cut the dough into three equal pieces. Cut each third into 10 (you will have 30 pieces of dough). Roll out each piece thinly into 20cm finger lengths. Place on baking tray, brush with oil and bake for 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on wire racks. Serve with prosciutto.

Makes 30.

Dill and lemon flatbreads with smoked ocean trout dip

photo Marina Oliphant

Inspired by Sally Clarke of Clarke’s bakery in London, you can make these flatbreads super thin with the aid of a pasta machine, but a rolling pin will also do the trick. I like them misshapen for a rustic look.


300g ‘00’ bread flour

2 tsp dried yeast

4 tbs olive oil, plus extra for greasing and brushing

2 tbs chopped dill

zest of one lemon

sea salt to sprinkle


300g hot smoked ocean trout (or substitute smoked trout)

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 tbsp crème fraiche

1 tbs chopped dill

salt and pepper to season

Preheat oven to 200C fan forced.

Place flour and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough attachment. Add oil and mix on low speed. Gradually add 150ml warm water. Continue to knead for 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth.

Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Brush baking sheets with oil.

Punch the dough to knock out some of the air, then knead gently by hand, sprinkling with dill and lemon zest to incorporate. Cut the dough into 24 small walnut sized pieces.

Roll each piece through a floured pasta machine to make thin strips. (If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin). Place on baking sheets and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, until golden and crisp. Cool on wire rack, then store in airtight container.

To make the smoked trout dip, simply remove the skin then flake the trout roughly with a fork, mix in lemon juice and zest, crème fraiche, dill and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 24 flatbreads.

Focaccia with olives and rosemaryphoto Marina Oliphant

A simple dough that can also be used for pizza bases. Perfect for beginners. Get adventurous and add your own toppings.

3 cups (400g) ‘00’ bread flour

2 tsp dried yeast

2 tsp salt

1 cup warm water

3 tbsp olive oil

½ (half) cup pitted black olives

fresh rosemary to sprinkle

sea salt to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 200C fan forced.

Place flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment and mix on low speed. Gradually add water and olive oil and continue to mix for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, from 30 minutes up to an hour. Knock back the dough gently with your fist to remove some air. Knead again by hand for a few minutes. Cut the dough in half and place on two baking trays, flatten and shape into ovals. Use your fingers to make indents in the top of the dough, gently press in the olives and scatter over the rosemary. Allow the dough to rest again for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and bake in oven until golden, approximately 15 minutes.

Delicious eaten warm.

Makes 2 focaccia.


easy Indian

Spice it up with easy Indian food

When the weather turns cold, my thoughts turn to curries, with spices to warm me up on the inside as well as for their delicious and complex flavours.

For the home cook, the first task is to address the spice situation in the pantry. How do you know if they’re still okay to use?

The good news is that spices do not spoil. The bad news is they lose their strength, as the flavours are in the volatile oils. You can keep whole spices in airtight containers in cool dry places for up to 4 years, and 2-3 years for ground spices. (Super-organised cooks can label the bottom of the jars with a purchase date.) For ground spices, shake the jar, let it settle and have a sniff. If there’s no smell, toss it out. If the spices have a bit of fragrance, but are not as potent as you remember, then use more in the recipe. You’ll run out sooner and be able to start again with a new batch.

Next, buy any spices that are needed for the recipe. I suggest you go to shops with high turnover, as the spices are more likely to have more flavour. Alternatively, online stores like provide good quality herbs and spices.

There are many fantastic Indian supermarkets around that are a one-stop shop, providing everything from rice and yoghurt, to complex spice mixes and curry pastes, pappadams of all sizes and flavours, fresh herbs and Indian breads. Prices are very reasonable, too.

Curries don’t have to be daunting lists of ingredients. Try these easy recipes to spice up your next meal.

lentils with cherry tomatoes and fresh curry leaves

This is a simple dal, or thick stew, made with split peas and some spices. The fresh curry leaves add an authentic curry flavour. Look out for fresh leaves at asian market stalls.

photo Marina Oliphant

1½ (one and a half) cups (300g) yellow split peas

1 tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp ghee

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp red chilli powder

4-5 fresh curry leaves, plus extra for garnish

250g cherry tomatoes, halved

Place split peas in a saucepan with salt, turmeric and 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft.

In a separate frypan, heat ghee then add garlic, chilli and curry leaves. Fry for a few minutes, then add tomatoes and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add cooked lentils and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve hot with extra fried curry leaves to garnish.

Serves 4.

spicy cauliflower and chickpeas with minted yoghurt

Panch phoran is a spice blend of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds. They provide a flavour hit and textural crunch alongside the sweet cauliflower. Serve as an entrée or part of a main meal.

photo Marina Oliphant

500g yoghurt

½ (half) cauliflower, broken into small florets

400g tin chickpeas

¼ (quarter) cup plain flour

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp curry powder

6 tbsp ghee, plus extra, for frying

1 tbsp panch phoran

2 small green chillies, split in half

sea salt to season

½ (half) cup fresh mint leaves

mint and coriander leaves to garnish

Place yoghurt in a muslin lined colander over a bowl and set aside to drain and thicken.

Cut cauliflower into small florets and place in a large bowl. Drain chickpeas and set aside on paper towel to dry a little.

Mix flour, cumin, coriander and curry powder. Toss cauliflower in spiced flour to coat.

Heat ghee in large frypan until melted. Add panch phoran and green chillies and fry for one minute until the spices start to pop. Add spice-dusted cauliflower and fry over low heat for 10 minutes until cauliflower is soft. Toss the drained chickpeas in the remaining spiced flour to coat. Add to the pan and cook for a few minutes. (You may need to add extra ghee). Season with salt.

Mix drained yoghurt with shredded mint and spread a few tablespoons over a serving plate. Top with spiced cauliflower and chickpeas. Garnish with extra mint and coriander leaves.

Serves 4.

Peppery chicken curry

A very simple curry packed with flavour that can be put together with pantry staples. Ghee adds an authentic flavour, but you could easily use vegetable oil instead.

Chicken casserole pieces on the bone are inexpensive and full of flavour.

1 kg chicken casserole pieces

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp minced ginger

pinch salt

2 tbsp white vinegar

1 tsp ground turmeric

pinch saffron

3 tsp black peppercorns, freshly crushed

4 onions

5 tbsp ghee

fresh coriander to garnish

steamed rice to serve

Place chicken in a shallow bowl. Mix together garlic, ginger, salt, vinegar, turmeric, saffron and 1 tsp of the pepper. Spread over the chicken and leave to marinate.

Peel and chop two onions. Place in food processor and blend to a paste.

Slice the remaining onions and set aside.

Heat ghee in a deep pan. Add sliced onions and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes until softened and golden. Add onion paste and continue to cook over low heat for 10 minutes until golden brown.

Add chicken and marinade and cook, stirring to coat all sides and brown the meat. Add 200 ml water, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked and tender.

Serve garnished with coriander and extra ground black pepper.

Serves 4.


For as long as I can remember, doughnuts have punctuated my life: from early memories of cloyingly sweet pineapple doughnuts at the school tuckshop, hot jam doughnuts from the roadside van that burned the roof of your mouth, through to elegant French beignets, fabulous German berliners and delicious, custard filled Italian bomboloni during recent travels in Europe.

As I’ve grown up, my tastes may have changed, but I still enjoy doughnuts.

However, they have an unhealthy reputation. Deep fried and full of the bad fats, not to mention loads of sugary icing, they have always been a guilty pleasure.

Luckily, they’re easy to make, and with a few tips, your homemade doughnuts will have a healthier edge.

I recommend using rice bran oil in the deep fryer. It is a healthy oil with a high smoke point, contains vitamins, antioxidants, and is trans fat free.

I have included a simple recipe for mini jam doughnuts: the small size will ensure the middle is cooked. Fill these with a beautiful homemade jam.

For the Italian potato doughnuts, you need to use Ranger russet potatoes, which have a low moisture content. The texture is light and not too sweet: definitely my favourite.

As for the Spanish churros, these are quick and simple to make. The chocolate dipping sauce is optional, but delicious. And we all know that dark chocolate is good for us. And the best thing about making your own doughnuts is that they are created with care. These little gems are a taste of nostalgia, and the more delicious for it.

Italian potato doughnuts

Based on an Italian recipe for potato doughnuts, I first tried these at the Dog’s Bar in St. Kilda. Although they were meant for the customers, I think the staff (me included) ate the lot!

½ (half) cup milk

2 tsp dry yeast

500g  baking potatoes, like Ranger Russets, peeled and cut into chunks

2 eggs

3 ½ (three and a half) cups plain flour

2 tbsp sugar

¼ (quarter) cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 orange, zested and juiced

2 lt rice bran oil for deep frying

3 tbsp lemon juice

150g icing sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until warm. Add the yeast to the milk and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to the boil, cooking until tender. Drain and pass through a food mill or ricer and place in a large bowl. Add the eggs, flour, sugar, 1/4 (quarter) cup oil, juice, and zest of orange and mix well to combine. Add the yeast mixture and knead well, adding more flour if necessary to keep the batter from becoming too sticky. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured bench to approximately 2 cm thickness.

Use an 8cm round cutter to cut the doughnut shapes.  Cut a small hole in the middle of each doughnut with a small cutter, or simply poke through a hole with your thumb. Re roll the doughnut off-cuts to use up the remaining dough. Place the doughnuts on a baking paper lined tray, cover with non-stick baking paper and a clean tea towel and let rise for another 15 minutes.

Heat oil in deep fryer to 190C.

Working in batches, fry the doughnuts until golden brown, about 5 minutes, turning over halfway through. Remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Make the lemon icing by mixing the lemon juice with icing sugar in a shallow bowl to a runny consistency.

Dip the doughnuts in the icing, then serve.

Makes 12-14 doughnuts.

Mini hot jam doughnuts

The classic Australian doughnut, these are delicious eaten warm; just like the doughnut van, only better.

125ml milk

15g unsalted butter

250g strong flour

1 ½ (one and a half) tsp instant yeast

¼ tsp salt

25g caster sugar

1 egg

2 lt rice bran oil for deep frying

granulated sugar for rolling the doughnuts

½ (half) cup raspberry jam

Warm milk and butter together in a saucepan, taking it off the heat when the butter is melting. Put flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a bowl. Beat egg into warmed milk and pour into bowl of dry ingredients. Use a dough hook or your hands, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky, about 10 minutes by hand.

Place in a greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, between 1-2 hours.

Punch the dough down and knead again to make a smooth dough. Cut in half and roll into two x 25cm long logs. Cut each log into 12 pieces, roll these into rough balls and place on a baking paper lined tray. Cover loosely and allow to rise for a further 15 minutes.

Heat oil in deep fryer to 190C.

Cook the doughnuts, a few at a time, for 5 minutes, flipping over halfway so they brown evenly.

Remove and drain on paper towel, then roll in sugar to coat. Place jam in a piping bag with a small nozzle (or use a sauce bottle with plastic nozzle) and pipe a small amount of jam into the centre of the doughnuts.

Makes 24.


Churros, or Spanish donuts, are a breakfast favorite in Spain. They are deep

fried strips of dough, served hot and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and then

dunked into a cup of thick sweet chocolate.

The name is said to come from its shape, which resembles the horns of the

churro breed of sheep.

1 cup plain flour

¼ (quarter) tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tsp caster sugar

1 cup water

1 tbsp olive oil

500ml rice bran oil for shallow frying

¾ (three quarters) cup caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon powder

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar into a bowl.

Bring a cup of water to the boil and add the olive oil. Pour the liquid over

the dry ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Pour the oil into a shallow frypan and heat to 170C.(If you don’t have a thermometer you can test the temperature by frying a small piece of bread – it should turn golden within a minute).

Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a large star nozzle.

Pipe  lengths of dough into the hot oil, using a sharp knife or kitchen scissors to cut off each length as you go. Fry in batches for 3 or 4 minutes, turning halfway, until they are golden brown.

Drain of paper towel.

Mix caster sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl. Roll the churros in the cinnamon sugar and serve with hot chocolate.

Makes 12-14.