A note on the cover of Guy Mirabella’s latest offering Hungry - Food from My Heart reads “This is the food I cook for my friends, my customers and my family. It’s the food I love to cook, for the people I love to be with. Enjoy”.
Mirabella’s portfolio of cookbooks includes Mirabella Food - Eating Simply, Eating Well; A Garden of Earthly Delights; Pasta e Basta; and Eat Ate, which won the Best Designed Cookbook at the Australian Publishers’ Association Design Awards. Like those, Hungry is a masterpiece, with Mirabella’s twenty-five years of experience in book design evident on every delicious page.
Through Earl Carter’s lovely photographs, we meet Mirabella as he works in kitchen of his Shop Ate Café and Store in Mount Eliza, which is now in its tenth year. We are introduced to The Savoury Counter (breakfast, small plates, salad, soup, risotto, pasta, seafood and meat); and The Sweet Counter (cakes and biscuits, and desserts). There are little card collages with handwritten musings on Mirabella’s Sicilian parents, his favourite colours and films, his work as a designer, a family trip to Sicily, flowers, people, art, life and family.
The recipe selection is diverse and covers everything from smoky baked beans to tutu trifle. I love bananas, blueberries and almonds, so I chose to road test the Banana, Blueberry and Almond Cake (page 158). This is basically a banana cake with a blueberry and almond crumble topping. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon and I was looking forward to baking the cake and tasting the finished product.
To make it, you need a punnet of blueberries and some bananas (about one cup of mashed banana). Mirabella recommended one large banana, but I needed two or three medium sized ones to make that quantity. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C then grease and line a 25cm round cake tin (including the sides). I used a springform tin.
Combine 150g of softened butter with a cup of caster sugar and four tablespoons of soft brown sugar. Note, if the brown sugar has hardened, microwave it for, say, 25 seconds, and it should loosen up. Beat the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, and then add three eggs (one at a time), beating well after you’ve added each one. Then add the mashed banana, one tablespoon of Muscat port or Marsala and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Mix this thoroughly.
Now we add two and a half cups of sifted self-raising flour, a large pinch of bicarbonate of soda, and half a cup of light olive oil. Mirabella says to “process this until the ingredients are nicely incorporated”. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over the top.
Make the topping by combining the punnet of blueberries with 85g of flaked almonds and three tablespoons of brown sugar. Sprinkle this over the top of the cake batter and “bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown”. I was a little worried about the almonds catching, as my oven tends to be a little hot, so I turned the oven down to 190 degrees C. The cake wasn’t quite ready at 45 minutes and the centre was still quite fluid, so it did need that little bit longer. As I was testing it to see if it was ready, I must have bumped it and so the cake sunk slightly in the middle when I opened the door again.
The verdict: the cake was easily prepared and baked beautifully. The flavour was splendid and, together with some lucky friends who had dropped in at the right time, we enjoyed devouring every crumb.
With thanks to Pan Macmillan/Plum books and Guy Mirabella. In closing, I must mention that Pan Macmillan can be proud of the outstanding quality of books in their catalogue!
Hungry - Food from My Heart by Guy Mirabella (Pan Macmillan/Plum $49.99).
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