Ashley Alexander from @gatherandfeast's steamed black forest mud cake with vanilla mascarpone & vanilla cherry jam
Australian foodie, recipe developer and stylist Ashley Alexander is a self-taught cook who spent a lot of her early years in the kitchen cooking up a storm with her mum, tasting, learning and experimenting.
Now living in Melbourne with her husband Mike, Ashley has followed her childhood passion, launching Gather and Feast, a site full of beautiful food and delicious recipes.
“Gather and Feast brings together two very important concepts for me – people and food. I wanted to bring them together in a welcoming, all-encompassing and delicious way,” Ashley said.
Be passionate about fresh ingredients
Ashley’s advice for the home cook is to keep it fresh and simple.
“To achieve mouth-watering results, you don’t need to over complicate. Simple flavour combinations like quality olive oil, lemon and sea salt, help to build your confidence and the creations are endless,” Ashley said.
“My mum threw me into the kitchen at a young age. I remember making from scratch a Chocolate Bundt Cake and a Banana Cake, by myself, from memory, at eight years old.
“As a child, I did not even know that pre-packed mixes even existed! My mum was always ahead of her time, cooking with whole foods - fresh and natural. There is nothing worse than serving limp vegetables,” Ashley said.
Ashley stresses the importance of cooking with fresh ingredients.
“I love my herb pots on my deck at home. At the moment I am growing basil, thyme, oregano, chives, coriander, chilli, all available at my fingertips when I need them,” Ashley said.
Eat with your eyes
Ashley says that visual presentation is very important, stressing that we need to consider every element on the plate, including the serving ware.
“I love to explore different ceramicists, and cutlery styles that can offer additional pleasure to the eye.
The texture of ingredients is also important as it adds visual interest. Texture can be achieved with fresh herbs, nuts and seeds, as well as citrus and chili flakes,” Ashley said.
How to create the perfect picture for posting
Today, many of us like to post pictures of what we have made or are about to eat on social media. However, not all food pictures are created equal.
Ashley’s top tips to consider before you post.
- The lighting needs to be perfect. “It is important to use natural light and where possible shoot near a window,” Ashley said.
- Create an atmosphere and a sense of inclusion. “I like to make people feel like they are part of the meal by putting the plate on a table; adding a human element such as a hand or torso, and making it seem like they can pull up a chair and join in,” said Ashley.
Unleash your creativity with Miele
At home, Ashley’s appliances of choice are her Miele oven and her Miele steam oven.
“Immer Besser or Forever Better is a real commitment for Miele,” said Ashley.
“My favourite Miele kitchen appliance is my Miele steam oven. I love that I can steam perfect eggs, prove dough, create nutritious and delicious vegetables and incredible desserts.
“I attended a Miele MasterClass recently and we prepared delicious mascarpone. I’m really looking forward to trying this at home in my steam oven. Your creativity is limitless with Miele,” she said.
Having returned from Berlin late last year, where Miele unveiled their revolutionary new Dialog Oven, Ashley says she is impressed by Miele’s commitment to ongoing innovation.
“Miele is committed to innovation and customer care. The Dialog oven is so impressive. That evening we ate a perfectly cooked salmon. Half of the fish was wrapped in foil and the other uncovered. The result, both sides were mouth-watering perfection. One end was ceviche and the other flaky, moistly cooked salmon. Amazing!” said Ashley.
Planned to launch in Australia in 2019, Miele has developed an entirely new way of cooking that is faster, easier and produces superior culinary results with the revolutionary Dialog Oven.
180g good quality salted butter (or coconut oil for dairy free)
200g coconut sugar (or 180g brown sugar)
150g good quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100ml milk (or plant based milk of your choice; almond, coconut or oat)
1 tbs vanilla extract, powder or paste
1 tsp fleur de sel or flaked sea salt
2 eggs, lightly whisked
190gspelt flour (or 150g buckwheat flour for gluten free)
50g cacao powder
½ cup dried sour cherries
Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
100ml pure cream
1 tbs vanilla paste, powder or extract
Vanilla Cherry Jam
1 cup good quality cherry jam
1 tsp vanilla paste, powder or extract
2 tbs brandy (optional) or water
Add the butter, sugar, dark chocolate and vanilla into a medium saucepan and place onto medium heat until the butter has melted, then set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk the milk into the chocolate mixture, then whisk in the eggs.
Add the flour, cacao, fleur de sel and sour cherries and fold through.
Pour the mixture into a pre lined 20cm round baking tin.
If Baking In A Steam Oven
Set your steam oven to 100 degrees Celsius and time for 1.5 hours.
After the cake mixture has been poured into the baking tin cover the cake with two large sheets of baking foil. Cross the foil over each other to ensure the tin is completely enclosed.
Steam the cake for 1.5 hours at 100 degrees.
Remove from the oven then carefully remove the foil and set aside to cool.
If Baking In A Conventional Oven
Preheat your oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
Place a large baking tray into the bottom of the oven and fill with boiling water. I use the large grill tray in my oven and slide it into the bottom shelf then fill it to the top with hot water. It's easiest to fill the tray with the boiling water while the tray is already in the oven.
Bake the cake for 1.5 hours uncovered.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Vanilla Bean Mascarpone
Fold the mascarpone, cream, and vanilla together and set aside.
Vanilla Cherry Jam
Mix the cherry jam, vanilla and brandy (or water) together until well combined then set aside.
Once the cake has cooled place onto a cake plate or stand.
Pipe or spread and swirl the mascarpone onto the cake, then drizzle with the cherry jam mixture, top with fresh cherries, and freshly shaved chocolate.
You could also bake this cake in a square tin, then cut it into square pieces and serve as brownies without the mascarpone and cherry jam. Enjoy!