The Adelaide-born author gained prominence with the publication of her award-winning first novel, Burial Rites, inspired by a true story she discovered as an exchange student in Iceland.
She is now based in Melbourne, but was back in town this week for the Adelaide launch of her new book The Good People (published by Picador Australia), which is set in 19th-century rural Ireland and also inspired by actual events.
Here, she gives InDaily a peek into her kitchen.
In the kitchen I am …
At my happiest. Cooking is one of the great joys in my life.
The fridge is nearly empty – what do you do cook for dinner?
This is my special talent. I cook more creatively when faced with limited ingredients. I generally have a pantry of staples – flour, legumes, spices – and I keep a herb garden, so things are never too dire.
The most useful cooking tool is …
A fine diamond steel for sharpening knives. There’s nothing more dispiriting that a blunt chef’s knife.
What are your three essential grocery items?
Good-quality garlic, salt and butter. Everything tastes better.
How did you learn to cook?
I learnt a few things from my parents and relatives, but Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion has taught me everything else. I call her Saint Stephanie. She’s marvellous.
What is your favourite restaurant and why?
One of my favourite little places in Adelaide is Vego and Love’n It. A cosy little spot for some great vegetarian eats. I’ve been going there since I was a uni student, and I still love the quirky décor and low-key vibe.
What is your favourite recipe?
When I was a kid, my favourite food was pancakes. These Icelandic pönnukökur are still a go-to for Sunday breakfasts, or served cold with cream and rhubarb jam for afternoon tea. I have a special pan for making them, but a regular frying pan will do fine. The trick is to get them as thin as possible.
Pönnukökur (Icelandic pancakes)
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons butter
Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla. Stir in the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, and whisk until smooth.
Heat the frying pan (or pönnukökur pan, if you’re lucky enough to have one). Melt the butter in the pan, ensuring the surface is greased, and then pour into the batter. Whisk to combine.
Pour a small ladle of batter into the hot pan, swirl to cover, then tip excess batter back into the mixing bowl. Cook at a medium heat until the underside is golden brown.
Flip with a spatula and cook on the other side until similarly golden. Remove to a warm, covered plate. Continue cooking until all the batter is used up.
These pancakes are traditionally served cold. Sprinkle with sugar while hot and roll up into long cigars, or wait until cool then spoon rhubarb jam and whipped cream over, before folding into quarters.
Best served alongside some hot, strong kaffí (coffee).
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