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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hugh Fearnley-Whitingstall’s Vanilla Fudge

A fantastic, easy and virtually full-proof recipe!


300 gms caster sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

100 gms unsalted butter

100 mls double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract or paste


Using a few drops of sunflower oil on a piece of kitchen paper, lightly oil a 15x22cm baking dish, or similar small dish.

Put the sugar, syrup, butter and cream in a saucepan, making sure it’s not more than a third full as the mixture will bubble when it boils. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the sugar has completely dissolved – tip the pan to make sure there are no crystal still visible on the base.

Stop stirring. Put a sugar thermometer in the pan and turn up the heat. Let the mixture boil hard until it reaches 116 degrees C (soft ball stage). This may happen quite fast or could take up to 15 minutes or more, so keep a sharp eye on the thermometer.  I found that the fudge reached that temperature in under 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Add the vanilla and beat vigorously until the mixture thickens, becomes slightly grainy and starts to come away from the base of the pan. This can take up to 10 minutes. Again, I found that the mixture took only a couple of minutes to get to this stage.

Tip into the prepared dish, smooth and leave to cool.

Mark into squares with a sharp knife while it’s still slightly soft. Leave for 2 to 4 hours to firm up completely and then remove from the dish.

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Autumn Jams


I love making jams and marmalade at any time of the year. April in Sydney is that in-between season, when you’ve made all your berry jams and before the start of marmalade making.
I found some late season, beautiful little plums at the Orange Grove markets. Also some organic pink lady apples, and some quinces, which inspired me to make some autumn jams.
So I came up with Plum and Apple Jam, Plum Raisin and Vanilla Jam and Quince Marmalade. I have adapted some recipes from the wonderful book Jams, Jellies and Marmalades by Margaret O’Sullivan, which has been my jam-making bible for many years.

Plum and Apple Jam
I kg plums
1kg apples
1 cup water
Pinch of salt
Juice of a lemon
2 kgs sugar (or a little less)

Halve the plums and remove the stones. Peel and core the apples and chop.
Put the fruit into the preserving pan (large saucepan) with the water and salt.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes OR until soft. (The plums will disintegrate quite quickly).
Add the lemon juice, then slowly add the sugar, stirring to dissolve.
Boil rapidly until setting point is reached, approximately 20 minutes.
Test for a set by placing a little jam on a saucer in the freezer for five minutes. The surface should be set and wrinkle when pushed with a finger. If the jam is not set, return the pan to the heat and cook for a further few minutes until setting point is reached.
When setting point is reached, skim, and pour into sterilized jars.

Plum Raisin and Vanilla Jam
500 gms plums
Juice of a lemon
100 gms raisins
Vanilla bean

Chop the plums and remove the stones. Measure the fruit and add sugar equal to 3/4 of the amount.
Put into a preserving pan and cook slowly for about 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently, until setting point is reached (see Method for Plum and Apple Jam).
Stir in the lemon juice and raisins. Pour into sterilized jars, and then carefully place a section of vanilla bean (opened to release the seeds) into each jar of jam.

Quince Marmalade
2-3 quinces (whatever you can fit in your preserving pan).

Put the quinces into a preserving pan with enough boiling water to cover and parboil so that the skin will come off easily.
Peel, core and chop the quinces, then weigh them.
Return the quinces to the preserving pan with the water used to parboil. Remove any excess water (the water should just cover the quinces).
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Add sugar equaling 1/2 the weight of the quinces.
Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. When the quince mixture starts to turn red, mash with a potato masher, getting rid of any big lumps.
Spoon into sterilized jars.


Irish Soda Bread with Black Treacle

I love the idea of bread that can me made from scratch in under an hour! No yeast, no rising, and a delicious nutty, malty flavour.

I researched Irish soda bread online, and discovered that the only essential ingredients are flour, bi-carbonate of soda, buttermilk and salt.

Here is a helpful website aptly named –  Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread:

In my recipe I have added a tablespoon of black treacle, to give a little sweetness and that malty flavour. Quite by accident I neglected to add the treacle to the buttermilk before adding to the dry ingredients, so I mixed it into the dough after the addition of the buttermilk. This gave a lovely streaked effect to the baked bread!

340g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ -1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
290mls buttermilk
1 tbls black treacle

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Place flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)

Stir in treacle, and mix well, then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly.

Form into a round then place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.


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Serve with lashings of butter, jam or golden syrup!


Frankie’s Pizza By the Slice


A little piece of the 70s in mid town Sydney…

50 Hunter Street Sydney, and a couple of security guys minding the poster plastered double doors under a dodgy neon sign reminiscent of the Cross.

Frankie’s Pizza looks like it has been there forever, dim, a little down at heel, and redolent with the charm of an Italian pizza joint plus American bar. That’s in the main space – but through the side doors and you enter a low ceilinged room which as a band venue is pure Aussie pub style. However Frankie’s is a recent addition to the burgeoning Sydney bar scene.

For me the most eye catching element of the decor is the collection of band posters mostly from the UK of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Some well known and more obscure artists.

Pizza is it for the food, plus wine, plus LOTS AND LOTS of different beers. The pizza was good – we had the Vegetarian and the Cappricciosa – both on thin bases with tasty, not too heavy fillings. The wine list was small but quite OK.


But we had come here on a Monday night for the music – the house band that plays every Monday with a different lead singer. Yeah – a rocky, groovy, solid and basic lineup of guitar, bass and drums, straight out of the 70s although none of the lineup looked like they were even born in the 70s… like the gen X, gen Y audience, listening to music from Steppenwolf to Hendrix more suited to the ears of their parents, who were conspicuous by their absence. Quirky and her companions were by far the oldest in the room…


The idea is a good one, bringing back the best of late 20th century popular culture in food and music, and a fun night out.

Lemon, Yoghurt and White Chocolate Cake


I found this this lovely cake on the great blog I have tweaked the recipe a little.


1/3 cup melted butter (approximately 75 grams)
1 cup sugar
1 cup full fat yoghurt
2 lemons – zest of both, juice of 1
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
200 grams white chocolate, melted
Additional lemon, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup sugar (to sprinkle on top)


Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Place the melted butter, sugar, yoghurt, zest, juice, eggs and vanilla paste in a food processor. Whiz until well combined.


Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Process until smooth. Pour in the melted white chocolate and mix until combined and velvety.


Pour into a 24cm spring form cake tin lined with baking paper and arrange the lemon slices on the top of the batter. Sprinkle with half of the remaining sugar.


Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Cover with foil if it starts to brown too much during the baking time.

Remove from the oven, and sprinkle the remaining sugar – or less to taste – over the cake, particularly over the lemons.

NB I usually bake a little baby cake with the main mixture so that I can “quality test” the product straight out of the oven or at room temperature. I have included a photo of the test cake baked in a friand mould.


Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, vanilla mascarpone or good vanilla bean ice cream.


The cook’s helper!

Red Apple Rustic Tart


This is a very simple tart which can be created in an hour to two. It’s rough and ready and is meant to look so!
I have used the pastry recipe that I discovered on the wonderful blog It’s easy and makes delicious, buttery sweet pastry.


1 3/4 cups plain flour
170 grams butter
1 tablespoon sugar
A good pinch of salt
2 tablespoons ice cold water
6 red apples (pink lady or royal gala)
2-3 tablespoons sugar
Milk for brushing pastry
2 tablespoons full fat yoghurt
1 teaspoon honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Pulse flour, butter, sugar and salt in food processor, until the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add enough iced water to bring the pastry together – be careful not to over mix.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes. I have found that a shorter chilling of short crust or pâte sucrée is easier to roll out – but this is just a personal preference.

Grease a tart dish with oil spray. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Roll out between 2 sheets of cling film. Remove from the cling film and drape over the tart dish. This is a very rustic apple tart so the “rough” look is quite acceptable!


Slice the apples thickly. Place on top of the pastry higgledy piggledy, the more rustic the better. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples liberally. Brush a little milk over pastry edges.


Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently pour a well combined mixture of the yoghurt, honey and lemon juice over the hot apples. Return to oven and bake for a further 20 minutes or so until apples are tender.



White Bay, Sydney Harbour March – April 2013


Quirky’s Frangipane Tart


This cake/tart is my adaptation of a French frangipane fruit tart. The version pictured is made with plums. I’ve scattered berries over the top for decoration.

Quantity of fresh summer fruit: cherries, peaches, apricots and plums work well.
150gms butter
150gms sugar
3 eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
100gms – 125 gms ground almonds
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Optional – demerara sugar for topping.

Preheat oven to 170 deg C.

Combine butter and sugar in a food processor, with vanilla extract or paste and almond essence.
Add eggs one at a time. Mix well.
Fold in ground almonds, plain flour, baking powder and salt.

Put mixture into a greased flan dish, or springform tin lined with baking paper. It’s important to line the tin as the mixture can sometimes leak.
Scatter cut fruit over top of mixture.
Add a little demerara sugar over fruit if desired.

Bake in 170 deg C oven for 45 minutes  – 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

Serve warm or cold with cream or custard!

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