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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Nectarine, Zucchini and Apple Muffins

 

img_5282img_5280Here’s another riff on my latest muffin recipe, Matt Stone’s beautiful Greenhouse Muffins from his book “The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste”, see here to buy the book.

Matt’s recipe uses carrots and apple. I substituted zucchini (courgettes) for the carrot, and added nectarine slices inside the mix and also as decoration on the top.

Ingredients

4 eggs

280g raw sugar

200g zucchini unpeeled and grated

1 apple unpeeled and grated

1 nectarine chopped into small pieces

150ml vegetable oil

100g nuts, roughly chopped –  pecans, walnuts, almonds would be good. I used pecans.

300g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp salt

Topping

50g cold butter

70g plain flour

50g rolled oats

50g sunflower seeds

3 tsp honey

1 nectarine cut into thin slices

Method

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl until they are frothy. Slowly pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size. Whisk in the zucchini , apple, oil and nuts. Using a spatula,  gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Lastly gently fold in the nectarine pieces.

The mixture can be baked straight away but Matt suggests leaving it in the fridge overnight. This will give the flour a chance to hydrate and the baking powder to activate, resulting in a more consistent muffin texture. The mix will keep for 3–4 days in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. For the topping, place the cold butter and flour in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips. Add the oats and seeds and mix well, then mix in the honey to create a crumble-type mixture.

Grease a 12-hole standard muffin tin and line the holes with squares of baking paper. Spoon in the muffin mixture and press it down to the level of the tin.

Cover the top of the muffins with the crumble  topping and place 2 or 3 nectarine slices on top of the crumble. Place the tray in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. After  15 minutes check the muffins using a skewers and test  for “doneness”. My experience has been that they will need another  5-10 minutes, so keep checking until you are sure they are cooked.

When done, take the muffins out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Then finish cooling on a wire rack. They keep fine in their paper wraps, making them easy to store  and transport.

 

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Summer Breakfast Trifles

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Here’s another easy, healthy and really delicious way to start the day off – breakfast trifles!

I love breakfast – I think it’s my favourite meal of the day. And I love cereals and grains, and I make batches of muesli and granola, switching the ingredients to suit the mood or the weather! Nuts and seeds feature strongly in the mix. It’s great to add in fresh fruit, whatever is in season.

So breakfast trifles are the logical extension of the muesli/granola idea. They’re easy to make as they need no preparation, and can be portable if you make them in jars instead of glasses.  I have been inspired by some recipes from Jamie Oliver in his Everday Superfood  and Superfood Family Classics, where he layers goodies in glasses for visually appealing and very tasty breakfasts.

So here are 3 ideas you can do really easily and quickly. They’re designed around the wonderful summer fruit in season in Sydney now – berries of all kinds, stone fruit, mango and figs. You don’t have to do any preparation, but as an alternative, you could lightly toast the nuts and seeds in a frying pan to bring out their flavour.

You can make and eat straight away, or keep in the fridge for a couple of days. They will soften up a bit, kind of like bircher muesli.

Here is a guide to putting these trifles together. Nothing too prescriptive, feel free to layer in any way you like.

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Ingredients

Fresh fruit – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, figs, mango

Nuts – macadamias, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios

Seeds – pumpkin, linseed, poppy, sesame, chia

Rolled oats

No fat yoghurt

Raw honey

Method

Layer sturdy glasses or glass jars with ingredients. I started with fruit pieces, then nuts, seeds and oats, and more fruit. Finish with a dollop of yoghurt and drizzle a little honey over the top.

My fruit combos, photographed here, are – mango apricot and fig; peach, nectarine, fig and raspberry; blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry.

To serve, eat straight from the glass or jar, or you can loosen the mixture with a little milk if you like.

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Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake

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This is a rich, dark, flourless chocolate cake that is truly fudge like and makes a wonderful dessert.

The recipe is adapted from one I found in the beautiful book “The Southern Highlands Cookbook”, a fabulous collection of recipes by Stefan Posthuma-Grbic from the restaurants and cafes in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales.

The book was given to me as a Christmas present by Quirky Niece No 3 and her partner. I’m excited to be cooking from it!

This cake comes from the restaurant Flour, Water, Salt in Bowral.

The recipe is similar to the famous Chocolate Nemisis from the River Cafe in London, which I was fortunate enough to sample recently on my gastronomic tour of the UK. The ingredients, minus the coffee are the same, the method a little different.

Ingredients

165mls strong hot coffee, real not instant if possible

300gms butter

300 gms dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids for a very dark chocolate hit – less cocoa solids if you want a sweeter  taste)

165gms caster sugar

4 eggs

Method

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Choose a springform tin. For a flatter cake, use an 20cm/8″ tin; for a deeper cake use a 18cm/7″ tin. Line the base and sides of the springform tin with baking paper, cutting a disc for the base and strips for the sides. Butter or use oil spray to help make the paper stick.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan on the stovetop, and carefully bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, roughly chopped. Whisk until the chocolate is amalgamated. Add the sugar and the coffee, continuing to whisk to combine.

Lightly whisk the eggs in a bowl. Add to the chocolate mixture in the saucepan, stirring gently to combime. Make sure everything is incorporated. The mixture will be glossy and quite thick, but not as thick as a conventional cake mix.

Pour the mixture into the springform tin and place in the oven. If you’re a bit nervous that the mixture might leak – mine didn’t – you could put the tin on a baking tray. Bake for 90 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. When cool, refrigerate for a minimum of a couple of hours to set the cake. It’s a great cake to make the day before it’s needed.

Serve with whipped cream, and anything you fancy. I served mine with berries and some hazelnut praline I had left over from another recipe. Leftovers  will keep well for a couple of days in the fridge too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notting Hill Dining – The Shed

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Here’s another innovative and delicious dining experience I’d like to share with you.

In December 2016 in London, I was keen to eat at The Shed, in Notting Hill, one of the restaurants of the Gladwin Bros. The brothers hail from West Sussex, brought up on a vineyard and farm. Their restaurants feature produce from their farm in Nutbourne, in Sussex. Here’s the link to the website: http://www.theshed-restaurant.com/

I had read about their food philosophy using “seasonal farmed and foraged food”. It was with a sense of anticipation that I arrived for a late lunch not quite knowing what to expect! I love the idea of a restaurant called The Shed – was it in an actual shed? And is a shed in London the same as a shed in Australia?

I was not disappointed. The charming but unremarkable exterior – not very shed like – soon revealed a casual kind of lean-to interior that was definitely shed like!

The food was very good. Flavourful, generous, and with some innovative techniques in evidence. The menu, shown here, is made up of fast cooked and slow cooked dishes, as well as mouthfuls, cures, cheeses and puddings.

I went for a couple of slow cooked dishes with great sourdough bread, a wonderful pudding and a glass or two of wine including their own Nutbourne rosé sparkling.

It was rather a lot for this solo diner, but as the purpose of my UK food adventures was research for The Quirk and the Cool, I really felt I needed to research properly! Or perhaps I’m just greedy…

The pumpkin gnocchi with Tunworth crispy sage and seeds, was a knockout. Nothing insipid about these gnocchi – their flavour was every bit as intense as their colour. The dreamy creamy sauce that accompanied them was delicious. I’m not sure of its composition, and regret I didn’t ask.

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The beef cigars, with Shed mustard and tarragon, were a revelation. They were suggested by my helpful waitress  – I was dubious about what they actually were – but on arrival they looked sensational and tasted the same. The photo says it all! They seemed to be slow cooked beef, finely shredded, and condensed into crisp pastry “cigars”.

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I am a huge bread fan – so I must make mention of the Shed Maltstar sourdough bread. And the butter. I could probably have an entire meal of quality bread like this offering! But I wouldn’t, as then I would have no room for pudding, which was definitely worth having.

The Shed Magnum Viennetta parfait was a recreation of the commercial classic, which I actually don’t remember having eaten, so I have no basis for comparison. But as a lover of ice cream, it was luxurious, textured, creamy, very “home made”.

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I stayed for an hour and a half, just enjoying the quirky and quaint atmosphere.  When you dine alone, you get to people watch, and I was interested in my fellow diners – who seemed quirky too – they looked creative, and right at home in the shed, which had been turned into a very creative eating space.

I loved the whole experience. Eating at The Shed is another reason to return to London in the near future!

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Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen in Cornwall

I’ve recently been traveling in the UK, to sample restaurants, street food and local markets, and to do a really wonderful cooking course at John Whaite’s cooking school, recently blogged about here.

So I should do a few quick reviews, to keep those memories fresh and give my readers a sense of how my experiences gelled into a view of what I liked about the food scene in the UK.

No one who reads my blog could fail to miss that I’m a Jamie Oliver fan! If there was one Jamie Oliver restaurant I wanted to try, it was Fifteen in Watergate Bay Newquay, Cornwall. Fantastic food, located in beautiful Cornwall and on the beach – what more could an Australian want!

I had lunch. The food was fabulous, the service impeccable  and the vibe warm and friendly. From the moment I walked in I was looked after and made to feel at home, even though I was dining solo. Picture perfect window table in a prime position.

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Photographed here is the menu for the day, to give you an idea of what the style of food is at Fifteen in Cornwall. The food is very Italian – with some intriguing dishes that needed some translation even for this seasoned diner and lover of Italian food.

I went for the three course option at a very reasonable £32. I began with two antipasti – artichoke caponata and clementine and pomegranate. The artichoke was  well seasoned and tangy and herby; the clementine and pomegranate so simple and so refreshing.

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The chargrilled Cornish chicken with inzimino di ceci (chickpeas with Swiss chard) and ‘Nduja (a spicy spreadable salami ) was superb – full of robust flavours with none of the flavours taking over.

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Then dessert. I  was tempted by the apple and plum  crumble with clotted cream – well I was in Cornwall – but on the advice of my charming and knowledgeable waitress I had the tiramisu with amaretto. As the photo shows, it was more cake-like than the traditional trifle-like layers of coffee soaked sponge and mascapone, but this layer cake version had been liberally dowsed in amaretto and yielded to my spoon without resistance. Yum!

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A “proper” cappuccino, the second best I had in the UK, (the best was Colombian at the Borough Market) finished the meal. A great end to a great meal.

The philosophy behind the Fifteen restaurants is admirable, and I would happily eat at one to support the concept. But I had the best meal of my travels at Fifteen Cornwall – honest, authentic Italian food, locally sourced, cooked impeccably and served with a warmth and charm that made me want to visit again…soon!

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Berry Cheesecake Trifle

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Berry Cheesecake Trifle was my in between Christmas and New year pudding for a family and friends lunchtime gathering. Technically it was still Christmas – the 29 December – if you do the Twelve Days of Christmas thing. The day was super hot – 38 degrees C! Luckily most of the fare was cold, and this cheesecake trifle, while quite filling, was refreshing with its large quantities of cool and fragrant berries.

The recipe is adapted from a recipe created by Queen Vanilla products and Dr Oetker products. I liked the idea of the cheesecake filling instead of custard and cream. The recipe also created some green chocolate bark, which I thought pretty festive too.

Ingredients

Cake and berries:

4 x 250g  punnets berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, or any others you fancy). Frozen berries are fine too, I used a mixture of both.

A good slosh of an orange liqueur (Cointreau, Grand Marnier)

A little caster sugar to taste if the berries are too sharp in flavour

2 sponge cake layers (bought is fine here as it’s only going to be dowsed in liqueur and berry juice)

Cheesecake filling:

280g cream cheese

90g unsalted butter

2 2/3 cups icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

450 mls cream

Green chocolate bark:

150g original Oreos roughly blitzed in the food processor – you should have some bigger bits and some crumbs

300g white chocolate

A few drops green food colouring

Method

Combine all the berries in bowl, leaving a good handful for decorating the top of the trifle. You should cut the strawberries in halves unless they are tiny. Splosh on some orange liqueur, and add a little caster sugar to taste if the berries need sweetening. Leave for a few hours to allow the berries to release their juices.

Cut up the sponge into squares about 5 cms 0r 2 inches. It really doesn’t matter too much – they just need to be able to fit into your trifle bowl. You will also need to cut some odd shapes to fill in the gaps. Make a layer of sponge on the bottom of the bowl.  Add a decent layer of berries, making sure you spoon some of the liquid over the cake so that it turns red.

To make the cheesecake filling, beat cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add icing sugar gradually, beating till the mixture is well combined. Add the vanilla bean paste. Whip the cream in separate bowl until just thickened, then fold into the cheesecake mixture.

Add layer of cheesecake mixture to the berries layer in the trifle bowl.

Repeat the layering –  sponge, berries and juices and cheesecake mixture, ending with a berry layer. The number of layers you get will depend on the size of your bowl and your generosity in layering. As you can see from the photo I got 3 layers of sponge and berries and 2 of cheesecake mixture.  You should leave enough of the cheesecake mixture to decorate the top (3 tablespoons or so should do it). Refrigerate until ready to finish the decorations and serve.

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To make green chocolate bark, heat the white chocolate in small pieces in a microwave safe bowl on medium power in 30 second intervals, stirring in between each interval, until the chocolate is completely melted. Add the green food colouring and chopped Oreos. Spread the mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Refrigerate until set.

To finish the trifle, pile the remaining cheesecake mixture on the top of the trifle. Scatter the left over berries on the top of the “snowy” mixture. I used only fresh raspberries for the top, as they looked the most elegant.  Break up the green chocolate bark and place as artistically – or in my case rustically – as you please. You don’t need to use all the bark – the recipe makes quite a large quantity. On the other hand if there are small children around they will love the white (now green) chocolate and you could use the whole lot on the pudding!

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