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Author Archives: The quirk and the cool

Shin Beef Casserole

 


I love slow cooking and I’m a huge fan of casseroles, stews and tagines, where beef, lamb or chicken is cooked long and slow with plenty of veggies and herbs and/or spices.

My go-to beef cut for slow cooking has to be shin beef, called gravy beef in Australia. I cook with it a lot, loving the tenderness and flavour of the meat.

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe from the vault. I have cooked variations many times over, but I thought I would put Jamie’s original version on the blog again for those wanting a great comfort food stew that could easily be served as a ragu with pappardelle pasta.

The original recipe comes from “Cook With Jamie”, and here is the link to the website recipe:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/melt-in-your-mouth-shin-stew

Here is my “tweaked” recipe. The most significant change I made is to lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees C. I think long, slow cooking is the way to go with this recipe. (When I blogged this in 2014 I suggested 160 degrees, but 150 degrees is better).

Ingredients

Lug of olive oil

6 eschallots, peeled and roughly chopped

6 baby carrots, trimmed and used whole

2 cloves garlic chopped

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

750g quality shin of beef, trimmed and cut into 5cm pieces

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tbs flour

1 x 400g tinned tomatoes

1/2 bottle red wine

Method

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C.  In a heavy-bottomed casserole, heat a lug of olive oil and gently fry the eschallots, carrots, garlic and herbs for 5 minutes until softened slightly. Meanwhile, toss the pieces of beef in a little seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Add the meat to the casserole  and stir everything together, then add the tomatoes, wine and a pinch of salt and pepper. Gently bring to the boil, cover with a double-thickness piece of aluminum foil and a lid and place in your preheated oven for 3 hours or until the beef is meltingly tender and can be broken up with a spoon. Taste and check the seasoning, remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaf.

Serve with pappardelle, polenta, mash or rice.

 

Mrs Beeton’s Christmas Plum Pudding

 



Now I know posting a recipe for Christmas pudding on the day after Christmas is a bit.. well.. late! I made this pudding a few weeks ago and just got too busy with Christmas preparations and baking to post. But I wanted to show this excellent pudding so I am posting while we are still in that Christmas food and festivities zone.

And I’ll blog again next year in time to make the pudding for the big day!

Earlier in December I was lucky enough to attend an online event hosted by the wonderful Sydney Living Museums.

This organisation looks after significant buildings integral to Sydney’s colonial history. Visiting historic houses and public buildings is always a fascinating trip into Sydney’s past.

The demonstration was presented by Jacqui Newling, Assistant Curator and Sydney Living Museums resident expert in food heritage and colonial gastronomy.

I loved watching as Jacqui made the Christmas  pudding and really appreciated her step by step tips and tricks to making the pudding. She has a wealth of knowledge and importantly a really practical common sense approach to cooking.

I had to make the pudding! I made it the next day, and in order to be able to try it before Christmas Day, I made a baby one which I could eat on the same day.

What is amazing about this pudding is that it has no flour and no sugar! Bread replaces flour and the sweetness comes from the dried fruit. I have to admit I was a little dubious about the absence of flour and sugar, but I must say the resulting pudding was sensational! Deep, rich flavours with a strong caramel taste.

We ate the delicious pudding on Christmas Day. I served it with brandy butter, custard and cream – I think it deserved all three accompaniments.

Here is the recipe as presented by Jacqui Newling with her notations and this is the link to the original.

Classic Christmas Pudding

Adapted from Mrs Beeton’s Book of household management, 1861

Note

‘On Christmas-day a sprig of holly is usually placed in the middle of the pudding, and about a wine-glassful of brandy poured round it, which, at the moment of serving, is lighted, and the pudding thus brought to table encircled in flame.’

So says Isabella Beeton in 1861, in her best-selling Beeton’s book of household management (1861). I’ve adapted her ‘Christmas plum pudding (very good)’ for modern measurements, replaced suet with butter, and added some extra spice now synonymous with Christmas.

Serves 12

Ingredients 

750g mixed dried fruit

1 tbsp mixed spice

1 tsp nutmeg or cinnamon

1⁄2 cup fragrant tea or sherry

200g butter, placed in freezer for 1-2 hours

250g freshly made white breadcrumbs (made from a day-old 375g loaf, crusts removed)

6 eggs, well beaten

1⁄2 cup brandy

Equipment

1.5L pudding basin or equivalent smaller bowls
Baking paper cut to diameter of the pudding basin/bowls
Good quality aluminum foil Kitchen string
Grater, chilled in fridge Trivet

Method

1. If the fruit looks a bit dry, soak it with the spices in the tea or sherry overnight or for at least a few hours.
2. Grate the butter into the breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl and mix through with a knife.
3. Add the soaked fruit and spices.
4. Add the beaten eggs and brandy, and encourage everyone in the family to stir the mixture (an old tradition).
5. Grease the pudding bowl with butter and spoon in the mixture, just short of the rim, as the mixture may swell during cooking.
6. Cover the pudding surface with baking paper cut to size, then cover the bowl with two pieces of foil pleated together in the centre – the foil should reach halfway down the bowl – and tie securely with string. The pleat is to allow for any expansion during cooking.
7. Place the pudding bowl on a trivet in a deep saucepan and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides to create a water bath.
8. Cover and simmer for several hours, topping up with boiling water as needed (19th-century recipes invariably state
6 hours simmering to ensure a rich colour).
9. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until required.
Serve with Mrs Beeton’s Plum pudding sauce. You can find the recipe for the sauce here.

 

Christmas Summer Fruits Meringue Trifle

 


Trifle is one of those desserts that are a favourite on the big day. Trifle or pavlova are good alternatives to Christmas pud, or can be served  alongside the hot pudding as something sweet, creamy and delightfully cold!

I try to devise a different trifle each Christmas. I made this one a couple of years ago and it was delicious – peaches, blackberry and passionfruit are combined with passionfruit curd, meringue and cream and the obligatory cake and custard layers into a light and fruity trifle.

An important note: this recipe may look time consuming because you make the custard, curd and meringue. If you don’t want to do all that work, you can absolutely use bought elements! Christmas is stressful enough without adding extra work!

Layers are important in any trifle, you can really layer this one any way you like.

Here is the order in which I layered my version:

Cake
Peaches/ passionfruit
Passionfruit curd
Meringue
Cake
Blackberry compote
Custard
Cream
Meringue shards/peaches/passionfruit/individual meringues

Ingredients 

Meringue
3 egg free range whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
A few drops of yellow food colouring

Passionfruit curd
4 tbls sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Pulp of 3 passionfruit
2 free-range egg yolks
2 tbls butter

Custard
3 large free-range egg yolks
35g cornflour
50g caster sugar
600ml milk
300ml cream

Blackberry compote
500g frozen blackberries
3 tbls sugar
2 tbls water

2 bought sponge cakes (you can make your own but it’s much less time consuming to buy them)

6 yellow peaches, cut into slices
Pulp of 3 passionfruit

1/2 cup or to taste of an orange flavoured liqueur. (I used Cointreau and Orange Curaçao)

300ml whipped cream

Method

Meringue
Preheat the oven to very slow – 135 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Beat egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until frothy, add cream of tartar and beat on highest speed until peaks hold their shape. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons of the measured sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining sugar at once, fold in quickly and lightly with a metal spoon.
Using 3/4 of the mixture, spoon or pipe two discs, each about the size of the diameter of your trifle bowl, onto the prepared trays. With the remaining meringue, colour one half yellow, and put both meringue mixtures  into two piping bags. Pipe yellow and plain meringues, as many as the mixtures will make, around the edges of the baking trays where you have placed the discs.
Bake the discs and meringues for 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for a further 1/2 hour or until dry.

Passionfruit Curd
Place all the ingredients into a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon, making sure all the ingredients are amalgamated and the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Put aside to cool.

Custard
Put the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar into a large bowl and stir together with a whisk. Heat the milk and cream together in a pan until hot but not boiling. Gradually whisk into the yolks, then return the mixture to the pan. Stir over a high heat until the mixture just comes to the boil and the custard thickens. Take off the heat, cover and allow to cool.

Blackberry compote
Put the frozen blackberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and gently stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to boiling point, turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the fruit is softened and the liquid is reduced. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Assembling the trifle
Line the base of your glass trifle bowl with half the cake, making sure there are no gaps. Liberally sprinkle over half the orange liqueur.
Scatter half the piece slices and half the passionfruit pulp over the cake. Spoon the cooled passionfruit curd over the fruit.
Now carefully place one of the meringue discs on top of the curd, trimming the edges if it’s too big. Place the rest of the cake pieces on top. If you think there is too much cake, leave some of it out. Sprinkle the cake with the remaining liqueur. Spoon the blackberry compote on top of the cake.
Carefully spoon or pour the cooled custard over the trifle, then add the whipped cream. Again, if you think there’s too much custard or too much whipped cream, add a little less.
To decorate the trifle, carefully break up the remaining meringue disc into shards big and small (so lots of broken bits don’t matter!). Place the rest of the peach slices and passionfruit pulp around the edge of the trifle and artfully place the meringue shards wherever you like.
Then finish by topping the trifle with the individual meringues.
This is how I made my trifle – I’m sure there are endless variations to the layering and presentation, so be creative!

Christmas Beef Tagine


Christmas festivities are upon us! While there is a lot of traditional baking to be done, I have decided to go down a slightly different path for a dinner tonight that celebrates Christmas from around the world.

As a big fan of tagines, I decided to create a special Christmas Tagine.  Bright with the colours of Christmas, red and green, and deliciously fragrant with Middle Eastern flavours that remind us of the original Christmas story, this beef tagine is full of beautiful veggies too.

Of course, the beef tagine can be eaten at any time of the year! But it can be an alternative to the usual suspects eaten on the day, and would make a great Boxing Day or even New Year’s dish!

I have recently been researching the Keto Diet – not, I hasten to add, on my own behalf – but to better understand what a particular disciple of this low carb program can eat. So I had a go at creating something that might be at least keto friendly,  if not actually following all its tenets. I have certainly got to grips with the idea “above ground vegetables good, below ground vegetables bad”!

Here it is. You could substitute some non keto approved below ground veggies like potatoes or carrots, if you like, but they would need to be added in at the start of the recipe, as they take longer to cook. As prunes aren’t probably that great for the Keto Diet, but do add that traditional sweetness to the tagine, you could halve the amount to get the flavour without too much of the sugar. Or leave them out altogether!

Ingredients

2 teaspoons paprika – sweet

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pepper corns – cracked in a mortar and pestle

2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

500g diced shin beef/chuck steak

4 eshallots  and 4 spring onions, finely chopped

(Or replace both with 2 large onions)

1-2 garlic cloves, to taste, finely chopped

1  x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

175g prunes

1.5 tins water (use the tomato tin as a measure)

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 small eggplant (aubergine), sliced

2 zucchini (courgettes), sliced

100g green olives

Chopped coriander, to decorate

Method

Combine the spices and pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add beef and stir until well coated in the spices. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C.

Heat a heavy based casserole on the stovetop, and add half the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and spring onions or ordinary onions and cook them for 5 minutes until soft. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or until the garlic is softened but not browned. Remove all to a plate.

Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan. Tip in the beef and cook over a fairly high heat until evenly browned and caramelised.

Return the shallots/onion/garlic to the casserole. Add the chopped tomatoes, tins of water and stir well. Add the pomegranate molasses. Stir in a third of the prunes. Lay several slices of the eggplant (about a third of the eggplant) on the top of the mixture.  Bring to the boil, then put the lid on and transfer to the oven.

Cook for an hour and a half. Remove from the oven and lay the rest of the eggplant slices and the zucchini slices into the casserole, as well as the rest of the prunes and most of the olives, reserving a few for serving. Cook, covered for a further hour or until the beef is really tender.

If you’re not completely satisfied with the tenderness of the beef pieces, you can cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and scatter the remaining olives over the tagine, and some coriander leaves.

The tagine should be looking pretty festive with its tomato red and coriander green, but you could add some sliced cherry tomatoes for a little more red or even, if so inclined, a few slices of red chilli!

Chocolate Chip Sandwich Stack Cookies


I have always been a fan of chocolate chip cookies, and bake quite a few different recipes. This is my go-to chic chip cookie recipe, and the cookies are chewy and chocolate-y, very more-ish.

However, they often end up a bit flat, which is fine by me – who’s going to tell a cookie that it’s too thin?  But way back in 2016 when I blogged this recipe, I came up with a great way to eat these cookies  – make them into cookie and ice cream sandwiches! Or make a cookie stack with lots of layers!

Ingredients

125g butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 free-range egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g chocolate chips (milk or dark)

50g good quality dark chocolate chopped into little and bigger shards

Method

Note: This is a food processor cookie. It would definitely be great to make it with an electric mixer – and for the purists, you will get really nicely creamed butter and sugar. But the food processor method is super quick – and your cookies are ready in no time.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar in the food processor until light and well, creamy! Add the vanilla extract and egg and process well. Add the flour and baking powder. You can sift them first, I never do. Gently pulse until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and the chopped chocolate.

Drop in dessert spoonfuls for large cookies or teaspoonfuls for smaller cookies on to the baking paper. You need to leave a gap of at least the size of 2 cookies between each (about 3 or 4 cms). Bake until the cookies are lovey and golden brown. This is usually between 12 and 15 minutes. I have found that watching the cookies is a better guide to when they are cooked than simply cooking for a certain number of minutes.

Cool for a few minutes on the baking trays, then finish on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.

T o make an icecream sandwich, put two cookies together with your favourite icecream! I used choc-peanut-salted caramel swirl. Good old vanilla would be fab. Drizzle with chocolate.

To make a cookie stack, pile up cookies with any filling you like – cream, chocolate, or buttercream icing. I made a passionfruit buttercream for this stack.

Lemon Ricotta Cake with Italian Meringue

 



I love cakes that utilise dairy ingredients such as ricotta, yoghurt or sour cream to make a very moist and slightly fudgy style of cake. This cake has ricotta and Greek yoghurt to give that great texture, plus soaked in lemon syrup for added moistness as well as added zing.

You can top this cake in a lot of ways – drizzle with more lemon syrup, ice with buttercream or as I did, swathe with beautiful cloudy Italian meringue!

Ingredients

4 large free range eggs – approximately 200 – 220g in weight

200g caster sugar

Zest of 2 lemons

175g butter

175g ricotta

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

75g Greek Yoghurt

200g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bi carbonate of soda

Lemon syrup

Juice of remaining lemon left over from zesting

50g sugar

Italian Meringue

225g caster sugar

120 glucose syrup

90ml water

150g free-range egg whites

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 20cm springform tin with butter. Line the base with a circle of baking paper.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in an electric mixer, starting on low and gradually increasing speed to maximum. Whisk till mixture is pale coloured slightly increased in volume.

Melt the butter and cool to room temperature. Break up ricotta roughly with a fork to help in mixing it in.

Add the lemon juice, vanilla paste, ricotta, yoghurt and butter to the bowl and whisk on low speed until just amalgamated. You don’t want to mix too long and knock the air out.

Combine the plain flour, baking powder and bi carbonate of soda, stirring with a fork to mix. If you want to, you can sift these ingredients.

Very carefully fold the flour into the cake mixture in 3 or 4 lots. Again, be careful not to overmix as you will lose volume. The mixture will be slightly lumpy because of the ricotta, but don’t worry, that doesn’t affect the baked cake texture.

Carefully pour into the cake tin. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake come out clean. Check the cake after 30 minutes – you may need to cover the top with foil if it’s browning too quickly.

Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup by putting the lemon juice and sugar into a small saucepan  over a low heat and stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil for a minute to reduce the syrup slightly.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, and leaving the cake in the tin, pierce all over the top with a skewer.

Pour the lemon syrup over the cake and then leave to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the spring form tin onto a plate.

To make the Italian meringue: first reserve 3 tablespoons of the caster sugar. Put the remaining sugar, glucose syrup and water into a small saucepan and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Have a cooking thermometer ready to test the temperature.  Without further stirring, cook over medium heat until the temperature reaches 117 degrees C on your thermometer.

Put the egg whites into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk  on a low speed. When the egg whites become loosened and slightly foamy, add the reserved 3 tablespoons of sugar, a tablespoon at a time.

Now you need to do this last action during the heating of the sugar syrup, which can be tricky. The idea is to pour the sugar syrup when it has reached 117 degrees C, onto the whisked egg whites and sugar. Pour the hot syrup down the side of the bowl, not onto the whisk.

Whisk on medium speed for several minutes until the mixture looks like meringue and is glossy and stands in peaks, and has cooled to room temperature. This will take at least 5 minutes – maybe more.

You can add any flavourings and colours at this point – stir in carefully by hand. I added the juice and seeds of a passionfruit for my cake, as passionfruit goes well with lemon.

To finish the cake, pile the thick luscious Italian meringue onto the top of the cake, using a palette knife.

Serve in thick slices, with more passionfruit, some lemon curd, whipped cream, ice cream, I could go on… this cake is a truly magnificent dessert cake however you like to serve it!

Spiced Red Lentil Dhal

I was reminded of this red lentil dhal dish I made a et while back, when my food photo exchange friend, a pretty decent cook himself, was talking about Indian dishes and his latest cooking exploits.

It’s a tasty veggie recipe that’s perfect for making sure you get your 5-a-day! And the spices make it delicious and flavourful.

This is a Vegan Sparkles recipes with my tweaks – the link to the original recipe is here.

It’s super easy to make, looks colourful and enticing, and is both vegetarian and vegan. And for us Antipodeans coming into summer, it’s a great dish to serve for an alfresco lunch. And if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, it would make a hearty first course in an Indian style banquet.

Ingredients

1 tbsp vegetable oil

½  onion, finely chopped

1 cup sweet potato, chopped into cubes

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 tsp mustard seeds (black or yellow)

¾ tsp ground cayenne pepper

1½ tsp ground cumin

1½ tsp ground turmeric

1½ tsp garam masala

½ tsp ground coriander

1 clove garlic, chopped

1½ cups dried red lentils

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups water

1 tsp honey

1 cup grated and pulped carrot

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup baby spinach leaves

½ tsp nigella seeds

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan over a medium heat. Add onion and sweet potato and fry gently until onion is soft. Add ginger, mustard seeds, cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, garam masala  coriander and garlic to the pan, and cook, while stirring, until mustard seeds begin to pop.

Add the lentils, stock and water and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the honey. Put the carrot pulp, broccoli  and cherry tomatoes into the dahl and simmer for another 15 minutes.

The dahl will be cooked and somewhat reduced. If it’s looks a little too dry, add more water, or if it’s too liquidey, reduce down a bit more.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the spinach leaves until they are just wilted. Scatter the nigella seeds just before serving over the dish. They will give an interesting black fleck to the dish!

Soul Cakes for All Souls’ Day



It’s 2 November, All Souls’ Day, and today I baked Soul  Cakes, the traditional fare for this special day.

 “The cakes, often simply referred to as souls, are given out to soulers who go from door to door, singing and saying prayers for the souls of the givers and their friends.”

The musician Sting has a version of the traditional song “Soul Cake” on his album “If on a Winter’s Night”. Here are some lyrics.

“A soul cake, a soul cake,

Please, good missus, a soul cake.

An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,

Any good thing to make us all merry,

A soul cake, a soul cake,

Please, good missus, a soul cake.

One for Peter, two for Paul,

And three for Him that made us all.”

These souls cakes are half biscuit, half cake. They are heavily spiced, and coloured yellow with a little saffron. I added the zest of a mandarin, an orange is just as good. I made mine quite thick, to be more cake like, and less like a biscuit. I think this works well.

My soul cakes are a little rustic, ie not very pretty, but taste really spicy and are quite more-ish.

While a traditional treat for this day, you could make them anytime as they are super delicious!

Ingredients

100 g butter, softened

100g caster sugar

2 free-range egg yolks

250g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 -1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon saffron

Zest of an orange or mandarin

2 tbs milk

75g sultanas

Method

Put the softened butter, caster sugar and egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor and blitz until everything is combined and the mixture is creamy. Don’t worry if it looks split – the addition of the flour will fix that!

Sift the flour and spices,including the saffron. Put the mixture with the orange/mandarin zest into the processor, blitzing for a couple of seconds only, then blitz in the milk a little at a time until the dough just comes together. Don’t over-mix! If the dough isn’t yellow enough, add a pinch more of saffron.

Stir in the sultanas by hand.

Form the dough into a rough ball, them roll into a sausage shape, with a rough diameter of about 50cm or 2 inches, or whatever size you want your soul cakes to be.

Wrap in grease proof paper and chill in the fridge for a couple oh hours or until you want to bake.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced or 180 degrees C non fan forced.

Line a baking tray with baking paper. Take the sausage from the fridge and cut into thick wedges. Place each wedge on the baking tray. At this stage you should cut a cross on the top of each soul cake. I have to admit I forgot to do this today! But I  have included a photo of a prototype batch with crosses. Incidentally these ones looked nicer but didn’t have the lovely rich spicy taste of the version in this post.


Bake for 15 minutes or until firm and just brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Delicious eaten warm! If not eaten on the day they will harden up a bit. The soul cakes can  be frozen too, but eat on the day if possible – All Souls’ Day!

Blueberry, Almond and Orange Cake



A couple of posts back I revisited my Blueberry Hazelnut Cake. So I really had to make another blueberry cake straight after posting that recipe as blueberries are everywhere and are so inexpensive! I picked up 3 punnets from a fruit stall in the city for $5 – such good value!

This is a riff from the original recipe, this time using ground almonds and orange. Orange slices make a great decoration for the top of the cake too. Like the original cake, I made a quick blueberry jam to spoon over the top. Better then frosting, and it really complements the blueberries inside the cake.

This is an incredibly moist cake, because of the blueberries and the Greek yoghurt. The cooking time is 45 minutes, but you may need to give it a little longer if it’s still not quite baked when you check using the skewer test.

Because it’s so moist I thought about adjusting the liquid quantities, but decided not to, as I think this cake works really well as a rich dessert, and is also a great cake for keeping. And don’t worry if it doesn’t rise that much, there is a lot of fruit in it which makes it harder to rise.

Any orange is fine for the juice and decoration – I used a blood orange as they are in season in Sydney and are so pretty!

Ingredients

125g softened butter

115g  caster sugar

1 teaspoon almond essence

2 free-range eggs

1 heaped tablespoon Greek yoghurt

100g ground almonds

100g plain flour

I teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

60ml milk

1 tablespoon orange juice

200g fresh blueberries

For the quick blueberry jam

100g blueberries

50g caster sugar

Juice of half an orange

Orange slices for decoration, if desired

Method

You can make this cake in a stand mixer, but I prefer to use a food processor. Either will work well.

I made this cake in a square cake pan with a removable base, but of course a round spring form pan is what most people will have, so that will work fine.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease a 20cm square pan with a removable baseif you have it, or a 20cm spring form round pan, and line the base with baking paper.

Cream butter, caster sugar and almond essence extract in a food processor.  Add the free-range eggs and process until eggs are well incorporated. Pulse in the Greek yoghurt.  Sift the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the sifted ingredients into the mixture with a spoon, then stir in the milk and orange juice.

Fold in the fresh blueberries. Spoon into whichever cake pan you are using.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after 35 or 40 minutes, and if it’s browning too quickly, place a piece of baking paper or aluminium foil over the top to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, cook the blueberries for the quick jam and the caster sugar with the orange juice in a small saucepan for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved, the blueberries are slightly softened and the liquid slightly reduced. You can gently press on the blueberries with the back of spoon to help them release their juices.

Cool the cake completely in the pan before removing the sides/ring of the pan. As the cake is quite moist and therefore a bit delicate, carefully remove it from its base using an offset spatula or indeed an ordinary metal spatula.

Pile the blueberry “jam” onto the top of the cake. Serve with more fresh berries and orange slices if desired. I think this particular blueberry cake is fine on its own, as it’s so moist, but you could always dress it up with cream or ice cream if serving as a dessert.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Goat’s Cheese



Home-made pasta is great to eat and pretty easy to make. There are so many different sizes and  shapes to make, and you can create different flavours by adding vegetables and herbs, as I did here by adding pumpkin to the dough.

This is a recipe for pumpkin ravioli with goat’s cheese I made a while back. I made two different fillings, one with goat’s cheese and watercress, the other with goat’s cheese, pumpkin, thyme and hazelnuts. The pasta dough has mashed baked pumpkin to give the pasta a lovely orange colour and subtle taste. 

The basic recipe I use for the pasta dough is a Jamie Oliver recipe. Click here for the original recipe. It’s straightforward and easy to follow. 

Ingredients

Pasta

3 large free range eggs

300g Tipo ’00’ flour

3 tablespoons or so of butternut pumpkin baked in the oven with a little olive oil, then mashed. The amount you use will depend on how “orange ” you want the pasta to be. If you add too much, the pasta will be too soft to roll, so start out adding less – you can always add more.

Filling

3 tablespoons or so of any soft goat’s cheese 

1 tablespoon or so of wilted watercress ( a few good handfuls of watercress will wilt down to 1 tablespoon – instructions below)

1 tablespoon mashed baked pumpkin (squash)

2 teaspoons roast chopped hazlenuts (about 10 or 12)

A few chopped thyme leaves

Method

Put the eggs and flour into a food proccesor and whiz until the flour looks like breadcrumbs, then tip the mixture on to the work surface and bring the dough roughly together. Add the baked pumpkin, starting off with a little at first, then adding more if you need to. Bring the pasta dough together into one lump.

Knead the dough and work it with your hands to develop the gluten in the flour, until the pasta dough starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury.  Wrap the dough in cling film and put it in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour before you use it.

Now is the time to prepare your filling, so you are ready to fill the ravioli once the pasta is rolled.

To wilt the watercress, place it washed in a small frying pan or saucepan with the barest amount of water. Cook over a low heat until it wilts. Break up the goat’s cheese with a fork, and mix in salt and pepper to taste.

To half the goat’s cheese add the watercress, and to the other half mix in the mashed pumpkin, thyme leaves and roast chopped hazelnuts.

I should note here that I inadvertently mixed in some wilted watercress into some of my pasta dough –  so I went with it – creating some lovely green speckled pasta dough that you can see in some of the photos.

For the pasta, dust your work surface with some Tipo ‘00’ flour, take a lump of pasta dough the size of a large orange and press it out flat with your fingertips. Set the pasta machine at its widest setting – and roll the lump of pasta dough through it. Lightly dust the pasta with flour if it sticks at all. Click the machine down a setting and roll the pasta dough through again. Fold the pasta in half, click the pasta machine back up to the widest setting and roll the dough through again. Repeat this process five or six times. It might seem like you’re getting nowhere, but in fact you’re working the dough, and once you’ve folded it and fed it through the rollers a few time, it should be smooth and silky.

Now roll the pasta dough working it through all the settings on the machine, from the widest down to around the narrowest. Lightly dust both sides of the pasta with a little flour every time you run it through. When you’ve got down to the narrowest setting, fold the pasta in half lengthways, then in half again, then in half again once more until you’ve got a square-ish piece of dough. Turn it 90 degrees and feed it through the machine at the widest setting. As you roll it down through the settings for the last time, you should end up with a rectangular silky sheet of dough with straight sides. For ravioli, roll the pasta down to the point where you can clearly see your hand or lines of newsprint through it.

Once you have rolled the pasta, you will need to work quite quickly, as the pasta dries out. Place the rolled pasta on a lighly floured board. Cut the pasta sheets into two if they are really long, or use two rolled sheets if they are the right length to make the ravioli. You can cover the unused sheets with a tea towel for a few minutes while you are making ravioli with the other sheets.

Place small spoonfuls of the filling on one pasta sheet, allowing for a border when you come to cut the ravioli. Moisten the exposed pasta and put the other pasta sheet on top. Press down to divide the sheets into individual ravioli and, making sure you don’t trap any air with the filling, seal the ravioli edges.

Cut pasta into shapes using a pastry cutter or a sharp knife. Dust the ravioli with a little flour to help them keep their shape if you’re not cooking immediately, or alternatively pack them carefully into freezer bags and freeze for cooking in the future.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and put the ravioli in. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until al dente. The fresher the ravioli are, the quicker they will cook.

For a quick sauce, heat a little butter in a frying pan until the butter foams and add lots of black pepper. Pour over the ravioli and serve with shaved parmesan.

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