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Walnut Cake with Caramelised Figs

Figs are plentiful in the height of summer here in Sydney. I love cooking with seasonal fruit, particularly at this time of year when there are a multitude of summer fruits available. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, pineapples and mangoes, peaches and nectarines, my absolute favourite passionfruit, and of course delicious figs.

This recipe for walnut cake is based on my almond cake recipe that I usually make with stone fruit. I have a couple of versions on this blog. This time, I used walnuts, as I was looking for a robust flavour to go with some caramelised figs. In the almond cake recipe, I use bought ground almonds, whereas in this recipe I take whole walnuts and whizz them in the food processor to make ground walnuts with some little nutty bits still remaining. This gives the cake a nice texture.

The cake is drizzled with a coffee caramel syrup, and figs which have been poached in this syrup are placed on top. I also put some fresh figs on top which worked well too. But I think the caramelised figs are nicer!

Ingredients

150g butter
100g caster sugar
50g brown sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
150g walnuts
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Coffee Caramel
3 tablespoons caster sugar
75mls good coffee liqueur- I used Mr Black from Botanica Distillery in NSW, a cold brew coffee liquor. Any liqueur is fine!
A few splashes of water up to 50mls to thin syrup to pouring consistency
3 figs, cut in half for poaching, or 2 or 3 fresh figs.

Method

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced. Grease a 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Put the walnuts into a food processor and pulse, stopping every so often to make sure you don’t over process. You want some chunky bits as well as some fine ground walnuts. Set aside, but don’t bother washing the processor!

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

Put the mixture into the springform and bake for about 45 minutes  or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the cake.

While the cake is baking, make the caramel.

For the coffee caramel, put the caster sugar in a small frying pan or saucepan and dissolve the sugar gently over a low heat. Don’t stir the sugar or it will crystallise! Once the sugar is dissolved, cook until it turns light brown, sort of tea coloured. Take it off the heat and add the coffee liqueur carefully, as the caramel is hot. You can add some water if the syrup is too thick. If the caramel has already turned to toffee, don’t worry. Just gently heat the caramel with the liqueur over low heat and the toffee will dissolve.

Put 6 of the fig halves into the coffee syrup and poach for a couple of minutes over a low heat until the figs are slightly softened.

Once the cake is out of the oven, and while it is still hot, pierce the top a few times with a skewer and pour a few teaspoonfuls of the syrup over the cake.

Serve the cake with the poached figs on top, with a little more syrup drizzled over the figs, and Greek yoghurt or whipped cream or creme fraiche. Or decorate the cake with the plain figs, or a combination of poached and fresh, and a little of the syrup and yoghurt or cream. Either way it’s delicious!

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Pavlova with Blackberries, Raspberries and Toasted Macadamias

You can never have too much pavlova in my opinion. It’s a truly luscious dessert, that’s as perfect on a hot summer’s day as in mid winter. Serve it with tropical fruits, berries or lemon curd in summer, or warming poached quince or chocolate and hazelnuts in winter.

I have had a pavlova week! Last weekend in Sydney there were summer lunches and barbecues planned to mark Australia Day. You might notice I don’t use the word celebrate, as there is a rising tide of discussion about whether we should mark this day on the 26 January or indeed mark it at all. But I leave that discussion for another post.

Notwithstanding, many pavlovas would have been dutifully made and consumed last week! I didn’t actually make a pavlova, but I did get very involved in the efforts of my friends to produce this famous dessert for their Australia Day lunch.

One friend, a novice cook, sort my advice about pavlova making via text over several days! I found it quite stressful, trying to give the right advice without watching the work in progress. I sent a link to my own pavlova recipes in this blog as well as a helpful YouTube video I found. I was so relieved to hear that the pavlova was a big success – the photos looked great!

Over the weekend I stayed with my friends in beautiful Palm Beach, the Architect and the Delegator, mentioned before in this blog.

The Architect was making his famous pavlova, and I was lucky enough to watch him in action. The recipe comes from that wonderful cook Maggie Beer, but the Architect has now made the pavlova his own, putting his own inimitable stamp on it.

I’ve blogged the original pav before, see here, but I’m doing it again as I have picked up a few tricks and tips watching the Architect in action.

In this version, we made blackberries the star, as they are so plentiful and delicious in high summer. We added raspberries as in the original recipe too, for colour. I laughingly say “we”, as I was giving a little advice, but it was the Architect’s creation!

So here is the recipe. I can only say that that it’s so worth making – it’s absolutely delicious!

Ingredients

6 free-range egg whites

Pinch of salt

2 cups (475 g) caster sugar

1 tbl cornflour

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1/2 cup macadamias

500 mls thickened cream

250 g creme fraiche

250 g blackberries

250 g raspberries

Method

Preheat oven to 140 degrees C fan forced. My experience with pavlovas is that you need this low temperature. Some recipes suggest higher, but I really think low is best. You can always cook a little longer if you’re worried the pav is not done.

Draw 3 x 22 cm circles on baking paper and place the paper on 3 oven trays.

Beat the egg whites and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Don’t over beat at this stage as you can actually beat the air out and the whites will flop!

Ideally a stand mixer is best, but the Architect used hand electric beaters. If you use these you will need an assistant to spoon in the sugar for the next stage. . Luckily I was there to assist!

Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon full at a time, beating well after each addition until the sugar is dissolved. When all the sugar has been added, best for another minute to make sure all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is not grainy. To test, squash a little piece of meringue between thumb and forefinger and it should should feel smooth.

Fold in the cornflour and vinegar. Now spread the meringue evenly onto the circles. This is where the Architect used his incredible skills, judging exactly how much meringue to spoon onto each circle. You want the discs to be flattish, as you will be layering them, but a few rustic peaks are definitely ok!

Bake the meringue discs for about 40 minutes. They should look dry and crisp on the outside. Turn the oven off and leave the discs to cool on the trays in the oven.

Lightly toast the macadamias in a frying pan over a medium heat until they are golden to light brown.

Whip the cream in a large bowl and then stir in the crème fraiche.

To assemble, place 1 meringue disc on a large serving plate, spread with 1/3 cream mixture and top with 1/3 of the blackberries and raspberries. Place the second meringue disc on top, then another 1/3 cream mixture and 1/3 berries. Top with the remaining meringue disc and decorate, as artfully as you like, with the remaining cream mixture, blackberries and raspberries, and the toasted macadamias.

PS The left over pavlova, while looking a little messy, is so worth fighting friends and family for!

Buttermilk Crumpets for Breakfast!

This is the third post on breakfast featuring yummy home made treats which taste so much nicer knowing you have made them yourself, plus you can feel pretty virtuous too!

I have made crumpets a few times before, but this time I was keen to incorporate buttermilk from the wonderful Pepe Saya, maker of all kinds of delicious dairy products. I didn’t know how buttermilk would go in the recipe, but figured it could only add to the flavour. Which it did. 

This recipe owes a lot to a version I found while searching the internet, from this wonderful blog. http://www.kulinaryadventuresofkath.com/theblog/2017/7/7/buttermilk-crumpets-homemade-butter

I have tweaked here and there to suit my version of these delicious crumpets. 

Ingredients

250g strong white flour
9g fast action yeast
55ml tepid water
275ml buttermilk at room temperature
1tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50ml warm water
Butter for greasing and cooking

Method

Put the flour and yeast into a large bowl. Measure the water and buttermilk and combine with the sugar. Add this mixture to the flour/yeast and stir to combine.

Cover the bowl with cling wrap or my favourite – a plastic shower cap, the kind you get in the toiletries provided in hotels. I collect a heap of them for all my bread, yeast pastries and crumpet making! Leave to rise until the mixture has almost doubled in size and has lots of bubbles.

At this point turn on your hot plate and heat a large heavy bottomed frying pan or griddle pan. You will need to cook the crumpets in metal crumpet rings, but egg rings will do too. Grease whatever rings you are using with melted butter.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water, then stir into the batter.

Melt a small knob of butter in the pan. You don’t need too much – be prepared to pour some out – you don’t want the crumpets to swim in the butter.

Place 2-3 rings in the pan, depending on the size of your rings and the pan. Spoon in enough mixture to fill about ½ to ¾ of each ring. Cook on a medium heat until bubbles then small holes appear on the tops. This should take about 3-5 minutes. Then flip the crumpets over, easing the crumpets out of the rings. Cook on the other sides for a couple of minutes until the bottoms are brown.

Remove from the pan, keep warm to eat straight away. Or cool to room temperature and then freeze. They freeze really well – defrost in the fridge, then toast before serving.

Re-grease the crumpet rings and cook the crumpets using the rest of the batter.

I served the crumpets with butter and lots of beautiful Beechwood honey! Yummy!

 

 

 

 

Cherry Jam Meringue Slice

DBF6387D-B84A-4718-85A6-FA7479BB6492 5DCC3599-F2AE-43F0-A89D-FE36FC88BDE8I was flicking through my mother’s well thumbed and dearly loved hand written recipe book, looking for inspiration for a sweet treat to make. I came across her recipe for German Biscuits, a lovely biscuit, jam and meringue recipe. I have made and blogged German Biscuits before – see here for the post. Where the recipe comes from is a little unclear as my post details, but presumably it would be German in origin!

This time I made the slice, as this is what it really is, with cherry jam, instead of apricot, but really any kind of jam works fine.

Ingredients

2 tbls butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs (yolks and whites separated)
1 cup SR flour or enough to make a stiff dough
Cherry jam
Flaked almonds

Method

Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C fan-forced. Line a square baking tin with baking paper. I used a 20cm square tin.

Cream the butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor. Add the beaten egg yolks with a very little water. Mix in the sifted flour. Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness, and place in the lined tin.  Bake for about 15 minutes or until the biscuit is cooked and golden on top. Remove from the oven. Turn the oven down to 130 degrees C.

Spread the biscuit with the cherry jam to cover. Beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating mixture until it is of stiff meringue consistency.

Spoon the meringue over the cherry jam, creating rough peaks. Sprinkle liberally with the almonds. Bake in a slow oven  to dry the meringue for about 15 minutes. You can open the oven door after 15 minutes and check to see if the meringue is firm to the touch but still has a marshmallow consistency. Cook for a little longer if necessary.

Remove from the oven and when cool, remove the slice by lifting the baking paper out of the tin. Cut into squares to serve. 709FC6C5-2BDF-4BCC-8B5C-3D024CA45F50.jpeg

Christmas Festive Trifle

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If you’re looking for a beautiful and colourful trifle for the festive season, this one is great and pretty easy.

I made it for last year’s festivities when I had a large gathering of family and friends for a post Christmas lunch. It was 40 degrees C and so hot! A cool dessert was definitely what we were all after!

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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Pear and Marzipan Cake with Poached Pears

 

This is a lovely moist cake, as it has chopped pears cooked in the cake mixture. Serving the cake with poached pears and the sticky syrup they have been cooked in also adds to the lusciousness of this dessert cake!

The recipe I have created, like many good recipes, is a “hybrid”, based on one I found in a Delicious Magazine, with some tweaks from Gourmet Traveller. The following recipe is the result of “tailoring” the recipes to suit what I was after in a delicious pear cake.

Ingredients 

250g butter, softened
250g marzipan, softened
315g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 free range eggs
150g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
2 ripe pears, chopped, + 3 whole pears for poaching

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease and line the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake pan with baking paper.

Place the butter, marzipan and 150g sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat for 3-4 minutes on medium speed until creamy. Add almond and vanilla extracts, then add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. Gently fold through chopped pears  and then spoon into the lined cake tin.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To poach pears, place remaining 165 sugar in a saucepan over a low heat with 750ml water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the pears, and poach for 15 minutes or until tender. Remove the pears and set aside to cool. Increase the heat to medium, and cook the poaching liquid for 10-15 minutes or until reduced and syrupy. Set aside to cool.

To serve, place the poached pears on the top of the cake and drizzle the pear syrup over the top. Lovely with lashings of whipped cream, or ice cream or Greek yogurt!

 

“Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme” Meatballs

Here’s a really quick and tasty meatball dish. The meatballs are baked, with cherry tomatoes which makes a simple sauce. You can also customise the meatballs by adding chili, cheese or more sauce. They’re great served on crusty bread as mini burgers too!

The meatballs are very herby, cooked with rosemary and sage, and served with more rosemary, thyme and parsley. Hence the name – my homage to the Simon and Garfunkel version of “Scarborough Fair”, a favourite song of mine. I love the live version on the album Live 69 http://www.simonandgarfunkel.com/music/live-1969/.

Ingredients 

1 onion

500g good quality minced beef (I used wagyu beef mince – wonderful flavour)

1/2 tsp rosemary sprigs 

1/2 tsp sage leaves

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 

1 tsp balsamic vinegar 

1 tsp Dijon mustard 

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2-3 tbls breadcrumbs or a good couple of handfuls 

12 cherry tomatoes 

6-8 truss cherry tomatoes

1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves 

1/2 tsp torn parsley leaves

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C non fan forced, 210 degrees C fan forced.

Chop the onion finely, or blitz in a food processor.

Put the beef mince in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the mince with a spoon. You could do all the mixing using your hands if you wish. Add the chopped onion, rosemary sprigs and sage leaves, which have been finely chopped.

Add the beaten egg, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs, mixing to combine so that the mixture holds together. You will need to use your judgement about how much of the breadcrumbs you add to give you a good consistency to make meatballs.

Roll the mixture into golf ball sized balls. Place them side by side, fairly snugly, into a baking dish. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and push them as many halves as you like into the spaces between the meatballs. Scatter some more rosemary springs over the top with more salt and pepper.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes until the meatballs are brown and cooked, but still nice and moist in the middle, if you cut one open.

You could serve as is, but it’s nice to add some more cherry tomatoes. Blister some truss cherry tomatoes in a hot frying pan by dry-frying for a couple of minutes. 

Serve the meatballs with the blistered tomatoes, scattered with thyme and parsley.

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