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Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

Cakes where orange or lemon are predominant flavours are an important part of a baker’s repertoire. They make wonderful afternoon tea cakes and can be dressed up for dessert.

This is a lovely cake from Middle Eastern inspired cook Yotam Ottolenghi. I’m revisiting it in autumn in Sydney, as we are enjoying long warm days, perfect for cake and coffee in the sunshine!

The cake itself is flavoured with rosemary, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake.

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

Here is Ottolenghi’s recipe.

Ingredients

Cake
30g unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240g plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120g caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130g sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

Crystallised Rosemary
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size
1 free range egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar

Orange Icing
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150g sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary. Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Generously grease a 23cm bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, caster sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for one minute.

Scrape batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

To make the icing, in a small bowl whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and icing sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle the icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

Persian Love Cake – Lemon and Rose

I’ve always been fascinated with Middle Eastern cooking, and over the years I’ve built up a repertoire of favourite recipes. At first I was guided by cooking luminaries such as Claudia Rosen – her orange almond cake is cafe legend the world over – and the highly knowledgeable Elizabeth David.

And latterly, like so many people with a passion for good food, I have lapped up everything the wonderful Yotam Ottlenghi has said and written about Middle Eastern cooking, particularly the cooking of Israel and Palestine, where he developed his unique take on flavour.

This recipe is loosely a Persian Love Cake – I got a lot of inspiration from Turkish cooking too, in particular the recipes of Sevtap Yuce. My cake features lemon, rosewater and almonds as the principal flavours.

This cake is quite big – it’s essentially a sharing, celebration cake. You could scale it down if you wanted, or make 2 smaller cakes from the mixture.

Ingredients

150g butter

330g caster sugar

zest of 1 1/2 lemon

6 large free-range eggs

300g plain flour

165g ground almonds *

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of sea salt

1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

300g Greek yoghurt

3 tablespoons rosewater

*If you like your almonds to be a little crunchy, instead of using ground almonds, try pulsing flaked or slivered almonds in a food processor until they are ground but still have a bit of texture.

Syrup

125g caster sugar

125g water

Juice of a lemon

1-2 tablespoons rosewater

To serve – any of these are great!

1-2 tablespoons whole pistachios

Cardamom pistachio sugar**

Edible dried rose petals

Crystallised rose petals

Glacé fruit as decoration

** Here in Australia I use Cardamom Pistachio Sugar made by Gewürzhaus. Hopefully there will be other brands available where you live.

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C, non fan forced. Carefully butter a 24cm springform cake tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing carefully after each addition to make sure the mixture doesn’t curdle. Add a dessertspoon of flour 3 times each time you’ve added 2 eggs. This will help stabilise the mixture and stop it curdling.

Sift the rest of the dry ingredients – it’s important to do this to give this rather dense cake some aeration.

Fold the sifted dry ingredients into the mixture.

Stir in the yoghurt and rosewater. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. If you’re worried about the cake browning too much, after half an hour or so, you can place a piece of foil over the top of the cake.

Once cooked, remove the cake from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tin.

Remove the ring of springform tin, then remove the cake from its base.

Place on a serving plate.

For the syrup, combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice, and bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add the rosewater. Cool the syrup to room temperature.

Pierce the cake all over with a skewer, and spoon the cool syrup over the hot cake. Leave at room temperature so that the syrup can soak into the cake.

Scatter any of the following over the syrupy cake – whole pistachios, cardamom pistachio sugar, edible dried rose petals, crystallised rose petals or glacé fruit.

Serve the cake at room temperature, with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt.

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!

Lemon Yoghurt Sheet Cake

 





I was debating whether this was a sheet cake or a traybake. I guess it’s the former, as it’s more a cake than a “slice”, the Australian version of a traybake, and baked as a sheet in a 13” x 9” cake pan.

Lemon and yoghurt go well together and create a moist cake, and topped with a lemon glaze makes it extra lemony!

Ingredients

Cake batter:

250g butter, softened 

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

250g caster sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

3 free-range eggs

250g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

100g Greek yoghurt

Juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon milk

Lemon glaze:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Enough icing sugar to make a thin but spreadable icing

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced.  

Line a 13” x 9” cake pan with baking paper. Beat butter, vanilla and sugar in a food processor until well creamed.

Add the lemon zest. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in the flour and baking powder, the yoghurt and the lemon juice, in 2 batches. Stir in the tablespoon of milk.

Spread mixture into the pan. Bake about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the cake  comes out clean. 

Cool in the pan, then turn the sheet cake out onto a wire rack.

For the glaze, mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to make a spreadable glaze. It’s rather hard to say how much, just keep adding icing sugar a little at a time until you get the right consistency.

Spread on top of the sheet cake, no need to be too precise, this is more of a glaze than an icing and should drip down the cake.

Luscious Lemon Pie


Everyone loves lemons and everyone loves pies, so a really tangy, deep and luscious lemon pie is a wonderful thing. This lemon pie is pretty easy to make. The base is made with crushed biscuit and nuts, with three ingredients, and the filling has just three ingredients too!

I make the pie with an Italian meringue topping. You don’t have to have this – you could just as easily serve it with whipped cream on top, or simpler still, pile up a whole heap of lovely fresh berries like raspberries or blueberries on the pie, and the berries cut through the sweetness of the filling.

I have made this pie with ordinary and with Meyer lemons, and while not essential, Meyer lemons give the pie a lovely flavour.

Ingredients 

Biscuit Base

160g ginger nut biscuits + 90g digestive biscuits (McVities are my fave)

80g salted macadamias (you could use almonds if you like)

100g butter

Filling 

2 tins sweetened condensed milk

4 large free-range egg yolks

Juice of 4 lemons + the juice of 1/2 lemon 

Zest of 1 lemon

Meringue Topping (optional)

100g caster sugar

2 free-range egg whites

Pinch of cream of tartar

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan-forced. You will need a 20cm pie/tart tin or dish. A larger tin or dish is fine, you will end up with a shallower pie. A loose bottom tin, while not essential, makes it easier to get the pie out of the tin.

Put the biscuits and macadamias into a ziplock bag and bash with a rolling pin or mallet till you have a rubble of biscuit pieces and crumbs. Place the biscuit/nut mixture into a food processor, and blitz until you have mostly fine crumbs with a few larger biscuit and nut pieces. Melt the butter in a microwave or on the stovetop.

Stir the butter through the biscuit/nut mixture. Press the mixture into the tin, on the base and up the sides. Keep pressing with your fingers to make sure the base covers the tin and there are no holes. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the base is firm. Remove from the oven.

While the base is cooking, put the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest into the food processor and whizz until everything is well blended. Pour onto the warm base. The mixture should come almost up to the top of the tin. You may end up with a little too much lemon mixture, you can always bake this in a little tin or muffin mold and you have an extra dessert! Cook’s treat!

Bake for 20 minutes or until just set but the middle still has a slight wobble. You might like to check it after 17 or 18 minutes. Everyone’s oven is different and some ovens cook faster then others.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tin. Or, if your pie is baked in a dish, leave as is. Chill in the fridge for at least a few hours.

Meringue topping (if using)

Combine sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook until syrup reaches 115C (soft ball stage) using a thermometer.

Now whisk the egg whites with cream of tartar on medium speed in a grease-free bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form.

Cook the sugar syrup to 121C (hard ball stage). With the mixer speed still on medium, carefully and gradually pour the syrup into the beaten egg whites. Increase speed to high and beat until the meringue is cooled to room temperature and it is thick and glossy.

Spoon the meringue into a piping beg with a plain nozzle, or you could just use a ziplock bag with the end snipped off – works a treat! Pipe in whatever way you like  on top of the lemon pie. Scorch with a kitchen blow torch for added wow!

Serve with whipped cream and berries, lemon slices and anything else you fancy.

Apple and Rosemary Muffins with Lemon Glaze



My go-to recipe for muffins these days is Matt Stone’s wonderful Greenhouse muffin recipe, blogged here.  His book The Natural Cook Maximum Taste Zero Waste is one of my favourite reference cookbooks at the moment. This recipe works well, as Matt suggests letting the mixture sit in the fridge overnight to let the flour hydrate and the flavours deepen. The resulting texture and taste are exceptional!

I’m experimenting with different flavours for this recipe. This recipe features rosemary, a fragrant woody herb, which gives the muffins a lovely intense aromatic flavour. I’ve used  apples, and lots of cinnamon and ground ginger. I drizzled the muffins with a lemon icing, which complements the rosemary beautifully.

Ingredients

4 free-range eggs

280g raw sugar

200g apples, unpeeled and grated

150ml vegetable oil

10g chopped fresh rosemary

300g  or wholemeal plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp salt

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Enough icing sugar to make a lemon icing that will glaze the muffins, and drip a little over the sides

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees fan-forced 180 degrees non fan-forced.

Whisk the eggs together in a large mixing bowl and once things start to get foamy, slowly begin to pour in the sugar. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has doubled in size. Whisk in the apple, oil and chopped rosemary. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and salt.

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 too.

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.

I used my fancy new Silverwood molds instead – available pretty easily in the UK, but if you’re in Australia like me, you will need to go to Blackwood Lane in Melbourne to buy them. If you want to use a fancy mold, my advice is to butter and flour very carefully to avoid the muffins sticking. I actually butter the molds, stick in the fridge for 10 minutes, then butter again, and finally flour.

Here is a photo of the molds I used:


Place the tray in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, checking with a skewer to see if the muffins are cooked.

Once cooked, remove the muffins from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5–10 minutes. Remove them from the tin, peel off the baking paper and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the lemon glaze, mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to achieve the desired consistency.

Spoon the lemon glaze over the muffins, allowing a little to drop down the sides.


Strawberry and Lemon Cupcakes

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These little cup cakes are dead easy! The recipe is basically Nigella Lawson’s from her book How to be Domestic Goddess. It all happens in the food processor!

Ice however you like – I chose a strawberry buttercream with real strawberries and a lemon glaze. My piping skills are pretty bad – something I need to learn to perfect!

Ingredients

Cupcakes

125g self-raising flour

125g caster sugar

125g butter

2 large free-range eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tblsp milk

Strawberry Buttercream Icing

75g strawberries

1 tsp lemon juice

50g butter, softened

250g icing sugar, sifted

Lemon Icing

2 tblsp lemon juice

Enough sifted icing sugar to make a thick but spreadable icing.

Method

Cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a muffin tin with cup cake cases.

Put all the ingredients except the milk in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add the milk while pulsing to make a soft, dropping consistency.

Spoon mixture into the cases, filling the cases equally.

Place the tin in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the cup cakes are cooked and golden on top.

Take the cup cakes in their cases out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Ice half with the strawberry buttercream and the other half with the lemon icing.

 Strawberry Buttercream Icing

Put the strawberries and lemon juice in a food processor and whiz to purée.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and icing sugar until combined, then gradually add the strawbewerry purée, beating continuously.

Lemon Icing

Mix the lemon juice with the icing sugar in a bowl until you achieve the desired consistency.

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Quick Mix Citrus Cake

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This cake is based on Annabel Langbein’s Orange Lightning Cake from her recent book Simple Pleasures. It’s an easy cake where most of the ingredients are combined at the same time.

The original recipe calls for an uncooked whole orange. I substituted candied cumquats and lemon for the orange, as I had a jar of cumquats from winter bottling in the store cupboard which I though would be quite piquant. The cumquats were cooked. I added half a lemon (uncooked) as I thought the cake might be a little sweet. I cut down on the sugar in the recipe for the same reason.

I used a fluted tin for presentation.

Ingredients
1 orange (unpeeled)*
1 tsp bi-carbonate of soda
125 gms softened butter
1 cup sugar#
2 eggs
1 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 cup sultanas or raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Method
Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease a 20cm diameter cake tin or fancy tin and line the base with baking paper.
Cut the orange or other fruit into segments, remove the seeds and whizz in a food processor until finely chopped.
Dissolve bi-carbonate of soda in 1/2 cup water and add to the food processor with butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour. Whizz to combine. Add sultanas or raisins, and walnuts if using, and stir with a spoon or pulse several times to just combine.
Pour into prepared cake tin and bake until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean 50-60 minutes.
Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a cake rack. Serve with a dusting of icing sugar, or fresh berries, or lemon or orange water icing.

* I substituted 1/4 cup candied cumquats and half a lemon.

# If using cumquats use 3/4 cup sugar.

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Strawberry Conserve

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This recipe from my mother was my first attempt at jam making. I’m not sure who developed this version, but the jam is sensational as it is slightly tart, having only half the sugar of other recipes. As strawberries have a high pectin content, it sets well.

It’s really a conserve, as the fruit is kept whole. Conserves are a form of preserving in which whole fruit is suspended in jelly. I find berries make great conserves.

My mother noted: “do not make large quantities  – 2 pounds (1kilo) of strawberries is the maximum to be made at the one time”.

I’ve been making this conserve for ages and it’s always scrumptious.

Ingredients

500gms strawberries
250gms sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Method

Hull the strawberries and put into a china or plastic basin (not metal).  Cover with the sugar and leave for several hours or overnight.

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Add lemon juice and gently stir the mixture to make sure all the sugar is dissolved.

Transfer to a large saucepan and boil briskly, testing for setting point regularly. When setting point* is reached – about 25 to 30 minutes, remove pan from the stove. Ladle carefully into sterilised jars and leave to cool.

Note: use a wooden spoon and do not stir vigorously so that the berries are kept mostly intact.

*Testing for setting point
While the jam is cooking, place a small saucer in the freezer to thoroughly chill (about 5 minutes). When you think the jam may have reached setting point, remove the saucer form the freezer, place a teaspoonful of jam on it, put back in the freezer for 3 or 4 minutes. If the jam has a jelly-like consistency or a crinkly skin has formed on the sample, the jam is ready.

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Baked Cheesecake with a Sour Cream Topping

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This is a baked cheese cake and was first made by one of Quirky’s siblings, a very good if somewhat infrequent cook. The recipe hails from the Sydney County Council in the 1960s.

This version comes from a handwritten recipe from a family cookbook. I have left the measurements in Imperial, as this rather adds to the charm of the recipe. They can be easily converted.

I would suggest using vanilla extract or vanilla paste, and would also recommend the use of a food processor.

Ingredients

Crumb Crust
I/2 lb plain sweet biscuits
1/2 level teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 level teaspoon cinnamon
3 oz butter

Cream Cheese Filling
1 lb cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 eggs

Topping
1 carton (1/2 pint) sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
1 level tablespoon sugar

Method

Crush biscuits very finely and add nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and quickly stir in biscuit crumbs.

Press firmly into greased 8″ springform tin bringing mixture within 1/2 ‘ from the top of the tin.

Put cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice in a bowl and beat well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Pour mixture into uncooked crumb crust and bake in a moderate oven at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove from oven.

Beat together the topping ingredients and pour over hot cheesecake. Return to oven and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool, then store in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Decoration

Decorate with sugar frosted fresh fruit and chocolate leaves. I used cherries, strawberries and black grapes for this particular birthday cheesecake. To make the sugar frosted fruit, coat fruit in lightly beaten egg white then dip in caster sugar.

To make the chocolate leaves, dip camellia leaves in melted dark chocolate, leave to set in the fridge, then gently peel away the leaves leaving the chocolate imprint intact.

Serves 10 -12.

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