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Tag Archives: Southern Highlands

Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake



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.


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


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!









Apricot Almond Cake


This is a kind of frangipane, as the cake is mostly butter, sugar, eggs and ground almonds, with a little bit of flour to stabilize the mixture. I make it every summer, using whatever stone fruit is at its best.

I was lucky enough to pick apricots from the trees of my friends the Artist and the Artisan in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands this week. The fruit was abundant, but unlike the pristine looking fruit from the supermarket, these apricots were mottled and often marked.  The taste, however, was lovely.  They were so fresh and packed full of pectin, making great jam.

The rest of the fruit not used for jam went into my Apricot Almond Cake. I placed cut fruit halves sprinkled with a little golden caster sugar on top, which sank into the mixture as it was cooking. Once the cake was cooled, I scattered apricot pieces on the cake which had been lightly poached in sugar syrup.

Delicious on its own or serve simply with a little pouring cream.


The photos below are of the trees from which the apricots came. Also pictured is a wild (but friendly) king parrot, and the latest art work from the Artist, made with her colleague and our good friend, Gazza, all in the same marvellous garden!


Quantity of fresh apricots (about a dozen) halved and stoned
150g butter
150g sugar
3 free range eggs
I teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 teaspoon almond essence
100g – 125g ground almonds
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan forced.

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

Put mixture into a greased flan dish, or springform tin lined with baking paper. It’s important to line the tin as the mixture can sometimes leak.
Scatter 3/4 cut apricots cut side up over top of mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of golden caster sugar in the cavity of each fruit half.

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

Dissolve the other tablespoon of golden caster sugar in a small frying pan or saucepan with a2 tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil and add the rest of the apricot halves. Simmer gently for a 3 or 4 minutes or until the apricots have softened slightly and mos of the liquid has evaporated.

Serve the cake with the apricots on top – you can quarter or slice them if you like – and with the afore mentioned pouring cream. Delicious.


Proper Pizza


If you are a reader of this blog you would know I’m a huge fan of grilled pizza.  Dough cooked on the barbecue grill, then topped with flavours of your choice. There are quite a few examples here.

This time I decided I wanted to cook pizza the traditional way, in an oven, baking the dough + toppings all together.

I was visiting the Artist and the Artisan in the beautiful Southern Highlands, previously blogged about here:

The Artisan has a wonderful old Metters “Canberra” wood fired stove, a relic of Australia’s past. It makes a fantastic garden ornament and not a bad pizza either!IMG_3655

I made the pizza dough in Sydney on a Saturday morning, proved it, then set off for the hour and a quarter journey to Mittagong. The dough proved a second time sitting in a bowl in the car on the journey.

It was then ready for shaping and topping, and into the oven which had been heating for a couple of hours. Pizzas for lunch and dough left over to make more for an appetizer that night!

Below is the pizza dough recipe, adapted from the grilled pizza recipe. These quantities make 4 medium sized pizzas. Just add toppings of your choice. We used a tomato paste base, then added prosciutto, salami, mushrooms, black olives, grated cheddar, and maybe some other stuff!


6 tsp dry yeast
2 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups strong flour + 2 1/2 cups Tipo 00 flour, + more for dusting
2 tsp sea salt
A couple of glugs of extra-virgin olive oil


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in most of the flour and the salt, stirring until smooth, then the olive oil and continue adding the flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until the dough comes away from the bowl but is still sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead with lightly floured hands. Knead the dough until it is smooth, elastic and soft, but a little sticky, about 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl lightly oiled with more extra virgin olive oil, and turn to coat. Cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Punch the dough down and prepare to shape, or you can leave for an hour or two until ready to make the pizzas – the dough will prove again.

Remove the dough from the bowl, divide in four and shape each into a ball.  Or divide in half for 2 large pizzas.

Stretch and shape the balls of dough into a rectangle or round – or any rustic shape! Place the pizzas on a baking tray or better still a ceramic pizza stone and apply your toppings. Let rest for 15 minutes.IMG_3640

Bake in a hot oven until the pizzas are cooked. I leave it up to you and your oven to decide on temperature and timings. Not helpful, I know, but every oven is different!IMG_3674



Southern Highlands, NSW – Country Winter


These photos were taken at The Briars Lodge & Historic Inn in Bowral, in the Southern Highlands, late afternoon 1July and early morning 2 July 2013.

Cold and crisp air, tranquil surrounds, and a beautiful mid winter light.






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