Berries andPie

baking, cooking, recipes, eating, and obsessing over food

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fruit Mince Pies

Fruit Mince Pies

Last year I posted on making your own fruit mince, but spirit of Christmas and all, I thought it a timely occasion to elaborate.

I love my fruit mince pies as much as the next gal/guy/tentacled snow-lizard, but the store-bought ones have nothing on the home-made brandy-rich variety you baked in your kitchen.

You can make your fruit mince to taste: don't like nuts? don't add them; candied fruit peel not your thing? good--I applaud you--out it goes! I personally like to add extra spice and more brandy to mine, and they go down a treat in our household. They also make great little Christmas gifts for co-workers!

The fruit mince is one of those things that gets better after a week or so. I read the fabulous Maggie Beer starts making hers as early as 6 months ahead. I, for one, am not that brave. I've made mine a month ahead and the flavour is fabulous.

My major gripe with store-bought variety is the pastry. It's often so crumbly it can't be removed from the casing. The pastry used in this recipe is essentially a shortbread and the result is brilliant.

Give it a try!

Fruit Mince Pies

(Makes 12)

Shortbread Pastry:
250g Plain Flour
150g Butter
85g Icing (Confectioners Sugar)
2-3 tbspn Iced Water

Approx. 1 cup fruit mince (see recipe)


1. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar

2. Using a knife, add the cold water in, a small amount at a time till the mixture starts to come together. Bring together with your hands.

3. Wrap in cling wrap, and place in fridge.


Pulse the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until completely combined.

4. Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced, 200C conventional.

5. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry between two sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick. Cut out 3" rounds and press into a cupcake tray.

6. Fill each case with fruit mince (about 1 tbspn).

7. Roll out the remaining pastry, and cut 1.5 inch rounds for your pie lids, and cover each pie. I don't seal the edges; just leave the edges of the lid sitting snuggly inside the case, just touch the sides (as you can see pictured).

8. Place in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until pastry is golden and dry.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So... We Need to Talk.

Balsamic Roasted Beetroot, Spanish Onion, Basil & Linguine

Hiya Blog, and blogadiers. It's been a while, and I've, well... I've been seeing other people.

It's not you--really it's not. It's me.

That spark and passion that makes me want to post here; to cook, and photograph it; to seek out new life and new... Wait, no, that's Star Trek.

Basically, the passion's been gone for awhile. I rediscovered my love of reading recently, and in-between 20+ novels in 2 and a half months, NaNoWriMo, work, and life, I’ve been neglecting you.

I'm sorry. You deserve better.

BUT, I decided this: I still love you. Really I do. But I don't want to post here for the sake of posting. When I do, I post half-bottomedly, and you deserve better than that. So I'm going to post because I have something to say. Not because I feel obliged.

So here I am. With Christmas practically upon us I'm gearing up for cookies and puddings, and family, and fruit mince pies. I'll be seeing you around soon!

And Merry Impending Christmas!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte - Daring Bakers August '09!

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

When I saw this month's challenge I took a deep breath and gulped. It sure looked challenging, and I had never attempted a cake this ambitious before.

And what a challenge it was! I've been a fan of Lorraine's blog for a while now, and I would expect nothing less than such a exciting choice!

This cake is spectacular. With a recipe handed down since 1906 in Hungary, I thought there was hardly room for 'improvement'! I was originally planning a variation (along the lines of coffee or mocha buttercream), but given I'd not attempted anything like this before, I wanted do the recipe justice, and leave as is (though I'm looking forward to other DB's variations!).

This spectacular torte (which the photos do no justice at all) is not tricky; just a bit time consuming, but it more than pays off on completion. Everyone keeps talking about the texture of this cake: it is light as a cloud, belying the amount of butter involved! The torte almost seems like a mousse cake with the light, airy buttercream, and honestly cannot rave about it enough. Everyone who tried this cake LOVED it!

Thanks Angela and Lorraine for a spectacular challenge!

Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte


Sponge cake layers

- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g
cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
- pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream

- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping

- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
- 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches

- 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
- 1/2 cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

(You can prepare the sponge layers the night before in advance and stored interleaved with parchment [baking paper] and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.)

1.Position your oven racks in the top 2/3 of the oven, and preheat your oven to 200C.

2.Cut six pieces of baking paper to fit baking sheets/tray. Use the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, and trace a circle on each of the papers. Turn the parchment upside down so the marker doesn’t come into contact with the sponge.

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes.

4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing) sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with the prepared circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. I added an additional sheet of baking paper over the top and smoothed to ensure I had flat layers (I’m not going into as much detail, here, but thanks, Audax, for this tip!)

6. Place the tray in the oven, and bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this layer is baking, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated, sharp, knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

You can prepare the buttercream in advance and kept chilled until required – it will last a few of days.

1. Prepare a double-boiler – a small saucepan of water, with a medium sized bowl that fits snugly over the top. Quarter fill the saucepan with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Add the egg and sugar to the bowl, and whisk until thick and pale, this will take a few minutes. A hand beater will make this much easier!

3. Place the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture over the saucepan, and continue to beat until you see the mixture start to thicken further, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate, and continue to whisk over heat for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled, beat in the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, until it is all incorporated. You will be left with a thick, rich buttercream. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Select the best-looking sponge layer – this will become the caramel top.

2. Line a jellyroll pan with baking paper and butter the paper (this will stop the toffee sticking). Place the reserved cake layer on the paper, and cut the cake into 12 equal wedges (I actually only cut mine into 8 – but 12 is much better. These wedges will really form the lines where you cut the cake, and it is RICH. One person seriously cannot eat a 1/8 slice of this cake!).

3.Place the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stir to dissolve. Bring to boil, and once the sugar crystals are dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high boil, and do not stir. Swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and wash down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush. Boil until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

4. Make sure you have a oiled spatula ready for this – the toffee can set quickly. Pour your toffee over your cake layer. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), move the wedges of the cake apart and divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, Use the knife to move the excess toffee away from the covered wedges.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8" silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

Dobos Torte

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2. On the tray/plate you will present the torte on, place your first sponge layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with the remaining cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut (and optionally, a small piped rosette buttercream) under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour (though they’re lovely straight out of the fridge!)

Dobos Torte


This cake kept very well for a few days refridgerated. It was as good on day 2 as the day it was made.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

News Round-up: Giving up Coffeine, Cooking IN a Car, and Some Egg-cellent news!

I was going to say that it's not often I do this, but in fact, I've never done this! I've read a few excellent news articles and blogs recently that I just felt the need to share. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!


Diary of Caffeine Addict!
Read the diary of a caffeine addict going cold-turkey for a week; I'm not sure I would have made it that far! (Now pass my latte!)

Sydney's Best Eggs
What makes a good egg, and can you taste the difference between free-range and caged? I'm not going to start buying caged-eggs, regardless of the outcome, but it's an interesting article!

Leader of the Soup Pack
3 of Sydney's top chefs interpret a basic soup pack with 3 very different meals! There's so much you can do with just some of the basics.

I'm sure we've all (well I have, anyway) made the excuse that we don't have the time to cook, but Katie Bills from The Independent proves it wrong. Some quick, tasty, cheap recipes!

Food on the go
This is one of my favourites! Lorraine over at Not Quite Nigella cooks up an environmentally friendly, vegetarian, meal... IN a car... a car ENGINE.

Anyhow, happy reading, and I hope you enjoy!


Friday, August 21, 2009

Chocolate Macarons with Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate Macarons

The first time I attempted macarons they broke me. There were literally tears. Tears, and a stack of leftover rosewater buttercream.

It was awhile before I felt ready to talk about it, but I think I'm there now. 2 batches of macarons that actually look like macarons later, and I'm feeling a lot better.

Oh, when I pulled these out of the oven I nearly fell over from shock. I called my mother in a daze, speechless. I could only manage "Macarons... ACTUAL macarons... WORKED".

Now, they were not perfect by any means, but they were macarons, and these sweet, dense, chewy pillows of almond meringue are well worth the HEARTACHE they had previously caused.

The actual process of making the macarons isn't overly complicated, they're just temperamental. I think a large part is knowing your oven. My oven runs cold, and whilst it seems like overkill, I had to cook my shells for an extra 10 minutes more than instructed before the innards of the macarons stopped being liquid (it once took me 2 hours more than prescribed to cook a cake!).

The below recipe is originally from the fabulous Queen of Macarons, Helen of Tartelette, and with further instruction from incredible Audax of Audax Artifax. The extra detail he goes into (in everything!) is unbelievable.

As far as I understand, you need a kitchen scale. These are temperamental at the best of times, and the recipe really is done by weight.

Chocolate Macarons

Makes: this should make about 20-25 sandwiched macarons, you just need to get the hang of piping them out consistently.



For the Macarons:

90g eggwhites, aged for 2 days (this is about 3 eggs) *
60g of castor (superfine) sugar
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
200g icing sugar
1/2 tspn cornflour (optional)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

* if you don't want, or don't have time, to age the eggwhites 2 days, put them in your microwave on lo-mid setting, for about 15 seconds. Audax instructs that this simulates the aging effect. I did mine in two 10 second bursts on power setting 3.

For the Chocolate Buttercream:

This buttercream recipe has been adapted from a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

1 egg
50g white sugar
30g dark chocolate, finely chopped
65g unsalted butter, at room temperature
(I normally don’t worry too much about using salted butter, but you NEED unsalted for this. It does need to be soft – a knife should run through it with very little resistance.)


For the Macarons:

1. Line an upturned cookie sheet with baking paper/parchment. I've had great success using double stacked trays (2 cookies sheets stacked on top of each other). It allows the bottoms to cook slower, so you get a better result.

2. In a food processor, pulse the almond meal, icing sugar, cocoa powder and cornflour to combine, and get out any lumps. Put the mixture aside. If you don't have a food processor, you could sift the ingredients.

3. In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggwhites till they start to foam, and become bubbly. This doesn't mean till they start to turn white, just bubbly.

4. Gradually add in the castor sugar, beating constantly. Continue to beat until the meringue becomes thick and glossy. Stop beating as soon as the meringue reaches the point where you can upturn the bowl without the mixture falling out. I started beating in 10 second pulses and checking as it approached this point.

5. Add the almond mixture to the meringue, and fold to combine, using no more than 50 strokes. You can work quickly at first, and be a little less careful, to get rid of excess air, but you do not want to deflate the mixture.

Helen says to stop when the mixture "flows like lava", which I love! You are done when any peaks in the mixture flatten out in 30 seconds.

To test this, you can spoon a teaspoon of the mix onto a saucer, and watch. If not quite there, give a couple more strokes and yet again. It is better to have a few too few strokes than too many. Remember that you will be piping the mixture, which will lose a little more air.

6. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a plain tip, and, holding the bag about half an inch above the baking tray, pipe 1.5" (3cm) rounds onto the tray, about 1.5" apart.

Piped out Macarons

7. Preheat the oven to 175C (conventional), and put the macarons aside for30-60 minutes to harden their shells (this is somewhat optional. As I understand, it will yield better results, but I have put mine straight in the oven with no problems whatsoever).

8. Turn the oven down to 160C and bake the macarons for 15 minutes. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool. To remove from the sheets, I gently peel back the paper. If you have difficulty, you can run some water under the sheet and quickly remove (so they do not go soggy).

Stack of Macarons

For the Chocolate Buttercream:

1. Prepare a double-boiler – a small saucepan of water, with a medium sized bowl that fits snugly over the top. Quarter fill the saucepan with water and bring to a simmer.

2. Add the egg and sugar to the bowl, and whisk until thick and pale, this will take a few minutes. A hand beater will make this much easier!

3. Place the bowl with the egg and sugar mixture over the saucepan, and continue to beat until you see the mixture start to thicken further, for 2-3 minutes. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate, and continue to whisk over heat for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

4. Once cooled, beat in the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, until it is all incorporated. You will be left with a thick, rich buttercream. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble:

Either pipe, or spoon, a teaspoon of buttercream between two evenly shaped/sized macaron shells, and gently press together. And voila, macarons!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Rice with Mushrooms, Chicken and Artichokes - Daring Cooks August '09

Rice with Mushrooms, Chicken and Artichokes

The last month has just flown by, and after missing a challenge, it's Daring Cooks time again! This month's challenge was hosted by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes, and she chose Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes. The recipe is by by José Andrés, and important Spanish chef.

I was looking forward to this challenge, but this month got away from me. By the time I had a chance to start it was 7pm on a weeknight, and the it got rushed. The challenge was to include a homemade Allioli (or Aoli, depending on what you like to call it), and whilst mine didn't look right, the sauce combined with the rice dish was lovely.

The dish is full of flavour, tasty, and unpretentious (which I love in 'chefy' dishes). It does take time to prepare, though, and I wouldn't suggest it (or try it again) late on a weeknight!

Like all things this month, this post is rushed, too. So, the recipe, in the lovely Olga's own words, can be found here, on her blog. She has provided some fantastic links, with great info, that I highly reccomend reading/or watching. I substituted my cuttlefish for chicken, and used vegetable stock. The veg. stock is brownish, though, so note that you won't get the lovely bright yellow colour you might otherwise expect from a saffron infused dish.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

WildBrumby Schnapps Distillery, Cafe & Cellar Door

Wild Brumby Distillery

As far as I’m concerned, skiing is the most fun you can have standing up... or with your face buried in the snow. That one was a VERY spectacular fall. I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to live it down.

But it's not just the skiing that keeps drawing us back to NSW’s spectacular Snowy Mountains. The area has a lure for hubby and me, and we can’t seem to stay away for too long. Not only do we have gorgeous countryside and fantastic snow (when it comes); but there are some of the loveliest and most charming restaurants you can imagine.

As I’ve previously mentioned (*ahem*, perhaps gushed), the area, its surrounds, and its places, hold a very special place in my heart, and we were lucky enough to be back down there this weekend just passed.

It was during this trip that we visited the Wild Brumby Distillery. I'd heard about it a couple of times, and our interest piqued enough to head out there, and we were well rewarded.

Wild Brumby Distillery Grounds

The property is a picturesque block of alpine farm land. Sheep were grazing along the driveway up to the café building, lazily moving out of the way car as we neared, and the yard was dotted with examples of local sculpture.

Wild Brumby Distillery

Greeted by the very friendly staff, the distillery café was warm and welcoming from the moment we entered. We were soon offered a complimentary schnapps tasting, and who can say "no" to free schnapps?

Wild Brumby Distillery

I (and every man and his dog) have tried butterscotch schnapps before, but theirs sure was special. All the flavour without any of the saccharine sweetness and cloying aftertaste. Some other favourites were the Pink Lady Apple, Sour Apple and Lemon, and my favourite: 'Devil's Tongue'. OK, so, I am not a big chilli person. Upon being told this was chilli Schnapps, I chickened out and said no. Hubby did try this (I may have pinched some...) and it was remarkable. Chilli combined with pink lady apple and cinnaman combine to make this truly unique.

'Cowboy Butterscotch', Wild Brumby Distillery

Moving along to the shop, we were confronted with more schnapps than I've seen in my whole life. According to Wild Brumby's website. Bottles started at around $30 for a 18.5% 500ml bottle, going up from there for 40% bottles of schnapps like 'Obstler' (apple and pear). Their kosciuszko vodka 101 50.5% is also available.

We decided to stop for a quick meal and were treated to a cosy table right next to fireplace, and looking through the huge ceiling-to-floor windows overlooking the property.

The café is smallish, seating around 25 from my count, giving it a friendly, warm, intimate atmosphere. It was never loud or crowded, even though busy, and the staff were tentative and helpful.

Hot Chocolate

Being wintry weather we couldn't go past a hot chocolate, and not only that, a hot chocolate with schnapps! Tony's Estate coffee was also on offer, along with a range of incredibly pretty cakes and biscuits. I ordered an Hot Chocolate with Cowboy Butterscotch, and, what to do when you want both, talked Nick into getting his with Devil's Tongue. We decided to split a bowl of Potato Wedges with Mustard Aoli.

Our impressive (and HUGE) hot chocolates arrived first, and after oohing, aahing, and photo taking, they didn't last that long. The chocolate/butterscotch and chocolate/chilli combination is a winner. A short wait later our wedges arrived, and pretty they were. The Mustard Aoli, was, in short, awesome. During our meal we saw the Beef Ragu brought out to a neighbouring table and could have stayed for a not-so-light meal!

Wedges, Wild Brumby Distillery

With our meal over (at a very reasonable price) we were back off to Sydney, leaving the distillery behind, and I tell you what, I can't wait to get back!

Getting There:

Phone: (02) 6457 1447

Thredbo Valley Distillery
Cnr of Wollondibby Rd & the Alpine Way, Jindabyne NSW 2627, Australia
You can also take a 360 degree virtual tour of the property here.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Choc-Mint Royals - Daring Bakers July 2009!

Choc-Mint Royals


The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

There was a flash of light and a loud, crackling, electrical hum.

I have to admit, I freaked. I did somehow maintain the presence of mind to turn the oven off before I burst into tears and fled the kitchen.

It was terrifying. More so than the fire I started in the oven a few years back... though not so much the fire I started with the Christmas pudding 2 years ago. You hear of kitchen disasters: I AM a kitchen disaster. I will, however, maintain that this was not my fault. The oven committed suicide.

Seriously now: on the evening of Monday, the 29th of June, at approximately 9:00pm, I shut the door of my oven to bake pumpkin pies, and the element in the bottom of my oven started burning, sparking, and humming.

Combine that with starting a new job, and I've really not spent much time in the kitchen the last month! So it is with great excitement to begin with this month's Daring Bakers challenge!

Part way through, I wasn't sure about this recipe. Gelatine is foul smelling, and this stage of the recipe started to freak me out! However, after the smell was gone, and the biscuits we're finished, it was fine! They're lovely. So in the words of my lovely Mum: "WOW! Look at all that chocolatey goodness, smothering a crisp biscuit and soft, velvety marshmallow."

Choc-Mint Royals


For the biscuit base:

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams) unsalted butter (I cheated: I used salted butter, and didn't add the extra salt)
• 3 eggs, whisked together

For the marshmallows:

• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup, or glucose syrup
• 3/4 cup (168 g) white sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence

For the chocolate glaze:
• 340g semisweet chocolate
• 57g cocoa butter or vegetable oil
• 1/2 tspn peppermint essence


For the cookies:

Making Royals: Cuttering-out

1. in a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.
2. Add the butter and mix until 'sandy' (I used a hand mixer).
3. Add the eggs and mix until combined.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days. I actually found the dough was better the next day. The way the ingredients are combined means that you have undissolved sugar crystals in your batter. After an hour or more they can dissolve and you don't end up with weird textured biscuits.
5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180C (375F), and line with baking paper.
6. Roll out the dough to 3mm thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using a 1 to 1.5 inch cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
7. Place the cookies on the prepared tray, and bake for 10 minutes, or until light, golden brown. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the marshmallow:

Making Royals: Marshmallows

8. Add water, sugar, and strip to a saucepan and being to 235C' or 'soft-ball' stage.
9. Beat the eggwhites to soft peaks
10. Dissolve the gelatine in 2tbsp cold water, and stir into the syrup
11. Add the syrup mix to the eggwhites, and beat until stiff.

13. Pipe a "kiss" of marshmallow onto each cookie, and leave to set set at room temperature for 2 hours. If you can't be bothered with a piping bag, you can carefully soon it on, but you may not get the same shape and symmetry as you would otherwise. Having said that, I just spooned it on, as I was in a rush, so it's certainly not the end of the world!

For the chocolate glaze:
12. Melt the chocolate, oil, and peppermint essence in a bay Marie (a large bowl over a saucepan of simmering water - make sure the water is not touching the bottom of your bowl).

Back to asembly:
13.  Line a cookie sheet with baking paper. (I did this, then buy a rack over the top, but you do end up with unusually bottomed royals!
14. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze. Lift the pit with a fork, and allow the excess chocolate to run off. I found that running a knife or spoon across the bottom of the forked helped get the excess glaze from between the fork prongs. Axa your glaze supplies deplete, drop your biscuits into the bowl to cover the bottom, then spoon glaze over the top.
15. Place on the prepared tray and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.



Nicole advises that if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping. You could possibly stick this in the microwave for say, 20 seconds to achieve the same effect. Downside may be soggy biscuit.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rhubarb & Ginger Bakewell Tart... erm... Pudding

Bakewell Tart... erm... Pudding

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

This tart has changed my life. Since I was introduced to this fruity, sweet, nutty, crumbly, sticky, SUMPTUOUS tart, I have gained 10 kilos. All within a month. My tastebuds are ALIVE, but my heart is going to give out any moment now.

So... that's not so much an exaggeration, as an outright lie: I have, so far, only made this tart once, but it was a delicious once, and my tastebuds have now officially sworn fealty to the Church of Bakewell.

Confession: I initially thought this tart would be a little dull and dry. Boy, was I wrong. By the powers of each individual element of this tart combined (yes, it's a loose referece to Captain Planet), we have a winner. The fruitiness of the jam and the moist, fluffy, frangipane are a match made in heaven.

So, as you now already know, the Bakewell Tart...erm... Pudding (pudding vs tart is the subject of great debate, I am lead to believe) was our Daring Bakers challenge for the month of June. Whilst the tart itself really had to remain the same, we were given the choice of any jam we wanted to use. I decided to use rhubarb and ginger jam, hence its appearance a couple of weeks ago on this very blog. The tartness of this jam breaks through the sweetness of the frangipane, balancing the flavours of this tart perfectly.

This is actually my first ever crack at a tart. Though essentially not too different from pies, they are, like, TOTALLY different, so it's a big thing for me! It was a fantastic one to cut my teeth on. Where once I wasn't sure, I now cannot recommend this classic British dessert highly enough.

Rhubarb & Ginger Bakewell Tart... erm... Pudding


Makes 6 10cm/4" tarts

- 1 Quantity of Rhubarb & Ginger Jam
- Handful flaked almonds

For the Pastry:
- 225g all purpose flour
- 110g butter
- 30g sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1-2 tbspn cold water
- 30g sugar
- 2.5ml (1/2 tsp) salt

For the Frangipane:
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g icing sugar
- 125g ground almonds
- 3 eggs
- 30g flour
- 1/2 tsp almond extract/essence


To make the pastry, grate the butter into a large bowl and add the flour. Working quickly, rub the butter into the flour using your finger tips. Once the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, add in the sugar and egg yolks, and mix until the dough comes together. If the mixture is still not wet enough to form a cohesive pastry dough, add in the extra water, a tablespoon at a time. Aim to use as little water as possible. If you have the gadget, and can't be bothered (fair enough if you ask me!) you can make the pastry by pulsing the flour and butter together, the adding the other ingredients, and again, pulsing, until the dough comes together.

Trivia: I had a processor for 2 years before I was finally told it could 'rub' the butter in for me. Duh. It changed my LIFE (yes, I've been struck with a touch of the melodramas).

Flatten the pastry into a rough disc, wrap in cling wrap, and stick it in the fridge. You can now leave it for a day, or continue to on to the finished tart: choose your own adventure.

Ok, now for the frangipane. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Resist the urge to eat the mixture (don't give me that look, it's YUMMY and you know it). Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mix will appear to curdle, but it's fine: we'll fix this in a moment. Now, add your flour, almond meal, and, if using, almond essence. Beat until combined, and stop. Voila! Your very own frangipane. Aren't you proud?

To assemble your tart, remove your pastry from the fridge, and divide into 6 even parts. On a floured surface roll each portion of the pastry out to 5mm (1/5")thick discs and line your tart tins. At this point, stick the tarts in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 200C (conventional).

Remove the tarts from the freezer and add 2-3 tbspn's of jam to the base of each tart and spread it out evenly. You can really add this to taste. If you want death-by-jam, go for it, just remember to leave room for the frangipane.

Jamming up the Bakewell Tart
Jamming up the tart

On top of your jam, smooth on frangipane. I overfilled my tarts every time. It's only on a third attempt that I filled them correctly and got the photo above! Be aware: the frangipane melts and puffs up, creating a smooth domed surface. For this reason, make sure the frangipane doesn't come up over the edges of the tart when you're filling, or you will have spillage.

Frangipane Filling
Filling it up with delicious frangipane

Bake your tarts for 25 minutes. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top of the tart, and bake for a further 5 minutes.

When ready, the tart will be a gorgeous golden brown. Eat hot or cold and enjoy!

Chopped Bakewell Tart
Chopped so you can see the jammy yumminess


You can, of course, substitute the jam for any of your liking. I really liked the rhubarb as it's tart and stops the pudding from being oversweet.

Before I used the pastry for the tarts, I used some to make individual apple pies, and didn't like it. It just didn't do it for me, but, when used for the Bakewell Tart it was transformed into something TRANSCENDANT. 3 thumbs up :)


Rhubarb & Ginger Jam

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rhubarb & Ginger Jam


I love rhubarb. ADORE it. The colour, smell, taste, stringiness, you name it. When we were young my Mum grew rhubarb plants beside the house and I remember having stewed apple and rhubarb for dessert when it had finally grown. It was a rare treat: I don't remember it being available often, so perhaps that's why this anti-fruit holds such a special place in my heart. I get really excited about rhubarb (really, it's kind of sad, Nick has to restrain me).

When I saw bunches of beautiful fresh rhubarb at Castle Hill farmers markets a while ago, I jumped at them, took them home, chopped them up and froze them.

Since then, the rhubarb has been sitting in the freezer while I figure out what to do with it. I can never justify making a whole pie or crumble for just 2 people, and as we've been out, instead of having company over recently, there it's stayed. I've never really made much jam, so this seemed as good a place as any to start.

This jam is intensely flavoured - it really packs a punch, but I like it!

Rhubarb & Ginger Jam

Makes approx. 250ml (1 cup)


2 cups of rhubarb (210g)
3/4 cup of white sugar (185g)
1/4 cup chopped crystallised ginger
2tbsp of lemon juice
Zest of 1 small lemon


Combine the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Allow to simmer, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, then remove from heat.

Either pour into hot sterilised jars and seal, or store in an air tight container in the fridge. Once your jar is opened, or if just using a container, store in the fridge and use within a week or so.


The lemon in this recipe is to add pectin and help it to set the jam. You can taste it, but it does taste good! You could, alternatively use pectin, or jam sugar instead of plain white. I've seen a few recipes that use gelatin to set the jam, which would also work if you were particularly anti-lemon.

To sterilise jars, I wash them, place them in a large saucepan, removing any labels, cover with water and boil for 10 minutes. As you can see, I just used an old honey jar.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chicken, Ginger, and Water Chestnut Chinese Dumplings or Potstickers


Warning - this is a REALLY long post

It's been a busy month. Hair-tearing-outering busy. With this in mind I can only think I was in a state of utter delerium when I thought "I can be a Daring Baker! Sign me up!" Shortly thereafter, I decided I could be a Daring Cook, too, and joined.

A thrill of excitement ran through me when I saw I had access to the Daring Cooks private forums, and i'm SO excited to participate in my first challenge! I've been watching the amazing work from the monthly challenges with curiosity for a few months now, and I'm overwhelmingly eager to participate!

My first Daring Cooks challenge is hosted by Jen of Use Real Butter, and is Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers. I nearly choked when I saw the announcement. Dumplings? Me? Make? What?

I decided to get it done and out of the way, but I was pleasantly surprised with the result. While I'm so not a pro (not nearly!) the dumplings were tasty and actually ok! This is entirely to do with excellent instructions as provided by the fabulous Jen.

The filling is easy, it just requires a bit of chopping. The real challenge here is making the dumpling wrappers. So not easy. But worth it. On my first attempt I didn't read Jen's post properly (or look at the photos closely enough), and I was pleating both sides of the dumpling together. Not a huge issue, but it made the process a lot trickier.

So, here are my steps for Chicken, Ginger, and Water Chestnut Chinese Dumplings or Potstickers

Makes 20-30, depending on the size


For the filling:
250g Chicken Mince
3 cabbage, leaves chopped finely/minced
1/4 cup (125g) water chestnuts, finely chopped/minced
2-3 spring onions, minced
1-1.5 tbspn chopped/minced fresh ginger (to taste)
2 tbspn corn flour/corn starch
1 1/2 tbspn soy sauce
1 tbspn sesame oil
I also included some Chinese chives, but these may be hard to come by. They look like long grass, and have a slight garlicy aftertaste. I found them at the markets, but you may find them in Asian grocers. I included about a 1/4 cup of these, minced.

For the wrappers:
2 cups (250g) of plain flour (you're much better off weighing this if you can)
1/2 cup of water


To make the wrappers:
I initially made these in a food processor, but found it a lot easier by hand.

Placed the flour in a large bowl, and create a well in the middle. Pour the water into the well. Using a fork, or your hands, mix together itill combined, then knead until just smooth. It is quite a dry dough, so it won't be like bread. It will be quite firm. Don't overknead the dough. It doesn't have yeast to put air back into it!

Put your dough to the side and cover with a damp cloth while you make your filling (for about 15 minutes).

The dough - dry and smooth, and not at all sticky.

To make the filling:
Time to get your hands dirty! Combine all your filling ingredients in a bowl, and mix thoroughly. That was hard, wasn't it?

The filling - chopped up and mixed.

Okies' here's where it gets tricky.

Get your dough, and shape it into a "flattened dome". You're aiming for a flat circle with a consistent thickness of about 1 inch throughout. Next up, cut 1 inch wide strips. From these 1 inch strips, cut off 1 inch pieces. These will be your wrappers. Cut these off as you work, not all upfront, or they'll stick back together anyhows.

Take one of your pieces of dough, and after covering the rest up with your damp cloth, shape a ball from the dough. On a well floured surface, flatten the ball with your hand, and using a rolling pin, roll out into a very thin, flat circle. The shape is important. As round as possible. Not splatter shaped! The dumpling wrapper should be a little thicker in the centre, but around the edges you're aiming for about 1mm.

ready to fold
The dumpling wrapper: rolled-out and ready to fold

Place a tablespoon of your filling in the centre of the dumpling wrapper. Using your fingers/chopsticks/psychic powers, shape into an oval (no need to be too pedantic here: near enough is good enough). Now fold your dumpling wrapper in half over the filling and join the edges in the middle. You now want to pleat the edges of the side of the wrapper closest to you. This is a simple enough idea, but it is very fiddly, and kind of hard to explain. You basically want to create about 3 pleats on the right, and 3 on the left, of the side of the wrap facing you, then fold the sides of the ends together to seal. Jen has a fantastic, and well photographed post on pleating/folding the dumpling wrappers on her blog, and you should definitely read this.

Once you have assembled your dumplings, it's time to cook them! I steamed mine the first time round, and made Potstickers (fried dumplings) the 2nd time round.

The dumpling all wrapped up and ready to cook. Yum!

To steam:
Place you dumplings in a steamer basket lined with cabbage leaves, or well greased, and steam for 6 minutes, then serve. Voila!

To fry (potstickers):
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (not olive!) in a frying pan that you have a lid for, and add your dumplings, bottoms down. Fry until light brown on the bases, then, with lid in in hand, pour a 1/4 of a cup of water into the bottom of the pan all at once (please don't burn yourself!) and clamp the lid on immediately. Allow the dumplings to steam for about 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

I made a dipping sauce of 2 parts soy sauce, 1/2 part white vinegar, 1 part Shaosin Wine, a few drops of sesame oil, and a bit of fresh minced garlic, which was great, but hubby used sweet chilli sauce from the bottle. I laughed at him for a bit, but it really wasn't bad and complimented the flavours well, so each his (and her) own!

All up, these are pretty time consuming, so not a weekday dinner. The dumplings were fantastic, though, and would make a great weekend meal, so set aside a couple of hours and have fun! I made these a second time round I liked them so much!



Jen advises that once the dumplings are assembled you can actualy freeze them for a couple of months, and second time round I did this. They're a fantastic, and essentially healthy, food that make a good stand-by lunch and are really quick to cook. To freeze them, put them on a baking tray, making sure they're not touching. Once they're hard (so the dough is not sticky), take them off the tray, and put them in a container or ziplock bag and keep for up to 2 months! Easy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Coconut Ice-Cream

Coconut Ice-cream

I don't know why I waited for the mercury to drop to decide I NEEDED to make more ice-cream. I mean, there's nothing quite like a frozen dessert on a cold night to warm your cockles, is there? Hubby is a BIG ice-cream fan anyway, meaning it never gets wasted, so who's complaining?

I was walking around the supermarket when I was inspired by a tin of coconut cream. I knew instantly that its destiny was to become dessert. So, coconut ice-cream, the perfect summer treat (I'm clearly seasonally challenged) was made. Here is its story.

Coconut Ice-Cream

Makes about 600ml


- 400ml tin of coconut cream
- 200ml of cream
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 3 to 5 tbsp of shredded or dessicated coconut (optional - it will just give the ice-cream a stronger flavour and some texture)


  1. place the the sugar and coconut cream in a saucepan big enough to hold all ingredients, and stir over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the cream to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat as soon as the mix starts boiling.
  3. Remove from heat, add in the extra coconut, and cool to room temperature, stirring regularly (this helps the ice-cream cool quicker and stops a skin from developing on it).
  4. Pour into a 1L capacity container and freeze.
  5. When the edges freeze (this will probably take a couple of hours) remove from the freezer and beat (I just use a hand beater). Return to the freezer and repeat about 3 times.


This makes a bit more than half a litre. When the mixture is not yet frozen you may notice it's very sweet and strong-flavoured, but it needs to be so you have the right taste and texture when frozen. The amount of sugar is really important to the end consistency of the ice-cream, and making sure it's not a rock-hard block!


Chai Tea Ice-Cream

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dad's Chicken Soup

Chicken Soup

With the cold setting in, a surpluss of chicken stock, and being a little under the weather myself, trusty old chicken soup swiftly made its way back into my life last week.

I was quite unwell last year when my Dad sweetly offered his recipe for chicken soup. Dad's a big meat eater, though, so don't be too surprised by the lack of vegetable here. I love my vegies, and I'll be adding leek, carrot and celery to make this a more rounded meal next time.

Chicken Soup

Dad's Chicken Soup

Feeds a small army. You may want to halve the recipe.


- 2kg chicken drumsticks
- 1 litre of good quality chicken stock
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 1 large onion
- 1 cup rice
- Coriander or Parsley to taste


  1. Dice onion and put into large saucepan with chicken drummies. Add the liquid chicken stock and stock cube, then use water to cover the drummies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Bring to boil and then lower to a simmer and cook until the drumsticks are cooked (about 45 minutes, but test for yourself). Remove drumsticks, and put aside to cool.
  3. Add 1 cup of rice and, and if you're adding any extra vegetables, add them in now. Return to the boil, then lower to a simmer until rice is cooked.
  4. Take chicken meat off drumsticks, discarding the bones, and cut up and add back to soup. Chop up coriander and add to soup. Serve, eat and enjoy.


- If allowing to cool in the fridge before eating, the fat will separate and set on top. Skim it off and discard.

- This is best eaten within a day. If cooling make sure it's piping hot before eating.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hawkesbury Harvest Farmers And Fine Food Market - Castle Hill

This weekend just past marks my first ever visit to a real-life farmers' markets. It was very exciting indeed.

I'm not a morning person. Really I'm not. On numerous times I've campaigned  to be allowed to become nocturnal, but it just won't fly. It was, however, with great gusto that I leapt out of bed on Saturday morning, at a time beginning with a single digit no less, and reminded husband that he was taking me to the Hawkesbury Harvest Farmers' and Fine Food Market in Castle Hill.

There was a mixture of fresh produce, hot food, as well as meats, cheeses, breads and jams; I felt like the kid in the proverbial candy-store!


We ended up taking home a tub of lemon myrtle youghurt, which is the nicest I've ever tasted. I'm not normally a youghurt fan (I always associate it with the over-sweet supermarket variety), but I could eat a whole tub of the stuff!
We also picked up some perfect brahman apples: crispy and fresh, not at all floury, and perfectly tart.

Apples were $6 a bag (about a kilo)

Husband had a delicious honey and port cured bacon (he won't eat eggs) roll for his breakfast, which was gone in seconds. He loves his bacon, but this was a real treat.

Honey and port cured bacon and egg roll $6

I ended up [reluctantly] dragging myself away from the poffertjes and having a fresh-cooked vegetarian (spinach and fetta) gozleme, yum!

Gozleme $8

The markets definitely weren't cheap, and while I'm not likely to change my shopping habits around them, it was a nice day out, with a good friendly family vibe.

The markets are held at Castle Hill Showground on the second Saturday of every month, from 8am - 1pm. When we arrived around 11 it was busy but not crowded, with plenty of (free!) parking. It was a beautiful sunny morning; the mood was relaxed and cheerful, and the fresh (and at times unusual) produce was beautiful and bountiful. I'd never seen purple or black potatoes before Saturday!

If you're headed in, give yourself an hour or two to relax, walk around and enjoy something delicious for breakfast. I'd suggest taking a bag for any delicious goodies you pick up along the way!

Contact/Get There:

Castle Hill: Farmers & Fine Food Market
Castle Hill Showground Castle Hill, enter via Carrington Road.

Starts 8:00am, 2nd Saturday each month, except January

May - Sat 9th
July - Sat 11th
June - Sat 13th

View Larger Map


My clever Mum just sent me a link to the Australian Farmers' Markets Association Market Finder, also. Clever lady - no excuse for missing them now!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Apricot Jam and Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater and Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Apricot Jam and Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Buttercream Icing :D

Yup! Say that 5 times fast!

After a weekend of spectacularly failed macarons, I was left with containers full of delicious buttercream filling in my fridge. Lacking my planned home-cooked Mothers' Day presents, the humble cupcake came swiftly to the rescue.

I can't admit to ever having made s cupcake entirely based around icing before, but I thought chocolate brown would look pretty against the pale marshmallow colours of my buttercream. While mixing the cupcake batter I thought of some apricot preserve leftover in the fridge from Easter's hot-cross buns; I thought it might add a bit of interest.

This is a really light and moist cupcake recipe and, as they cook, the jam mixes in with cupcake batter, falling to the bottom of the patty-pans. You end up with delicious fluffy bites of cupcake with a nice hint of warm apricot to follow each mouthful.

Apricot Jam and Chocolate Cupcakes with rosewater and vanilla bean buttercream Icing

Makes 12

Apricot Jam and Chocolate Cupcakes with Rosewater Buttercream Icing :D


For the chocolate cupcakes:
- 125g self-raising flour
- 125g caster sugar
- 125g butter
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbspn orange juice
- 4 tbspn apricot jam
- 2 tbspn cocoa powder

For the buttercream icing:
(Adapted from the incredibly talented Tartalette)

- 1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
- 2 large egg whites
- 140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 tspn rosewater essence
- a few drops of red food colouring (it just depends on how coloured you want it)
- Innards (the seeds) of 1 vanilla bean


For the cupcakes :

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (conventional), and line a cupcake tray with patty-pans
  2. Combine the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl and beat (using electric beaters if you have them) until pale and creamy.
  3. Add the eggs in, one at a time, beating until fully combined after each.
  4. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and add the orange juice; stir until fully combined and the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the mixture into the prepared cupcake tray holes.
  6. Put about 1/2 tspn of jam onto the top of each cupcake (I used my finger to make a little well in each). You may find this easier if you microwave the jam for about 15 seconds, or heat it over the stove until it's at a honey-like consistency.
  7. Bake your cupcakes for 15-20 minutes. They're done when puffed and the centres are springy to the (gentle) touch. If unsure, insert a skewer halfway in, and check it comes out with no wet cupcake batter (just remember the jam - it will still be wet)
  8. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes (only so you don't burn your fingers like me!) and turn onto a rack to cool.

For the buttercream icing:

  1. While cooling, you can make your icing! Place a mixing bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure your saucepan doesn't touch the water.
  2. Place your egg whites and sugar in the bowl and whisk/beat until the it feels hot to the touch, and the mixture looks like what Tartalette describes as "marshmallow cream". This will take about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat
  3. Using an electric mixer beat the mixture until you have a very thick, very sticky meringue that forms stiff peaks, and it has cooled. This will take about 5 minutes.
  4. Add your butter, about a tbspn at a time, making sure it is fully combined after each addition. Continue to beat for 5-10 minutes until thick and smooth. Divide your mixture into halves.
  5. To one half, add the food colouring and rosewater essence, and beat for a further minute to fully combine
  6. To the remaining half, add the vanilla bean innards, or vanilla essence, and beat for a further minute to fully combine.
  7. Once your cupcakes are cooled, you can ice them with the buttercream however you like. I piped mine on with a 1cm plain nozzle.


While I've used apricot preserve, there's no reason you couldn't use something else, or leave it out altogether.

Like all cupcakes, these are best eaten same day, but I find these tend to stay nice and moist for a couple of days. If they're getting towards the end of their lifespan, I microwave them for 10-15 seconds and they become nice and warm and soft.

I'd suggest icing these when you're ready to eat them. The buttercream really needs to be refridgerated, but that's not the best place for cupcakes.

If you're not going to use the buttercream immediately you can keep it in the fridge for about a week, or freeze for up to a month.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

How to Make a Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni - Simple and Easy Chicken Stock

A Bouquet Garni ('garnished bouquet' in French) is a small bunch of fresh or dry herbs which are used to flavour stocks and stews.

Traditionally a bouquet garni contains a few sprigs of parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf, but you can change it to taste, mix it up, whatever you want (well, not quite, but you get the point). You'll often see instructions tell you to wrap the herbs in a stick of celery, or a piece of leek, but I can't say I've ever bothered!

It's really hard to get wrong, but the point of it is to season your dish; not overpower it. I generally use what I have in my garden and know will compliment whatever recipe i'm making.

So, my 'recipe' for a bouquet garni goes something like this:

- 2 sprigs of parsley
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- a bay leaf (dry or fresh, it doesn't really matter)
- a sprig of rosemary
- a few inches of kitchen string

Now these are the steps - focus hard:

  1. 1. Bring the herbs together in a bunch
  2. 2. Tie together using the kitchen string


I use fresh herbs. If you're using dry herbs, wrap them up in a piece of cheese cloth or muslin and tie the opening up with string.

You can really add or remove what you like. I often don't have parsley, so I just leave it out. If I have some fresh oregano, I often throw it in. Unorthodox, I suppose, but it tastes good, so who cares?


Super-Duper Simple & Easy Chicken Stock

Parklea Markets

Star-point princettia

Trips to Parklea Markets for our weekly fruit and veg used to be the norm in our household, but busy schedules and hubby's shift work has made this weekly ritual (as well as just basic grocery shopping) a bit erratic.

This weekend, having the time off together was lovely, and a trip to Parklea Markets was a nice treat, too. A quick trip for fresh veg ended up becoming a few hours very fast!

First treat of the day was corn on the cob. Fresh and sweet corn, brushed with butter and sprinkled with salt. It was THE juiciest corn I've ever tasted and at $3 was a pretty awesome breakfast!

We picked up a (big) parsley plant and a potted strawberry for $3 a piece to replace some recent fatalities in our garden, and the parsley quickly found its way into my chicken stock on arrival home.

I would say Saturday morning is the best time to to pick up your fruit and veg from the market, as you're getting the first pick, but we got there in the afternoon to a great choice. There are 3 large fruit and veg places right next to each other. If the apples in one look a little sorry, just move on to the next. Together, they have a great choice available, but we often end up in the last one along, which is the largest.

10 Poffertjes - $6

With our groceries out of the way, and at a saving of $20, we had a wander round, and came to the Dutch Poffertjes House. I'd first encountered these coin sized Dutch pancakes last year at the Aroma Festival in the rocks, and they didn't last long!

We sat down and shared 10 of them, with a milkshake each, and it was a lovely sweet end to the day!

I can tell you it's going to become a regular trip now, after our weekly fruit and veg bill dropped from $30-$40 to a staggering $17. I can't recommend market shopping enough: it was a great day out for both of us, and the saving on the hip pocket was lovely.

Parklea Markets are Open 8:30am to 4:30pm Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday Mondays. The earlier in the morning the better, and quieter. Just be prepared for big crowds and lots of prams. Remember to wear comfy shoes!


601 Sunnyholt Rd, Parklea, NSW (Australia)

View Larger Map

Monday, May 4, 2009

Super-Duper Simple & Easy Chicken Stock

Bouquet Garni - Simple and Easy Chicken Stock

You can feel winter in the air here early in Sydney, and boy did it come quick. I absolutely love it! There's nothing like curling up on the couch with a doona, a good book or movie, and a beautiful hot meal at the end of the day.

One of the staples of our winter food is, of course, stock. We use it for soup, risotto, stews, you name it; last year I started making my own chicken stock. The taste compared to store bought stock is lovely, and gives our risottos the most beautiful full flavour.

You may already have most of what you need in the fridge and cupboard already, and it's so easy to make. All you need is a bit of time. Bonus - it's also really cheap to make!

Super-Duper Simple & Easy Chicken Stock

Makes about 2L

Chicken stock - all the ingredients in the pot - next step, cover with water and simmer


- 1 Chicken carcass or 500g of chicken bones/necks
- 2 medium size carrots, chopped roughly (cut each into 2 or 4)
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped roughly, as above. You can leave some leaves on.
- 1 brown onion, halved
- 10 peppercorns
- Bouquet Garni
(to the rest of us, just use a bay leaf, a sprig of parsley, a sprig of thyme, and a sprig of parsley if you have it. Don't worry too much if you're missing 1 or 2, it does help add to the flavour, though. If you can't get these it's not the end of the world if you used a half to 1tspn each of dried).


If you're using bones/necks/etc:
This recipe says to use a chicken carcass or bones. Use whatever you can get your hands on, just remember we're after the boney bits (though using drumsticks with meat on is absolutely no problem). I've used necks this time round.

If using a carcass:
If you're using a chicken carcass, a BBQ or roast chicken is fine. Just make sure you remove any leftover skin, pick the bones for meat, and remove the stuffing from the cavity.


  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot, cover with about 2.5L cold water (just as long as everything is covered), and bring to a light boil. Immediately reduce the heat so the water is barely simmering.
  2. Reduce heat, cover, and allow to simmer slowly for 3-4 hours. Check from time to time; if froth appears on top, just skim it off with a spoon.
  3. Pour stock through a strainer to remove vegetables and bones, and voila! You're done!


The stock will keep in the fridge for 2 days, but is fine in the freezer for months, just divide into portions and freeze ahead. It means you always have good quality chicken stock on hand, too! If you do refridgerate it, it will allow any fat to set, and you can skim it off the top before freezing.

Simmer the stock lightly, and don't boil, so we end up with a nice clear stock. Boiling makes it cloudy.

There is another reason making your own is so great: it's REALLY cheap. You can get chicken bones and necks for a couple of dollars a kilo from your butcher, or, if you go up to the deli and butcher section, Coles often have them too.


How to Make a Bouquet Garni

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chai Tea Ice-Cream

Chai Tea Ice-Cream

A rather clever work friend recently suggested a recipe for earl gray tea ice-cream to me. I mentioned this to my Mum who made the suggestion of chai tea ice-cream. Why not, I thought, and so this weekend, gave it a try.

I've previously only made ice-cream using the 'custard method', so when my work friend told me I didn't need to use eggs (yes, yes, I'm slow!), I was interested.

I found a recipe for chai tea online. I've adapted this a little, as it's a little too watery for ice cream (but the original recipe makes a tasty tea, give it a try!).

The resulting ice-cream is a lovely sweet and spicy mix which is unusual, but absolutely delightful at the same time. The honey in the recipe almost 'normalises' the unusual tea flavour you don't quite expect to find in an ice-cream, almost reminding me of the honeycomb and hokey-pokey varieties I loved when I was little.

Next up I think I'll be copying my friend with saffron and cardarmon (this was DELICIOUS), just replacing the tea with a cup of whole milk, and the spices to taste. Yum!

Chai Tea Ice-Cream

(makes half a Litre/500ml)


For the ice-cream:
- 1/3 cup of white sugar
- 250ml of thickened cream
- 1 cup of chai tea (made on milk - ingredients and recipe below)

For the chai tea:

- 1 1/3 cups of whole/full-cream milk
- 4 tea bags (that's 4 tspn plain black. loose leaf tea)
- 1 tspn Cardarmon seeds
- 16 cloves 1 cinnamon stick
- 1-2 tbspn honey (to taste)


To make the tea:

  1. Place milk and spices in a saucepan, being to a very gentle boil: don't allow the milk to separate.
  2. Once it's heated, immediately reduce heat to minimum for 5-10 minutes; when the milk is combined with the spices to taste, remove from heat, add tea and honey, and allow to infuse.
  3. Pour the tea through a strainer to remove tea leaves/bags and spices.

To make the ice-cream:

  1. Combine the sugar, tea and cream in a saucepan over very low heat, and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring regularly (this helps the ice-cream cool quicker and stops a skin from developing on it).
  3. Pour into a 1L capacity container and freeze.
  4. When the edges freeze (this will probably take a couple of hours) remove from the freezer and beat (I just use a hand beater). Return to the freezer and repeat about 3 times


This makes about half a litre. When the mixture is not yet frozen you will probably notice it's very sweet and strong flavoured, but it needs to be so you have the right taste when frozen.

If the ice-cream is too sweet, adjust the amount of honey, not the sugar. I've found the amount of sugar is really important to the end consistency of the ice-cream and making sure it's not a rock-hard block!