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Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Small Man’s Berry Crumble

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Mixed berry crumble is Small Man’s new favourite dessert.

If he finds out that I’ve made it, he’ll actually stop eating his dinner to leave room for it. He can eat an entire dish on his own, but out of politeness, will usually limit himself to just two-thirds. I’ve blogged an earlier version of this recipe before, but we’ve now refined it to (our) perfection.

It’s incredibly simple, and uses just a few fridge and freezer ingredients…

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Welch’s frozen fruits are a Costco find and we’ve been delighted with them. They’re reasonably priced, packed in Canada, and the berries and cherries are delicious without being overly sweet. We always keep a couple of packets in the freezer.

The fruit is sweetened with a little of our neighbour June’s apricot jam, and the topping is made from a quarter portion of our tea cake recipe (made without the added fruit, then carefully wrapped in clingfilm and frozen). Any plain pound style cake should work equally well, and it’s worth freezing end bits of stale cake for this.

Yesterday afternoon, I taught Small Man to make his favourite dessert. Here are the basic ingredients…

  • 2 cups of frozen mixed berries (don’t bother defrosting them)
  • ¼ cup of good jam
  • 250g (or whatever you have) of plain butter, pound or tea cake (defrosted, if frozen)
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

It’s completely fine to just eyeball these quantities, as it’s hard to go too far wrong.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 160C with fan. In a pretty baking dish, mix the berries with the jam (I usually do this with my hands). We added a little peeled and diced apple as well this time.

Step 2: In a mixing bowl, crumble up the defrosted cake and mix in the melted butter and brown sugar. Try not to squish it together too much – the aim is to make a fine crumb…

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Step 3: Evenly scatter the crumb topping over the fruit, then bake for 30-40 minutes (start checking after 20 minutes to make sure it’s not browning too much)

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Step 4: Voila! The crumble is ready when the top is a golden brown and you can see the berry juices starting to bubble up at the sides…

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. . . . .

Now seriously, isn’t this the easiest dessert ever? We like to use homemade cake and jam, but I can’t see any reason why this wouldn’t work with bought ingredients – a good supermarket jam (try to pick one that isn’t too sweet) and a plain madeira or pound cake should be fine. I hope you enjoy this as much as Small Man does – it’s a sure-fire way to brighten up a mid-week dinner!

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Focaccia Pocket Breads

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At the recent Peters of Kensington stocktake sale (shh..we don’t mention it too loudly in front of Pete), I bought two Tala muffin pans to replace some of my rusty old ones.

When they arrived, I was delighted to find them sturdy and heavyweight, with what appears to be an excellent non-stick coating. They’re a bit smaller than my Chicago Metallic pan and were an absolute steal at just $5 each.

I had planned to make filled focaccias that day (my default when I need a quick lunch – our easy tutorial is here) and decided instead to turn the dough into little pocket breads. Each batch of dough was sufficient to fill 12 muffin holes.

. . . . .

Start by making the dough as shown here and allowing it to rise. Grease the muffin pan with melted butter.

Once the dough is fully proofed, preheat the oven to 240C with fan. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently shape it into a flat rectangle. Roll the dough up to form a long skinny sausage, then cut it into 12 roughly equal slices.

Nestle each slice into a greased cavity (photo below shows a double batch). Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rise for a further 15 minutes of so (longer if your kitchen is a bit cold)…

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Once the rolls have puffed up a bit, brush the tops with any remaining melted butter…

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Pop the muffin pan(s) into the oven, reducing the temperature to 220C with fan. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the tray(s) and bake for a further 10 minutes or until well browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack before scoffing.

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. . . . .

Despite the semi-dried tomatoes burning a bit on the top, these were delicious and great fun to make and eat. They’re also very easy to share – we handed out half to friends and neighbours and the boys made short work of the rest!

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Upcycling Leftovers

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What do you do with leftover fresh ricotta? Turn it into ricotta cake, of course!

I spent ages trying to perfect this recipe – here’s the original post from 2009 and our gluten free version, plus a ricotta slice I messed about with. I’m not sure why I found it all so hard – these days I just wing it and it seems to work every time.

Here’s a brief rundown on my most recent bake (quantities are loose)…

Mix one large well-drained 500ml tub of fresh ricotta with a big spoonful of Greek yoghurt (we used homemade) or sour cream, 150g sifted icing sugar and the grated rind of a small lemon.

Stir in two egg yolks. Beat two whites until firm, then fold into the batter.

Pour into a tin or pie dish lined with sweet shortcrust pastry (our recipe is here, but it’s quite sticky and fiddly – you have been warned!). Bake in a preheated 150C fan oven for about 50 minutes, rotating once (carefully). Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar. Chill, then serve…

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With the little piece of excess pastry, I made a baby berry pie for Small Man. He loved it…

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. . . . .

And remember our roast lamb shoulders?

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The following day, I turned the leftovers into that Aussie staple, shepherd’s pie…

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I blitzed the meat in the food processor, then mixed it with cooked onion (chopped and fried until translucent), grated carrot, a splash of Worcestershire sauce, half a cup of tomato passata, salt, pepper and a couple of tablespoons of water. This was then spooned into a greased pie dish.

Three large potatoes were peeled and mashed with butter, salt and pepper (no liquid), then spread out over the meat and roughed with a fork. A little melted butter was brushed on top and the pie was baked for about 50 mins in a preheated 175C fan oven. From memory, I turned the heat up a bit at the end to brown the topping.

It was delicious with chipotle barbeque sauce!

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Cheese

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A foodie tip: buy soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert or Fromage D’Affinois whenever they’re on special (the riper the better), wrap them carefully, and stash in the freezer.

They will defrost overnight in the fridge to perfect, non-soggy ooziness for your next dinner party cheese platter. They’re also brilliant on pizzas – D’Affinois makes a particularly decadent topping.

I bought this 1kg wheel of Mon Père from Costco for just $20, cut it into eight wedges and (very carefully) vacuum sealed each piece to prevent freezer burn. I’ve also had great success with just wrapping the cheese tightly in cling film.

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Here it is after having been frozen for a week, then defrosted overnight in the fridge…

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. . . . .

While I was at Costco, I also spotted pots of Jean Perrin Fromage des Clarines on special for $4.97. These are normally $20 each (and often more for the ones in ceramic bowls) but a friend told me that the importer had brought in too many for Christmas. With an expiry date of 13th January, they were massively marked down for a quick sale…

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Knowing that I could freeze them, I bought four tubs! I stashed three in the freezer and baked one, following Tania’s recipe here

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It was ridiculously moreish…

. . . . .

And while we’re on the topic…a cheese plate is an integral part of our dinner parties.  If you need help assembling one, have a look at Sally’s comprehensive guide on putting one together.

Without fail though, I’m always left with a box of cheesy bits and pieces the following day. I turned leftovers into a cheese pâté recently and it was such a hit that I thought I’d best document it here so that I can find the recipe again next time. It’s basically a riff on the Fromage Fort recipe I posted years ago…

  • 300g assorted leftover cheeses – I had a wedge of Cranberry Wensleydale, some 18-month Comte and a small piece of White Pearl Brie (which incidentally had been in the freezer for months, but had defrosted perfectly). It’s worth tasting the cheeses together first to make sure they don’t clash too much.
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • glug of good white wine
  • splash of Kirsch
  • black pepper
  • walnuts, coarsely chopped

Set up the food processor with the grater blade and grate the hard cheeses into the bowl. Now switch to the chopping blade and add the soft cheeses, peeled and smashed garlic, pepper, wine and Kirsch. Blitz to form a smooth(ish) paste.

Scrape into a bowl and smooth out the top. Cover the surface with chopped walnuts, pressing in gently to stick them on (not shown in photo below, because I got the idea after it was taken).

Serve with crackers or sourdough focaccia.

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As I mentioned above, the nuts were a last minute addition, but they made a huge difference to both taste and appearance, and are well worth the extra effort. The addition of the booze seems to help preserve the cheese. I’ve made versions of this with everything from blue to soft, but it might not work with fresh cheeses such as ricotta or mozzarella (because they go off quite quickly).

The pâté should improve with a couple of days’ rest, but I took this to dinner at Kevin and Carol’s place and it was demolished before the night was out!

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Irish Cream Tiramisu

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Every year, my lovely octogenarian neighbour June gives me a bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label.

As I’m not a huge whisky drinker, every year, I turn it into three litres of homemade Irish Cream. Just before Christmas, I snuck jam jars’ full of “Festive Mother’s Helper” into my girlfriends’ fridges.

I was wondering what to do with the litre left in my own fridge when I came across this recipe by Nigella Lawson. I tweaked the ingredients just a little bit…

  • 3 shots of Nespresso coffee, with water added to bring it up to 350ml
  • 250ml (1 cup) of homemade Irish Cream
  • 400g savoiardi biscuits
  • 2 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 500 grams mascarpone cheese
  • dutch cocoa powder

Tiramisu is very easy to make, but can sometimes end up a little soggy. My chef friend Dotti gave me a few tips to ensure a perfect result.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, then fold in the mascarpone and ¼ cup Irish Cream. Whisk the whites until soft peaks form and carefully fold them into the mascarpone mixture. Be sure to use the freshest eggs you can find, as they won’t be cooked (ours were laid that morning).

In a large bowl, mix together the diluted coffee and remaining Irish Cream.

Now, here’s Dot’s first trick of the trade. Don’t soak the savoiardi biscuits. Holding them sideways (like this ⊂⊃), dip the bottom half into the liquid and pull it straight back out. Flip over and repeat with the top half. The biscuits might look a little dry, but fear not, they’ll absorb more liquid after the tiramisu is assembled and create a perfect sponge layer in the finished dessert.

Her second tip is to stand the bottom layer of biscuits on their side rather than laying them flat. This creates a slightly thicker base which is less likely to end up soggy.

Cover the base with a row of (barely) soaked soldiers, then top with half the mascarpone mixture. Then add another row of (barely) soaked biscuits – I laid them flat for the second layer – and top with more mascarpone. Cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight. Dust with cocoa just before serving.

I didn’t remember to take a photo before serving, but hey, it was Christmas. See how the thicker base has formed a perfect, non-soggy sponge layer?

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Dotti’s final tip…and this one is genius…is that the assembled tiramisu freezes brilliantly. I had sufficient quantities to make one dish for our dinner plus two takeaway containers’ worth. Defrost overnight in the fridge (ideally), then smooth out the top, dust with cocoa and serve. It’s an easy dessert to keep on hand for last minute dinner parties…

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So…that leaves me with just half a litre of my home brew in the fridge. Any suggestions?

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