Friday, April 29, 2016

Chocolate and Pear Frangipane Tart

I have rather mixed feelings about autumn. On the one hand, days are shorter and darker and colder, heralding the rapid approach of my most dreaded season, winter.  On the other hand, the trees turn out in their most glamorous and brightly hued foliage (a last hurrah before dropping their clothes for the winter?), the days are never too hot and the excellent autumn fruits are in season.

Tim recently handed me a recipe he found in the local paper that celebrates one of the best of those autumn fruits, the pear.  The recipe was for a Chocolate and Pear Frangipane Tart, with the pears poached in red wine before being fanned out across a bed of chocolate frangipane and bedecked with reduced red wine sauce:

You can find the same recipe online here.

What did I love about this recipe?  I loved the smooth, not overly sweet taste of the chocolate frangipane against the cool, soft depth of the poached pears.  I also loved the gorgeous red wine reduction sauce on top - this is one occasion where I'd say don't skip the sauce, at least if you love red wine or dessert wines.

What didn't I love?  The pastry was ultra difficult to work with - even after chilling for the requisite period, it quickly turned sticky and just would not come off the baking paper I was rolling it on.  In the end, I scraped it off the paper in blobs and just mooshed it into the tart pan.

I served my tart not only with the red wine sauce, but with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, which helped to make it all a little moister and slide down the throat - brilliant.

This tart, although a little fiddly to make because of the number of elements, is quite delicious and well worth the effort if you have the time. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

EwE - What's on the Side - Zucchini, Spinach and Corn Saute

Our last theme for Eating with Ellie in April is What's On the Side?, chosen by Margaret.  Ellie described her Zucchini, Spinach and Corn Saute as one of her favourite sides at a particular Mexican restaurant.  She suggested pairing it with her Chicken Enchiladas.  The combination sounded faultless, so I went with that combination.

This side is super easy to make - I used tinned corn kernels (although you can use fresh), bagged baby spinach and zucchinis paired with onion and garlic, sautéed in the pan.  It is super quick to prepare and super tasty.

To see what the others made for this week's Ellie theme, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TWD - Jammer Galette

When I was a kid, my mother used to make a wonderful jam and coconut slice.  It was very simple to make, with the base just being pushed into the pan, jam being smeared on top, and an egg white and coconut topping being spooned carefully over the top to cover the jam.  It was then baked to golden perfection and sliced into squares for enjoying with a cup of Milo or put into school lunch boxes. You can find the recipe for that slice here.

Fast forward to the present, and this week's Tuesday with Dorie recipe, Jammer Galette, was like a more sophisticated sort of jam slice.  It comprises a pastry base made with a reasonably easy to work with dough, topped with a significant amount of jam, then instead of being topped with coconut snow, it is topped with a buttery streusel.

I used mixed berry jam for the middle (just because I had it), and when serving the galette, I took up Dorie's suggestion to top it with a little icecream (in my case, raspberry ripple, replicating the jam filling of the galette).

The Jammer Galette  was absolutely delicious served just warm as a Sunday night dessert.  It gets a resounding thumbs up from me - a buttery, jammy sensation with a hint of nostalgia.

To see what the other Dorie bakers made from Baking Chez Moi this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Monday, April 25, 2016


Today is ANZAC Day in Australia.  To find out more about ANZAC Day, check out this link.

ANZAC biscuits are common in Australia all year round, not just on ANZAC Day.  Legend has it that loved ones sent the ANZAC soldiers ANZAC biscuits during World War I because they kept well.

This year, to commemorate ANZAC Day, I decided to make ANZAC slice instead of ANZAC biscuits.  The concept is simply to take the basic elements of ANZAC biscuits (rolled oats, golden syrup, coconut) and put them into slice (bar) form.

The recipe that I used for my ANZAC slice is available online here.  There are also lots of other similar recipes for this slice.

If you have never smelt ANZAC biscuits or ANZAC slice baking before, then you are in for a treat if you make this.  It has a sweet yet earthy smell, and the golden syrup and brown sugar give the slice a caramel flavour.

The advantage in making ANZAC slice as opposed to ANZAC biscuits is that there is less fuss in making the slice - you simply push the mixture into the prepared tin and cut it into pieces after baking, as opposed to having to roll individual balls for biscuits, and you eliminate the issue of the biscuits spreading into one another.

To all Australians and New Zealanders, I hope that you are enjoying ANZAC Day.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Chez Dre and Bibelot, South Melbourne

A couple of weeks ago, Tim and I went on a South Melbourne adventure.  We started with lunch at Chez Dre,  a fabulous café and bakery tucked into a laneway in South Melbourne.  The menu is described as "French-inspired", and offers all day breakfast dishes as well as a lunch menu.

Chez Dre is very popular - we had to put our name on the wait list and sit on a bench outside, but we waited less than 10 minutes for a table.

Once inside at a cosy corner table, I ordered one of the all day breakfast dishes, Stracciatella di Bufala ($17.50).  This dish comprised two poached eggs sitting atop a bed of roast pumpkin and pepitas on sour dough toast, with beetroot chips and pea shoots.  It was absolutely delish and very filling. 

After lunch, we went for a walk around the streets of South Melbourne and Albert Park Lake:

We spied a very lush wedding party at a lakeside venue with gorgeous white roses on display.  The guests were all seated in the sunny enclosed area outside the venue, and the groom's party was standing at the front, no doubt waiting for the bride's big entrance.

Once we had walked off some of our lunch, we went for coffee and dessert at Chez Dre's sister dessert boutique, Bibelot (meaning a small object of desire).

We came late in the day (around 3pm), so many of the desserts were already gone.  However, we were very happy with our choice of the Peanut Caramel Tart ($9.50), which we shared:

This gorgeous little dome has a chocolate sable base filled with chocolate ganache, then topped with peanut caramel and caramel crème:

It tasted as amazing as it looks.  It was like a fancy Snickers bar. 

Bibelot also serves chocolates and icecream, with a range of jams and other products on sale.

We enjoyed our afternoon in South Melbourne and hope to return soon.

Chez Dre and Bibelot
285-287 Coventry St
South Melbourne VIC 3205

Thursday, April 21, 2016

EwE - It's In the Bag - Cajun Chicken with Vegetables in Foil Packets

This week's theme for Eating with Ellie is "It's in the Bag", chosen by Kayte.  She spoke about parchment, but there were no parchment Ellie recipes that I could find.  However, she does do a line in cooking in foil packets, which is where I went with this theme.

The only "in the bag" recipe in Weeknight Wonders has already been made by the group, so I had to look elsewhere for a recipe.  I chose Ellie's Cajun Shrimp in foil packets, but substituted chicken for the prawns.  

This was such a delicious dish - chicken that has been coated in cajun (creole) seasoning, poached in a foil packet in the oven with sausage (I used saucisson), chopped capsicum (peppers) and frozen vegetables (which I used instead of corn), with a "sauce" made from olive oil and white wine.  

This one is a definite keeper - but I'd say that about most of Ellie's recipes.

To see what other "It's in the Bag" recipes the group made, visit the LYL section of the EwE website

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Apple and Grape Pie

Recently, I found myself left with a whole bunch of sliced apples that I had leftover from my  Upside Down Toffee Apple Cake, and a lot of red grapes left over from some Eating with Ellie dishes.  I was keen not to waste these precious ingredients, so I began Googling for a cake recipe using apples and grapes.  I found one, but I also found that apple and grape pies seemed to be way more popular.  I don't make pies very often because they are a lot more effort than your average cake, but on this occasion, the evidence was irrefutably in favour of making an apple and grape pie.

I ended up using elements from two different recipes for my pie.  I used the crust recipe from Bon Appetit and the filling recipe from Spinach Tiger.

The Bon Appetit crust baked up as a wonderful combination of buttery and crisp (because of the shortening).  It was relatively easy to work with as well.

However, I used Spinach Tiger's filling because it left the apples and grapes largely in their natural state without cooking them down first, and it was of course a lot quicker to make.

The resulting pie was absolutely heavenly.  The apples cooked down so much that the most noticable element of the filling was the grapes.

I did have a lot of juice cook out of the pie and I worried about a "soggy bottom" on my pie; however, when I took the pie out of its tin, there was no issues - the base had held up with the par-baked crust.

If you happen to have a glut of apples and grapes on hand, or just fancy the combination of apples and grapes, I can highly recommend this pie. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Braised Chicken with Ras El Hanout and Dates

I am always poring over food magazines, the newspaper and web sites looking for new dinner ideas.  Recently, in the Good Food section of The Age, I came across Karen Martini's recipe for Braised Chicken with Ras El Hanout and Dates.

This delicious concoction has chicken, potato, tomatoes and dates, all flavoured with Arabic spices.  The cooked dates just melt in your mouth and were a highlight of the dish for me.  

I served my braised chicken over wholemeal couscous to soak up all the flavours from the sauce, and served boiled broccoli and asparagus on the side - though I didn't really need them, as this is quite a filling dish.

What is your favourite weekend dinner? 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Cardamom Layer Cake with Raspberry Buttercream and Jam for Mara

On Wednesday last week, it was my colleague Mara's birthday.  I love making birthday cakes, so I made Mara a Cardamom Layer Cake with Raspberry Buttercream and Jam.

The cake recipe is unusual in that it contains no butter or oil.  It is the Cardamom Cake from Lomelino's Cakes, the recipe for which is online here.  Instead of making two layers and slicing them, I used my Wilton six-inch layer cake tins (compliments of Kayte).

I filled the layers with raspberry buttercream (based on my favourite Primrose Bakery vanilla buttercream recipe) and raspberry jam:

and topped the cake with more raspberry buttercream, and decorated it with chocolate letters and cute little sugar decorations from Coles:

I made a little cupcake with icing for myself so that I could try the cake, and loved its lightness.  The cardamom is quite subtle and doesn't overwhelm the delicate flavour of the cake.

Mara said she and her family enjoyed this cake, including her non-sweets loving Dad.  I call that a win!  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

EwE - Vegetable Harvest - Orange-Balsamic Green Beans with Basil

This week's Eating with Ellie theme is Vegetable Harvest, chosen by yours truly.  I thought that this was a broad theme that gave everyone plenty of scope to do what they wanted.

I chose to make Orange-Balsamic Green Beans with Basil from Weeknight Wonders.  This entails frying up some shallots and green beans, then adding orange zest, orange juice, balsamic vinegar and basil.  I was very proud because I got to use basil from my own planter box.

These beans were really tasty - they made a nice change from plain boiled or steamed beans.

To see what the others did with this theme, visit the LYL section of the EwE website

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

TWD - Cocoa Crunch Meringue Cookies

For Tuesday with Dorie this fortnight, I made the first alternative recipe, Cocoa Crunch Meringue Cookies.

Dorie said I should get 8 cookies - I only got 5, but that's OK.  These cookies were delicious - light, airy, crisp chocolate meringues sandwiched with luscious ganache: 

I would make these again, but may double the recipe to get a few more.

To see what the other TWD bakers made this week and what they thought about it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Chocolate, Pretzel and Marshmallow Slice - Lyndey Milan

Ever wondered what to do with odds and ends of chocolates and salty treats left over from a party?  Well, I think I have the answer for you - Lyndey Milan's Chocolate, Pretzel and Marshmallow Slice, from her recent show, Baking Secrets.   It is also called "Train Wreck Slice".

This is one of those slices that is an assembly and bake job - no special skills required.  The base recipe lends itself to using whatever nuts, salty treats and chocolate that you may have about.  The elements that you need to keep are the shortbread base and the condensed milk and marshmallows (which act as the "glue" to stick it all together).  Otherwise, the sky's the limit - just use what you have.

I adapted the recipe to what I already had.  For example, my packet of shortbread biscuits was only 200g, not 250g - this was not a problem.  I used a mixture of Reese's peanut butter chips and chopped dark chocolate instead of dark chocolate chips; I replaced the marshmallow halves with mini mallows form the baking section of the supermarket; I used dark chocolate buttons on top rather than milk chocolate buttons; I used a mixture of pecans and walnuts and probably only 100g all up instead of 250g; and I left out the white chocolate chips and finishing chocolate drizzle altogether.  The recipe is very forgiving - it is a concept that you can run with, provided that you keep the "glue" components.

The end result is what I call "crack candy" - highly addictive and moreish.  The salty and sweet flavours together are a match made in heaven.

My only tip is that  you chill the slice before cutting it, because it crumbles readily otherwise.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

Upside-Down Toffee Apple Cake for Melbourne Cake Club - "Autumn Apples"

On Thursday night, the Melbourne Cake Club met at Pause Bar in Balaclava for its April meeting.  Our theme for this month was Autumn Apples.

Here's a look at the cosy interior of Pause Bar:

I arrived during Happy Hour so was able to take advantage of Pause Bar's great happy hour rates on wine. 

In all, seven members attended April's meeting, with a diverse range of apple cakes.

First up was Abi's apple cider cake, decorated beautifully with toffee apples and grape leaves:


I got to take one of these gorgeous apples home and really enjoyed eating it for morning tea the next day.

Dalya made a lovely Apple Caramel Charlotte, with the recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes book:

The outside was light cake and the inside was a beautiful light custard, with an apple "rose" on top.

Alex made a gluten free "healthy" apple cake from one of the newspaper weekend magazines:

Lindsay, attending her second meeting, presented us with an apple loaf topped with walnuts and luscious caramel from the BBC Good Food website:

Sue baked a deliciously moist, gluten free chocolate apple cake from a book exclusively on apple cakes:

Nicole made a picture-perfect apple spice cake with caramel sauce that she found on Pinterest:

And I made an Upside-Down Toffee Apple Cake from Luis Troyano's Bake It Great, with a gorgeous spiced gooey toffee on top:

Here is my plate of cake from the meeting - it was all so good that I nearly ate all of it: 

And in case you were wondering what my cake looked like inside, here is a glimpse:


 It was another fabulous meeting of the Melbourne Cake Club.  Next month's theme is unbaked cakes.

268 Carlisle St
Balaclava VIC 3183

Thursday, April 7, 2016

EwE - Breakfast for Dinner - Black Eyed Peas, Greens, Eggs and Ham

Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam-I-Am.

Dr Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham 

This week's Eating with Ellie theme is Breakfast for Dinner, chosen by Peggy.  I selected Black Eyed Peas, Greens, Eggs and Ham from Weeknight Wonders as my dish.  I was excited to try this dish for two reasons.  First, I had never had black eyed peas before, and I was astonished to find them readily available in canned form in my local supermarket.  Second, while I realise that this is greens, eggs and ham, not green eggs and ham, I couldn't stop thinking of the book by Dr Seuss.

This is a really easy one-pan dish that you can whip up easily for breakfast or dinner.  I substituted the kale for spinach (because I hate kale and it is massively overpriced), but otherwise was faithful to the recipe, which I can tell you was delicious, hearty and filling.  A judicious splash of tabasco sauce on top, as suggested by Ellie, really helps to make the dish.

To see what the others made for this theme, visit the LYL section of the EwE website.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Simple Chocolate Fudge Cake - Lyndey Milan recipe

During a recent browse through Facebook, someone had shared a photo of Lyndey Milan's Simple Chocolate Fudge Cake.  It looked so luscious that I immediately put it on the "to bake" list.

I came good on baking this one, and here it is:

It was easy to make, though I think I'd use a smaller pan next time, because I like my cake slices a bit taller.

I didn't have white chocolate so I used dark chocolate to decorate the raspberries on top of the cake:

It works well, wouldn't you say.

I really enjoyed this lovely cake, with the moist, tangy raspberries being the perfect foil for the rich chocolate fudge cake beneath.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Breakfast at Angelo's House, Toowoomba

For Easter Sunday, my family and I went for breakfast at Angelo's House in Toowoomba. We had the place to ourselves for most of the time (we arrived early at 8am),  which made for a wonderful peaceful dining experience.

On arrival, our friendly waiter showed us to our table out on the verandah:  

I loved the menus and table numbers decorated with drawings of Australian wildflowers:

You need to get your priorities right, so I started with a flat white coffee:

It was creamy and not too hot, so it was perfect for me.

For breakfast, I ordered the potato roesti ($16.90).  This was not the grated potato cakes that come to mind from the name, but comprised lovely fluffy potato cakes topped with a runny poached egg, and sailing atop creamed green peas and creme fraiche, with baby spinach and fetta, and lemon on the side:

It was absolutely delicious, and made for a lovely  light breakfast - leaving room for Easter eggs!

From our verandah table, we had a view of Laurel Bank Park across the road:

I was also rather taken by this vase of proteas on a verandah side table:

We all enjoyed our breakfasts at Angelo's House, and would definitely repeat the experience.
210 Herries St
Toowoomba QLD 4350
Ph: (07) 4659 9200

Friday, April 1, 2016

Frank Camorra's Queensland Cake

I am a patriotic Queenslander, so when I saw Frank Camorra's recipe for Queensland Cake, I was sold.  Frank calls this cake "Queensland Cake" because it contains lots of ingredients from Queensland - ginger, macadamias, brown sugar and coconut. (If I had to name a true Queensland cake, it would be the lamington, because it was invented in Queensland.)

It is a very simple cake to make, and it tastes really good for minimal effort.  The hardest part was persuading myself not to eat the glace ginger I had bought for the cake straight from the packet.

If nuts and ginger and coconut paired with a light chocolatey icing sounds like your kind of thing, go ahead and make Frank's cake for an easy and tasty weekend treat.