Saturday, November 15, 2008


blueberry tart

I originally bought these blueberries for a college photography assignment. It was all about human element, but other than that, we had completely free reign over what we could do. As with many of my assignments, food managed to sneak into it, I can’t seem to help it. When looking through my portfolio, I think the examiners will probably get hungry!

While thinking about what I could do with them, I remembered this recipe that I had bookmarked in one of my old Gourmet Traveller magazines. I totally fell for the photo, it was just wonderful, but when I saw the source of the recipe, I remembered the wonderful Bathers Pavillion frangpiane tart I had enjoyed so much recently at the Food and Wine Fair. Some events just seem serendipitous!

These tiny tartlets would be perfect to serve at a spring picnic or a girly afternoon tea; both are things I am planning at the moment. I loved the nuttiness of the frangpiane, and though it seemed to have a different personality entirely from their berries and cream variation, I loved it all the same.

I will say, though, that this vanilla custard recipe gave me some grief. I have made custard many times and never had a problem, but it took a dozen eggs before I managed to get this one right. I can’t be sure, but maybe it’s because the sugar was mixed with the milk rather than the eggs like other recipes I’ve used?

The egg yolks went stiff when mixed with the flour and cornflour, even when only whisking for a few seconds, and are hard to mix in completely to the milk mixture, leaving lumpy eggy bits floating around. Even when I strained it, it still didn’t seem silky smooth. If you have a favourite custard recipe, I’d say go ahead and use it here. This one is delicious, yes, but it isn’t worth wasting so many ingredients on if things go wrong!

Blueberry and Vanilla Frangipane Tart
Adapted from Bathers’ Pavillion Menus and Recipes by Serge Danserau
Serves 8

Note: You will need to start this recipe the day before you plan to serve it.

• 100g unsalted butter
• 100g caster sugar
• 3 eggs
• 40g plain flour
• 125g ground almonds

• 225g unsalted butter
• 100g caster sugar
• 1 egg, beaten
• 350g plain flour

Vanilla Custard
• 1 litre (4 cups) milk
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 250g white sugar
• 6 egg yolks
• 40g plain flour
• 40g cornflour

To Serve
• 3-4 punnets ripe blueberries, rinsed and towel dried
• Icing sugar, to dust

1. To make frangipane filling, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating slowly after each addition until well combined. Stop the mixer. Sift the flour and ground almonds and add to the butter mixture. Beat for 1 minute, transfer to a bowl and refrigerate overnight covered with plastic wrap.
2. To make the pastry, cream butter and sugar together until very pale, and then beat in the egg. Gradually add the flour and mix to a smooth paste. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and use to line 8 individual tartlet tins. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC and blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, add a tablespoon of frangipane filling to each tart and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown.
4. In the meantime, make the vanilla custard. Bring the milk, vanilla beans and sugar to the boil slowly. Cream egg yolks flour and cornflour together in a separate bowl and then pour the milk into the egg mixture. Mix well. Return mixture to the saucepan.
5. On medium heat, stir until it starts to thicken. Continue to mix on low heat for a further 5 minutes. Pass through a sieve and place into a bowl with some baking paper o top to stop a skin forming. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, spoon a level amount of custard into each cooked pastry tart.
6. Place blueberries tightly packed on top of the custard, dust with icing sugar and serve.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sit Down


Goodness me, it’s November! I’m not sure how that happened – it feels like New Years Eve was only yesterday. But the weather here has been warming up as summer rapidly approaches, the department stores have put up their Christmas decorations and my final college deadlines and graduation (!) are only a few weeks away. Last November was so extraordinarily busy between college and freelance design projects that I didn’t manage a single blog post. Luckily, I feel a little more organised this time around, and though still busy, I occasionally find the time to sit down with a cup of tea and a nice piece of cake, gather my thoughts, and sketch some ideas into my journal.

I first made this cake before I started blogging, back in May or June last year, when I impulsively bought a bunch of rhubarb and then had to find something to do with it. It’s been a favourite of mine ever since, but I am quite partial to anything involving rhubarb! I find baking very therapeutic, from the whirr of the mixer to dipping my fingers in flour and kneading dough. Though unfortunately sometimes it’s hard to find the time for purely indulgent baking.

I needed a break from the computer screen earlier this week. I had some rhubarb sitting in the fridge waiting patiently to be turned into something delicious, and the rest of the ingredients already on hand. I just couldn’t help myself. And let me tell you, in less than 24 hours, this cake had disappeared. It is really that good - unfussy, easy to prepare and equally perfect served unadorned for afternoon tea or dressed up with cream or mascarpone for dessert.

cake slice

Rhubarb and Almond Cake
Serves 10
Adapted from Home Beautiful

• 125g butter
• 1 cup raw sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• ¾ cup ground almonds
• ¾ cup milk
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 cup rhubarb, sliced into 2cm lengths

• 80g butter
• ½ cup plain flour
• ½ cup raw sugar
• ¼ cup flaked almonds

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
2. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until soft and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition
3. Sift flour, baking powder and sugar into egg mixture. Add the ground almonds, milk and vanilla and fold through gently with a metal spoon until just combined, do not overmix.
4. Spoon mixture into the prepared cake tin and then scatter the sliced rhubarb over the top.
5. To make the topping, rub butter and flour using your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Stir through sugar and almonds. Scatter topping over rhubarb.
6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Serve sliced, with double cream or mascarpone if desired.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


lamb kofta kebabs

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to feature more main meal recipes here on my blog, but I find it hard to snap a good photo when I plate up dinner because there’s either not enough light or my hungry family just want to start eating! I’ve developed quite a list of wonderful dishes that I want to make again, and then finally photograph and post, including this one here.

I’ve been wanting to tell you about these lamb kofta kebabs since I first made them last year, but barbecue season in Australia came and went and the post about it was shelved, but certainly not forgotten. Now that we are having some relatively nice, warm, spring-like weather again, I thought I’d dust it off and share.

I seem to be fascinated with using meat together with nuts, whether it’s chicken and macadamias or lamb and walnuts. In this recipe, lamb and pistachios are combined for a very interesting flavour and texture that I just loved. In short, it’s the best kebab I’ve ever made, and likely the best I’ve ever eaten. Forget the greasy, fat-laden kebabs you buy after a night out drinking, these are made with good quality lamb, full of spices and served with fresh, fragrant herbs.

This would be the perfect dish to serve at a casual weekend backyard barbecue, with a few friends and a few cold beers. However, if you’re on the other side of the world, you could also cook these in a frying pan indoors, just make sure you preheat it before you start. You could also shape the mince mixture into patties rather than onto skewers, and it tastes just wonderful with salad on a burger. Just don’t forget the yoghurt.

Lamb Kofta Kebabs
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Jamie At Home by Jamie Oliver

Note: If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for a few minutes before putting the meat on them so that they don’t burn.

• 800g quality lamb mince
• ½ cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
• 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
• 1 teaspoon ground chilli
• ½ teaspoon ground cumin
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 large egg
• Zest of 1 lemon or 3 teaspoons sumac
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 1 red onion, very finely sliced
• Mixed salad leaves, washed and spun dry
• Small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked
• Large flatbreads or tortilla wraps
• Plain natural yoghurt

1. Preheat your barbecue, or have a griddle pan prepared and preheated.
2. Place the lamb mince in a bowl with the chopped pistachios, thyme leaves, chilli, cumin, salt, pepper and egg. Mix well with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
3. With damp hands, take handfuls of the lamb mixture and shape and squeeze the meat around metal or wooden skewers (see note above)
4. Combine the sliced onion and the lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper. Scrunch it together with your hands, then mix in the parsley leaves.
5. Grill the kebabs until nicely golden on all sides and cooked through.
6. Warm the flatbreads for 30 seconds, and divide between plates. Top each with some salad leaves and onion. When the kebabs are cooked, slip them off their skewers and onto the flatbreads. Drizzle with some of the yoghurt before serving.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eating and Drinking

tea room

The last hurrah and crowing moment of Good Food Month comes in the form of the annual Sydney Food and Wine Fair in Hyde Park. This was my first time attending the event, which celebrated its 18th birthday this year. I was pretty excited about a day of eating and drinking, all for a good cause. All proceeds from the day go to the AIDS Trust of Australia. Disconcerting weather predictions gave us some cause for concern, but my cousin Jess and I decided that we’d be there no matter what (umbrellas in tow, just in case). Luckily, the forecast rain held off and it turned out to be a rather pleasant day by all accounts, with good food and good company.

I was imagining that there would be horrendous queues, but we were lucky to never have to line up for more than a few minutes. We arrived just after midday with empty, hungry stomachs. After a quick wander around to inspect the offerings we set about buying coupons. Lots of coupons! Our first stop was the Tea Room stall, because it seemed only right to start with dessert first. I have wanted to visit the Tea Room in the QVB for a long time but I haven’t quite got there yet. The tasting plate consisted of a tuna sandwich, spinach and ricotta pastry, a tiny lemon meringue tartlet, orange and almond cake, rich chocolate mudcake and a tiny biscuit with coffee cream inside. It was all absolutely delicious, and I can’t wait to experience similar treats in the beautiful setting of the Tea Room itself.

ryde tafe

Next up was a pasta dish from Ryde Tafe. Apart from being a little cold, it was very tasty, and seemed quite popular judging from the amount of other people we saw carrying around their own little bowls of pasta. It had penne with crab and mushroom in a creamy sauce. I am trying hard to let go of my prejudices towards seafood and I must be doing okay because I quite enjoyed this dish! It’s also a good chance to support the hospitality students at Tafe, since after she finishes her HSC next year, my cousin Jess might be one of them! We also made a stop at the delicious stand and picked up a little show bag that included the latest magazine, a cute Tupperware container, a block of Lindt Pear Intense chocolate and some other goodies.

rocks markets

We spent some time wandering around and saw the Vogue Entertaining + Travel sponsored fresh produce, with a gorgeously presented Rocks Market stall selling fruit and flowers, typical of the Friday markets in the Rocks (right near my work, perfect for a lunchtime stroll). We also got to taste some delicious ravioli and sample some blood orange infused olive oil that had the most amazing citrus kick. Unfortunately they weren’t selling any, or I would have been very tempted!

china doll

Still peckish, we sampled China Doll’s white cut chicken with sesame and chilli. We took it over to a spot of grass away from the bustle, and I was reminded again of why I love Hyde Park. You feel a million miles from the city when in fact you’re right in the middle of it. This dish was an amazing blend of flavours and textures – spicy yet sweet, and also fragrant from the coriander and mint, crunchy from the peanuts and sesame and nice and fresh from the bean shoots and cabbage. I really liked it, and thought it was beautifully balanced.

bathers pavillion

Next came dessert, from the Bathers Pavillion. It looks like they had the same dish at last year’s event, but it was without a doubt my favourite of the day. The cream was perfectly whipped, rich but not heavy with gorgeous vanilla bean specks throughout. The berry compote was a sweet and ripe tumble of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries and paired perfectly with the almond frangipane tartlet. It was also beautifully presented, which is quite a task when the girls at the stall were dishing out several desserts a minute. Later in the afternoon I also had a tasty cocktail from the Bank Hotel, with raspberry, cranberry, mint and a nice bourbon kick. Sitting near the fountain, soaking up the atmosphere, it was the perfect end to the afternoon.


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