plate 2 plate - Cracked Green Olives with Cardamom and Harissa

23 Dec 2015

Welcome to the last Plate 2 Plate post for 2015, where Juliana and I take the same recipe but make and style it our own way. Juliana suggested this simple marinated olive recipe from Ghillie Basan's book, Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous.

Here's Juliana's image.

I looked through my cupboards and was low on cumin and coriander seeds so off to the fruit shop I went, list in hand.

Isn't this an elegant composition by Juliana?

The cracked green olives I already had, lovingly prepared by the wife of one of my Greek patients. 

I bought this mortar and pestle ages ago and I've just been waiting for the right opportunity to use it. It ground those toasted spices in no time at all. Image below by Juliana.

These olives are really easy to make and pretty tasty. 

With all that Harissa, I thought they might be a bit too spicy but they're not as hot as I feared. btw, isn't Juliana's berry spoon lovely?

I always like to give something from my kitchen at Christmas time. I thought a bottle of these olives would make the perfect hand made gift along with some of the other things I've been making, like these sour cherry amaretti and some chocolate coated peanut and pretzel brittle. To make this batch of chocolate coated peanut and pretzel brittle, I used the quantity of ingredients from the chocolate compost brittle but used the method from this recipe

Here's the recipe for Cracked Green Olives with Cardamom and Harissa from Vegetarian Tagines & Couscous by Ghillie Basan, serves 4-6

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1-2 tsp cardamom seeds
4-6 black peppercorns
2-3 Tbs olive oil
freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
1-2 tsp Harissa
350g/12oz. cracked green olives, rinsed and drained

Dry roast the cumin, coriander and cardamom seed with the black peppercorns in a skillet, until they emit a nutty aroma. Using a mortar and pestle, crush the roasted spices to a coarse powder. Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice and add the Harissa.

Put the olives into a serving bowl and spoon the spice mixture over them. Toss well and leave to sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

The olives will keep in a sealed jar in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.

Thanks again to Juliana for the recipe and for her photographs. 

That's my last post for 2015 so all the best to you and yours over the holiday season. See you all again in 2016 with some more recipes from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


christmas week 2015 - pavlova wreath with mascarpone cream

18 Dec 2015

Welcome to Day 5, the last day of  of Christmas week. Every-one seems to love a pavlova, especially at Christmas time. When I decided to make a pavlova for Christmas week, I wanted to make it a bit special. I couldn't decide between a rolled pavlova or a pavlova wreath, which was inspired by this one from Donna Hay magazine. In the end I went with a pavlova wreath with mascarpone cream.

Pavlova is made from meringue using a ratio of 60g caster sugar for each egg white, flavoured with vanilla. A little vinegar and cornflour is added to the meringue to make the marshmallow like interior. I found 3 egg whites in my freezer so I only made a small wreath, about 8 inches in diameter. 
If you preheat the oven to about 180°C/350°F, it helps set the sugar and stops the pavlova weeping. I baked the pavlova at my oven's lowest setting of 125°C and after an hour let it cool in the switched off oven.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Pavlova wreath - serves 4
3 egg whites
3/4 cup (180 g) caster sugar
½ teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoons cornflour (corn starch)

½ cup cream
½ cup mascarpone
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs caster sugar
icing sugar
passionfruit pulp

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, drawing a 17 cm circle onto the paper. Turn the paper upside down.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until all the sugar has been added. The mixture should be very white, thick and glossy. Gently fold in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla extract.

Place heaped spoonfuls of the meringue mixture around the inside of the circle to create ring. Remember the meringue will spread a little as it cooks. Lower the oven temperature to 120°C/250°F before placing the pavlovas in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour or until the meringue is very lightly coloured and the top is dry. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the turned off oven to cool.

When the pavlova is cool, gently remove the paper from the tray and place on a cooling rack. Store the pavlova wreath in an airtight container until it's needed. Just before serving dust the wreath with icing sugar. Serve the wreath topped with the mascarpone cream and some passionfruit pulp.

Mascarpone Cream
In a medium size bowl combine the cream, mascarpone, vanilla extract and sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Place into an airtight container and refrigerate until required.

Today is my last working day for 2016, so yay, then Sunday I'm driving north to Brisbane for the Christmas break! I may be back next week with a Plate 2 Plate post so see you again then.

Bye for now,



christmas week 2015 - caramel macadamia cheesecake

17 Dec 2015

Welcome to Day 4 of Christmas week. When I asked my workmates what they’d be having for dessert on Christmas Day, their response was either Pavlova or trifle. Well a Pavlova recipe I’m happy to share with you, or even a cheesecake recipe but not a trifle recipe and here's why.

Food goes in and out of fashion and trifle is super-hot at the moment. This year every food magazine to which I subscribe has produced a Christmas trifle feature. I didn't want to look as though I was following the trend so there's a trifle embargo on the blog. Secondly although I love trifle, it’s always seemed more of an assemblage than cooking to me. I buy the little Swiss roll sponges from the shop rather than making them from scratch; the port wine jelly comes from a pack and the custard isn’t an anglaise stirred for hours, it’s made from a packet custard mix! So instead of my trifle ‘recipe’, I thought I’d share this recipe for an Ottolenghi inspired Caramel Macadamia Cheesecake.

I’ve made this cheesecake a few times for my work Christmas lunch and it’s very popular. I photographed it for the blog a few years back but I didn’t include the recipe at the time. The cheesecake recipe is my own but the caramel sauce and macadamia topping are straight from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook

I use 2 types of cheese in my recipe, dry cottage or farm cheese and cream cheese but you can just use cream cheese if you prefer. The cheesecake is best made the day ahead and as these days you can find salted caramel sauce in the supermarket and candied macadamia nuts as well, if all that sugar work seems too draining by all means take some short cuts. If you think all that caramel and toffee would be too sweet I think the cheesecake would go really well topped with the raspberry compote featured here.

This recipe makes a 16 cm cake but if you’d like to make a 23 cm cake, just double all the ingredients and bake for the same length of time. I didn't reduce the quantity of candied macadamias as they're so tasty you'll eat half of them while you're decorating the cake. You may have a bit of left over caramel sauce which you can serve with the cheesecake. 

For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Caramel and Macadamia Cheesecake

For the base
55g unsalted butter
¼ cup caster sugar
½ cup plain flour
½ tsp vanilla extract

For the cheesecake
250 g cream cheese
125 g cottage or farm style cheese
⅓ cup - ½ cup (80 - 110g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 egg yolk
2 tbs cream/yoghurt
Icing sugar for dusting

For the nut topping
150g macadamia nuts
90g caster sugar
1 tbl water

For the caramel sauce
40g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
75 ml cream
Pinch sea salt flakes

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Lightly grease a 16cm spring-form cake tin and line the base and sides with baking parchment.

To make the base, whiz all the ingredients in a food processor to form soft dough. Transfer the dough to the lined tin and flatten with the back of a tablespoon to create a level base. Bake the base in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until just lightly coloured. Cool on a wire rack while making the cheesecake filling. Reduce the temperature to 170°C/325°F.

To make the cheesecake, wipe out the food processor and place the cream and cottage cheese, the ⅓ cup sugar, vanilla and egg into the bowl. Process until the mixture is smooth. Test for sweetness and if the farm cheese is bitter, you may need to add a little more sugar. Remember you'll be adding caramel sauce and candied nuts later on, so don't go overboard. If the mixture looks a little too thick you can add an extra tablespoon or so of cream or yoghurt. Pour the cheesecake mixture over the base and return to the oven. Bake for 45 minutes or until the cheesecake is just set. Leave in the switched off oven for a further 15 minutes then cool at room temperature before removing the side of the tin. Refrigerate the cake for a few hours or overnight.

To prepare the nut topping, scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 180° for about 8-10 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook gently until the toffee turns a golden-brown caramel. Do not stir it at any stage. Carefully add the toasted nuts and mix gently with a wooden spoon. When most of the nuts are coated in caramel, pour them on to the lined tray and leave to set. Break bits off and chop them very roughly with a large knife. It’s nice to leave some of the nuts just halved or even whole.

To make the sauce, put the butter and sugar in a thick-bottomed saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. The butter and sugar will look as if they have split. Don’t worry; just keep on stirring. Once the desired colour is reached, carefully add the cream while stirring vigorously. It will spit so stand back while stirring. Remove from the heat, add a pinch of salt and leave to cool.

To finish the cake, dust the edges and sides with plenty of icing sugar. Spoon the sauce in the centre, allowing it to spill over a little. If the sauce thickens too much as it cools, warm for about 30 seconds in the microwave before spooning over the cheesecake. Scatter lots of caramelised nuts on top then sprinkle with a little more icing sugar. 

The cheesecake will keep in the fridge for 3 days, just bring the cake to room temperature first and sprinkle a little more icing sugar over the top before serving.

See you all I'll tomorrow with my final Christmas week post.

Until then,


christmas week 2015 - yoghurt pannacotta with raspberry compote

16 Dec 2015

Welcome to day 3 of Christmas week on the blog. As Christmas falls in summer in Australia I thought I'd bring you the perfect summer dessert, a yoghurt pannacotta. I've made this pannacotta recipe 5 times now, altering the ratio of milk, yoghurt and sugar until I think I've found the perfect balance. 

The pannacotta is silky smooth and balanced by a tart raspberry compote, made from frozen berries. I didn’t come up with the raspberry compote idea on my own; I stole the idea from here and tweaked the recipe little. The raspberry compote would go really well with some of the other desserts I'll be posting later in the week.

You can make both the pannacotta and the compote the day before, reducing Christmas Day stress.

Here’s the recipe for you. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Yoghurt Pannacotta with Raspberry Compote - makes 6

Yoghurt Pannacotta
2 tablespoons cold water
2½ teaspoons gelatine
1 cup full cream milk
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 cups Greek yoghurt

Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatine over the water. Set aside until the gelatine has softened, 5 minutes. Place the milk, the sugar and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine.

Cool to room temperature, and then remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture. Gradually whisk the milk into the yoghurt and stir together gently. Pour the mixture through a sieve into six ½-cup ramekins and refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours.

Raspberry Compote
250 g frozen raspberries
75 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar 
1 tbs water
7 g cornflour mixed with 1 tbs water

Method: In a small saucepan, bring half the frozen raspberries, the sugar and water to just below simmering. To thicken the raspberries, add the cornflour mixture to the raspberries and allow to just simmer but don’t boil as the raspberries will fall apart. Pour the mixture over the remaining berries and set to one side to cool.

To Assemble
Raspberry compote
2-3 shop bought meringues
small mint leaves
fresh raspberries (if in season)

Just before serving, spoon the raspberry compote on top of the set pannacotta. Crumble a meringue into shards and sprinkle over the compote. Using scissors snip some of the micro mint and sprinkle over the top of the berries, before topping with a few fresh berries (if available).

See you all tomorrow with another Christmas week 2015 dessert.

Bye for now,


christmas week 2015 - tarte aux pommes

15 Dec 2015

Welcome to Day 2 of Christmas week. Now this recipe for a French apple tart from The Margaret Fulton Cookbook is an oldie but a goodie. I think I first made this tart when I was about 15 and made it regularly for a very long time as it's both simple and delicious. I haven't made it in ages and the recipe has remained in my 'to make again' pile for a very long time. 

The filling is made from apples cooked slowly over a low heat with some lemon juice, sugar and butter then topped with thinly sliced apples just before baking. I've heavily reduced the sugar in the filling as our tastes have changed greatly since the recipe was first published. If you're planning to make this for Christmas, you can prepare most of the elements before hand and bake it the on the day or even the day before if you wish. If you make the tart the day before, I'd hold off applying the glaze until just before serving time.


I've used my go-to almond shortcrust pastry but if making pastry from scratch gives you the heebie jeebies, then just buy some all butter short crust pastry to make the tart shell. 

The original recipe made a 7 inch tart and I used the same quantities for my rectangular tart. Here's the recipe for you, which should serve 4 - 6 hungry people. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. 

Tarte aux Pommes

110 g (4 oz) cold unsalted butter, diced
¼ cup icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
¼ cup almond meal
1⅓ cups plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
Cold water

5-6 medium sized cooking apples
1 tablespoon water
¼ cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tbl butter

2 medium sized cooking apples
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 extra tablespoon sugar

Apricot Glaze

½ cup apricot jam
1 tablespoon water


To make the pastry, combine all the dry ingredients in a food processor, and whiz for a few seconds until well combined and free of lumps. Add the cold butter and whiz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg and sufficient cold water and whiz until a soft dough just starts to form around the blade.

Remove the dough from the food processor and gather the pastry into a ball; flatten slightly before wrapping in plastic and placing in the fridge. Refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface (I use greaseproof paper) and roll out thinly with a rolling pin before lining the tin. Prick the base of the flan with a fork then put a piece of baking in the flan case and fill with dried beans or pastry weights to prevent the pastry shrinking. Bake in a hot oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and beans,
return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry starts to colour.


To make the filling, peel, core and quarter the apples. Slice roughly and put into a saucepan with a tablespoon of water, the sugar, vanilla and butter. Cover and cook over a gentle heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender. Raise heat to a boil and stir until the mixture is thick enough to hold in a mass in the spoon. I cooked my apples for close to an hour. Using a stick blender roughly puree the filling. Taste and add more sugar if not sweet enough then spread the apple into the pastry shell.

Peel and core the apples and slice very thinly. Sprinkle with lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of sugar and arrange the slices in a pattern on top of the apple pulp. Bake in a moderately hot oven (190°C/375°F) for about 30 minutes until the apples are tender and browned slightly. Slide onto a rack or serving dish and brush top and pastry with the apricot glaze. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream. Serves 4 - 6.

Apricot Glaze

Combine the jam and water in a small saucepan and place over a low heat, stirring until dissolved. Pass the mixture through a wire sieve, then return the mixture to the pan and bring to the boil. Cook gently until the glaze is clear and the desired consistency is reached.

I had a slice with a little cream and it was absolutely delicious. Who would have thought such a simple filling of apples, sugar and lemon could be so tasty?

Bye for now,


christmas week 2015 - blood orange and almond syrup cake

14 Dec 2015

Welcome to Christmas Week 2015. This year I decided it was time to feature Christmas desserts, some easy and some a little more challenging. Now in our household we’re traditionalists, so our dessert of choice will always be a traditional steamed Christmas pudding served with lashings of cream for some and custard for me. Now I know that Christmas pudding is a British tradition and that many people don’t care for it, which I think is down right crazy but there you have it. For those people who don’t enjoy a steamed pudding, I‘ve come up with a selection of goodies that can be made by my Northern hemisphere friends and some that will suit my Southern hemisphere friends.

Here’s the first dessert adapted from this recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sam Tamimi. Now the original recipe calls for tangerines, which are a hard to find commodity in Sydney. I happened to have a few last of the season blood oranges lurking in my crisper drawer, so that’s what I used. Tangerines, mandarins or oranges would all work equally well.

As with all Ottolenghi recipes you just know that the cake will be moist and delicious and bursting with flavour. For added glamour I topped the cake with some dark chocolate ganache and candied blood orange slices. The cake would work just as well simply topped with a dollop of double cream. Best of all, you can make the entire cake the day before as the flavour improves with keeping.

Here’s the recipe for you which makes a 16 cm cake. If you'd like to make a 23 cm cake, then double all the ingredients. The baking time will stay the same. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 gm and my oven is a conventional oven, not fan forced. If your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the cooking temperature by 20°C. 

Blood Orange and Almond Syrup Cake (adapted from Ottolenghi)

2 small blood oranges
½ lemon
100g unsalted butter
150 g caster sugar
140 g ground almonds
2 large eggs, beaten
50g self-raising flour, sifted
pinch salt
candied orange slices (optional)

40 g caster sugar
60 mls reserved juice

Chocolate icing (optional)
45g unsalted butter, diced
75g dark chocolate, finely chopped
1½ tsp honey

Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F. Lightly grease a 16 cm spring-form tin, and line the sides and base with baking parchment.

Finely grate the zest of the 2 oranges and the lemon before juicing them. Reserve the juice. Put the butter, 150g of the sugar and the citrus zests into a bowl and mix. Do not work the mix too much or incorporate much air. Add half the ground almonds and continue mixing to fold through. Add the eggs gradually, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as you go. Add the remaining almonds, flour and salt, and work until the mix is smooth.
Spoon the cake batter into the tin and level. Bake for 50-60 minutes - a skewer should come out a little bit moist.

When the cake is almost cooked, prepare the syrup. Combine the remaining sugar and 60 mls of citrus juices in a small pan; bring to a boil then remove from the heat at once. Pour the hot syrup over the cake, making sure it all soaks through. Leave to cool. Serve it as it is or topped with the chocolate icing.

To make the icing, put the butter in a heatproof bowl and place in the microwave. Cook on high for about 30 seconds or until the butter has melted. Add the chopped chocolate and honey to the hot butter and stir until all the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Let the chocolate stand for about 30 minutes until it thickens a little before pouring over the cooled cake. Let the icing set, then garnish with some pieces of candied orange rind.

I'll be back again tomorrow with another Christmas Week 2015 dessert. See you all then,



chocolate compost brittle

7 Dec 2015

I like to make something from my kitchen to give to my neighbours and friends at Christmas time. I'm planning to make sour cherry amaretti this year but after reading this post from Smitten Kitchen I thought it would be nice to make some brittle as well. 

Inspired by this recipe for compost cookiesI thought I'd make some chocolate coated compost brittle using pretzels, popcorn and peanuts for the 'compost'.

I love peanut brittle and even though it's easy to make, I chose not to make it very often as it's way too addictive. 

I'm warning you because I don't think this version is any less addictive.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. My oven is not fan forced so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate Compost Brittle
1 cup caster sugar
30 mls light corn syrup or golden syrup (I used 15 mls of each)
¼ cup water
30g butter
½ teaspoon bicarb soda (baking soda)
½ cup broken-up chunks of thin salted pretzels
½ cup roasted salted peanuts
½ cup coarsely crumbled salted popcorn pieces
125g coarsely chopped dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F. Line a lamington tin (12 x 8 inch tin) with baking paper and place the pretzels, peanuts and popcorn on the tray. Put the tray in the oven to keep the pretzel mixture warm while you're making the toffee.

Combine the sugar, corn or golden syrup and water in a medium saucepan, stirring to combine. Cook without stirring until the temperature of the mixture reaches 150
C. Take the pretzel mixture out of the oven. Remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly stir in the butter, the warmed pretzel mixture and the baking soda (which will make the mixture froth up). Mix until the pretzel mixture is coated in toffee then immediately pour the brittle back into the paper lined pan. Using a knife or an off set spatula flatten out the brittle as much as possible. Leave the brittle to set. 

While the brittle is cooling, melt the chopped chocolate in a small bowl over simmering hot water or in the microwave. I reserve about 15-20% of the chocolate and put the rest of the chocolate into a small bowl. Zap the chocolate on high in 30 second bursts until most of the chocolate has melted. Give the chocolate a good stir until it has completely melted before adding the reserved chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate has completely melted.

Once the brittle is cool and has set, gently remove the brittle (still on the baking paper) and then turn it upside down onto a cooling rack. Remove the baking paper, then pour the chocolate over the flat base of the brittle smoothing it out using a spatula. Leave until the chocolate has completely cooled. If you can't wait, you can refrigerate the tray for about 20 minutes to speed up the setting process.

Once the chocolate has set break the brittle into shards. Store the shards of brittle in an airtight tin between waxed or baking paper. As its pretty warm in Sydney at the moment, my tin is stored in the bottom of the fridge to stop the chocolate from melting.

All packed and ready to share.

See you all again next week for a full week of posts for Christmas week 2015.

Bye for now,

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