country apple cake

30 May 2011

Well, this could well be the last baking post for a while. My oven is broken and I can't get it repaired until the weekend!!!! I had to cook my dinner on Sunday night, lying on the kitchen floor holding down the gas knob. I can't imaging having to do that for the hour it will take to bake a cake or roast that lamb that's sitting in the fridge. As I'm just about to go overseas and have a weekend away before then, baking is low on my list of priorities at the moment. There is  still so much to be done! 

I made this apple cake last weekend to celebrate a workmate's birthday. I've been making this cake for years and thought I'd have great problems tracking  down the recipe but found it here. I've adapted the recipe slightly (of course). I use half the sugar in the pastry and flavour the tinned apple with the remaining sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Sometimes I put a few tablespoons of apricot jam over the base and flavour the apple with grated lemon rind. Either combination works really well.

If you have any fears about making pastry, this half cake/half pastry recipe is very forgiving and requires no rolling out.

Normally I have great trouble unmoulding the cake and getting a perfect slice, so I didn't try on this occasion. Of course, the cake sliced perfectly this time but after the hungry hordes descended all that was left was just apple mush on a plate! I'll have to move in more quickly next time.

Here's the recipe for you. 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.

Country Apple Cake
2 ¼ cups of self raising flour
2/3 cup corn flour

1/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
200 grams/7 ounces of butter, cut into pieces
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/3 cup milk

800 grams tinned pie apple
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated lemon rind

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F and lightly grease a 23cm/9 inch springform cake tin.

Put the sifted flours, the sugar and butter into a food processor bowl and process until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour in the egg, vanilla and milk and process until mixture wraps around the blades.

Press half the mixture into the base of the cake tin using floured hands). Spoon in the apples and  cover with the remaining mixture (it helps if you press it between the palms of your hands).

Bake for 50 – 60 minutes. When cool dust with icing sugar or sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

For those of you enjoying a Long Weekend, I hope you were blessed with glorious weather. It was a grey and cold Sydney weekend and I may or may not have spent most of the weekend wrapped in a rug reading travel guides to Paris and Amsterdam.
See you all again soon,


paris - travel 2011

26 May 2011

Paris is one of my favourite cities though that wasn't always the case. I first visited Paris on a school trip when I was 15. It was the middle of winter and Paris was very grey and very cold. I was homesick and frustrated by my inability to communicate in French. My French skills haven't improved but I've grown to love Paris.

Looking through my travel schedule I realise I'm arriving in Paris just as the summer holidays begin. I'm a little worried that the shops and restaurants I've bookmarked will have their shutters down and a 'gone on holidays, be back in August' sign on the door.

Should I hop on a train and venture outside Paris? I know I have many blog readers from France, so I'd love to hear some of your suggestions. You can email me here or leave a comment in the comments section below. Many thanks for your help.

Have a great weekend,



the finders keeper - sydney

25 May 2011

On Saturday morning I drove over to Eveleigh to check out the Farmers Markets and the autumn Sydney Finders Keepers. It was a spectacular day and as I was there really early, I checked out the produce first and took some photos - photos to follow.

A few of my design friends were going to be at the markets so I wanted to get there early so I could say hello and take a few snaps before the hordes descended.

There is always a bit of a decorative theme going on and on this occasion, it was balloons.

There were plenty of old favourites there - Elkhorn designs.

Some beautiful new goodies from Paperboat Press. Kylie gave me some sweet little tags to use and once I return from my trip away I'll get baking and show you how sweet the little tags are.

The lovely Alischa from Bespoke Press and some of her new items. I bought some of the 'hello' cards from her online shop a few weeks ago.

I found some new favourite stall holders as well.

I loved these items from Hideyo Designs. Wouldn't those paper flowers be gorgeous at a wedding? Now this is when I started to lose track of the stallholders and I'm ashamed to say, I can't identify any of the remaining stalls for you. Some of the stalls were unattended when I was taking photos/ many of the stall holders didn't have their business cards on display and some stalls were just too busy for me to approach. If any of my readers can identify the stalls and help me out, I'd be grateful.

On my stroll around the Finders Keepers I found pretty artworks and leather bags and Kylie's new range of paperweights.

Crocheted garlands, from Crayon Chick

funky fashions,

gorgeously translucent ceramics and

jewellery and cards.

I hope you enjoyed my trip to the Finders Keepers and my finds.

From all reports, it was a great day,


rhubarb and raspberry crostata

23 May 2011

After a few weeks lay-off, it was time to get baking again so last week I loaded the shopping trolley with butter, sour cream, rhubarb and berries to try out this recipe. The strawberries at this time of year aren't at their best, so I picked up a punnet of raspberries instead.

I've had this recipe in my folder for quite some time, just waiting for the right occasion. Well a few weeks ago Maggie Beer was on Masterchef demonstrating her sour cream pastry recipe. When I checked the pastry for the crostata I recognised Maggie's sour cream pastry and decided the time had arrived.

I followed Maggie's instructions to the letter and barely worked the dough.

I only used half the pastry and filling to make 4 mini crostata and I can tell you that the pastry doesn't like to be re-rolled. The pastry still tastes lovely but it doesn't rise anywhere near as much. Once cooked, the pastry is very flaky and short and as I had quite a bit of juice left over I reduced it to make a glaze, which I used to finish off the tarts.

The raspberries were particularly tart so I used a bit more sugar than suggested and the glaze really helped to sweeten the pastries as well. I took the crostata into work and the sour cream pastry was a hit. I now have to work out what I can make with the left over dough that's in my freezer.

Here's the original recipe for you -
Rhubarb and Berry Crostata
200g chilled butter, chopped
250g plain flour
125ml sour cream
6 rhubarb stalks, sliced into 2cm-3cm pieces
500g strawberries, hulled
¾ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp custard powder
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 egg yolk

To serve
450g mascarpone
1 tbsp icing sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon

To make the pastry, pulse butter and flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add sour cream and pulse until the dough just forms a ball. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, mix rhubarb, strawberries, caster sugar, custard powder and half the lemon zest in a large bowl and toss well. 

Preheat oven to 200C. On a floured surface, roll the pastry out to a rough circle about five millimetres thick and 35 centimetres wide. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Pile the filling into the centre of the pastry and spread it out, leaving about a five-centimetre edge. Turn the edges over the filling and brush them with the egg yolk. Bake the crostata in the oven until the pastry is golden, about 45-60 minutes. 

In a separate bowl, mix mascarpone, remaining lemon zest and icing sugar. Serve straight from the oven topped with the sweet mascarpone.

I hope you all had good weekends. I'll be back Wednesday to show you where and how I spent mine, so until then.


pronto - plum crumble

19 May 2011

Now that it's getting colder at night, my sweet tooth is rearing it's ugly head. I try not to overindulge so I've tracked down some lower fat versions of old family favourites, like lemon delicious pudding, rice custard and fruit crumbles. Sometimes I make apple crumble, sometimes apple and berry or rhubarb crumble but on this occasion I made a plum crumble.

The main ingredient in this simple plum crumble is a big tin of plums in fruit juice topped with an oats based crumble. I added 1 teaspoon of brown sugar to the drained plums before I cooked the crumble just to make sure they weren't overly tart. This is something similar to the recipe I used for the crumble topping but I used butter instead of the macadamia nut oil. The recipe makes a generous amount of the crumble topping so I store any leftovers in the fridge to use when the need for crumble strikes.

The sauce you see is just the juice from the tin to which I've added one cinnamon stick and a teaspoon of sugar then reduced to a thick syrup.

To make sure there was plenty of the lovely crunchy topping, I spooned a few extra tablespoons onto a tray and cooked the extra crumble for about 10 minutes until golden and crunchy. I served the crumble with a big dollop of natural yoghurt. Yum!

It's been a busy week so I thought I'd post this a little earlier as I have lots to do tomorrow night before the weekend begins.

See you all next week,


travel 2011 - edinburgh and london

17 May 2011

I have a contingent of Scottish pals, all of whom I've known for many years. I met them whilst they were living and working in Sydney and we've managed to stay in touch through the years. Whenever I travel to the UK I always make a trip to Scotland. Sometimes I stay Glasgow but on this occasion, I'll be staying in Edinburgh.

This photo was taken on film during my last visit to Edinburgh in 2005. I was there to attend a conference and I didn't enter a single store during my visit. I'm only going to be in Edinburgh for a weekend in late June but I'm hoping to hit a few stores whilst I'm there. Any suggestions for great places to visit or things to see and do in Edinburgh from my readers would be greatly appreciated.

Now what about London? I first visited a foggy London when I was 15 and I've given up counting the number of times I've visited since then. I've already bookmarked a few new places I'd love to check out and some old favourites as well. I think I might take a day trip to Brighton as well, which I'm ashamed to say I've yet to visit.

I'm looking forward to your thoughts, so please send along your suggestions.

Bye for now,


nonna's passover baci

16 May 2011

These cookies have appeared on the blog in a few guises - chocolate hazelnut, chocolate pistachio and lemon pistachio. Well this time, I thought I'd try and make a passover version.

Instead of flour, I used potato flour and superfine matzo meal in equal proportions and kept the rest of the ingredients the same.

They looked exactly the same as the regular versions but they were a bit more 'short' in texture. They were still pretty yummy all the same.

Whenever I post images of Nonna's cookies, I always get a request for the recipe. Nonna was one of my patients and she gave the recipe to me at her last treatment session. Unfortunately I didn't ask for permission to publish the recipe, so until our paths cross again the recipe has to remain my little secret. I do hope you understand. This recipe from Stefano Manfredi is very close though.

Passover Baci
100g passover baking mix
90g unsalted butter, softened
60g almond meal
60g hazelnut meal
50g sugar
1 tsp cocoa powder
50g good-quality dark chocolate,
½ tsp vanilla essence
Pinch salt
50 g melted dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 160°C. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Shape into a log, wrap tightly with cling film and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Roll mix into small balls the size of a 10¢ piece and place on a buttered baking sheet. Place back in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool on tray. Once cooled, spoon a little melted between the flat sides of two baci and gently stick them together. Store in a well-sealed container in the fridge and they will last a week. Makes 40-50 unfilled biscuits.

I hope you all had a great weekend and I promise this is the last passover post for another 12 months!

Until we meet again,


Pronto - Marcella Hazan's Minestrone alla Romagnola

14 May 2011

It's suddenly become very cold in Sydney and as the temperature drops the need for warm and hearty food rises. What could be more warming than a steaming bowl of soup?

Cavolo nero started appearing in my fruit shop a few weeks ago so I bought a bunch to use in a minestrone. I turned to an old favourite cookbook, the Australian Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class cookbook for my minestrone recipe, which on closer inspection appears to be much the same as Marcella Hazan's recipe for Minestrone alla Romagnola without the parmesan rind. I bought a slab of parmesan on Saturday so I cut off the rind and put it into the soup.

I enjoyed the soup so much, I made another batch the other night, this time using barley instead of the white beans. It was equally delicious.

I also spent part of the weekend working on some new blog lay-outs with bigger images. What do you think?

Sorry for the delay in posting but blogger has been a bit ornery all this week. Happy weekend to you all,



11 May 2011

I'm pretty excited because it's just 5 weeks now until I fly to Amsterdam to attend a conference followed by a holiday in Europe. I'll be in Amsterdam for 6 days then I'll be spending time in Edinburgh, London, Paris and Berlin as well as 10 days in Croatia. Last year some of my very kind readers offered suggestions for things to see and do when I was in Helsinki and I'd love it if you could help me again. This week, let's start with Amsterdam.

Although I've been to Amsterdam before, it was many years ago and in the midst of winter. I do have Pia's book to guide me but if you have any ideas for some summery things to do and suggestions for places to eat I'd love to hear them and no, to my great shame I do not know how to ride a bike. Please email me with your suggestions or if you prefer, you can post a comment in the comments section.

Next week I'll be asking for up to the minute suggestions for both Edinburgh and London so please put on your thinking caps for me. 

P.S There is a full brownie post on the blog that some of my Google readers would have missed.

See you all again on Friday,


passover chocolate mint brownies

8 May 2011

I was living in Canada when I made brownies for the first time. I was invited to a bbq and made the brownies from a recipe I'd brought with me from Australia. I'd never even tasted one before but I must have made a squillion since then. I've been using and adapting the same recipe for years now and I think it's just about perfect. 

I decided to try adapting the recipe so I could use it during Passover. I wasn't quite sure the best way to substitute the flour though. Those of you that have done Passover baking know that superfine matzo meal is much more absorbent than regular flour and I was a bit worried the brownies would be a disaster. The first batch I made were chocolate raspberry brownies and I used superfine matzo meal.

If you look really carefully you can see how grainy the mixture looks.

I covered the bottom layer of brownie mixture with a punnet of raspberries and the mixture was so thick it was impossible to spread it over the raspberries. I did the best I could, put the brownies in the oven and kept my fingers crossed.

I took them into work and they were a roaring success. I took 2 home with me to try. Firstly, they were very squidgy which is what you want in a brownie but the combination of chocolate and raspberries made them taste quite sinful.

I needed to take something with me when I visited Farmer Andrew during the Anzac Day/Easter weekend so inspired by this post I decided to make a batch of mint brownies. Just reading the quantity of sugar in the recipe made me lapse into a diabetic coma, so I hunted down a more suitable recipe for chocolate mint brownies. I was taking a quick look at smitten kitchen and one of Deb's readers (comment 66) mentioned using half potato flour/half superfine matzo meal as a flour substitute, so that's what I did.

Now growing up I always loved the combination of chocolate and mint so I was eager to taste these.

The chocolate mints you get here in Australia are much smaller than specified in the recipe, so they melted during the cooking process.

How did they taste - incredible! There is just a subtle taste of mint and as you can't see the mint inside, every-one asks how you get them to taste that way. I may have unlocked the secret of perfect brownies - just make them with superfine matzo meal and potato flour. Who knew?

I hope you enjoyed the mega brownie post. See you all again on Wednesday.

P.S A belated Happy Mother's Day every-one. 


pronto - stuffed tomatoes

6 May 2011

Have you heard of Manu Feildel, the French chef and co-star of My Kitchen Rules? He released his first cookbook this year, Manu's French Table, featuring the food served at his mother's table. I don't have the book but I found this recipe for stuffed tomatoes in the March 2011 issue of the Australian Women's Weekly.

Looking through the ingredients I knew it would be pretty easy to adapt the recipe for Passover. I soaked some coarse matzo meal in water and used it instead of the breadcrumbs and of course used minced beef instead of pork.

The tomatoes were delicious served hot with mashed potatoes and a side of greens for dinner and probably tasted even better the next day heated up and served with salad for lunch.

The weather has become a bit brisk the last day or two, so I'm planning a weekend of comfort food. I've just bought a few vine ripened tomatoes and I know I have some mince in the freezer, so it might be time to whip up another batch this coming weekend.

Many thanks to Holly of decor8 for featuring my photos of david met nicole and mud australia on her blog this week.

Have a great weekend,


six degrees of pia jane

4 May 2011

Do you know the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well I think I may have discovered my own version at Ariel Books on Friday night at the launch of Pia Jane Bijkerk's book, My Heart Wanders.

It was the evening of the Royal Wedding and it was an awfully wet night but undaunted, quite a throng gathered for some bubbles and a chance to meet Pia.

The lovely Pia.

Quite a queue formed for Pia to sign copies of her book, My Heart Wanders.

Champagne flowed and goodies were served by 2 charming French boys.

Once the speeches were over we left Ariel for some dinner at our favourite fish cafe, seacow. We recognised 2 of the ladies who'd been at the book launch and stopped for a chat. This is where I discovered the 6 degrees of Pia Jane Bijkerk.

I discovered Pia's blog about 18 months ago. She showed photos of Kylie Johnson's ceramics on her blog and I purchased some items online. When I learned Kylie was soming to Sydney Finders Keepers last year, I decided to visit. Kyle was a delight and when I asked if I could take photos of Paperboat Press, she agreed. From those photos I was asked to photograph Sydney Finders Keepers summer markets, where I photographed the elkhorn store run by Monique and her mother. How funny that I should connect with them through Pia?

Congratulations to Pia on the launch of her book. If Friday night was anything to go by, the book should be a raging success.

Bye for now,

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