quince and nut cake

27 May 2013

Autumn has finally hit Sydney with a couple of wet and miserable days. You can tell because people have been searching my blog for recipes for hearty food like lamb shank soup (I just made a batch myself) and lemon delicious pudding. Once I get my act into gear I'll start posting some more wintery recipes.

I poached another batch of quince last weekend and decided to make a quince and nut cake from Stephanie Alexander's book, The Cook's Companion. I made the cake to soften the blow of returning to work.

I altered the recipe a teeny tiny bit by leaving out the allspice and adding some yoghurt to thin out the batter. I also toasted the pecans for 10 minutes before breaking them up a bit because toasted pecans have so much more flavour.

The quince tinted the cake batter a very pretty pale pink. This cake is a melt and mix cake and I'm not a huge fan of that method. The batter was really thick hence the addition of the yoghurt cos no-one likes a dry cake. I was a teensy bit anxious as to how the cake would turn out.

Here's the recipe for you adapted from The Cooks Companion

375 g plain flour 
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 heaped teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup (125 g) roughly chopped pecans
2 cups poached quince, mashed
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
250 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled completely
½ cup yoghurt (optional)
Icing sugar and cream, to serve.

Line the base of a 23 cm spring form pan with baking paper. Grease and flour the tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C. 

Sift the flour, soda and cinnamon together in a bowl. Stir in the nuts.  In a large bowl, stir together the quince and the sugar. Whisk the eggs into the cooled butter and then gently stir this into the quince mixture. Add in the flour mixture and mix until combined. If the mixture seems too dry, add the yoghurt until the desired consistency is achieved.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin then bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin. 
When cool, unmould the cake and sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

The gang seemed to enjoy the cake and I'll certainly make it again. Next time I'll cream the butter and sugar first (I just prefer the texture) and I'm going to use grated apple instead of quince. I think it would make a nice winter dessert topped with ice cream or a big dollop of cream, or both.

I survived my first week back at work but only just. My poor immune system couldn't cope with all those hospital bugs and after only 2 days back at work I caught a cold so I've spent all weekend coughing and spluttering. I must have been missed though because my workmates gave me a huge bunch of flowers.

I hope your weekend was a bit better than mine.

Bye for now,


yoghurt pannacotta with poached quince

20 May 2013

A few weeks ago a friend and I were having dinner at bills. For dessert my friend had pannacotta with roasted rhubarb and it looked delicious. As I don't eat cream I've never eaten pannacotta so I decided to hunt down a lower fat recipe, one that uses yoghurt.

This is the Joanne Weir recipe I used. Instead of cream, the recipe uses Greek yoghurt and milk flavoured with vanilla. The recipe is pretty foolproof and took no time to put together. To make sure it was silky smooth, I sieved the mixture into the moulds.

The Greek yoghurt I used was pretty tart and in the end I increased both the vanilla and sugar to counteract it's sharpness. I made half the recipe which yielded three 1/2 cup pannacottas with a little bit leftover.

I chilled the pannacottas in the fridge for a few hours and tried to unmould the little one, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge. After 3 goes, I finally unmoulded the pannacotta and had it for my dessert. 

So what did I think? I found the pannacotta quite bland and not sweet enough. I decided to pair the pannacotta with the oven poached quince I had in the fridge.

So what did I think of my chance pairing? Yum, yum and double yum. The quince was a perfect match. I'm going to play around with the recipe a little and see if I can make a summery tropical version using coconut milk.

You're going to see a little bit less of me during the coming months. Following a 3 month break I went back to full time work today. Blogging is a time consuming business and now that I'm back at work, I just don't have enough hours in my weekend to post twice weekly and write my monthly Delicious Bites column for decor8. 

Something had to give and whilst I'd love that to have been my day job, it does pay the bills. I hope you all understand.

See you all again next week,


oven poached quince

15 May 2013

Autumn brings with it pears, quince and chestnuts. 

When I saw quince in the fruit market I brought a few home with me. I decided to poach them and dived into my copy of Stephanie Alexanders 'The Cooks Companion' for a recipe.

Quince are tough little numbers so you need a sharp knife to deal with them. Some people pot roast them whole but I find trying to remove the peel, seeds and core from the cooked quince a bit too fiddly for my liking.

Quince are inedible unless cooked and they need long slow cooking. As they cook they change colour from pale green to a rich ruby red. I initially cooked the quince for 2 hours and although they were cooked I wanted them to be ruby red, so I continued cooking them for a further 2 hours. You can see how the colour changes with cooking time.

Here's the recipe for you and it's beauty is in it's simplicity.
Stephanie's poached quince
6 quinces, washed and peeled
2.25 litres light sugar syrup
1 vanilla bean
juice of 1 lemon

To make the light sugar syrup, heat 2 parts water to 1 part sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

Preheat oven to 150°C. 
Cut quinces into quarters or sixths. Cut out cores and tie loosely in a piece of muslin. Put sugar syrup in a cast-iron pot with vanilla bean, lemon juice and muslin bag, then add quince. Cover tightly and bake in oven for at least 4 (and up to 8) hours until quince is deep red. Do not stir or the quince may break up.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the syrup. I reduced the syrup over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Cool the quince in the syrup.  

I can't really describe the taste of quince. It really is unique. So far I've eaten the poached fruit with some stewed apple and yoghurt and I've served it with  pannacotta. I found a recipe for quince cake that I'm dying to try so if I get round to making it, I'll share that with you.

See you all again soon,


in the garden - brisbane

13 May 2013

I unexpectedly went home to Brisbane for the weekend. I spent a part of Mother's Day with my Mum and spent the rest of the day getting back home to Sydney. I did take my camera with me but it rained most of the time I was home. Between rain showers I managed to get out into the garden where I took a few photos.

I'm not much of a gardener so it's probably no surprise that many of my favourite plants in our garden are in fact weeds, just like this one. I've always loved it's red berries!

Our beloved custard apple tree which still manages to produce the occasional custard apple despite it's advanced years.

My parents pride and joy - a beautiful orchid.

They have an equally lovely orchid indoors.

I hope you all had lovely weekends. I didn't get a chance to get into the kitchen at all during the weekend except to make some macaroni cheese but I do have a recipe to share with you on Wednesday.

See you all again then.

Bye for now,


apple blintzes and mother's day

8 May 2013

When my Grandmother was still alive she used to host a Mother's Day Morning Tea. It always seemed a little unfair that the most senior member of the family did all the cooking but that was the way Grandma liked it. Grandma always served cheese blintzes made with her home made white cheese. Grandma's cheese blintzes were not sweet and I've not found a recipe that's similar to her blintzes anywhere.

So instead of cheese blintzes, apple blintzes are my specialty. I've been making these for so long now, I can't remember when I first started making them but they're an excellent make ahead dessert and really easy as well.

The recipe originally came from the Australian Woman's Weekly and the filling was made using a tin of pie apple. As apples are so lovely at the moment I stewed a few large granny smith apples for the filling.

The blintzes can be made well ahead of time and pan fried just before serving. Otherwise you can fry them and reheat them later in the oven covered with foil to prevent them drying out or zap them in the microwave covered in plastic wrap.

Here's the printable recipe for you.
Apple Blintzes
½ cup Plain Flour
2 eggs
¾ cup milk
Oil and butter for frying

Apple Cinnamon filling
400 g cooked apples or one 410 gm tin pie apples, mashed with a fork
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sultanas (golden raisins)
½ teaspoon grated lemon rind

To serve
Additional sugar and cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream

To make the filling, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and set to one side.

To make the pancakes, sift the flour into a small bowl then add the egg stirring to ensure there are no lumps. Gradually add the milk to form a smooth batter. Transfer the mixture to a small jug and rest for 30 minutes.

Heat a small pan and grease it well. Pour 2 – 3 tablespoons of batter into the heated pan. Cook over a medium heat until the underside of the pancake is light golden brown, then turn out onto a wire rack. Leave the top side of the pancake uncooked. Continue with the remaining batter to make 8 pancakes. Don’t wash out the jug as in a moment you’ll need the leftovers.

With the cooked side uppermost, spread 2 tablespoons of the filling into the centre of the pancake spreading it out a little with a small spatula.

Brush the edges of the pancake with a little of the uncooked batter; this helps the edges hold together when cooked. Fold in the 2 sides of the pancake, overlapping slightly. Brush the remaining ends with a little of the batter and fold the ends into the centre overlapping a little to make a small parcel.

Heat a little oil and a teaspoon of butter in a small pan. Place the blintzes seam side down and gently fry for a few minutes until golden then flip and cook for a further 2 minutes until both sides are browned. Drain on absorbent paper if necessary.

To serve, sprinkle with sugar and a little cinnamon topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Serves 4

They're especially yummy served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Happy Mother's Day to all those mothers out there, especially to my own Mama.

See you all again next week,


shopshoot - west elm

6 May 2013

Hi Every-one,

When I heard West Elm would be opening a store in Sydney, I knew I had to photograph it. Why, you may ask? Well I literally live around the corner and I've walked past the building site every day for the past couple of months watching the building grow.

West Elm opened for business last Thursday and I dropped by at opening time on Saturday morning. The store is spread over 2 levels and this is is what I saw when I walked in.

Even though the doors had just opened, the shop was already crowded with people. It looks as though I wasn't the only Sydney resident waiting for the store to open it's doors.

Upstairs there were loads of images of both Bondi and Brooklyn. I really liked the organic wooden spheres but I was in photographer mode so came home empty handed. I guess that means I'll have to return to West Elm but this time to shop!

As well there were furniture displays and a wall of vases, cushions and paper flowers all in shades of blue.

It's autumn in Sydney and I noticed lots of autumnal shades in the store.

I just loved this mirror and had to do something a little arty with it.

When I went downstairs,
I found more furniture, lighting, bedding, soft furnishings, vases and some items for the kitchen and bathroom.

I also found this little fella just hanging around.

Some pretty bedding in blue.

If you'd like to visit in person you can find West Elm just opposite the entrance to Westfield Bondi Junction at -

472 Oxford Street
Oxford Street Mall
Bondi Junction NSW 2022

Phone: (02) 8973 5900

If you live outside Sydney you can also shop online.

I hope you liked my little visit to West Elm. I'll see you all again on Wednesday with some food.  P.S If you'd like my recipe for lemon meringue tarts, you can find it here at decor8.

Bye for now,



an apple orchard

1 May 2013

A few weeks ago I decided to do something I'd not done before - go apple picking. Apples are in season and I wanted to bake something appley. I checked the Hawkesbury Harvest website and decided to visit Pine Crest Orchard in Bilpin. I left home really early and arrived in Bilpin about 20 minutes before the orchard opened.

I took a few photos of the local petrol station. Aren't the old petrol bowsers amazing?

Pine Crest Orchard was only a short drive away.

I arrived so early, I was the first person there but by the time I left Pine Crest the car park was full.

I'd hoped to pick some granny smith apples but the season at Pine Crest had just finished so I came home with a bag of Pink Lady apples instead. I was a bit hungry so I ate a few apples on the long drive back to Sydney. Apples fresh from the tree taste so much better than apples stored for months in cold storage. Pine Crest is all picked out and is now closed until December when the stone fruit season commences.

I'm looking forward to a return visit.  

See you all next week with an apple treat,


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