seasons greetings

25 Dec 2017

It's been a long year and I'm going to take a break from blogging for a little while to recharge my batteries. I'm planning to be back on Monday January 8 with something new to share with you from my kitchen.

Wishing you and yours all the best over the festive season.

Bye for now,


xmas week 2017 - macadamia and passionfruit roulade

22 Dec 2017

Every Christmas table requires a show stopper dessert and I think this rolled pavlova fits the bill. The recipe was inspired by this one I found online at Woolworth's of all places. 

Originally I was going to fill the roulade with whipped cream and some homemade passionfruit curd but I simply ran out of time. In the end, I played around a bit with the cooking temperature and time, changed the filling and the topping to come up with this recipe.

I've not made a rolled pavlova before so I was holding my breath. Had I overcooked the meringue? Would it crack as I rolled it? Thankfully no disasters befell and I thought the end result looked pretty impressive. This is a sweet dessert so the macadamia brittle may have been a bit of an overkill but the tartness of the passionfruit worked well in the filling. I think any kind of berry in the filling would also work well.

Here's the recipe for you which serves 6-8 people depending on how hungry you are. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams; I use unsalted butter and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Macadamia and passionfruit roulade
4 egg whites (120g)
150g caster sugar, plus 2 tsp extra
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp cornflour
45g macadamias, finely chopped
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

the pulp of 4 passionfruit
1½ cups thickened cream

Macadamia brittle
50 g caster sugar
1 tbs water
75g toasted macadamia halves, coarsely chopped then topped with a sprinkle of sea salt

Macadamia brittle
1 passionfruit

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Grease and line a 26cm x 32cm swiss roll pan with baking paper. Using electric beaters, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tbs at a time, beating until sugar has dissolved and mixture is thick and glossy. Add vanilla, vinegar and cornflour and stir briefly to combine.

Using a flexible spatula, scrape the meringue mixture into the lined pan and smooth top. Combine the macadamias, cinnamon and extra sugar and sprinkle over meringue. Bake for 20 minutes or until meringue is puffy and lightly coloured and springs back when gently pressed. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Place a clean piece of baking paper over the top of the meringue before inverting onto a clean tea towel covered board. Carefully lift away the pan, then gently peel back baking paper.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, place the passionfruit pulp in a strainer over a small bowl to let the juice drain. Measure out 1 tablespoon of the juice. Whisk  the cream with the passionfruit juice until soft peaks form. Spread the meringue with about ¾ of the cream leaving a 2 cm border at the short end furthest from you. Drizzle the passionfruit pulp over the cream, reserving the remaining passionfruit for decoration. Roll up from the short end closest to you, using the tea towel to assist. Transfer to a platter seam side down and refrigerate for 1 hour to firm, or until ready to serve. You can store the covered roulade overnight in the fridge but decorate just before serving.

While the roulade is in the fridge, you can make the macadamia brittle. For the macadamia brittle combine sugar and water in a small pan. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a boil. Don't stir again until it's time to add the nuts. Cook until the toffee turns a golden brown, then add the nuts. Stir the hot toffee once or twice just to coat the nuts, then turn out onto baking paper or a silicone mat and flatten out the brittle with a knife or offset spatula. Allow to cool completely before breaking into smaller pieces. You'll only use a small amount for this recipe. Store the remainder in an airtight container, that's if you can resist eating the leftovers.

To serve, pipe or spoon the remaining cream down the centre of the roulade. Top with some of the macadamia nut brittle and the remaining passionfruit pulp. Cut into thick slices to serve. 

I'll be back next week to wish you all the best of the season before taking a break from the blog.

Bye for now,



xmas week 2017 - chocolate mint cookies

21 Dec 2017

Welcome to day 4 of Xmas week 2017. I've always loved the combination of chocolate and mint. I've had this recipe for after dinner mint biscuits bookmarked for ages and decided to apply some Christmas spirit to them.

I came home from the shops with a packet of candy canes and set to work with my biscuit cutters. You don't have to go to the effort because the biscuit are delicious as they are but I think the star cut-outs make them look more festive.

The biscuits are sandwiched together with a mint flavoured ganache and the candy cane garnish is an optional extra.  I'm planning to give these cookies to my next door neighbours for Christmas.

Here's the recipe for you which makes 20 filled biscuits.

Chocolate mint cookies - makes 20
260 gm (1¾ cups) plain flour 
160 gm (1 cup) pure icing sugar, sieved 
50 gm (½ cup) Dutch-process cocoa, sieved 
225 gm cold butter, cut into 2cm pieces
1 egg yolk 

Peppermint Filling 
180 gm dark chocolate (56% cocoa solids), finely chopped 
160 ml pouring cream 
2-4 drops pure peppermint extract (see note), or to taste 
2 peppermint candy canes crushed 

Process flour, icing sugar, cocoa and a large pinch of sea salt in a food processor to combine, then add butter and pulse until mixture is sand-textured. Add yolk and process until mixture comes together. Turn out onto a work surface and gently knead to come together. Flatten out the dough then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and firm (1 hour).

Preheat oven to 180°C. Unwrap dough and roll out to a 5 mm thickness. Using a 5cm round cutter, cut out 40 rounds, re-rolling as required. Cut out a small star from the centre of 20 of the biscuits. Place on 2 oven trays lined with baking paper (leaving about 3cm between each biscuit) and bake until biscuit edges are firm (10-12 minutes; swap trays halfway through cooking). Cool slightly on trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Peppermint Filling 
Place chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Bring cream to the simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Pour over chocolate, set aside to melt chocolate (5 minutes), then stir until smooth. Add peppermint extract, set aside to cool to spreading consistency.  Spoon a little of the peppermint filling onto half the biscuits, sandwich with remaining biscuits, sprinkle some of the crushed candy canes into the hole then set aside to set (15 minutes) and serve. Biscuits will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 days. 

See you all again tomorrow with the final bake for Xmas week, a show stopper of a dessert.

Bye for now,



xmas week 2017 - fruit mince wreath

20 Dec 2017

Welcome to day 3 of Christmas week 2017. This time last year I made a cinnamon and walnut wreath for Christmas which was delicious but I suspected it would taste even better if I added some fruit mince to the mix.

Some of my workmates don't like fruit mince so I told them I'd made an apple, sultana and walnut wreath and it disappeared in the blink of an eye. I made my regular babka dough; covered it with my usual cinnamon and butter filling then added a cup of my cheat's fruit mince. I then sprinkled over a handful of walnuts before rolling and slicing and proving.  

I can't tell you how good my kitchen smelt while I made this. Is it worth the extra effort to shape the babka into a wreath? Probably not but the wreath has a wow factor that a babka just doesn't possess. A word of warning though - you can't just whip the wreath up in a day; it's a definite 2 day process but I think it's worth the effort.

If you want to impress your friends and family for Christmas, 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; I use unsalted butter and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Fruit Mince Wreath
75g unsalted butter
100mls milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour, plus extra for dusting
¼ tsp salt
45g caster sugar
2 tsps dried yeast
1 egg


80 g softened unsalted butter
100 g brown sugar
1 tsp golden or maple syrup
4 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g almond meal
⅓ cup nuts, roughly chopped (macadamias, almonds or walnuts)

Fruit Mince

One 310g bottle of fruit mince
1 green apple, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon thick cut orange marmalade
30 gm (1 oz) melted butter


⅓ cup water
⅓ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick


To make the dough, melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add milk and vanilla and heat until lukewarm. Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then, with motor running, pour the beaten egg into the well and gradually add the milk mixture and knead until smooth and shiny (2-3 minutes). The mixture will be quite soft at this stage. If it's not then you might need to add a little more milk.

Grease a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour) or you can leave the dough to prove in the fridge overnight, which is what I usually do. The following day bring the dough back to room temperature while you prepare the filling.

In a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, the syrup and the ground cinnamon. Mix in the almond meal to form a paste, ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture. Set to one side. Put the fruit mince into a mixing bowl. Add the apple, the grated rind, the marmalade then the melted butter and mix until well combined.

Line a baking tray with baking paper or you can use a silicone baking mat. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle measuring 15 by 11 inches (38 by 28 cm). Trim the sides to make them even, then position the dough so that a long side is closest to you. Use an offset spatula to spread the filling over the rectangle, leaving a ¾ in/2 cm border all around. Measure out 1 cup of the prepared fruit mince. Spread the fruit mince on top of the filling using the offset spatula then sprinkle over the chopped nuts. Brush a little bit of water along the long end farthest away from you. Use both hands to roll up the rectangle like a roulade, starting from the long side that is closest to you and ending at the other long end. Press to seal the dampened end onto the roulade and then use both hands to even out the roll into a perfect thick cigar. Rest the cigar on its seam. At this stage I usually return the roll back to the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up the filling.

Trim about ¾ in/2 cm off both ends of the roulade with a serrated knife. Now use the knife to gently cut the roll into half lengthwise, starting at the top and finishing at the seam. You are essentially dividing the log into two long even halves, with the layers of dough and filling visible along the length of both halves. With the cut sides facing up, gently press together one end of each half, and then lift the right half over the left half. Repeat this process, but this time lift the left half over the right, to create a simple, two-pronged plait. If you like, you can just place the cake into a lined loaf tin to make a fruit mince babka. Otherwise, gently squeeze the two ends together to form a wreath showing the filling on top. Carefully lift the cake onto a baking paper lined oven tray, placing a small greased ovenproof ramekin in the centre of the wreath. Cover the wreath with a large upturned bowl or plastic bag and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 to 1½ hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C, making sure you allow plenty of time for it to heat fully before the wreath has finished rising. Remove the bowl or plastic bag, place the wreath on the middle rack of the oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. If it’s not ready, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes. If you make this into a fruit mince babka, you'll need to bake the babka for about 30 minutes then test with a skewer as above.

While the wreath is in the oven, make the syrup. Combine the water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan; place over medium heat and bring to the boil. As soon as the sugar dissolves, reduce the heat and simmer the syrup for 5 minutes. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, brush the syrup over. It is important to use up all the syrup. Leave the cake until it is just warm, then remove the cake from the pan and let cool completely before serving. If you like you can tie a ribbon to add a festive touch.

You won't use all the fruit mince but it refrigerates well so I put any leftovers back into the bottle and use it to make mince pies just before Christmas.

I hope you get a chance to try this recipe as it's seriously good.

See you all again tomorrow for day 4 of Christmas week.

Bye for now,



xmas week 2017 - microwave salted pecan brittle

19 Dec 2017

Welcome to day 2 of Christmas week. Last time I had my hair cut, my hairdresser asked what I’d be bringing him for Christmas. At that point I hadn’t put any thought into my Christmas gifts but upon reflection I thought I'd make some salted pecan brittle. 

When I was in South Africa in July, I bought some pecan brittle at the airport which was so delicious I couldn't stop eating it. I set to work trying to recreate the taste and while I’m not sure I’m there yet, I’ve had fun eating my way through 2 batches. 

I used a microwave nut brittle recipe, which I found online. The recipe doesn't have many ingredients but it does contain corn syrup which is really hard to track down. I found my corn syrup online but if you can't track any down, maybe you could use glucose syrup at a pinch.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. I use 60 gm eggs and unsalted butter and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may have reduce your oven temperature by 20°CI have an 800W microwave oven so if your microwave is a 1000W oven, you'll need to reduce the cooking time.

Microwave Salted Pecan Brittle - Makes about 3 dozen pieces 

250g pecans, lightly toasted and salted 
1 cup sugar 
½ cup light corn syrup 
15g butter 
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Salt flakes 

Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F. Place the pecans on a baking sheet lined with baking paper or a silicone mat and place in the oven to keep warm.

Spray a wooden spoon with olive oil spray. Mix together the sugar and corn syrup in a large microwave-safe bowl and stir until well combined; the mixture will be stiff and hard to stir. Be sure to use a large enough bowl; the sugar/corn syrup should fill it no more than ¼ to ⅓ full. 

Microwave the sugar mixture uncovered on high for 3 minutes; stir then cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the warmed pecans and butter, and stir well to combine. Keep the baking sheet handy as you'll be needing it again soon.

Return the bowl to the microwave and cook on high for 1- 2 minutes, or until the mixture turns a nice medium-brown caramel colour. Add the bicarbonate of soda and vanilla and stir quickly to combine. Be careful, as the mixture will bubble upon the addition of these ingredients. 

Working quickly, pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it as evenly as possible. Lightly sprinkle with the salt flakes. Once the brittle has set and cooled (30 to 60 minutes), break it into pieces. 

I can't tell you how moreish this pecan brittle is and it's so easy to make and best of all you can use any kind of nut. I've made brittle with both macadamias and salted peanuts and both have turned out really well. 

I'll be back again tomorrow with day 3 of Christmas week.

Bye for now,


xmas week 2017 - nectarine and summer berry tart

18 Dec 2017

Welcome to Day 1 of Xmas week. When I started thinking about Xmas week this year I didn't have a theme in mind. Some years I've done cookies; another year candies. I've featured cherries and desserts as well, so this year I decided to mix things up a bit so you'll be getting a little bit of everything.

Today's offering is a dessert that you can make ahead to bring to the Christmas table. As it's summer time in Sydney the tart features summer fruits but you could use any soft fruit you have on hand or even frozen berries.

I used the nectarine and summer berry tart featured on the front cover of  the Popina Book of Baking as my inspiration. I used my own almond shortcrust pastry recipe, then jazzed up her filling recipe with some vanilla and grated lemon rind. While the lined tart shell was chilling in the fridge, I made the filing and sliced the nectarines. Just 45 minutes later the tart came out of the oven ready to be glazed with some warmed apricot jam. I took the tart into work and it was demolished in record time. I had my slice with a dollop of cream and it was absolutely delicious.

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60 gram eggs. My oven is a regular gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20ºC.

Nectarine and summer berry tart – makes one 23 cm tart

¼ cup icing sugar
35g almond meal
200g plain flour
Pinch salt
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten

45g unsalted butter at room temperature
90g caster sugar
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1½ tsp baking powder
90g plain flour
2 tbs milk

2 nectarines, pitted and sliced
A handful of blueberries
A handful of raspberries
A handful of strawberries, hulled and halved
Apricot jam, warmed

To make the pastry, place the icing sugar, almond meal, flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Whiz the mixture for a few moments to remove any lumps from the icing sugar and almond meal. Add the cold butter and whiz a few times until the mixture starts to form breadcrumbs. Add sufficient egg until pastry starts to form around the blades. Remove the pastry from the food processor; flatten out before wrapping in plastic and placing in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out thinly. Line a 23 cm round tart tin with the pastry, trimming the edges. Return the tart shell to the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. In a small bowl cream the butter, sugar, lemon rind and vanilla until soft and creamy. Beat in the egg, then the baking powder and finally the flour. If the mixture looks a little thick add 1-2 tbs of milk. Spoon the filling into the prepared tart shell and level before topping with the nectarine slices and the berries.

Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden and the fruit has sunk a little into the filling. Remove the tart from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes before glazing the top of the tart with the warmed apricot jam. Serve with a dollop of cream.

See you all again tomorrow with some more Christmas goodies.

Bye for now,


a sydney wander - sydney hospital

11 Dec 2017

Last month I attended a training course at Sydney Hospital. I just love Sydney Hospital and vowed to return with my camera. Last Friday I brought my camera to work with me and jumped off the train at Martin Place. I had things to do so I spent a grand total of 10 minutes photographing some of the wonderful sandstone buildings.

I just love the beautiful fountain in the quadrangle.

I don't know what it's like to work there but I'd not get much work done. I'd be spending all my time taking photographs!

There are some beautiful details to be found and the marble inlaid floors are just wild.

I love all the Victorian flourishes, so different from the hospital in which I work.

Unfortunately building works prevented a proper picture of the little pig, il porcellino, who lives outside the hospital so I took a photo of the turtle lurking in the base.

I hoped you enjoyed my little Sydney wander. I'll be back again next Monday with Christmas Week 2017. I've been baking up a storm in preparation and every day next week I'll be sharing a new and delicious recipe with you. I can't wait.

See you all again next week.

Bye for now,


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