Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dessert Me Not

Give me any excuse and I'll be in the kitchen making a dessert. Give me any occasion and I'll be in there trying to make a fancy one.
The funny thing about this one is I literally dreamed this dessert to life. I woke up and just had to make it.
Now I have to admit, many of my self-made recipes do not pan out, or need plenty of reworking before they are edible. I remember as a small child, occasionally my mum would allow me to have free range of the kitchen ingredients and let me cook what I wanted. I remember my first ever creation...a sponge-like slice, involving many eggs and coloured sprinkles. She was so brave to let me experiment. And I am sure she took a bite and smiled as if it was wonderful, but to this day I wonder how much of it ended up in the bin.
But this one is so simple, it just cant go wrong. It is gorgeous, easy, effective and would make a great addition to the Christmas banquet table. I know it will be on mine.


100ml cream
200g white chocolate buttons
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1-2 tbsp. Tia Maria Liqueur 
250g Dark chocolate buttons

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, stirring often until  buttons have melted and the chocolate is smooth. Sit to cool.
When cool, add the cream and stir to combine until smooth. Sit to thicken.
Meanwhile, take the dark chocolate and melt. Stir until smooth. Take some plastic wrap and brush on the dark chocolate in a circular shape. Make sure the chocolate is a thick layer, then arrange inside the hollows of a muffin tin. Refrigerate until set before peeling from the plastic.
Place the coconut and Tia Maria together in a small bowl and combine. Spoon desiered amont into the bottom of the chocolate cups.
Spoon or pipe the white ganache over the top of the coconut. Decorate with chocolate curls or leaves. Serve with a dollop of cream.

NOTE: If your ganache becomes too hard, you can microwave it to return it to its liquid state.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tradition with a Twist

Christmas has crept up with amazing stealth this year, if you ask me. Where did the last six months go? I feel like I've just finished Christmas shopping from last year and am still a bit clueless for this year. Hmmm. Baking?
I think a nicely boxed batch of shortbread could never go astray in anyone's household around this time of year, and it gives the gift a personal touch if you make it yourself. Homemade shortbread. It couldn't get much better.
Except, it does.
Once you try out this traditional shortbread recipe with a twist, you'll be hooked!
Not only is it totally delicious, it is a very smooth shortbread, and can be jazzed up by being rolled in sugar or drenched in chocolate. Yum! No crumbling with this one, and you're sure to get rave reviews from your recipients!

250g butter, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
5 tsp. instant coffee
4 tsp. hot water
2 3/4 cups plain flour
Chocolate to drizzle

Preheat oven at 180C. 
With an electric beater, mix butter and icing sugar until it becomes light and fluffy.
Dissolve coffee in water and beat into the mixture. Stir in the flour until well combined.
Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and press with a fork onto greased and lined trays. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool before drizzling or dipping in chocolate.
Makes 30.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Never Trust a Skinny Cook

After browsing my whole blog, I realised that the Heart Foundation would probably be closing me down with red tape and a big danger sign on the door before long. A lovely friend of mine even commented that she thought she had gained weight by looking at the chocolate fudge brownies.
All good things in moderation I say! All my recipes are fat free though. Here is proof:

My Husband and I cooking.

See, you can make and eat as much delicious food as I do and still stay skinny. Here's some more proof. Everyone says a man puts on weight after he married because of his wife's cooking. In the year and a half my husband and I have been married, he has actually LOST half his weight. It's true, I weighed him on our kitchen scales and the mixing bowl now weighs more than he does.

I have to say though, my husband and I recently discussed cutting back on the frequency of my sweets-making. We decided that one lot of sweets a week is probably sufficient--just in case our bodies do decide they would rather be more lard than guts and bones. Ah me, it has been hard to resist.
But speaking of weight, they say you should never trust a skinny cook...why would someone trust a fat cook over a skinny one? Maybe the fat one has just eaten all their mistakes? I like to think the skinny ones share their mistakes too!
Food for thought anyway...


1 cup Self Raising flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla essence
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup walnuts


1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups hot water

Sift flour, cocoa and sugar together in a bowl. Add melted butter, then milk, vanilla and walnuts. Mix until smooth and well combined. Place mixture in a greased pie dish. Take all ingredients for topping and mix until combined in a separate bowl, then pour over pudding mixture. Bake in moderate oven for 3/4 hour.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Mango Mania

As the "silly season" approaches, an even sillier one begins for me. Summer= mango mania.
One of the wonderful things about living in a more tropical climate is the amazing exotic fruits you can get for a pittance. Well...the comparison astounds me. In  Melbourne you can get a single mango for $3.00 AU whereas  here in Brisbane  we recently bought two mangoes for 0.99c--it just blows the mind! (okay I admit that was a total find, even up here) So I go a little crazy when they come into season.
Mangoes can be messy to use though, and I have seen many a good mango go to waste due to not knowing the best way to take the fruit from the peel and seed. If mangoes are expensive where you are, you want to make sure you get the most you can out of your mango.
The best method is to find the direction of the seed and cut down the flat side, sheer with the seed. You can make a few slices in the flesh down to the peel and then a few more in the opposite direction so you have a diced effect. This way, you can "pop" the fruit towards you. You can also use a knife to scrape along the peel to cut the squares off. Alternately, you can cut the peel off before slashing the flesh and get mango cheeks, as they call them. I like to freeze these mango pieces, all ready for use in smoothies and desserts.

This recipe was actually made by accident--as lots of  great inventions are. It was initially meant to be a smoothy and it would have been if I had thinned it out with more liquid. But on tasting it, I decided to keep it as is. Too delicious to change!! It has the thickness of custard, and is ever so refreshing! I can also imagine this dolloped onto a baked cheesecake in summer....mmmmh!


1/2 cup vanilla yoghurt
1 cup milk
1-2 mangoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 cup ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and add milk until desired thickness is achieved. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Things Light and Bubbly....

As I have previously mentioned, my husband is my inspiration in the kitchen. He once said that one should always approach love and cooking with reckless abandon...so I did.
So we can blame the extra calories we all gain on him for this recipe I created (not that I count them anyway). You will not be able to stop eating this Mint Chocolate Aero Mousse once you start. It is so light, and just melts in your mouth. It is the perfect dessert for summer, and is so easy to make. You will probably want to double the recipe, or triple it. I wish I did! This recipe serves 3...or 1, depending on your self-control...


1/2 can evaporated milk, chilled
1 1/2 tsp. gelatine powder
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup caster sugar
peppermint essence to taste
green food colouring
1/4 cup white chocolate

Dissolve the gelatine in water and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, beat the chilled evaporated milk with an electric beater until thick, like cream. (approximately 2 minutes)
Add the sugar, essence and cooled gelatine, and beat until combined. Take 1/3 of this mixture and place in a separate bowl. To this bowl, add the food colouring until you reach the desired shade of green. You may also add more essence to make this part stronger in flavour.
Mix cocoa powder through the greater part of the mixture until well combined. Spoon into individual dessert glasses.
Take the green mousse mixture and spoon over the top of the chocolate mousse. Some of it will sink. Make a swirling pattern with the end of a spoon for a nice effect. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until set.

To make garnish, take the white chocolate and melt. Add essence and colouring as desired. Spread onto a sheet of grease-proof paper until smooth. when set, you may grate it, curl it or break it into pieces to decorate the top of each mousse. Alternatively, grate a peppermint crisp bar over each dessert glass.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Melting Tastebuds while Dreaming of Italian...

The thought of Melbourne's Lygon street set my tastebuds "dreaming" of Italian food...and lasagne came to mind. I always wondered why my husband, on our first date, ordered lasagne in an Italian Restaurant when there was so much to choose from. It was something you could easily make at home, why not try something else? But the more I thought about it, the more I understood. If you know you're going to enjoy something in particular, why risk ordering the unknown dish with smoked anchovies, pickled gherkins and poached egg?
It's an absolute winner every time for him, and one of my favourite Italian meals also.
This being the fourth year to this month of that date, I have decided to include my lasagne recipe...celebrating  our anniversary with the meal he ate. So sentimental of me.
My mother actually gave me her amazing recipe a long time ago. When I moved out of home I made it often, and after some time, remembering it by heart made it without the recipe.
When I made this again the other day, my husband asked me what I had put in it, because it was more flavoursome than ever.
Nothing new, I told him.
But it made me go back to mum's recipe, and I saw that over time, I had completely changed it. So, I had to write down my recipe, just as I had made it last because I must have finally got the proportions right. I have to say, I think it was the best batch yet.
This recipe serves 8 and is well balanced with a fresh green salad and a glass of wine.


250g minced meat
2 tbsp crushed garlic
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 chicken stock cubes
1 can diced tomato pieces
1 large zucchini, grated
1 large carrot, grated
1 ½ box lasagne pasta sheets
2 cups milk
1 cup grated tasty cheese
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp plain flour
¼ cup fine parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 180C.
Heat some oil in a large saucepan. Brown the meat over medium heat, separating with a spoon the mince so as not to clump. Add garlic and onion. When the onion has softened, add crumbled stock cubes, tomato and grated carrot and zucchini. Combine well and set over a low heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a separate pan, place milk, flour and butter together over low heat. Stir until butter has melted and the flour has smoothly combined with the milk. Add the grated cheese and stir continuously until thick and cheesy. Remove from heat.
In a large baking dish, lay down enough pasta sheets to cover the base. Cover with sauce and continue to layer pasta sheets and sauce. The top should be covered with pasta sheets. Pour the white sauce over this last layer and smooth. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until pasta softens and the top of the lasagna is golden.
Serves 8