Monday, July 23, 2012

Strawberry Cream Tart

You know when you make the same thing so many times that the recipe gradually and unconsciously changes over time? I once discovered a great custard recipe and have been making it ever since. I made it so many times that I knew the recipe off the top of my head and discarded the hard copy. Eventually the custard turned out slightly odd, with a real corn flour taste and still not quite as thick as I swear it used to be. Time to go back and find the recipe, or time to try something new? When I saw this strawberry cream tart recipe from Cathy's blog Wives With Knives, I thought "try something new", just to shake things up in my world of custard. Custard has long been a favourite of mine. Occasionally I'll be seen buying a litre of it just to have on it's own. I preferred home made custard of course, until my cornflour dilemma.
And strawberries, please don't get me started! They're my favourite berry and come with so many childhood memories. I think I previously mentioned how my brother and I used to thieve them with our grotty little hands from the old lady's garden next door when we were kids. Seeing as I don't have any blind grannies living next door anymore, with loads of fat strawberries glaring at me through the crack in the fence, hubby comes home from the Brisbane markets with them instead. Legally obtained ones, of course.
Usually my two year old son gets to them first though, and has been known to scoff down a punnet in a sitting. Good thing they're high in vitamin C. When I think of that fact, I don't mind how many he eats.
So. Strawberries and custard, in a tart. How much better can it get? Oh wait! It's topped with strawberry jam as well. Delicious. And it's such a fancy looking yet simple dessert, and contains less sugar than my usual sweet morsels.
I added some lychee liqueur to the custard in my version of this tart, just to give it a more fruity, tropical twist. The smell is divine and the texture and taste just fabulous. The custard holds together beautifully, so if you go for the whole large tart instead of the smaller version, have no fear that it's going to squish everywhere out the sides when you cut it, as it chills nice and firm. The pastry case is particularly impressive too, resembling a (less crumbly) uncooked shortbread in the dough stage, and a nice, sturdy, crisp and sweet shell in the end. I will be keeping this recipe for other invented recipes, as you could fill these great pastry cases with anything from fruit to mousse, jelly or cheesecake! Don't forget to check out more delicious recipes from this months Secret Recipe Club reveal, and head over to Wives With Knives for the original recipe, which is a whole tart instead of my little individual ones. Bon appetit!

STRAWBERRY CREAM TART (Adapted from Wives With Knives)

Patisserie Creme:

2 cups milk
6 large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp. corn flour
1 heaped tsp. butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 tbsp lychee liqueur 


3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla essence
1 3/4 cup plain flour
pinch salt


12 strawberries, fanned (see directions below)
 3 tbsp strawberry jam to glaze

To make the patisserie creme, place the milk in a saucepan over high heat until boiling. Meanwhile, beat the yolks and sugar in a bowl on medium high until it is light yellow and falls into the bowl as a ribbon, after about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla essence. On a low speed, beat in the corn flour until well combined. Once the milk has boiled, remove from heat and, with the beaters running on low, pour the milk into the egg mixture. Combine. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat. Lower the heat to medium and stir continuously with a whisk until the mixture is thick and the corn flour is cooked, after about 8 minutes. Bring this custard to the boil and cook, whisking for another 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in butter, vanilla and liqueur. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
To make the pastry, preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the butter and sugar in a medium bowl and beat until just combined. Add the vanilla.Sift the flour and salt over the top of the butter mixture. Beat until a dough begins to form.
With a light hand, gently combine the mixture and form into 12 rough ball shapes, all of equal size. Place each ball inside the holes of a regular sized, 12 hole muffins tray. If you are using a regular muffin tray, ensure it is well greased.
Press the dough into the holes and up the sides to make pastry cases. Make sure the dough is pressed evenly around the sides and bottom. Place the tray in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile cut out 12 squares of non stick baking paper to fit inside the muffin tray holes. Place these papers inside each hole on top of the chilled pastry. Use pastry weights or rice over each paper to ensure the pastry does not rise in the first faze of cooking. Place the tray into the oven and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and gently remove the papers and their weights. Poke a few holes in the pastry bases using a fork. Return the pastry cases to the oven and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, or until golden and crisp looking. Cool in the tray, then remove and place on a cooling rack.
Fill each case with the patisserie creme. You can simply spoon it in or pipe it in for a prettier effect, as the creme is quite thick. Top with a fanned strawberry, and brush with jam to glaze. Serve with cream, if desired.

Making a fanned strawberry garnish:

 Lay the strawberry on a flat surface. Working from about a cm from the green stalk, cut a series of thin slices through the strawberry in a vertical motion from one side to the next. Take the strawberry and gently urge the slices apart in a fan motion. Voila!

NOTES: You can substitute the lychee liqueur for any desired flavouring, however, the intensity of flavourings differ, so add only a little at a time until you reach the desired strength. 1 tsp of cognac or brandy is a good substitute. If you are not using a silicone muffin tray, ensure the tray is well greased before placing the pastry inside the holes. You can also make this as one whole tart, by pressing the dough into a 10 inch round or 9 inch square false bottom tart pan. If you are using rice as a pastry weight, you can keep this and reuse this, as it will be unaffected by the heat.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Best Ever "Scrambled" Eggs and a Proposal

They say food is the way to a man's heart. I think it definitely is, and the way to a woman's heart too. Any man that can cook a nice feed at the end of the day gets brownie points in my books, and lots of them.
But can food really make someone fall in love? I don't know if it can, to be honest, but it can make a man get down on one knee and propose.
Never! you say.
Well, I'm about to share a recipe that did. Every six months or so, I give away one of my secret recipes that I have always sworn is signature and not to be parted with. Anyway, I'm feeling generous today, and feel like sharing some humour as well. Be warned...this might be a love potion of sorts!
So, I used to work and supervise at a small cafe, the Marmalade Deli. Yes, it was just as quaint and pretty as its name, with pots and colanders hanging from the ceiling, polished wooden surfaces, adorable cakes for sale and floral tea towels. I felt this place was mine in many ways, and any one who entered it was entering my house. I put my heart and soul into creating gourmet food for my guests and took pride in whipping things out at top speed.
Anyway, every morning for several months, a troop of tradesmen would come in and order breakfast, sitting down together at the large wooden table that had become a centrepeice of the cafe. There was one guy, a big fellow, and I cant for the life of me remember his name--so he shall be Russel, because he looked like one.
He would grin, blue eyes sparkling, lean in close in and order, then say something cheeky to me just before he walked away. He became a bit of an embarrassment to me, and the other guys would always laugh at how red he made me turn. Poor shy creature that I am! He ordered the same every day...Scrambled Eggs, extra bacon. Every day the same, every day a cheeky comment, and almost every time when he dropped the plate back at the counter he would tell me I made the "best eggs in the world".
One day I got up the nerve to be saucy right back, and after a very  cheeky comment from him, I had enough and told him I was indeed engaged. I proudly flashed my diamond ring in his face, and I still remember what he said. "Aw darling! Don't do this to me! I was getting up the courage to ask you--would you marry me? Marry me, and cook me those scrambled eggs for the rest of my life!"
Is there a deeper shade of red than scarlet? Crimson? Maroon!
Of course it was all in silliness, but forever more when he came in, he would give puppy dog eyes at me, order, and ask "Are you still going to marry him?"
He later disappeared and never came back, to my relief.
So, do you want to get a proposal out of you man? I'd say its worth a try!!

I posted this recipe a little while back, but decided to re-post it due to the questions that arose. I have added pictures to increase the ease of replicating these scrumptious, fluffy, creamy, folded "scrambled" eggs.


2 eggs
a dash of cream (about 1/4 of a cup)
a dash of water (about 2 tbsp.)
a pinch of salt
a dash of pepper

Break eggs into a microwaveable plastic measuring container. Add the dash of cream, water, and salt and pepper. Whisk vigorously until well combined and fluffy. Place the container in the microwave and set on high. Check every 20-30 seconds, gently swirling the container to shift the cooked egg and coat with it with uncooked egg. Repeat until  the liquid egg is significantly reduced. Fold the cooked egg in with the raw gently using a spatula (do not break it up too much!) Microwave again until you get moist, creamy, folded eggs. The success is in the folding, and not letting any part of the egg become dry and over cooked. Sounds too easy? It is. Best eggs ever.

Want to watch me do it? I'll go through the folding with you. And give you a running commentary.

 You egg mixture should look a bit like this after the first 30 seconds or so of cooking. Of course this depends upon the power of your microwave. See how the edges are starting to cook yet the centre is still very liquid? Just give it a swirl in the bowl. No spoons yet! Pop it back in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Remove from the microwave and swirl again. Try to get the liquid egg mixture on top of the cooked edges. We don't want that egg to dry out! Pop it back in for another 30.

Repeat the above process, covering the cooked edges with the egg liquid every time, with a simple swirl of the bowl. It's a very gentle process, as we don't want to break up the egg too much, we just want the cooked egg to shift so it doesn't dry out.

There will come a stage where the cooked egg on the edges is quite thick and the uncooked centre reduces in size. If the cooked egg no longer moves when you swirl the bowl, gently ease it off the side with a spatula.

I'm just going to take a moment here to say YUM! And that's saying something. I don't even like egg. But I simply LOVE this scrambled egg we're making. It's...well, you'll find out. It converted me to eating eggs again. Okay. Stick it back in the microwave, we're almost there!

Be careful at this stage where there isnt much liquid egg left, because the cooked egg can dry out if not watched well. Get your spatula and gently fold the cooked egg into the uncooked to moisten it. You can now set it aside! The heat in the cooked egg will cook the rest on its own.
If the scrambled egg looks dry, you can try and save it by adding a dob of butter to the top and letting it melt in. It should moisten the egg sufficiently. Serve immediately.

If your using one egg instead of two, I recommend cooking the egg at 15 second increments.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vanilla Berry Cheesecake Tart

My hubby and I really enjoyed sinking our teeth into this cheesecake. I say cheesecake because it's a popular term that everyone knows the meaning of, yet I think this one is rather like a cheese tart. But that makes it sound savory.
It has the cheesecake filling  made of cottage cheese and sour cream instead of cream cheese, and a tart-like pastry shell, and is topped with four types of pureed berries and strawberry jelly layer. It's lighter than a cheesecake, and still rich and satisfying at the same time. I like to think it's a little healthier too, considering I used cottage cheese, which is particularly bland on its own but delicious incorporated into this tart. Oh my! It's sublime. Some of the yummiest things are the hardest things to get good pictures of though, and we had a week of rainy weather to cast a shadow on my photography. Thankfully I had cheesecake for comfort food after taking these shots! And a good editing program.


1 1/2 cup plain flour
140g chilled butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg

250g cottage cheese
150g sour cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2  tsp. vanilla essence
3 eggs
50g softened butter
1 heaped tbsp. plain flour

2 cups frozen mixed berries
1 packet jelly crystals (I used strawberry flavoured)
1 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven at 150C.
To make the pie crust, combine flour, sugar, and diced butter in a medium bowl. Using your hands, rub the butter into the dry mixture until it resembles crumbs. Add the egg. Stir to form a soft dough. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and place it in a 30cm round pie dish. cut off the excess dough at the edges and press in neatly. Using a fork, make a series of small holes in the base for the steam to escape when cooking.
Cover in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
To make the filling, place the cottage cheese into a medium bowl. Using the back of a metal spoon, smooth the cheese to decrease the lumpiness. Add the sour cream, sugar, lemon, vanilla,eggs, butter and flour and mix to combine. Pour this mixture into the chilled pie crust.
Bake for an hour. Cool in the pie dish.
When cooled, combine the jelly crystals with boiling water in a small bowl. Stir until the crystals have dissolved. Allow to cool until just luke-warm. Meanwhile, place the frozen berries in a food blender and blitz until the fruit is finely chopped up. Spread over the surface of the cheesecake. Gently pour the liquid jelly onto the top of the berries and refrigerate until set.

Serves 8-10

NOTES: Keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Marshmallow Cupcakes

My husband forgot to take the baking out of the house when he left for work this morning. It's a bit like the garbage bins for other married couples, I suppose. You know when the man doesn't take out the rubbish when it needs to go? Well, Luke forgot to take out the baking. I can't face those cute little cupcakes starring at me and screaming "Eat me!"
You might think, if it's like taking out the bins, I'd get mad. No, actually, taking out the bins for me is a welcome bit of exercise and fresh air. When the baking isn't taken out, it increases the risk of needing to do more exercise because of its dangerous, tempting, fattening  and delicious nature. But somehow that still doesn't make me mad. Especially when the baking looks this cute.
I've turned to the computer as a distraction. But...all I can think about is blogging about them. Oh why did he have to forget them?
I managed to palm a few off to visiting family members who popped by for a cuppa. And my son ate the tops off about three, so the numbers were gradually going down without any being consumed by yours truly. 
Okay, I admit to trying one, for quality control. Got to make sure they're edible, after all.
They are, by the way.
These mini muffins are packed full of delicious chocolatey decadence. They're not only chocolate flavoured, but have chunks of chocolate through out, and are topped with another layer of chocolate and large pillowy pink and white vanilla marshmallows. Finished off with a scant dusting of cocoa powder, these make elegant little nibblies for an afternoon tea with the girls.


125g butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cups caster sugar
1/2 heaped cup plain flour
a pinch of baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
150g large marshmallows (24 in total)
1/2 cup chocolate chips, extra
extra cocoa powder to decorate, if desired

Preheat oven to 180C.
Melt the butter and the sugar in a saucepan and stir. Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into a bowl. Pour the butter mixture, eggs, and vanilla into the flour mixture and combine thoroughly. Add the chocolate chips and stir through. Spoon the mixture into a 24 hole silicone mini muffin tray (alternatively muffin cases) and cook for 20 minutes or until firm. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing.
Place the extra chocolate chips in a microwave proof bowl. Heat on high for 20 seconds at a time, stirring between intervals so as not to burn, until almost melted. Stir until smooth and place a teaspoon of melted chocolate onto the top of each cupcake. Before the chocolate sets, place a marshmallow on top of each. Sprinkle with cocoa powder to finish off, if desired.

Makes 24.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Apricot Tarts with Almond Crumble

If you're anything like me, your pantry will be stuffed with those odd ingredients you used once and don't know what to do with the remainder. Unless it comes time to make that special dish or dessert again, and by then you have forgotten you had that ingredient, and go out and buy more. It tends to accumulate. I should just go in and reorganise my pantry, I suppose, but I'm too busy blogging. Baking something new. Or blogging some more. Oh that's right. And looking after my darlings!
Well, I've had a bag of dried apricots in the cupboard for a while now and it has been sitting at the back of the pantry and my mind, just waiting to be used.  I was too lazy to find a recipe that involved them, so I made up my own.
It turned out beautifully--the perfect dessert to eat straight out of the oven, topped with ice cream and drizzled with a little cream or caramel sauce. It involves a crispy puff pastry crust, encasing a sweet apricot filling, topped with crushed almonds and brown sugar crumble with a simple lattice to decorate. I have to say I'm not a huge fan of apricots or almonds on their own, but the combination is surprisingly delicious and most satisfying. It's a winner! They're the prefect dessert for one of those chilly winter nights, and look particularly impressive with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.


1 cup dried apricots
3 tbsp. white sugar
2/3 cup water, plus 1/3 extra
1/3 cup whole almond kernels (or almond meal)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 sheet puffed pastry

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease 6 regular sized muffin holes, or use silicone for added ease.
Place the apricots, white sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cook on high until boiling, reduce heat to medium and continue to boil for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, until apricots are tender and soft. You may wish to add an extra 1/3 cup water towards the end of this time if the liquid evaporates before the apricots are tender.
Meanwhile, place almond kernels in  a food blender and blitz until roughly chopped up into meal. Place in a small bowl and stir the brown sugar through the almond meal until combined.
When the apricots are tender, place them, undrained, into the blender and process until pureed into a smooth pulp.
Using a 9cm round biscuit cutter, cut 6 discs from the thawed puffed pastry sheet. Push these into the greased muffin tin holes. Place on heaped tablespoon of apricot filling into each. Top with 1 flatter tablespoon of the almond meal mixture. Decorate with remaining puffed pastry if desired. Bake until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes.
Serve with vanilla ice cream and a swirl of caramel sauce.

Makes 6 individual desserts

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Two Versatile Blogger Awards

I am very honoured to receive two Versatile Blogger Awards in the last week. This little confidence boost has me doing a shout out to Chris from Cooking around the World and also Nillawan for nominating me. These two have gorgeous foodie blogs and I hope you can all check them out!

These awards come with a few duties, so here they are. I am to nominate 15 other bloggers (30 in this case, seeing as I have the two awards) and tell everyone 7 things about myself (I guess that means 14). Now I don't want to bore you here and most of my story is in the "About Me" tab. So I'll keep the random facts short and sweet.

My Nominated Blogs:

Culinary Adventurer 
At Gusto
Art Of Dessert
A Baked Creation
Buttered Up
Chew Town
Foodness Gracious
Glorious Treats
Gastronomical Sovereignty
Mind Over Batter
Drizzle and Dip
Cook Like a Champion
Buried Carrots
Yummy Mummy Kitchen
Beyond Sweet and Savory
Top With Cinnamon
Urban Poser
I Heart Baking
Lisa Is Cooking
Dishing Gourmet
The Devil's Food Advocate
Feeding Andy
Sweet Miscellany
The Indolent Cook
Ribbon and Circus
Kurry Leaves
Bake, Eat, Repeat
Red Star to Lone Star
Indigo Scones

Random facts About Me:

1.Sweets are my "one weakness" (who would have guessed?)
2. As well as baking, I enjoy painting, writing, photography, poetry and good literature.
3. The sound of someone eating loudly is one of the most irritating noises to me.
4.  Three favourite places: Kitchen, bed, and in hubby's arms (feel free to gag).
5.  A kitchen fear of mine is discovering that something has burnt.
6. I'm one of ten kids (six brothers and three sisters!) We had an awesome time growing up together and I miss them all, as they still reside in Victoria.
7. A few of my palatable guilty pleasures are strawberries, Camembert, Moscato, croissants, lattes, chai, thick vanilla custard, lindt chocolate, lemon curd, churros, and nutella from the jar.
8. Amongst being totally inept at making meringue, choux pastry, tempering chocolate and roasting meat, I'm hopeless at cooking basic things such as scones.
9. I'm shy as heck. But I'm friendly, really. Try me!
10. On one of "those days" you will find me in the pantry eating cooking chocolate. Desperate?
11.I owe my life to a nameless stranger. I almost drowned at age 4 at a beach in Sawtell, and a burly, bearded fellow rescued me. I will never forget that moment of my life.
12. I dream of publishing a cookbook...
13. If I were to travel, I'd do a dining and wining cruise around Italy.
14. I've naturally been blonde, brunette and then ginger. In that order. Not a word of a lie. And don't ask me how, I have no idea!

Zesty Cannelloni

If you're in Australia and you love food, you have to make a trip to Melbourne. I know I am biased about that beautiful city, but it's been my romping ground for a while. Sadly I have moved away from it, only to take some pretty fond memories with me and a list of great foodie haunts. I've been away too long it seems, as new and exciting restaurants have popped up all over the place. I'm keen to try Chin Chin on Flinder's Lane, Manchester Press and Chez Dre. I cant say how good these spots are because I haven't been yet but the reviews on Urbanspoon sound pretty fantastic.
My hot spots for Melbourne visitors would be:

Lygon Street in Carlton, to tease and satisfy the Italian in you
Brunetti's for to-die-for cakes, great coffee, biscuits and desserts. My kind of place.
Flinder's Street Station Spanish Donuts stand--hot churros like you've never tasted in your life!
Spaghetti Tree, for some seriously fine dining.

You can tell I like my Italian, right? There are lots of brilliant places to dine in Melbourne, as it has a large Italian community. That's mighty fine for someone like me who's favourite cuisine happens to be Italian. Anyone who thinks Italian is just pasta and pizza is seriously missing out...there are so many Italian foods that don't even come close to being pasta or pizza!
But pasta is my "one weakness". There's nothing like a good home made pasta, made from scratch, with love. Left to rise, stretched and re stretched through a pasta press. Cut out into little circles, filled with some delicious mixture. That's how I like it.
If you like Italian foods, you will most definitely enjoy this recipe for cannelloni. Think of mozzarella cheese melted over herby pasata, and home made pasta that has been wrapped around a delightful, zesty, ricotta, cottage cheese, and spinach filling. Everyone who tastes this delicious vegetarian dish will be wanting seconds. So make two batches. You won't regret it.

Obviously if you have the time, home made pasta wins over store bought any day. You can even make the pasta without a pasta press, if you have some brawn in those arms and a good rolling pin. Try to roll the pasta as thinly as possible without it breaking, as the texture makes all the difference and the thinner the pasta, the less cooking time is involved.

ZESTY CANNELLONI (adapted from Heart of the House)

Basic Pasta:

2 1/2 cups plain four
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup virgin olive oil


1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp. crushed garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
250g cooked spinach, chopped and drained
500g cottage cheese
500g fresh ricotta
100g parmesan cheese, grated
2 eggs
grated zest of 1 lime
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (preferably flat leaved)
salt and pepper to taste
1 jar of pasata, or tomato based pasta sauce
1 cup cheese, grated (we suggest mozzarella)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
To make the pasta, sift flour and salt into a large glass bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, and break each egg into the well. Add oil. Using your fingertips, gradually blend the dry mixture into the wet mixture. Continue to blend little by little until a thick dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth and elastic. Leave dough on surface, cover with the mixing bowl and leave for 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the filling, place the onion and garlic in a fry pan and cook with the oil until softened. Add to a large bowl, along with the cooked spinach, cottage cheese, ricotta, half the Parmesan cheese, the eggs, zest, nutmeg and parsley. Mix thoroughly to combine and season with salt and pepper if desired.
Take a quarter of the pastry dough and run though the pasta press until very thin and stretched into a long portion. Cut as desired into squares (about 15 x 15 cm) and place 1/2 cup of the mixture in the centre of each. Roll up and place, seam down, into a 19x13 inch glass dish. (You could also use high-sided foil tray or something similar). Fill the ends with a little extra cheese mixture once in the dish.
Repeat with the remaining pasta dough and cheese mixture, lining all the pasta parcels up along side each other, until the tray is full and all the dough and mixture is used up. Top with pasata and remaining Parmesan and grated cheese.
Cook for 45 minutes covered in foil. Remove the covering and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 adults, with a side of veggies.