Nutella Tart

Some of the grandkids like Nutella. I’m not a fan, but usually have it in the pantry for visiting Nutella eaters.

This recipe makes a quick dessert and was a good way to use up a jar which had been sitting there for a month or two since the last visit. To save time you can use bought shortcrust pastry, but this home-made chocolate crust is very quick to make in a food processor.

Nutella Tart

Pastry:
3 heaped Tbs plain flour
1 heaped Tbs cocoa
1 level Tbs caster sugar
55g butter
3-4 Tbs water
Filling:
300g (about one heaped cup) Nutella or other chocolate spread
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
To serve:
Whipped cream
Optional: Toasted hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans

For pastry place first four ingredients in food processor and whiz until it forms crumbs. Slowly add water through the feed chute, with motor running. Stop as soon as mixture forms a ball. Remove and press into a ball, then roll out thinly and use to line a 20cm (8″) metal tart tin. Refrigerate for up to an hour. If in a hurry stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line tart with foil and fill with dried beans or corn to stop it rising. Bake for about 8 minutes, then remove foil and beans (which can be kept to use again and again) and put back in the oven for 5-10 mins or until set. Remove from the oven and turn it down to 150°C.

Meanwhile for the filling, place eggs in a bowl and beat with a hand whisk. Whisk in Nutella and cream and when smooth pour into the tart case. It should come almost level with the top of the pastry. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set, but still wobbly in the middle. Don’t overcook.

Cool then refrigerate till serving time. Serve with whipped cream and toasted nuts.

Serves 8

Note: If you have too much filling for the pastry case, put it into small ramekins and bake them in a water bath for 15-20 mins. I had enough to make one! Instead of making a tart you could cook all the filling in ramekins – it would probably make about 8.

Roast Carrots and Beets

I often make mixed roast vegetables, but sometimes it’s nice to combine just two. Carrots and beetroots go together well and look very colourful.

Serve with roast meats or as a warm salad for lunch, by arranging them on some lightly dressed salad leaves, then sprinkling with crumbled feta or goat’s cheese and a few toasted walnuts or pecans.

Roast Carrots and Beets

500-800g carrots, peeled and cut into chunky sticks
500-800g beetroots, peeled and cut into wedges
3 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
Chopped fresh parsley (or another herb) to garnish

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place vegetables in a bowl and add remaining ingredients except the parsley. Mix well. Line a large shallow baking sheet with baking paper and spread the vegetables out in one layer. Bake for 30-40 mins or until tender and starting to brown on the edges. About halfway through cooking time swap the vegetables on the outside of the tray with ones nearer the centre, in order to achieve more even cooking.

Tip into serving dish and garnish with fresh herbs.

Serves 6-8

Armenian Moussaka

I have two recipes for Moussaka. One is a traditional Greek Moussaka which I make with minced lamb or beef. The other one is called Armenian Moussaka. It’s much quicker to make and a dish I invariably serve the day after we’ve had roast lamb. The quantity of meat is flexible and it’s a good way to introduce kids to eggplant.

Armenian Moussaka

1 very large eggplant (aubergine) or 2 medium
olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tin condensed tomato soup (see notes below)
1 beef stock cube, crumbled
¼ cup red wine or dry sherry
2-4 cups leftover roast lamb, cut into 2cm cubes (see notes below)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
About 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Fry eggplant slices in olive oil on both sides until golden. You will need to do this in 2 or 3 batches. Drain on paper towels. Wipe out the pan with paper towels and add a little more oil. Gently fry onions and garlic until soft then add the meat, tomato soup, stock cube and sherry or wine. Season to taste then simmer for a few minutes, stirring often.

In a greased lasagne-type dish layer half the meat mixture, then half the eggplant slices, the rest of the meat, then the rest of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Serve with a mixed salad.

Serves 4-6

Note: The original recipe used a tin of chopped tomatoes and half a cup of thick leftover gravy from the roast lamb. So you can either use that or replace the two with a can of condensed soup. if you don’t have any leftover roast lamb, use minced fresh lamb or beef. Once the onions and garlic are soft, add mince and continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes until browned, then add tomato soup (or tin tomatoes and gravy), stock cube, sherry and half a cup of water and simmer for about 15 minutes until the excess liquid has evaporated, meat is tender and sauce is thick.

Asian Style Kingfish Ceviche

When we were in Newcastle recently we dined at a restaurant called Sprout. The Kingfish Ceviche ordered by one of our party was so good we all had a taste!  I decided to try and recreate it on return to Canberra. I added the pink peppercorns (see note below) which were a definite plus to the flavour and colour combination.

Asian Style Kingfish Ceviche

300g Kingfish fillets (or other firm white fish)
Juice of 1 lime or half a large lemon
1 small bulb of fennel, trimmed and thinly shaved
3-5 radishes (depending on size) thinly shaved
2 spring onions, very finely sliced on the diagonal
4 stalks asparagus, blanched and cut into 2-3cm lengths
2-3 tsp very finely sliced lemon grass
1 cup coconut milk
2-4 tsp fish sauce, to taste
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped fresh chilli (or to taste)
2 tsp brown sugar
1 Tbs vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns

Cut fish into bit size slices and mix with the lime or lemon juice. If you like your ceviche very lemony add more lemon juice. To blanch the asparagus, cook them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then refresh under cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towel.

Leave fish for an hour or so, stirring from time to time, then mix in remaining ingredients, keeping some fennel, radish and asparagus for garnish. Season to taste then arrange on serving plates and garnish with the reserved vegetables and a few pink peppercorns.

Serves 6 as a starter

Note: A pink peppercorn (baie rose in French) is the dried berry of the Peruvian Peppertree. They were so-named because they look like peppercorns. The flavour is aromatic and only slightly peppery. They go well with all kinds of fish dishes, including Gravlax and smoked salmon. Available at specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient.

Latte Panna Cottas with Chocolate Hazelnut Chews

The recipe for these little coffee desserts was given to me by the wife of a British diplomat. By the time we met, Mary and her husband had had several postings, including one to a remote African country where entertaining was something of a challenge. Finding the ingredients for a Western-style dinner party and explaining to the local staff exactly what she wanted had not been easy for Mary. Sometimes things were simply lost in translation.

Every time they entertained the food was inevitably served cold or at best lukewarm. Mary’s house boy Robert said that the cook was not to blame. The distance to the dining room was the problem. By the time the food had made that long journey along the hall from the kitchen, of course it was cold.

Mary persuaded the Embassy to fund the installation of a serving hatch, so the food could be passed directly from the kitchen to the dining room and hopefully arrive on everyone’s plates before it got cold.

In due course the hatch was installed. When the next dinner party was arranged Mary instructed Robert that from now on everything was to come through the new hatch. He seemed somewhat reluctant, but Mary said that it had cost a lot of money and her husband would be very cross if he didn’t use it. Robert was a likeable fellow in his twenties who tried hard to please.

When the guests sat down the cold starters were already on the table. Mary sat with her back to the serving hatch, while her husband sat at the other end of the long table. In due course the plates from the starter were cleared away. Polite diplomatic conversation continued as they waited for the main course.

Some of the guests began to giggle. Mary wondered if there was some joke that she had missed. People seemed to be looking at something behind her. She turned around to see Robert climbing through the hatch, a large serving dish balanced precariously in his free hand.

Mary wanted everything to come through the hatch and so it did.
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Panna Cottas:
250ml milk
300ml cream
¼ to ½ cup sugar (to taste)
2 shots Espresso coffee (see note below)
1 Tbs gelatine
4 Tbs water
Chocolate Hazelnut Chews:
4 large egg whites
3 pinches salt
1½ cups icing sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
150g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped in food processor
Extra whole blanched hazelnuts
To serve:
Grated dark chocolate
Pouring cream (optional)

Place milk, cream, sugar and coffee in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then remove from the heat. Meanwhile place gelatine and water in a small bowl then zap in the microwave briefly to dissolve. Mix gelatine mixture into coffee mixture then divide among 6 small ramekins, coffee cups or glasses. Chill for several hours or overnight.

For the Hazelnut Chews, preheat oven to 180°C. With electric beaters whip egg whites and salt until soft peaks, then gradually beat in the sugar until you have a thick, glossy meringue. Beat in the cocoa then fold in the chopped nuts. Line a biscuit tray with baking paper and place tablespoons of mixture onto the tray with a little space for spreading, though they won’t spread much. Top each biscuit with a whole hazelnut then bake for 15-20 mins. Mine were done in 15 mins and to be chewy you don’t want them overcooked. Makes about 15.

Serve panna cottas sprinkled with a little grated chocolate, with the hazelnut chews and pouring cream in a jug.

Serves 6

Note: if preferred use 125ml hot water and 1 Tbs instant coffee granules

Plum Puddings with Vanilla Ice Cream

Cooking classes were part of the weekly schedule at the all girls Grammar school I attended in the UK. In the first lesson, when I was 11, we made cheese on toast which we polished off immediately and in the second we made cauliflower cheese. After that they all blur into one. Each week I headed off on the school bus with the ingredients packed into my school bag and returned home with what was often destined to be the family’s evening meal, sitting precariously on my knees.

When I left school 7 years later I had covered all the basics – pastries, breads, sauces and cakes, roasting, steaming, braising and more. We also learnt about nutrition, planning meals for people on special diets such as the elderly or diabetics, writing shopping lists and sticking to a very tight work schedule. Finishing on time with the table set, the food ready to serve and all the washing up done was a requirement when we had practical examinations. I often wonder what happened to my somewhat unpredictable classmate Janet Richardson. She could produce a great meal or a clean kitchen, but not both. Her work station looked as if a bomb had hit it when we were told that time was up.

I now realise how lucky we were to have this training. A surprising number of kids leave home these days with few cooking skills. This means they spend a fortune eating out or survive on takeaways. Small wonder that obesity is on the increase. When a friend of one of our offspring got married he and his new wife wandered around a supermarket for half an hour studying the shelves and came out with a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a packet of spaghetti and a jar of Paul Newman’s spaghetti sauce. Neither of them felt confident to buy anything else which needed cooking.

When I see blood plums in the shops I get the urge to make a recipe by Stephanie Alexander which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake. It makes quite a big cake, so here I’ve fiddled around with the quantities to end up with about half the original recipe (but not exactly) and used it to make 8 individual puddings.

At school we were taught that once self-raising flour has come into contact with liquids the dish needs to go into the oven immediately, because the baking powder starts to work. However, I left these little plum puddings on the side, ready to bake, for an hour or two before they went in the oven and they were perfect. I didn’t want to be mixing cakes once our guests had arrived.

Plum Puddings with Vanilla Ice Cream

Cake:
4 large blood plums (dark red or purple inside)
125g butter at room temp
½ cup sugar
1 cup walnut or pecan halves
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour, sieved
2 Tbs milk
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
Topping:
1 egg
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
To serve:
Icing sugar
Vanilla ice cream

Butter 8 individual pudding dishes and arrange on a baking tray. Or you can use large non-stick muffin tins, buttered well. Pre-heat oven to 180°C. For cake place butter and sugar in food processor and mix until light and fluffy. Add the nuts and eggs and process until the nuts are coarsely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add flour, milk and vanilla and process just enough to combine, stopping again to scrape down the sides. Divide mixture evenly between the dishes or muffin tins.

Cut plums in half and remove stones. Place one plum half in each cake, cut side up. Press down on the plum so the cake comes up level with it. Place topping ingredients in food processor (no need to wash it out) whiz till smooth, then divide among the cakes and spread over. Bake cakes for 25 mins or until well risen and golden. If you have made them in muffin tins, cool for a minute or two then carefully remove from the tins but if they are in dishes serve them as they are. Dust with icing sugar and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8

ANZAC Apple and Rhubarb Crumble

Each year on the 25th of April, Australians and New Zealanders remember those who lost their lives fighting for their country.

Over the ANZAC Day long weekend we had a house full, so I decided to make a fruit crumble because everyone loves them. The latest edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller featured a recipe called Apple ANZAC Pie which used the same ingredients you use to make ANZAC Biscuits, so I adapted it slightly to make an ANZAC Crumble.

ANZAC biscuits were sent by Australian and New Zealand wives to soldiers who were fighting abroad. They were popular because they kept well during naval transportation.

Rhubarb grows like a weed in our garden so I often mix it with apples. If preferred just leave it out and increase the number of apples by 2 or 3. The fresh ginger was a great addition to the fruit layer, but some of the smaller kids didn’t like it. If preferred just leave it out. And if you’re concerned that it will be too sweet, leave out the brown sugar.

The verdict on this recipe was that it’s the best crumble ever. Actually the topping isn’t very crumbly, it’s more like a fruit cobbler. Sorry it wasn’t published in time for ANZAC day, but I’m confident it will go down well any time of year.

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Fruit layer:
5 large Granny Smith apples or cooking apples
About 10 sticks of rhubarb, washed and cut into 2-3cm lengths
¼ cup sugar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger (optional)
6 Tbs water
Topping:
185g butter
¼ cup each treacle and golden syrup
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups plain flour
1 cup rolled oats
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut (preferably coarse flakes)
To serve:
Vanilla ice cream or cream

Peel and slice apples and place in a saucepan with the rhubarb, sugar, ginger and water. Cook for 8-10 minutes until slightly softened then spread into a greased 25cm pie dish.

In a large bowl melt butter, treacle and golden syrup in the microwave then mix in the bicarbonate of soda, flour, oats, sugar and coconut. Spoon all over the apple and rhubarb mixture, using a fork to cover any gaps. Refrigerate until serving time.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C then bake the crumble for 25-30 mins or until crisp and golden. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cream.

Serves 12

Notes: if you don’t have any treacle, double the amount of golden syrup. If you don’t have either use honey or maple syrup instead.

Salmon with Anchovy Garlic Butter and Broccolini

On their own, I’m not a big fan of anchovy fillets. But when they’re mixed into a sauce it’s a different matter. The creamy dressing which goes with Caesar Salad contains anchovies and it just wouldn’t be the same without them.

Salmon is on the menu about once a week in our house. It’s so quick and easy – dinner can be on the table in under 15 minutes. So when I saw this recipe for Salmon with Anchovy Garlic Butter I thought I would give it a try and we weren’t disappointed.

Salmon with Anchovy Garlic Butter and Broccolini2 salmon fillets, approx 180g each
1 Tbs capers
Juice from ½ lemon
Chopped parsley
1 small bunch broccolini, or substitute broccoli
Anchovy Garlic Butter
30g butter (at room temp)
2 anchovy fillets in oil (drained, rinsed and patted dry)
1 small clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a small bowl place all ingredients for the Anchovy Garlic Butter and mash together thoroughly with a fork. Place about half in a small non-stick frying pan and when hot add the salmon fillets, skin side down and cook for 2-3 mins or until the skin is crisp, then turn and cook for 1-2 minutes on each of the other three sides. This will result in salmon which is still a bit pink in the middle. If you like it more well done just increase the cooking time. Towards the end of the cooking add the capers to the pan, so they warm up.

Meanwhile steam broccolini until done then arrange with salmon on serving plates. Put a small amount of the remaining Anchovy Garlic Butter onto each salmon fillet, put the rest into the pan and mix with the pan juices, then spoon over the salmon and broccolini. Squeeze over the lemon juice and sprinkle the salmon with parsley.

Serves 2

Crispy Chicken with Herb Sauce

My mother could make a chicken last three days, even though there were five of us in the family.

Roast on Sunday, curried or cold on Monday and soup on Tuesday. Nothing was wasted and the idea wasn’t to fill up on chicken, but on the accompaniments. There were always lots of roast vegetables with the Sunday roast, rice with the curry and herb dumplings and vegetables in the soup. Fortunately those days of austerity are gone.

I’m always looking for new ways to roast a whole chicken and this recipe, where you immerse it in brine overnight, caught my eye. It really does make a difference, resulting in very crispy skin and succulent meat. Serve it with roast potatoes and a green vegetable or salad. The sauce is delicious served with pretty much anything. Yes I know there’s only one lemon in the photo, but we were at the farm (45 minutes from the nearest shop) and I only had two and used one in the sauce!

Crispy Chicken with Herb Sauce

1 whole chicken, weighing about 1.8kg
3 lemons, cut in halves
Olive oil
Fresh herbs to garnish
Brine
3 Litres water
¾ cup salt
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds
½ an onion peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried
Herb Sauce
A handful each parsley, coriander and mint leaves
A handful of baby spinach leaves
2 Tbs tahini
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbs water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place chicken on a chopping board, breast side down. Using poultry shears cut along one side of the backbone, then along the other side, remove and discard or keep for making stock. Turn chicken over and press hard on the breast bone to flatten it out.

Place all ingredients for brine in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Cool then place chicken in the brine and refrigerate overnight, covered. Next day remove chicken from brine, pat dry with paper towels, then leave in the fridge on a plate, uncovered, for at least an hour and up to several hours, so the skin dries out. Discard the brine.

For the Herb sauce, place herbs and spinach leaves in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Drain, rinse under a cold tap, then squeeze out all the water, put into food processor with remaining ingredients and whiz till you have a thick green sauce.

Brush chicken and lemon halves all over with oil then place in a roasting pan and roast in a hot oven at 200°C or on a barbecue for about an hour, or until chicken is browned and crispy. Turn chicken and lemon halves over about halfway through cooking time.

When chicken is ready carve and arrange on serving platter with the lemon halves and some fresh herbs.

Serves 4

Sticky Ginger Cake

When staying in Newcastle with our daughter Catherine I offered to make a ginger cake. The recipe I’ve been making for decades uses ground ginger because fresh ginger wasn’t available back then. It came from my Dad’s cousin by marriage who was known as Auntie Vina.

Auntie Vina and Uncle Hector lived at Hill House, a busy dairy farm on the moors of County Durham, where I spent many summers as a child. The farm hands all came into the farmhouse for meals, so Auntie Vina and her daughter in law Little Mary spent a lot of time cooking. She taught me all her basic cake recipes, such as sponge cake, chocolate cake, ginger cake and fruit cake, which I still use today.

Times have changed and most recipes using ginger now call for the fresh kind. I decided to do some research online, looking for ginger cakes which use fresh ginger, or a combination of ground and fresh. I then adapted Auntie Vina’s recipe, using some of the new ideas I had found online. This is the result which we served as a dessert with Mangoes in Ginger Wine.

Sticky Ginger Cake

250g unsalted butter
½ cup water
¾ cup treacle (or molasses)
¾ cup golden syrup (or honey)
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ cup milk
2-3 Tbs finely grated fresh ginger (to taste)

Preheat oven to 165°C. Butter and line a 22cm baking pan – round or square. I chose a ring tin – always a bit risky because being fluted you can’t line it, but fortunately the cake came out in one piece.

Place butter, water, treacle, golden syrup and brown sugar in a mixing bowl then heat in the microwave (covered to stop it spattering everywhere) for a minute or two until melted. Alternatively heat in a saucepan over moderate heat.

When cooled a bit, beat in the eggs with electric beaters or a hand whisk. Add the sifted flour, salt and spices, the milk and lastly fold in the fresh ginger. Scrape into cake tin and bake for 40-60 mins. Cooking times vary depending on your oven and the cake tin you use. If you overcook the cake it won’t be sticky, so as soon as the top is firm and springy to the touch it’s ready. Remove from the oven and when cool remove from the tin.

Serve as a dessert with whipped cream with a little rum or brandy added and some stewed fruit. Or serve with Mangoes in Ginger Wine as shown in the photo.

Or serve as a cake dusted with icing sugar or drizzled with lemon icing (1 cup sifted icing sugar mixed with 2 Tbs lemon juice).

Serves between 12 and 20 depending on serving size

Note: if you don’t have self-raising flour use plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder