Apple Crumble Tart

A combination of an apple tart and an apple crumble, this dessert was a hit with young and old over the holiday period. Serve slightly warm with vanilla ice cream or cream.

1 quantity of shortcrust pastry
Filling:
1½ cups shelled almonds (can be blanched or not)
100g butter at room temperature
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbs plain flour
2 red apples, cored and thickly sliced
Crumble:
50g butter, melted
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup flaked almonds
To serve:
Vanilla ice cream or cream

Roll out pastry and line a 25cm quiche dish or flan tin. Refrigerate while making filling. For filling blitz the almonds in food processor until they resemble fairly fine breadcrumbs. Add butter and sugar and mix until creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add the eggs and flour and mix well, again stopping to scrape down the sides.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread filling evenly into uncooked pastry case and arrange the apples on top, pressing in lightly. Mix all ingredients for crumble and sprinkle evenly over the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

Serve warm with ice cream or cream. Can be made a day or two ahead and kept refrigerated. Reheat for 10-15 minutes to serve. Can be frozen for up to a month. Thaw before reheating.

Serves 8-10

Eggplant Lamb & Feta Pie

 

This is a slight variation on a recipe from Donna Hay which appeared in the November issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly magazine. I ran out of yoghurt so the sauce doesn’t feature in my photo.

2 eggplants, thinly sliced into rounds
500g minced lamb
1 cup fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 Tbs pine nuts
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp sumac
150-200g firm creamy feta (I used Danish)
Olive oil for brushing
2 tsp Za’atar seasoning
To serve:
1 cup Greek-style plain yoghurt
2 Tbs shredded mint leaves
Salt to taste
Fresh mint and oregano or marjoram leaves

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a round cake tin or baking dish. I used a metal cake tin which was 22cm in diameter. The original recipe uses a larger one 28cm in diameter. Use what you have, it won’t make a big difference.

Cover the bottom of the pan with eggplant slices, placing one in the middle and the rest overlapping all the way around. Sprinkle with half the crumbled feta. Mix mince, breadcrumbs, honey, cumin, chopped mint, pine nuts and seasoning and tip into the pan, pressing down evenly. Sprinkle with the rest of the feta. Cover the top with eggplant slices, with one in the middle and the rest overlapping around it. You may not use all the eggplant. Brush the eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle with the Za’atar seasoning. Bake for 45-60 mins until the eggplant is nicely browned, then stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Mix the yoghurt, mint and salt to taste and serve with the pie. Garnish with fresh mint and oregano or marjoram leaves. Serve with a salad.

Serves 6

 

Note: you could use minced beef, turkey or chicken instead of the lamb.

Lobster & Mango Salad with Thai Dressing

This salad is perfect for a New Year’s Eve buffet. I’ve been making it for about 20 years and it’s always a hit. One of my top ten cold recipes.  If preferred, use peeled prawns instead of lobster as I have in the photo. You will need a kilo of prawns to end up with half a kilo once they are peeled. Serve on individual plates as a starter or on one large platter as part of a buffet.

500g cooked lobster (crayfish) meat, or cooked shelled prawns
2 slightly underripe mangoes, skinned, sliced and cut into julienne sticks
1 med red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, white & some of the green, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked off (keep the stalks for the dressing)
A handful of basil leaves, picked off and torn in half if large
60g baby spinach
1 cup beansprouts
Dressing:
¾ cup lime juice
80g palm sugar or brown sugar
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only
Stalks from 1 bunch of coriander
2 Tbs Fish sauce
Garnish:
¾ cup unsalted cashews
Extra Virgin olive oil

Make dressing and refrigerate. Slice lobster meat into large chunky pieces. If using prawns just peel, devein and leave whole. Mix with a little of the dressing and the chilli and refrigerate till serving time. Toast cashews in a dry pan, over medium heat. Wash spinach, basil, beansprouts and coriander. Dry in a salad spinner then refrigerate in the spinner. Prepare mango and spring onions and refrigerate, separately. All ingredients can be prepared well ahead.

To serve, mix spinach, coriander leaves, basil leaves, beansprouts and spring onions with enough dressing to moisten. Divide between six individual plates or pile into one large serving dish. Arrange the lobster or prawns on top and garnish with the mango and cashews. Drizzle with extra dressing if liked. You may not need all the mango, depending on the size of the mangoes you use. Drizzle a little olive oil around the salad.

Dressing:
Heat lime juice in a small saucepan with palm sugar and stir to dissolve. Place in food processor with remaining ingredients. Process till fairly smooth, then tip into a jar with a lid. Can be made ahead.

Serves 6 as a starter or light lunch, 4 as a main course or 10 to 12 as part of a buffet

Notes: if you don’t have lemongrass use a couple of strips of lemon or lime peel, removed with a potato peeler. If you don’t have unsalted cashews, salted ones will do. If you don’t have lime juice use lemon juice.

Gin-Cured Salmon with Kewpie Mayonnaise & Pickled Grapes

This delicious gin-cured salmon (inspired by a dish I had at one of our favourite Canberra eateries, Lambsheds) is great to have ready in the freezer for the holiday season, whether you’re living in the northern or southern hemisphere. It’s so easy to make and guaranteed to impress your guests. I buy the salmon from Costco because they do a great job of deboning, you don’t even have to check. This recipe is a variation on a traditional Gravlax.

Serve the salmon as a starter or light lunch, or on Chinese spoons, as appetisers. I’ve been collecting Chinese spoons from second-hand stores for some time and have well over fifty. When asked to bring a plate to an end of year gathering this is what I have been taking this year.

If you don’t have time to make the cured salmon, the recipe works well using plain raw salmon (top sashimi quality, remove any brown bits and slice thinly) with the kewpie mayonnaise and pickled grapes. Kewpie mayonnaise is a Japanese product available in most supermarkets. Juniper berries and pink peppercorns (which are actually not peppercorns at all) are available from specialty shops such as The Essential Ingredient.

The grapes in the photos are very small ones we grow ourselves, so I leave them whole. They are delicious with cured salmon, smoked salmon, or on oysters, with a sliver of spring onion, for those who don’t insist in eating them “au naturel”.

1 side of salmon (about 1kg), skinned and de-boned
1/3 cup each salt, sugar and gin
1 tsp pink peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp juniper berries
2 tsp coriander seeds
Finely grated rind of 1 lime
To serve: 
Kewpie mayonnaise
Finely sliced spring onions or finely chopped onion
Pickled grapes (see below)
Baby cucumbers, sliced and halved (optional)
Pink peppercorns (optional)

Cut salmon in half across the middle of the fish. Place spices in a mortar and pestle and grind fairly finely. Place in a bowl with remaining ingredients and mix well. Spread about a third in a shallow glass dish, then place one piece of fish on top, then another third of the spice mix, the second piece of fish and remaining spice mix. Cover with plastic wrap or a plastic bag, then place a plate or a board on top and a couple of cans of tomatoes or whatever, to weigh it down. Refrigerate for 2-3 days, turning the fish once or twice.

Remove the salmon from the gin marinade, scrape off the spice mix and pat dry with paper towels. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap and freeze until needed.

To serve, slice salmon thinly and arrange on individual starter plates or Chinese spoons. Garnish with Kewpie mayonnaise, spring onions, baby cucumber (optional) and drained pickled grapes. If liked sprinkle with a few pink peppercorns.

Pickled grapes:
½ cup each water, white or cider vinegar and sugar
Black seedless grapes cut into halves or quarters, depending on size

Heat water, vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan until sugar has dissolved, then tip into a jam jar. Add grapes. The quantity varies, but they all need to be submerged in the liquid. Keep in the fridge.

Walnut Cake

This cake, of Middle Eastern origin, is delicious with a cup of coffee or as a dessert, with a dollop of cream. It will keep in a cake tin for 2-3 days. Being doused in a sugary syrup, you would think it would be very sweet, but it’s not. The syrup helps to keep it moist.

125g butter at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
2 heaped cups walnut halves (or pecans)
1¼ cups self-raising flour, sifted
Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 Tbs lemon juice
Piece of cinnamon bark
1 Tbs brandy
To serve:
Whipped cream or sour cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and bottom line a 22cm cake pan. I used a Flexipan which doesn’t need to be greased or lined.

Place butter and sugar in food processor and mix well until smooth and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides. Separate the eggs. Add the yolks to the food processor, with the cinnamon and salt. Lastly add the walnuts and process to chop them, but not too finely, stopping to scrape down the sides. With electric beaters, whip the egg whites in a large clean bowl, until they hold soft peaks. Scrape the mixture from the food processor into the whipped egg whites and add the sifted flour. Fold all together gently but thoroughly, then scrape mixture into the cake pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light brown and firm to touch. Don’t overcook. Remove from the oven and spoon the cooled syrup evenly over the hot cake.

Syrup: while cake is baking make the syrup. Place sugar, water, lemon juice and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then boil for 10 minutes. Remove cinnamon bark, add brandy then leave to cool.

Cool the cake and serve as it is or with whipped cream or sour cream (my favourite, shown in the photo).

Serves 10

 

Onion Quiche

Quiches can be made with a variety of fillings, but the best known is Quiche Lorraine, made with bacon, eggs and cream. It’s definitely the most popular in our house, closely followed by Onion Quiche.

Quiches can be frozen at any stage of the preparation. You can freeze the uncooked pastry, the uncooked quiche shell or the partly cooked quiche shell, with or without the filling poured in. While you can freeze a fully cooked quiche, I prefer to freeze them at the point where the filling has just been poured into the partly-baked pastry case. Place the quiche in the freezer until it has frozen completely, then wrap it in a plastic bag to stop the filling from sticking to the bag which would happen if you wrapped it before it had frozen.

When needed, put the quiche straight from the freezer into the oven and allow about 25% longer cooking time. Use a dish which can go straight from the freezer to the oven – most dishes are fine and you can of course make quiches in metal pans rather than ceramic. Baking the pastry case blind – before you add the filling – is the secret to avoiding a soggy bottom.

If you make two batches of the shortcrust pastry recipe below and divide it into 3 equal balls it will be just enough to make three large quiches. I usually do that and use one ball and freeze two for another time, wrapped in plastic wrap. If you only make one batch of pastry you will have enough for one large quiche with some leftover. You could use this to make some little tart cases. Cook them completely while empty, then fill with Lemon Curd or Raspberry Jam.

It’s always amazing to see how many onions go into this quiche – one whole kilo! Gently cooked for 45 minutes in butter and oil the onions produce one of my favourite quiche fillings from northern France.

Shortcrust Pastry:
250g plain flour
125g butter, cut into four
½ tsp salt
3-4 Tbs cold water
Filling:
1 kg onions, thinly sliced
50g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs flour
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
60g grated cheese, preferably Gruyere or Emmental

Pastry: Place flour, salt and butter in food processor and process until it looks like breadcrumbs. With the motor running gradually add about 3 Tbs cold water through the feed chute, stopping the motor as soon as the mixture forms a ball. Tip out, form into a ball. While you only need one batch for this recipe you might like to make a second batch so you end up with two spare balls of pastry to use one day when you’re in a hurry. If you decide to do this, make a second batch of pastry, tip it out and make it into a large sausage shape with the first batch. Cut into three and wrap each third in plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze until needed. Can be refrigerated for 3-4 days or frozen for a month or two.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry and line quiche dish (mine is 25cm diameter and 3.5cm deep) then bake it blind. Don’t worry if you have to patch up a few holes, nobody will know when it’s cooked. To bake blind, line the pastry case with a piece of aluminium foil, pressing it down to fit, then tip in something to weigh it down and stop the pastry from rising in the middle. I use dried corn kernels which I keep in a jar and use over and over again. Dried beans or rice will also do the trick.

Bake the quiche shell for 5-10 mins, then remove the foil and corn and bake it for a few more minutes until very pale golden in colour.

Meanwhile for the filling heat butter and oil in a large heavy frying pan, add onions and cook very gently for about 45 minutes, or until tender and pale golden, stirring regularly. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, then cool. Onions can be prepared to this stage ahead of time and kept refrigerated.

In a mixing bowl beat eggs with cream, add the cooled onions, salt, nutmeg and black pepper to taste and pour into pastry case. Can be frozen at this stage.

Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8

Note: I have a slightly larger quiche dish which is 27-28 cm in diameter. If I use the bigger dish, to make more filling I just add two more eggs, making four in total.

 

Chicken in a Pot with Pasta

This delicious one pot recipe comes from one of my favourite no-nonsense cooks, Nigella Lawson. As the chicken, leeks and carrots cook they create a delicious stock which soaks into the pasta. Nigella uses a very small pasta called Orzo or Risoni, which looks a bit like grains of rice. I only had a small amount of Risoni at the bottom of a packet, so I made up the difference with another small pasta.

The recipe will serve at least six. We had it on its own, but you could always add a crusty loaf and a green salad to feed more people. Choose a large heavy pot with a lid which will hold the chicken, with room around it for the vegetables and pasta. Mine is an oval Le Creuset casserole (from the 1970s, when orange was a very popular colour!) which can be used on the stove top as well as in the oven. Nigella uses dried tarragon, but as I have fresh in the garden at the moment I used that.


1 Tbs olive oil
1 whole chicken (1.5 – 1.7 kg)
3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks (the white part and some of the green) sliced
2 large carrots, cut into sticks
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 large lemon
2 Tbs fresh tarragon, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
2 tsp salt
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
1L to 1.5L cold water
300g Risoni or other small pasta
6 Tbs chopped parsley
To serve:
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 180°C and prepare the vegetables. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based casserole with a lid. Dry chicken with paper towels and place in the pan, breast side down, for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn the chicken over and then add the garlic, lemon rind and juice, tarragon, salt and chilli flakes, if using, filling the space around the chicken. Add enough water to cover the vegetables, but not the browned chicken breast which should be left sticking out of the liquid. Turn up the heat to bring the liquid to the boil, then cover the casserole and place in the oven for an hour to an hour and a quarter, by which time the chicken will be cooked. Add the pasta, pushing it under the liquid and stirring it as best you can.

Cover and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 15 minutes before serving. Mix in some of the parsley and scatter the rest on top. Serve a bowl of grated Parmesan on the side.

Serves 6-8

Note: if you don’t have a casserole dish which can be used on the stove top, brown the chicken breast in a frying pan, then put it into the casserole with the remaining ingredients and add boiling water instead of cold.

Asparagus with Smoked Salmon, Poached Egg and Quick Hollandaise

Asparagus goes very well with smoked fish and with eggs. This recipe uses both and ties all the ingredients together with a delicious herby hollandaise sauce, which takes no time at all to make.

It’s best to be cautious on timing the first time you make the sauce. Microwave ovens vary and it may only need 10 or 12 seconds on High in yours.

10-12 spears asparagus
4 slices smoked salmon
2 large eggs
Quick Hollandaise Sauce:
2 egg yolks
3-4 tsp lemon juice
pinch of salt and cayenne pepper
60g butter, melted
1 Tbs chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
To garnish:
Pink peppercorns (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Trim and wash asparagus and place in a frying pan. Add cold water to cover, then turn on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for 3 minutes or until al dente. Drain on paper towels then arrange on two heated serving plates. Meanwhile poach the eggs and make the sauce.

Arrange a poached egg and two slices of smoked salmon on each serving of asparagus. Garnish with the sauce, a few pink peppercorns, if using and a drizzle of olive oil.

Quick Hollandaise Sauce: place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a heatproof bowl and whisk with a balloon whisk to combine. Whisk in the hot melted butter, then zap in the microwave for 14-15 seconds on High (no more or the egg yolks will scramble). Whisk vigorously to combine, add the tarragon and serve.

Serves 2

Three-Cheese Semolina Gnocchi with Gremolata

My friend Meg served this delicious starter over a year ago and at my request sent me the recipe. It’s taken me ages to get around to making it, as I always have a long list of recipes I want to try.

It originally appeared on Donna Hay’s website, but it’s not there any more. The original version serves 10-12 so I halved it to serve six as a starter. The recipe uses an Italian cheese called Taleggio in the gnocchi mix, but you could also use something stronger such as Gruyere or Cheddar.

750 ml milk
1 cup semolina
3 egg yolks
100g grated Taleggio cheese (or substitute Gruyere or strong cheddar)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh marjoram
½ cup grated mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Gremolata:
1 Tbs finely chopped parsley
2 tsp finely chopped fresh marjoram
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon rind (removed with veg peeler then shredded finely)
1 small clove garlic crushed

Place milk in a non-stick saucepan and bring to the boil. Gradually mix in the semolina, using a wooden spatula. Cook for 2-3 mins or until thickened then remove from the heat. Mix in the egg yolks, the cheese and season to taste. Scrape into a lightly greased square or rectangular dish. Mine is 20 cm square. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile make the gremolata by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl or a jar with a lid.

When ready to serve, turn on the grill. Cut the gnocchi into six evenly sized rectangles and place on an oven tray lined with baking paper, leaving some space between each one. Sprinkle with the marjoram, the mozzarella and the parmesan. Grill for 2-3 mins or until cheese is golden and melted. Arrange on 6 serving plates and top with the gremolata. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil around the gnocchi.

Serves 6 as a starter

Variations: instead of taleggio you could use goat’s cheese. Instead of fresh marjoram you could use oregano or thyme

Asparagus Risotto with Prosciutto

It’s asparagus season again and our dedicated patch is producing a couple of kilos or more a week. It’s like nothing you ever see in the shops. So chunky and flavoursome. We eat most of it steamed, with melted butter, sometimes with fresh herbs mixed through. Or cold with home made mayonnaise.

I’m always on the look out for new ways to serve this wonderful vegetable, such as this delicious risotto.

50g butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
250ml white wine
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
A large bunch of asparagus (20-24 stems)
1 cup Arborio rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To garnish:
6 thin slices prosciutto
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)

Place half the butter and oil in a heavy-based pan over low heat. Add the onion and cook very gently for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until cooked but not coloured. Meanwhile trim off the tough ends from the asparagus. Choose 12 nice stems and trim them a bit shorter. Blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water then refresh in cold water and dry on paper towels.

Cut the rest of the asparagus into bite sized pieces. When the onion is cooked add the wine, rice and chopped asparagus and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the stock, a cup or so at a time, adding more as it’s absorbed into the rice. When the rice is al dente (you may not need all the stock) add half the grated parmesan and the remaining butter and turn off the heat. The risotto should be slightly wet. Season to taste then cover and stand for 5 minutes.

Serve on six individual serving plates and top with remaining parmesan. Garnish each plate with two of the blanched asparagus spears, a slice of prosciutto and, if liked, a drizzle of oil.

Serves 6 as a starter or 3 as a main