Rhubarb Tart

With everyone in coronavirus lockdown, some of us are finding more time to cook. And eat.

I highly recommend you find a sunny corner in the garden to plant some rhubarb. It doesn’t take up much room and keeps on fruiting for most of the year. Ours only dies down a bit for 2-3 months in the coldest part of winter. When there’s virtually nothing else in the veggie garden, there’s usually some rhubarb.

This pastry recipe from chez Panisse via Rick Stein is deliciously buttery, reminiscent of a Parisian croissant, fresh from the oven. The oven needs to be nice and hot to get that lovely French glaze. Serve the tart as it is or with some whipped cream or sour cream, which is my preference.

Pastry:
225g plain flour
Good pinch of salt
170g butter, cold from the fridge
About 4 Tbs cold water
Filling:
500-600g rhubarb
½ cup sugar, or more, to taste
2 Tbs fortified wine such as port, but any will do
Grated rind of an orange or lemon
To finish:
Extra sugar
About 2 Tbs butter
Apricot Jam (optional)
To serve:
Whipped cream, sour cream or creme fraiche

To make the pastry, place flour and salt in food processor. Add butter cut into large chunks. Process carefully, preferably using the pulse button, until the butter is in small pieces. You don’t want it to be completely fine like breadcrumbs. Slowly add the water through the feed chute, processing briefly with the pulse button, until just combined. You don’t want it to be too wet, but it needs to start sticking together. Tip out, form into a flat disc using floured hands, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an  hour or up to 2 days. It can also be frozen.

Preheat oven to 220°C. On a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry thinly and line a tart tin, preferably metal. Mine is rectangular, but any will do. Wash and trim the rhubarb. I had plenty, so used only the red ends. All the trimmings and greener ends were made into a compote which is great for breakfast with yoghurt or as the base of a fruit crumble. I cut the rhubarb into the exact width of the tin and lined them up in the uncooked pastry case, so I knew exactly how many I needed. If you want more fruit in the tart you could cut up all the green bits and put them in first, then arrange the bigger pieces on top.

Place rhubarb in a bowl and mix with the sugar, port and citrus zest, then arrange in the tart shell. Drizzle over any remaining sugary juice. Sprinkle with the extra sugar, then dot all over with small pieces of butter.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until pastry is golden and rhubarb is starting to blacken in places – see photo. If liked, brush the surface of the tart with some apricot jam (just the non-chunky part) when it comes out of the oven.

Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, sour cream or creme fraiche.

Serves 10

Variations: use peaches, plums, nectarines or apricots instead of rhubarb.

Black Rice Pudding with Jaggery and Toasted Nuts

On a recent trip to India we dined at a fantastic restaurant in Mumbai called Burma Burma. It serves only vegetarian food and no alcohol – a formula which is really taking off. The Maitre D said they were about to open their sixth restaurant in Calcutta. I assured him they would do well in Australia too. Vegetarianism is a growing trend worldwide.

The black rice pudding garnished with Jaggery and Toasted Almonds was superb, so I decided to try and recreate it, using macadamias. Jaggery (also known as Gur) is made from sugar cane and is a popular sweetener throughout Asia.  Dark brown in colour, it’s sold in solid blocks. Most Asian grocery stores sell Jaggery, but if you can’t find it substitute a drizzle of treacle, which will provide the sweetness and colour, without the crunch.

2 cups black rice, rinsed
4 cups water
pinch salt
2-4 Tbs sugar, to taste
1 can coconut cream
To serve:
Lightly toasted slivered almonds or coarsely chopped macadamias
2-3 Tbs Jaggery, chopped
Fresh mango (optional)
Extra coconut cream or thick cream or sour cream (see note below)

Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered for 45 minutes or until tender, adding more water as necessary and stirring often to prevent sticking, especially towards the end. The rice pudding should be thick and the grains should be tender, but with a slight bite. Cool then chill.

Serve the rice pudding chilled, garnished with the toasted nuts and the Jaggery, in one large dish or individual dishes. If liked, serve with a bowl of fresh cubed mango and some cream.

Note: traditionally served with extra coconut cream. I prefer it with a dollop of thick fresh or sour cream. It’s also perfectly nice on its own.

Coconut Meringue Tart

I love anything with coconut in it. Unfortunately Matthew doesn’t so I only make coconut desserts for events he’s not attending. I served this scrumptious tart at one of my Spanish conversation lunches. Guess who ate the leftovers.

1 22cm (9″) sweet pastry case, cooked till golden
Coconut Filling:
1 can coconut milk plus enough milk to make 2¼ cups
½-¾ cup sugar (depending on how sweet a tooth you have)
3 egg yolks, beaten
1/3 cup cornflour
1 cup desiccated or shredded coconut
Meringue:
3 egg whites
6 Tbs sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1-2 Tbs extra desiccated or shredded coconut
To Serve:
Thick pouring cream

Mix about 2 Tbs of the milk mixture with the cornflour to make a smooth paste. Place coconut milk, milk and sugar in a non-stick pan and heat to boiling point. Add the egg yolks and the cornflour mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add coconut, then tip into the pastry case.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Whip egg whites until stiff then gradually add the sugar, beating until you have a thick, glossy meringue. Beat in the vinegar then dollop all over the coconut filling. Use a knife to spread meringue evenly all over, then sprinkle with the extra coconut. Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden brown. Watch the coconut doesn’t burn. Chill in the fridge. Serve with cream.

Serves 8

Layered Fruit Jelly

This dessert can be made with fresh or frozen fruit, or a mixture of the two and is popular with all ages. Quantities will depend on the size of your mould. Mine holds 1½ litres and I used raspberries, mangoes, blueberries and kiwi fruit.

1-2 cups green fruit, such as seedless grapes or cubed kiwi
1-2 cups purple fruit, such as seedless purple grapes or blueberries
1-2 cups cubed orange fruit, just as mango or peaches
1-2 cups red fruit, such as raspberries, stoned cherries or strawberries
2 packets of jelly mix (I used yellow but you could use red or orange)
1 rounded tsp gelatine powder

Layer the fruit in the jelly mould, starting with a layer of green fruit, then purple and so on until the mould is completely full of fruit. My jelly mould holds 1½ litres or 6 cups. The jelly will fill in the gaps.

Make up both jelly mixes, using slightly less than the packet says and mixing in the powdered gelatine. My jellies each called for 450 mls of water (half boiling and half cold) which makes a total of 900 mls of liquid. I mixed the two packets with a total of 750 ml boiling water and mixed in the gelatine.

Pour jelly carefully into the mould, filling to the top. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, dip the mould briefly in very hold water then invert onto a large serving platter.

Serves 8-10

Labneh with Summer Berries

I made this delicious Ottolenghi dessert when we were in Vancouver for my brother’s wedding in August, when the Canadian berry season was in full swing. Friends who saw the photo on Facebook thought it was a pavlova. In fact the base is strained yoghurt, known as labneh in the Middle East. Much healthier.

For subscribers in the southern hemisphere this could become your go-to dessert for the holiday season. For those living in the north, you’ll have to wait until summer or perhaps try using frozen berries. Ottolenghi doesn’t use the orange juice in this recipe, but I’ve made the recipe twice, once with and once without the juice. Much more orangey with.

1 kg thick Greek-style yoghurt
A good pinch of salt
1-2 Tbs icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
100ml Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 orange
A few sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme
800g to 1 kg fresh berries (raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, stoned cherries)
1-2 Tbs caster sugar

The day before serving make the labneh and the orange oil. Place a sieve over a bowl and line it with muslin or similar fabric. I use a man’s handkerchief which I keep especially for this purpose. Scrape yoghurt into the sieve, cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day discard the liquid – my dog loves it. Mix icing sugar and vanilla into the yoghurt.

Remove the peel from the orange with a vegetable peeler, then remove the juice and heat it in a saucepan for a few minutes, or until reduced by half. Add the olive oil, the thyme and leave to infuse overnight.

At serving time spread labneh onto a large serving platter. Place about half the berries in a food processor with the caster sugar and pulse a few times to chop roughly. Spoon on top of the labneh. Top with the remaining whole berries, slicing the strawberries if large. Drizzle with some of the orange oil and garnish with the orange zest and some fresh thyme sprigs – the original ones will have gone a bit brown.

Serves 8-10

Variations: use other fruit combinations, such as bananas and passionfruit; kiwi fruit and strawberries

Den Bosch Lemon Pudding

Den Bosch is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. We spent a couple of days there recently and one night had tapas for dinner at a wine bar.

The food was very good and the waitress was kind enough to give me the recipe for the dessert. I have a cheesecake recipe which is very similar to this, but the addition of a little vinegar really makes a difference. The method is also slightly different.

1½ cups (375 ml) whipping cream
1 can condensed milk
Grated rind and juice 2 large lemons
2-3 tsp white wine or cider vinegar, to taste
4-5 plain or ginger biscuits
slivers of lemon rind to garnish

Whip cream with electric beaters until thick then continue whipping while you add the condensed milk, lemon rind and juice and vinegar. I used a Kenwood standing mixer, but you can use hand held beaters.

Spoon into 8-10 small glasses. Chill several hours or overnight. Garnish with crushed biscuits and lemon rind.

Serves 8-10

Variation: Fold through the pulp of 3-4 passionfruit before spooning into glasses.

Fiona’s Gluten Free Chocolate Cake

My friend Fiona follows a gluten-free diet. I love the nutty texture of her Gluten Free Chocolate Cake which keeps her sane when she’s studying for law exams.

Today’s recipe is adapted from Fiona’s. I’ve adjusted the quantities slightly, adding less sugar and a bit more chocolate and nuts. I’ve also added a topping of unsweetened cocoa powder, an idea from one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s chocolate cake recipes.

I served the cake as a dessert, with whipped cream and some cumquats I preserved a year ago, but it’s perfectly delicious just as it is, with a cuppa. As a dessert you could also serve it with berries or a ball of coffee ice cream.


250g dark chocolate
250g butter
250g almond meal*
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
To serve:
About 2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
Candied oranges or cumquats or fresh berries
Whipped cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat butter in a saucepan and when melted add the chocolate, broken into squares and turn off the heat. As chocolate melts, stir to combine. Mix in egg yolks, then sugar, almond meal, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl whip egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Scrape in the chocolate mixture, in two lots, gently using a spatula to thoroughly combine.

Scrape mixture into a greased and bottom-lined 22cm round cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes. When ready cake will feel firm on top and a skewer inserted in the middle will come out clean. If you have a fan-forced oven you may find the cake is ready in just over half an hour, as mine was. Chocolate cakes are best under-cooked rather than over-cooked.

When cool, remove cake from tin and cover the top with cocoa powder, using a sieve. Serve cake with berries and whipped cream or just as it is.

Serves 12-16

* buy almond meal or make your own by blitzing nuts in food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. I used half bought and half I made using unskinned almonds. If you don’t have any almonds substitute walnuts, pecans, pine nuts or even a mixture.

Lemon Fluff

This is an old family recipe from my mother-in-law. She often made it when we were staying and all her grandkids loved it. Now that I’m a grandparent I find it can be a challenge to find a dessert that the kids and adults enjoy, unless you stick to ice cream.

At a recent family gathering at the farm I served Lemon Fluff and the grandkids all came back for second helpings. They said it tasted like Lemon Sherbet. There’s no cream in the recipe and the kids preferred it that way. Most of the adults added a good dollop of thick cream.

The first few times I made the recipe it separated, so now I use the freezer to avoid this, as you can see in the method.

4 eggs, separated
1 cup caster sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 3 large lemons
1 Tbs powdered gelatine
½ cup water
To serve:
Thick pouring cream

With electric beaters, whisk egg yolks, sugar and ¼ cup warm water until thick and almost tripled in volume. Gradually beat in the lemon juice. Mix gelatine with remaining water, then zap it for 30 secs in the microwave to dissolve. Cool then add to the mixture with the grated lemon rind.

Place bowl in the freezer until mixture is starting to set around the edges. Time will vary so keep an eye on it and give it a stir from time to time, to check. In my freezer it takes 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile thoroughly wash and dry the beaters, then whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Take bowl out of the freezer and use the electric beaters to give the mixture a quick mix – no need to wash them after whipping the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula fold the egg whites gently but thoroughly into the lemon mixture. Tip into one large serving dish or about 8 individual dishes. Refrigerate, covered, for several hours or overnight. Decorate with a slice of lemon and some mint leaves and serve with thick cream.

The green around the edges was achieved by blitzing a few fresh mint leaves with some sugar until green crumbs form.

Serves 8

Ricotta Cheesecake

I’ve made a lot of cheesecakes over the years and this one ticks all the boxes. The recipe was given to me by my daughter Catherine who said it was easy peasy and delicious.

Instead of topping with marmalade, you could serve the cheesecake with sliced strawberries, macerated with a little sugar and perhaps a splash of orange liqueur or brandy. Instead of marmalade I used about a cup of pureed fresh apricots, which I had frozen during summer, mixed with some home-made cumquat jam and heated to combine, then cooled. Use your imagination – this cheesecake would go well with any jam, marmalade, fruity sauce or fruit compote. Or just some fresh berries.

Use half the amount of biscuits, butter and cinnamon if you prefer a thinner crust.

Crust:
200g plain sweet biscuits
100g butter at room temperature
1 tsp cinnamon
Filling:
250g ricotta cheese
250g cream cheese
1 cup sugar
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup cream or sour cream
2 Tbs grated lemon rind
Topping:
½ cup marmalade
¼ cup water
Icing sugar

Grease and bottom line a 22cm springform pan. Preheat oven to 170°C. Blitz biscuits in a food processor with butter and cinnamon to make fine crumbs. Tip into cake pan, spread evenly and press down. Refrigerate while you make the filling.

Place ricotta, cream cheese and sugar in food processor and process until smooth. Add egg yolks, cream and lemon rind and mix thoroughly. In a large mixing bowl whip egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Scrape mixture from food processor into the egg whites and mix gently with a rubber spatula until combined. Scrape into the cake pan, then bake for 45-50 mins or until set, but still slightly wobbly in the middle. Remove from the oven, cool then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake, then remove sides from pan and dust top with sifted icing sugar. Heat marmalade and water in a small saucepan until combined, then cool and spoon over the top of the cheesecake, or serve separately in a jug.

Serves 10

Variations: use orange rind instead of lemon. Serve with fresh fruit or fruit compote of choice.

Chocolate Fig and Hazelnut Cake

This recipe caught my eye when it was published recently in Gourmet Traveller, so I saved the link. Friends coming to stay for the weekend is a good excuse to bake a cake so I thought I would give this a try. As a fan of chocolate, figs and hazelnuts it seemed to tick all the boxes. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve cut down on the sugar in the cake from 300g to 200g and cut it out altogether in the chocolate ganache. The muscat and figs are sweet, so you could try cutting down even more on the sugar in the cake, say to 150g. Maybe add a few more figs to compensate.

The original recipe said to use muscat or brandy. I used a muscat-style fortified wine made in Australia by Angoves and called Bookmark Crema All’Uovo. I bought the bottle several months ago at Dan Murphy’s to make that wonderful Italian dessert called Zabaione. If I hadn’t had any of that I would have used port rather than brandy. The packet of dried figs I bought weighed 375g, so I used them all.

The original recipe tells you how to make Candied Oranges to serve with the cake. I had some candied cumquats I made several months ago, so that’s what you can see as a garnish in the photo. To make the original Candied Oranges, search for the GT recipe.

To make the cake gluten-free, use gluten-free bread for the breadcrumbs.

Cake:
1 cup (250ml) muscat or port
300-400g dried figs, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
420g hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
250g unsalted butter, at room temp
200g caster sugar
6 eggs
250g dark chocolate, melted
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
Ganache:
½ cup cream
150g dark chocolate
To serve:
Whipped cream
Candied oranges or orange peel (optional – bought or home-made)

Place muscat or port in a saucepan with the figs. Bring to the boil then simmer, stirring from time to time, for 10 minutes or until figs have absorbed the wine.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Place hazelnuts in food processor and process coarsely. Tip out. Make bread into breadcrumbs in food processor, then tip out. Place butter and sugar in food processor and process until smooth. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time, then the melted chocolate, stopping to scrape down the sides from time to time. Scrape mixture into a large bowl and mix in the figs, the ground nuts and the breadcrumbs.

Scrape mixture into a large cake pan, greased and bottom-lined with baking paper. I used a 22cm square pan, but you could use a round one. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until cake feels firm on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Err on the slightly undercooked side, as the cake will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven. Leave to cool, then remove from pan and pour over the chocolate ganache, using a knife to spread it evenly over the top and sides.

Ganache: heat cream in a small saucepan. When boiling, turn off heat and add the chocolate, broken into squares. Leave to melt for a few minutes then stir until smooth. Allow to cool for a few minutes, so it’s a bit thicker for spreading.

Serve cake as it is, or with whipped cream and candied oranges or orange peel.

Serves 16

Variations: use walnuts or almonds instead of hazelnuts, or a mixture.