Plum and Rum Jam made in the Oven

My German friend Rosi gave me the recipe for a delicious plum jam which is made in the oven with far less sugar than most jam recipes use and is flavoured with rum and cinnamon.

While you can use any plums in this recipe, blood plums produce a beautiful deep ruby-red colour and I found some in Aldi. Serve the jam with croissants, or plain thick Greek yoghurt. I haven’t tried  making it with other fruits, but plan to. I am sure it will work. Next on the list to try is rhubarb and strawberry, fifty fifty.

1½ kg plums, stoned and quartered
500g sugar
1½ cups dark rum
1 stick cinnamon (optional)

Preheat oven to 200°C or 180°C if you have a fan-forced oven. Place all ingredients in a Le Creuset type heavy casserole with lid and stir to combine. Cook for 2 to 2½ hours, stirring every half hour.

Heat jars without lids in microwave on High for 2 minutes. Pour hot jam into the hot jars filling to about 1cm below the top (discard cinnamon stick) and seal with the lids immediately.

Jam keeps for several months, unopened. Once opened keep in the fridge.

Makes about 4 jars

Chocolate Orange Cake

I’ve always liked the combination of orange and chocolate which works well in this quick and easy cake. It’s moist and keeps for several days in a sealed tin.

140g butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
1¾ cups SR flour
1 rounded tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk
Grated rind 2 oranges
Syrup:
2 Tbs sugar
Juice 2 oranges
Topping:
75g dark chocolate
Piece of Copha the size of a walnut (or substitute butter or 2 tsp oil)

Preheat oven to 180°C (170°C fan oven) and grease and line a loaf pan.  I used a silicone pan which you don’t need to grease.

With electric beaters or in a food processor, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add sifted flour and baking powder and lastly the milk and orange rind. Scrape into loaf pan and smooth over the top with a knife. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden brown, risen and firm to the touch in the middle. Leave cake to cool in the pan.

Meanwhile, place sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan and heat until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Pierce cake all over with a skewer and spoon syrup evenly over the top. Place chocolate and Copha (butter or oil) in a bowl and stand the bowl in simmering water until melted. Cool a bit so it’s not too runny, then when the cake has cooled, drizzle chocolate all over the top,

Keeps in a tin for several days.

Potato Cakes with Smoked Salmon

Our potato crop has just started so I put these delicious potato cakes on the menu for a light lunch last weekend. They originate in Scandinavia and when we were living in Copenhagen we ordered them quite often in restaurants.

They don’t contain any flour making them gluten free, which is good news for readers who avoid eating wheat and other grains.

500g potatoes
1 small onion, grated (optional)
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive or vegetable oil to fry
To serve:
Smoked Salmon or Trout
Sour Cream
Snipped chives

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand or using a 0.5cm attachment on your food processor, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes for a couple of minutes then drain well in a colander. Spread potatoes on a tea towel and roll up. Twist towel tightly over the sink, to remove as much liquid as possible.

Transfer grated potato to a bowl and mix in the grated onion (if using), egg, salt and pepper. Heat ¼ cup oil in a large nonstick frying pan over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of four, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per potato cake into frying pan, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook for 4-5 minutes, until undersides are browned. Turn over and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season lightly with salt. Add more oil to pan as needed. Keep potato cakes warm on a wire rack over a shallow baking pan in a low oven. Leftovers can be reheated in a low oven.

Serve potato cakes with smoked salmon or trout, sour cream and chives and cracked pepper.

Makes 6-8 cakes serving 3-4

Individual Tiramisus

Keeping the weight off becomes a constant battle for most people over the age of forty. Some have to pay attention much earlier and a few lucky ones never have to think about it.

Unless we’re entertaining, I rarely make desserts. Every now and then, however, I think what the hell, life’s too short, especially during this Covid pandemic, when we’re entertaining and going out far less.

When I think we deserve a treat I make individual desserts in small glasses and put them in the fridge for us to eat over a few days. These small indulgences are not so big as to make you feel guilty, but when you feel like something sweet they just hit the spot.

I often think of my Irish grandmother who said to me after Grandpa died at the age of 62 “I didn’t let him have all those English puddings he loved and he died young anyway.” Actually I think it was the smoking rather than the weight that did it. Or maybe a combination of the two.

I have several quick and easy desserts I make in these small glasses and this is one of them. Any plain chocolate biscuits will do. Buy ones which are made with a chocolate mix, such as Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple, not ones which are iced with chocolate. If in doubt Google Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple so you can see what they look like and find something similar.

8 (or 12) un-iced chocolate biscuits, eg Arnott’s Chocolate Ripple
1 cup strong coffee (see note below)
2 Tbs brandy or rum (optional)
1½ cups cream
½ cup cream cheese or mascarpone, at room temp
2 Tbs icing sugar
Cocoa powder

Find 8 small glasses or ramekins which each hold about half a cup or 125ml.

Mix coffee and brandy or rum. Dip biscuits in this mixture to thoroughly soak and put one, or one and a half in each glass. Divide any leftover coffee amongst glasses, drizzling it over the biscuits.

Whip cream and when it holds soft peaks add cream cheese or mascarpone and mix to combine, then add the icing sugar. Divide amongst the glasses, pushing it under and around the biscuits. It doesn’t matter if they break up. Smooth the tops, then cover with sifted cocoa. Refrigerate, loosely covered. I put them in one large dish and cover it with a shower cap.

Makes 8 individual desserts

Note: use brewed coffee, cooled, or a cup of boiling water mixed with a heaped tablespoon of instant coffee, cooled. You could leave out the cream cheese or mascarpone and use more cream.

Thai Chicken Salad with Peanut Crust

This recipe was given to me by my friend Barbara and I’ve made it twice over the holiday period. I’ve added a little dressing to the salad and served the chicken sliced on top, rather than mixed through the salad.

1 cup roasted peanuts
¼ cup red curry paste
1 cup coriander leaves, loosely packed
1/3 cup coconut milk
700g to 1kg chicken breasts
Salt to taste (if using salted peanuts you can leave it out)
Salad:
1 or 2 cucumbers depending on size (400g)
1 cup bean sprouts
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
Dressing:
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish:
Thinly sliced red chilli (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Place peanuts, curry paste, coriander and coconut milk in food processor and process to form a slightly chunky paste. Spread on both sides of the chicken breasts and arrange on a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through – test with a knife.

Halve cucumbers lengthwise and remove seeds with a small teaspoon, then slice. Mix salad ingredients with dressing and arrange on serving plate. Slice chicken and arrange on top. Garnish with the chilli.

Serves 4-6

Substitutions: use cashews instead of peanuts. Any curry paste will do.

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 (9 inch) cake pan. I use a silicone pan 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