Eton Mess

Looking for a quick and easy dessert to serve over the Canberra Day long weekend? Eton Mess, a traditional English dessert which makes the most of the summer berries is quick, easy and delicious.

A mixture of meringue, berries and whipped cream, this dish was first mentioned in print in 1893 and is thought to have originated at Eton College in England, where it’s served at the annual cricket match against Harrow School.

In the 6th episode of the TV series The Gilded Age, which I’m currently watching, the French chef is asked to prepare a British meal. For dessert he makes Eton Mess, which he describes disparagingly as a mess made by a bunch of schoolboys.

The traditional recipe for this sumptuous dessert uses broken up meringues, either home-made or shop bought. I prefer to use a pavlova base, because the meringue is crunchy on the outside, but soft and marshmallowy on the inside. In Australia pavlova bases are sold in most big supermarkets.  I’m not sure if they are available in other countries, except perhaps New Zealand, but you can always make your own or use broken up hard meringues, which are more readily available around the world.

I like to use half fresh cream and half sour cream or crème fraîche, but if preferred you can use all fresh cream.

1 pavlova base to serve 12 (or about 12 large individual meringues)
250 ml whipping cream
250 ml sour cream or crème fraîche
1 Tbs icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
500g strawberries
2-3 tsp caster sugar
150-200g raspberries (or blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants etc)
Chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Wash strawberries, cut in half or slice if large and place in a bowl with the caster sugar. Mix and leave aside for an hour or two, so the juices start to run.

I used about three-quarters of a large pavlova base for this dish. Break off chunks and arrange about half of them in a large glass serving dish, or break up the hard meringues. If preferred, make individual servings using large whisky tumblers.

Scatter half the strawberries and half the raspberries or other berries over the meringue. Place the cream, sour cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl and whip using electric beaters until soft peaks form. Place blobs of the whipped cream over the meringue and fruit, then the rest of the pavlova/meringue pieces, the juices from the strawberries, the remaining cream and lastly the rest of the strawberries and raspberries. They are not shown in the photo, but if liked decorate the top with some chocolate sprinkles, which always look nice with berries and cream. Refrigerate until serving time and serve within a couple of hours.

Serves 6-8

Note: if liked, add a tablespoonful of a liqueur such as Kirsch, Grand Marnier, Cointreau or Curaçao to the strawberries and sugar.

 

 

Vegetable Curry

This simple vegetable curry is perfect for using up all the odds and ends of vegetables from the bottom drawer of the fridge to produce a tasty family meal. I used sweet potato, pumpkin, green beans, potatoes and frozen peas. Other vegetables such as cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, capsicum, broccoli and eggplants also work well in this recipe.

If you’re not sure how many vegetables to prepare, I filled a one-litre measuring jug twice to overflowing. The quantity is flexible, but basically you need a big bowl full. If you don’t have enough vegetables, add a drained can of chickpeas.

3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger (optional)
3 Tbs curry paste or powder
1 tsp paprika or turmeric
1 can tomatoes, chopped
1 can coconut milk
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar
8-10 cups prepared vegetables (see list above)
2 cups frozen peas or 2 handfuls spinach leaves
Extra water as required
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Steamed rice
Plain yoghurt
Chopped fresh coriander
Fruit chutney

Prepare vegetables by cutting them into large chunks and pieces that will cook in a similar time. Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and cook the onion and garlic gently, until soft but not coloured. Add the chilli, ginger, curry paste and paprika or turmeric and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, stock, sugar and all the vegetables apart from the peas or spinach. Simmer, stirring from time to time, for 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. Add more water as required during cooking and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lastly add the frozen peas or spinach and cook for a minute or two.

Serve the curry garnished with coriander and accompanied by steamed rice, a bowl of plain yoghurt and some fruit chutney.

Serves 6

Note: if you prefer a non-creamy curry leave out the coconut milk and add more stock. If you have coconut cream rather than milk, that works too. This is a very flexible recipe.

Tomato Tarte Tatin with Goat’s Cheese

Many readers will be familiar with the delicious French apple tart called Tarte Tatin. Caramelised apples covered with pastry, cooked until golden and crisp and then inverted onto a serving plate.

This is a tomato version which is perfect to make when you have, as we do at the moment, heaps of cocktail tomatoes in the garden.

About 375g puff pastry
2-3 Tbs balsamic glaze
1 Tbs caster sugar
3 Tbs fresh thyme leaves, plus a few sprigs to garnish
About 500g cocktail tomatoes (enough to cover base of the pan)
To serve:
Rocket, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan salad
Crumbled goat cheese
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto:
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
1 Tbs (a 5cm or 2″ chunk) Parmesan cheese

Make the pesto by blitzing all the ingredients together to form a nice chunky paste. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottom of a 20cm (8 inch) tart tin. Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the paper, then sprinkle with the sugar and thyme leaves. Arrange the tomatoes over the base – they should cover it completely and snugly. Dollop the tomato pesto all over the tomatoes, as evenly as you can. Roll out the pastry, cut a circle 25cm (10 inches) in diameter. Place on top of the tomatoes and tuck in the edges.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown. Let the tart rest for 5-10 minutes then carefully invert onto a serving plate and remove the paper. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with crumbled goat cheese and thyme sprigs, with a lightly-dressed salad of rocket, toasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan.

Serves 6

Pancakes with Sticky Pork and Vegetables

These make a tasty mid-week dinner or something to serve as finger food with drinks. Instead of cooking a pork fillet you could use shredded leftover roast pork, beef, chicken or lamb.

Pancakes:
1½ cups cold water
2 eggs
1 cup sifted self-raising flour
2 Tbs vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt
Filling:
500-600g pork fillet
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Julienne sticks of cucumber, carrots and spring onions about 3″ long
Black sesame seeds (optional)
Sauce:
3 Tbs Hoisin sauce
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp Chinese five spice powder

Mix all ingredients for pancakes in a food processor or blender, then tip into a jug. Make about 12 thin pancakes using just under a quarter of a cup for each. Use a non-stick pan and tip the pan to spread the mixture evenly. Lightly oil the pan before you start but you won’t need to use oil or butter for each pancake, because there’s oil in the pancake mixture. As you make them, stack the pancakes one on top of the other – they won’t stick to each other.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200°C. Mix the sauce. Season the pork and place in a roasting pan. Spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce onto the pork, then brush over to coat thoroughly. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Turn the pork and baste halfway through cooking time. Slice pork thinly, then cut into strips. Place in a bowl and mix in most of the remaining sauce. Keep some for garnishing.

Lay pancakes out on a work surface.  Divide the shredded vegetables and pork between the pancakes, in a line along the middle, then roll up tightly. Cut each pancake in two, on the diagonal and arrange on a serving plate. Drizzle with remaining sauce then sprinkle with a few black sesame seeds. If serving as finger food, instead of drizzling with the remaining sauce, serve it in a bowl for dipping.

Serves 6

Variations: use shredded zucchini or red pepper (capsicum) instead of cucumber or carrot.

Apple Charlotte

Thick stewed apples surrounded by crisp buttered toast, this is another dessert to add to my list of ones that everyone, including the grandkids, loves. When all hands go up for a second helping I know I’ve found a winner.

When I served it over Christmas it was described by family members as French Toast with Apples and Tarte Tatin with crunchy toast instead of pastry.

My version is loosely-based on one by Rick Stein which he makes in a pudding bowl. I decided to use a metal cake tin, because it makes it easier for the bread to crisp up. Increase the ingredients by 50% and use a bigger 10-12 inch tin to serve a bigger crowd.

30g butter
2-3 Tbs sugar (to taste)
1 kg apples, peeled and sliced (see note below)
Grated rind and juice from 1 lemon or 1 small orange
Optional: raisins, cinnamon, ground cloves etc
About 12 slices white bread, crusts removed
125g butter, melted (you may need more)
To serve:
Icing sugar
4 Tbs smooth apricot jam (push through a sieve if lumpy)
Thick cream or custard

Preheat oven to 180°C. While you are peeling the apples, put the 30g butter and sugar in a saucepan and cook, stirring, until starting to caramelise. Add the apples, lemon or orange rind and juice and cook until the liquid has evaporated and the apples have become thick and pulpy. Some apple varieties break up more easily than others. Check for sweetness and feel free to add a few raisins and a good pinch of cinnamon or cloves.

Melt the butter and use a pastry brush to butter an 8″ (20cm) metal cake pan. Cut the bread slices in halves to form two triangles, brush them with butter and use to line the bottom and sides of the cake tin, slightly overlapping each piece. Scrape apple filling into the tin and smooth the top. Bring the bread slices from the sides over the top and use more pieces to fill any gaps, so that the filling is completely encased. Brush more butter all over the top. Can be made ahead to this point and kept refrigerated.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light golden brown on top. Carefully tip out onto a shallow baking tray and brush with any leftover melted butter. Put back in the oven for 10 minutes or until evenly browned all over.

To serve, dust with icing sugar. Heat the apricot jam, then drizzle over the top. Serve with cream or custard.

Serves 8-10

Tip: after removing the bread crusts make them into crumbs by blitzing in the food processor. Freeze in a plastic bag and use in toppings for recipes such as Seafood Mornay

Note: Bramley cooking apples are traditionally used in the UK  because they aren’t too sweet and cook down to a pulp. They are hard to find in Australia, so basically use whatever apples you have on hand. Rick Stein uses half Bramleys and half eating apples.

Chocolate Fondant Puddings

This quick and easy recipe for individual chocolate fondant puddings – the ones with delicious molten chocolate centres that were all the rage in restaurants some years back – is adapted from one by Australia’s best-selling cookbook author, Donna Hay.

I used individual silicone moulds, but any small containers, such as metal dariole moulds, ramekins or coffee cups, will do. To make them gluten-free leave out the flour and increase the almond meal by a quarter of a cup. Make your own almond meal by blitzing almonds, with or without skin, it doesn’t matter, in a food processor until finely ground. I made the full recipe of six puddings, but only cooked two and froze the rest uncooked and covered. They take a few minutes longer to cook from frozen.

¾ cup almond meal
¼ cup plain flour
¼ cup icing sugar
2 egg whites
100g butter, melted
160g dark chocolate, melted
12 squares dark chocolate, extra
To serve:
Thick pouring cream
Cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 170°C and grease six individual moulds with oil or butter. Place almond meal, flour, sugar, egg whites, melted butter and chocolate in a bowl and mix well with a balloon whisk. Spoon half the mixture into the six moulds, press two squares of chocolate into the middle of each, then cover with remaining mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes until set on top. Test by pushing with your finger. Stand for 3-4 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife, tip out and serve with cream and a dusting of cocoa powder through a sieve.

Serves 6

Substitutions: if you don’t have almonds use walnuts.

Salmon, Preserved Lemon & Cucumber on Cauliflower Cream

This dish was inspired by a starter we were served at a black tie dinner at the Commonwealth Club in Canberra. It was created by Executive Chef, Mr Karl Krautler.

Karl used salmon confit while I used home-made salmon gravlax. I added some pickled radish slices and a few pink peppercorns and made larger servings to serve as a light main course. This quantity is enough for two light mains or four starters.

There’s a recipe on this blog for Gravlax which you can use in this dish – slice thickly then cut into small cubes. Or use what I call my quick Gravlax. Just buy between two and four salmon portions (preferably without skin) and put them in a plastic container with a tablespoonful each of sugar and salt and maybe a small slug of gin or vodka (optional). Refrigerate for 2-3 days, turning once or twice, then pat dry, wrap with clingfilm and use within a day or so or freeze. Very useful for all sorts of dishes, including canapés.

1 small cauliflower or ½ large
2-3 Tbs cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250-300g cubed salmon Gravlax (see above for link)
1 Lebanese cucumber, half the peel removed (if preferred remove it all)
¼ preserved lemon
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-4 tsp lemon or lime juice, to taste
Sliced pickled radishes (see note below)
2-3 tsp pink peppercorns
A few micro-herbs or tiny rocket leaves
Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Break cauliflower into florets, place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender then drain and blend in food processor with the cream and seasoning.

When cool spread some cauliflower cream on two serving plates (or four if doing starters). Discard pulp from the preserved lemon, then finely dice the skin. Mix with the salmon, oil and lemon juice. Arrange the salmon evenly over the cauliflower cream, then decorate with the cucumber (seeds removed, cut into chunks), radish slices (whole or halved), pink peppercorns and micro-herbs. Drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Serves 2-4

Pickled radishes: thinly slice 1 or 2 bunches of radishes (discarding the ends) and place in an empty jar. Heat ½ cup each sugar, water and vinegar in a saucepan with a tsp mustard seeds. Pour over the radish slices. Keep in the fridge. Give them a few days to mature before use.

Crispy oven-baked Cauliflower Bites

Serve these delicious, crunchy cauliflower bites as an aperitif or light meal. The ones in the photo are larger florets which we had as a light meal. I served smaller ones with Christmas drinks and they were a great success. All the preparation can be done several hours ahead.

1 small to medium cauliflower or half a large one
Batter:
2 Tbs Besan (chickpea) flour
1 Tbs cornflour (corn starch)
1 tsp each of turmeric, salt, oregano and paprika
2 eggs and a little water
Coating:
3 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbs sesame seeds
Dipping Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
¼ cup sour cream or plain yoghurt
1 Tbs tomato sauce
A little chilli sauce such as Tabasco or Sriracha, to taste (optional)
Paprika

Cut cauliflower into florets – one or two bites in size. Mix the batter all together in a bowl with a fork, adding enough cold water to make a coating consistency. Add the cauliflower florets and toss well until thoroughly coated. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper.

Mix the coating ingredients in a shallow bowl. Remove cauliflower, one or two pieces at a time and toss in the crumbs, patting them on. Arrange in a single layer on the baking tray. Can be prepared in advance to this stage.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until tender (test with a skewer or sharp knife), golden and crispy. Smaller florets will take less time. Mix sauce ingredients together, sprinkle with paprika and serve with the cauliflower.

Makes 36-40

Note: feel free to use different herbs and spices such as dried basil, cumin etc

Roast Pork with Black Pudding, Bacon and Rhubarb Sauce

This recipe from the BBC’s Good Food site makes an elegant dish for entertaining (just double the recipe) or dinner for two on a special occasion such as a birthday, anniversary or Valentines Day. It’s very easy and most of the preparation can be done ahead of serving time.

1 fillet of pork, weighing about 350g
125g black pudding
6-8 rashers streaky bacon
2-3 tsp oil
Black pepper
2 tsp honey
6 stalks rhubarb
½ cup stock (chicken or veg)
2 Tbs cream, sour cream or crème fraîche

Cut the pork along the middle without cutting right through. Skin and finely chop the black pudding and stuff into the hole in the pork. Squeeze the fillet closed. Stretch out the bacon rashers with the back of a knife and use to wrap around the pork, with the ends underneath, or use toothpicks to hold it in place. Can be prepared ahead to this stage.

Preheat oven to 190°C. Place pork in a roasting pan, drizzle with the oil and season with pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile wash and trim the rhubarb, cut into 3cm lengths and mix with the honey. Add to the roasting pan after 30mins, then cook for a further 10-12 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and bacon is browned. Remove pork and rhubarb from the roasting pan and keep warm. Place roasting pan on the hotplate, add the stock and cream and cook, stirring, until thickened to the consistency of a coating sauce. Check for seasoning.

Slice pork thickly and serve with the rhubarb and the sauce.

Serves 3

Curry Dip

I’ve been making this dip since I was at school, which is quite some time ago. Served  with a colourful array of raw vegetables it makes a healthy accompaniment to drinks. Make it the day before serving, for the flavours to develop.

250g cream cheese
1 cup thick Greek-style yoghurt
4 Tbs mayonnaise (preferably home-made)
4 tsp curry paste or powder
1 Tbs grated onion
¼ cup raisins or sultanas, chopped finely
1 tsp sugar
Paprika to garnish

Have the cream cheese at room temperature. Mix with remaining ingredients and refrigerate, covered, overnight, for the flavours to develop. Sprinkle with paprika and serve with raw vegetables or crackers.