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.

Rhubarb Pie

We grow masses of rhubarb and I always like to cook what we grow, before going to buy ingredients.

With several grandkids staying at our farm with their parents for a few days during school holidays I needed to serve desserts with general all-round appeal. This rhubarb pie ticks all the boxes and, once second helpings had been fought over, there were no leftovers.

2 or 3 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry
About 5 cups rhubarb (600g or so) cut into 2cm (½ inch) slices
1 cup plain flour
½ cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs butter
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbs water
Extra sugar
To serve:
Cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 9-10 inch (20-22cm) pie plate or tin and line with pastry. You will probably need more than one sheet, but just press the pieces together where they join. Use mostly the red part of each rhubarb stick – you need enough to fill the pie shell and mound up a bit. Mix rhubarb with flour, sugar and cinnamon, then tip into pie shell and spread evenly. Dot with small pieces of butter.

Cut 2cm strips of pastry and use to cover the pie with a lattice, pinching to seal them to the sides. Brush all over with the beaten egg and water, then sprinkle with some extra sugar. Bake for 45 minutes, or until nicely browned and you can see the rhubarb in the middle of the pie is bubbling. Serve warm with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8-10

 

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.

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.

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 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

Pumpkin and Leek Frittata

Frittata is a quiche without the pastry. Delicious straight out of the oven and leftovers make a tasty lunch the following day.

1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2-3 leeks depending on size, white part only, sliced
6-8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 eggs
1½ cups cream
½ cup grated parmesan
1 cup ricotta or cream cheese (optional)
Chopped parsley to garnish

Preheat oven to 220°C. Place pumpkin, leeks, garlic, thyme, oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Spread out on a shallow baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 25-30 mins or until cooked and starting to brown. Meanwhile whisk eggs, cream and parmesan in a bowl and season.

Tip vegetable mixture into a non-stick frying pan with an oven-proof handle. Choose one measuring about 28cm in diameter. Pour the egg and cream mixture evenly over the vegetables, then if using put blobs of ricotta or cream cheese all over.

Bake for 25 minutes or until puffed and golden. Garnish with parsley.

Serves 4-6

Chargrilled Zucchini with Avocado Hummus

I recently spent a few days in hospital. As I ate the unimaginative, tasteless hospital food I watched the SBS food channel and made notes. This is one of the delicious recipes I wrote down which we had for lunch today. Why can’t hospitals do better?

6 zucchini (about 1kg) halved lengthwise
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
3 Tbs dukkah
Lemon wedges, chopped parsley and olive oil, to serve
Avocado Hummus:
2 ripe avocados
½ cup tahini
1 clove garlic, crushed
Finely grated zest and juice 1 lemon
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Hummus, place all ingredients in food processor and process until smooth and creamy, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Heat a large chargrill until hot and cook the zucchini halves, without oil, for 3 minutes each side, or until charred and cooked through.

While zucchini is cooking mix garlic, lemon zest and juice, oil and seasoning in a large bowl. Add the cooked zucchini halves and toss gently. Pile onto a serving platter and scatter with the parsley. Finish with dollops of avocado hummus, a sprinkling of dukkah, a drizzle of olive oil and the lemon wedges. If liked make half the recipe which serves 2.

Serves 4