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

 

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

Hot Chocolate Puddings

These hot chocolate puddings can be made and cooked in just under half an hour, making them perfect for a last minute gathering or a family treat. You can also make them up to a few hours ahead and leave them in the fridge until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. There’s no flour, making them gluten free.

125g butter
150g dark chocolate, broken into squares
3 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
To serve:
Cream or vanilla ice cream

If you are going to cook the puddings straight away, preheat oven to 190°C. Place butter and chocolate in a small bowl, cover and zap in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until melted. With electric beaters, beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Thoroughly wash the beaters, then whip the egg whites and salt until they hold soft peaks. Add the chocolate and butter mixture to the egg yolk mixture using the beaters, then gently fold in the egg whites using a spatula. Divide between six ramekins or coffee cups (no need to grease them). They should be about three quarters full.

Bake the puddings for 10-15 minutes or put them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them. When ready they should be well risen and firm to the touch, but still soft inside. If they have been in the fridge for a few hours they will take 2-3 minutes longer than if they haven’t.

Serve immediately with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6

 

Kaiserschmarm

This torn apple pancake is an Austrian speciality. The name translates as “Emperor’s mess”  after the Emperor Franz Josef, who apparently liked it so much he ate his wife’s serving too.

I first tried this on a skiing holiday in Kitzbuhel in Austria, many moons ago. I couldn’t remember the name, so it’s taken me until now to find a recipe. My first attempt was out of balance, with too much pancake and not enough apple for my taste, so I’ve adjusted the proportions. After a bit more research I found some recipes include raisins soaked in rum and so I’ve added them to the recipe as an optional extra.

75g butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
3 large eggs, separated into two large bowls
2 Tbs sugar (to taste)
1 cup plain flour
Pinch salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 Tbs raisins soaked for an hour in 3 Tbs Rum (optional)
Icing sugar to serve

Heat 25g butter in a medium to large non-stick frying pan (25-30cm) and cook the apples, stirring, until softening and starting to colour. Add the soaked raisins, if using, then tip out into a bowl and wipe out the pan. With electric beaters, whip egg whites until soft peaks form, then add the sugar and continue to whip until you have a thick, glossy meringue.

Using the electric beaters, gradually add the sifted flour, salt, milk and vanilla to the bowl containing the egg yolks. The beaters need to be clean for the egg whites, but  there’s no need to wash them before you do the egg yolk mixture. Using a spatula, gradually fold the meringue into the egg yolk mixture.

Heat 25g butter in the frying pan. Tip in the pancake mixture and cook for 3 minutes, or until the base is golden, then turn over and cook the other side. It’s not easy to turn a large pancake, so an easy solution is to cut it into four while it’s in the pan and turn each quarter separately. Don’t worry if it breaks a bit.

When golden on both sides, tip pancake onto a plate and using two forks tear it into bite-size pieces. Wipe out the pan and put it back on the heat with the remaining 25g butter. Add the pancake pieces. Cook, stirring, until golden, then add the apples and raisins and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Divide between 4 serving plates and dust with sifted icing sugar.

Serves 4

 

Lemon Curd & Almond Bread & Butter Pudding

When I was growing up in England bread and butter pudding was a popular dessert. My mother made it regularly, using stale bread, butter, dried fruit, sugar, milk and eggs. Nothing fancy, but always one of my favourites. Using up stale bread, rather than giving it to the birds or throwing it away, was something you did automatically if you had lived through the Second World War.

This version is slightly more complicated with the addition of cream, nuts and lemons. Home made lemon curd provides an added zing, but if you don’t have time buy a jar from the supermarket. If you do find time to make a couple of jars it will keep in the fridge, unopened, for a couple of months and is a useful addition to a number of easy desserts such as Blueberry Parfaits.

1 loaf brioche bread
About 1 cup lemon curd
2 cups cream
½ cup milk
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
4 eggs
4 heaped Tbs sugar
Flaked almonds
Almond Butter:
150g blanched almonds (whole or slivers)
60g butter at room temp
1 heaped Tbs sugar
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
To serve:
Fresh cream or crème fraiche
Icing sugar

Make or buy the lemon curd. Make the almond butter: place almonds in food processor and process till fine, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Slice brioche into 1 to 1.5cm slices. Use a cookie cutter to cut rounds as big as you can from each slice. Butter a deep 8-10cm pudding tin or dish. Place all the cut offs from the brioche in the bottom then spoon about half the lemon curd over the brioche. Spread one side of each brioche slice with some almond butter and arrange over the surface, nut butter side down and slightly overlapping, if you have enough slices to do so.

Place cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. In a bowl whisk eggs, sugar, lemon juice and rind – just enough to combine, using a hand whisk. Pour in the hot cream and whisk to combine. Pour this mixture evenly over the brioche. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and set aside for an hour or more. Dessert can be made several hours ahead or even the day before and kept refrigerated and covered. A shower cap makes a great cover!

Preheat oven to 170°C. Bake dessert for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden. If it starts to get too brown, cover loosely with a piece of foil and/or turn the oven down a bit.

When cooked, spoon remaining lemon curd over the top, dust with a little sifted icing sugar and serve with cream.

Serves 8

 

Lemon Delicious Pudding

This popular Australian and New Zealand dessert was in the repertoire of all grannies and mothers in law when I got married and moved to Canberra from the UK in the 1970s. As it bakes, the pudding separates, leaving a light sponge on top and a delicious lemon sauce underneath. Many Canberrans have a lemon tree in their garden making this an ideal winter dessert.

4 eggs
50g butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1 cup milk
2/3 cup lemon juice
To serve:
Icing sugar
Thick pouring cream

Preheat oven to 180°C. Separate eggs and place yolks in the food processor with ¾ cup of the sugar and the remaining ingredients. Mix until combined, stopping halfway to scrape down the sides. Place the whites in a bowl and whip with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Add remaining ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until you have a shiny meringue.

Scrape the mixture from the food processor into the meringue and fold it all together, gently but thoroughly, with a spatula. Tip mixture into a buttered pie dish or individual ramekins, place in a roasting pan or large dish and add boiling water to come halfway up the pudding dish. Bake for 35 minutes, or until just set and golden. Individual puddings will take less time than one big dish. Don’t overcook or the lemon sauce will be absorbed into the topping and disappear.

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm with cream.

Serves 6

Quick Individual Christmas Puds

Everyone is busy at this time of year. Despite best intentions it’s easy to run out of time to make puddings, cakes, mince pies and all the other traditional Christmas fare.

Adapted from a recipe published some years back in Delicious magazine, these individual Christmas puds, which were called Cheat’s mini Christmas puddings in the magazine, are very quick to make. The original recipe makes four one cup puddings, but I think half that amount is enough. I served them at a ladies Christmas lunch and we concluded that they were so small we could pretend they didn’t have any calories at all!

Puddings:
600g shop bought Christmas cake or dark fruit cake, crumbled (I used Aldi’s)
½ cup milk
4 eggs
⅓ cup mincemeat (fruit mince)
¼ cup sherry
Glace cherries to decorate
Custard:
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 tsp vanilla essence
4 egg yolks
1 Tbs cornflour
¼ cup caster sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease 8 half cup (125ml) dariole moulds or ramekins. Chinese tea cups (see photo below) are ideal. Place cake, milk, eggs, sherry and fruit mince in food processor and pulse a few times just to combine – you want it to remain chunky. Divide among the moulds and place in a large baking dish. They should be almost full to the top. Pour boiling water to come halfway up sides of moulds. Cover baking dish with foil. Bake 45 mins or until firm and slightly risen.

Individual serving dishes for Quick Individual Christmas Puds

Meanwhile make custard. Heat milk, cream, sugar and vanilla to boiling point, but do not allow to boil. Mix egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl. Tip some of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture and stir to combine, then tip back into saucepan. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula, until thickened. Do not allow to boil. Pour custard through a sieve to remove any tiny bits of cooked egg white.

When puddings are cooked remove moulds from dish, rest 10 mins, then tip onto individual serving dishes. Serve with custard (warm or cold) and decorate with glace cherries.

Serves 8

Christmas Cake and Pudding

Christmas cakes and puddings are best made in November or even earlier, so they have time to mature. I make them on the same day, so I can weigh out the fruit and nuts into two big bowls, one for each recipe, which saves time.

Don’t worry if you don’t get around to it until a few days before Christmas. Anything home-made always tastes so much better than the bought variety. And Christmas cakes and puddings make wonderful gifts, especially for elderly people living on their own.

I’ve been making these old family recipes since I was at school.  The original versions came from my paternal grandmother, but they’ve evolved over the years with slight modifications. I now use melted butter instead of the traditional suet in the pudding mixture, but you can use suet if you prefer.  Covering the cake with marzipan and then white royal icing to look like snow was all part of the tradition.  Most of my family don’t like marzipan and we’re all trying to cut down on sugar, so nowadays I cover the top with nuts instead.

I’ve also started using the “all in one” method for the cake which uses melted butter. When we made Christmas cakes at school creaming the butter and sugar by hand, with a wooden spoon, seemed to take forever. The teacher whose name was Mrs Wood came round to inspect and decide whether or not it was time to start adding the eggs. No electric mixers back then, so by the time you got the tick of approval you felt as if your arm was about to drop off. The “all in one” method is so much quicker and works well.

Feel free to substitute – dried apricots instead of the cherries or mixed peel, walnuts or pecans instead of the almonds, whisky instead of the rum or brandy. Making little changes will allow you to make the recipe your own, to hand down to your grandchildren.

 

Christmas Cake

Christmas Cake250g butter, melted
250g brown sugar
6 large eggs, beaten with a fork
300g plain flour
2 Tbs black treacle
450g currants
300g sultanas
175g raisins
125g glacé cherries
125g slivered almonds
125g mixed peel (optional)
1 orange (zest and juice)
4 Tbs Brandy or dark Rum
2 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
75g ground almonds
To decorate the top:
200g whole almonds (blanched) or hazelnuts, shelled, roasted and
skins rubbed off, or macadamias

Soak fruit and nuts in brandy or rum overnight, or if you’re in a hurry, for at least an hour. Line a 25cm round or square cake tin with a double layer of baking paper. Place the tin on a baking sheet on which you have placed 4 thicknesses of newspaper. Wrap a band of newspaper of the same thickness around the outside of the tin, using a stapler to join the ends. Preheat oven to 150°C. If you have the option to use your oven in conventional mode, without the fan, the results will be better. If you have to use the fan the cake will cook more quickly than without.

Place all the ingredients in a very large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with a large spoon or with your hands, wearing disposable gloves if preferred. When thoroughly mixed, spoon into tin and smooth the top. Cover the surface evenly with whole blanched almonds, hazelnuts or macadamias, pressing them in a bit with your hand. Bake for 3 to 3½ hours on the middle shelf of the oven. Test with a toothpick after 3 hours.  If the top gets too brown before the middle is ready, place some foil loosely over the top of the cake to stop the nuts from burning.  When it’s ready the top of the cake will have an even colour, feel firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle will come out clean.

Cool thoroughly then store in an airtight tin in a cool, dark place. If liked, halfway through storage time pierce all over the top with a skewer and drizzle with a little extra brandy or rum which will soak in.

Keeps for several months in a tin. If you live in a warm humid climate keep it in the fridge.

To serve, tie a wide red ribbon around the outside of the cake and decorate the top with some holly leaves and berries – real or plastic!

Christmas Pudding

Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter125g currants
200g dried figs (remove stalks)
200g sultanas
200g raisins
60g mixed peel (optional)
60g almonds, blanched or unblanched (or substitute other nuts)
60g glacé cherries
2 apples, unpeeled and cored
125g plain flour
1 tsp salt
½ tsp each ground cinnamon, nutmeg & cloves
200g brown sugar
400g brown breadcrumbs
4 eggs
1 orange
4 Tbs Brandy or dark Rum
2 Tbs black treacle
250g melted butter or grated suet
¾ cup beer
1 tsp bicarb of soda

Weigh out all the fruit and nuts into a large bowl. Make the breadcrumbs in the food processor. Use the food processor to grate or finely chop the apples. Cut orange into four, remove any seeds then process till finely chopped and pulpy. Chop figs, almonds and apricots (if using) in the food processor.

Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Place mixture in two buttered pudding bowls or one larger bowl. Mixture should come about level with the top of the bowls – as it cooks it will rise slightly but not much. Cover with buttered baking paper, butter side down and tie with string. Steam for about 5 hours, or until puddings are evenly dark brown all over the top. I use a very large saucepan, place a metal trivet in the bottom to lift the pudding off the bottom, then place one pudding, then an upturned plate on top of that, then the second pudding, then the lid. If you don’t have a pan large enough to do this (needs to be high enough to put the lid on) you will have to use two pans, or make half the recipe and just one pudding. You need to have enough water in the pan to come about a quarter to half  the way up the bottom pudding and keep it simmering. Be careful to keep topping up the water, so it doesn’t boil dry. (I speak from experience!)

When cold store in a cool, dark cupboard or in warmer climates, in the fridge. To serve, steam again for 2-3 hours. Tip the pudding out onto a serving dish. Heat some brandy then set it alight and pour over and bring to the table while still burning.   (Not easy, it usually goes out!)  Serve the pudding with cream or brandy butter.

Makes one 2kg or two 1kg puddings.

Brandy Butter

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
2-3 Tbs Brandy
Grated nutmeg

In a small bowl with a wooden spoon, beat butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in vanilla and brandy. Pile into a small dish and sprinkle with grated nutmeg. Chill well and serve with Christmas pudding or Sago Plum Pudding.

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding made a regular appearance on the dessert menu when I was growing up in England. My mother served it with jam or baked until it formed a golden brown skin on top. Either way it was delicious. Sadly most of the desserts I grew up with have gone out of fashion. Indeed there are probably a lot of readers who have never tried a home-made rice pudding, let alone made one.

A few years at boarding school in the UK put Matthew off all the traditional British milky desserts – rice pudding, tapioca, semolina pudding and custard. He was scarred for life and won’t touch them with a barge pole.

The weather was cold and miserable last week and I was feeling the need for some comfort food. So I made rice pudding and as Matthew doesn’t like it I ate the lot – for breakfast, for dessert or as a snack.

Rice pudding is such a flexible dish. Make it on the stove top, in the oven, in the microwave or in a rice cooker. Serve it hot or cold with jam, stewed fruit such as rhubarb or apples, or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango. Sweeten it with sugar, honey or maple syrup. If using sugar then add it when you cook the rice. If using honey or maple syrup, drizzle it on top when serving.

I usually zap a bowl full in the microwave and eat it with a drizzle of cold cream on top. Heaven, if you like that sort of thing.

Rice Pudding

1 cup short grain or medium grain rice
25g unsalted butter (optional, but it does make it richer)
4 cups (1 litre) milk
1/3 cup brown or white sugar (I use slightly less)
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (or 1 tsp vanilla essence)
½ cup cream or canned evaporated milk
To serve:
Jam such as raspberry, strawberry or rhubarb (preferably home-made)
Or stewed fruit such as apples, peaches, rhubarb
Or fresh fruit such as banana, blueberries or mango

Place all ingredients except the cream in a saucepan, Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 20-25 mins or until rice is al dente. Stir in the cream or evaporated milk and serve immediately while it’s hot, or chill and serve later, hot or cold. If preferred you can drizzle the cream or evaporated milk on top at serving time.

I prefer it hot, but it’s easy to zap a serving in the microwave.  Serve with jam, fruit compote or fresh fruit.

Serves 4

Rice Pudding made in a Rice Cooker
Place all ingredients except the cream or evaporated milk in a rice cooker and cook for one cycle, leaving it on the “keep warm” setting for 15 mins or so after it’s cooked. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Depending on the size of your rice cooker you may need to reduce the quantities so it doesn’t boil over. Mine is quite small so I have to reduce the rice to ¾ cup and the milk to 3 cups. Also I need to stir it a couple of times while it’s cooking, so it doesn’t stick.

Rice Pudding made in the Microwave
A really good way to use up leftover plain cooked rice. While rice puddings are usually made with short or medium grain rice, because they are stickier, any kind will do. Place cooked rice in a large bowl, so it won’t boil over. Add enough milk to not quite cover the rice and sugar to taste. Cover then microwave on High for 2-3 mins. Add cream or evaporated milk and serve. Or you can microwave it in individual servings.

Rice Pudding made in the Oven
Make rice pudding either in a saucepan (according to the basic recipe) or in a rice cooker or microwave. If made in the microwave you will need to use about 4 cups of leftover rice. Butter a shallow 6 cup baking dish, add the rice pudding and spread it out. If it seems a bit thick add a little milk and stir through. Dot with a little butter (about 30g cut into small pieces) and sprinkle with a little brown or white sugar. If liked a sprinkling of coconut flakes is nice. Bake in a hot oven for 25-30 mins or until browned on top and serve with a drizzle of cream.

Plum Puddings with Vanilla Ice Cream

Cooking classes were part of the weekly schedule at the all girls Grammar school I attended in the UK. In the first lesson, when I was 11, we made cheese on toast which we polished off immediately and in the second we made cauliflower cheese. After that they all blur into one. Each week I headed off on the school bus with the ingredients packed into my school bag and returned home with what was often destined to be the family’s evening meal, sitting precariously on my knees.

When I left school 7 years later I had covered all the basics – pastries, breads, sauces and cakes, roasting, steaming, braising and more. We also learnt about nutrition, planning meals for people on special diets such as the elderly or diabetics, writing shopping lists and sticking to a very tight work schedule. Finishing on time with the table set, the food ready to serve and all the washing up done was a requirement when we had practical examinations. I often wonder what happened to my somewhat unpredictable classmate Janet Richardson. She could produce a great meal or a clean kitchen, but not both. Her work station looked as if a bomb had hit it when we were told that time was up.

I now realise how lucky we were to have this training. A surprising number of kids leave home these days with few cooking skills. This means they spend a fortune eating out or survive on takeaways. Small wonder that obesity is on the increase. When a friend of one of our offspring got married he and his new wife wandered around a supermarket for half an hour studying the shelves and came out with a jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, a packet of spaghetti and a jar of Paul Newman’s spaghetti sauce. Neither of them felt confident to buy anything else which needed cooking.

When I see blood plums in the shops I get the urge to make a recipe by Stephanie Alexander which she calls Mieze’s Plum Cake. It makes quite a big cake, so here I’ve fiddled around with the quantities to end up with about half the original recipe (but not exactly) and used it to make 8 individual puddings.

At school we were taught that once self-raising flour has come into contact with liquids the dish needs to go into the oven immediately, because the baking powder starts to work. However, I left these little plum puddings on the side, ready to bake, for an hour or two before they went in the oven and they were perfect. I didn’t want to be mixing cakes once our guests had arrived.

Plum Puddings with Vanilla Ice Cream

Cake:
4 large blood plums (dark red or purple inside)
125g butter at room temp
½ cup sugar
1 cup walnut or pecan halves
2 eggs
1 cup self-raising flour, sieved
2 Tbs milk
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
Topping:
1 egg
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
To serve:
Icing sugar
Vanilla ice cream

Butter 8 individual pudding dishes and arrange on a baking tray. Or you can use large non-stick muffin tins, buttered well. Pre-heat oven to 180°C. For cake place butter and sugar in food processor and mix until light and fluffy. Add the nuts and eggs and process until the nuts are coarsely chopped, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add flour, milk and vanilla and process just enough to combine, stopping again to scrape down the sides. Divide mixture evenly between the dishes or muffin tins.

Cut plums in half and remove stones. Place one plum half in each cake, cut side up. Press down on the plum so the cake comes up level with it. Place topping ingredients in food processor (no need to wash it out) whiz till smooth, then divide among the cakes and spread over. Bake cakes for 25 mins or until well risen and golden. If you have made them in muffin tins, cool for a minute or two then carefully remove from the tins but if they are in dishes serve them as they are. Dust with icing sugar and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8