Wednesday, January 30, 2013

WWDH - Spinach and cheddar souffle

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe, Spinach and Cheddar Souffle, was chosen by Margaret.  It comes from p8o of Modern Classics I.

As expected, this souffle contains spinach, cheddar, eggs, milk, flour, butter, salt and pepper.  I substituted the butter for margarine to try and be slightly more healthy, and I used frozen spinach.  I didn't have any breadcrumbs to line the ramekins in which I baked the souffles, so I used semolina instead.

The end result was nice enough, but I didn't find it very filling - it is not really a complete meal in itself.  I probably won't make this again.

To see what Margaret, Kayte and Chaya thought of this souffle, visit their websites on Wednesday US time.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Daring Bakers - January 2013 - Gevulde Speculaas

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!

I have never heard of Gevulde Speculaas (stuffed speculaas) before, and I know for a fact that I have never tasted it, so I was curious as to how this adventure would turn out.  Gevulde Speculaas is a traditional Dutch pastry, as Francijn, our host this month, is Dutch.

The speculaas spice mix is quite extensive, as follows:

cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
mace ½ or 1 part
ginger ½ or 1 part

white pepper ½ or 1 part
cardamom ½ or 1 part
coriander ½ or 1 part
anise ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts

I used some of everything, but substituted black pepper for white pepper.  If the mix sounds a little confusing, Francijn helpfully explains how to mix it as follows:

Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.

Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.

Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.

You have no idea how heavenly these spices smell together - you really should try making the spice mix for the aroma alone.

My first test was to find mace - I had all the other spices already.  I could not track it down in any of the Melbourne supermarkets that I tried, and in the end by a stroke of luck, I remembered the Middle Eastern grocers near my work, which carry a wide variety of spcies.  There I finally tracked down the mace.

The dough and almond paste came together pretty easily (except for the slight spillage of my precious spice mix), and I refrigerated them for a couple of days to develop the flavours, as suggested by Francijn.  I did need to use about a quarter of a cup of milk for my dough to come together.

My next challenge was in assembling the speculaas.  It is summer here hence rather warm inside, and dough and warm weather are not good friends.  The dough wanted to stick to the paper I rolled it on, even when I refrigerated it after rolling, and the almond paste violently resisted being incorporated into the speculaas - in the end, I abandoned rolling it out and smooshed it over the top of the base dough layer.

Despite the less than smooth assembly process, I was pretty happy with the end result:

And another view which shows the almond paste filling better:

My Gevulde Speculaas smelled heavenly in the oven and tasted devine - I was a very happy girl.  The speculaas smelled just like Christmas, and I believe that this speculaas would make a wonderful addition to the Christmas cookie exchange.

Thanks to our host, Francijn, for introducing this Dutch specialty to us.   To see what the other Daring Bakers thought, visit the slideshow on the Daring Kitchen website once it has been loaded.

I have now been a Daring Baker for five years - scary!  My first challenge was Lemon Meringue Pie - you can find my post here.  I seemed to be very excited about it - perhaps it is time to make that pie again.  Much has changed in my life since then, not all for the better, but it's amazing how resilient we are.  What were you doing five years ago? 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Arnotts Iced Vo Vo Tart for Australia Day

Today is Australia Day, and accordingly, I want to celebrate it in style.  And what better way to do so than to pay homage to an Australian icon, Arnotts Iced Vo Vo Biscuits.  If you have never come across the Iced Vo Vo before,  you can read about it on the Arnotts website.  Australia's former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, mentioned the Iced Vo Vo in his 2007 election victory speech, further cementing the Iced Vo Vo's place in Australian culture.

My tribute to the Iced Vo Vo comes courtesy of this month's Australian Good Taste magazine, which sports a rather eye-catching Arnotts Iced Vo Vo Tart on the cover.  I bought the magazine on the strength of that cover, and made the Arnotts Iced Vo Vo Tart - a celebration of the Iced Vo Vo comprising a crushed biscuit base (including crushed Iced Vo Vos), topped with marshmallow and raspberry jelly, and decorated with whipped cream and coconut: 

The recipe is available online here.

I undoubtedly had fun making the Arnotts Iced Vo Vo tart, and it looks stunning, but taste-wise, it wasn't my bag.  The whole thing was a tad too sweet for me, and I am not a fan of whipped cream.  However, others gave it a warmer reception than me, so you just need to consider - would I like to eat biscuit, marshmallow, jelly and cream or not? (Note that this tart tastes nothing like an Iced Vo Vo biscuit, which is comprised of biscuit, jam, icing and coconut, and is pretty tasty for a store-bought biscuit.) 

Regardless, it does look so pretty:

To my fellow Australians, Happy Australia Day!

Friday, January 25, 2013

FFwD - Shrimp and Cellophane Noodles

This week's French Fridays with Dorie selection is Shrimp and Cellophane Noodles - in Australia, that translates to prawns and cellophane noodles.  Basically, this dish comprises prawns, onions, garlic and mushrooms in a tomato sauce served on glass noodles.  It appears to be an amalgam of Asian and Italian rather than French, but what do I know.

My mushrooms were Shitake mushrooms, as that it the only form of dried mushroom that my supermarket carries.  I also threw in a few sliced button mushrooms because I had them in the house and wanted to use them up.

I bought Australian banana prawns (instead of imports), and had the usual joy that one experiences when peeling and deveining prawns.  I will never get to used to the goo in the prawn's head, and I cannot forget, now that I know, that the "vein" is actually the prawn's poo shoot - ahem.

Thankfully, I had just the right amount of tomato passata left in the fridge from another project, so I didn't have to buy any especially for this dish.

Peeling and deveining aside, Shrimp and Cellophane Noodles was quite a tasty dish.  I kicked mine up a notch with some mango and coconut chutney from Kitchen By Mike.  As an unrelated side dish, I boiled up some green beans.

I would make this again - it is rather a nice way to serve prawns if you happen to have some around.  To see what the other Dorie cooks thought, visit the LYL section of the website.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

BWJ - French Apple Tart

This week's Baking with Julia assignment is French Apple Tart from pp379-381, a recipe by Leslie Mackie of Macrina Bakery.  I am honoured to be the host of this challenge, so this week, I have set out the recipe to make this tart below.

This tart looks very pretty, and it tastes fabulous while still just warm.  The pastry, which contains shortening, is crisp and light, allowing the apple filling to star.

However, if you would like to make this tart,  be warned - unless you want to go to bed in the wee small hours, you can't whip it up straight after work unless you have done some serious prep work first.  I made this on a Sunday, and from go to woe, it took all morning on and off.   The dough has to chill before it can be rolled out, then it has to chill again in the pan.  You have to peel, core and slice a lot of apples, and bake some of those apples for the filling.  I used a food processor to make the crust, and although you don't have to, it certainly saves some time.

This tart was definitely worth the effort, as the end product was absolutely delicious - the mashed apple filling was  almost custard-like in nature, it being so creamy, and the sliced apples on top give the tart its beauty and "wow" factor.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:

Flaky pie dough (p31)

(I have converted the original recipe into metric and quartered the amounts, as required for the tart.  I have also stated the recipe for a food processor only.)

154g pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
44g cold unsalted butter
75g solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1/4 cup ice water

Place the dry ingredients in the food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse just to mix. Take the top off, scatter the chilled cubed butter and shortening over the flour, cover, and pulse again, working only until the fats are cut in and the mixture resembles slightly moist cornmeal. Add a little of the liquid and pulse a few times, then add more liquid and pulse again. Continue until the mixture has curds and clumps and sticks together when pressed between your fingers. 

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or for as long as 5 days.

When the dough has chilled, roll the dough on a lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of baking paper, as I did) into a circle about 1/8 inch thick and fit it into a 9 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Let the crust chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

For assistance on making your tart shell look good, refer to the Baking with Julia video.

To blind bake the tart shell, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit/200 degrees Celsius/gas mark 6. Fit a piece of baking paper or foil into the tart shell and fill with pie weights, rice, or dried beans, and bake the tart for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer the crust to a rack to cool while you make the filling. (I removed the rice at 20 minutes and let it bake for another 5 minutes without the weights so that the inside of the tart shell could brown up; cf the recipe which states that the weights should stay in even while the tart is cooling.) 

Reduce your oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius/gas mark 5.


6 Granny smith apples
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 teaspoons (approximately) fresh lemon juice

Peel and core the apples, obtaining 10-12 slices from each apple. ( I cheated and used my corer-slicer tool, which gives 8 slices per apple.)  Place the apples in a bowl and toss with the sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla, and bread crumbs. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Spread the apples on a jelly-roll pan and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the apples give up their juices, start to form a sauce, and are soft enough to mash.

Scrape the apples into a bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork. Taste and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it, then cool the filling for 15 minutes.

Spoon the filling into the tart shells, ensuring that the filling remains below the rim of the tart shell.


2-3 granny smith apples
1 tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Peel and thinly slice the apples. Toss the apples with the tablespoon of lemon juice to keep them from browning. Arrange the apples in a circular pattern starting from the outside, slightly overlapping the slices.

Work around the pie until the filling is completely covered. Brush the apple slices with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes or until the top is glazed and the apple slices are edged in black. (My oven was never going to darken the tart on top, so I just baked the tart until the nominated cooking time was over.)

Serve the tart dusted with powdered sugar (icing sugar) if desired (I didn't bother).

Leslie says that this tart is best served warm from the oven.  Most of my tart is currently chilling in the fridge, so the proof of the pudding will be revealed tomorrow. 
To see what the other Baking with Julia participants thought, visit the LYL section of the Baking with Julia website.

Friday, January 18, 2013

FFwD - Chicken liver gateau with pickled onions

French Fridays with Dorie this week ventures into the slightly scary - Chicken Liver Gateau with Pickled Onions.

This did not appeal to me at all, and the chicken livers were not that easy to find, making this a double challenge.

Despite my misgivings, I went ahead and made it (though there was no way I was going to make the tomato sauce to go with this - gross me out!).  One thing - it was quick and easy to make - just blitz everything together in a food processor and bake.  Here is an inside look:  

I ate it warm because Dorie made it sound appealing - like a custard.  On cooling, it is  more like pate.

I liked the onions, and the mouthfuls of gateau I ate with the onions were fine. Sans the onions, I found the gateau rather bland - kind of like a strange sausage sans spices, and definitely nothing like a custard.

I liked it much better cold, when it was indeed like a pate.  However, I am not a fan and won't be making it again.

To se what the other Dorie cooks thought, visit the LYL section of the website.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Condensed Milk Biscuits

Don't you feel all warm and fuzzy when you remember the treats that your mother used to make when you were a child?  I often think that those treats taste the best because of the memories that they evoke.

One of the treats that my mother used to make quite often for us when we were children was Condensed Milk Biscuits.  The recipe for these sunny little biscuits came from a cookbook compiled by the mothers group at my kindergarten.  It was produced on A5 paper, with recipes typed up on a typewriter.  The pages were printed on one side only, and bound together with staples.  Ah, those were the days!  My mother was rather miffed at the time because they didn't publish any of her recipes, but being a  good supporter, she bought a copy of the book, and hence a few treasures  came into her recipe repertoire, including the Condensed Milk Biscuits.

These biscuits are as simple as can be to make, but taste really good.  My Pilates instructor dubbed them "Bomb-Shelter Biscuits" because there are no eggs in the recipe - which I hadn't even thought about when I made them.

To make them, you will need:

225g butter or margarine
4 tablespoons condensed milk
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
(or add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder to the same quantity of plain flour if you don't have self raising flour)
1/2 cup custard powder

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Beat together the butter and condensed milk in a bowl.  Sift together the custard powder and flour in a separate bowl, then combine with the butter mixture until a soft dough forms. 

Roll teaspoons of the dough into  balls, then roll in white sugar.  Place balls about one inch apart on a lined baking sheet, then flatten slightly with a fork. 

Bake  the biscuits in the preheated oven for ~ 15 minutes or until cooked through.  Cool on the baking tray.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

WWDH - Artichoke and feta tarts with tomato salad

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay is hosted by Kayte, who chose Donna's artichoke and feta tarts with tomato salad.  You can find the recipe online here.

These tarts are very simple to make - if you can cut a sheet of frozen puff pastry into four squares, you can make these.  The tarts are topped with halved marinated artichoke hearts and feta, then baked and topped with a tomato and pea salad.

Unfortunately, the salad on top didn't appeal to me, so just to be different, I put the peas and tomatoes on top of the tarts before baking, and drizzled the lot with red balsamic  vinegar before baking.

These litte tarts were delicious - a very nice starter to any meal, or a light meal in itself if you are not hungry.

To see what Kayte, Maragaret and Chaya thought of these tarts, go visit their blogs.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Liquorice allsort slice

Do you ever have projects that you put off forever, and then when you finally get around to them, they disappoint you somehow?  This liquorice allsort slice was one of those projects for me.  I spied the recipe in The Country Show Cookbook, but cannot remember the number of packets of liquorice allsorts I purchased in anticpation of making this slice, then ate them without doing so.

Last night, I finally made the slice, but alas - all did not go to plan.  First, my liquorice allsorts were not all the coloured square kind - there were also bits of licorice twist and the licorice balls with hundreds and thousands attached.  No matter, I thought, I will use all of it.  Next, I realised that what I thought was a baked slice was in fact a refrigerator slice.  My next nasty surpise was that I needed a lot of crushed biscuits to make it, so I had to scrounge around my cupboard for what I had (in the end, a combination of shortbread and gingernuts).  My next discovery was that I was supposed to add copha (vegetable shortening) to the chocolate topping - I didn't have any of that either.  No matter, I thought, I will leave it out and use straight chocolate.  Finally, as I was making the recipe, I realised that an entire step had been left out of the recipe in the book - sure, I could guess what it was, but it would have been nice for it to be printed.

The end result reflected the shemozzle that the whole exercise had been - my slice didn't seem to set firmly, and I am not sure what it was.  Didn't I use enough biscuits?  Or were the butter shortbreads not quite right for a recipe that originally called for the very sturdy Marie biscuits?  I tasted a piece of the gooey confection, and immediately fell in love.  From that moment on, I knew I couldn't throw it out, but  I couldn't take it to work in its present condition.

My light bulb moment was this - I flipped the slice over, so that the sturdy chocolate topping formed the base, and the sticky base formed the top of the slice.  I then liberally sprinkled the slice with coconut so that although sticky, it could be picked up without getting covered in goo.  Problem solved!

I found a very similar recipe online here at, but I notice it uses about half the condensed milk.  Methinks that the recipe I used is flawed in the amount of condensed milk cited, as there is not enough dry ingredients to hold it together. 

If you are a liquorice lover, I say go ahead and make this slice, but use the recipe so that you don't have to do the same patch job that I did.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Lemon cream cake

Just before Christmas, I did a fridge audit and found a pot of cream and a lot of lemons that I didn't want to waste.  Cake being my favourite thing to make (although oddly, not my favourite thing to eat), I turned to my baking books for a lemon cake that would also use up the cream. 

In one way, my mission failed - I didn't find a cake containing lemons and cream.  However, I did find a lemon yoghurt cake in The Golden Book of Patisserie.  I have often read about people substituting yoghurt for cream - so why not substitute cream for yoghurt?  And a cake was born.

This cake was perfect for my needs, as it used up the entire pot of cream, and had a lovey subtle lemon flavour.  It didn't use as many lemons as I would have liked, but there are not many sweet treats that are going to do that.

This cake disappeared pretty quickly at work, even at a tme when everyone was saturated with Christmas goodies, so I think that is a good sign.

If you, like me, have some lemons and cream lying around, begging to be used, you can make this cake as follows:

2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g butter
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 eggs, separated
250ml cream (or yoghurt!)

icing sugar, lemon juice (my basic recipe)

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees Celsius.  Grease and line with baking paper a 9" round cake tin, and grease the baking paper.  

Sift the flour and baking powder together in a bowl.

Rub the lemon zest into the sugar with your finger tips in a stand mixer bowl.  (I added this step as Iknow it enhances the monon flavour.)  Add the butter and beat the butter and sugar together until pale, smooth and creamy.  Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.

In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites to the stiff peak stage.

Fold the egg whites into the cake batter with a rubber spatula, being careful not to knock the air out of them.  Scrape the batter into the greased, lined cake tin, and even off the top.  Place the cake into the oven to bake for 35-45 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove the cake from the oven and cool in the tin for  5 minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely.

Combine the icing sugar with enough lemon juice to make a spreadable icing, and spread over the top of the cooled cake with a metal spatula.  Decorate if desired.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Baked stuffed zucchini

On Friday night, I had friends over for dinner while their kitchen is being renovated.  On the menu was Jamie Oliver's Asian-flavoured version of cook-in-the-bag chicken, an old favourite of mine from his Happy Days tour (not the leek and mushroom one that is all over the web), followed by Long and Slow Apples from French Fridays with Dorie.

My friends grow vegetables, so I was the recipient of a very large zucchini.  You can't generally buy zucchini that big, so I thought I would try something new - stuffed zucchini.  A quick Google search later, and I came up with this recipe.  The only changes that I made were to substitute the lamb mince for beef mince, the rosemary for tarragon (I couldn't buy rosemary at the supermarket - how weird is that?), and the parmesan for Dutch smoked that I had in the fridge.

I really enjoyed the end result - it was a hearty meal that didn't take ages to prepare, and used up the entire zucchini.  I think I would add a touch of chilli next time to make the filling sing, but recommend this as a nice change.  My interest in stuffed vegetables is now piqued, and on the same night  that I made this, I saw Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make baked butternut squash which looked equally delicious - perhaps another dish to add to my repertoire.

Friday, January 11, 2013

FFwD - Long and Slow Apples

It's French Friday with Dorie, and this week the recipe is Long and Slow Apples.  I wish that my week had been long and slow, but instead it has been full on, and all rather a blur.

The name of Long and Slow Apples is rather apt for this dish, as it is long and slow, not only in cooking time, but in preparation - it took me an hour to peel, core and slice the apples, then arrange them in layers with butter and spiced sugar in 4 ramekins.  After two hours in the oven, with the apples lightly compressed under an empty ramekin, the apples cook down into this:

Certainly, the end result is tasty, comprising soft apple layers in almost caramelised sugar, but is it worth the time?  I'll leave that an open question.

I served my apples warm with raspberry swirl icecream rather than the ginger cream suggested in Around My French Table.  I have friends over for dinner tomorrow, and will be serving the apples again for dessert, but this time, they will be chilled.  It will be interesting to see how the chilled version contrasts in flavour and texture.

To see  what the other group members thought, visit the LYL section of the FFwD website in due course.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WWDH - Bacon and Roasted Tomato Omelette

Wednesdays with Donna Hay is back for 2013, and this week, I am kicking things off with Donna Hay's Bacon and Roasted Tomato Omelette.  The recipe is online here.

This is such an easy but terrific recipe - it has the key ingredients in a fry up, but is so much healthier because it is sans added fat.  The only fat comes comes from frying the bacon, over which the egg and chive omelette mixture is poured.  The cherry tomatoes are roasted in balsamic vinegar and sugar, giving them a lovely sticky sweetness.  I skipped the rocket.

I enjoyed this omelette as a light main meal, but it would also be perfect for breakfast or lunch, making it a truly versatile dish.

To see what Chaya, Margaret and Kayte thought of this recipe, visit their websites on Wednesday East Coast US time.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

BWJ- Pizza with Onion Confit

Welcome to Baking with Julia for 2013!  Our first recipe is Pizza with Onion Confit, hosted by Paul of The Boy Can Bake.

I was in two minds about making this one - I am not a huge fan of onions, and I remember that the onion pizza from FFwD was a little meh.  However, I  needn't have worried - these onions pack a flavour punch, as the onions are slow cooked with red wine, red wine vinegar, cassis and thyme.

What can I say?  This was really fabulous straight out of the oven.  The crust, baked on a pizza stone in a very hot oven, was crispy and light, and the topping of onion confit, and in my case, goat's cheese (coated in ash) and cherry tomatoes was just the ticket.

My only tip is - don't leave this til the last minute, as the dough has two risings over three hours, and the onions are supposed to take an hour to cook (I ran out of liquid twice so I stopped sooner).

To see what the other BWJ bakers thought of this recipe, visit the LYL section of the website.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Newmarket Hotel, St Kilda

No French Fridays this week, as I am on vacation.  Instead, I will share my experiences at the Newmarket Hotel, St Kilda.

The Newmarket Hotel is situated in a renovated warehouse, and although it is rather unassuming on the outside (so unassuming that you can easily miss it), on the inside, it has a funky 1970s feel, with leather chairs and plaid carpets and garlic hung from the ceiling in bunches.  The large, airy open space inside was buzzing, and we enjoyed drinks at the bar while we waited for a table.

The menu at the Newmarket Hotel surprised us, in a good way.  While the name of the establishment does not make you think "Latino street food", that is the best way of describing the menu, which is full of tacos, tortillas and spices. 

I went to the Newmarket with my friends Veronica and Christian at Saturday lunchtime, and we shared all of the dishes. 

Veronica ordered the blue corn quesadilla with braised zucchini blossoms & queso Oaxaca ($17):

This dish was the pick for me - it was unlike anything I have ever had before, and was smashingly good.

Christian ordered the quinoa, corn and summer squash salad ($12):

This one was not so much for me - I think it lacked a little kick, but if you like quinoa, this may be for you.

I ordered the soft taco with wood roasted bone marrow, chimichurri & ranchero style brisket ($8):  

This was also delicious, with the soft, melting bone marrow creating a rich sauce.

We decided to live large and ordered dessert - namely, the chocolate & banana cazuela with salted caramel & almonds (min 2 persons, $14pp):

Hey - you say salted caramel and I am there.  This was as fantastic as it looks, and a serve for 2 among the 3 of us was plenty - this is very rich.

If you are looking for somewhere different to go on a lazy weekend afternoon that caters to vegetarians, then you can't go wrong with a visit to the Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda.  

The Newmarket Hotel
34 Inkerman Street
St Kilda  VIC
Phone:  +61 3 9537 1777

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to you and your family.  Hope that 2013 brings you every good thing.