Saturday, 15 February 2020

Coffee And Walnut Cake - The Chelsea Way

I am nothing without my morning coffee, I have to tell you.  So a coffee cake - i.e. a cake flavoured with coffee, not just to have with coffee - is a winner for me.  And yes, I do sometimes eat cake for breakfast.  Life is short my friends, so live it up.  I have been wanting to try out this recipe from Chelsea Winter's book Homemade Happiness for ages.  So Mr P. gave me a helping hand on the weekend.  Hubby is a marvellous home cook and sous-chef, and happily did the grunt work, like buttering, flouring and lining the elephantine cake tin for me:-)  

moist and full of coffee flavour

Chelsea won the New Zealand Master chef competition in 2012, and has put out five cookbooks since then.  And managed to get divorced, find a new bloke, and have a baby in the space of about fifteen months!  Anyway, back to the cake ...  This is a big mama of a cake, and you need a biiiig cake tin.  In fact, we had to go out and buy one at the kitchen shop so I could make this.  

Serves a multitude!


for the cake:

125g. (1 cup) walnuts

500g. (3¼ cups) plain flour

3¼ tsp baking powder

250g. (8 oz) butter, at room temp.

275g. (1½ cups) brown sugar

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract/paste

3 tbs instant coffee + 1 tsp caramel essence, or use 3 tbs caramel-flavoured instant coffee

2 tbs just-boiled water

125 mL (½ cup) warm milk - Mr P. microwaved it for 40 seconds

1 tsp baking soda

1 cup plain Greek yoghurt

for the icing:

3 tbs instant coffee + ½ tsp caramel essence OR 3 tbs caramel-flavoured instant coffee

3 tbs just-boiled water

200g. (7 oz) butter, at room temp.

555g. (3 cups) icing sugar, sifted

for the toffee nut topping: 

Chelsea says this is optional, but I reckon don't leave it out!

125g. (1 cup) walnuts, roughly chopped

1 tbs golden syrup

25g. (a scant 1 oz) butter

a pinch of salt


Turn your oven to 170C

Butter and flour a 25cm. (10 in.) cake tin, and line the base with baking paper

Blitz the nuts to a fine crumb in your food processor

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl

Whisk the nuts in with the flour, and set aside

Cream the butter and sugar for five minutes - I used my electric hand beaters, but a stand mixer would be perfect for this

Once the mixture is very pale and fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla

Grab a mug, spoon in the coffee/caramel essence and mix well with the boiled water

Stir in the warm milk and baking soda; it will foam a little

Now mix everything together gently - the creamed butter and sugar, the coffee mixture, the flour and the yoghurt

Pour/spoon the batter into your beautifully prepared cake tin, and smooth the surface

Bake in the lower half of your oven for 1 hour, or till a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean - Chelsea says don't open your oven door till the hour is up!

Let the cake rest in the tin for fifteen minutes, then turn it out onto a wire cake rack till completely cold

For the icing, stir the coffee and boiled water in a mug, and let it cool to lukewarm

Grab a big mixing bowl, place the butter in it, and start beating in the icing sugar with electric beaters (or a stand mixer if you have one)

Beat for five to ten minutes - you want it really pale and smooth

Add the coffee and keep beating till well mixed; put it aside while you make the topping

For the topping, place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat for five minutes - keep an eye on it!  

Let it cool, while you slather the icing over the top and sides of the cake

Throw on the lovely nuts, and serve with coffee :-)

Keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days 


Get yourself a head start, and do some of the work the day before, like I did.  I read over the recipe, measured the ingredients out,  and sorted out the equipment

You can buy caramel essence in cake-decorating shops

zap those nuts, baby!

coffee, milk and baking soda fizzing up

ready for stirring

it looks lumpy but it's all okay

smoothed over and ready to bake

baked @ 170C for 1 hour

beat the icing really well

till smooth and airy

stir the topping mixture for five mins.

stir for five minutes

icing on, and nuts strewn over the top

eat up, my hearties

                  artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Eggplant Fritters AKA Camels' Balls

Back in the dark ages, in my hazy, vaguely-remembered youth, I lived with several other young persons.  We were all vegetarians at the time, so one day, friend K. and I decided to make a version of these fritters.  For some obscure reason, (perhaps because she loved all things camel) we decided to call them camels' balls.  The hero ingredient (as the cooking shows rather nauseatingly say) was eggplant.  

Whether you call them eggplants, aubergines or brinjals, these plump, purple-skinned beauties are loved in many food cultures.  And they are so cute!  You can get them egg-sized; you can get them striped or even white or yellow-skinned.  Or even pea sized.  Adorable really, and delicious.

ignore the burnt one!:-)

This is a recipe where you want a bit of time to mess around in the kitchen, so try it on a weekend.  But you can easily make the nut meal the day before.  You can also bake the eggplant, purée it, then leave in the fridge till dinner time, for the final steps.  I fried up the onion and garlic in the morning, and threw that in the processor with the baked eggplant.  The mixture will now happily sit in the fridge till dinner time.  And then I made dinner:-)


150g. (5 oz) walnuts, toasted and blitzed

around 770g. (26 oz) eggplants (I used two)

1-2 tbs EV olive oil

a few big pinches of sea salt flakes

1 large onion, chopped finely

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tbs EV olive oil for frying

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp sumac

1 tsp ground cummin

1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4-1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 tbs tahini

a biiiig handful of fresh parsley, chopped finely

1-2 tsp lightly-dried mint + 1-2 tsp lightly-dried parsley

1 large egg

1 tbs lemon juice

extra salt and pepper - maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp of each

a big dash of sumac, if you fancy

panko breadcrumbs - I forgot to weigh them, so perhaps 120 grams?  You want just enough to thicken the mixture a little, and give the small patties/fritters/balls a crunchy coat, so use more or less as you see fit

2-3 tbs more EV olive oil, if you decide to fry your balls:-)


First toast your walnuts for 10-12 minutes at 175C, till golden and smelling delightful - keep an eye on them so they don't burn

Cool, then blitz in the food processor till you have a slightly chunky nut meal - put aside while you bake the eggplants

Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise, thru the middle of the stem

Lay them cut side up, on a baking paper-lined tray

Spoon a teaspoon of olive oil over each of the four halves, and a big pinch of salt on each one

Bake @ 210C for at least 50 minutes; it may take longer - you want them golden-brown on top and as tender as butter when a knife goes thru the flesh

Leave to cool completely, then scoop out the flesh into the food processor

Give it several pulses of the processor till you have a thick purée

Meanwhile, fry up the chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for about 8 minutes till very soft and golden

Add the salt, pepper, and the 4 spices into the onion/garlic mix

Stir in well, and fry off for a minute or two

Let it cool, then scrape into the food processor with the eggplant and the tahini

Give everything a few pulses to combine

Spoon out the mixture into a large bowl

Now add the herbs, the egg, the lemon juice, and extra salt, pepper and sumac if you feel so inclined 

In goes the walnut meal; now stir everything together

Start throwing in small handfuls of the panko, and adjust as you go

You can now either plop tablespoon-sized amounts on a lined baking tray, and bake for about 25 minutes at 210C, OR shallow fry them in a couple of tablespoons of EV olive oil - a few minutes per side.  I tried both ways; both delicious, tho' frying always gives that little bit of extra pizzazz, don't you think?:-)

Serve with tzatziki, some chopped tomato and cucumber, and relish of your choice


I ended up with just over 500g. (17 oz) of eggplant flesh

I used organic, roasted and unhulled tahini

slice the eggplant in half, then add salt and EVOO

fry up the onion and garlic, and add the spices 

you could even bake these for a bit longer:-)

yep, I know what it looks like ... tee hee

throw everything into the bowl

ready for baking @ 210C for about 25 mins. 

fry 'em up in some EVOO if you prefer

add some tzatziki and chopped salad

artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Saturday, 1 February 2020

In My Kitchen - February 2020

February came up so fast, and I know we're all in the thick of things.  I'm actually already thinking of Christmas gifts to make for this year! Yep, crazy I know.  To get us in the mood, here we have a quote from Patience Strong: In February there is everything to hope for, and nothing to regret.  I like that!  So let's get in the mood, and take a look at my kitchen goodies.  Join in, my fine foodie friends, and show us your goodies too.  Let's hear about your dishes, recipes, gadgets, meals, cookbooks, herb and veg. gardens ...

In my kitchen:

homemade organic lemon cordial

We love tangy homemade lemon cordial in this house.  Splash in some sparkling water, and you have fabulous lemonade.  Thanks to our dear friend Princess Pia, who has a tree full of lemons!

a few bits and bobs

Mr P. gave me the Italian olive oil for Christmas.  I always buy Aussie stuff, but this was a Christmas treat.  The paste and the relish are local.  In fact the famous Queen factory (the vanilla bean paste maker), is just up the hill from our house (as I think I've said before).  The relish comes from a regional area, a couple of hours away.

another book!  oh my groaning shelves

My Scottish blood is zinging here.  I love anything about the Scottish islands, and Highlands.  My great-grandfather Jock Mackay migrated to Australia early in the 20th century.  Not sure if he had been a bad boy, and had to come out, or just decided on a change of scene. :-)

a few Christmas goodies from my cousin

I still wonder about ruby chocolate.  Is it natural, or is it something they concocted in a lab somewhere?  Looks like you could have a lot of fun with that shimmer powder ...

and a Frida keep cup from Princess Pia

Regular readers will be aware of my obsession with Frida Kahlo.  And so is our mate Princess Pia (aware I mean), so she bought me this lovely keep cup for Christmas.  I was even there when she bought it, but completely forgot, so it was a huge surprise when I opened it.  Yes, my brain is draining out of my ears these days.  

more tea towels

You can never have too many tea towels.  As my overflowing linen cupboard attests.  And these are sooo cute.  Thanks cuz!

a beautiful Alice teacup and saucer, and tea towels

Oh lucky me!  Our generous friend brought back Alice goodies for me from her recent trip overseas.  She knows I love anything Alice.  And just like the saucer says: we're all mad here!

aren't these pretty?

This lovely little bowl is made from a coconut husk, as are the little spoons.  I love the tiny, sparkly bitty inserts.  So that's it for this month.  I'd better finish up while the going is good.  Come along, virtual friends, no shilly-shallying, excite me with your fascinating IMK posts.  

Roll up, roll up!  Join in, my lovelies!  I want to see all of you here for IMK!  No excuses:-)

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Sherrys Pickings

Friday, 24 January 2020

Japanese Salmon Salad - Sorta/Kinda ... With DIY Pickled Ginger

I am in a Japanese kind of mood lately; well, probably for the past year or so.  I keep buying stuff at the Japanese supermarket down the road; bottles and packets of mysterious stuff, with unreadable (to me) labels:-)  But it makes me laugh, as I really enjoy the mystery.  I still have an anonymous bottle in the pantry, unopened and undeciphered, waiting till the day I open it ...  

And I've converted Mr P. into a Kewpie sriracha mayo fiend, too.  The new bottle he bought the other day almost exploded when he opened it!  It erupted like Mr. Vesuvius; and I just read that sriracha chilli sauce bottles have been recalled due to lactic acid fermenting in the bottles and causing eruptions when opened.  They didn't mention mayo, but clearly that is a problem too:-)  

delicious and healthy!

Well, on with the recipe.  I had a couple of photos of salads with Japanese-type ingredients lurking on my camera roll, so I made up my own hodgepodge, and here it is!  If you're going to make your own pickled ginger, as I did, start this recipe one day ahead of eating it.

(This recipe gives 4 polite, main serves)


500g. (about 1 pound) salmon fillets, skin on

400g. (14 oz) frozen edamame in their pods (young soybeans)

Baby Gem lettuce, or greens of your choice, leaves separated

half a red capsicum, sliced thinly or chopped into small chunks

half a Continental cucumber, cut into ribbons (use a veg. peeler)

1 avocado, cut into chunks or slices

1-2 tbs black (or white) sesame seeds

1-2 spring onions, finely sliced (optional)

1 big handful crunchy fried noodles (bought at the supermarket)

1-2 tsp white sesame seeds

1-2 tbs pickled ginger, finely chopped

2 tbs pickled Asian carrot (optional)

a big handful of toasted cashews/peanuts or nuts of your choice

75 mLs (2.5 oz) golden sesame (kingoma) dressing


(Recipe for pickled ginger from

If making the pickled ginger the day before: 

Peel 125g. (4-ish oz) of fresh ginger root; slice it as thinly as you can

Sprinkle 1 tsp sea salt over it, stir well, and set aside in a small bowl for at least 30 minutes

Then give it a good squeeze with your hands to get the excess liquid out, and place in a small, very clean jar

Now you add 60 mLs (1/4 cup) water and 60 mLs (1/4 cup) rice wine vinegar, and 55g. (1/4 cup) caster sugar to a small saucepan

Stir over a medium heat till the sugar dissolves, and bring to the boil on high heat

Pour this mixture over the ginger; let it cool for 5 minutes, then seal and put in the fridge till the next day


If using the pickled carrots, cut them into julienne strips, or grate coarsely, or use a veg. peeler to get thin strips

Toss the carrot in a well-whisked mix of rice wine vinegar, caster sugar, sesame oil and salt, and leave for at least an hour to marinate

Bake your salmon wrapped in tin foil @ 185C, for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets - you want it beautifully tender and moist, not cardboard, my friends

Let it cool, then pull the flesh off the skin with tongs

While the fish is baking, boil the edamame for about 5 minutes, let them cool, then push the gorgeous green globules from their pods

Toss the avocado chunks/slices with the black sesame seeds

Grab a big salad bowl, and throw everything in, with glee!

Give it a toss, and serve, with some crusty bread or Japanese soft salad rice crackers (my fave)


Use zucchini instead of cucumber if you prefer

Chop the nuts, or leave them whole - your choice

You could add some seaweed here, or furikake seasoning

I basically did all the 'cooking' bits of this recipe in the morning of the day we ate it for dinner, with the ginger done the day before

This can be gluten-free if you leave out the crunchy fried noodles or use some other kind of non-wheat noodle

peeled and sliced ginger

in the syrupy brine ready for overnight marinating

tender and moist after 20 mins. baking at 185C

pull apart the lettuce

healthy, fishy, golden sesame deliciousness!

       artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Triple Chocolate White Christmas Slice

Yes I know it's kinda late (or is it just really, really early?) to be posting a Christmas treat, but there you have it, my friends.  We will just have to live with it.  Better late than never, so they say.  I usually make White Christmas once a year - for Christmas, natch! - but this time I went for a slightly different version.  This one has three kinds of chocolate.  Well, you know one kind is never enough.  And Mr P. adores white chocolate, and I adore dark, and milk chocolate is for wusses ... tee hee:-)

I've done a wee bit of tweaking on this ever-popular and ubiquitous recipe.  This is dead easy, with just a bit of faffing due to melting and cooling three different types of chocolate, before mixing it all together.  But I think you'll agree when you try it, that it's worth the faff.  I am not a big faffer in general, but sometimes you just have to do it:-)    


160g. (5.5 oz) macadamias or almonds, toasted and chopped

a big pinch of sea salt flakes

90g. (1 cup) desiccated coconut, lightly toasted

45g. (1.5 cups) rice bubbles/krispies - you know, puffed rice!

100g. (3 oz) red glacé cherries, halved

160g. (5.5 oz) sultanas or cranberries or dried fruit of your choice

1 tsp vanilla extract

170g. (about 7 oz) dark chocolate

170g. milk chocolate

170g. white chocolate

a pinch of sea salt flakes (optional)

bling for decoration - I used glamour sprinkles - (optional)


Line a 27cm x 17cm (base) (10.5" x 6.5") baking tray/tin with baking paper

Toast the nuts with the salt, in a 180C oven for about ten minutes or till goldenly, deliciously nutty-smelling

Tip the nuts out of the tray into a small bowl, and let them cool while you pour the coconut onto the same (now empty) tray - toast it gently at 160C for about five minutes - don't let it burn!  Let it cool for a few minutes

Mix everything (except the three types of chocolate) together in a large bowl

Divide the mixture into three medium bowls; you will end up with about 185g. in each bowl

Melt the dark chocolate, and pour it into one of the bowls

Stir well, and spread the mixture into the bottom of the baking tin

Refrigerate for five minutes, while you melt the milk chocolate and let it cool for a minute

Pour the milk chocolate into the second bowl of mixture, and give it a darn good stir

Now take the tray out of the fridge, and scrape/spoon your chocolatey bowlful on top of the dark chocolate layer

Into the fridge for another five minutes, while you melt the white chocolate

Stir the white chocolate into your third and last bowl of mixture

Now spread that over the milk choc layer

Cast on the sea salt if using, and throw on plenty of bling

Place in the fridge for an hour to firm up, then slice into whatever size your greedy little heart desires :-) 


You could easily change this to just two layers of chocolate, if you can't be bothered faffing around with three

Use a smaller baking tin if you prefer thicker layers

yep, I used three different kinds of nuts 'cos I didn't have enough macadamias

gather your ingredients in a large bowl

give 'em a good stir

ready to throw the melted choc into the mix

all layered up and blinged up!

The Grinch overseeing the tasty morsels:-)

Mr P. declared these delicious, and he's not even a fan of this sort of thing!  Yep, they are pretty darn tasty, my friends.  Crikey, I sound like a hillbilly:-)  You could even make this for a non-Christmas treat.  And it's gluten-free (I'm pretty sure), so it's suitable for all your fussy friends and family.  Just kidding.  Yes, I know there are some real coeliacs around, so don't shoot me.  And Happy New Year, everyone!    

     artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

In My Kitchen - January 2020!

Okay folks, this is a quickie!  It's NYE tomorrow and I've got heaps to do, as have you I'm sure.  So let's make it snappy, my dear and virtual friends.  For the first, brand-new IMK of the brand-new decade, here we have:

good Aussie vinegar, olive oil and salt 

I always buy Aussie olive oil; it's great quality even if it can be a bit too grassy sometimes:-)   That's just 'cos our olive trees are young and sprightly, rather than ancients like the Italians and Greeks.

homemade Worcestershire sauce on the go

Every Christmas, I make a batch of this homemade sauce.  It ferments away in the dark, walk-in robe for two weeks, making the whole bedroom smell like a fish factory (just kidding, sort of).  This time the jalapeños were amazingly hot, so the sauce is a real kicker.  We love it!

homemade mango chutney

I made my usual Christmas batch of mango chutney.  There are some good cheap mangoes around this time of year.  And you can see Mr P.'s tub of tomato sauce he made for sick friends, in the background.  I made the meatballs though!

and there were tim-tam truffles

I think these truffles were my best in a long time!  That mix of dark and milk chocolate biscuits with a big spoonful or two of Nutella...  (Recipe on the blog - check the archives, my dears.)

tea towel signed by the Kransky Sisters

As per Christmas tradition, we go to see The Kransky Sisters, along with our mates the Barrel-Makers (not their real name - tee hee).  The lovely ladies - Mourne, Eve and Dawn - signed the tea-towel for me.  It was our friend Johnny's 18th birthday, so they signed his tea-towel and took lots of selfies with him.  Such a fun afternoon.  Check them out online; they are so funny.  

another book about food

Can't wait to get stuck into this one.  M. F. K. Fisher was such a well-loved food writer; the American version of the English Elizabeth David perhaps.  These are essays, plus a few recipes.  I reckon How To Cook A Wolf will be fab!

Dreamfarm gadgets

I knew the Dreamfarm factory was in Brisbane, but I didn't realise how close it was, till we were driving around recently.  I saw the sign, and yelled out Stop! to Mr P. - which he did, and we rushed in.  I bought a couple of things, and sneakily Mr P. bought me these two little treats.  The spadle has a handle which bends around to become a straining spoon or a ladle.  We had to check the website to work out how it works.  Are we getting old and feeble-minded?  Tee hee!  Oh yeah, we are for sure.

the Christmas turkey monster!

Nearly forgot to show you the four kilo monster bird with about two kilos of stuffing (dressing for US readers) inside, and a whack of bacon wrapped around the carcass.  Delicious I must say!

That's it for now, my lovely virtual friends.  Please do join in!  All and sundry are welcome to be part of IMK.  (Just a bit of FYI - I'm taking a blogging break for a couple of weeks, so I probably won't comment till mid-Jan.)

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Not Quite Nigella

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