Saturday 31 August 2013

Apple white chocolate cream tart

Ok I confess.  This is a cheat's dessert, made up of ready made ingredients - mostly.  But it tastes
delicious and that is the most important thing surely?  I started off with a layer of frozen short crust pastry which I thawed and put into a lightly buttered springform pan.  You could of course make your own-  I find Maggie Beer's sour cream pastry is very easy to make and tasty too.
You then sift 1-2 tablespoons of icing sugar over the pastry and pop it into the oven at 190C for 15 minutes or till cooked through and golden. 
Leave it till cooled off then smooth a layer of caramel from a tin over it.  The next step is to take a large tin of cooked pie apples and place those over the caramel filling. 
Then whip 300 mls of thickened cream till you have firm peaks;  add 180g of melted and slightly cooled white chocolate and fold into the cream with a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  You can add the vanilla in with the cream when whipping rather than folding in later if you wish. 
Smooth the white choc cream over the apples and place into the fridge for at least a few hours, the longer the better.  I then sprinkled on a big handful of caramel bits over the cream. 
As I said, you could make your own pastry, and the caramel and stew your own apples, but when you want to make a dessert that is fairly quick and stressless, this is the way to go!

Monday 26 August 2013

Chocolate sorbet

I am a bit ambivalent about chocolate. My friends would probably say I am chocolate mad but I am very particular about the sort of chocolate I eat. I have to have the really dark, preferably bitter stuff. That is not to say I won't scoff down any choc around the house!  I really love flower scented chocs like violet, lavender and my all-time fave of rose-geranium. It leaves a lingering aroma on your taste buds that you don't forget in a hurry.  I decided to try making sorbet again. I had made a chocolate ice some time ago which wasn't all that successful. But the comments for this recipe on Smitten Kitchen sounded amazing and I had to try it. It is absolutely divine but be aware it is completely chocolate flavoured. I mean it is all-encompassing in a brilliant chocolatey way.  I even had it for breakfast this morning!   I even had it for breakfast this morning!  oh and by the way, you don't need an ice cream maker for this.   I gave it a stir with a whisk after about 30 minutes in the freezer (I had put the mixture in a stainless steel mixing bowl first).   I then grabbed my stick blender and gave it a whizz after another hour or so,  then another quick whisk with my regular whisk about 30 minutes after that.   Then i just scraped it into my container and left it overnight.  It froze beautifully with a lovely smooth texture.  It is also great for people who are lactose-intolerant like me!  It is so hard to believe it doesn't have cream or eggs in it.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Not quite Nigella's bacon maple syrup ice cream

I have a big fondness for anything bacon so I couldn't resist trying out Lorraine Elliott's amazing recipe. When Mr Pickings and I lived in the USA for a few months we got used to the weird and wonderful mix up of sweet and savoury that Americans like to eat.   A classic was their vegetable jello;  a friend of a friend brought this bowl of green jelly-sweet mind you!-to a dinner party.  Amongst this sweet green horror (you have to remember I hate anything gelatinous) were vegetables of various sorts including carrots.  Oh the horror!  We also ate sweet pies and cakes with Thanksgiving turkey, and sweet cheese blintzes for dinner with vegetables.   One meal we both loved however was breakfast which would include lots of crispy bacon with maple syrup-a winning combo every time. So how could I resist this recipe!
And any leftover egg whites go straight into the freezer in a plastic bag.  They will last for a few months. 

Monday 12 August 2013

Weekend away

Last weekend Mr Pickings and I took a quick break into northern NSW.   The weather was glorious, and it was so nice to get out of town.   We went to the Tweed Art Gallery on the way down to Brunswick Heads.  They have a marvellous exhibition on at the moment- After Afghanistan by Ben Quilty.  It is incredibly moving, and I thoroughly recommend a trip to see it.
We continued on down the coast to Brunswick heads where we were staying the night.  It is such a pretty and quiet little town;  thank goodness the local council does not allow large developments or multi storey buildings.   It has the feel that Byron Bay used to have many years ago-  a country town with interesting locals and a relaxed laidback lifestyle. 
There are wonderful little shops and cafes down there.  I had a very enjoyable time browsing in the marvellous shop Fabulous Mrs Fox.  A must-visit if you are in the area!
I bought a strange and funky wooden-handled implement from Argentina I was told, which apparently is to help in cutting equal portions of pizza!  They have many weird and wonderful items in the shop.  
They also have a famous cat!  She is a very beautiful and very calm and friendly Abyssinian brought from Argentina by the owner.  She reminded me of the famous Streetcat Bob who is also a calm and happy cat well known all over the world. 
You really can't go past a trip to this lovely region of NSW!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Nigella's no churn coffee ice cream

I have a lot of cookbooks but I would have to admit I don't actually cook from many of them often.  But I do use Nigella's books over and over.  Something about her recipes really appeals to me;  her writing and the type of dishes, and the ease in making them.
I noticed I had 2 tins of condensed milk in my pantry recently.  I was wondering what to do with them, then I remembered that I wanted to try this coffee treat which uses the afore mentioned milk.   I did not have any coffee liqueur in the house so I replaced it with Frangelico.  This icy sweet has a delicious coffee flavour, and is very creamy and moreish.   And it tastes like you have spent hours making it.

Check out Nigella's website for this recipe and lots of other great recipes!
And the lady herself looking very fine!  (image from

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Baking for the Fair

This weekend past was the annual Art Fair for the local hospice Karuna.   The director is a Buddhist nun, and they strive to provide counselling and care as per the teachings of the Dalai Lama- which is to serve others with compassion and kindness.   The main building is a historic Queensland home, originally built in the 1850's, and adapted over the years for various purposes.
I volunteered to do a bit of baking for the food stall.  So I made hazelnut macaroons-NOT macarons,  and raspberry muffins.  The macaroons could not be simpler;  and only 5 ingredients.   I found this recipe in my folder of magazine cuttings;  it may be from Delicious or another Aussie food mag.  

Hazelnut macaroons


180g hazelnut meal
200g caster sugar
2 egg whites 
1 tsp vanilla extract  (I used Daintree Vanilla)
100g dark chocolate, melted


Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and blitz till a smooth paste.   Put tablespoons of the mixture on a greased and lined baking tray, and whack them into a 180C oven for 15 minutes till firm and lightly golden.   Cool them on a rack.
When completely cool,  drizzle the chocolate over the macaroons and leave till set. 

Friday 2 August 2013

Mandarin cake

Last week, a farmer from Stanthorpe (about 3 hours south west of Brisbane) was driving around our suburb selling his fruit from the back of his truck.  We bought a generous sized box for $25, filled with apples, oranges and mandarins. We gave plenty away to friends, ate some, will use some apples when I make Polish cabbage on the weekend, and I have baked a mandarin cake this week.   I love this recipe as unlike similar cakes made with oranges, you don't have to boil them for hours.  You just throw them into a processor and blitz!
Here is the recipe;  I have this typed up in an old folder-  I have no idea where I got it from except I have a crazy idea I was watching a tv cooking show years ago and wrote it down.  So apologies to whoever invented this recipe!

Mandarin cake:


4 mandarins  cut into quarters
5 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup almond meal
1/3 cup rice flour
1 tsp baking powder


Throw the fruit into a processor and blitz till they break down into a pulp.   
Beat the eggs and sugar together for about 5 minutes
Scatter the dry ingredients over the egg and sugar mixture
Then add the fruit pulp and mix gently but well. You don't want to destroy all the lovely air you have beaten into it. 
Grease and line the base of a springform tin and bake in a 180C oven for 40 minutes or till a skewer comes out clean. 
While the cake is baking, make a syrup to go over it. 
You will need another 4 mandarins to make up 1 cup of juice, and 1/2 cup sugar. 
Place the juice and sugar into a small saucepan, and bring gently to a boil, then simmer it for 5 minutes. 
Pour your warm syrup over the still warm cake and let it soak in.   This makes a delicious and moist cake, best eaten with a spoon.