Saturday 25 July 2020

Torta de Santiago - An Easter Almond Cake

Torta de Santiago (cake of St. James) is named for Saint James, patron saint of Spain.  He was apparently a cousin of Jesus, who was beheaded by King Herod in Jerusalem.  His remains were then taken to Galicia, where he was buried in Santiago de Compostela.  Remember the Camino?  The walk of pilgrims, which can start in either France or Spain.  A couple of friends have done the Camino, and my cousin was going to do it this year, before Covid struck down her plans.  She's not a happy chappie that overseas travel is a thing of the past, at least for now.

Well, we can make this cake at least.  It's a delicious and very easy cake to bake, with simple flavours.  I think it may even be keto, if that's your fancy.  Beat up some eggs, add the almond meal and you're pretty much done.  I was surprised at how tasty and moist this cake ended up.  I gave some to our 90-year old neighbour (who loved it), and Mr P. has had his fair share.  It's a winner!  BTW, it's the Feast of St. James today, so maybe you'd better make this cake, my friends.  The stencilled sword of St. James on top is not essential, but it looks good.  (Sorry, my sword got stuck under the icing sugar, so it flicked it around and messed up my pointy bits.)   

the sword is slightly dusty but never mind :-)

Recipe from Willunga Almonds: Stories + Recipes by Helen Bennetts

Serves 8:


250g. (scant 9 oz) almond meal 

zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

5 large eggs

220g. (scant 8 oz) caster sugar

4-5 drops almond extract

1 paper stencil of the sword of St. James - optional :-)

icing sugar for dusting the top


Turn your oven to 180C/350F

Grab a 22 cm./9 in cake tin, grease the base and sides, then tip some cornflour or plain flour all around the tin

Tip out the excess flour, and line the base with baking paper

Stir the zest into the almond meal

Into a medium mixing bowl go the eggs and the sugar; beat with electric beaters for 5-8 minutes:  you want it to go thick and pale and airy

Add the almond extract, then gently fold the almond meal into the egg mixture - don't go crazy here; just till it's nicely combined

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes, or till a skewer comes out clean

Let the cake (still in the tin) rest on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently tip it out and place back on the wire rack till completely cold

Now take the stencil that you have carefully cut out, place it in the middle of the cake and dust liberally with icing sugar

This will keep in an air-tight container for several days


Freshly-ground almond meal is best, but don't stress if you use store-bought.  I used a mix of both (and I shoved some hazelnut meal in too).  I like to use almonds with the skin-on, but I don't think it's an issue really:-)

Just to be clear, when I say 'scant' in a measurement, I mean it's just a bit under.  For instance, 220 grams is actually 7.76 ounces, but that's plain silly, so I suggest being a bit mean with your 8 ounces rather than actually weighing out 7.76 ounces:-) 

It may take 10 minutes to get the eggs and sugar to the proper consistency; mine did!  The mixture tripled in size, which is perfect for a good result

prepare your 22 cm. tin

zest your fruit

start beating the eggs and sugar

and it starts to turn into this

fold the almond meal into the whipped-up egg and sugar mixture

ready for the oven

after baking, cool on the rack completely

place the paper stencil on top of the cake and dust liberally with icing sugar

look at that cute sword :-)

crumbly, nutty and a bit citrus-y = delish!

cut out your paper stencil of  St. James's sword

Mr P. printed out a copy of the sword from the Net for me, and I veeeerrrryy carefully cut it out.  I felt like I was five years old again!

nutty/eggy artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Friday 17 July 2020

Mr P.'s Nachos Bake

When I first met Mr P., he lived in a share-house with a couple of young and untutored females.  Untutored in the sense of not having any training in cooking or keeping house; he even taught them how to change a lightbulb!  And he taught them how to cook.  (I'm always stunned when female friends tell me their hubbies don't cook.  Quelle horreur!)  Anyways, he is a fab cook, and does his very fair share of the household meals.  He also is the rice and pasta man of the house.  And the frying man ... I never do those:-)  

Funny story about Mr P.: he was always surrounded by women - his housemates, me and various friends.  He basically ran the roost, and his mates referred to his 'harem' :-)  It was quite the party house.  Myself and one of his housemates worked at a university library, so we 'knew' a lot of students.  We'd put up a flyer on the library counter, and come party night, there would be a hundred (or more) students turning up.  Oh those were the days!  I must dig out some photos ... And yes, he's still surrounded by women - four sisters, his lady workers (tee hee), me and lots of friends.

crunchy, tasty nachos

Serves 4 hungry eaters:


1 packet (175g./6 oz) corn chips

1 jar (375g./13 oz) thick and chunky salsa - make sure you  buy a gluten-free version if it's a problem

1 tin (400g./14 oz) red kidney beans, drained

310g. (2½ cups) tasty cheese, grated

250g. (8 oz) cooked chicken or ham or savoury mince or tofu chunks 

1 firm avocado (ripe is not good here), cut into chunks

2 spring onions/shallots/scallions, chopped

2 tbs pickled jalapeno chillies - optional

1-2 tsp chilli powder (I used a mild Korean gochugaru) - optional

1 bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped

salt and ground black pepper to taste

sour cream for serving (optional)


Grab a baking tray (31cm x 25cm x 5cm) and line with baking paper

Place half the packet of corn chips (about 88g.) over the baking paper

Spoon over 1/4 of the jar of salsa

Tip the tin of kidney beans over the salsa

Sprinkle on 3/4 cup (185g./6½ oz) cheese

Now layer the chicken (or ham or mince) over the cheese

On goes another 1/4 jar of the salsa

Sprinkle on the ½-1 tsp chilli powder if using

Add half the bunch of coriander/cilantro, then another 3/4 cup (185g.) of cheese

Next you add the other half packet of corn chips, and another 1/4 jar of salsa

Cast on the spring onions, the jalapenos, and the rest of the fresh coriander

Now you add the diced avocado, and the last quarter jar of salsa

Another ½-1 tsp of chilli powder, some salt and pepper, and cover the whole shebang with the rest of your cheese (which should be about 1 cup) - maybe add a bit more grated cheese if it looks too naked on top.  Mr P. felt it needed even more, but he is a man of excess:-)

Bake at 210C/410F for about 20-25 minutes till golden

Dollop on some sour cream, if you're feeling daring


Use gluten-free salsa if you need to

Rinse the kidney beans if you want to get rid of the salty goop:-)

Try tofu in place of chicken, etc for a vego. version

A ripe avocado won't go so well here, as it will soften too much in the baking - use a firm (even very firm) one

The baking tray is something like 12 x 10 x 2 inches

start layering - corn chips and salsa on the go

we used this

on goes the first lot of cheese

Mr P. chops the chook

then add the chicken

then there's salsa and chilli flakes

and fresh coriander

and more corn chips and avocado ...

ready for the oven 

ready for eating after 20-25 mins. @ 210C/410F

smother in sour cream

Mr P. about to devour his dinner

Let's face it: Mr P. is a building designer, and therefore a real detail man (unlike me, who sees the overall picture), so when he says to follow his directions for this dish - do so, my friends!  He says the layering is important, so take him at his word.

    artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Oh yes, and here's me, a few (tee hee) years ago ...

me in my younger days at one of Mr P.'s outrageous parties

This is a 1950's Californian bathing suit that I found in an op shop years ago.  How it got to Australia is anybody's guess!  Those were the good old days when ladies were busty:-) so I used to be able to find heaps of great clothes from the 50's.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Rice Pudding With RoseWater And Apricot Compote

Remember rice pudding in a tin?  That's pretty much the only way we got it as children (and I loved it).  Now I like to make baked lemon rice pudding (so easy), or occasionally a stovetop pudding like this one.  This is another dish from Yasmin Khan's Zaitoun.  I may have to buy myself a copy, as I have to take it back to the library pretty soon :-)  I love the flavours in this Palestinian pudding, known as Roz Bil Halib (halib means milk in Arabic).

Some readers may remember my strong dislike of (tinned) quinces.  As much as I liked tinned rice pudding as a child (and often ate it out of the tin), I disliked the quinces that mum would offer with it.  So we had to sit there till bedtime - 'cos those quinces had to be eaten.  And if we didn't eat them before bed, they'd be there next morning with our cornflakes and rice bubbles.  Maybe I fed them to the dog?  Thank goodness, I can eat my rice pudding the way I like it in my dotage :-)    

delish pudding

Serves 4:


For the rice pudding:

1 litre (4 cups) milk of your choice - cows'/nut/soy etc - I used coconut

75g. (6 U.S. tablespoons) sugar - caster or white

1 tsp vanilla extract

seeds from 8 cardamom pods, crushed

160g. (healthy 3/4 cup) pudding rice - I used arborio

a big pinch of sea salt flakes

1 to 1½ tbs rosewater

up to 150 mL (scant 2/3 cup) boiling water - if needed

for the apricot compote:

125g. (2/3 cup) dried apricots, roughly chopped

2 tsp lemon juice

seeds from 2 cardamom pods, crushed

200 mL (scant 7/8 cup) boiling water 

2 tbs honey

1 tsp rosewater

Decoration (optional)

2 tbs pistachios, chopped

1 tbs edible dried rose petals

a good dash of pouring cream in each bowl


The Pudding:

Put the milk, sugar, vanilla and the crushed cardamom seeds into a large saucepan

Bring it to the boil, stirring often

Once the sugar is dissolved, add the rice and salt, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes - keep an eye on it, and stir regularly, especially towards the end of the cooking time as it may stick

Add a bit of boiling water if it seems too dry

When the rice is how you like it, gradually add the rosewater, and cook for a few more minutes

Serve with (optional) rose petals, pistachios and pouring cream

While the rice is cooking - make the compote:

The Compote:

Put the apricots, lemon juice, crushed cardamom seeds and boiling water into a small saucepan over medium heat

Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and let cook for ten minutes

Stir in the honey, and let it simmer for another five-ten minutes

Add the rosewater, and let the compote cool 


Rosewater is a strong taste, so be judicious and only add as much as your tastebuds are happy with

Chuck the cardamom pods away after taking out the seeds!  You only want the crushed seeds of course

I suggest making the compote first, or even the day before as I did

I actually liked this pudding and compote cold from the fridge, rather than room temp. after cooking, but it's up to you, my friends

stirring the milk, sugar, vanilla, cardamom seeds, rice and salt

after 30 minutes simmering - deliciously thick (I cooked it for another 10 mins.)

compote ingredients gathered

bring to a simmer then cook for 10 minutes

add the honey and simmer for another 5-10 mins.

sticky, sweet, gorgeous apricot compote

all ready to eat

and I hoed straight in ...

apricot artwork © Sherry's Pickings

Wednesday 1 July 2020

In My Kitchen - July 2020

Yay!  We've survived the first half of the year, and we're looking onwards and upwards.  Queensland is doing very well in the COVID-19 stakes, and we've had zero new cases for a while.  Our southern mates in Victoria on the other hand have been very naughty!  Heaps of new cases every day.  They just won't stay home!  

Well, as my birthday treat, Mr P. and I headed out of town for a (legal) weekend away.  We hit wine country about three and a half hours from Brisbane, where I bought - wine, and olive oil, and chocolate, and jams and relishes and ... well, you get the picture.  I will save those goodies for next month's IMK, but here we have:

local honey

This is a bit of a funny one:  pre-Covid, hubby and I had to pick up the car from the local Honda car dealer/repairer after a check-up.  The wee bottle says Southside Honda honey from our very own onsite beehives.  A lot of places around town actually have beehives on their rooves.  I love this idea!  So they were handing out tiny samples to their customers.  Lucky us.

chocolate cake

I've been baking madly since Covid.  Here we have a chocolate cake, with Nutella and cream cheese icing.  This was delicious (she says modestly), and rapidly disappeared to our neighbours, Mr P. and his two lady workers.  Am I allowed to say 'lady workers'?  Probably not, but anyways.  I used up lots of odd items like cream cheese in the freezer, old peanut butter chips, scrapings of Nutella and so on.  I felt so virtuous and thrifty.  And did I mention how delicious? :-)

pounding sauerkraut

(Sorry, badly lit daytime shot.)  Here I am, pounding away at the cabbage with my cocktail muddler.  So handy for making sauerkraut.  Then off went the crock into the wardrobe to sit and ferment for several weeks.  I'm going to put it into jars this week.

nachos casserole

This is one of Mr P.'s specialities - along with all the rice and pasta and so on in the kitchen.  This is nachos, but in a casserole.  He adds avocado chunks, and lots of hot salsa, and herbs, and maybe ham or chicken - this is a chicken one.  Deeelish!

gorgeous new pasta bowl

The colours are much more vibrant IRL.  Beautiful, hand-painted tomatoes on this Emma Bridgewater pasta bowl.  I adore her things!  Now I want the lemon one, and the zucchini blossom one, and the strawberry one...

limited edition Bailey's

This is delicious, my friends.  Hubby gave this to me for my birthday last week; luckily for me he doesn't drink it, so it's all for me.

almond milk heading to the freezer

Handy hint: I had a big carton of almond milk that I wasn't going to be able to use all at once, so I whacked most of it into the freezer.  I loooove my freezer!  (P.S. - the almond milk looks digusting when it thaws, but it's fine for smoothies, etc as it will be all blitzed up anyway.)

honey and marmalade

I ordered the honey and marmalade as part of the parcel I ordered online from Grecian Purveyor, a Sydney shop.  I am keen to try out that saffron honey. 

a whole heap of spices

After delving into that cookbook Zaitoun, I had to get me some spices so I ordered them online from Herbie's.  Black lime powder?  It's going into a chicken dish soon.  

definitely NOT in my kitchen

This is NOT my kitchen, but fascinating nonetheless.  The Queensland/New South Wales border is only about 35 kilometres from where we were staying for our weekend away.  We drove down to check it out, and found this on a side road.  Look at the huge fine for breaching COVID-19 restrictions - almost $67K!  The actual bit of highway into NSW had two Army fellas and two police officers stopping traffic.  We could have crossed over, but may not have been allowed back into QLD.  So we stayed on our side.  Reminds me of the Mexican border in California in our backpacking days - we could have gone in, but we wouldn't have been able to come back into the U.S. :-)

That's it for this month, my virtual friends.  Everyone is welcome to be part of In My Kitchen, so let's have a peek into yours, my fellow foodies.  Newbies very welcome! 

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In My Kitchen:

Happy Retirees Kitchen

Cooking for Kishore

Not Quite Nigella