Friday 23 June 2023

Torta Di Mele E More - Italian Apple and Blackberry Cake

Ready for another Cookbook Club recipe from Silvia Colloca?  Yep, of course you are.  (Once again, from her book The Italian Home Cook.)  This is a sweet one, her take on an apple and blackberry cake - Torta di Mele E MoreIt's not blackberry season (and really it never is in sunny sub-tropical Queensland), so I used the frozen variety.

I've talked before about picking blackberries with my sister when we were quite small, and selling them to the local jam factory.  I can't imagine any parent would allow their small daughters to go wandering off into the bush on their own these days; nor can I imagine a jam factory accepting berries from lord knows where!  

Not to mention the thorns and the spiders and the crazies who lived in the mountains where we grew up!  We had a very eclectic childhood.  Did I mention that we grew up in a cult?  There is a famous one called The Family (we weren't in THAT one), but still pretty crazy.  You can google The Family.  They were located in the Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, and it still exists apparently.

fruity and golden

Serves 8:


4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced - don't bother coring them, just slice around the core    see Notes

zest and juice of half a lemon

2 large eggs

200g./7 oz soft brown sugar

pinch of sea salt flakes

300g./2 cups self-raising flour

150g./5.3 oz apple sauce/purée   see Notes

100g./3.5 oz butter, melted

125g./4.4 oz blackberries (don't thaw if using frozen)

whipped cream, to serve


Heat your oven to 170C/340F, while you grease and line your 20cm/8 inch round cake tin with baking paper (base and sides)

Grab a large bowl, throw in the apple slices which you toss with the lemon zest and juice, then get on with the cake

Grab another large bowl, whisk the eggs and brown sugar till pale and fluffy (or as pale and fluffy as it will get, which wasn't much to be honest, so don't fret)

Chuck in the salt flakes, sift in the flour and mix well

Add the apple sauce and butter and mix well, then you add the apple slices and HALF the blackberries, and fold them in gently

Cake tin and batter; in it goes; thump to make it level, and fling on the other half of the blackberries

Bake for 60-65 minutes (mine took 80 mins. but as you can see in the notes, I added TWICE the butter!!)  You want the top golden-brown and "softly firm", says Silvia.  Pierce the middle with a skewer to make sure it's cooked through; you want a clean skewer to come out, of course

Let it sit and contemplate its behaviour for an hour in the tin, then serve on a nice plate with lots of billowing whipped cream (that's just plain cream that has been whipped!)


Use whatever tangy, crunchy cooking-type apple you can get if you can't find the Granny

My suggestion for apple sauce/purée - buy baby food!  This is 100% apple, with no preservatives or sugar.  Or you can buy a tin of (100% pure) apple slices and blitz them in the food processor

I managed to stuff up by adding 200 grams! of butter, so the batter was like a lake; probably why it took so long to bake!

ingredients gathered

nice and thick when the flour is mixed in

and I added waaaaay too much butter! Twice the amount...

fold in the fruit

plop on the other half of the blackberries

ready to eat

c. Sherry M.

Friday 16 June 2023

Rustici Leccesi - AKA Puglisi Cheese Bites

It was our online Cookbook Club time again, and the book was The Italian Home Cook by Sylvia Colloca, Italian-Australian actress, opera singer and cook.  I chose to make Cheese Bites, because ... pastry and cheese - of course, who would say no?  I serendipitously had a packet of pastry (comes already cut into ten small pieces) in the freezer which was perfect for this recipe.  I did end up having to use an extra sheet of pastry as this made a lot of filling.

Speaking of cookbook club, we were away for the last IRL session, so I told the lovely ladies at our local bookshop that I wouldn't be there, and they cancelled that one!  Mmm, must be more indispensable than I thought - tee hee hee, just kidding.  But also speaking of bookshops, the most wonderful and delightful Fiona Stager of Avid Reader Books in West End has been awarded an OAM - Medal of the Order of Australia.  Everyone is so thrilled for her; she really is the literary matriarch of West End!

cheesy, and 'shroomy

Makes 8 (or 9):


1 Tbs EV olive oil

90g./3 big oz mushrooms, chopped into small chunks

For the Besciamella/béchamel filling:

3 Tbs butter   see Notes

3 Tbs plain (all-purpose) flour

250 mL/1 cup milk

35g./1 biiiig oz of parmesan, grated

100g./3.5 oz cheddar cheese, grated   see Notes

dried herbs - chives and parsley for me - maybe 1 tsp of each

pinch of ground nutmeg

sea salt and black pepper, to taste

6-8 capers, chopped (optional)

For the pastry cases:

400g./14 oz butter puff pastry, thawed

1 egg

2 Tbs milk


First, heat up the olive oil and fry the mushrooms gently in a small frypan for a few minutes till soft, then put aside to cool down

Now make the sauce by melting the butter with the flour (yes, WITH the flour) in a small saucepan, medium heat, and stir the while till it becomes thick - like wet sand says Silvia!

Start pouring in the milk, and whisk like mad till all the milk is in

Grab a wooden spoon at this juncture, turn the hob to low, and stir for a few minutes till the sauce thickens, and the flour cooks out

Take it off the hob, add the cheeses, stir them in gently, then add the herbs, nutmeg, salt, pepper, capers and mushies - and let the mixture cool off, while you - 

Grab a couple of large baking trays and slap on some baking paper

Cut the pastry sheets into squares or circles (Silvia says 16 discs X 6cm/2.4 in) and place half of them on a tray, spoon on one heaped Tbs of the filling, place another disc on top, and press all around with a fork to seal    see Notes

Keep on till all the pastries are done, then give 'em an eggwash with the egg and milk beaten together

Whack the tray(s) of cheese bites into the fridge while the oven heats to 200C/390F

Bake for 20-25 minutes, till golden - best warm or at room temp.


3 Tbs = 60 grams of butter - (we have bigger tablespoons) and = 45 grams of flour 

Silvia says to use provolone but I couldn't find any so I used vintage cheddar instead

She uses pancetta rather than mushrooms but feel free to use whatever you please as per her suggestions - ham, anchovies, tomato etc.

I had ten small, square pieces of pastry in the freezer (that's how the packet came) which made 5 round pastries (after I trimmed them into discs); I then used another rectangular sheet cut in half lengthwise to make 2 long rolls, which I then cut in half so I ended up with 5 discs and 4 rolls - make sense? :=) 

grate your cheeses

mix the butter and flour together - yep, all at once

stir in the flour and cheeses

in go the seasonings, and herbs

mushrooms in

trimmed into discs and ready for fillings

and I made 2 long rolls also, which I halved after baking

eggwashed and ready for baking

baked for 20-25 mins. at 200C

baked and halved

let's hoe in

c. Sherry Mackay

Friday 9 June 2023

Pumpkin Lentils Rice Caramelised Onions

Okay, so it's pumpkin season here in Australia.  Time for pumpkin soup to pop up in every café over Winter.  Mmm, I have to say I am not a fan.  When I first met Mr P., and we visited his mum and sisters at their respective homes, guess what they made for dinner?!  Yes pumpkin soup - without fail.  Oh dear; I just had to woman up and swallow it down - hehehe.

I've mentioned before in my barramundi post, that I recently discovered the Alice Zaslavsky method of caramelising onions, which makes this dish sooooo much easier.  So this is an adaptation of her recipe for pumpkin wedge Mujadara, a classic Arabic/Middle Eastern dish.  Mine is different to hers, and obviously nowhere near the classic recipe.  My ingredients are mostly the same as hers (sans kale and pomegranate!) but my method is a bit different.  I tried to make this super easy!  So even though there are a few parts to this, they are very easy and not labour-intensive.   

crunchy, spicy and tasty

Serves 4-6:


For the pumpkin:

500g./18 oz pumpkin, peeled and diced  See Notes

sea salt flakes and black pepper, to taste - maybe 1 tsp of salt

2 Tbs chives, finely chopped - or herb of your choice

1-2 Tbs EV olive oil

For the onions:

4 red onions, thinly sliced

2 tsp sea salt, and black pepper to taste

1/2 tsp gochugaru or other chilli powder

dried herbs - I used chives and rosemary - maybe 1 tsp of each?

30 mL/1 big ounce of EV olive oil

For the rice:

1 cup/200g. brown basmati rice

35g./1.3 oz butter

600 mL/20 fl oz water

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 dozen saffron threads

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

The other ingredients:

The seeds:

40g./¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

40g./¼ cup sunflower seeds


1 tin of brown lentils (400g./14 oz)

1/2 tsp black lime powder (optional) or a big squeeze of lemon or lime juice

1/2 tsp ground cum(m)in

1 tsp chicken or veg. stock powder

1/2 cup water

2 Tbs pomegranate molasses (I used quince syrup!)

black pepper, to taste

fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, for serving

1-2 tsp EV olive oil, to serve

dried barberries, to serve (optional) - or use pomegranate arils if you please  (I used dried sour cherries I'm pretty sure)


Really you can start with the rice or the pumpkin or the onions, but we will start with the pumpkin which you place on a lined baking tray, tossed with the salt, pepper, herbs and olive oil and baked at 180C/360F for 20 minutes till tender - and then put aside till you have baked the onions and cooked the rice

Now the onions:

Toss the onion slices in a large bowl with the salt, pepper, chilli powder, herbs and olive oil

Place on another lined baking tray (or the same one if the pumpkin is already baked) and bake at 210C/410F for 30 minutes; you then give them a really good stir, and slide them back into the oven for another 20 minutes till they are beautifully caramelised

Now for the rice:

Get Mr P. to make this!!  He is the rice man in this house :=)  Here is how he does it:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, tip in the rice and toast it for 2-3 minutes till going opaque

Add the water, bay leaves, salt, saffron, and garlic

Boil for 15 minutes on the lowest heat you can get on your stovetop (we have gas), then turn it off and rest it for 15 minutes with the lid on

Now toss both sorts of seeds in a very hot frypan (no oil) just for a minute or 2 till slightly toasted, and put them aside

Grab a big skillet and add 2/3 of the rice (or all of it if you fancy), plus the onions and lentils over a medium-low heat

Stir in the black lime powder or lemon/lime juice, cummin, stock powder, water, pomegranate molasses and black pepper

Heat the whole shebang for a few minutes, then drizzle on the olive oil, and serve with the scattered coriander leaves, the toasted seeds and the barberries if using (and add a spritz of extra lemon juice if you fancy)

We ate the leftovers the next night with panko-crusted, baked chicken tenderloins


Buy the pumpkin peeled and diced from the grocery store

Make sure you use gluten-free stock powder if necessary, and obvs. make it vegetable for vegetarians

You can bake the pumpkin and onions the day before, so it's an easy dinner after a day's work

ingredients gathered

bake at 180C for 20 mins. till tender

ready for baking at 210C

and after 30 mins. baking, give it a good stir

and another 20 mins. baking

and Mr P. cooks up the rice for our dinner

toast your seeds!

rice lentils onions

and pumpkin :=)

and toasty seeds!

dive in!

team with panko-crusted chicken tenderloins the next night :=)

a tasty dinner with all the good things - protein, veg., grains, seeds ...

c. Sherry M.

Thursday 1 June 2023

In My Kitchen - June 2023

This is my birthday month folks, so I intend to enjoy it immensely.  I've had a weird couple of years, which all seemed to start with getting a summons for jury duty.  I can't believe I've just received another one in the mail!  Apparently when I'm 70 I can apply not to be summoned again (or is that summonsed?), so I have a few years to go.  I have done jury duty before, and it was really interesting.  Something everyone should do at least once, but since my hearing has deteriorated badly of late, I am going to ask to be excused.  We'll see how that goes.

Some of you may have seen my Insta photos of the carpet python which has been living in the tree outside my study window.  I think she has finally moved on, as I've not seen her for a few days.  I just hope the local foxes, dogs or cars haven't got her.  People often ring the Snake catchers to move them on, but I always say 'Just leave 'em alone.  They'll head off when they're ready'.  As indeed she has.

look at those beautiful patterns!

But anyways, let's get to it!  Can't wait to see your posts too, my friends.

In My Kitchen:

delicious chocolate bombs
I add one of these to my coffee, and you end up with a fabulous mocha!  They only sell them in winter, so I look forward to that each year.  The milk chocolate bombs are filled with chocolate shavings and a wee marshmallow.

I bought some garlic products

and a couple of things from Dreamfarm design company

and I bought a few things from Mount Zero Olives

oh yes another cookbook - for Cookbook Club

sorry about the photo!

Our house guest bought me these as a gift.  So hard to get a good pic as the bag is opaque and fuzzy.  Should be good in drinks!  

more Japanese goodies

I was making a braised fish dish for dinner, and realised I didn't have saké or mirin for the broth, so we rushed off and bought - well, all of these!  For some odd reason, the rice crackers are called 'Soft Salad' - no idea why, but I do love them.

my curveball

Mr P. bought himself a painting by local artist Nikki Wood, who paints the local landscape and her very own garden.  We went to the opening night of her exhibition, and Mr P. could not resist this one, as it reminds him of his dad the glider pilot who loved these vast, empty landscapes.  Alan was a champion glider pilot and golfer!  We miss him still.

c. Sherry M.

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