Wednesday 24 January 2024

Salty Lemon Shortbread

Preserved, salty lemons in biscuits?  "Are you mad?"  You may well ask, as many people have done before (hehehe).  I have a couple of homemade jars of them in my fridge, made with organic lemons from our friends' Hobart garden.  Happily for us, they often bring some up with them when they visit.    

This is from Alison Roman's Sweet Enough; she is a New York-based cook and author of several cookbooks.  And yes, I made this for Cookbook Club!  Apparently, preserved lemons and anchovies (not necessarily together) are her fave little pops of flavour.  So she had to add them here, as they give "a jammy, floral, salty bop of flavour".  And yes it does, my friends. 

It is currently 36C/97F this afternoon as I am making this.  Thank heavens for air conditioning!  We are expecting a cyclone this week up North, so we might feel the after-effects here in Brisbane, too.  I just went for a quick walk as the sun is going down, and the temperature has dropped a bit.  Phew, still hard work heading up that hill!  My neighbour and I waved at each other from opposite sides of the road.  We seem to walk at the same time every day! 

can you see the cat's head?  (under the flowers) Photos courtesy Pia B.

This is Dolce, our neighbour's deaf, white cat!

She knows how to keep cool.  Jump into a metallic bowl that will be nice and cool from sitting in air con all day!  If only I could find myself a big enough bowl :=)


Makes 24 (at least; I made 33 wee bars)


zest of 3 lemons - place zest of one lemon into a small bowl, and the zest of the other two into another bowl

55g./2 oz caster sugar plus 165g./6 oz caster sugar

a hearty pinch of sea salt flakes

280g./10 oz butter (unsalted if you wish)

30g./1 big oz icing sugar (powdered sugar)

1/2 preserved lemon, without the seeds, and finely chopped

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

325g./11.5 oz plain flour


On goes your oven to 180C/350F, and line a baking tray with baking paper   see Notes

Take the small bowl of lemon zest, and add the 55g. of sugar and a good pinch of salt

Rub it all together with your fingers till the sugar is slightly yellow and smells fabulously lemony

Grab yourself a cake batter bowl (medium-large mixing bowl) and beat up the butter, icing sugar, the larger amount (165g.) of sugar, the zest of the 2 lemons, preserved lemon, salt and vanilla till very light and fluffy - about 3-5 minutes  see Notes

Slowly beat in the flour, till just blended (use a spatula to scrape down the sides now and then)

Now you are going to spoon/tip the dough into the lined baking tray, and pat it down with the bottom of a glass, or your gloved palm so you have a nicely even layer of shortbread

Then you grab a fork and give it a good pricking all over the top (why? Dunno!), then sprinkle the lemony sugar over the dough, pressing it into the surface

Shove into the oven for 30-35 minutes; you want the dough to be nicely browned on the top, bottom and edges, firm to the touch (but slightly malleable, says Alison)

Leave to rest for a few minutes, then take the shortbread out of the tray, lifting it with the baking paper

Cut into the shapes and sizes of your desire (Alison suggests 7.5cm/3 inch pieces), or 2.5cm/1 inch wedges if baked in the cake tins

Leave it cool completely (Alison says they are better the next day.  Yep, that's right.)

I think a nice, very lemony icing would go well here too!  You could make up some icing sugar and lemon juice, and let it drip all over your shortbreads


Use a 23cm x 33cm (9 in x 13 inch) tray or two x 23cm/9 inch cake tins

You can use electric hand beaters, or whizz it up in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment

ingredients gathered

rub the zest into the sugar

look at that lovely salty lemon!

gently add in the flour till just mixed

press the dough into the baking tin, and scatter over the lemon/sugar mix

beautifully brown

hoe in!

Joining in with Min from Writes in the Middle blog linkup. #WWWhimsy

c. Sherry M.

Friday 19 January 2024

Our Murgon/Kingaroy Road Trip Part 2:

After checking out Mr P.'s museum recently, we also stayed a couple of nights in his old hometown of Toowoomba.  We always love visiting.  Even though it's summer, we had two extraordinarily foggy nights up on the range.  It was brilliant!

Toowoomba is located in a caldera (the top of an old volcano), at nearly 800 metres high on the Great Dividing Range.  From our hotel, you can see the hills surrounding the town.  You don't actually realise that it is a bowl until you're up high.  During the 2011 floods, water rushed down into the bowl sweeping people and cars away.

On our way from Murgon to Toowoomba via Kingaroy, we stopped at a cute cafe cum gift store in the wee town of Maidenwell.  We were amazed to find not just one but two fabulous cafes plus the old pub being well-patronised on a Sunday lunchtime.  Oh yes, I bought a cast-iron spider there; I'm trying to de-sensitise myself as my arachnophobia is huge!

cast-iron spider by Mr. Gecko

Unlike other silos on the Silo Art Trail throughout Australia, these are heritage-listed so cannot be painted over.  They really are magnificent, and are still used today.  Kingaroy is in the heart of a peanut-growing area, and you can still buy fresh peanuts here - sooo much better than packaged ones from who knows where.  There is a peanut van or two, and a peanut artwork in the town.  So cute!

historical silos at Kingaroy

artwork by The ZooKeeper

brilliant old car outside the pub at Maidenwell

an absolute beauty in Crow's Nest

inside the French cafe at Crow's Nest

street art in Toowoomba (by Buttons)

foggy night!

and a foggy morning

we had pastries at the bakery

and we visited the Japanese Gardens

and more fog rolling in

we took the scenic route home

this mailbox reminds me of that Russian folktale - Baba Yaga

Remember Baba Yaga? - the old witch who lives in a house that walks around on chicken legs.  I love the mailboxes that you find on country roads.

Well, that's all for this trip.  Just wait till February when we head to Northern Rivers again!

c. Sherry M.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Apple and Marzipan Tarts

I love a juicy, green Granny Smith apple for baking and cooking.  These wonderfully tart, crisp apples originated in Australia in 1868; they were propagated by the clever Maria Smith known as Granny due to her having eight children and (I guess) numerous grandchildren.

Here we have a recipe for Cookbook Club (I made this in October 2023!) from Roberta Muir's Be Inspired - Food Wine Travel - website.  I have adapted it slightly, to include chocolate-coated marzipan, and extra flavourings - i.e. the vanilla and rum.

Funnily enough, I was never a fan of marzipan in my younger days, until I devoured delicious Mozartkugeln in Salzburg while wandering through Mozart's house.  I am also a fan of Ritter Sport's marzipan.  All that dark chocolate and soft almondy paste ...  

So many memories of Salzburg: staying at a guesthouse called Zum Junger Fuchs, opposite a church which rang its bells very often.  You had to pay (a lot) extra to have a shower downstairs, so I'm afraid we didn't!!  We hired a motorbike (scary for Mr P. as the rider!), and rode to a nearby lake (being wary of the white swans).  As many readers will know, we have black swans here in Australia rather than white, so that was interesting.  And how could I forget the Sound of Music Tour?  It was actually delightful!

sweet, golden and crispy!

Makes 4:


4-5 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbs caster sugar or 1 Tbs light brown sugar

2 small apples or 1 large - Granny Smiths are great here

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp rum

2 sheets of frozen butter-puff pastry, thawed a wee bit

100g. marzipan - I used chocolate-coated!

2 Tbs apricot jam with a dash more vanilla and rum, for glazing

whipped cream, to serve


Grab a small mixing bowl, and stir the lemon juice and sugar together, then stir in the vanilla and rum

Peel, slice and roughly dice the apple(s) - sans core!

Mix the diced apple with the lemon juice mixture, and set aside till needed

Cut the marzipan into very thin slices

Cut each of the slightly-thawed sheets of pastry into quarters, and place them on a baking-paper-lined tray   see Notes 

Place marzipan slices down the centre of four of the pastry squares, leaving a 1cm gap around the edges

Take the drained apple, and place some on top of each of the marzipan-laced pastry squares

Fold the four remaining pastry squares in half length-wise

Then take a small, sharp knife and cut 4 or 5 (or 6) diagonal slits into the pastry   see the photos!

Unfold the pastry, so you end up with each square having two vertical ladders of several slits running down them

Firmly but carefully press one of the slitty squares over each of the appley squares, till you have formed a delicious little pocket of fruity, chocolate-marzipan pastry

Put 'em in the fridge for 20 minutes, then bake at 220C/430F for about 20 minutes till nicely golden

Put the jam, vanilla and rum into a small saucepan, heat gently till smooth, then brush over the tops of the tarts

Serve with whipped cream if you fancy


Keep the pastry cold, and only take it out of the fridge when you're going to use it as it can be very difficult to handle when completely thawed

where's the marzipan? :=)

squeeeeze that lemon

and dice that apple

find that marzipan

and slice it thinly

place the marzipan slices over the pastry squares

diced apple goes over the marzipan; add the slits to the tops of the folded pastry

fold the pastry in half, and add the diagonal slits

unfold the pastry; place the tops over the apple filling

golden, crunchy, and chocolatey

let 'em cool on the rack

and eat happily, pastry flakes a-flying

black swan at Oxenford (image by EllieRH)

c. Sherry M.

Joining up with Min from Write of the Middle blog #WWWhimsy

Thursday 11 January 2024

A Roadtrip And A Museum

As regular readers will remember, Mr P. designed a museum in Murgon, a small country town here in Queensland.  He went along for the opening night in October last year, but as I had only just had my eye op. I stayed home.  So fast forward to January, and off we tootled on our little roadtrip to check it out.  

the protected boab tree at the front

some scary ancient-type of beastie

part of the mural on the front wall - an ancient crocodile

that's the name of the museum

looking into the depths

looks fierce

another beastie in the courtyard


Mr P. and friend checking out the courtyard

Murgon is about three hours west of us here in Brisbane, so we took a leisurely drive last weekend.  Mr P. had a chinwag with Leo who is the secretary of the Creative Country Association that oversees the museum.  Leo was very proud of the Museum and how it is bringing tourists into their little town.

you can see my reflection as I check out a few fossils

73 MacAlister Street, Murgon QLD