Archive for August, 2009

Aria Chocolate Tart

Monday, August 31st, 2009


Again with the MasterChef recipes….


I was jumping off the lounge screaming when I saw Matt Moran’s beautiful chocolate tart and tasting plate. It looked magnificent!


It combined dark chocolate-based components and created a lovely artwork on the plate. Every aspect seemed to have the possibility of problems, too thick pastry, grainy sorbet and bad tempering of the chocolate – leaving it not shiny and not able to be snapped.

It also involved more than 1kg of dark chocolate… crazy!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as pleased with this as I was with my most recent triple chocolate praline tart. This tart/combination was too rich for me (it may not have helped me eating parts of the dish as I was making it), but I generally only have a couple pieces of dark chocolate when I eat it, whereas I can eat half a block or more of milk chocolate in one sitting.


The sorbet was quite rich, with both the sorbet and the remaining tart filling (which was used to hold the macarons and pipe on the plate) didn’t freeze well enough (as you can probably see in some of the photos), in more than 2 hours in a normal freezer. Both the sorbet and tart filling were a better consistency after freezing overnight (we had a lot leftover as it made a heaps more than was required for the dishes).


I tried quite hard to temper the chocolate, although it still didn’t turn out how the MasterChef one did… Here are a few reasons that I think it may not have worked:

I’ve done a bit of research and found most sites say to bring the chocolate up to 46-48C, whereas this one stated 55C. Is this temperature too high?


I used a milk thermometer as it seemed more sensitive at lower temperatures than my sugar thermometer (was it not sensitive enough?)

Maybe the quality of the chocolate wasn’t good enough for this recipe?

Perhaps some water did get into the chocolate?

I put the bowl into a preheated oven of 160C – the recipe didn’t state how hot the oven should be (it may have heated too much at this stage)

I placed the chocolate covered film in a metal tube at room temperature (could the metal tube have caused it to set too fast?)


I noticed the chocolate that was spread on later films turned out shinier and cracked – did it need to be cooled to a certain temperature before spreading?


I am definitely looking forward to trying tempered chocolate again, this time using a more specific recipe, with a lower temperature for the melted chocolate.


Everyone needed to add a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream to their dish to cut the richness of all the dark chocolate.


After all that, I am glad I tried this dish, but I wouldn’t make it again. I would be interested in trying the one from Aria though to see how it compares.

Check out the full recipe at

Dobos Torte – Daring Bakers Challenge August 2009

Thursday, August 27th, 2009


The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.


After seeing a photo of the final product for the Daring Bakers Challenge this month, I got a little scared – although quite excited at the thought of making this beautiful cake or torte. I had never heard of a Dobos Torte (also called Dobos Torta) before, and therefore never tried it – but it looked so gorgeous, it had to be good.


Multiple layers of sponge cake, chocolate buttercream and decorated with sponge covered in toffee or caramel then cut and arranged over the top of the cake… Eeeek.


Everything worked quite well, the sponges took a little while, spreading the mixture between 6 trays and cooking them. The buttercream tasted beautiful and buttery with a lovely chocolate flavour.


My main problem occurred when making the caramel. I’ve never had caramel do this before, but it was producing heaps of bubbles, they were almost climbing out of the small saucepan I used and made it quite difficult to keep it at a high temperature and also try to see the colour it was changing to. Once it turned a lovely amber colour, I decided to pour it over the sponge and also make some toffee hazelnuts. Although with soft sticky caramel which didn’t want to set/harden… the top layer and hazelnuts didn’t turn out quite how I had wanted. Both were a bit droopy and stuck quite a bit to everyone’s teeth. I would try another caramel recipe for the top, if I were to try it again, perhaps a recipe that says what temperature the caramel should get to.


Dobos Torte

2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times
Sponge layers: 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn’t touch the cake batter.)

3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner’s (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don’t have a mixer.)

4. In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner’s (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.




5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8″ springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)




Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.


Lorraine’s note: If you’re in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you’ll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn’t just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.


Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.




Angela’s notes: I am quite happy to store this cake at room temperature under a glass dome, but your mileage may vary. If you do decide to chill it, then I would advise also using a glass dome if you have done. I should also note that the cake will cut more cleanly when chilled.


The traditional shape of a Dobos Torta is a circular cake, but you can vary the shape and size if you want. Sherry Yard in Desserts By The Yard makes a skyscraper Dobos by cutting a full-size cake into four wedges and stacking them to create a tall, sail-shaped cake. Mini Dobos would be very cute, and you could perch a little disc of caramel on top.

Flavour: While we both love the dark chocolate buttercream and this is traditional, we think it would be fun to see what fun buttercreams you all come up with! So, go wild! Or, you could brush each layer with a flavoured syrup if you just want a hint of a second flavour. Cointreau syrup would be divine!

Nuts: These are optional for decoration, so no worries if you’re allergic to them. If you don’t like hazelnuts, then substitute for another variety that you like.

Egg concerns: The cooking process for the buttercream will produce lightly cooked eggs. If you fall into a vulnerable health group then you may wish to use an egg-less buttercream.

Greek Baklava

Monday, August 24th, 2009


One of Nick’s friends at work brought in some homemade baklava a while ago and once trying it on the train on my way home from work, I said to Nick “ask for the recipe!”, as I absolutely love baklava.

This is a Greek recipe for baklava, which is has lovely flaky pastry, great flavours and is dripping in syrup and very sweet (if you prefer your baklava less sweet, reduce the amount in the syrup and/or walnut mix).


If you want to add a little colour to the top, process some pistachios and place on top once cooked.

Greek Baklava
Recipe from Arthur X’s mum

1 pack (375g) Fillo Pastry
500g cracked walnuts
1 teaspoons cinnamon powder
1 teaspoons clove spice powder
1 cup sugar

Canola Oil (we used melted butter)

Sugar Syrup
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
Juice of half a lemon

Grate walnuts (I processed them in a food processor) and place the walnuts, spices and sugar into a bowl and mix well.


Oil a baking tray and put in 6 layers of Fillo pastry and brush canola oil on each individual sheet. Put a thin layer of walnut mixture onto the Fillo pastry and then cover with another layer of fillo pastry and brush with canola oil.

Repeat this until all Fillo sheets are used (around 10 sheets) and remember to keep 6 sheets aside for the top of Baklava. Once all mixture is used put 6 sheets on the top and brush each sheet of Fillo pastry with canola oil.


Cut the Baklava into a diamond pattern, almost to the bottom before putting into a fan forced oven at 180 degrees for around 40 minutes.

{don't put the pistachios on at this point like I did  as they will brown too much}

{don't put the pistachios on at this point like I did as they will brown too much}

While the Baklava is cooking you have to make the syrup and then let the syrup cool down to room temperature.

Put 4 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water into a saucepan and the juice from half a lemon and put into stove. Let the syrup boil until it thickens and then put aside to cool down.


Once the Baklava has finished cooking take it out put it into a serving tray and pour the room temperature syrup onto the hot Baklava and set aside to cool for at least 6 hours.


Spicy Pumpkin Bread

Friday, August 21st, 2009


Nick loves making breads… Naan bread, tortillas, bread rolls… and I love eating bread!!!! Therefore, I would say we work very well together 🙂

So when Nick said he wanted to make some pumpkin bread, I was all for it!

He was a little suspicious that it was an actual bread due to the exception of yeast… can you really have a bread without yeast? Maybe…


Either way, it is a lovely savoury pumpkin bread (or loaf) with a brilliant orange colour, great flavours of spices and works especially well for morning tea or with a meal.

Spicy Pumpkin Bread
Recipe slightly adapted from

Melted butter, to grease
300g (2 cups) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mild chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
450g (1 cup) mashed cooked pumpkin
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
60g butter, melted, cooled
2 eggs, lightly whisked
2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seed kernels)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush an 11 x 21cm (base measurement) loaf pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Sift the flour, salt and spices into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre.

Place the pumpkin, milk, butter and egg in a jug, and use a whisk to stir until well combined. Add the pumpkin mixture to the flour mixture, and stir with a large metal spoon until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle evenly with pepitas.


Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from oven. Set aside in the pan for 5 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.


Note: You’ll need to steam about 500g peeled, deseeded, chopped pumpkin for this recipe. This bread is great for sandwiches and as an accompaniment to a chargrilled lamb salad.

Triple Chocolate Praline Tart

Monday, August 17th, 2009


On the cover of Gourmet Traveller a few months ago was one of the most tempting chocolate tarts I have ever seen. Gorgeous rich shiny chocolate on top of a chocolate, hazelnut praline mousse and crispy chocolate pastry. How could I resist making this?


Even though I felt I should serve this with vanilla ice cream, I really wanted to serve it with baci gelato and the combination was fantastic! The tart was rich and relatively soft, with a crisp pastry. The chocolate ganche on top was beautiful and very reflective, the hazelnut praline gave the tart a lovely crunch and all layers worked fantastically together.


A loose bottomed tart tin would have been very helpful in getting out the tart slices, as I had a few problems with removing the first few. Each part of the tart was quite easy, you just need to organise your time a bit, to make sure it’s ready on time. We had some leftovers, as this is a very rich tart, and it tastes gorgeous on the days afterward, so if you didn’t have time to make it on the day I would consider making it the day before.


Triple Chocolate Praline Tart
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller (my hints in italics)

Serves: 16

160ml pouring cream
40ml milk
200g dark chocolate (61% cocoa solids), finely chopped

Chocolate pastry
200g plain flour
60g pure icing sugar, sifted
30g Dutch-process cocoa
100g cold butter, coarsely chopped
2 egg yolks
(I had to add 2 tablespoons of cold water at the end for it to form a dough)

Milk chocolate praline filling
150g hazelnuts, roasted and skins removed
175g raw caster sugar
300ml pouring cream
400g milk chocolate, finely chopped

For chocolate pastry, process flour, icing sugar and cocoa in a food processor until combined. Add butter, process until mixture resembles fine crumbs, then add egg yolks, process to combine. (If you need to add some cold water add it now and process, I needed to do this as it was very crumbly). Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and bring pastry together with the heel of your hand. Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for 1 hour to rest.


Preheat oven to 180°C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick and line a 28cm-diameter loose-bottomed tart tin, trimming edges (I used a quiche dish as that’s all I had). Refrigerate for 1 hour, then blind bake for 8-10 minutes (place a piece of baking paper in the tart and add rice, beans or weights), remove paper and weights and bake until dry and crisp (8-10 minutes).


Meanwhile, for praline filling, spread hazelnuts on an oiled baking tray, set aside. Combine sugar and 60ml water in a small saucepan, stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, cook until dark caramel in colour (4-5 minutes), pour over nuts. Stand until cool and set (8-10 minutes), process in a food processor until finely ground, set aside.


Bring cream to the simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat, add chocolate, stir until smooth, remove from heat, stir in two-thirds of praline mixture (reserve remaining to serve). Spoon into pastry case, smooth top, refrigerate until just set (1½-2 hours).


Combine cream and milk in a small saucepan, bring to the simmer over medium-high heat. Add dark chocolate, remove from heat, stir until smooth. Spread over tart, refrigerate until just set (45 minutes-1 hour). Cut into wedges with a hot knife and serve immediately scattered with reserved praline. (I would also suggest serving this with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or baci gelato).






Baci Gelato

Thursday, August 13th, 2009


When I received my ice cream maker a few years ago, one of the first things I wanted to make was a ferrero rocher gelato or ice cream. I tried to find a recipe, but ended up with a quite solid very rich ice cream – which was not what I wanted at all. I was hoping for a beautifully soft lightly chocolate hazelnut flavoured gelato.

When I saw this baci gelato in my delicious magazine, I was extremely excited to try it (even though I have yet to make a good vanilla ice cream, it’s still on my list).


This was absolutely gorgeous!!! All I wanted was more and more gelato! Unfortunately I had made it a little late in the day and not cooled it enough for my ice cream machine, resulting in the machine stopping its churning and I then had to continue beating the gelato every 2 hours. When it was time to serve the gelato with a lovely chocolate tart, it wasn’t completely frozen, but the colder edges tasted absolutely fantastic! The following days it still tasted wonderful… now, when can I make it again…? 😛


Baci Gelato
Recipe from delicious magazine May 2009 (some of my hints/changes are in italics)

Consider making this the day before (or early) and placing the ice cream mix in the fridge or on ice to cool before putting it in the ice cream maker.

Serves: 6 (when served with a chocolate tart, it serves 12 or more)

2 cups (500ml) pure (thin) cream
2 cups (500ml) milk
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (I used 1 teaspoon vanilla essence)
300g caster sugar (split into 2 x 150g lots)
5 egg yolks
220g Nutella or other hazelnut spread (It was cold here, so I place it in a bowl over hot water)
Cocoa powder, to dust (if desired)

Place the cream, milk, vanilla pod and seeds (or essence) and 150g sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to just below boiling point, then remove from the heat.

Beat the yolks and remaining 150g caster sugar with electric beaters (in a large bowl) until pale. Slowly add the hot cream mixture, whisking well to combine. Pour into a clean large saucepan and cook gently over low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and discard the vanilla pod. Stir in the Nutella until well combined.

Pour mixture into a shallow container. Freeze for 2 hours or until frozen at the edges. Remove and beat with electric beaters, then return to the container and refreeze. Repeat 2 or 3 times, then freeze for 4 hours or until firm. Alternatively, churn mixture in an ice cream machine according to manufactures instructions.

Scoop gelato into bowls and serve by itself or with White Chocolate slab (recipe also in delicious magazine), or with a slice of Triple Chocolate Praline Tart.




Fajitas and Tortillas

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009


Now when it came to making some Fajita’s and homemade Tortillas, we went straight to the internet to see what advice there was and how easy tortillas were to make (we had made naan bread before, so were interested to see how it compared).

We found a great set of videos on youtube by Chef Jason Hill, which were very detailed and are brilliant for anyone wanting to learn how to make either fajitas and fajita marinade, tortillas, guacamole, salsa and many more recipes.

The tortillas were a lot easier than we were expecting. With only four ingredients and a few steps (mix, rest, roll, cook) it was easy and quite cheap to make and tasted much better than the bought tortillas.


The fajita marinade was full of great flavours and extremely fresh and lovely. We’ve already made this twice, but it’s certainly on the list of meals to make again and again…. Hope you all enjoy!

The meat for the fajitas takes a while to marinate, therefore start making that first.

Fajitas and Tortillas
Recipes adapted from Chef Jason Hill on youtube

Makes: 12-16 (Serves 6-8)

4 cups plain flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup vegetable shortening or butter (113g butter)
1½ teaspoons salt
1–1¼ cups warm water

Put flour, baking powder and shortening or butter together into a bowl. Work together with hands for a few minutes until you get a coarse meal.

Mix the salt in with the warm water and then add it to the flour mix. Mix it to form a dough – add the extra ¼ cup water if need be, I found this to be necessary. Work together to form a ball. Cover and rest for 20 minutes.

Break into 12-16 little balls. Preheat fry pan or crepe pan to medium heat.


Roll out balls on lightly floured work surface until a thin round tortilla is formed. Place on preheated saucepan and cook until the underside starts to brown 15-30seconds. Turn over and cook the other side.




Once cooked, place on half a tea towel and cover with the rest of the tea towel to keep warm, cook the fajita filling at this stage.

Makes enough for 12-16 tortillas

1 tablespoon olive oil
500g steak (we used rump), sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 red capsicums, deseeded and cut into strips
1 green capsicum, deseeded and cut into strips

Sour cream
Grated Cheese
re-fried beans (see recipe below)

Fajita marinade

1 cup water
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder
pinch cloves, ground
4 cloves crushed garlic
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Small bunch of cilantro/coriander
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange

Put water in a bowl; add juices to water, then all other ingredients except the olive oil. Whisk in the olive oil slowly. Let it sit for 30 minutes before using.

Marinate the meat for 30minutes – 1 hour.

Heat a wok or pan to medium high. Place oil in pan and add onions, cooking for 5 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add a few tablespoons of the fajita marinade. Add capsicums and cook for 5 minutes. Remove and place in a bowl.

Add the marinated meat in a few batches and cook until just browned. Keep cooked batches covered while you finish the cooking. Remove all the meat and add the remaining marinade, cook until bubbling. Add vegetables to warm up and absorb some marinade.

Place a tortilla on a plate, add some of the meat, vegetables, grated cheese, guacamole and sour cream in a line in the centre, leaving room at one edge to fold up. Once the bottom is folded up, fold in the sides and eat.



Re-fried Beans
Nick’s recipe

1 can (400g) red kidney beans (or whole Pinto beans, if you can find them), rinsed in water
1 onion, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook the onion in olive oil until translucent, then add the garlic. Cook for a few more minutes, then add the beans. Heat through, then use a potato masher and mash the beans until it forms a thick paste-like mixture. Serve with fajitas.

Lemon Marshmallow and Lemon Sherbet

Friday, August 7th, 2009


I had wanted to make marshmallows for a while, and then just when I was getting the time to make it, the July Daring Bakers Challenge came and I got to make some lovely Mallows (Chocolate covered marshmallows on biscuits). The marshmallow for that recipe went surprisingly well and inspired me to finally make a recipe I had book marked a while ago.

This lemon marshmallow is lovely and strongly flavoured with sweet lemon. Making the marshmallow proved a lot easier than cutting the marshmallow (which involved cleaning the knife after each cut and sprinkling icing mixture or icing sugar in the cuts to stop it sticking back to itself).


To go with the marshmallow, I decided I had to make the sherbet as well. I made a third of the quantity of the original recipe and after trying ¼ teaspoon, my mouth almost started foaming and turning inside out. So after adding another 2 x icing sugar, the craziness of the mixture was finally toned down. (I’m just glad I didn’t use the 75g citric acid they recommended, otherwise I would have had an extremely large excess of sherbet.)

The marshmallow and sherbet work very well together, although the sherbet does tend to overpower the marshmallow, so I would suggest serving these separately or sparingly with the sherbet.


Lemon Marshmallows with Lemon Sherbet
Recipe from Gourmet (Sherbet recipe slighty adapted)

Makes about 25

25g powdered gelatine
185ml (¾ cup) lemon juice
½ lemon, finely grated rind only
500g caster sugar
1 tablespoon liquid glucose
2 eggwhites
For dusting: snow sugar (see note) (I used icing mixture, it went a bit hard after a few days, but worked well enough)

Lemon sherbet
25g citric acid (see note)
95g pure icing sugar (or icing mixture if that’s what you have)
1/3 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda, finely sieved
1/3 lemon, finely grated rind only

Combine gelatine, lemon juice and rind in a small bowl and stand until lemon juice is absorbed (1-2 minutes). Fill a bowl with boiling water and place bowl of gelatine mixture on top and stand until gelatine has dissolved (1-2 minutes). Keep warm.


Combine sugar, glucose and 200ml water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then brush down sides of pan using a wet, clean pastry brush and cook over medium heat until syrup reaches 125C on a sugar thermometer (5-10 minutes).

Meanwhile, whisk eggwhites using an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and whisk to firm peaks. With motor running and mixer speed on medium, slowly and simultaneously add syrup and gelatine mixture in a thin stream. Whisk until mixture cools to blood temperature.


Spoon into a baking paper-lined 20cm-square cake tin, smooth top using a wet palette knife and refrigerate until firm (1-2 hours). Cut into cubes, roll in snow sugar and refrigerate until required.

For lemon sherbet, sift ingredients through a fine sieve into a dry bowl (sherbet must remain dry to retain fizz effect). It will keep refrigerated in a dry airtight container for 1 week.

Serve marshmallows dusted heavily in lemon sherbet and eat immediately. (I used the sherbet sparingly over the marshmallows).


Note: Snow sugar is a mixture of icing sugar and vegetable fats, resulting in an icing sugar that can be used to dust slightly moist cakes without dissolving as quickly as ordinary icing sugar. It is available from select delicatessens. Substitute with icing sugar. Citric acid is available from the baking section of major supermarkets. Make sure all ingredients for lemon sherbet stay completely dry otherwise you will lose the fizz effect.

Mushroom and Cheese Strudel

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009


Sometimes you find good recipes from the strangest of sources.

I find great recipes on the internet, food blogs, magazine sites, magazines and my lovely books (even if many of the recipes from them are already on the internet somewhere, they’re just lovely to have).

But… even though I have all these resources available to me, I still sometimes take the recipes card at supermarkets, and this particular time, it paid off. I tend to like the look of many of the mushroom-based recipes on the recipe cards from a mushroom growers group (I think).


This strudel is lovely and slightly sweet due to the honey, and creamy due to the brie. It is great for a light(ish) meal, served with a salad or steamed vegetables.

Mushroom and Cheese Strudel
Recipe from a Mushroom pamphlet 🙂

Serves: 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 brown onions, halved, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons honey
500g button mushrooms, sliced
150g brie cheese, chopped (it’s easier to chop if you put it in the freezer for a bit)
1-2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and ground black pepper
2-3 sheets frozen ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten (or a little milk, for glazing)

Preheat oven 200°C. Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes or until soft and light golden. Stir in the honey, cook for 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms, increase heat to high and cook for 8 minutes or until all the liquid evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.


Stir the cheese, parsley and salt and pepper into the mushroom mixture.

Cut each sheet of pastry in half, place one half onto a greased baking tray or one lined with baking paper, and allow room for spreading. Spoon the mushroom mixture evenly over the pastry halves, leaving a 1-2cm border around the edges. Place the other halves on top, pressing the edges together or folding them over and using the back of a knife to press the pastry ever 1-2cm of the pastry to create a nice edges.




Cut a cross in the centre, brush with egg and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.



Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Almond Praline

Saturday, August 1st, 2009


There are many dishes that I have on my list of yummy things to make after watching the MasterChef Australia 2009 series – and this was one of them. You may have already seen my first MasterChef challenge – the Crouquembouche, which I will be making again (not necessarily in a cone shape – perhaps just profiteroles filled with gorgeous custard, placed on baking paper and toffee poured over them, thereby reducing any injury due to placing fingers in hot toffee).


The judges absolutely loved the contestants’ sticky date puddings for this pressure test, with none of them being eliminated as they had all done so well. A friend at work had also made this dish – at least 3 times, so I figured it must be good.


I thought the dish was very lovely, although I think my expectations on taste had been lifted so high from the Crouquembouche that it didn’t live up to that recipe. The butterscotch sauce was easy and beautiful (I love butterscotch flavoured desserts) and the praline was quite nice too (although when I poured it over my almond slivers, it tended to push them away rather than flow over the top – not sure what I did wrong). The sticky date pudding itself was very tasty, even though I don’t normally like sticky date puddings out at restaurants.


Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Almond Praline
Recipe from MasterChef Australia 2009

Makes: 6-8

180g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
11/4 cups (310ml) water
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 cup (165g) firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter, softened chopped
2 eggs
1 cup (150g) self-raising flour

Almond praline
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (35g) slivered almonds

Butterscotch sauce
50g butter
1 cup (220g) brown sugar
1 cup (250ml) cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Lightly grease 8 (1/2 cup capacity) metal dariole moulds. (I used 6 ramekins)

Place dates and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat. Remove from the heat. Add
bicarbonate of soda, stir until dates start to break down, set aside to cool, stirring occasionally.


Beat butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand beater, gradually add eggs one at a time, beat until light and fluffy.

Add date mixture, stir to combine. Carefully fold through sifted flour, divide mixture evenly between the eight moulds (I used 6 ramekins), until 2/3 full.


Place moulds in a baking tray, carefully pour water in tray until it comes up 1/3 of the side of the moulds. Bake in oven for 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean.


Meanwhile, for the almond praline, combine sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium heat and cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until deep golden. Scatter almonds onto a baking paper-lined oven tray, pour over caramel and cool until set. Break praline into pieces.




For the butterscotch sauce, combine butter, sugar, cream and vanilla in small saucepan over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Bring sauce to the boil, reduce heat and cook for 5-6 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

To serve, invert the hot pudding onto a serving plate, top with butterscotch sauce and shards of praline.