Monday, November 29, 2010


Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing assorted fruits and nuts; and as such it would be an appropriate and unique sweet to serve at your Christmas table.  I tend to think that Panforte has a very individual taste. For instance, whilst it's not a favourite of mine, my mother and father absolutely loved it.  (Update: I've changed my mind, I like this a lot). I recieved this recipe and made my first panforte last night at a cooking school, so thank you to Kristie Rickman for the recipe.  It was a huge hit.

125g almonds
115g pistachios
125g coarsely chopped dessert figs
100g glacé cherries
100g glacé ginger
100g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
80mL honey
70g caster sugar
70g brown sugar

Line a 20cm Spring form cake tin with baking paper.  Toast the almonds and pistachios in the oven to approx 8 minutes, or until toasted.  Combine the nuts, figs, cherries, glace ginger, flour and spices in a large mixing bowl and combine well.  Place the honey and sugars in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Cook whilst stirring until sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and cook until mixture reaches 116 degrees on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage).  Pour the hot honey mixture onto the nut mixture and working quickluy mix until combine.  Do not hesitate here because otherwise the sugar will only combine half of your mixture.  Spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth.  Bake in oven at 160 degrees (fan-forced) for 35 to 40 minutes or until just firm.  Set aside to cool before cutting into wedges and sprinkling with icing sugar.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sweet Penang Chicken Curry

This recipe was adapted from something I found in Taste magazine.  It certainly is a favourite at our house due to that sweet and spicy balance.  I use light coconut milk, but full fat coconut milk does give a better result.  When using light coconut milk, you will find the sauce won't thicken too much.  Now, I just have to borrow the headline from Taste magazine because this is so delicious, you simply have to "thai it yourself."

2 tbsp red curry paste
1 2/3 cups Ayam coconut cream (unshaken) or 1 can carnation lite and creamy coconut milk
2 rectangle cubes of palm sugar, chopped, or 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
500g chicken, sliced thinly
4 kaffir lime leaves, spine removed, shredded (or juice of 1 small lime)
1 floret of broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 capsicum, sliced
1 - 1 1/2 cups of chopped green beans
2 zuccinis, sliced diagonally
+1/2 cup thai basil leaves, to serve (optional)
+ steamed rice, to serve
+ 2 small red chillies, thinly sliced, to serve (optional)
+ 2 limes, quartered, to serve (optional)

Heat fry pan or wok over medium heat until hot.  Spoon thick top layer of coconut cream into wok (alternatively if you are using light carnation milk simply pour 3/4 of the can in).  Cook, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes or until oil separates and floats to the top.  Add curry paste mixture.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.  Add sugar. Cook for 5 minutes or until sauce reduces slightly; stirring constantly to avoid burnt cream/milk.  Gradually add remaining coconut cream (or milk) and stock.  Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until sauce thickens. (If you use lite milk, the sauce won't thicken much at all).  Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and cook the chicken in peanut or sesame oil.  Transfer to a heatproof bowl.  In the same frying pan, cook the vegetables; ensuring those that need longer cooking time are put into the pan first.  If you prefer, pop the vegetables [seperately] in the microwave for a few minutes first.  Once the sauce has thickened, pour it over the vegetables.  Return the chicken to the pan.  Add lime leaves to pan.   Stir the sauce, vegetables, and meat together thoroughly.  Serve with rice, optional chillis and thai basil leaves.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hazelnut Shortbread

This is a unique twist on the classic shortbread.  I find that the texture of this shortbread is nicer; just slightly less buttery and austere.  As Christmas is the season of indulgence, and shortbread is such a festive classic, I do think that this would be a perfect Christmas gift to give to your friends or neighbours. (Can you spot my christmas tree in the background??) And please note the variations I've tested; both of which are equally delicious.

150g butter
60g icing sugar
40g ground hazelnuts (hazlenut meal)
155g plain flour
50g your choice of chocolate

Preheat the oven to 150 (fan-forced) and prepare a 20cm (8 inch) round tart tin.  Beat butter and icing sugar together in a bowl until light and creamy.  Add the ground hazelnuts and beat until combined.  Using a metal spoon, fold in sifted flour.  Mix well.  Press mixture evenly into prepared tin. Smooth out surface of mixture (using heel of hand).  Score into mixture 16 wedges.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until pale golden.  Stand in the tin to cool.  Carefully remove the shortbread from the round tin.  Using a sharp knife, cut it into full cut wedges.  Place chocolate in microwave (or bowl over water filled saucepan) and melt chocolate.  Drizzle chocolate over the shortbread.  Leave to set.  (Store wedges in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 3 days). 

1. For chocolate-hazelnut shortbread, add in chocolate chips into the shortbread mixture before baking.
2. For almond shortbread, use almond meal instead of hazelnut meal

Petits Pois à la Française (French style peas)

This image really does not do justice to this dish.  In the past 5 days since trying this recipe, I've made it three times for our family dinner! It's absolutely delicious, healthy and easy to make.  I love the combination of vegetables; that type of vibrant green produce immediately transports me to a wholistic, country fresh place. 


50g butter
16 baby onions or French shallots
500g frozen peas
250g finely shredded iceberg lettuce
handful of fresh (Italian) flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1-2 tbsp plain flour

Melt 30g of the butter in a large saucepan or frypan.  Add the onions and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes.  Add the peas, lettuce, parsley and sugar.  Pour in the stock and stir well.  Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes. Stir occassionally so that the onions are cooked through evenly.  Mix remaining butter into pan.  Add small amounts of the flour to the vegetables; stirring until the juice thicken.  Serve.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Carrot and Orange Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

The summery climate is slowly starting here in Australia; whilst across the other side of the world you are saying your goodbyes to autumn.  So, in honour of both these seasons I turned to my carrot and orange cupcakes.  I really believe they are perfect for either season; there's that hint of summery orange tempered with that typical autumn combination of carrot, nuts and warm spices.  The cupcakes themselves are delicious and satisfying.  I love how fluffy they are, I love the spices, oh and I also love that contrasting texture when you crunch into a walnut.  Makes 16

1 1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 generous tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
80g walnuts, chopped
2 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup grated carrot (ie. 2 lge carrots)
2 1/2 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp lemon zest

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting
250g lite cream cheese
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp fresh orange juice (or lemon juice)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
+ little decorative umbrellas

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan-forced) and line enough patty cases for 16.  In a bowl, place the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and nuts.  Mix until combined well.  In a seperate bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy.  Pour in the oil and mix until well combined.  Add carrots, orange juice and lemon zest. Mix to combine.  Pour wet ingredients into dry; mix together until just combined; avoid overmixing.  Pour into cases and bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool before topping with cream cheese frosting.  To make frosting, beat cream cheese with electric mixer until spreadable consistency.  Add in all of the icing sugar.  Allow to combine slightly, and then add the orange juice (or lemon juice, whatever you prefer).  Spread onto cool cakes and top them with little spoonfuls of shredded coconut.  Insert umbrella into cupcakes for decorative flare. Serve.


Ratatouille is a French style vegetable dish.  Chez moi, it is a dish we make a lot; usually served alongside rosemary lamb.  I love the almost sweet taste that the vegetables end up having.  A truly French provincial taste!

5 tomatoes
olive oil
2 red onions, diced
2 small red capsciums, diced
1 small green capsicum, diced
4 small courgettes, diced
2 generous pinches of salt
1 tbsp tomato sauce (or 1 tsp tomato paste with 1/2 tsp sugar)
1 bay leaf
2 generous pinches of dried thyme
2 generous pinches of dried basil
1 crushed garlic clove

Bring water to the boil in a pot.  Score a cross in the base of the tomatoes.  Dunk the tomatoes into the boiling water for around 20 seconds, and then remove them from water.  Peel away skin, and roughly chop.  Set aside.  In a pan, heat the oil and add the onion; cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add capscium and cook, stiring, for 4 minutes.  Stir through the salt. Remove them both from pan and set aside.  Fry zucchini in pan until browned and return onion and capiscum to the pan.  Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes.  Add tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and basil.  Stir well.  Add garlic; stir again.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes on very low heat.  Remove bay leaf.  Serve!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas Chocolate Cupcakes

I created the recipe for these delightful cupcakes two days ago, and since then have made them twice.  They are divine; a balanced mouthful of chocolate indulgence with light buttercream icing.  My favourite part about them is dressing them up with christmas wreaths, candy-canes or stockings!

125g butter, cubed
110g milk chocolate
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup milk, + 1 tbsp extra
1 egg
1/2 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 generous tbsp cocoa powder

In a saucepan on medium heat, stir together with a metal spoon the butter, chocolate, sugar and milk.  When the mixture is all melted and combined, turn off the heat, and pour the mixture into a mixing bowl.  This will help speed up the cooling process.  Leave to cool slightly for 5 minutes; speed up the process by stirring it to incorporate some air.  Once cool, quickly add in the 1 egg and with a balloon whisk, beat it in.  Then sift over the flours, and using the whisk, mix them in.   Add in the cocoa powder and vanilla.  When mixture is smooth and combined, pour into patty cases.  Should make around 18 - 20 cupcakes.  Cover with butter cream icing (recipe here)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Best Buttercream for Cupcakes

I'm finally back and posting! I'm an official graduate of 2010 now.  Freedom is sweet (pun intended).  And for you, that means a lot more recipes!

Whilst this is a very simple recipe, it is by far the best recipe for icing that I've tried.  Usually, buttercream icing is not my strong point.  For some sad reason the butter separates or the texture is grainy.  But in the last week, admist making christmas cupcakes (as pictured) and 'thank you' cupcakes for my teachers and peers, this has not failed once! It's a fabulous consistency for piping and smooth decorating strokes.  Plus, it's super super delicious. 

125g butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk, at room temperature

It is important to have the butter and milk at room temperature.  Place cubes of butter in a large mixing bowl.  Cream until the butter is as white as possible, say 2 minutes.  Very gradually add half of the sifted icing sugar; beating continuously.  Gradually add the milk; beating continuously.  Very gradually add the rest of the icing sugar; beating continuously.  Icing should be a smooth and spreadable consistency.  Note, in the fridge it will harden.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Massaman Stir Fry

Stir fry is a staple dish at our house.  This recipe was originally made up by my mother, and it is seriously tastey! It would make enough for 6, with leftovers probably.

700g sweet potoato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
500g chicken or beef
2 pkt tofu
2 onion
3 carrots
3 zucchini
2 handful of green beans
2/3 cup massaman curry paste, plus 2 tbsp
1 can carnation lite coconut milk
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
2/3 cup fresh chopped coriander

Boil, steam or microwave potatoes til under.  Drain.  Do the same for the zucchini and beans.  Trim away and discard any excess fat from chicken or beef.  Thinly slice and cook in a frypan.  Once meat is cooked, remove it and keep it warm.  In frypan, cook onion, carrots and paste together.  Add milk. Stir-fry until carrots are tender. Add tofu. Return chicken to frypan with potatoes, zucchini, beans, sauce, sugar and peanuts.  Stir fry until hot.  Stir in corriander.  Serve.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bitter Cocoa Chocolate Cake

This is the final cake in the "Best Chococlate Cake" search! It comes from my best friend's mother, Rita, who is a talented cook. The cake itself was rather bitter; but balanced with the sweet icing. Whilst it doesn't win the "best" title, it was still enjoyable.  You will find the recipe below in the post.

I guess you're wondering what cake won the title of "Best Chocolate Cake?" Well, there are two winners! Firstly, if you love rich, dense and chocolately cakes then the Best Chocolate Cake for you is Nigella Lawson's Dense Chocolate Cake.  This one didn't even need icing it was that good!  I'm serious, about 15 people tasted all these cakes; and this one was the most popular.  Now, if you like things a little lighter, yet still very chocolately and satisfying...the best one is Women's Weekly Smooth Chocolate Cake.  This was still dense, but in a more "cakey" way instead of Nigella's more "brownie dense" texture.  I also think it's necessary to give a special title of "Best Chocolate Icing" and this goes to Nigella's Sour Cream Chocolate Icing.  It is "mouthfillingly smooth" and so easy to enjoy.

Thank you for following the Best Chocolate Cake search! If you try any of the cakes, I'd love to know.  Below is the recipe for the last chocolate cake in the search:

125g unsalted butter
1/2 caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp drinking chocolate
1/2 cup milk

Ingredients for Icing
85g unsalted butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp milk

Preheat oven 180C. Grease cake tin. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs graudally, beating after every addition. Add essence and beat until combined. Using a metal spoon, fold in sifted dry ingredients alterntaely with milk. Stir until just combined. Put in tin and smooth surface. Bake for 30 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Leave in tin 10 mins then transfer to wire rack. To make the icing, beat butter, sugar and cocoa until light and creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Beat until smooth and spread over cooled cake.

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