Monday, February 14, 2011

Pear pistachio and chocolate cake

I could try and describe how good this cake is, but really you should just make it.

The recipe originally come from a Vogue Entertaining recipe book, I discovered it when I was away on holidays, and I happened to have a pear, a packet of pistachios and some chocolate.

Pear, Pistachio and Chocolate Cake
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
pinch salt
150g unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs
¾ c pistachio nuts
zest of 1 orange
200g dark chocolate, chopped
1 – 2 pears, peeled, cored and diced

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and flour a 20 - 22cm cake tin or a loaf tin.
Process flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and half the pistachios in a food processor until pistachios are chopped small. Add butter and process until combined. Add the eggs and process until just combined. This is a very thick batter. Add remaining nuts and orange zest and process briefly to combine.

Remove the blade and stir in the chocolate and pear. Scrape into the tin.

Bake for approx. 45 minutes (depends on tin and oven) or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool.

I like it with cream poured over!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I promised a brownie recipe and here it is... I have tried quite a few brownie recipes over the years and this is now my firm favourite. It is the type of brownie you would be proud to serve in a cafe and it tastes dense, rich and chocolatey like brownie should. It is a Bill Granger recipe (so probably is served in a cafe) via my great friend Jenny, she has made a few changes to the original recipe that I have incorporated. It is a quick mix recipe that you can have in the oven in under ten minutes. I use half rich dark dutch cocoa from Essential Ingredient (great stuff if you have never tried it) which helps make it really chocolatey. I once threw in fresh raspberries and it was delicious.

Chocolate Brownies

1 ½ C caster sugar
2/3 C cocoa
3/4 C plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
200g unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla essence
150-200g dark chocolate pieces (chopped cooking or eating chocolate or choc chip bits)

Preheat oven to 160C (150C in fan-forced). Grease and line a 22cm square tin (or similar).

Stir sugar, cocoa, flour & baking powder together in a bowl. Add eggs, melted butter and vanilla; mix until well combined. Mix in about ¾ of the chocolate.

Pour into a lined 22cm square tin and sprinkle the remainder of chocolate over the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blog find - Pod and Three Peas

Given the rare opportunity of a bit of me time, I love nothing more than reading food blogs and recipes on the web - also good when insomnia strikes! Recipes on blogs are great as they are tried and tested, finding a blog you like is better than a new recipe book! The other day I discovered Pod and Three Peas, the blogger Paula created her blog to "keep track of and share recipes that we love". Having just had a quiet afternoon I have just read back though most of the blog.

I love this blog and relate to it because - I want to cook most of her recipes, she cooks lots of similar things to me (but manages to blog a whole lot more - inspiring), she has two little kids similar in age to mine but and still cooks great food, she loves baking, she makes New York Times no-knead bread, she loves Japanese panko breadcrumbs, she has difficulty letting her children ice the biscuits their way too, she is particular about sausages, she measures her day in cold cups of tea. Thanks for sharing with us Paula!
I made one of her recipes that first night for dinner - Mustard and Creme Fraiche Baked Chicken. It was soooo delicious and very easy - would be a perfect dinner party dish (it didnt look nearly as bad as she makes out!). I will be making this again, I used creme fraiche and pancetta the first time but might try sour cream and bacon next time for a cheaper option.

So here is a list of all the recipes I want to try from the blog:
feta, ham and parsley filo tart
roasted cauli and almond salad
olive oil crackers - like those delicous long crisp thin breads that go so well with cheese that I cant afford
devilled sausages - a new one for the slow cooker
ginger crunch
raspberry buttermilk cake
chocolate cheesecake cupcakes
shortbread - tried and tested
cherry tomato, salami and chickpea soup
crispy pork belly with apple fennel slaw
sweet chilli beef and peanut salad
harira soup - morrocan lamb and chickpea soup
egyptian fish and sea
mexican lasagne
ottoman lamb with eggplant bechamel
zucchini carpaccio - zucchini salad with pine nuts, currants, capers and feta

Hmmm, quite a long list, might keep me going for awhile!

On her blog last March, Paula wrote she is still looking for the perfect brownie recipe. I think I have found it, although each to their own, so my next post is for you.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Date and Walnut Loaf

Its 33 degrees here today and I have a huge oven that heats the whole living space rather successfully.
So not a great day for baking... but if you want to eat cake, you have to make it first. So I might be sweltering but I just enjoyed my first slice of date and walnut loaf slathered in butter with a cup of tea. This is one of my all time favourite cakes. The recipe comes from Matthew Evans  and was published in the SMH Good Weekend on 20.9.2008; that was two days after my daughter was born  (Ava who is my little helper in the photo below) - amazing that I was reading the paper and cutting out recipes!

Date and Walnut Loaf
A low-fat cake is perfect for spreading with a thick layer of butter when you serve it. I like my fruit and nuts chunky, so I use big pieces of walnut and whole dry dates (not those soft expensive ones). If you don’t have don’t have dark brown sugar, use a little treacle, molasses or golden syrup in the mix to add some depth.

My little helper and all the ingredients
50g butter
150g (~1C) dark brown sugar
250ml water
generous pinch of salt
250g (~1 ½C) pitted dates
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg, lightly beaten
300g (2C) self-raising flour (or 2 C plain flour + 4 tsp baking powder)
100g walnut pieces

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin or two log-style tins or similar.

Put butter, sugar, water, salt and dates in a decent sized saucepan and bring to the boil. Be careful with the size of the saucepan because when you add the bicarb it can froth up to more than double its volume. Remove from the heat and immediately add the bicarb and stir. Allow the date mixture to cool until about body temperature, then fold in the vanilla, egg, flour and walnuts and tip into tin.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean, reducing the temperature if its dark on the outside and not yet cooked inside. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature with butter for spreading.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meatballs with Pancetta and Parmesan in the Slow Cooker or on the Stove

This is one of our favourite and most regular family meals. The meatball recipe comes from a Rick Stein recipe in Delicious 2008 - the pancetta and parmesan in the balls give them a great texture and taste. My good friend Georgia originally made this for us when my daughter Ava was born, and we have never made meatballs any other way since.

This is a work night dinner in our house. I make up a huge batch of meatballs and freeze them uncooked, then defrost them in the fridge the night before I need them. I lightly fry them up before work, or at lunch time (I only work up the road) and leave them to cook in the slow cooker. I usually cheat for the sauce and just use a jar of passata poured straight into the slow cooker. I want to try not frying them first, just cooking in the sauce, but am sure they won't be as good so have never tried it - maybe next week!

My addition to the recipe has been to include vegetables in the sauce - I try and sneak them in everywhere, as my kids don't eat salad and I don't want to make one after work anyway.

No photo for this one, we forgot and ate it all!

Meatballs with Parmesan and Pancetta in Tomato Sauce
serves 4

¼ C olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g sliced pancetta, finely choppd
750 g pork and veal or beef mince
½ lemon, zested
1C (80g) parmesan, grated
2/3 C (50g) fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp oregano, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
400g can chopped tomatoes
150g tomato passata
Cheat's Tomato Vegetable Sauce

zucchini, eggplant, sweet potato (or whatever you have), diced
1 jar tomato passata
To Serve
½ C basil, shredded
pasta or polenta
parmesan, grated

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a small frypan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cook stirring for 5 minutes until softened but not coloured. Set aside to cool.

Place pancetta, mince, zest, parmesan, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano and onion mixture in a large bowl. Use your hands to combine well. Add egg, ½ tsp salt and pepper to taste, mix through.

With damp hands, shape mixture into walnut sized balls. Chill for 30 minutes to firm up. At this point you can refridgerate for a day or two, or freeze for a couple of months.

Heat the remaining oil in a non-stick frypan. In batches, lightly brown the meatballs on all sides but don’t cook through. Set meatballs aside while you make the sauce. If cooking in a slow cooker, put the meatballs in the slow cooker now.

Tomato Sauce
In the same frypan, add the oil and butter and cook the onion and garlic, stirring, for 5 minutes. For the slow cooker, transfer the onions to the slow cooker and continue to cook in there. Add tomatoes, passata, salt and pepper, bring to the boil. Return the meatballs to the pan, then partially cover and simmer over medium-low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and meatballs are cooked through. Or cook in the slow cooker on low for 2 – 4 hours, you can leave it all day but the meatballs will be tougher.
Cheat's Tomato and Vegetable Sauce
After removing the meatballs from the frypan, add a bit more oil and fry the diced zucchini and eggplant (sweet potato doesn't need it). Put vegetables in the slow cooker with the meatballs and pour the passata over. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 2 – 4 hours, you can leave it all day but the meatballs will be tougher.

Before you eat, gently take the meatballs out of the sauce and use a stick blender to puree the sauce so it is smooth with no vegetable lumps.

Serve on pasta or polenta with parmesan and basil, sprinkled over.