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  1. Eggnog Custard Tart with Sweet Almond Crust

    December 23, 2014 by Maria

    Eggnog Custard Tart with Sweet Almond Crust

    -1.5 cups plain flour
    -1 cup almond meal
    -2 heaped tablespoon’s caster sugar
    -150g unsalted COLD butter (cut into 1.5cm cubes approximately)
    -5 tablespoons of icy cold water (added one tablespoon at a time)
    -Pinch of salt
    -1 egg yolk
    -2 teaspoons water
    -2 heaped cups of thick, premium brandy custard (I use ‘Paul’s’ brand, comes in a tub)
    -2 tablespoons caster sugar
    -3 teaspoons powdered gelatine
    -3 tablespoons water
    -1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (and more to sprinkle on top of finished tart… according to your tastes.. but not too much so it’s not overpowering)
    -Optional: silver cachous (sugar balls) to decorate the edge of your pastry before baking (see blog photo’s).. & a piece of holly to put on your finished tart as a festive garnish
    -Preheat oven to 180 celcius
    -Spray or brush a tart tin with oil (non-stick, removable base preferable) – 20 cm-ish in size
    -Make dough in food processor if you have one, otherwise you can do it by hand
    -‘Pulse’ flour, almond meal, caster sugar, cubed/cold butter & salt (but NOT the water yet) until mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs or gravel – If you have no food processor, do it by hand using your fingertips
    -Add icy cold water by the spoonful, bit by bit while your food processor is operating – Around the 5th tablespoonful, the mixture should start forming into a ball of dough
    -Pour dough mixture onto a clean surface, flatten with hands, put on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes
    -Prepare custard mixture while dough is cooling -Put custard in a bowl, add nutmeg + caster sugar & stir well
    -Put gelatine powder & 3 tablespoon’s water in a heatproof jug or mug – Then put jug or mug into a saucepan of shallow, simmering water – stirring until the gelatine has dissolved
    -Put dissolved gelatine mixture aside
    -When dough is cooled, take it out of fridge and start rolling it with a rolling pin until it’s slightly larger than your baking tin (doesn’t matter if it looks a bit rough & isn’t perfect)
    -Carefully roll dough over rolling pin (as if you were winding it on like a cotton reel)..but be gentle as the dough can stick and break – The aim of this is to be able to lift the dough swiftly and carefully over the baking tin where you ‘unwind’ the dough, hopefully in one piece over the tin (see blog photo’s)
    -When the dough is in your tin, use your fingers, working quickly to mould the dough into the tin -At this point you can add some optional silver cachous (tiny edible sugar balls) around the edges of your pastry before baking
    -Prick the pastry with a fork 6 to 8 times, place a sheet of baking paper over the top and then weigh it down with ceramic pie weights or whatever you use to weigh pastry down (eg. dried beans or rice)
    -Blind bake pastry in oven for approximately 10 minutes, then remove pie weights & foil
    -Glaze pastry with an egg wash made of one egg yolk mixed with two teaspoons of water – this will seal your base & keep it from being soggy
    -Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until a light, golden brown colour – remove from oven & cool
    -Quickly mix cooled gelatine mixture in with brandy custard/nutmeg mixture
    -Pour or spoon mixture into cooled/prepared sweet almond crust, smooth it evenly with the back of a spoon and refrigerate for at least an hour to set gelatine
    -Decorate with a piece of holly before serving.. sprinkle over some optional extra nutmeg if you like – and if you want to be indulgent, served custard tart with whipped cream!

  2. Italian Chicken and Bread Salad

    December 16, 2014 by Maria

    Sumac is a delightfully exotic spice, coarse to the texture, tangy to the taste..and it happens to go beautifully with chicken.  And it’s in this recipe!

    Panzanella is another name for an Italian bread salad… which is traditionally eaten in the summer months and includes tomatoes and other ingredients you might have on hand. My bread salad uses sourdough and chicken in this instance & is a hearty meal in itself.  You could use a ciabatta loaf or something similar (preferably day-old and not pillow-soft).

    All you have to do is bake some sumac-coated chicken thigh fillets over the top of large bread cubes with other basic ingredients. The bread pieces become big, rustic croutons.. with bits of crunch soaking in moisture & flavour from the chicken that have been baked on top. I love lebanese cucumbers, so I’ve included them.. but if you don’t like them.. leave them out and try capsicums or various kinds of lettuce.  The flavours are amazing.. you shouldn’t have to wait until summer to eat this.  P.s .  Believe it or not I once found a large jar of sumac at Rays Tent City, like the jar you see below.  Camping spices, no less.

    Italian Chicken and Bread Salad
    Serves 3 to 4 as a main meal
    -6 Chicken Thigh Fillets (skin off)
    -3 small red onions (about 250grams when peeled & thickly sliced)
    -About 200-250grams of sweet tomatoes (I used some mini truss roma’s still on the vine from ‘Moraitis’ -Check the small print on the packets/tubs in Safeway/Woolworths. I find them to be an excellent tomato supplier) – Home grown would be ideal!
    -1 to 1.5 large lebanese cucumbers – around 200grams, quartered lengthwise & then chopped into chunks
    -Sourdough bread or baguette (ends cut off), cut into large cubes (about 250grams) *I used a multigrain sourdough
    -2 tablespoons of sumac
    -1 large clove of fresh garlic, crushed
    -2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
    -Salt & Pepper to taste
    -2 tablespoons of oil
    -Fresh Lemon wedge (juice) to dress the salad
    -Preheat oven to 180 celsius or 170 degrees if fan forced
    -Sprinkle salt & pepper over both sides of chicken thigh fillets and rub in
    -Sprinkle sumac over thigh fillets on both sides and rub in with 1 tablespoon of oil -evenly coating the fillets & set aside
    -Slice onions thickly and saute with 1 tablespoon of oil & a sprinkle of salt in a medium-hot pan for 8 to 10 minutes
    -In the meantime, prepare your bread (cutting off the ends & into chunks) and place in a big salad bowl
    -Add crushed garlic & parsley to pan with onions & cook/stirring for about a minute
    -Add onion/garlic/parsley mix to bread and mix together
    -Pour bread & onion mix into a baking dish (I used a Pyrex rectangular dish) – spread out evenly
    -Lay the sumac-coated chicken thigh fillets over the bread & put into oven
    -Bake chicken & bread for around 30 to 40 minutes, until chicken is cooked through (try to avoid drying it out)
    -Remove chicken from the oven dish, give the bread & onion mix a stir with tongs and place back into the oven for another 10 minutes
    -Some of the large croutons will be crunchy, some will be chewy and some will be a little moist from the lovely chicken juices.. this is normal and provides a variety of textures and tastes to the Panzanella
    -While the bread is back in the oven, prepare your tomatoes & cucumbers if you haven’t already
    -Chop cooked & slightly cooled chicken to your liking.. large or small chunks or even shredded!
    -Cool baked bread for about 10min’s before mixing with all other ingredients
    -When serving, you will have a mixture of the baked sumac chicken, bread, softened onions/parsley/garlic, tomatoes & cucumbers. Placing the chicken on top is a more traditional presentation. Garnish with a sprig of continental (flat leaf) parsley & a lemon cheek.
    -The bread salad comes into its own with fresh lemon juice squeezed over it right before serving.

    Thigh fillets seasoned first with salt & pepper, then a little oil and sumac.

    Spread bread/onion mixture int a baking dish & top with Sumac coated chicken.

    After chicken is cooked, remove from baking dish & return bread to oven.
    Chop cooked chicken whichever way you like.

    Cucumbers ready to chop… Tomatoes are beautiful and sweet.

    Bread & onion mix ready to cool after 10 extra minutes in the oven.

  3. Ginger Cookie Icecream Sandwiches

    December 2, 2014 by Maria

    I’ve made icecream sandwiches Christmassy with the addition of stem ginger cookies and spices added to vanilla icecream.  No baking required (unless you’d like to make your own chunky cookies) .  They’re ideal for a summer-time Christmas too  (like we have in Australia).  The recipe costs under $10 to make and it yields six ice cream sandwiches, whilst store-bought, ready-made, individually wrapped icecream sandwiches (like Pat and Stick’s) cost around $5 each.  They’re great to make ahead and store in the freezer as a treat over the holiday season.

    Ginger Cookie Icecream Sandwiches

    (Makes 6 icecream sandwiches)

    -Vanilla Icecream x 1 litre

    - 12 Stem Ginger Cookies, I used Woolworths Select brand because of the larger size and slightly softer biscuit (about 12-13 cookies per box)

    -Cinnamon, ground x 3/4 teaspoon

    -Nutmeg, ground x 1/4 teaspoon (use freshly grated nutmeg if you can & you can increase the quantity if you like nutmeg)

    -Toasted Desiccated Coconut x 1 cup (you can buy coconut already toasted, which saves time, or alternatively, quickly toast in a dry, hot frying pan, as soon as the coconut starts changing colour, then remove).

    -Pecans x 1/2 cup (put in a plastic bag and smashed into fine pieces with a rolling pin)


     -Soften icecream in the fridge a little until it’s thick and just stirrable, but not runny.

    -Stir in ground cinnamon and grated nutmeg, then put in freezer for 10-15 minutes to make slightly firmer (I find the stirring process sometimes softens it to the point where it’s harder to form your icecream sandwiches).

    -While the spiced icecream is firming up, prepare a bowl with toasted coconut and crushed pecans.  Put pecans into a freezer bag or similar and smash with a rolling pin to make fine rubble.  Mix the smashed pecans with the toasted coconut.

    -Pop a tray into your freezer, ready to take finished icecream sandwiches.  I put them in the freezer as soon as I finish assembling them, one by one.

    -With a spoon, pile icecream onto a ginger cookie as high as you can, at least 8 cm, top with another cookie and gently press down.  As you’re pressing down and icecream is being squashed outwards, cut away excess and smooth the edges with a butter knife, making sure the filling is even and the cookie (when laid flat) is at least 5cm in height.

    -Dip edges of icecream sandwich into the coconut/pecan mixture, so all edges are completely coated and then put in freezer on prepared tray immediately.  Lay a freezer bag over the top of them so they’re less likely to absorb freezer smells or get freezer burn.

    -When all icecream sandwiches are done, allow at least 30 to 60 minutes in the freezer for them to harden before serving.  Grab a paper napkin and eat with your hands!

  4. Pea, Mint and Haloumi Fritters

    November 25, 2014 by Maria





    When I researched haloumi fritters I always thought using a whole 250 gram block would be too much (being a salty cheese), but after making them and even with the addition of parmesan cheese, I still seasoned them with salt and pepper.  When choosing my haloumi I picked one with the lowest sodium content (which was still “right up there”) and it was ‘made in Cyprus’ as it happens.  Next time around I think I might add extra mint and extra haloumi.. so it’s not exactly a budget meal.  In fact I think these would be perfect with smoked salmon and a bit of sour cream on top!  Like decadent blini’s.

    My recipe was adapted and inspired by one I saw on




    Makes 12-14 fritters

    Haloumi x 250gm, finely chopped
    Spring Onions (green part only) x 3, chopped
    Mint leaves x 12, approximately, finely chopped
    Frozen peas x 250gm (defrosted in some boiling water off the heat for a few minutes, drained)
    Eggs x 2
    Flour x 3/4 cup
    Milk x 1/2 cup
    Parmesan x 3 tablespoons
    Salt and pepper for seasoning
    Oil for pan searing fritters (I use low-aroma coconut oil
    Optional serve with sour cream and/or lemon wedges.


    -Process defrosted peas and mint with a stick blender or in a food processor, but only until just blended, not until ‘soup’ consistency.
    -Make batter by mixing together eggs and milk and then adding flour. Whisk until smooth.  Add pea mixture, haloumi, parmesan and and spring onions, stir in well and season with salt and pepper.
    -Heat a pan with oil and add spoonful’s of mixture (I had a couple of good tablespoonful’s of mixture per fritter) and fry until cooked/golden and flip.  They take about 3 minutes per side.  You can keep them warm in a low oven.  Serve with sour cream or lemon wedges and extra mint leaves.


  5. Beef, Guinness & Cheese Pies

    November 4, 2014 by Maria

    2013-03-05 14.12.12Over the weekend I saw the show dance show Celtic Legends (all the way from Ireland) so it’s put me in the mood for all things Irish.  Hence something with Guinness..and of course, a pie!  I favoured a  Jamie Oliver recipe but mine is a quicker version with various additions and omissions.  The main difference is that I used beef mince and not stewing beef.  I’ve left the actual pastry/pie part kind-of up to you because you can do anything you want really.  Just make sure you buy good puff pastry (I never use Borg’s or generic brand for example), then decide if you want to make one big pie (by using a pie dish and covering it with pastry), or individual one’s with lids.  I made pastie-style pies minus the extra washing-up by encasing the dee-lish beef & Guinness mixture entirely in pastry.  The filling was so tasty I’ve decided that next time the filling will be the true it should be!  I love pastry but it isn’t kind-to me at my age & weight.  Speaking of which, it’s my birthday on Sunday, St Patrick’s Day, hence why it made double-sense to make the pies “Recipe of the Week”.. because of the whole Guinness/Irish connection.  I love Jamie’s twist of adding cheese to the recipe too. I bought a lovely cheese, being ‘Ashgrove Rubicon Red’ (in the style of Red Leicester).  Btw, I’ve visited the Ashgrove factory in Tasmania & was impressed that they offered customers plenty of samples which helps when purchasing of course. I mention it because many cheese factories I’ve been to guard and limit their free samples.  But back to the pies, my pastry was Pampas and regretfully I can’t choose ‘All Butter Puff’ varieties these days whether Pampas or Careme.. because (you guessed it) my body isn’t 22 anymore.  But if you can easily digest rich delights like that..then go for it.  Top o’ the mornin’ to ya.

    2013-03-05 12.12.45 Beef, Guinness & Cheese Pies

    *Premium Beef Mince x 1 kilogram
    *Onions (brown) x 3, chopped
    *Carrot x 1, large, chopped
    *Celery x 1 stick, chopped
    *Mushrooms x 4 (a bit larger than a golf ball), chopped
    *Garlic x 2 cloves, minced
    *Rosemary x 1 teaspoon fresh, finely chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
    *White pepper (powder) x 1/2 teaspoon
    *Black pepper (coarsely ground) x 1 teaspoon
    *Plain flour x 4 tablepoon’s
    *Beef stock powder x 1 tablespoon
    *Tamari or Soy Sauce x 2 tablespoon’s
    *Guinness beer x 440ml can
    *Cheddar cheese x 1.5 cups, grated
    *Puff pastry, at least 4 to 6 frozen sheets (quantity will vary depending on how you’d like to make your pies.. if you want to put meat mixture into individual ramekins, then you’ll only need pastry lids – but you may want to encase the mixture in pastry like I did.  I had leftover meat mixture, so I defrosted only the amount I’d be using, which was 6 sheets at the time, cut into 24 squares, making 12 pies).
    *Egg yolks x 2, whisked with a fork (for glazing pastry)


    -Fry onions with a pinch of salt until slightly softened, then add carrot & celery and fry for another 5 minuters, stirring occasionally.
    -Add rosemary, garlic, + white & black pepper, stir well and fry off for a couple of minutes before adding the beef mince and turning up the heat a little.
    -When beef isn’t pink anymore add flour, cook a couple of minutes and add the Guinness, and beef stock powder, then cover with a lid and let simmer for around 30 minutes (stirring occasionally) until the sauce reduces and thickens (think of the consistency you want in a pie, you don’t want it watery). Add soy sauce or tamari when the mixture is almost ready.
    -When pie filling is ready, spread it out onto a large tray so it cools down quickly.
    -When filling is at room temperature (or close to it), it’s ready to use.  You can fill up a large pie dish, top it with grated cheese and then cover it with puff pastry.  Alternatively, make individual pies, or forget pie dishes altogether and just encase the mixture in pastry, like you would a pastie or similar.  Don’t forget to add the grated cheese before topping with pastry.  Always brush pastry with egg yolk and prick with a fork before baking at 200 degree’s celcius for around 20-30 minutes.
    -The recipe makes quite a bit of filling, so you may not use it all.  Leftover mince can be made into more quick pies on another day or use it as a toasted sandwich filling or reheat and serve with mashed potatoes and veg.  It’s also freezable.
    2013-03-05 13.26.22
    2013-03-05 13.41.19

    2013-03-05 14.14.29

    2013-03-05 14.12.12

  6. Mexican Five Layer Dip

    October 28, 2014 by Maria

    Here’s a dip to feed a crowd! I call it the long-lost savoury-cousin of the English Trifle. Both require your own serving plate to eat from and both need their own glass bowl to show-off their layers. A bowl of grande dip and a bowl of sturdy (not flimsy) corn chips. Everyone helps themselves to a few chips and everyone gets to dig-deep & dollop this Tex-Mex rainbow onto their little plates. There’s enough dip to turn this into a meal like we did. Plate up some freshly cooked chicken schnitzels with shredded iceberg lettuce (and baked sweet potato if you like), dollop the five-layered dip on the side and stab a few corn chips into the mix. Nacho schnitzel’s baby. Omit the meat and you have something gluten free and vegie friendly.

    Mexican Five Layer Dip

    -435 gram tin of (Mexican-style) refried beans
    -1 onion finely chopped
    -1 clove of garlic, grated/minced
    -1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    -1 teaspoon of oil
    -1/2 teaspoon of lime juice (for bean mixture)
    -2 cups light sour cream
    -2 cups grated orange coloured cheese (try a sundried tomato flavoured cheese or Red Leicester.. the colour of these cheeses makes the dip layers appear brighter, but alternatively pick the cheese of your choice)
    -2 large avocado’s, mashed and seasoned with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice

    -1 spring onion
    -3 tomatoes, deseeded & chopped
    -1/2 cup of chopped coriander
    -juice from 1/4 of a lime
    -chopped pickled jalapeno’s to taste
    -1 teaspoon of caster sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet
    -OR alternatively, buy good quality, store bought, chunky salsa for the final layer
    -Tortilla/Corn chips to serve
    -1 see-through glass bowl for serving so you can see the five layers.. A small, but tall salad bowl is ideal


    -In a hot pan, saute onion until soft, then add garlic, saute another minute, then add ground cumin and stir.
    -Add refried beans and blend/break-down with onion/garlic/cumin mixture, combine all ingredients well, squeeze over lime juice, mix & turn off heat.
    -Scoop bean mixture onto a dinner plate, spread out with a spatula or similar so the mix can cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
    -Season sour cream with a little salt and white pepper, stir well.
    -Chop spring onions and fresh coriander, leaving the fresh tomatoes till later, it’s important the fresh tomatoes are prepared close to serving time, otherwise they go too soggy.
    -In a clean glass bowl, carefully add your first layer, being the refried bean mix, spreading it to the edges of the bowl with a spoon.
    -Add grated cheese evenly to make your second layer.
    -Dollop prepared avocado on top of your cheese layer and carefully spread it to the edges of your bowl.
    -When avocado layer is smooth and evenly spread, dollop seasoned sour cream on top and smooth out, ready for the final layer.
    -You can refrigerate this covered, up to four hours before serving. I wouldn’t add the tomato salsa layer until just before serving.
    -Make your fresh salsa by combining together the deseeded, chopped tomatoes, fresh coriander, chopped spring onion, chopped pickled jalapeno’s,lime juice & a pinch of salt (..also caster sugar if your tomatoes aren’t sweet).
    -If you’re using store-bought chunky salsa, wait until you’re ready to serve the dip before scooping it on top of your sour cream layer. The final layer doesn’t need to be spread out evenly, it can be piled-up in a mound so you can see the sour cream layer underneath.
    -Finish five layer dip with the salsa of your choice and serve it with tortilla/corn chips.
    -As a dinner idea, use this dip to feed a crowd. Prepare each dinner plate with a piece of chicken schnitzel and some shredded iceberg lettuce on the side (or some baked sweet potato). Put the dip in the middle of the table and allow diners to dollop the five layered dip on top of their schnitzel to make it ‘Tex Mex’. Offer a bowl of corn chips or smashed corn chips as a crunchy garnish.

    On top of the refried bean mixture, add a layer of grated cheese, then a layer of avocado, then sour cream, before finishing off with your fresh salsa layer (or alternatively buy some good, store-bought chunky salsa and put a pile of it on top, right before serving).

    Recipe inspired by & adapted from Clean Eating .