Category Archives: dessert

syrup cake with strawberries & blueberries

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In the weekend we had Mum & my brother’s mother-in-law to lunch. Well, midday dinner, I guess. The main course was a butterflied leg of lamb, crusted with herbs and cooked on the barbecue. (Our first barbecue of the season!) Along with that we had roast potatoes & pumpkins (we’re still eating the wee ones we grew last summer), steamed green beans, fresh peas from the garden, and a minty hollandaise sauce. Once that had settled (& yes, we had leftovers for tea the next day) I served up this cake – I think the recipe was originally in the Viva section of the Wednesday morning Herald, but I’ve massaged it slightly.

Cream together 250g butter and 1 c sugar, before beating in 3 eggs. This time round I also added the zest of an orange. Then fold in 1/2 c fine polenta, 2 c ground almonds, & 1/2 c self-raising flour. Spoon the mix into a greased and lined square cake tin (or, in my case, a silicone ‘tin’) and smooth the top before putting it in the oven at 160 C. After 20 minutes cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil, then continue to bake for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven & cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before carefully inverting it onto a serving dish & removing the baking paper.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the fruit/syrup topping. The original recipe used summer stone-fruit such as nectarines and plums and added vanilla to the syrup, but I had a punnet of strawberries from the orchard shop near the kennels where the dog goes for ‘kindy’ (lol). So I sliced a couple of cups of strawberries into a saucepan & added 1/2 c sugar, the juice of the orange, and 2 sprigs of mint, before bringing it gently to the simmer. Trust me – mint works rather well with strawberries! I simmered it for only 10 minutes as I didn’t want the fruit to disintegrate, then cooled the mix for about 10 minutes before spooning it carefully over the top of the cake. The last step was to decorate with some more slices of strawberry & about 1/2 c of frozen blueberries – the residual heat from cake & sauce defrosted them before we got to the pudding stage.

Serve with vanilla icecream or whipped cream, or both, and wait for the compliments.

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a very nice cheesecake

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This is a dessert I make quite often when we’re having friends over for dinner. It’s quick to make, requires no baking, & if you make it with ‘lite’ dairy products you can almost kid yourself it’s healthy πŸ™‚ This recipe’s our current favourite variation on the original Edmond’s Cookbook version.

First, crush your biscuits** – for this version I use chocolate thins. (You can either put them in the blender until you get coarse crumbs, or put them in a reasonably sturdy plastic bag & beat them with a rolling pin; this can be quite cathartic.) Then mix in 70g melted butter & press the crumb crust into a 20cm-diameter dish. These days I use a spring-form pan – while it’s non-stick I still line the base with baking paper – but a ceramic pie-dish served us well for years. Put that in the fridge to chill & set while you make the filling.

Wipe the blender to get rid of the worst remaining crumbs & then into it put: 250g cream cheese (lite if you prefer); 250g sour cream (ditto); 1/4c white sugar; and the juice & zest of an orange (because this goes particularly well with the chocolate base. But you could use a lemon or lime instead). Blend till smooth.

Soften 4tsp gelatine in a couple of Tblsp water, & then briefly microwave to dissolve. Blend that into the cream mix & pour the whole lot into the prepared tin. At this point I sometimes add blueberries (though not with the chocolate version) or other fruit.

Chill till set, & serve πŸ™‚

** If using plain biscuits (eg wine biscuits), then some crumbed macadamia nuts would be nice in the crust too.

pumpkins – stuffed & in pie

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While the husband & I are both really fond of pumpkin, we don’t want to eat it the same way all the time πŸ™‚ The mini-pumpkins are just the right size for 1-2 people (well, some of them are – others would do for 4 & have some left over), so one night I decided to stuff them. This is probably the cheat’s way to do it πŸ˜€

All I did was cut out a ‘plug’ around the stump of the stem – this would act as the lid – and then used a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then I got a packet of Uncle Ben’s savoury rice out of the pantry & used some of that, mixed with a little crumbled feta, to pack the cavity in the pumpkin before adding a couple of Tblsp of water and replacing the lid. (The rest I cooked & served as a side dish for the benefit of the daughter, who professes not to like this particular cucurbit fruit.) And then it went in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 180 C. Couldn’t be simpler, & tasted wonderful.

And for another option – well, my science blog-buddy Darcy has shared his favourite pumpkin pie recipe:

500g pumpkin (cooked)
3/4C sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ginger
3 eggs lightly beaten
150mL evaporated milk.

Mash pumpkin and blend ingredients together. Pour into pie dish lined with sweet short crust pastry (We usually get the pre-rolled stuff from the supermarket – much easier to work with). Bake @ 180C for 25 min or till skewer comes out clean.

Eat hot or cold with whipped cream – I prefer cold, straight from the fridge.

I usually do double the mix so I don’t have half a can of evaporated milk lying around.

I’ve yet to try this one – but we’ll see what the next lot of dinner guests think πŸ™‚

And then of course there will be pumpkin curry, & pumpkin soup… And I’ve got a rather nice recipe for pumpkin bread too!

a most memorable dinner at our favourite cafe

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The daughter & I have been going to Scotts Epicurean pretty much since it opened back in 2000. Sometimes we drag the husband along as well. The friendly, welcoming service & the great food just keep us coming back – usually for Saturday brunch. However, every now & then they put on a dinner: 4-5 small, perfectly formed courses with accompanying wines, & we’ve thoroughly enjoyed those too. (Although the husband did feel that perhaps he should have dressed for the occasion when we went along for a meal the night Hamilton’s Riff-Raff statue was unveiled. It was a cold night, but somehow he felt somewhat overdressed in his polar fleece πŸ™‚ ) So, when I saw the flyer for their latest dinner, I bought a couple of tickets on the spot! (The daughter never wants to come to these; she is never quite sure that she’ll want to eat everything on offer.)

And as usual, we were not disappointed. (I am not going to talk about the wines here as a) I didn’t try them all & b) I can’t remember the names anyway. Suffice it to say that all those I sipped complemented the food rather well.)

First up, polenta chips with a lovely thick garlicy aoli. I rather like polenta & the last time I made it I did keep some over for chips, but couldn’t get them crispy enough. Will have to have another go, for those we ate on Friday were rather fine.

Next, kingfish, pan-fried & served with saffron rice, finely diced chorizo & red pepper, & ‘crackling’ of chicken skin. Which worked well & was apt, given that I’ve often heard kingfish described as the chicken of the sea. I’m not huge on fish but I cleaned my plate up.

The soup – served in a glass – was a creamy carrot soup made special by the use of star anise. It had a little scoop of what the menu described as black olive sorbet on the top, which was visually attractive. Being not a fan of olives (you can see where the daughter gets her fussiness from) I passed most of mine across the table to the husband; in retrospect this was perhaps foolish as the little bit left behind showed me that the flavours went together extremely well.

This was followed by Angus steak (fillet, I think), served medium rare on kohlrabi puree with smoked leeks & several types of mushroom. The husband, who also has his little food foibles, originally said that I could have his mushrooms, but I noticed sadly that he changed his mind after sampling them. The only part of this course we had reservations about was the leeks; the smoking led them to present as slightly fibrous, although they tasted good. The rest was scrumptious.

After this I have to say we were feeling comfortably full, although not over-so – which was just as well as dessert was still to come. This was a delightful free-form pie (on the menu, aka crostada) of feijoas on a bed of ground hazelnuts, served with a citrus-y cream. I enjoyed working out the ingredients as I savoured it, & checked with Jason Scott (owner/chef) afterwards that I’d got them all. “Yes,” he said “- & you can find the recipe on-line, on my sister’s blog.” So I did – & made it myself for friends the following evening.

All in all, a great evening πŸ˜€

pizza – for dessert?

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One of my brothers introduced me to this variation on pizza, way back when we still lived in Palmerston North. (He’d been keeping an eye on our place while we were away, & we’d been wondering where all the grapes had got to…) Our muscatel grapes are ripe at last, so I thought this would make a good dessert for the family.

I make pizza dough quite a lot, by hand or in the bread machine. There’s little difference in time between the 2 methods (both take around 45 minutes), but for this one I used the machine to do the kneading as I had other stuff on the go in the kitchen at the same time.

Into the mixing bowl I put 2 c strong (bread) flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 Tblsp olive oil, 3/4 c water, & 2 Tlbsp raw sugar. Normally I use very little sugar in pizza dough but this time I wanted it to be sweetish, on account of it being for dessert. Then I put it in the machine on the ‘pizza’ setting & set it going.

While the bread machine did its bit, I put my big pizza stone in the oven (200 degrees C) to heat, & set about preparing the grapes. I wanted around 2 cups, & had a mix of fat green grapes from the market & our own lovely golden-pink muscatels. The latter, which are smallish, I just pulled from their stems – they tend to split a little, but this is good as the escaped juices caramelise in cooking. The big green ones I halved, & flicked out their seeds with the point of a knife.

Once the dough had finished its brief rising, I kneaded it a little to get rid of the air bubbles & then rolled & stretched it to a disc a little smaller than the pizza stone. (I usually do this on a Teflon sheet & slide it onto the stone from a baking tray.) Then I studded it liberally with grapes – green ones cut side up – & sprinkled everything with 2-3 Tblsp white sugar before putting the pizza in the oven for about 20 minutes: the fruit should soften and the sugar & juices caramelise.

The scent as the finished dish came from the oven was that of a good dessert wine πŸ™‚

a floral ice bowl

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This is just a heads-up to a post by a friend of mine (who’s also keen on the culinary arts): making a floral ice bowlΒ to hold a lovely cool fruit salad. I have a fond memory of enjoying one of these (& its contents) at the end of a lazy summer dinner at Annette’s place, a few years ago now. The photo is hers – drop by Number8Network to find out how it’s done πŸ™‚

raspberry jelly & meringues

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For the last couple of years Nana & Poppa have come over & stayed with us for Christmas, but Poppa isn’t up to travelling any more & so this year we spent Christmas over there – but to save them any effort we said we’d cater πŸ™‚ Nana insisted on doing the potatoes (newly dug from their garden), but we took fresh beans, a chicken & smoked red pepper roulade (because they’d enjoyed the smoked salmon one so much) – & for dessert, raspberry jelly & meringues. (This would work just as well with strawberries or blueberries & indeed, since we have way too many strawberries & the husband is tired of making strawberry jam, strawberry jelly is probably in our near culinary future.)

Now, this was no ordinary raspberry jelly ie its ingredients had been nowhere near a packet! I’ve been freezing our raspberries as they’re picked; well, most of them, anyway. So I had plenty to hand. I put about 2&1/2 cups of the frozen berries in a saucepan with 1 c sugar & heated them slowly to a gentle simmer – all the luscious juices ran from the fruit & the smell was divine. Then I poured the mix of juice & pulpy berries through a sieve; I didn’t worry too much about the fact that I was catching pulp as well as juice, but I really didn’t want the pips. (The husband joked that I should sell those to the manufacturers of raspberry jam.)

Next, I added 4 tsp powdered gelatine to 2 Tblsp cold water, & once it had softened I heated the mix gently in the microwave till the gelatine had dissolved. Then I went back to the raspberries & made what was effectively ‘thick juice’ up to 500 ml with hot water, before mixing in the dissolved gelatine & pouring the jelly into a pretty bowl to set. That travelled safely over to the Mount the next day in a chilly bin, & before serving I poured 500 ml vanilla custard over the top: the combination of ruby red jelly & creamy yellow custard looked most attractive.

And, because I’d made blueberry brioche the day before & as a result had egg whites to spare, I made meringues to go with dessert. While I adore meringues I’ve never made them often, but these were a breeze – the recipe’s from taste.com.au, & it’s a good one. I beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a glass bowl until they were stiff, & then beat in 1 c sugar, a little at a time. Once the sugar had all dissolved I had a lovely, glossy, stiff meringue mix. I transferred this to baking-paper-covered oven trays using a tablespoon, & then put them in the oven, which I’d heated to 120 degrees C but lowered to 90 as soon as they went in. After about 90 minutes the meringues were crispy on the outside & this lovely pale, golden-white colour, at which point I turned the oven off & left them there to dry overnight. Stored in an airtight container they would have lasted a week or so, but there was little chance of that – there were 8 of us round the table on Christmas Day & every single meringue disappeared.

And I was delighted to find that they were just like the ones I remember my mother making: crisp on the outside but soft & chewy within. One more happy nostalgia trip πŸ™‚