Crunchy cinnamon goodness 

These small macaroons are perfect for cinnamon-lovers. The cinnamon could be swapped in for other ‘sweet’ spices. These keep for about 1 week, so they make great gifts. 

Cinnamon Macaroons

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
300g ground almonds
2 tbsp plain flour
3 egg whites
295g caster sugar

Heat oven to 180c. Line trays with baking paper – this makes about 45 macaroons, so  you will need more than one tray. 

Mix together the cinnamon, almond meal anf flour in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites using a mixer until stiff peaks form. Add the caster sugar slowly as you continue whisking the egg whites. Some say add a tbsp at a time, but I just tend to pour it in in a slow, thin stream.

Eventually, all the sugar should be mixed in so that the mix is glossy-looking. Gently fold in the cinnamon mix. 

Here’s the messy part. Lightly flour a board and your hands. Take a heaped tsp of mixture, then roll it into a ball in your hands. Place it on the tray. Repeat, making sure you keep about 5cm between each ball (they will spread as they cook). Bake for about 10 minutes until they are firm to the touch. They will colour a little. 

Stand for at least 5 minutes so they firm up a bit before they are removed off the trays. 

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Quince custard tart

This tart takes a long time, mostly courtesy of the time it takes to cook the quince. It is relatively easy and well worth the effort. The pastry is fantastic and I have used it many times for other dishes. 

Quince custard tart

500ml  cold water
440g caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3-5 quinces (about 1kg), peeled, quartered and cored
150g plain flour
125g cold butter, chopped
55g hazelnut meal
60g icing sugar mixture (pure icing sugar is too lumpy)
1 egg yolk
300ml cream
125ml milk
4 eggs
115g caster sugar
2 tsp rosewater, orange blossom water or other essence

Heat the oven to 180c. Cut the quince quarters in half lengthways again. Add the water, sugar and cinnamon to a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring so the sugar dissolves. Don’t let the mix come to the boil. Place the quince pieces into a baking dish, then pour the sugar mix over the top. Bake it in the oven, turning every half hour. 

While the quince is baking, put the 150g plain flour, butter, hazelnut meal and icing sugar in a food processor. Blitz it until the mix looks like small breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and pulse briefly until it just comes together. You shouldn’t need to add any ice water, but if you do, only do a little at a time. Put the pastry on a lightly floured surface, knead it a little until smooth. shape it into a ball, wrap with plastic, then place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

After 1.5 hours or so, the quince should be pink and the syrup a fair bit thicker. Take it out and allow the quince pieces to cool. 

Now roll out the pastry between sheets of baking paper, until you have formed a 3mm disc: this should be enough to cover a 23cm tart tin. Grease the tart tin first, then layer in the pastry. Trim the edges, then put it back in the fridge again for about half an hour. 

Put crumbled baking paper over the tart shell, fill it with baking weights, then bake it (still at 180c) for about 10 minutes. Take out the weights and paper, then bake the tart case another 5 – 10 minutes. You want it to look golden, not brown. Take it out of the oven, then turn the oven down to 160c. 

Lightly whisk the eggs, then whisk them with the cream, milk, sugar and essence. Pass it through a sieve, just to get any egg white chunks out of the mix. Pour it into the the pastry case, then bake it for about 30 minutes until just set. Remove it from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. 

Decorate the tart top with the quince slices. Place the syrup in a saucepan, bring it to the boil over high heat and let it cook for 5 minutes or so. Let it cool, then pour some over the quince. Place the tart in the fridge to chill for at least one hour to chill before serving. 

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An impossible pie?

This is another recipe that I grew up with. I have fond memories of it, so I continue to make it to this day. Mind you, it is also pretty good: coconutty and custardy. It could be possible to swap at least part of the margarine/butter for coconut oil. I believe it is known as ‘impossible’ pie because it is impossible to stuff up!

Impossible Pie

2 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup coconut
1/2 plain flour
1/2 cup margarine/butter
1 tsp vanilla essence/coconut essence
4 eggs

Grease a pie dish and heat the oven to 180c. Place all the ingredients in a big bowl, then whisk everything together. Pour the mix into the pie dish, then bake it for about 45 minutes. Give it a shake to check that it is cooked. 

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The legendary baked cheesecake

I have been making this cheesecake since I was a teenager. It is thick, heavy and tasty, and very mean on the hips. But, as an occasional treat, it is awesome! This recipe has always made far too much filling, but it always seems to go missing somehow… Personally, I think you really need to make double the biscuit base recipe to make a pie big enough to accommodate all the filling. 

This is a baked cheesecake, which I have always preferred to most of the gelatine set cheesecakes. 

You could add a variety of flavours to this, either in the mix iteself, or on top in the form of sauces or coulis. 

Baked cheesecake

1 3/4 cups crushed, plain, sweet biscuits (wheatmeal is good)
1/4 cup chopped pecans
125g butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened
220g sugar
2 tsp good quality vanilla essence
3 eggs
750g sour cream (full fat) – about three cartons

Heat an oven to about 190c.

Blitz the biscuits and pecans in a food processor to form the base mix. Stir in the butter. Press about half of the mix into the greased and lined base of a 23cm sringform tin with high sides, then press the remaining mix up the sides. You want this to be about half a centimetre thick at the most. Set aside in the fridge. 

Beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together, until smooth. Beat in the eggs lightly, until just combined. Beat the sour cream lightly, then fold into the other mixture. Pour into the tin, then smooth the top. 

Bake in a 180-190c oven for about 50-55 minutes. Allow to cool, then place in the fridge (preferably overnight) to set. Slice with a hot knife. 

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Mum’s crumble topping

I’ve been eating this crumble topping since I was a kids. It isn’t the healthiest topping out there, but it works well for me: given my allergy to oats, it is rare that I can find a ‘healthier’ crumble topping that I can actually eat. This topping crisps up nicely when you get the balance right. Avoid stewed fruit with a lot of liquid and don’t go too overboard with the butter/margarine. I have tried adding spices, shredded and dessicated coconut, and chopped nuts: all of them work!

Mum’s crumble topping (base recipe)

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup butter or magarine (I use Nuttelex)

Heat the oven to about 180c. Layer cooled, stewed fruit into a baking dish. 

Mix togther all the crumble ingredients, cutting through with a butter knife, until the mix is almost together. Toss lightly with your fingertips. Place in the fridge for about 15 minutes. 

Spread the topping over the fruit. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. 

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Flaky, nutty pastry goodness

I generally shy away from filo pastry. I find it tricky to work with, and good quality pastry is hard to find. I certainly don’t have the skills to make it myself. There are, however, plenty of exceptions! This is one of them. This strudel is a great combination of the flaky pastry, tender apple, pecans and cinnamon. 

Apple and pecan strudel

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
100g pecans, finely chopped
1/2 tsp (or more if you’re me) ground cinnamon
3 apples, peeled, cored, sliced and finely sliced
6 slices of filo pastry
70g butter, melted
Make sure the filo is fully defrosted. Place a clean, lightly damp tea towel on a bench, then a lay a sheet of baking paper or wax paper on top. Gently roll out the filo sheets so that they are flat, then top with another sheet of baking paper or wax paper. Top with another slightly damp, clean tea towel. This should protect the pastry from drying out. 

Preheat the oven to 150c. 

Combine the breadcrumbs, brown sugar, pecans, cinnamon and apple in a large bowl. 

Place a sheet of pastry on a large chopping board or clean surface. Brush gently with melted butter, then top with another sheet. Repeat until you place the last sheet on top. Add a little butter on top. 

Cover about a third of the pastry with apple mixture, then roll up to form a log shape. Brush with butter, turn the ends under and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven for 40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown. 

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Easy, fluffy citrus puddings

This is an old favourite of mine that I recall cooking when I first left home. The recipe intially caught my eye because it contained tangelos. I had never had a tangelo at that point, and it sounded interesting. This is essentially just like a lighter lemon delicious. You could swap in any citrus. 

Baked tangelo puddings

1/4 cup self-raising flour
40g butter, melted
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup milk
grated rind of 1 tangelo (or other citrus)
2 eggs, separated
2 tbsp citrus juice

Grease four ramekins. Heat the oven to 180c. 

Mix flour, sugar and rind. Combine the juice, butter, milk and egg yolks, and whisk lightly. Fold this wet mix into the dry mix (flour etc) until well-combined. 

Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites lightly into the tangelo mix until just combined, preferably with a metal spoon. Divide the mix between the ramkins, then place in a large baking dish. Fill the dish with boiling water, up to about half way up the ramekins. 

Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes. 

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