Maple syrup and nuts? Yes please!

I have given up a lot of sugar, but I am still a complete sucker for maple syrup. When maple syrup is combined with nuts (and cream, of course), I’m all in.

This tart combines that winning combination of flavours with an excellent pastry. The pastry is based on hazelnuts, which makes it strong enough, but not too firm. You could easily supplement almond or another nut meal. Most nuts work well – macadamias, in particular, are great. You could use a single type of nut or a mix. Honey, golden syrup or rice malt syrup could be swapped in for the maple syrup. You may need to microwave them first as they are quite a lot thicker than maple syrup.

Maple-nut Tart/s

150g plain flour
100g hazelnut meal
60g icing sugar mixture (pure icing sugar is too firm)
125g cold butter, chopped 
1 egg yolk
230g nuts, shelled
1 tbsp plain flour (extra)
55g brown sugar
50g butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly whisked
185ml maple syrup (NOT the fake stuff!)

Heat your oven to 200c. 

Put the 150g flour, nut meal, icing sugar, butter in a food processor and blitz until the mix looks a bit like small breadcrumbs. At this point, I turn the mix into a bowl, then add the egg yolk, cutting it in with a knife until the mix just comes together. Alternatively,  you could just blitz the egg in with the rest of the mix in the food processor, but don’t go nuts with it.  It doesn’t have to be super smooth – you should be able to form a ball with some mix. 

Turn the mix onto a lightly floured board and knead very lightly, just until it seems smooth. Ideally, you want it to stay cool. Roll the mix into a ball, cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to cool. 

While the pastry cools, toast the nuts on a tray in the oven for about 3-4 minutes. This will really depend on the size of the nuts. You want the nuts lightly toasted – once they’re golden, take them out. Let them cool for a while. 

Back to the pastry. You will need to roll the pastry to about 3mm thick. You could line 8 10cm tins, or 1 big tin. Flour the tins first and trim off any excess pastry from the edges. Put back in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up. Place a little crumpled baking paper in each tart, then pour baking weights or rice over. Place in the oven (supported with a tray underneath) for about 7-8 minutes for small tins, or 12-15 minutes for a large tin. The pastry should turn a golden colour. Meanwhile, whisk together the extra flour, brown sugar, melted butter, eggs and maple syrup. You could add some spices in at this point if desired. 

Remove the tarts from the oven. Turn the oven down to 160c. Remove the weights and baking paper from the tarts. Sprinkle the nuts into the tarts, the pour over the maple mixture. Bake in the oven around 20 minutes (for small tarts) or 35 minutes for a large tart. The tarts are done when the mixture is just set and stops wobbling.

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A refreshing watermelon dessert

I tried this pudding several years ago and it has been made again and again. These days I would say it is a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I’d like to try reducing the amount of sugar. Cornflour is used as a thickener, so the mixture should thicken depite a reduction in sugar content. 

I have tried this recipe with rockmelon as well, It was quite nice, but the watermelon is still the winner. It would be interesting to try this with honeydew melon as well. Indeed, a range of fruits could work. I would like to experiment with mandarin (though my husband hates it!)

It would be interesting to try swapping out the rosewater for other flavours (depending on the fruit used), for example, orange blossom water or pomegranite molasses. The chocolate and cinnamon could be substituted for a range of different ingredients – additional nuts could be good. 

I find the cream essential – it cuts through the sweetness. It could be replaced (at least in part) by ricotta, coconut cream, quark or cream cheese. 

Sicilian Watermelon and Rosewater Puddings

3kg seedless watermelon (or equivalent)
50g cornflour
165g caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp (or so) rosewater
100g dark chocolate, grated
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
300ml cream, whipped
70g pistachios, shelled and lightly toasted

Remove the rind from the fruit, cut the flesh into rough chunks, then blend in a food processor or blender until smooth. If the fruit contains pips or other things you want to remove, pass it through a sieve. You will need to end up with 750ml of liquid. 

Whisk 1/3 cup of the fruit liquid with the cornflour until it is smooth. Add this to the remaining fruit, sugar and lemon juice in a small to medium saucepan, and bring the mix gradually to a boil, continually stirring. It should be thick by now, but give it another couple of minutes or so. Let the mix cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Stir in the rosewater (or alternative flavour). 

Pour the mix into six 1 cup glasses. Chill the mix at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, until it sets. 

Serve with the cream, chocolate, cinnamon and pistachios served over the top.

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You get back in the kitchen and make me some pie!

If I were Eric Cartman (from Southpark, for the non-fans) I’d be demanding this pie all the time. This is really just an apple pie, but the thing that makes it (apart from good quality apples) is the pastry. This one is tasty – I could easily eat it baked on its own. However, this is not the easiest pastry to work with. It cracks easily when rolled, but shove a bit here and a bit there and it will all work out fine. If you are using a larger than standard pie dish, add half, or even double, the recipe again. No blind baking necessary (yay!) If the filling is fairly moist, try spreading a thin layer of jam over the base layer (using a complimentary flavour).

Great pie pastry (with apples, apricots, berries, whatever)

260g plain flour
75g self raising flour
185g chilled unsalted or low salt butter, chopped
75g caster sugar
2 eggs (one for the pastry and one for a pastry wash)
ice water (small amount)
1 tbsp milk

For a reliable apple filling:
8 apples, peeled, cored and cut into eight slices each
juice of a lemon
45g unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves (I actually tend to add a variety of spiced depending on the day)

To make the pastry, Sift the flours and a pinch of salt in a mixing bowl (or do this in a food processor). Rub the butter into the flour lightly with your fingertips. Lift up the mix occasionally with your fingertips to incorporate air. Alternatively, if you have a kickass food processor, you could pulse the butter through the flour a few times, but avoid heating the dough by pulsing for too long. The mix should resemble fine breadcrumbs. 

Now stir in the sugar, followed by one egg, lightly beaten. Add just enough (usually 1 tbsp is plenty of ice water). Cut it through with a knife, then finish lightly with your fingers. Or, you could do this in a food processor, but go lightly! You don’t want to melt the butter too much through overheating. 

Divide the dough into two pieces – roughly 1/3 (for the top) and 2/3 (for the base). Wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to about 180c.

Lightly grease a pie dish. Roll out the larger piece of pastry, until it is about 2-3mm thick, onto a sheet of baking paper or flexible fondant sheet. Use the sheet to transfer the pastry over the pie dish, then gently let it fall into place in the pie dish by gradually peeling the sheet directly back towards you (almost like you’re peeling the back off a sticker). You may need to adjust the pastry a little, or push it lightly to form to the dish. Leave a little overhang and trim scraps. Chill, and also chill scraps about 15 minutes. 

Now roll out the remaining pastry (including the scraps if you like). Place cooked filling in the pie base. Whisk egg and milk and brush onto rim of the pie case. Top with the remaining sheet of pastry, push the edges gently together. Trim. Pierce the top a couple of times with a knife. Refridgerate at least 30 minutes. 

Remove the pie from the fridge. Brush the top with remaining egg mix. Place in oven and bake for around 40-45 minutes. 

To make an apple filling: place apple pieces in lemon juice as soon as they are cut and toss around. This should help prevent them browning. Melt the butter over low heat in a pan so it sizzles gently, add the sugar and stir. Add the apples and spices and stire again. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then, but don’t place the lid on top! This will stew the apples and probably create lots of liquid – not good for a pie filling. Allow the filling to cool before placing it in the pastry case. 

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Raspberry Coconut Cake

This is a delicious cake that stays moist and (surprisingly, given the raspberry chunks) cuts well for layering. I have decorated with it, but I would be careful keeping it out of the fridge for more than a couple of days due to the raspberry pieces. Thus, it is probably better for buttercream or ganache finishes that you can keep in the fridge (don’t go there with fondant – trust me).

One recipe will make two 1 inch, 15cm round layers (post trimming). I cook each layer in its own tin. There is a bit of waste, as you will need to trim the top and perhaps the sides (I do the sides anyway, so I’ve got about 5mm in from the edge of my set up board). A double batch will do one 23cm layer plus two 15cm layers (or thereabouts).

I suspect you could add other fruits to this cake. It is fairly dense and high in fat, so it should be able to take some moist fruits like blueberries, blackberries and perhaps pineapple. To cut back on the sweetness a little, I would try fruits with a little acidity.

Raspberry Coconut Cake

125g butter, at room temperature
220g (I cup) caster sugar)
3 eggs, at room temperature
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
35g (1/4 cup) SR flour
40g (1/2 cup) dessicated coconut
80g (1/3 cup) full-fat sour cream
Coconut essence (to taste – you only need a little – maybe 1 tsp)
150g frozen raspberries (softened a bit and broken up a little)

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 160c and line tins with baking paper. Sift the flours together.

Beat the butter and sugar until creamy, then add eggs one at a time, mixing between each. I add a little of the flour each time I add an egg, as this stops the mixture separating. Stir in the flours, coconut and sour cream in batches until combined. Finally, stir in the raspberries.

Pour into tins, smooth the tops then bake. It will take about 1 hour for the small, and about 11/4 hours for the larger ones. As always, test after about 50 minutes.



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Sticky rice!

Sticky rice was a favourite of mine back home, where Asian grocers and restaurants were plentiful. My first foray into DIY sticky rice was thankfully quite successful and surprisingly easy. My next task will be to try wrapping it in the banana leaves from my tiny indoor trees and perhaps adding some custard.

You’ll need sticky rice, otherwise known as ‘sweet rice’, which is available from Asian grocers.

Sticky rice with coconut

600g sticky rice (about 300g)

6 cups water

3 cups coconut milk 

1 cup coconut cream

1 cup sugar or shaved palm sugar (or reduce this by half again)

1 tsp salt

Soak the rice in the water for around 6 hours or overnight. Drain it.

Line a large bamboo steamer with a clean tea towel. Place the lid on. Heat some water to simmering in a large wok. Watch the water level – you don’t want the water to touch the rice. Place the steamer over the water in the wok, and let it steak for about 20 minutes. Test it – you should be able to bit through a grain, but it shouldn’t be mushy. Turn the water off. Place another tea towel over the top of the steamer to keep the heat in. 

Gently heat the coconut, salt and sugar in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the mix is warm, but not bubbling. 

Place the rice in a big bowl, then pour about two thirds of the coconut mix over it. Place a damp tea towel (I use the one that held the rice in the steamer) over the top to keep the heat in, and let tthe rice soak up the mix for about 10 minutes.

Serve with a little pandan essence (optional), slices of fresh tropical fruit and the remaining coconut liquid.

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Lemon Delicious – an Aussie favourite, but which one is best?

Lemon Delicious has been a favourite of mine since I was a kid. My mum used to make it from scratch (though I’m sure the odd packet mix crept in every now and then). It is a weird hybrid between a souffle and a custard and surprisingly low fat. That said, the serendipitous addition of cream usually puts paid to that…

So, which recipe is the best? I’ve really only really tried two so far:

  • Lemon Delicious from Family Circle: Cooking – A Commonsense Guide (2004), p. 306
    This is good, but I think it could do with a little more zing (more lemon rind).
  • Lemon (or Passionfruit) Pudding from A treasury of good recipes by Winifred Savage (1961)p. 150

Both recipes were equally delicious (Winifred’s may have been the winner). Essentially, you separate eggs, beat lemon rind with a little butter and sugar, then the egg yolks. Stir in lemon juice and SR flour, then fold in beaten egg whites. Bake in a water bath in the oven.

I’m still looking for the best recipe, but for now these will do.


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Found! A fabulous pastry for tarts

I have been searching for the ultimate tart pastry for a long time. I want something buttery, with a little crispness, but without the crazy solidity that I tend to find in many shortcrust recipes. I also don’t want a pastry that lends too much sweetness to a dish – it should support, not dominate!

This pastry is a pretty good contender. I have only ever used it for flat tarts like crostata, so I’m not sure whether it would suit tarts that need pastry up the sides (like custard tarts). That said, it seems to deal with some moisture well, without the need to pre-bake it. Putting a little jam over it first probably works well. Most importantly, just make sure your filling is cold. This pastry is also easy! Just make it in a reasonably powerful food processor.

This pastry isn’t sweetened at all, so it needs a mixture with some sweetness. It would also suit a savoury tart. Yes, OK, it has a high fat quantity but life’s too short as far as I’m concerned. I’ve mentioned a few good toppings after the recipe.

This quantity will cover the average sized pizza tray. Cover the tray with some baking paper first.

Sour Cream Pastry

200g chilled butter, chopped (into 1cm pieces or so)
250g plain flour
125ml sour cream (full fat)
1 egg yolk, beaten lightly

Put the butter and flour in a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles large bread crumbs. There’s no need to overdo it. Add in the sour cream and pulse it until it clings together. When it starts to form a ball, you’re done. Tip it out onto a sheet of clingfilm, push the bits together and wrap it up. Chill for about half and hour.

To bake, preheat your oven to about 180c-190c (fan-forced). Roll the pastry between two pieces of baking paper until it’s about 30cm in diameter. It will be about 2-3mm thick. Chill for at least 20 minutes. Spread your filling in the middle, leaving a 5cm gap or so around the rim. Brush the rim with egg yolk, then fold the edge towards the middle so you get a slightly higher edge. Brush with more egg yolk. Bake for around 40-60 minutes. the baking time will depend on the thickness of the filling.


  • Hull 500g strawberries (about two punnets) and slice in half. Wash, then slice, 5 or 6 rhubarb slices into 2cm pieces. Toss the strawberries and rhubarb together gently with the zest of a lemon, 3/4 cup caster sugar and 2 tbsp custard powder.
  • Spread fig jam on the base, then top with stewed apples.
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