Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nectarine Strudel


Growing up summer always involved picking fruit from our nectarine tree. There was that change in the air when suddenly it was thick with the scent of ripe fruit.

This would be the sign for my mother to start climbing the tree - physically. As a child in Italy, much to the dismay of her mother, she would find her way to the highest points. Summer and our nectarine tree was a perfect opportunity to revisit those childhood habits. Watching from the safety of the ground, aprons extended to catch the fruit, I was amazed at her ability to scamper onto the thinnest of branches.

While I wasn't as brave as her, you'd find me on the relative safety of the roof of our shed plucking nectarines from the overhanging branches. When you found the perfect one, it was also the perfect spot to indulge in that sun-warmed fruit.

These days I have to satisfy myself with store-bought nectarines and regardless of their origin they just don't taste the same. So I've come up with this quick and super easy strudel - it is basically sliced fresh nectarines encased in filo pastry. As it bakes in the oven the fruit softens slightly and seems to intensify its flavour - when eaten warm, it's almost like I'm back eating those nectarines straight from the tree.

nectarine strudel

Nectarine Strudel

nectarines, sliced
filo pastry (I'm using this filo)
melted butter
caster sugar

With the home made sheets of filo I'm using, one sheet is enough for this recipe. If you are using regular filo you will need to use multiple sheets - brushing with melted butter between each sheet.

Brush the sheet with melted butter and sprinkle over with caster sugar. Arrange the nectarine slices to form a rectangle near the base of the sheet.

Fold the pastry over to just cover the nectarines and brush with a little more butter and give it a light sprinkle of sugar. Roll this buttered side over and then brush again with butter, fold the sides of the pastry in towards the centre, butter it well and continue to roll.

When finished place seam side down on a baking tray, brush with butter and give it another sprinkle of sugar.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F until the pastry is golden and cooked through.

Cool on a wire rack and serve warm or cold.

nectarine strudel

If you don't have fresh nectarines, then try canned peaches/nectarines but make sure they are well drained - you might like to sprinkle the pastry where they sit with a little almond meal to help soak up any juices.


Sunday, January 27, 2008


Anna from Anna's Cool Finds is the host of this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I've found something that is extremely cool, Samphire!


It may look a bit otherworldly but as soon as I saw them at the Farmers' Market I just knew I had to buy them. They have been a bit of a holy grail of ingredients for me - much talked about, never seen.

samphire ©

This Samphire hails from Wilson's Promontory here in Victoria. Samphire is a salt water plant and as such, is quite salty. Though it may slightly resemble really fine asparagus, taste wise they are quite different.

Samphire can be eaten raw though I wouldn't recommend it - it has a slight crunch to begin with and after the initial burst, the overpowering flavour is of salt.

For something that I've waited so long to try, there are really only a few ways to enjoy it. It can be pickled but not wanting to go that route, I've opted for the simpliest.

It is boiled in unsalted water for a few minutes - this allows the Samphire to lose some of its excessive saltiness and softens it which gives it a more pleasurable texture.

You do need to keep an eye on it as it will go too soft very quickly. Once boiled, drain and toss in unsalted melted butter. No seasoning is needed.

samphire ©

The butter just balances the dish out, adding a touch of sweetness and leaves the Samphire with an attractive sheen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cheese: GrandVewe

To celebrate Australia Day we'll be kicking back, watching the cricket and enjoying some good Australia Cheese and I found one that is just perfect for the day. Made by Tasmania's Grandvewe it is called...

grandvewe ewe bewety

Ewe Bewety!

grandvewe ewe bewety

When I saw the name I just cracked up - Australians and those that understand our vernacular should get a chuckle out of it - other people will just look at you strangely.

grandvewe ewe bewety

Ewe Bewety (You Beauty) is a vine wrapped sheep milk cheese - the sticker on the packet helpfully tells us that the moulds are normal and part of the maturation process. There's a pleasant smell of damp vine leaf - nothing overpowering in the aromas. It is about 9 days from peak maturation so I would imagine the moulding would envelope more of the external leaf as time passed.

grandvewe ewe bewety

To slice, it is a firm cheese, and you should be able to see a lighter coloured core around the centre of the cheese. This is a visually representation of the maturation process as cheese matures from the outside in.

We found the cheese to be quite creamy with a pleasant bite that you would associate with a blue or a vintage cheddar. It's best eaten without the vine leaf. We were most impressed with this cheese and it will certainly be on our cheese board again.

For those in Melbourne, this was found at Leo's Kew.

The details:
Cheese Maker: Grandvewe Cheese
Cheese Name: Ewe Bewety
Location: 59 Devlyns Road, Birchs Bay Tasmania
September - June: 10am-5pm, 7 days excluding Christmas day
July - August: 10am-4pm daily except Tuesdays

Other Grandvewe Cheese:
Grandvewe Primavera
Grandvewe Birchs Bay Blonde


Friday, January 25, 2008

Sugar High Friday #39

Candy Recapper is the host for this edition of Sugar High Friday and asked us to incorporate store-bought candy into our recipe.

After a bit of thought I decided to take the opportunity to do something I hadn't made before and its main ingredient is marshmallow


These are store bought - I haven't yet succumbed to the madness to make my own. The dish I'll make is one that is well known and much loved by Australians - Rocky Road.

Rocky road is a mix of marshmallows, Turkish delight, nuts and chocolate - the chocolate is melted and mixed in with the other ingredients and then placed into baking pans where it is allowed to set before being sliced into bite sized portions.

It's extremely simple and sweet.

rocky road

Rocky Road

150 grams marshmallows, cut into rough pieces
150 grams Turkish delight, cut into rough pieces
100 grams honey roasted peanuts
250 grams white chocolate, melted

Please consider this recipe as just a rough idea - the ingredients are highly adaptable and you incorporate your favourite nuts and type of chocolate.

Line a small rectangular baking dish or cake tin with baking paper.

To cut the marshmallows and Turkish delight I found scissors did this job the best.

Place the marshmallow and Turkish delight pieces into a bowl and then sprinkle in the honey roasted peanuts. Give it a toss - and then pour in the melted white chocolate.

Quickly stir this to ensure that the items are well distributed and then scoop out into the prepared pan. Flatten the surface and then place in the fridge to set.

When set, remove from the tin and then slice into bite sized pieces.

rocky road


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Spiced Plum Tart

Blood Plum

I don't know why it is but for some reason Paalo just doesn't appreciate Plums. His excuse is that there are better fruit to eat so why waste time on plums. So while they appear as bit players in fruit salads and the like I thought it was time for them to shine on their own.

inside a blood plum

The plums I have here are Blood plums, one of my favourite varieties. I just love the colour, the texture and their taste. As these are more of a firm side, I decided poaching in a lightly spiced syrup would be in order to bring out their plummy best.

While the spiced poached plums will be perfect on their own I'll be using them in a tart and taking advantage on some great home made filo pastry that I source from a deli at Prahran market.

homemade filo pastry

It's a lot thicker than the commercially made varieties and is sold in packets of large round sheets - an ideal shape for making traditional strudels. In this case the filo forms the pastry base of my tart that is topped with a simple semolina cream and then studded with the spiced plums.

Spiced Plum Tart

Spiced Plum Tart
[Makes a 13cmx35cm / 5x14 inch Tart ]

Filo Pastry
Spiced Blood Plums
5 Blood Plums, halved
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water
vanilla bean, split
cinnamon stick
Semolina Cream
1 1/2 cups milk
60 grams caster sugar
50 grams semolina
3 egg yolks

Make the Spiced Plums:
Place the sugar, water, cinnamon and vanilla into a large pan and over a medium heat, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes before adding the halved plums. Continue on a gentle simmer until the plums have just softened about 5-10 minutes - this will depend on the ripeness of the fruit. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the syrup.

Make the Semolina Cream:
Place the milk, sugar and semolina into a pan and whisk over a gentle heat until the mixture is smooth. Keep stirring with a spoon until the mixtures thickens for another 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and whisk vigorously to knock out a bit of heat and then add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking well until they combined.

Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap - make sure the wrap rests against the semolina cream as this prevents it from forming a skin. Let it cool to room temperature.

Assemble the Tart:

Butter the tart tin and then line it with a sheet of filo - it doesn't have to be a perfect fit, in fact you want it to over hang the edges. Brush the sheet well with melted butter and give it a little sprinkle of caster sugar before adding another sheet. Repeat the process until you form a solid base - the number of sheets needed does depend on the thickness of the filo.

Pour in the semolina cream onto filo, smoothing the surface.

Now arrange the plum halves, cut side down - push them down just slightly into the semolina cream.

Sprinkle lightly with a little more caster sugar and then bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the cream is set.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.

Spiced Plum Tart

While it may look decadent it is surprisingly light, helped in part by that crisp and delicate filo. The semolina cream wraps beautifully around each plum providing a luxurious base in which they can nestle and for the spiced flavours to carry through.

Spiced Plum Tart

This even had Paalo wanting seconds!


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #116

Rinku from Cooking in Westchester is the host for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week, I'll be using Lemon Verbena.

lemon verbena

Lemon Verbena is a highly aromatic deciduous tree festooned with these slender pea-green leaves that feel somewhat sticky and rough to the touch. Just a light brush of the leaves will reward you with an intriguing lemony scent which explains why it is a popular ingredient of pot pourri. Lemon verbena is also thought to help with digestion.

For today's recipe I'll be combining lemon verbena with that cooling and cleansing vegetable, cucumber, to create a refreshing Cucumber and Lemon Verbena Sorbet. With it's silken texture, even on the warmest of days, this will immediately re-hydrate and reinvigorate.

It's not overly sweet, there is still the upfront flavour of cucumber but the lemon verbena just gives it this mysterious and engaging lemon edge.

Cucumber and Lemon Verbena Sorbet

Cucumber and Lemon Verbena Sorbet

2 large Cucumbers
220 grams/1 cup caster sugar
250 mls/1 cup water
handful of lemon verbena leaves

Make the lemon verbena syrup:
Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved then add the lemon verbena leaves. Let it gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge until ready to use. Keep the leaves in the syrup. Strain just before using.

Since you may not need to use all of the syrup in the sorbet you can store it, strained, in the fridge for a little while and use it wherever you would normally use a simple sugar syrup.

Make the sorbet:
Peel the cucumber and roughly cut it into pieces. I've decided to remove the peel as it can be a bit bitter.

Place the cucumber pieces into a blender and process until smooth. Strain this through a fine sieve. Measure the liquid and add an equal measure of the lemon verbena syrup.

Stir well and allow to thoroughly chill before pouring it into the bowl of your ice cream maker - following the manufacturers instructions. This took about 35 minutes.

Transfer into a freezer proof dish and place it in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

cucumber and lemon verbena sorbet


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another year over...

Today marks this blogs second anniversary and I know it is a cliché but boy, the year has just flown by.

So what does a year look like?

It looks a little like this...

one year mosaic

I must take the opportunity to give out a huge THANK YOU to everyone for their support - from the comments to the emails, thank you taking the time to write, it is much appreciated. It never ceases to amaze me how we can connect, regardless of where we come from over something as simple as food.

As part of this second anniversary I've made a few changes to the site. With the new template I've tried to remove some of the clutter and generally streamline its appearance.

The biggest change has been the shift of the main column to the left. For those with 800x600 screens - this should mean you get the post in the screen without the need to scroll sideways.

I've also added a menu bar that should make navigation between my other sites much easier.

There's still a few things coming and they will be up shortly.

So with two years down I look forward to sharing the next year with you all.

Blog Party #30

It's been a while since I last took part in Stephanie's fantastic Blog Party so as we are well into the start of a new year I felt it time to celebrate.

The theme for this edition is Veggie Friendly and I've prepared a couple of items that should hopefully satisfy - they aren't just veggie friendly, they are vegan friendly too!

Strawberry and Basil Compote Cherry Delight


Strawberry and Basil Compote

It's summer here and while I may not like the warmer weather I certainly do appreciate the bounty of fresh fruits on offer, including these delightful strawberries.


While working on something to make for Blog Party #30 I really wanted to move past that whole strawberry and balsamic vinegar combination and decided to try a different companion for these berries - fresh basil.

Taking inspiration from tomato and basil and how well those two work together, my idea eventually involved into making a "sweet pesto" - leaving out the savoury elements, I made a simple paste of basil leaves, pine-nuts and icing sugar. One taste of this sweet pesto and I knew I was on the right track.

strawberry and basil compote

Strawberry and Basil Compote

strawberries, cut into small dice
icing sugar

Sweet Pesto:
basil leaves
pinenuts (or slivered almonds)
icing sugar

Prepare the strawberries:

Once you've cut all the strawberries into a fine dice, sprinkle over with a little icing sugar, stir well and then cover and allow to macerate. The fruit will become glossy and a lovely red liquid will form at the bottom of the bowl.

Make the Sweet Pesto:

I've left the quantities vague as you should make this is suit your own palette.

Place the basil leaves, pinenuts (or slivered almonds) and icing sugar into the bowl of a small mixer and pulse until a rough paste forms. The consistency will be a little like moist clay and will form damp clumps. The end paste should still have some texture, don't blend it until smooth, you want to be able to feel a nutty grit in your mouth.


Place a little sweet pesto at the bottom of your serving dishes and then top with the diced strawberries, spoon over the released juice - the juice will help loosen the sweet pesto and it's flavour will infuse the liquid.

Garnish with tiny basil leaves.


You could mix the sweet pesto through the strawberries but it won't look as nice - the strawberries lose their glossy appearance. I think it's a nicer experience to get that basil flavour building as you eat the dish.


Cherry Delight

This is part of Blog Party #30: Veggie Friendly.

When thinking of veg friendly alcohols I seemed to be stuck of Vodka but then I decided to stay with red fruits and opted for Cherry Brandy instead and came up with this.

cherry delight

Cherry Delight
[Makes One]

1 tablespoon Cherry brandy
2 tablespoons Brandy
1 teaspoon Grenadine
orange juice
maraschino cherry

  • Place the Cherry Brandy, Brandy and Grenadine into an ice filled shaker and shake well.

  • Taste and then add orange juice to your liking.

  • Strain and pour into a sugar-crusted glass and serve with a Maraschino cherry.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cheese: Barambah Organics

My previous posting on Barambah Organics dealt with their butter, this time I've got hold of a very stinky cheese


Cheese: Barambah Organics Gold Hawk Washed Rind

It's advisable to take heed of the message on the label
This cheese has a strong pungent aroma and is full of intense flavour.

The aroma is evident before you even open the package, breathe deeply and those mushroom notes will come flooding over your senses


As you begin to unwrap it those scents start increasing


Tinged with a saffron skin, this small rounds looks harmless enough but it one of the more potent washed rinds I've had


As soon as you slice it and it begins to loose that chill from the fridge you are rewarded with a highly appealing oozing characteristic


it's almost as if the cheese itself wants to escape it's heady skin


Straight from the fridge there is quite a bit of ammonia on the nose so it will appreciate being allowed to come to temperature and these ammonia notes will dissipate over time.

If you are new to washed rinds, then I would advise against starting with this. If you like washed rinds but are unsure of this one, then take note that the more intense flavours are held within the rind and it's gloopy innards have a pleasant creamy bite to them.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #115

Vani from Batasari is our host for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I've got Cavolo Nero.

cavolo nero

Cavolo Nero has many names - Tuscan Kale, Black Cabbage, Dinosaur Kale and Curly Kale but whatever the name it is still part of the Brassica family. Like all Brassicas, Cavolo Nero has excellent nutritional value and is high in Vitamins A, B and C. It also contains high levels of Beta Carotene as well as Calcium, Folate, Iron, Magnesium, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium, Thiamine and Zinc.

When purchasing Cavolo Nero look for well crinkled, dark green leaves that feel firm to the touch. Cavolo Nero also likes being boiled and being cooked slowly, so it's excellent in braises or stews. One of my favourite ways with Cavolo Nero is in this tart.

The recipe I have in mind today is a two-parter. It begins with a tasty braise of onions, pancetta, fresh tomato and cavolo nero. It then gets placed into individual oven-proof dishes to bake before being topped with an egg which is cooked until the whites have just set leaving the yolk still wonderfully soft - just perfect for dipping with generous slabs of crusty bread.

Baked Eggs with Cavolo Nero

Baked Eggs with Cavolo Nero

cavolo nero, leaves only, chopped roughly
red onion, finely sliced
pancetta, cut into small cubes
tomatoes, diced roughly, fresh or canned depending on the season
smoked paprika, to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Place a little oil in a pan and over a gentle heat, sauté the onions until softened slightly before adding the pancetta. Continue cooking until the pancetta has browned before adding the chopped Cavolo Nero. Stir it through well and when the leaves have wilted add the diced tomatoes.

Let this bubble away until the tomatoes have broken up - taste and then season with a little smoked paprika.

Spoon this mixture into individual oven proof dishes and place in a pre-heated 180°C oven - bake until the mixture has heated through and the liquid is bubbling.

Remove from the oven and make a small indentation in the centre of each dish - carefully break an egg into this indentation and return to the oven. Cook until the eggwhite has just set, or until cooked to your preference.

When done, sprinkle over with freshly grated Parmigiano and serve at once.

baked eggs with cavolo nero

Tagged with

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Milk Ice Cream

With the weather going over 40°C (104°F) for the next two days it seems the perfect time to indulge in one of my absolute favourite ice creams and it comes from this equally fabulous book

made in Italy© by Haalo

Giorgio Locatelli's Made In Italy.

After the great disappointment of the English translation of The Silver Spoon, it was this book that renewed my spirits. It also resulted in two other thing - I finally got myself that gelateria I'd coveted and I finally made the ice cream of my dreams - milk ice cream.

made in Italy© by Haalo

What I especially liked about this recipe is that there are no eggs but the end product is still so creamy. There is a purity to the flavour, an intense milk taste that almost seems to "out vanilla" vanilla ice cream.

With milk being the major focus I thought I should use an extra special milk. I chose the Elgaar Farm Organic Un-homogenised Whole Milk.

Elgaar Farm Organic Unhomogenised Milk© by Haalo

Sold in these great glass bottles I just love looking at the inches of cream welling up in the neck of the bottle, it does seem a shame to have to shake it all up. To keep it in the family, there's also some of their Organic Table Cream in the mix as well.

Milk Ice Cream© by Haalo

Milk Ice Cream

565 grams whole milk
170 grams cream
40 grams milk powder
135 grams dextrose
50 grams caster sugar
25 grams invert sugar
5 grams ice cream stabiliser (optional)

If you can't find invert sugar all you will need to do is add up the total amount of sugar in the recipe and then use it in the proportion of one-third dextrose and two-thirds caster sugar. In this recipe you would use 70 grams dextrose and 140 grams caster sugar.

Whisk the milk, cream, milk powder and dextrose until smooth and place it in a pan over a gentle heat until it reaches 40°C.

Add the caster sugar and stabiliser (if using) and whisk until dissolved and then cook until it reaches 85°C.

Remove it from the heat and cool down as quickly as possible before placing in the fridge to rest for 6-12 hours. It's important that the mix is very cold before being placed in the ice-cream maker.

Follow the instructions on your ice-cream maker and churn until thickened. This took about 45 minutes.

Pour out into a container, seal and store in the freezer to set.

Fruit Salad and Milk Ice Cream© by Haalo

I'm not sure what could be nicer than a generous scoop of milk ice cream atop home made fruit salad on a horribly hot day.

Other Ice cream recipes:

Basil Ice Cream
Coconut Ice Cream
Green Banana Ice Cream
Mint Ice Cream
Rhubarb Ice Cream
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