Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

Sunday night preparations for the start of the working week, for me, usually include baking a loaf of bread for Monday school lunches and making some sort of cake/slice as a lunch box treat. Not to mention the folding of laundry, etc…

I have been flipping through The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which I borrowed from the State Library, and saw a recipe for a lemon and poppy seed cake. And thought – why not? If this London bakery for the stars is good enough for Gwyneth Paltrow (reportedly), then it is surely good enough for me. I baked the cake and liked it. I wouldn’t rush out and buy the book though – unless perhaps you love cupcakes. I found it a little dull, on the whole.

Lemon and poppy seed cake - edited 2

85g unsalted butter, at room temperature
245g caster sugar
grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons
15g poppy seeds
165ml milk
235g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 egg whites
Lemon syrup
Freshly squeezed juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar
Lemon glaze
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
250g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 170C, and butter and dust with flour a 24cm ring/bundt mould.

Put the butter, sugar,  lemon zest and poppy seeds in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use handheld manual or electric whisk) and beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Slowly add the milk and continue to beat until incorporated (don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly split).

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 additions, scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl. Beat thoroughly until all the ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture is light and fluffy.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a handheld electric whisk until stiff peaks form. Using a metal spoon, fold the whisked egg whites into the cake mixture until well mixed but do not overmix. Pour into the prepared bundt tin or ring mould and smooth over with the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched.

For the lemon syrup: While the cake is baking, mix the lemon juice and zest and sugar in a jug. When the cake comes out of the oven, pour the syrup all over the top. Leave to cool slightly in the mould before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the lemon glaze: Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar in a bowl until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. When the cake is cold, put it on a cake stand/plate and pour the glaze over it – I would recommend doing this in two stages. Decorate with extra poppy seeds.

Posted in Baking, Cakes/Biscuits/Slices, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Eggs in Purgatory

I just love the name of this dish. It tastes pretty wonderful too, particularly on a cold night when you feel like rugging up in front of the fire rather than slaving in the kitchen.

My husband was sick in bed and wanted nothing for dinner. The kids rejected it and said it was disgusting. I told them to go to hell (in my head) and I devoured my eggs in purgatory while listening to jazz track on ABC classic FM (one of my favourite radio programs), watching the flames lick at dry logs in our wood heater, while sipping on a glass of crisp cold white. Who says you can’t drink wine by yourself with eggs? Elizabeth David published An Omlette and a Glass of Wine, after all.

Eggs in Purgatory 1Wood heater-cropped

Eggs in Purgatory
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
400g homemade roasted tomato passata, or can of chopped tomatoes
1-2 tbsp roasted capsicum sauce (optional, see recipe below)
Pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)
Pinch of dried oregano
1 egg per person
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt flakes
Parmesan cheese, grated
Crusty white bread, to serve

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion and garlic until soft, unctuous and golden (not fried to a crisp). Add the tomatoes, capsicum sauce, chilli flakes (if using), and oregano and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Crack in the eggs, sprinkle over some salt flakes, black pepper and parmesan cheese over the top and continue to cook until the whites are white and the yolks still running. Serve in bowls with some crusty white bread.

Variation: add some sliced, fried spanish chorizo sausage to the tomato sauce. Yum!

Roasted Capsicum Sauce

This recipe comes from Sally Wise’s wonderful book, A Year in a Bottle. I am happy to say that my copy is battered and covered in jam and chutney splatters as a result of frequent use. This sauce tastes wonderful and can be used in so many different ways, which I am still discovering. We had a glut of beautiful, shiny red capsicums in the garden this year so I made quite a few batches of this sauce.

2 large red capsicums
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tsp grated fresh green ginger
1 tsp salt

Remove seeds and core the capsicums, then cut in halves. Place under a hot grill until skin blisters and blackens. Wrap individually in cling wrap and leave for several minutes to sweat. Unwrap, peel off skin and chop the flesh.

Combine capsicum and remaining ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook slowly for 40 minutes. Puree or sieve. Bring back to the boil and cook for 5 minutes more.

Pour into warm sterilised jars and seal immediately. Store in a cool, dry and dark place for up to 1 year. The sauce can be eaten immediately.

Makes approximately 400ml.

Posted in Dinner, Family, Preserving, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Stefano de Pieri’s Family Lemon Cake

When my husband and I hooked up as uni students living in the same share house on Lygon Street in North Carlton in the early-mid noughties (you can just hear the phrase reverberating – ahh, those were the days…) we combined our then modest cook book collections. Apart from my double bass and his mac computer, which I sold a year later on ebay to buy a pram (the computer, that is, not the bass – that’s still cluttering up the living room), the books were our only real possessions. My husband had a cook book by Stefano de Pieri, Modern Italian Food, and it quickly became a favourite of mine. Nearly ten years later, it still is.

The book is divided up into chapters featuring different classic ingredients in the Italian repertoire – salt, olive oil, wheat, polenta and rice, vegetables, fish, poultry and meat, Italian cheese, Italian wine and preserves. This is the book that introduced me to the beautiful, flaked pink Murray River Salt, and to making my own fresh pasta and gnocchi. This is the book I used when I started my very first forays into bread making with soft white dinner rolls and rosemary focaccia. My husband has made delicious baccala mantecato (creamed cod) using this book.

In the wheat section, aside from the recipes for bread, pasta and gnocchi, there is a wonderful recipe for a lemon cake. Stefano writes that the recipe came from his mother-in-law, who bakes it for family get-togethers. When I asked my daughter what cake she felt like for afternoon tea, she said ‘lemon cake’ without any hesitation. As we were making the cake for an afternoon tea with extended family, I thought it a very appropriate choice.

Lemon Cake 1.1

Lemon Cake
125g unsalted butter
220g caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 eggs
150g self-raising flour
75g plain flour
125ml milk
125ml lemon juice
60g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 23cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Beat the butter, sugar and zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, gradually, beating until well combined. Add the flours, alternating with the milk. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer tests clean.

Mix the lemon juice and sugar together and pour over the cake wile still hot. You might need to do this in a couple of stages. Let is rest for some time in the tin and turn out to cool on a wire rack.

It is rather a plain looking cake – but there is nothing plain about how it tastes. It is light, moist and intensely lemony, thanks to the lemon syrup that soaks its way through the crumb.

Lemon Cake 2.1

Posted in Baking, Cakes/Biscuits/Slices, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Stephanie Alexander’s Quick Apple Cake

This recipe comes from one of my favourite cook books – Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. Of all my cook books, it is probably the one I turn to most frequently.  This cake is one I have made numerous times. It is very quick and easy, as the name suggests, and it lends itself well to variation – I have made it with apples, apples and sultanas, apples and cinnamon, pears, poached and preserved quince, and peach. I have also varied the spirit in which I have soaked the fruit, sometimes used juice, and sometimes used none at all.

Apple Cake 1 - edited 2

Quick Apple Cake
2 cups peeled and chopped eating apple
2-3 tbsp galliano amaretto (Stephanie suggests apple brandy, brandy or rum)
140g unsalted butter
160g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
3 eggs
120g caster sugar
Raw sugar and cinnamon for dusting (optional)

Soak the fruit in the spirit for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C. Line and grease a 23cm springform baking tin. Melt the butter and allow to cool. Sift flour and baking powder. Beat eggs and sugar until thick and fluffy, and fold in flour mixture gently. Drizzle in melted butter, then fold it in. Fold in apple and any juice. Spoon into prepared tin, sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon (if using) and bake for about 40 minutes until the cake is golden brown.

Serve warm or cold with cream. My kids like eating the squiggly apple peels.

Apple Cake 2 - edited 2

Posted in Baking, Cakes/Biscuits/Slices, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Spinach & Ricotta Pie

A very simple pie – but a good one at this time of year, when spinach and silverbeet are so vigorous in the garden. And not a bad way of getting iron-rich greens into children’s resistant little tummies.

Spinach and Ricotta Pie 1

Bunch of spinach/silverbeet
1 onion
200g fresh ricotta (or you could use bought ricotta or feta)
3 eggs
30g parmesan cheese (1/4 cup grated)
Salt and pepper
1 quantity of puff pastry (recipe below) or savoury shortcrust pastry
Egg wash (or milk)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter a pie dish.

Wash and finely chop silverbeet. Steam silverbeet in batches in a frying pan with a small amount of water, covered, until slightly tender but still bright green. Put in a bowl.

Finely slice the onions and saute until soft and pale gold. Add to bowl of silverbeet.

Mix ricotta (or crumbled feta, if using) and parmesan into the vegetables. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the mix. Grind in some pepper and salt to taste (you probably don’t need the salt if using feta). Stir to combine.

Divide the pastry into a 2/3 portion and a 1/3 portion. Roll out the 2/3 portion into a circle and gently place into the pie dish to form the pie bottom. Prick the bottom a few times with a fork. Tip in the filling – if you have too much filling for your pie, you can always freeze some for another time. Roll out the 1/3 portion of pastry and place on top. Press edges of pie bottom and crust together to seal the filling in. Brush the top of the pie with egg wash (or milk) and place in the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes.

If you have any leftover pastry, roll it out, brush it with milk and sprinkle with grated cheese. Cut into strips and bake on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper for about 5-10 minutes or until lightly golden and crisp.

Puff Pastry
335g plain flour
10g salt
65g unsalted butter, cubed
150ml water
10ml vinegar
250g unsalted butter, extra, for laminating, chilled
Note: all the ingredients should be cold

Sift together the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Rub in the butter then add the water and vinegar, and bring together to form a fairly soft dough. Form into a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes (2 hours is probably better).

You are now ready for the laminating part. Take the pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out into a large rectangle on a floured work surface – you may have to leave it on the bench for a short while to allow it to warm enough for rolling out.

Bash the butter for laminating in a rectangle that is half the size of the rolled out dough. I use a rolling pin and bash the butter between the butter paper – or baking paper can be used. The butter needs to be warm enough to bash out but cold enough to not melt (this last point is very important to ensure the pastry is not greasy and forms nice crisp layers).

Place the rectangle of butter over the bottom half of the pastry rectangle. Fold the top half of the pastry over the butter and press the edges to seal in the butter. Roll out the pastry length-wise so that it is three times as long as it is wide. Fold the top third down, then the bottom third up. Turn 90 degrees to the right. Roll out, then fold as before. Repeat this process until the pastry has had a total of four folds. You will need to refrigerate the pastry for 30 minutes or so between folds (wrapped in cling film). Once the folds are complete, wrap in cling film and refrigerate before use for 2 hours or overnight. The pastry can also be successfully frozen.

Spinach and Ricotta Pie 2

Posted in Baking, Dinner, Gardening, Pastry, Savoury, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Childhood Quince Picking and Turkish Quince Marmalade

Picking Quinces-small

As a child, I always loved our visits to my grandparents’ farm in Benalla – it is probably in part because of those wonderful childhood memories that my husband and I have moved out to the country now with our children.

One of the things we loved doing was rowing the tinny down the creek to the quince tree – and what a quince tree it was. The best quinces were, of course, on the water side, so picking from the tinny was the best way to get at them. In the photo above, I am with my grandmother, father and two sisters – I am wearing a red jumper (red is still my favourite colour).

Turkish Quince Marmalade

This recipe comes from a book I’ve had for ages, The Art of Turkish Cooking, by Neset Eren. I think I picked it up in an opp shop. The quinces are, once again, from Urban Farming Tasmania.

4 medium quinces, coarsely grated
5 cups of water
5 cups of sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Wash the cotton-like dust from the quinces, then grate coarsely into a bowl. Bring 5 cups of water to the boil in a saucepan. Add the grated quince and boil for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Let the marmalade simmer over medium heat uncovered, for about 40 minutes, or until it turns a light pinkish colour. Stir in the lemon juice. Test the set, then pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Quince Marmalade Toast  2

Posted in Breakfast, Family, Preserving, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anzac Day and Honeyed Anzac Biscuits

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
(Laurence Binyon, “For the Fallen”)
Lest we forget.

Harold Hiawatha

My great-grandfather, Harold Williams (pictured above), was born in 1893. In his memoirs, he wrote that when war broke out in 1914, ‘I was 21, single and generally unencumbered so without any particular emotional or spiritual upheavals, I decided it was “up to me” to join the AIF [Australian Imperial Force].’  Williams sailed out of Australia in 1916 on a troopship named the Argyllshire as a corporal in the Ninth Field Ambulance, Third Division.

As a young man, Williams was a keen sportsman as well as a keen singer. He sang frequently in concerts for the troops. The ballad, ‘My Pals are Calling’, became a favourite with the soldier audience.Williams went to France and experienced the harsh winter of 1916 but was transferred at General Sir William Birdwood’s request in January 1917 from the Ninth Field Ambulance to Albert-sur-Somme and the ’Anzac Coves’, the famous entertainment unit made up of artists drawn from the whole of the Australian and New Zealand Corps. The Anzac Coves was the first field theatre troupe to be established in the AIF and was originally financed by the Australian Comforts Funds (ACF). The profits made from their many performances went back to the ACF for the purpose of purchasing comforts for the Australian soldiers in France. The Controlling Officer of the Anzac Coves was Major Jack Churchill, brother of Winston Churchill. In this company, Williams discovered for the first time ‘grease-paint, powder and all the other trappings of the fully professional troupe.’

Despite enjoying these discoveries and the performances he did for the troops, Williams longed to return to his old unit. He employed ‘irritation tactics’ that finally, after eleven weeks, caused Major Churchill to lose his patience. So by contrivance, Williams rejoined his previous much-loved base and he saw action at Passchendale, Messines and Armentières. In December 1917 he was promoted to regimental quarter-master sergeant and transferred to the First Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, Middlesex. There, he met Sister Dorothy Mason of the Australian Army Nursing Service. He had been told to ‘watch out for Nurse Mason, she keeps lollies in her pinny.’ They were married in 1919.

Over 60,000 Australian troops perished during World War I. My great-grandfather was one of the lucky ones who survived.

After the War, he settled in London to pursue a career as a professional singer. On 4 December 1919, he gave his debut performance at the Wigmore Hall. Williams wrote of the experience in his memoirs:

To this day, I cannot understand why the Wigmore Hall has not long ago exploded. Its walls have for so long enclosed such a bubbling cauldron of concentrated emotions! Within them, night after night, for decades of years, have mingled such running tides of hope and despair, fear and joy, triumph and defeat as surely to burst the heaviest stone. To all of this I was about to add my own measure of anxiety and hope—and it was no small measure. Just for the record, I should note that the old Wigmore took it and absorbed it with the rest without so much as a tremor!

Following his debut, Harold Williams went on to become one of the most respected baritones of the twentieth century – particularly known for his performances and recordings of oratorios. The image above shows him in the title role of Hiawatha, in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s oratorio, The Song of Hiawatha. This work became something of a phenomenon in the musical life of London in the 1920s and 30s. It was performed every year between 1924 and 1939, when the second World War ended its extraordinary career. Williams wrote in his memoirs: ‘I played the original Hiawatha and I played the last Hiawatha, and I played all the Hiawathas in between.’  It was said that ‘Minihahas came and went with practically every season, but Hiawatha Williams went on forever.’

You can hear his extraordinary voice here. This one is fun too – a duet with marvellous Australian bass singer, Malcolm McEachern.

I listened to him singing on an old 1930 recording of Mendelssohn’s Elijah, as I made Anzac biscuits on Anzac Day.

* * *

This recipe comes from Matthew Evans’ book The Real Food Companion and I like it because it includes honey rather than golden syrup, which is perhaps more traditional. We are blessed in Tasmania with our honey producers. In the south of the state, my favourite honey is made by Yves Ginat at Miellerie – I love his Prickly Bush honey. In the north of the state, I love Ian Hewitt’s creamy leatherwood. He is very local to me, producing his honey from Deviot, in the West Tamar Valley – and this is the honey I used in the recipe below.

Anzac biscuits - baked - edited 2

Honeyed Anzac Biscuits 
100g rolled oats
135g plain flour
200g caster sugar
70g shredded coconut
125g butter
2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.

Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut together in a large bowl.

Melt the butter with the honey in a saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Add the bicarb – it will foam up.

Pour the honeyed butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix to combine – add a tablespoon of water or two if it is too dry to come together.

Form small balls from the biscuit dough and place on the baking sheets about 5cm apart.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the house smells of honey and the biscuits are golden. I like a bit of colour in my biscuits and I also like them crunchy – but if you want them paler and chewy, just bake them for a shorter length of time. Store in an airtight container. Makes 40.

Anzac biscuits - unbaked - edited 2

Anzac biscuits baked - edited 2
Posted in Baking, Cakes/Biscuits/Slices, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quince Cake & Homesteader Kitchen Wishlist

Still working my way through the Urban Farming Tasmania quinces…

Quinc Cake 2 - edited 1

Here is a quince cake that I made for afternoon tea at home today. I work in the School of Architecture & Design at the University of Tasmania and one of our PhD students is undertaking a study that explores how the design of domestic settings – houses, their kitchens and gardens – can help bring about more sustainable food systems and practices. Her study recognises that many people are growing or producing food at home, or close by, and that housing could be better designed to support householders if growers’ and producers’ wisdom and experience could inform the design. What a great project!

She and her supervisor, who is a friend of ours, had come out to see our garden. Perhaps not the most impressive time for it to be on display – as the summer glut has ended and the tomatoes, beans, capsicums, cucumbers, eggplant, basil, etc are finished – but other things are still growing. What we do have – year round – is a large site in full sun that is well fenced so that the cow, dog, chooks, guinea fowl, local annoying scrub fowl, wallabies, etc can’t get in, with fertile and well-draining soil thanks to my husband’s soil improvement work and garden bed design. We are also on town water – but have plans to enlarge the spring-fed dam in the top paddock to service the garden (because I nearly died when we got our summer water bill).

My husband is in his final year of architecture this year and we can’t wait to design our own renovation/kitchen that incorporates the things that are important to us as homesteaders. A productive homestead is more than a rural residence and less than a farm, in terms of size and output, and there are some design elements that can aid homestead productivity and efficiency and, by extension, make life easier for the homesteaders. Traditional farmhouse kitchens were often more like mini food-processing factories and most of our modern kitchens fall far short.

Here are some of the things on my wish list:

  • room to work
  • room to store my cooking utensils, which include my big fowlers perserving outfit, pasta machine, moulinex, etc
  • an easy to clean floor
  • excellent ventilation (cross-ventilation is ideal), especially given my propensity to smoke out the house
  • a summer kitchen/outdoor kitchen, which would be a separate small building or lean-to containing a stove, bench space, sink with running water (even a hose would be okay) for washing harvested fruits and vegetables before taking them inside, for plucking and gutting chooks (because who wants to do that inside?), and for preserving/pressure canning, soap making, etc
  • harvest room/larder (dry environment) with storage for things like preserves (row upon row of narrow shelves for the fowlers jars), large bags (25kg) of flour, dried beans, etc
  • vermin-proof root cellar (cool and damp environment) for storing large quantities of potatoes, etc – this is really important because a homestead needs to be able to store a year’s worth of food
  • somewhere for the homestead library, files and seed storage
  • wooden bench surface for bread making
  • polished concrete (or equivalent cold surface) for pastry making/laminated doughs
  • a comfy chair to sit in with a cup of tea!

I could probably go on, but back to the cake. While we didn’t grow these quinces ourselves, they are in season at the moment so I thought a quince cake would make an appropriate afternoon tea. I borrowed the recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall - with a few modifications. It is a fragrant cake, and very quincey, as it is drenched with quince syrup.

Quince Cake 1 - edited 2

Quince Cake
600g (approx. 3 large) poached quince
250g plain flour
1tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
150g butter, softened
180g caster or vanilla sugar
3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
100g natural yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the topping
Quince poaching liquid (approx. 100ml – you can be generous), warmed
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Poach the quinces as described here.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line and grease a 23cm round, spring-form cake tin.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt into a bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and yolk one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in a few tablespoons of the flour, the yoghurt and vanilla, then fold in the rest of the flour and the poached quince. Spoon the stiff mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake for about 40 minutes – if the cake is browning too quickly, cover with foil.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce the top several times with a skewer and drizzle over the hot quince poaching liquid, letting it trickle into the holes. You can repeat this process, once the first lot of liquid has been absorbed. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes. Remove from the tin and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with some more quince syrup and cream.

Note: I would recommend using quinces that are low in grit if possible – the ones I had were a bit gritty for this cake.

More good-looking quince cake recipes here:

Green Gourmet Giraffe - Buttery Quince and Almond Cake
Chocolate and Zucchini - Quince Almond Cake
Gourmet Traveller - Quince Crumble Cake
Drizzle and Dip - Vanilla Quince Cake
Uppercut Cakes - Honey, Clove and Quince Cake
Lemonpi - Quince Crumble Cake
Posted in Baking, Cakes/Biscuits/Slices, Gardening, Home, Homesteading, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ricotta Tart with a Chocolate Crust

This recipe comes from a cookbook I have owned and loved for years – Tessa Kiros’ beautifully presented Falling Cloudberries. I also love her book Apples for Jam. They are full of wonderful family recipes – warm and homely, and the sorts of things I delight in preparing for the people I love. 

Tessa Kiros cookbooks

There are few recipes that I don’t fiddle with. This is one of those few that I leave alone, with the exception of the cocoa for dusting, which is not in the original. I added it to cover up the fact that I baked the tart for about five minutes too long, so one side coloured slightly in spots in the uneven heat of my oven. But I actually liked the addition of the bitterness of the cocoa so will continue to make it like that in future. Tessa Kiros also specifies smooth ricotta whereas I use fresh ricotta, which has a bit more texture. I prefer to have a little texture to the filling of my tart. So I guess I haven’t really left well enough alone after all.

But, I think, in essence they are the same. I love the look of the tart with the contrast between the dark-coloured chocolate pastry and the pale, creamy filling. And it has a pleasing simplicity, with the ricotta only lightly sweetened and flavoured by the orange and lemon.

I made the tart for a work research seminar but there was one piece left over so I took it home to share among my family – miracle of the loaves and fishes style. Trying to be constructive and helpful, my husband suggested the tart needed more sugar in the filling and the crust. I smiled to myself and said nothing, as it highlighted again that difference between us – my appreciation of the bitter and the tart versus his love of the sweet.

Ricotta Tart with Chocolate Crust

Chocolate Pastry
100g butter, slightly softened
85g caster sugar
150g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
3 eggs, beaten
140g caster sugar
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
750g ricotta cheese (homemade or bought)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp orange juice
Cocoa, for dusting (optional)

To make the pastry for the chocolate crust, beat the butter and sugar together until thick and pale. Add the flour and cocoa (sifted), and then beat in the egg to form a soft pastry. Mould into a disc, wrap in cling film and refrigerate for a minimum of an hour or overnight.

Line a 23cm springform tin with baking paper and grease the sides. Roll out the pastry on a work surface that is lightly dusted with flour or cocoa powder to form a circle large enough to line the tin. Place the pastry into the tin. I find that it is not the easiest pastry to deal with and getting it off the bench and into the tin in one piece is next to impossible. Don’t panic over this. The colder it is, the easier to manage. If it tears or falls apart a bit, just press it back together again in the tin with your fingers so that it forms a nice even layer on the bottom and sides.

I then highly recommend putting the pastry-lined tin in the fridge for at least half an hour to chill down. This step isn’t specified in the original recipe, but if you don’t I find the pastry has a tendency to melt and lose its shape a bit – particularly in a tin with straight sides.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the tin with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for another 5 minutes or so to crisp up the base and sides a bit.

For the filling, beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and pale. Whisk in the orange rind and ricotta and beat until combined, then add the lemon and orange juice. Scrape the filling into the pastry case and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top seems set. Allow to cool.

From a sheet of baking paper, cut out a semicircle that is sized to fit into the tart. Place the paper in the tart so that it covers half, and dust cocoa powder over the uncovered half. Carefully lift the paper off. This is one of those rare tarts that I actually like served cold from the fridge so it is firm and can be eaten straight from the hand, but it can also be served slightly warm, or at room temperature.

Ricotta Tart with ChocolateCrust 2

Posted in Baking, Cakes/Biscuits/Slices, Dairy, Pastry, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Autumn Quince & Hazelnut Pavlova – Gluten Free

For some, Autumn means golden leaves and cooler nights. For me, it means quinces. I just love them and their heady fragrance. Thanks to Urban Farming Tasmania, I have loads of them and have been making lots of different quince delights. Last week, I made a very simple quince pavlova.

Quince Pavlova - edited 1

Hazelnut Pavlova
5 egg whites
300g caster sugar
50g hazelmeal
200ml cream
2 poached quinces with some of the jelly

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a springform cake tin with baking paper and grease the tin.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar. Fold the hazelmeal through and tip the meringue mixture into the cake tin. Bake for 1 hour. Leave to cool in the tin.

To assemble, place the pavlova on a serving dish. Whip the cream and spread over the pavlova – you don’t need to add any sugar to the cream, as the quinces are quite sweet enough, thank you very much. Cut the poached quinces into bite-sized pieces and dot liberally over the cream-topped pavlova. Also drizzle over some of the quince jelly sauce left over from the poaching process. It is a very simple pav, but deliciously autumnal, and I love the ruby redness of the quinces on top.

Posted in Baking, Gluten Free, Puddings/Desserts, Sweets, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment