Blood plums from Marrickville markets

Coat plums in sugar and leave covered overnight along with a muslin bag with some of the plum kernels in it.

I used Stephanie Alexander’s ratio of fruit to sugar. She uses 2kg plums, 1.25kg white sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Cut up plums, and set seeds to the side. Whack 10 of the seeds to crack them and place the kernels inside in a muslin bag. Place fruit and sugar in a large saucepan with a lid and leave overnight. The next day bring to the boil and skim froth. Add lemon juice and simmer for 30 minutes or until a teaspoon of jam sets on a cold saucer you’ve had sitting in the freezer. Remove jam from heat. Put muslin bag in a strainer over saucepan of jam and press with a large spoon to extract liquid. Ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal.

N.B. The key to success is to use fresh fruit from the market, mostly ripe for good flavour and some still quite firm and tart. The under-ripe fruit has higher pectin levels which is what gives the jam its setting-ability. The kernels also add a lovely almond background flavour.

I have become obsessed with this cake, after testing it for the CWA challenge at work. It is a delicious and moist cake with the refreshing flavour of passionfruit to lighten it up. I have made a few changes to make it my own as the original had a tendency to crack. I bake mine at a lower temperature for longer which helps it not to crack as much, it still cracks a little, but settles back to almost flat with just a gentle dome. I’ve also cut the raising agent by replacing some of the self raising flour with plain flour.

Passionfruit Cake

(adapted from a CWA recipe)


250g butter, softened
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
3 eggs (room temperature), separated
200g self raising flour
100g plain flour
180ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk
1/4 cup passionfruit pulp

Passionfruit icing

1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon full cream milk
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons sieved passion fruit pulp

  1. Pre heat oven to 160C conventional. Grease a 20cm aluminium round cake pan with softened butter, line the base with a round of greased baking paper. Dust base and sides lightly with flour and firmly tap out any excess flour.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with a scraper paddle until light and fluffy, this can take 5-8 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time until combined.
  3. Add passionfruit pulp to buttermilk, combine sifted flours in a bowl. On low speed, add buttermilk and flour alternately to mixer bowl until just combined.
  4. Beat egg whites with a whisk until soft peaks form. Fold into cake mixture with a large kitchen spoon or spatula in two batches.
  5. Spread mixture into prepared pan, level the top and tap firmly on the bench. Bake in oven for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 or until cooked in the centre and golden on top. Stand for 5-10 minutes before turning onto a clean tea towel on a baking tray. Remove baking paper from base of cake if it has come out of the tin. Leave upside down to cool for 10 minutes if you want a flattish top. To invert, place a serving plate or baking tray on the cake and use the baking tray to support the cake. Hold together and carefully flip so the serving plate is on the bottom.
  6. For passionfruit icing, stir icing sugar, milk and enough passion fruit pulp to form a thick icing. Keep bowl of icing covered with cling wrap until ready to use so it doesn’t form a skin.
  7. Once cake has cooled, ice top with passionfruit icing. You can ice while warm but the icing will run down the sides of the cake.

If you don’t have buttermilk you can replace it with 140ml full cream milk mixed with 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt
This cake is really good straight out of the oven, and it looks quite pretty when the icing runs down the sides 🙂

This roast lamb shoulder was so delicious and easy.
Buy a deboned lamb shoulder, open it out and spread the inside with chopped capers, dijon, anchovies, lemon, olive oil, garlic and parsley, roll it up, tie with string. Roast at 230C for 30 minutes until golden and crispy then reduce heat to 160C for 30 minutes per kilo. Rest for at least 15-20 minutes. Recipe from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Meat book.

We had a stunning eggplant and pomegranate salad (recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi) which went perfectly with the lamb.
Place eggplant over bbq or gas flame until charred, drain over colander, scrape flesh and mix with tahini, lemon, garlic, pomegranate molasses, parsley and a little water. Top with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Ok so here is the recipe of my latest attempt at Hot Cross Buns. They were a lot lighter and fluffier this time, and a bit richer due to the extra egg and a bit more butter. I also put them in a really warm place near the cooktop where I was cooking dinner so they rose quite well. I think the softer flour helped too.
Hot Cross Buns
Bun dough
700g (4 2/3 cups) soft plain flour*
55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
2 x 8g packets dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
120g raisins, soaked^
130g sultanas, soaked^
300ml full cream milk
125g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
White paste for cross
50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1. Whisk flour, sugar, yeast, allspice, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon sea salt in a bowl until combined. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until tepid (about 40C, no more or it will kill the yeast. If it gets hotter than this then leave it until it cools to tepid before adding to dry ingredients. 40C is about body temperature if you don’t have a thermometer). Add eggs to milk mixture, whisk. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add milk mixture and stir until roughly combined. Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer such as a kitchenaid or kenwood mixer with dough hook attached and mix for 3-4 minutes until a smooth elastic dough forms. Alternatively you can knead by hand for about 10 minutes.
2. Spray a large bowl with oil spray, place dough inside and cover with cling film. Put bowl in a warm place for 40-50 minutes or until at least doubled in size. If the dough is not bulging out at the top leave it longer, this is crucial for a fluffy dough. Knock back dough by punching lightly and knead in sultanas and raisins. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces, roll into balls and place in a greased rectangular baking tray. Cover with cling film and stand in a warm place for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size.
3. For the cross, preheat oven to 220C. Combine flour and 1/4 cup water and stir to a smooth paste. Spoon into a ziplock bag, cut off the tip of one corner and pipe lines down the centre of each row of buns to form crosses. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 200C and bake for another 10 minutes until golden.
4. For glaze, combine sugar and cinnamon with 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes until glaze has thickened. Transfer buns to a wire rack to cool. Brush glaze over hot buns with a pastry brush and leave to cool.
* Soft flour is also called cake or biscuit flour, with a protein content of about 9g/100g flour. It is available at most large Australian supermarkets. Even at smaller retailers you can normally find a plain flour with a gluten content of about 9.5g/100g.
^Place raisins and sultanas in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak 10-15 minutes then drain and squeeze out excess moisture in a clean tea towel.

If you fall into the category of hot-cross-bun-lover then this post is for you. For all of you who can’t stand fruit in bread stop reading now. You were warned!
I have been amusing my workmates with my current obsession with hot cross buns. I do try to wait until a respectable few weeks out from Easter but that is as long as I can last. Once Davelle’s Bakery at Epping starts making them, all thoughts of low-carb/wheat free etc. go out the window. Not that I really hold strong to any of those theories but I do try to eat a wide variety of grainy breads, sourdoughs, spelt etc. and feel the better for it. But when it comes to hot cross buns there is something akin to the slice of white toast, thinly spread with butter and a smattering of vegemite. It’s a classic and classics sometimes should not be tampered with. Or at least if you’re tampering, prepare yourself for fabulous success or dismal failure.
Knowing all this as wise and true, I still felt the need to make some hot cross buns the other day. Not being able to get to Davelle’s for some reason, I decided I’d have a go at producing those light, spiced, glazed fruity pillows of heaven. Ok so the standard was set high. What I produced tasted pretty darn good, I have to say. I toasted some whole spices and ground them in my new spice grinder, thanks Tom and Mals… and the glaze was lightly spiced with cinnamon too. Even the crosses worked, but the dough was just a little too dense for my preference. And I like dense bread, just not a quality I favour in my hot cross buns.
I think I didn’t let the dough rise for long enough, greedy claws that I was. So next time, I’ll leave the dough a little longer and hope for an airier result.
The recipe I used was adapted from one by Adelaide Lucas available at Gourmet Traveller dot com.
Happy eating or baking if you are feeling like something home-made.
P.s. Note to the wise, Davelle’s sells out very quickly of hot cross buns so unless you get there before lunchtime head to Martelli’s Fruit and Veg at Carlingford so you won’t be disappointed. They buy them by the pallet it seems. I hate to think what time the bakers at Davelle’s have to wake up to make them fresh every day! A big thankyou for feeding my addiction 🙂
Does anyone have any favourite places to get hot cross buns?

A clumsy ode to Spice Temple’s heavenly facing chilli and sichuan peppercorn dish.
Since eating at Spice Temple a month ago I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those feisty little peppercorns. I was chatting to a friend of mine on the phone the other night while cooking this so it got a little more crispy than intended but it just added to the intensity of flavour on the skin. Tongue numbing, aromatic, mouth watering.
I have seen Kylie Kwong toast sichuan peppercorns with sea salt in a hot pan until aromatic and then grind them up to a powder in a mortar and pestle. This is essentially what I did and then added a little smoky paprika and sugar and rubbed it into the skin of an organic chicken, added a little oil to the bird with a few cloves of unpeeled garlic inside and whacked it in a hot oven. Oh, and I threw in a few dutch cream potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks. I normally go for 220°C fan forced, 20 minutes each on its side, on its other side and on its back. I sound like Samantha from SATC.
The end result is a moist chicken with a crispy skin, with potatoes that taste more like wedges as they have absorbed all the chickeny goodness and are lightly flavoured with sichuan.
Next step is to try this with quail, or maybe duck…and I don’t think it needs the smoky paprika or sugar.
Just to stress the point, this is a roast that takes just an hour to cook, plus preparation time. So maybe realistic for a weeknight when you don’t get home too late.

Just for a little bit of Meta-blogging…
I managed to persuade Dave to see Julie & Julia the movie last night. I’d read the book which wasn’t all that well written (in my opinion) but still enjoyable for the food factor. The movie however, was highly entertaining, with several moments when I realised I was probably laughing a little too loud. The best bit was when I looked over and realised Dave was enjoying it almost as much as I was.
I was aware of Julia Child’s book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, but hadn’t actually seen any of Julia Child’s shows before. So I didn’t fully appreciate Meryl Streep’s brilliant work until I watched a few YouTube clips of Julia’s cooking shows. Streep nails her voice and mannerisms perfectly. I highly recommend watching the movie, if not for the chick flick factor then definitely for the food porn.

Julia Child is a wonderful teacher and such an eccentric person, she’s a pleasure to watch.

Last week I made a big lasagne for dinner.  Here is the recipe for anyone who wants to try it.
Note, this is big enough for eight people. For us it is just two hungry people, then leftovers for the next night and the rest in the freezer, in portions which microwave really well.
I used to use a 27cm x 18cm (10.5″ x 7″) base, ceramic oven-proof baking dish and only used 700g mince and a few less vegetables. For this bigger version I am using a new dish that my sister gave me for Christmas (33cm x 23cm (13″ x 9″)).
The Bolognese sauce
A thick Bechamel with cheese melted in at the end
Madly boiling lasagne sheets in salted water in my largest pot
It’s best to cut it into portions or else you’ll eat it all at once 🙂
A small salad of ripe tomatoes and avocado with fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil and some balsamic completes the meal
2 tablespoons (40mL) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (20g)
1 brown onion, peeled and finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped very finely
3 field mushrooms, stalk removed, diced (you can use button or swiss brown)
1kg lean beef mince (from the butcher if you can)
1 tbsp tomato paste
700mL bottle passata (Italian pureed tomatoes. Get one with just tomatoes and salt)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
1 packet dried lasagne sheets
60g butter
3 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups milk
1/4 cup parmesan, grated finely
1/2 cup smoked cheddar
1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
S & P
Bolognese Sauce

1. Heat oil a large heavy-based saucepan then add butter. Once butter has melted add onion, carrot and celery and stir to coat. Stir in garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 5-10 mins over medium heat until vegetables have softened but not browned. Set aside in a bowl.
2. Turn heat to medium-high, add mince to pan and press down with a wooden spoon breaking up any lumps as you go. Cook until brown.  Add tomato paste to pan and stir. Add passata, bay leaves, oregano, salt and pepper and add cooked vegetables.  Stir and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to very low, cover and leave for 30-60 minutes depending on how much time you have. It will be nice in 30 mins, but better in 1 hr.
N.B. Check from time to time if you need a little water. Some water to rinse out the passata bottle makes good use of any passata left in the bottle.
Lasagne Sheets
I have found a brand of dried sheets at my local green grocer that I love so much that I don’t mind cooking them in salted, rolling-boiling water for 8 minutes. It is a bit fiddly getting them out in one piece and not stuck together though, so if you are at all doubtful or in more of a rush, use fresh sheets, or at a pinch, use instant.
For instant sheets make sure your bolognese sauce is ‘watery’ enough to wet the sheets so they don’t dry out. For fresh lasagne sheets, or dried, which you pre-cook, your bolognese sauce can be quite thick.
Cheese Sauce
1. Melt butter in a small sauce pan, add flour and stir continuously until it forms a paste. Cook for one minute while stirring.
2. Remove pan from the heat and add a splash of milk and stir, it will absorb quickly. Add a bigger splash and stir until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and stir well, place back on the heat and cook for 5 minutes or until thickened. It will thicken more on cooling and with the addition of the cheese.
3. Add nutmeg and all of the cheddar and mozzarella and just half of the parmesan (Reserve the other half for sprinkling on top) and stir until starting to melt. Remove from heat and leave until required for assembly.
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F)

1. Grease 33 x 23cm baking dish with butter or olive oil to prevent the lasagne sticking to the dish and help you wash up later. Spread 1 cup of bolognese sauce evenly over the base of the dish. Place lasagne sheets evenly over the base. They can sit side by side or overlap slightly. You can break or trim the pieces to fit your dish.
2. Spread 1/2 cup cheese sauce evenly over the lasagne sheets. Top with 1-2 cups bolognese sauce, spread evenly.
3. Place another layer of lasagne sheets, then cheese sauce, then bolognese sauce. Repeat this order until bolognese sauce is used up. Be sparing with the cheese sauce as you want the last layer to be lasagne sheets then a thick layer of cheese sauce and then a sprinkling of parmesan (the half left over from before).
Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling and top is golden brown. Rotate lasagne in oven if one side is getting brown before the other.
N.B. Australian standard measurements are used: 1 tsp = 5mL, 1tbsp = 20mL
Wine: I often cook this dish with red wine if we are having some for dinner, but didn’t for this one. If you want, you can add 1/2 cup (125mL) once the mince is browned and let the alcohol cook off for a minute or two.
Bacon: Bacon or pancetta is also usually a staple in my lasagne, but this time I had a lot of vegetables in the fridge I wanted to use and no bacon and it was a nice alternative. If you want, try 3-4 rashers, diced, and add in with celery/onion/carrots.

This is a yummy little dessert made last night after being inspired by my good friend Malini’s blog.
I used an assortment of pots, two of the small ones as in the picture, normally used for olives etc. and three larger 250mL capacity pillyvut porcelain dishes I somehow managed to inherit from Grandma. That lovely lady had good taste. So all of these went into a large baking dish half filled with hot water. For the recipe see the link above.
The puddings are buttery and light with a sticky golden syrup base that you can tuck into or avoid, depending on how much sweetness you feel like. I haven’t turned them out as they looked so pretty as is. I did test one though and with a quick whip around the edge with a blunt knife, and an inversion onto a plate came out very easily.
This is a Jill Dupleix recipe from ‘Old Food’, and a very nice one at that.

Bistro heaven. Professional service, but not layed on too thick, the food arrives quickly but with enough time between courses for conversation and anticipation. Food so good we order the cheese platter after we have had dessert, because judging by the previous courses, we know it won’t disappoint. We’re right.
Simple, beautiful salmon
Three pairs of greedy eyes all with menu remorse
N.B. I have since gone back to Damien Pignolet’s French book and made his basic double baked souffle. The recipe is written with such helpful detail you are much more confident of success. It is utterly delicious, however be warned if you don’t normally eat cream and cheese in copious quantities you may find it rather rich. I choose to put this in the ‘once a year’ file.
Phoebe tries to convince us that Joel has made the best choice with his crab souffle, but we all know it a ploy to keep us from the French Onion Souffle and crispy melting gruyere around the edges
Pasta may seem like a strange choice to order at Bistro Moncur, but it was perfectly salty and addictive with anchovy, ripe tomato, fresh basil and a herb sauce.
This is going to sound sacriligious but the crackling on top was so light it was like the ones in a chip packet. I forget the name, anyone, anyone, Bueller? The Berkshire pork was tender and flavoursome and tasted like it had been cooked with many herbs.
N.B. I have since had to go to the butcher in search of pork and crackling and even made apple sauce to go with it. I stuffed it with a silly amount of fresh herbs and learnt that pork can handle it and my overgrown herb pots have had a nice pruning in the process. I also used a new method for the crackling where you go over the scores that the butcher makes for you so they are really separated and then pour boiling water over it in a colander in the sink which helps open up the scores and then rub the top with sea salt. Made all the difference, didn’t have to remove the crackling so the pork underneath stayed nice and moist.
The figs were juicy and ripe with a gorgeous raspberry coulis
White nectarine souffle with creme anglaise
Two types of cheese with more fresh figs and some wonderfully crisp lavosh
Satisfied Customers? I think so.
Think I’m in a food coma