Monthly Archives: June 2012

Winter punch

There is currently an ice-rink set up right on the sand at Bondi Beach, as part of the Bondi Winter Magic Festival. It is a very bizarre sight to see waves crashing behind the ice-rink. I really like the market stalls that accompany the rink, they remind me of European style Christmas markets, selling mulled wine and other treats to warm up the crowds. The thought of mulled wine inspired me to share this recipe with you for Winter Punch.

In the recipe I suggest you use calvados, which is an apple brandy. If you don’t have any calvados available you could use brandy or cognac or even try experimenting with the addition of some frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. You could of course also make a non-alcoholic version and skip the alcohol altogether.

A fabulous ingredient in this recipe that deserves special mention is quince paste, sometimes referred to as quince cheese. Quince paste is also sold in tins labeled as dulce de membrillo. I find a tin of dulce de membrillo better value than the tiny tubs quince paste. You might be able to track down a tin (there are a few different brands) in your gourmet greengrocer or deli, quite often in the jam section. Once you open the tin, transfer the dulce de membrillo or quince paste to a plastic container and store in the fridge, it keeps well as it is a type of jam. I recommend using a wedge of quince paste on your cheese board – it works especially well served with a triple cream brie.

Winter Punch

* This recipe was inspired by a Hot Apple Punch recipe by Louise Mackaness that appeared in a Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.


  • 2 large oranges, zested and juiced
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 litre cloudy apple juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or essence
  • 100g quince paste
  • 4 nips (30ml) of calvados, or other liquor, if using


  • Add the orange juice, zest, cloves, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, vanilla and quince paste to a saucepan. Heat over gentle heat, stirring until the quince paste dissolves.
  • Once the paste is dissolved and the punch is warmed through, strain to remove the cloves, zest and cinnamon [keep the cinnamon sticks] and transfer the punch to 4 mugs.
  • Add a nip of calvados or other liquor to each mug, if using.
  • Add a cinnamon stick to each mug as a stirrer. Your punch is ready to serve. Enjoy.

What is your favourite warm winter drink? Has this post inspired any new ideas?



Filed under Apple, Cheese, Drink, Foodie Shopping Tip, Orange, Quince paste, Spices, Sweet

Salmon pastries

These pastries are perfect if you are entertaining / cooking for a crowd or as a starter. Hot smoked salmon is different to smoked salmon, in that it has a ‘cooked’ texture with a smoky flavour. Hot smoked salmon is generally found in the same area of the supermarket where you find smoked salmon. Even people that are not huge seafood fans seem to enjoy these pastries. The pastries freeze well, and are handy to have on standby.

Lemon myrtle leaf is an Australian native spice. If you don’t have it to hand, you can skip this ingredient and add grated lemon zest instead. Ground lemon myrtle leaf is available from Herbie’s Spices. You can order Herbie’s Spices online, or they are stocked in many delis and gourmet food stores.

To assemble these pastries I use an 8cm empanada mould, which cuts circles in the pastry on one side, then lets me produce the little pastry turnover parcels with the other side. If you don’t have access to an empanada mould, use a round cutter or egg ring to cut the pastry discs and your hands to assemble.

Salmon Pastries

* This recipe was inspired by a Trout & Leek Pie with Sorrel Hollandaise recipe by Antony Worrall Thompson that appears in Great British Menu Series 1. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.


  • 2 x 150g fillet hot smoked salmon [different to normal smoked salmon]
  • 1 x 1.6kg frozen puff pastry 10 sheets [you may not need all of the pastry, but it is better to have it available than run out]

Leek filling

  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, white & pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lemon thyme leaves [if you can’t find lemon thyme use normal thyme]
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable stock [I like the Vegeta brand]
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 anchovy, finely chopped
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon ground lemon myrtle leaf

Quick Thyme Lemon Hollandaise Sauce

  • 2 large free range egg yolks
  • juice and zest of a lemon
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon thyme [or thyme]


  1. First make the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the leeks, garlic, anchovy, bay leaf & stock powder and water, cook over a gentle heat for 15 – 20 mins or until all the liquid has evaporated and the leeks are soft and tender. Allow to cool.
  2. Remove the bay leaf from the leek mixture, then mix in the cream cheese, lemon juice, ground lemon myrtle leaf and thyme.
  3. Flake the salmon flesh, discarding the skin [check to make sure all the bones are removed], and add to the leek mixture and stir to combine.
  4. If cooking soon, preheat the oven to 200°C.
  5. Cut pastry into discs on a work surface – I aim to get 9 discs per sheet of pastry.
  6. Arrange a teaspoon of the leek filling in the middle of your disc – be careful not to overfill or you won’t be able to seal your pastry and it may explode during the cooking process.
  7. Fold over and seal the edges. Prick each pasty with a fork or skewer to allow steam to escape. These freeze really well at this stage.
  8. If cooking now, bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown & crusty – can be cooked straight from frozen but may take a little longer.
  9. Meanwhile, make the hollandaise. Add the egg yolk, cayenne pepper, thyme, lemon juice & zest to a food processor or a bowl. Gently melt the butter, and add to the running food processor in a steady stream with the other sauce ingredients already inside or whisk the melted butter into the other sauce ingredients. Keep mixing until the sauce thickens. Keep sauce warm until ready to serve.
  10. Serve the pastries with the hollandaise sauce.

What is your favourite seafood recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Lemon, Recipes, Salmon, Savoury, Seafood, Spices

Winter pudding

I have a fierce sweet-tooth, and in winter a warm pudding is the perfect way to end a meal, especially one drowned in sticky caramel sauce. This is a twist on Sticky Date Pudding, or Sticky Toffee Pudding as it is known in the UK.

It is better to make this pudding using electric beaters or a mix-master rather than a food processor to retain the texture of the apricots and walnuts. If you are lucky enough to have any leftover caramel sauce, it can be used drizzled over ice-cream or other desserts.

Date, Apricot and Walnut Pudding with Caramel Sauce

* This recipe was inspired by a recipe by Jill Dupleix that appeared in a Sydney newspaper many years ago. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.


  • 100g dates, pitted and chopped
  • 100g dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 250mls water
  • 75g butter, softened
  • 100g raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 100g crumbled walnuts

Caramel Sauce

  • 200g brown sugar
  • 300mls cream
  • 50g butter
  • A generous pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
  • Ice-cream or whipped cream, to serve


  1. Heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Spray a cupcake / muffin pan thoroughly with cooking oil spray.
  3. Mix dates, apricots, bicarbonate of soda and water in a small saucepan, heat over low heat, stirring occasionally until the ingredients are heated through – the mix will froth due to bicarbonate of soda.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined. Add the flour and mixed spice and mix until combined.
  5. Add the date and apricot mixture and approximately 75g of the walnuts [reserving some of the walnuts to sprinkle on the top]. Gently stir to combine.
  6. Put spoonfuls of the mixture into the muffin pan – the mix should make 12 puddings, depending how large you want them. Sprinkle the tops with the remaining walnuts.
  7. Place muffins in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until the puddings spring back when touched in the middle.
  8. Combine the brown sugar, cream butter, salt, vanilla extract and mixed spice in a pan [I use the pan that had the dates & apricots in it to impart extra flavour into the sauce and save on washing up].
  9. Bring the sauce ingredients to the boil, stirring, then simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. Place a warm pudding in a bowl [or zap briefly in the microwave to reheat], add caramel sauce to taste. Accompany with whipped cream or ice-cream. Enjoy.

What is your favourite winter dessert recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Apricots, Baking, Caramel, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian

Soup season

The winter chills are definitely here in Sydney at the moment, and in this sort of weather I enjoy a bowl of soup to warm me from the inside.

The flavours of this soup are inspired by Mexican influences, but I don’t claim that this is authentically Mexican. A lot of the “Mexican” we are familiar with in Australia like nachos is actually Tex-Mex, American with Mexican influences that originated from the southern states of the US. You could use a Mexican chilli like a jalapeño in the soup or as a garnish.

How to Roast Capsicums

Red capsicums give the best flavour after roasting, you can roast green, yellow or orange capsicums but I prefer the flavour of the red capsicums.

Place your red capsicums on a baking tray and place into a 200°C oven. Cook until the skins blacken and blister. Once the skins are blackened, remove the capsicums from the oven and place in a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic-wrap and allow to cool [this allows the capsicums to sweat and makes the skin easier to peel off]. When the capsicums are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, and discard the stalk, inside core and seeds. Reserve any liquid that may be inside – I tend to do this separation procedure over a sieve to capture the liquid without any seeds otherwise I find I am there all day fishing out seeds.

Spicy Bean Soup


  • 1 litre of tomato based vegetable juice
  • 2 red capsicums, roasted, skins and seeds removed
  • 2 x 400g tins of red kidney beans
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 stick of celery, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 3 chillies [or more, to taste]
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Sour cream, to serve
  • Chopped parsley or coriander, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and celery and cook until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the ground cumin & coriander, oregano, paprika, garlic and chillies and cook for a minute or two. Remove from the heat.
  3. Drain one tin of kidney beans, rinse and put the beans into a blender jug. Add the roast capsicums and any capsicum juice you may have to the blender. Add the onion spice mix to the blender and approximately half of the juice. Blend until smooth.
  4. Transfer the blended liquid back to the pan, add the remaining juice and bay leaves.
  5. Drain the remaining tin of kidney beans, rinse and add to the pan.
  6. Heat the soup until bubbling, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the lime juice, give everything a final stir and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves.
  8. Serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped parsley or coriander. Enjoy.

What recipes do you like to cook to help keep you warm in the colder weather? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Capsicum, Recipes, Savoury, Soup, Spices, Vegetarian

Baking basics

If you are not a confident baker, this is the perfect recipe to practice your skills with. With muffins, the less mixing and work you do the better. You could also add a pack of chocolate coated coffee beans to this recipe if you can track them down.

I like using Australian native spices in my cooking, and wattle seed provides a flavour profile similar to chocolate and / or coffee. Ground wattle seed is available from Herbie’s Spices. You can order Herbie’s Spices online, or they are stocked in many delis and gourmet food stores. If you are in Rozelle, it is well worth a browse at Herbie’s Spices where you can ask questions and get advice from the helpful staff, or even take a spice appreciation class. If you are in the neighbourhood in Rozelle, The Essential Ingredient is also a foodie treasure trove.

LSA mix is a ground linseed, sunflower kernel and almond mix. For further details about the benefits of LSA mix, visit this blog post by Goodness.

Raspberry & Wattle Seed Muffins

* This recipe was inspired by a Pear and Ginger Muffins recipe that appears in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Nigella Express. I have modified and adapted it over the years to come up with the below reincarnation.


Makes 12 muffins.

Dry Ingredients:

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 50g LSA mix
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g raw sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon ground roast wattle seed [or 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder]
  • 100g dark chocolate, either buttons or a block roughly chopped
  • 100g of almonds, roughly chopped

Wet Ingredients

  • 150mls sour cream
  • 125mls vegetable oil [I use canola oil but any neutral tasting vegetable oil is fine]
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 100g frozen raspberries
  • Cooking oil spray


  1. Heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Line a cupcake / muffin pan with muffin cases. Spray the cases lightly with cooking oil spray.
  3. Measure the dry ingredients above into a large bowl, and stir to combine.
  4. Add the frozen raspberries to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  5. Measure the wet ingredients above into a jug and stir to combine.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  7. Add spoonfuls of the mixture to the muffin cases. Sprinkle the tops with a little extra sugar if you want a crunchy top.
  8. Place muffins in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffins spring back when touched in the middle.
  9. Remove muffins from the oven and either eat warm or when they have cooled. Enjoy.

What is your favourite baking recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?


Filed under Baking, Foodie Shopping Tip, LSA Mix, Spices, Sweet, Vegetarian