Category Archives: Berries

Christmas treats

In Sydney, Christmas falls in the middle of summer; this also happens to be when cherries are at their best. My recipe this week uses dried cherries, which I managed to track down at a local health food store, and pistachios, for their green christmasy colour. This recipe makes  a lot of fudge, so it is perfect for sharing and / or giving as home-made gifts to friends and family. I ended up making a double batch so that I would have plenty to go around. I wrapped squares of fudge in clear cello gift wrap then placed them in gift bags and boxes as presents.

With the salt quantity specified below, this is specifically for salt flakes, if you are using regular table salt proceed with caution and only use 1/4 of a teaspoon or less.

What I was cooking this time last year: Raspberry, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad

Chocolate Fudge with Cherries and Pistachios

Ingredients:

  • 75g butter
  • 395g tin condensed milk
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt flakes
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 220g dark chocolate
  • 100g pistachios
  • 125g dried cherries
  • Cooking oil spray to grease your tin

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven on to 180°C.
  • Transfer the pistachios to an oven proof dish and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Pistachios shelled green nuts

  • Line a tray with grease-proof paper and spray with cooking oil.
  • Add the butter, condensed milk, vanilla, salt and brown sugar to a saucepan.

Fudge ingredients

 

  • Stir the saucepan of fudge mixture over a medium heat until the butter is melted and the fudge starts to thicken.
  • Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir to combine.

Chocolate caramel fudge

  • Add the cherries and pistachios to the chocolate fudge and stir to combine.
  • Pour the fudge into the lined tray and refrigerate until cool.

Chocolate cherry pistachio fudge

  • Remove the fudge from the tray and peel off the grease-proof paper.
  • Cut the fudge into serving size pieces. Your fudge is ready to serve or wrap for gifts. Enjoy.

Chocolate cherry pistachio fudge

What are your favourite christmas flavours? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Berries, Caramel, Chocolate, Dried Fruit, Nuts, Pistachio, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

From my bookshelf – Family Food: A new approach to cooking

By the time you read this, I will be on my way to the international airport, bound for a Cuban holiday. I am hoping to discover some new dishes and ingredients as part of my trip, and come back inspired to create some new recipes to share with you all. I have set up posts to publish while I am away, so as long as technology doesn’t fail me, you should still receive your weekly Passionfruit Project fix.

This week’s post is dedicated to a review of the book ” Family Food: A new approach to cooking”, by Heston Blumenthal. This is the first recipe book Heston published, before he shot to prominence with his celebrity-chef television career and around the time The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray started to win awards.

I was lucky enough to have lunch at The Fat Duck many years ago now, and it still ranks as one of my best foodie experiences, along with dinner at Tetsuya’s. Heston is known for his unique approach to cooking, quite often combining scientific principles in his cooking methods. This book is removed from the high tech principles Heston has become famous for, and instead focuses on classic, simple cooking suitable for the whole family, young and old alike. It talks a lot about how to get children involved in cooking and interested in food, but it is also a handy reference for anyone wanting to brush up on their cooking techniques, fill in any gaps, find some new inspiration or rediscover a classic dish. In this book Heston’s passion for food shines through, and he covers a full spectrum of dishes, from how to fry the perfect egg to strawberry soup.

A quote to give you a flavour of the book, “One of the main ambitions of this book is to bring children into the kitchen, and one of the best ways to do this is to make cooking as approachable as possible” from the Children’s tip in the section “Risotto”. The below recipe is quite labour and time intensive, and combines some unusual ingredients, but there are also plenty of more traditional recipes if you aren’t feeling like experimenting. I will confess, I haven’t actually attempted the below recipe, or tried the strawberry and black pepper combo that many chefs seem to be a fan of. I included the details to give you a sense of the book.

What I was cooking this time last year: Mini smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels (please note, Glick’s has moved)

Family Food book Heston Blumenthal

Strawberry Soup

* This recipe is from the chapter “Desserts” by Heston Blumenthal  in “Family Food: A new approach to cooking”.

“This recipe is part of a dish that is on the menu at the Fat Duck in season. Do give it a try, but please do it in the strawberry season. As well as quality, there is something quite magical about eating this during the English summer. Make sure that you buy the fruit no more than a day in advance, as they deteriorate really quickly.

* Children’s tip
Show the children how to spot a good strawberry – bright red in colour with a vivid green stem. Check that there are no blemishes or bruises on the strawberries. Contrary to popular belief, large, uniform strawberries are not a sign of quality. More often than not they are a result of laboratory-controlled agriculture.

If orange-flower water is not available, use rose water, which most chemists sell. Both of these ingredients are optional. You might want to omit the flower water the first time that you make this, as it could be too perfumed for your kids. Although, having said that, orange-flower water is still used to make a soothing sugared child’s drink in many parts of Europe. In Spain, it is also put on children’s pillows to give a comforting night-time aroma.

This recipe may seem rather lengthy, but the results will not disappoint. The concentration of flavour is amazing.

The strawberry juice can be omitted, although it is great as a base for making drinks or for pouring over ice-cream. It can even be added to the rice pudding recipe on page 305. It does keep very well.

* Tip
Even if you are a bit short of time and cannot do this recipe, you will be surprised at how much the flavour of the strawberries can be heightened just by sprinkling some unrefined caster sugar over them half an hour before serving. If you have not read it already, have a quick read of the findings of a recent experiment regarding strawberries on page 71.

Remember, when preparing strawberries, to hull them just before you macerate or use them. Do not wash them before hulling, or they will absorb water, destroying their taste and texture.

Try this recipe replacing the strawberries with rhubarb – it works brilliantly.

If doing the whole recipe, including the juice begin the day before. Some muslin will also be needed.

For the strawberry juice

  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Wash, hull and quarter the strawberries, put them into a metal bowl and sprinkle them with the icing sugar. Set this bowl over a saucepan of very gently simmering water, cover with cling-film, and leave for 1 1/2 hours. Pour the contents of the bowl on to a large piece of muslin set over a bowl. Tie up the corners of the muslin and hang up over the bowl to catch all of the juice.

For the soup

  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon unrefined caster sugar
  • strawberry juice (see above)
  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 125ml fruity red wine
  • orange-flower water to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Hull and quarter the strawberries and put them into a bowl. Add the sugar and pour over the strawberry juice, leave this mix to macerate for 2 hours.

Zest the orange and lemon, taking care to discard all of the white pith which would make the liquid bitter. Juice the fruits and reserve.

Meanwhile, bring the red wine to the boil and immediately flame it with a match, or better still, a blowtorch. When the flames have cased, add the zest and juice of the orange and lemon and boil to reduce the mixture by half. Strain this liquid and set aside to cool.

In the liquidizer, combine the macerated strawberries with the red wine reduction and blend.

Finishing the dish is the fun part, as it involves the taste-buds. Add the orange-flower water, about 1 tablespoon to begin with. A little more sugar may be needed along with some orange juice, depending on the ripeness and quality of the strawberries. The important thing here is to keep on tasting to get the right balance. Give the soup a really good blend and finish off by adding the black pepper to taste.

Now there are the following options:

  1. Hang the soup in muslin again overnight. This will produce a wonderfully concentrated essence of strawberry.
  2. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Serve it as it is, adding extra strawberries for texture if required.

To serve, dribble over a little best-quality virgin olive oil. Finally, if feeling adventurous, finish the dish by sprinkling over some freshly picked rose petals!”

Strawberry Soup recipe Family Food Heston Blumenthal

What is your favourite go-to cook book? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Berries, Book Review, Pudding, Recipes, Rhubarb, Soup, Strawberry, Sweet

Chocolate jam

One of my favourite things in the world is chocolate cake. I also had an over-supply of jam recently, and decided to experiment by including jam in my chocolate cake.  I used blackberry jam, but you can of course use what ever jam you prefer. I started with a Nigella old-fashioned chocolate cake recipe, and replaced half the sugar with jam. I liked the result, but the jam in the cake mixture was still quite subtle, so, next time, I will replace all the sugar with jam (and do away with the need to add milk). The dollop of jam hiding inside is a nice surprise when you bite into the cupcakes.

Blackberry jam

For the icing I used dark chocolate, and to help it match the sweetness of the cake, I added condensed milk. Condensed milk in a tube is a wonderful thing, you can add a squeeze instead of vanilla and icing sugar when whipping up some chantilly cream.

What I was cooking this time last year: Fried Saganaki Cheese with Salsa

Chocolate blackberry cupcakes

* This recipe’s base ingredients were inspired by a Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake recipe that appears in Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, Feast. I have modified and adapted Nigella’s recipe to come up with the below reincarnation.

Ingredients:

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Cupcakes

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g sugar
  • 200g blackberry jam
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 175g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 150g sour cream or yoghurt
  • 50mls milk

Icing

  • 100mls cream
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 50mls condensed milk

Method:

  • Heat oven to 180°C.
  • Add the butter, sugar and vanilla to your food processor bowl and mix until light and fluffy.

Butter, sugar, vanilla

  • Add the eggs, milk, sour cream and 100g of the jam and mix until thoroughly combined.

Butter, sugar, jam

  • Add the cocoa powder and flour and mix until thoroughly combined.

Cocoa powder mixture

  • Place cup cake cases into your baking tray.
  • Spoon mixture into the base of each cup cake case.
  • Add a spoon of jam on top of the cake mixture in each cup cake case.

Chocolate cake mix, jam

  • Top the jam with another spoon of cake mixture.
  • Bake the cupcakes for approximately 25 – 30 minutes, or until they spring back when lightly touched.
  • To make the icing, add the chocolate, cream and condensed milk to a large bowl.

Chocolate and cream

  • Suspend the bowl over a saucepan of hot water and gently heat until the chocolate is melted and everything is combined.
  • Cool the icing mixture in the fridge until firm.
  • Whip the icing to make it light and fluffy.

Chocolate icing

  • When the cupcakes are cooled, spread the tops with icing. Your cupcakes are ready to serve. Enjoy.

Chocolate cupcakes

How do you like to eat your jam? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Baking, Berries, Cake, Chocolate, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

Breakfast in bed

Next Sunday (the 2nd Sunday in May) is Mother’s Day in Australia, and lots of kitchens will be preparing breakfast in bed as a special treat for mum.

I first got the idea of using cottage cheese in pancakes from a Cheesecakelets recipe by Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast. Nigella’s recipe calls for separating the eggs and whisking the whites. This does produce lovely light pancakes but I think facing a whisk first thing in the morning is a bit much, especially if you have little helpers assisting with the cooking.

Cottage cheese is an under-utilised ingredient, it is a great alternative to ricotta cheese in cooking if you are trying to watch your fat intake. I am not using cottage cheese in this recipe because of it’s low(er) fat properties, but because the cottage cheese retains its curds, and once cooked, they melt and give a delicious oozy texture to the pancakes.

If you haven’t tried strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar you may be skeptical, but the acid from the vinegar draws out the strawberry juice and you end up with a sweet sauce. You could add a little sugar to the vinegar and strawberries if the strawberries are especially tart, but I don’t find it is required. My only tip is to not leave the strawberries marinating too long (I wouldn’t leave them overnight) or they will continue to break down. Preparing the strawberries just before you start making the pancakes is sufficient time to allow the flavours to develop. Strawberries are expensive in Sydney at the moment, so if you wanted to skip them you could serve your pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar or other fresh or defrosted berries.

What I was cooking this time last year: Bircher Muesli

Pancakes with Marinated Strawberries

Serves 2 – 3

Ingredients

Pancakes

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g cottage cheese
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 100mls milk
  • 20g butter (plus extra for frying if you don’t have a non-stick frying pan)

Marinated Strawberries

  • 1 punnet of strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Method

  • Wash then hull your strawberries and roughly chop. Add your chopped strawberries to a bowl and add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Set aside to marinate.

Strawberries

  • Measure out the  flour, sugar and cottage cheese  into a bowl.
  • Add the egg to the bowl with the flour.
  • Zest the lemon peel into the bowl.

Pancake ingredients

  • Juice the lemon and add to the bowl.
  • Add the milk and stir everything to combine.
  • Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the melted butter to the pancake batter and stir to combine.

Pancake batter

  • Heat your frying pan over a medium heat and add spoonfuls of the pancake batter to the pan.

Pancakes cooking

  • Cook on one side, your pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles start to appear on the top of the pancakes.
  • Flip your pancakes and cook on the other side until golden brown.
  • Dish up straight from the pan or place in a low oven to keep warm until all of the pancakes are cooked.

Pancakes with strawberries

  • Top the pancakes with marinated strawberries. Enjoy.

What is your favourite breakfast in bed? Has this post inspired any new ideas?

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Filed under Berries, Breakfast, Cheese, Lemon, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian

Spring salad

The weather in Sydney is warming up (apart from some freaky weather last week that resulted in snow in the Blue Mountains), and with the warmer weather I tend to prefer lighter meals.

There is such a wide variety of oils and vinegars available, that salad ideas are really only limited by your imagination (and perhaps your budget).

Dressing ideas include walnut oil & white balsamic vinegar, pomegranate molasses, and ideas for salad greens include watercress, rocket, baby spinach, herbs such as parsley, mint.

Goat cheese or chèvre is a lovely addition to a salad, it’s creamy crumbly texture and tangy flavour adds an extra dimension.

There were no fresh raspberries available this week at my greengrocer so I used frozen raspberries.

The recipe below provides quantities for one, it can be easily scaled depending on how may people you are catering for.

Raspberry, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Salad

Ingredients

  • 20g shelled pistachios
  • 50g goat cheese or chèvre
  • 1/2 a bunch of watercress or other salad greens
  • 20g or 1/2 a punnet of raspberries
  • 2 teaspoons pistachio oil
  • 2 teaspoons raspberry vinegar

Method

  • Heat oven to 180°C and toast your pistachios for 10 minutes.
  • Allow the pistachios to cool.
  • Pick your watercress into sprigs, discard the excess stalks, and add your sprigs to a bowl

  • Add the pistachio oil and raspberry vinegar to the watercress sprigs and toss to coat everything in the dressing
  • Crumble the goat cheese into your salad
  • Add your raspberries and toasted pistachios. Your salad is ready to serve. Enjoy.

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

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Filed under Berries, Cheese, Pistachio, Recipes, Salad, Savoury, Vegetarian

Spring strawberries

The beautiful sunny spring days and abundance of strawberries are the inspiration for this my post this week, strawberry and white chocolate mousse.

I actually used Ikea tealight candle holders to serve my strawberry and white chocolate mousse. They are the perfect size and the clear glass shows off the pretty pink mousse and decorative strawberry slices. The thinner you are able to make your strawberry slices, the better they stick to the sides of the tealight holders.

I’ve avoided using gelatin and instead relied on the chocolate to make the mousse set. I used Green and Black’s white chocolate because it is organic, fairtrade and has lovely flecks of real vanilla pod seeds through it. With so few ingredients in this recipe, it is important to use a good quality white chocolate.

You could serve some biscuits with your mousse to give some contrast in texture, something along the lines of ginger thins or some tulles.

Strawberry and white chocolate mousse

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 200g white chocolate
  • 150mls cream
  • 1 punnet of strawberries

Method

  • Wash and hull the strawberries.
  • Use some of the smaller strawberries to slice thinly. Decorate the sides of the 4 glass containers with strawberry slices.

  • Place the rest of the strawberries in a blender with 50mls of the cream and blend until smooth.

  • Heat the white chocolate and the remaining 100mls of cream over a double boiler until the chocolate is melted and the cream is combined.

  • Cool the cream and white chocolate mixture. Once cool, whip with electric beaters until thick and creamy.

  • Add 100mls of the blended strawberry mixture to the white chocolate and cream mixture, gently stir to combine then whip to add some extra lightness to the mixture.

  • Fill up your glass containers with your mousse. You could add some of the remaining strawberry mixture to the top. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. Enjoy.

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

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Filed under Berries, Chocolate, Recipes, Sweet, Vegetarian