Monday, January 24, 2011

Vanilla Apricot & Almond Tart

I love a good tart... perfect pastry combined with a luscious filling make for a delicious dessert.

An apricot tart had been on my list for a while now, so I finally got around to making this for an Australia Day lunch. My original plan was to make an apricot tart I found in my local newspaper, but decided to change plans after the sour cream pastry failed beyond belief.

So I decided play around with a tried and true French Pear Tart recipe and replaced the pears with vanilla infused apricots from Bills Sydney Food cookbook.

The result? a moist, nutty filling encased in a rich crumbly pastry with bursts of fruity goodness. It may not win any prizes for being the prettiest of tarts, but it's homely presence and down-to-earth simplistic deliciousness earns it a place in the pages of my favourites scrapbook.

Vanilla Apricot & Almond Tart

Recipe to follow shortly...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mango Mousse Tart

Mango has got to be the ULTIMATE summer fruit.

I stumbled across this little recipe during winter time (doh!) and had been dying for mango season to come around so I could taste it for myself.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from it (all I knew was it looked delicious and I had to make it), but it kind of tasted like a Weis bar, in pastry form.

Mango Mousse Tart

Macadamia Nut Pastry
3/4 cup raw unsalted macadamia nuts
1/4 cup sugar
187g cups all purpose flour
113g unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1 large egg yolk, cold

Combine nuts and sugar in a food processor and grind until nuts are finely ground, (but do not overgrind and turn them into butter). Add flour and combine just until blended. Add the butter and combine in pulses until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and combine for a few seconds, just until the mixture begins to come together. Add a little water if the dough is still too dry - one tablespoon at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a working surface and work it gently with your fingers until it forms a cohesive dough.

Roll out the pastry to a 15 x 40cm rectangle, about 3mm thick. Line a shallow rectangle 10 x 34cm (base measurement) fluted tart tin with a removable base with the pastry and trim any excess. Cover the shell and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 190c. Prick the bottoms of the tart shells all over. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with baking weights and bake in the oven for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the tart shell is just starting to color. Remove the weights and return to the over for about 7-10 minutes until the shell is completely baked and are golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Mango Mousse
500g mango flesh (about 2 large or 3 smaller mangoes)
Sugar to taste
3 teaspoons gelatin
2 tablespoons hot water
300ml heavy cream, beaten to firm peaks

Peel skin from mangoes and remove as much flesh as possible. Puree the mango flesh with sugar to taste in a food processor. Strain the puree to get rid of any pulp.

Combine the gelatin and water in a small heat proof dish and melt in a waterbath of simmering water, stirring constantly until melted.

Mix the gelatin into the mango puree. Fold the mango mixture into the beaten cream.

Fill the cooled tart shell with the mousse. Smooth out the top with an offset spatula. Place the tarts in the refrigerator to let the mousse set overnight. Garnish with whipped cream and toasted macadamia nuts, or as I did with a passionfruit mango dessert sauce.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A French Feast - Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb, Ratatouille & Moelleux au Chocolat

There are two influences for this delicious meal. The main reason being re-creating my last lunch in France, the other reason being to use my new Staub Cocotte.

ooooh look how pretty she is!

For my last day in Provence, my boyfriend’s aunt cooked a beautiful meal of slow roasted lamb shoulder with ratatouille. The meat was succulent and the ratatouille was bursting with flavour. I was so fond of the meal that I wrote it down in my holiday diary (which was mostly filled with food memories).

Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, and one that I had never tried before (probably because of my slight aversion to eggplant, capsicum & zucchini). It features the vegetables you'd be likely to find in a summer garden: Aubergine (eggplant), Courgette (zucchini), Poivron (Capsicum), and tomatoes as well as fresh provençal herbs such as thyme and basil. There are so many differing ways to prepare it, some saying that each vegetable should be cooked separately, but most French households wouldn’t bother doing it this way. The way I prefer it prepared (which is also the way it was done by my boys aunt) is stewed for slightly longer (say 40-45 mins) and with a little more tomato.

For my version the lamb, I used a leg and flavoured it with garlic, rosemary & thyme. I slow roasted it for 2 ½ hours, but was terrified that it would come out chewy and tough, unlike the succulent meat-falling-off-the-bone version I had it France. I was elated to find that it was juicy and just like the one in my memory.

To finish off my home-made French foodie experience, I made the ever popular Moelleux au Chocolat (otherwise known as chocolate fondant pudding). The recipe I used was actually from a Koko Black flyer which I had lying in my to make pile. To cut through the richness of the cake I served it with a raspberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream. This dessert also has the added benefit of being made in advance (min 2 hours) and kept in fridge until you are ready to bake it.

It was a perfect meal if I do say so myself. Apologies too for the dodgy night times photo's.

Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb
1.7kg leg lamb
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt
4 cloves of garlic – one of them sliced, the rest just cut into quarters.
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Place lamb leg in a roasting tin and rub salt and the olive oil over the meat. Using a small knife pierce the meat to create some pockets (about 10 or so) and push the sliced garlic and a little rosemary into the meat. Scatter the remaining garlic, rosemary and thyme around the lamb and add 1 cup of water to the roasting dish.

Roast in the preheated oven at 180C for 1 hour. Remove roasting tin from oven, add another cup of water, cover the lamb with aluminium foil, return to oven and cook for 1 more hour.

Remove foil and cook for further 30 minutes or until the lamb is almost falling off the bone. Carve up and serve.

1 large red onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large red capsicum, cut into 2cm squares
1 medium eggplant, cut into 2cm cubes
1 large zucchini, cut into 2cm cubes
2 x 400g can of diced tomato’s (you can use fresh, I just prefer the taste of the canned ones)
Few sprigs of fresh thyme

Heat some olive oil over a medium heat in a heavy based saucepan (I used my Staub French Oven).

Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and capsicum and cook for a further two minutes. Reduce the heat if the vegetable start to brown.

Add the rest of the ingredients, turn down heat and cover the pot. Simmer until everything is soft and well blended, stirring occasionally - about 40 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Moelleux au Chocolat
60g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
100g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate
50g plain flour, sifted

Lightly brush 4 ramekins (150 - 200ml capacity) with softened butter and dust with cocoa powder. Place them on a baking tray and put them in the fridge whilst you make the batter.

Using a whisk, gently mix together the eggs and sugar. Be careful not to incorporate too much air.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water. Remove from the heat and add to the egg mixture and gently combine. Lightly fold in the flour ensuring there are no lumps.

Place 100g of the batter into each ramekin (this ensures that all the ramekins are equal and will cook at the same rate). Cover the ramekins with cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 190c (fan forced) and place the puddings straight in the oven and bake for 13 minutes (I found this too long, so will reduce the time next time)

To test if the Moelleux is ready, it should be slightly firm and spongy on top, with a cake-like appearance around the edges.

Serve the Moelleux in the ramekin or turn out onto a serving plate with vanilla ice cream and the raspberry coulis.

Raspberry Coulis
250g frozen raspberries
2 tbls caster sugar

Place frozen Raspberries and sugar into a saucepan. Stir to combine. Heat, stirring often, over medium heat until bubbling. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until berries are very tender. Using a spoon, crush raspberries until pureed.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Pass Raspberry mixture through a sieve to strain. Discard seeds

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coca (Tomato) Tarte

There are many advantages to having a French mother-in-law. I love hearing about her history, looking at her old photographs and learning about her family and how she grew up in France. I really admire her strength and enjoy the time we spend together. Being able to attempt my limited French without feeling like an idiot is also awesome.

I also love sharing our love of cooking and learning recipes which have been passed down to her and making food that hopefully reminds her of France.

One of her recipe's that I think is super yummy is her Tomato Tart. The recipe comes from her Spanish grandmother, although I think it may have been tweaked as is has been passed down, kind of like Chinese whispers for food.

Coca Tarte
3 red onions, thinly sliced
2 x 400g cans of diced tomato's
1 small can (75g) or 1/2 a small red capsicum diced
Optional - clove of garlic, some herbs such as thyme, basil or oregano

8 tblsp plain flour
8 tblsp S.R flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
4 tblsp olive oil

For the filling, sauté the onions with some olive oil until they are translucent (include the garlic here, if desired). Add the capsicum and sauté for a little longer until soft.

Add the diced tomato's and simmer on a medium low heat for about 30 minutes until the mixture is reduced, rich and flavoursome. Season with pepper and salt.

While the filling is simmering away, make the pastry. Preheat the oven to 180c (160c for fan forced). In a food processor, combine all the ingredients until you get a breadcrumb texture. Grab a small jug of cold water and add little by little (you will use about 1 - 2 tablespoons) until the dough just starts to come together in a ball.

Roll out the pastry to fit a round 23cm fluted tart tin. Line with the pastry, trim any excess and doc the bottom of the pastry with a fork. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to rest.

Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes - there is no need to use pastry weights.

By now, the filling should be done. Fill the baked tart shell with the filling (here you can also add olives or anchovies - crumbled fetta would be nice too), place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve warm or cold, with a salad or as an entrée or how ever you desire.


This little number was the deal breaker for me purchasing a dessert cookbook whilst on holidays in France.

There a number of beautiful looking desserts in the book (most of which I am yet to try) and as a bonus it's also great way for me to practice my French by interpreting the recipe.

It has taken me many months to finally getting around to making this cake, as most of you probably already know, raspberries are stupidly expensive here in Australia (in France, the average price was 2€ a punnet).

All the elements of this cake work perfectly together. The nutty earthiness of the dacquoise perfectly compliments the sweet tartness of the raspberries and the cream brings it all together.

This dessert would make a perfect ending to any summer dinner party.

4 egg whites
165g caster sugar
240g almond meal
35g plain flour

Raspberry Mousse
200g fresh/frozen raspberries (I used frozen)
3 tsp gelatin
2 tblsp hot water
125g white chocolate, melted
2 egg yolks
55g caster sugar
1 tsp Malibu
300ml heavy cream

To finish
300ml heavy cream
250 - 450g fresh raspberries (these are for garnish, so how ever many punnets you would like)
160g raspberry jam, hot
60ml Malibu

Preheat the oven to 180c (160c for fan forced) and grease two 22 cm springform pans and line them with baking paper.

In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the caster sugar until you get glossy peaks and the sugar has dissolved. Fold in the almond meal and flour.

Spread the mixture evenly between the two pans and bake for 20 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes and unmould. Cool to room temperature.

For the raspberry mousse, push the raspberries through a sieve over a large bowl. Combine the gelatin and water in a small heat proof dish and melt in a waterbath of simmering water, stirring constantly until melted.

Mix the gelatin, melted chocolate, egg yolks, sugar and malibu in a bowl. Beat the cream until firm peaks. Fold the cream and chocolate mixture into the raspberry coulis.

Line the bottom and sides of a 22cm springform pan with baking paper. Place one of the cooled cakes in the bottom of the pan (smooth side down). Spread the raspberry mousse, then top with the other cake (smooth size facing the top). Cover and place in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours until firm.

Remove the cake from the pan. Beat the cream in a bowl until firm peaks, then spread it evenly over the cake. Garnish with the fresh raspberries and brush with the hot jam mixed with the Malibu. Serve immediately. Keep any leftovers in the fridge.

Passionfruit Macarons

I thought the Christmas break would be a good time to practice my macaron skills, but, as usual time has gotten away from me and so far I have managed to only produce one batch.

As a little Christmas present to myself (and after some rave reviews by Trissalicious), I purchased a little book dedicated to Macarons, in particular the Italian meringue method (which I prefer)

The book, Secrets of Macarons, is a comprehensive guide to all things macarons. It gives detailed advice and descriptions to each of the elements to macarons from the ingredients down to the macaronage.

Here, I used the basic macaron recipe from the book (omitting the vanilla) to produce a yummy passionfruit version.

200g almond meal
200g pure icing sugar
75ml water
200g caster sugar
2 x 80g egg whites
Yellow colouring (paste)

Process then carefully sift the ground almonds and icing sugar (this is called tant pour tant). Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring the water and caster sugar to the boil. Without stirring, make sure the temperature of the resulting syrup doesn’t go above 115c.

Gently beat 80 grams egg whites to soft peaks, then increase the speed of the beater when the temperature of the syrup passes 105c. When the syrup reaches 115c remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the syrup in a thin stream into the beaten egg whites. Continue to beat the meringue for about 10 minutes, so that it cools.

Combine the tant pour tant and the remaining unbeaten egg whites, making a smooth almond paste, then add the colouring.

Using a flexible spatula, incorporate about a third of the merinque into the almond paste to loosen the mixture a little, then add the rest of the meringue, working the batter carefully.

Fill a piping bag fitten with an 8 mm nozzle with the batter. Attach a sheet of baking paper to each baking tray, placing small dots of batter in each corner. Pipe out small, regular and well placed rounds, each about the size of a walnut. Lightly tap the bottom of the trays and allow the macarons to form a crust at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 150c.

Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. When you take them out, carefully place the baking paper on dampened benchtop: the shells will be easier to remove. Cool.

Passionfruit Buttercream (adapted from Mélanger)
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
125g unsalted butter
1/4 cup passionfruit juice

In a bowl over simmering water, whisk the eggs whites and sugar. Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature reaches 70C.

Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and on a medium speed, beat until you reach firm peaks, about 5 minutes. Slow the speed and add in the room temperature butter one piece at a time. Add in the passionfruit juice and mix until smooth. If the mixture appears to curdle, keep beating on medium speed until smooth again.

To assemble
Using a piping bag, pipe a small amount of the butter cream onto the shell and top with another shell.