Easy Berry Parfait Recipe

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“Some of the sweetest berries grow among the sharpest thorns.”
~ Scottish Proverb

 

Ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved parfaits. They’re so pretty with their layers of deliciousness! What’s even better about this dessert is that it’s healthy enough to eat for breakfast, and fancy enough to be served at Christmas Dinner.

This is such an easy recipe that kids can make it. (Making parfaits is fun.) If you’re letting them help, give them a small personal glass where they can make a ‘test’ parfait to eat in advance, like a chef’s reward. :)

 

Ingredients to serve 6 or 4 BIG serves:

2 heaped cups of mixed fresh or frozen berries, 2 tablespoons of caster sugar/superfine sugar or natvia, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cornflour (corn starch), 2 cups of your favourite yoghurt, 4 tablespoons of roasted coconut chips or toasted flaked almonds.

Glasses for parfaits – the choice is yours, but make sure your spoons can reach comfortably to the bottom of the glass, or there will be tears…

Today I’ve made some breakfast parfaits in short glasses, and some dessert parfaits in martini glasses. My berry mix included strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. My yoghurt? Greek passionfruit yoghurt for a little summery zip, and a parfait made with coconut milk yoghurt for a friend who is vegan.

If you’re dairy intolerant do try the coconut yoghurt or a good soy yoghurt.

Method:

Sort through your berries and wash. (Not necessary of they are frozen.) Drain, and chop any large berries into smaller pieces if required. Tip into a saucepan with the lemon juice and sugar.

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Squash the berries down a little with a potato masher to release some of their juice.

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Heat and stir for a few minutes so that the berries have broken down a little and the sugar has been dissolved. There should still be some whole berries in your pot.

Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon or so of cold water until it is smooth and milky. Dump into saucepan with berries and stir over medium heat for another minute until mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Mixture will thicken more as it cools.

At this stage you can put mixture in an airtight container and keep in fridge up to one week if necessary. The berry mix will taste sweet and summery. It is also divine when spooned over ice-cream or ladled into little pastry cases with a dollop of cream and a few shavings of chocolate on top.

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To assemble your parfaits:

Have your glasses ready, along with some clean spoons.

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Start with a layer of berry mixture, placing it carefully so that it doesn’t drip down the sides of the glass. It’s better to work with a little at a time than big messy spoonfuls. If you do get a smudge, wipe it off with a piece of paper towel.

Now add a layer of yoghurt, again working slowly and neatly.

Another layer of berries, and then keep layering until you get to the top of the glass.

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Finish with a few whole berries or a splodge of yoghurt with a little more of the berry mix spooned into the centre of the splodge.

If you’re not ready to serve these yet, pop them back in the fridge.

Just before serving, sprinkle your toasted coconut chips or almond flakes over the top for a delicious crunch. The texture of the soft fruit and yoghurt with the crunchy bits is wonderful. Enjoy!

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Last-Minute Christmas Cake Recipe – Quick and Easy

Quick and Easy Christmas Cake

Quick and Easy Christmas Cake

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.” 
~ Charles M. Schulz

 

Did Christmas sneak up on you too this year? One minute it was 2012, and now it seems a whole year has flashed by and I missed it!

Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding is usually an elaborate ritual in our household, but this year I was too unwell, and then suddenly BANG! I’d run out of time to make my usual recipes.

This Christmas cake tastes just as good as the one that takes me a whole week to make, and the ingredients list is only a quarter of the length of my traditional one. But that doesn’t matter. No-one will know. They’ll just be impressed that you made this yourself. Santa will be happy with the slice you leave out for him (don’t forget some carrots for the reindeers – although Harry and Bert tell me reindeers adore dog treats!) and this cake makes a thoughtful gift for friends and family too.

You can also reheat slices to substitute for a traditional Christmas Pudding.

Yes – fast, versatile, simple and yummy. This recipe is a clear winner!

Ingredients:

1 kilogram mixed dried fruit; 200 grams of glace cherries or glace fruit of your choice; 250g butter – cubed; 1/4 cup of rum, sherry or brandy; 1 cup water (use a little extra water if the fruit looks quite dry; 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, 1 x 395g tin of condensed milk, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar; 4 additional tablespoons rum, sherry or brandy; 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or good quality paste if you have it, 2 cups of plain flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon mixed spice, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 1 teaspoon finely grated orange rind. Blanched almonds and/or cherries to decorate if desired.

 

Dietary Variations

This cake is already egg free.

* alcohol-free: substitute strong tea for the alcohol

*gluten-free: simply use gluten-free flour instead of plain flour. It cooks up beautifully as a gluten-free cake but do make sure your fruit mixture is quite moist as gluten-free cakes tend to dry out more

*nut-free: omit almonds and use glace fruit to decorate cake instead.

retro-christmas-santa

Method:

If you have the luxury of time, put your mixed fruit into a large bowl and pour the 1/4 cup of rum, sherry or brandy over and leave for several hours, stirring every so often.

marinate fruit

If time is of the essence place your mixed fruit and glace cherries into a large saucepan. Pour over the quarter cup of alcohol and soak for 30 minutes. (If you’re in a super rush, you can omit this stage.) Then add the chopped butter, water and Bicarb Soda and bring to the boil, stirring often so nothing sticks to the bottom. When it has begun to boil turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. This takes a few hours and plumps up all the fruit beautifully.

soaked-boiled-fruit

When the mixture has cooled preheat your oven to 150 degrees celcius or 300 degrees fahrenheit – you want a slow oven so the cake cooks through thoroughly without burning or drying out. If you have a fan-forced oven drop this temperature to 140C or 275F.

Prepare a large 9 inch/22 centimetre round or an 8 inch/20 centimetre square tin by double lining it with baking paper, letting the paper come five centimetres or more above the top of the tin to prevent the top of the cake browning too fast.

(I have also given cooking times for smaller tins below in case you choose to divide the mixture and make smaller cakes for gifts.)

While the oven is heating, add your condensed milk, vinegar, two more tablespoons of alcohol and the vanilla, stirring well.  Just mix it straight into the big saucepan.  That way you only have one pot to wash up! The mixture may foam a little – don’t panic, this is normal. Then sift your flour, baking powder and spices into the mixture and stir through until combined. Taste the raw batter and adjust spices if necessary. You mixture will be thick and you’ll need a strong arm.

Spoon the mixture into the tin or tins.  Wet your hand and then press down lightly on the mixture to smooth it out and make the tin evenly filled, ensuring the mix is pressed in well into the corners. You can also raise the tins up about 6 inches and drop them onto the bench to help get rid of any air pockets.

Decorate the top with almonds and cherries. I like making flowers but you could also do simple rings of nuts and cherries. Be creative – that’s half the fun of baking!

Place your cake in the oven and follow the baking times below, using a skewer to test of the cake is done about ten minutes before the time is up.  Poke the skewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is ready, if mixture still adheres to the skewer bake a little longer.

3 x 8cm by 25cm tins – bake for 50 minutes to one hour

2 x 12cm x 23cm loaf tins – bake for one hour and twenty minutes

1 large round or square tin – bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes to two hours (test for doneness)

When you pull the cake from the oven pour the remaining alcohol over the top while the cake is still warm. Then cover with a clean tea towel and leave to cool in the tin before removing.

Store in an airtight container, or wrap in plastic wrap and then tin foil. Excellent keeping qualities, and may also be frozen. (But seriously, it won’t last that long…)

christmas cake

 

For presentation, you can wrap a pretty ribbon around the outside of your cake on Christmas day. But we never seem to quite get to that…

Oh, and a word of warning. Santa has been known to sneak over early and cut a big chunk for himself, as well as drinking all of the milk you would have used in your morning cuppa so HIDE THIS CAKE if you expect problems of that nature. :)boiled-fruitcakes

Easy Reindeer Cupcakes Recipe

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“Reindeer are flight and motion and magic in moonlight beyond all recalling, made of Christmas dreams, spun from a place beyond all fearing.” ~ Anon

 

A dear girlfriend and her young daughter dropped by a few days ago for a cuppa and a chat. It was a perfect opportunity to try out this Christmassy recipe.

The fun of this recipe isn’t just in the eating! It’s a great activity to keep the kids occupied while grown-ups chat, or for a bit of family togetherness to get you in the Christmas Spirit.

You can make the cupcake batter from scratch using the recipe below, or use your favourite packet mix if that’s more convenient. You could also use ready-made icing/frosting.

Make the cupcakes at least two hours in advance so that they are cool before you ice them.

Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Ingredients: 1/2 cup (125g)  softened butter, 1 tsp vanilla essence, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 2 eggs, 1 and 1/2 cups sifted Self Raising Flour  (self-rising for my USA friends or for every cup use 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/2 cup milk, *Optional – 1/2 cup of small candy-coated chocolate sprinkles or mini M and M’s.

Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Place paper cupcake liners into a 12 hole capacity muffin/cupcake tin.

Cream butter, vanilla and sugar in small bowl using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well until combined. Stir in half the sifted flour and half the milk, then stir in remaining flour and milk.

If you’re using the sprinkles add them in now for a fun surprise in your cooked cupcakes. Fold through gently. After the cupcakes have baked, when you break them open they will be brightly flecked with colour!

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Pour mixture into 12 patty pans (in a 12-hole muffin tray.)

Bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven. Cakes should spring back when pressed lightly in the centre. If not quite done cook a minute or two more.

Remove from oven and leave in tray five minutes and then remove and cool on wire rack.

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Chocolate Icing

Ingredients: 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 and 1/2 cups icing sugar, 2 to 3 heaped tablespoons of cocoa (use less cocoa for a milder chocolate taste), 4 tablespoons of milk

Method:

Sift icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl and add softened butter. Beat on low speed to begin, adding a little milk gradually. Then increase speed to medium and beat well, adding more milk if icing is too thick.

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Decorations:

Pretzels; Jaffas or red smarties or M and M’s for the nose; an assortment of other lollies for mouths, ears, eyes and general decorations. *Optional –  an icing/frosting pen or tube for making eyes, mouths and other cool designs

Assemble the cupcakes by spreading with icing, and then decorate to make little reindeer faces. The decorations must be placed onto the icing when it is still wet so that they stick!

For a group activity leave arrange the un-iced cakes on a platter, and place the decorations in some small bowls. Provide some butter knives or spoons for spreading the icing and cutting any sweets if needed.

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Sip tea or cold drinks, ice your cupcakes, chat happily and then feast on the reindeer artworks! Some of them may look like very strange reindeer – but that’s all part of the fun. :)

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Cupcakes will keep for four days, but are best eaten on the day they are made. They also make lovely party gifts.

2013-11-30 10.53.20Who could resist faces like these? :) Happy Holidays!

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Baked Peaches with Walnut Caramel Crumble Recipe

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“One day I would have all the books in the world, shelves and shelves of them. I would live my life in a tower of books. I would read all day long and eat peaches. And if any young knights in armor dared to come calling on their white chargers and plead with me to let down my hair, I would pelt them with peach pits until they went home.” 
~ Jacqueline Kelly, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

 

I arrived home at my farm yesterday to an almost empty fridge, and an almost empty pantry. That’s okay. I shall go to the Farmers’ Markets in Bangalow this morning to stock up.

Even so, I managed a rustic dinner for Ben and I and some friends last night, based on a handful of simple ingredients. I love my friends. They are the kind of people who turn up in their filthy end-of-day workclothes because they were in the area and thought they’d say hi, drop in some surplus produce, and see if we needed anything.

These friends had been picking fruit all day at a neighbour’s farm, and they came bearing fresh eggs and a box of white peach and nectarine ‘seconds’ – fruit which was too ripe, or had blemishes that made them unsuitable for market. Perfect for us though!

Dinner was a humble offering of soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers. The sourdough I found at the back of the fridge was old and stale-ish, but perfect toasted. And farm fresh eggs need little adornment – just a grind or two of pepper and a little salt.

For dessert I picked through the seconds box and whipped up some baked peaches with a lovely crumble topping that only took a minute to make. We splodged on a dash of yoghurt and the result was completely delicious. Farm-style food at its best!

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Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients to serve four: 4 large peaches, 1/2 cup of oats, 1/2 cup of plain flour, 1/2 cup of soft brown sugar, 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup coconut

Note: Vegans, use a butter alternative. For gluten-free use a good gluten-free flour mix, and substitute the oats for the same volume of your favourite gluten-free breakfast cereal.

Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Wash the peaches and pat dry. Halve and discard stones.

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Place peach halves cut side up into a heat-proof dish or tray.

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Measure dry ingredients into a bowl and mix to combine.

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Rub through softened butter with your fingertips until the mixture is moist and crumbly.

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Heap the crumble mixture onto the top of each peach half. Press down softly. Don’t squeeze crumble into a hard mass or it will be hard to cut with a spoon when it has baked. It’s okay if a bit of crumble ends up in the bottom of your tray. Those bits will bake extra crunchy and taste delicious! Anyway, this is a rustic meal!

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Place peaches into oven for 30 minutes, or until the crumble is golden. Serve with cream, yoghurt, custard or ice-cream.

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Can be eaten hot or cold. Words cannot express how scrumptious this simple little treat tastes.  My pictures do not do them justice, and honestly, we were all too busy eating to get arty with food shots. The brown sugar gives a rich caramelly taste, the walnuts give an oily crunch and the peaches are sweet with a slight tang. Heaven!

Any kind of fresh peaches will do for this recipe, but you could just as easily use nectarines, large apricots or pears. If stone fruit is out of season, use well-drained bottled or canned fruit to substitute. Enjoy :)

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Easy Pecan Pie Recipe

Pecan pie

“Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest.”
~ Douglas Jerrold 1803-1857

Something very cool happened yesterday afternoon as we went for a family walk to wheel the rubbish bin (it’s a glamorous life on the farm LOL!) down our long driveway to the road.

As I trailed behind Ben and the dogs I spied a funny shaped rock on the grass.

Only it wasn’t a rock, it was a pecan nut!

pecans

The straggly-looking trees lining one side of our driveway are young pecan trees and this year was their first fruiting. They were planted before we came, and we’ve nursed them along, not knowing what they were.

Oh my goodness. I’m a pecan farmer!!!

Ben and I scrabbled around and I filled my apron pocket with nuts. There are still a few more to drop, but it’s not a bad first harvest.

What to do with fresh pecans besides stuff some immediately into your mouth? Pecan pie. I love this recipe – it’s easy to make, and not too sweet or rich.

Ingredients – Short Crust Easy Pastry:

1 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
125g butter (4 and 1/2 ounces), chilled (unsalted if you have it) and cubed
1 egg yolk
2 tblspns cold water
(for a sweeter pastry you can add 1 tablespoon icing sugar)

Method:

Put flour in a food processor, and add a few chunks of butter. Run on, and then slowly feed in the rest of the butter until your mixture looks like crumbs. Add yolk and water and mix again until it is just together (it’s okay to add a little extra water if needed). Dump out onto a sheet of cling wrap, form into a disc, wrap and rest in fridge for ten minutes.

Find a 20 centimetre (9 inch) spring-form pan, or pan with removable base if possible, or ordinary pie dish if not! Grease well.

Roll chilled pastry out thinly between two sheets of cling wrap or greaseproof paper. Take top piece off and use bottom sheet to turn pastry upside down and manuever pastry into dish. Remove plastic or paper, press in gently and trim off edges. Keep any extra pastry for little pie cases or turnovers etc. Pop back in fridge ten mins to rest.

**Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius (375 degrees fahrenheit)

Bake blind for ten minutes (ie place sheet of baking paper in pie dish and weigh down with rice, beans etc), then remove paper and rice and cook eight to ten more minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on bench while you make filling.

** Turn down oven to 180 degrees celcius!! (350 degrees fahrenheit)

Pecans (1)

Ingredients for Pecan Filling:
1/2 cup Golden Syrup
1/3 cup soft brown sugar
50 grams (3 and 1/2 tablespoons) melted butter
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 tspn vanilla extract
1 to 2 cups pecans (depending on how deep your dish is)

Put all ingredients except nuts in bowl and mix well. Add nuts and stir to cover then pour mixture into pie dish.

Check that you turned the oven down! Bake pie for 20 minutes, checking in the last few minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn. (If it looks like it’s getting too brown turn oven down or remove pie.)

Cool at least a little before you eat (the roof of your mouth will thank you), and enjoy with cream or ice-cream.

slice of pecan pie

Easy Strawberry and Mulberry Teacake Recipe with Berry Compote

Strawberry and Mulberr eacake with Berry Compote and Icecream

Strawberry and Mulberry Teacake with Berry Compote and Ice Cream

“You’ve got this life and while you’ve got it, you’d better kiss like you only have one moment, try to hold someone’s hand like you will never get another chance to, look into people’s eyes like they’re the last you’ll ever see, watch someone sleeping like there’s no time left, jump if you feel like jumping, run if you feel like running, play music in your head when there is none, and eat cake like it’s the only one left in the world!” 
― C. JoyBell C.

I don’t need much of an excuse to bake a cake. And now, while the mulberry tree is weighted down with dark sweet fruit, and my heritage strawberries are dripping berries, it seems only sensible to include them in my baking.

This cake can be made and eaten as a tea cake – it’s dense and buttery and not too sweet, making it wonderful for afternoon tea. If you like you could have it sliced with a scrape of butter, or get a little fancy and drizzle some lemony icing over the top. It’s equally delicious warm or cold.

Don’t panic if you’re not much of a baker – this recipe is dead easy.

I chose to bake my cake in the afternoon and let it cool for dinner, then served it with a simple warm berry compote and vanilla ice-cream. You have no idea how much willpower it took to not taste a corner while it was cooling.

There was plenty for the next day too. Leftovers always make me happy! Just remember to refrigerate any cake you don’t eat, as the soft berries mean the cake will only keep for three to four days.

If you don’t have access to fresh berries, frozen ones will work just fine. And the combination is really up to you. I’m just using strawberries and mulberries because that’s what’s ripe at my farm right now.

Serving up dessert at my low-key kitchen table dinner with the neighbours.

Serving up dessert at my low-key kitchen table dinner with the neighbours.

Cake Ingredients:

70g x (5 tablespoons) softened butter, 2 x teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 x egg, 1/2 x cup sugar, 1 x cup self raising (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together), 1/3 cup plain yogurt, 2 cups of berries, grated zest of one lemon.  1 x bundt pan well greased with butter or 1 x 20cm round cake tin, paper lined.

*Note: This cake also bakes up well using a commercially prepared gluten-free flour mix.

Method:

Preheat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit). Prepare your cake tin.

Wash berries, remove any hulls or stems and drain well. (I pat mine dry in paper towel.)

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Strawberries and mulberries from the garden!

Place butter and sugar in bowl and beat until thick and creamy (about 2 minutes). Then add in the egg, lemon zest, vanilla and beat again until thick and well combined. I use an electric mixer for this first part.

Fold through the yoghurt and flour with a spoon. Then gently fold in the berries.

Pretty cake batter ready for the pan

Pretty cake batter ready for the pan

Then carefully dollop your cake batter into your prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon.

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I love how the creamy batter is streaked pink and purple from the berry juices.

Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.  Check your cake by poking  a skewer into the centre at 25 minutes. If it comes out clean it is ready. Leave in a little longer if batter still clings to skewer.

Cool in tin for five minutes, then give it a shake to loosen it and invert onto a serving plate. There might be a few gooey soft berries on the top of the cake, which is part of its rustic charm.

The finished cake, cooling on my windowsill.

The finished cake, cooling on my windowsill.

Compote Ingredients:

2 heaped cups of berries, 2 tablespoons of icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar), 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

Method:

Place the berries, sugar and lemon juice on a saucepan over low heat. Squash the berries slightly with a potato masher to release some of the juice.

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Blurry action shot of the berries being smashed up to make them juicy.

Heat until the berries become syrupy – which takes just a minute or two. Serve over the sliced cake.

This compote is also delicious over porridge, ice cream, pancakes or waffles. Enjoy!

Did I mention yummy? Yummy!

Did I mention yummy? Yummy!

Fairy Bread Recipe – An easy party treat!

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“You take away all the other luxuries in life, and if you can make someone smile and laugh, you have given the most special gift: happiness.”~ Brad Garrett

I try to blog a recipe each week, but being a one-eyed pirate in the remote Outback has certainly proved a challenge on that front. However, I feel quite triumphant! I have managed to make Fairy Bread for a birthday afternoon tea while visiting at a friend’s cattle station, after being faced with limited ingredients at the local store.

Fairy Bread was always one of my childhood favourites. Children love it, and I hasten to add that most adults do too! It combines the soft chewy texture of white bread with creamy butter and a good sprinkling of crunchy sweet hundreds and thousands (coloured nonpareils). I also made some with chocolate hail – a kind of sweet chocolate sprinkle that is equally delicious.

It’s definitely not a health food, but as an occasional treat I highly recommend Fairy Bread – why, even the name is cute!

Ingredients:

Sliced soft white bread, soft spreadable butter, hundreds and thousands, chocolate hail or similar if desired. Some cookie or bread cutters if you have them.

Method:

If you have cookie cutters, leave the crusts on your bread, and stamp some shapes from the middle of each piece of bread, trying not to get any of the crust.

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If you don’t have cookie cutters simply cut the crusts off each slice of bread, and then cut your bread into squares or triangles.

Tip your hundreds and thousands or any other toppings into shallow wide bowls.

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Butter the bread thickly. Then turn it butter side down and press into a bowl of topping.

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Thank you to my friend, Carly-Jay Metcalfe, for this artful demonstration of technique!

Arrange decoratively on a large plate. Feel free to ask children to assist. Older kids love stamping the bread shapes and even littlies can dip the buttered slices to feel like they are helping. Just make sure SOME of the fairy bread makes it to the plate.

Serve with lemonade or a glass of milk for the kids. Adults might like to pair this with a good cup of tea or a glass of pink champagne!

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Easy Lemon Shortbread Recipe

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“Remember, ‘No one’s more important than people’! In other words, friendship is the most important thing – not career or housework, or one’s fatigue – and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” 
~ Julia Child, My Life in France

One of the things I treasure most about where I live is that wonderful sense of community. I like to keep the biscuit barrel and the cake tin full, so that when friends stop by there is always something tasty to go with a cup of tea, or to take when we go visiting.

Last weekend we dropped in at Shannon and Johnno’s farm – across the river that acts as our boundary – for a cuppa and a chat, and to use their log splitter to chop a load of hardwood. So much easier than doing it all with an axe – they don’t call it hardwood for nothing! I took a tin of biscuits round to say thank you. We often share baking and produce, and help each other out. That’s the joy of good neighbours. (You can read more about our neighbours here with this post I wrote about Shannon’s dad, Gordon.)

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The wood shed restacked with timber, thanks to the handy log splitter at Shannon and Johnno’s which made short work of a ute-load of logs.

This weekend one of Shannon’s cows crossed the river and got into our paddock. When our neighbours came to help us chase her back home again Johnno cheekliy asked if he could get a refill of the biscuit tin I’d taken them. So we met back down at the river later for an exchange. Ben crossed the shallow part of the river in his sturdy gumboots, took my empty tin back, and swapped it for one full of delicious lemon shortbreads.

These biscuits are a delectable buttery treat with a thin tangy glaze. Utterly munch-able. Which is another reason why I gave some of them away. Otherwise I might have succumbed to eating the entire batch myself. Thank goodness for neighbours who volunteer to eat my cooking.

Why don’t you whip some up so you can see what I mean? The melt ‘n mix recipe is quick to prepare and simple enough for the most unskilled cook.

Waiting at the river, biscuit tin ready for delivery...

Did I mention gumboots are ‘in’ down here? Waiting at the river, biscuit tin ready…

Special delivery! The shortbread hand-over.

Special delivery! The shortbread hand-over. This is just down from the platypus pond where I often go to meditate.

Shortbread Ingredients:

250 grams butter (1 cup), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup icing sugar (powdered or confectioners sugar), 1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch for my USA friends!), finely grated zest of one lemon, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 and 1/3 cups plain flour.

This works fabulously well with gluten-free flour. If you’re vegan or dairy-free use your favourite butter alternative.

Hint: use level cups of flours and sugars rather than generous ones.

Glaze ingredients:
1 cup icing sugar (powdered or confectioners sugar), 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Method

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Shortbread:

Melt butter over low heat. Cool slightly. Sift icing sugar and cornflour into a large bowl. Add sugar and lemon zest, then pour over the melted butter. Beat until thick and creamy. You could use a spoon or hand beaters but I use my trusty electric beaters.  The thickened mix will be the consistency of thick custard. Be patient, It takes a minute or two for the magic to work.

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Then add in the sifted flour and lemon juice. Mix until combined. The mixture will be crumbly and moist. Tip into a lined baking tray and press down firmly, smoothing with your hands or the back of a spoon.

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If you want to serve this plain, mark into squares with a sharp knife and prick squares with a fork. You can also sprinkle a little extra sugar over if you like, for presentation.

If you are glazing your shortbread leave top smooth. Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly golden.

To glaze:

Mix the icing sugar, butter and lemon juice together until well combined. Spread over the shortbread in the tin while it is still warm.  This will help to spread and set the glaze. Cut into squares or bars when glaze is set. Cool completely if you can wait that long. Share with friends.

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Rustic Strawberry Tart Recipe

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“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”

~ Salvador Dalí

 

Strawberry tarts – so pretty, so tasty, and so easy to make!

Just before I left the farm to go to the city last week I picked a bucket of fresh strawberries. They were sweet and luscious, and Bert the dog and I ate almost as many as we collected.

Once we arrived in the city we soon had our fill of strawberries straight up, or in smoothies. So I decided to use some of them to make a tart.

I know my pastry recipe off by heart, and a pastry cream recipe too – simple recipes I mastered back in my college days. The ingredients were all in my pantry or fridge. What could be so hard about a strawberry tart?

A few things… I don’t spend much time in the city anymore, so I didn’t have a pie dish, a flan dish or anything else suitable for baking a pie in. And no rolling pin for my pastry. No matter. The joy of anything ‘rustic’ is the ability to improvise.

I found a baking sheet, a few bowls, a saucepan and a full wine bottle to use as a rolling pin. Easy!

This Strawberry Tart is a simple combination of pastry, filling and fruit. I’ll give you a few variations, so you can rustle something up to suit your kitchen, your mood and your energy levels.

Totally Easy ‘Throw It All Together’ Strawberry Tart

If you want the ultimate easy dessert buy a ready-made pastry shell, and then use whipped cream or thick custard for the filling.  You could even use chocolate mousse or lemon curd. Slice your strawberries and arrange over the top of the pie. If you can be bothered heat a little strawberry or apricot jam and brush over the fruit for a nice glossy finish.

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Totally Easy Homemade Strawberry Tart

Pastry:

1 and 1/2 cups plain flour, 125 grams (1/2 cup) butter, 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon icing sugar (confectioners sugar), 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water. PS * finely grated lemon zest if you like your crust a little zesty!

Cut butter into small cubes. Sift sugar and flour into a bowl and then rub butter through with fingertips until it forms fine crumbs. OR process in short bursts in food processor until fine crumbs are formed. Add egg yolk and enough water for pastry to come together into a ball. Do not overmix. The dough should just come together.

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I had no food processor so did the pastry by hand.

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Turn out onto a floured board and pat out into a round.  Wrap in plastic and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Roll chilled pastry between two sheets of baking paper until large enough to line a tart tin. Because I didn’t have a tin I used a bowl to make an approximation and placed my pastry directly onto the baking sheet. I then used the extra dough to build up some sides. Truly, if you have a pie shell or tart tin use it! But if you don’t, throw caution to the wind and get a little messy. Your tart will still taste fantastic. :)

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Prick base all over with a fork. Place into fridge or freezer for 30 minutes to harden the pastry. If you are using a pie shell place a sheet of baking paper on top of the pastry and pour in some rice or dried beans so you can blind bake the case. This keeps the pie shell even and not too risen.

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If you’re doing a spot of rustic baking like me, don’t bother.  Just chuck it in the oven!

Bake for ten minutes if blind baking, then remove beans and paper and cook for another ten minutes until golden brown.

If rustic baking, bake for twenty minutes until golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

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Pastry Cream:

Pastry cream is a thick smooth custard. It’s easy to make, and a delicious pie filling. It can also be used to fill choux pastry, eclairs and many other delicacies.

2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar plus 4 tablespoons of sugar, 2 egg yolks and 1 egg, 1/4 cup of cornflour, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Note: Adjust sugar levels to suit your own taste.  This recipe also works well with Natvia in place of sugar.

Whisk eggs, cornflour and 4 tablespoons of sugar together in a large bowl so no lumps remain. Set aside.

Place the milk and 3 tablespoons of sugar in a large saucepan and heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Do not bring the milk to a boil but make sure it is quite warm. Pour the milk over the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly and then return to saucepan. Keep stirring over medium heat until it boils and thickens. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla and stir well.  Cool slightly and then spoon into pie shell. Keep any remaining pastry cream in fridge, covered with plastic.

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Strawberry Topping

Slice one to 2 cups of strawberries and arrange on top of your pie shell. Warm a few tablespoons of apricot or strawberry jam and brush or spoon over fruit to cover.  This gives your tart a lovely glossy appearance and helps keep the cut fruit fresh.

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Eats well on its own but would also be delicious with a good ice-cream or some fresh cream.

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Walnut and Dark Chocolate Coconut Bites – Fit for a Prince!

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
~ Charles M. Schulz

 

While the world is abuzz with excitement at the birth of the Kate and William’s new baby boy, here we are celebrating by eating macaroons and drinking tea.  Welcome, Little Prince.  We shall blog about you tomorrow…

In the meantime, recipe!

In our household we call these little treasures yummy ‘uglies’.  They may not be the prettiest treats, but the taste more than makes up for it. Walnut and dark chocolate is a heavenly combination, made even better with coconut, and they are quick to whip up.

A variation of a macaroon, these Bites are gluten-free and can also be sugar-free, so they are great for diabetics and people with food intolerances or following a paleo diet.

Ingredients:

3 cups of unsweetened desiccated coconut; 2 eggs; 3/4 cup of sugar or natvia (or other sweetener of your choice; 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts; 1/2 cup of roughly chopped dark chocolate.

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Method:

Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Line a baking tray/cookie sheet with baking paper.

Measure the coconut and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Dump in the walnuts and chocolate.

Break the eggs in and mix thoroughly. Leave stand for five minutes.

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Using a soup spoon or similar, dip the spoon into a mug of water (so the mixture doesn’t stick) and then press the palm of your other hand down on the spoon to firm up the mix. Drop onto the baking tray. Repeat until all the mixture is used, dipping spoon in water frequently to avoid sticking.

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It doesn’t matter if your Bites look a little messy and rustic. That’s part of their charm. If you want to get fancy, place a little bit of walnut on the top of each Bite. (As you can see, I wasn’t bothered. If the Queen had been coming to afternoon tea I would have made the effort though!)

Place into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the tray for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack until completely cool.

Although… if you eat them while they’re still warm the chocolate inside will still be gooey and extra delicious.  Fit for Royalty, and excellent for afternoon tea. :)

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