Nana’s Passionfruit Slice Recipe

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“Cooking is not about being the best or most perfect cook, but rather it is about sharing the table with family and friends.”  ~ Skye Gyngell, My Favorite Ingredients

This is an old recipe that my Nana copied out from her friend Dulcie, after a successful ‘War Wives Luncheon’ during World War Two. At least that was the memorable annotation she jotted at the bottom of the piece of paper the recipe is written on.  As a child I would ask Nana over and over to tell me about that Luncheon in Sydney, and she would remind me how hard it was to make tasty food with all of the rationing and restrictions. Dulcie’s slice had been a real winner.

As a child I painstakingly copied the same recipe into the Family Recipe Book.  Each time I make this I think of my Nana and her friends, sitting drinking cups of tea, eating slice and chatting during the long days of the War, with the rations and limitations and hardships.

There’s a lot of comfort to be had in a cup of tea and a slice.

tea in front of the fire

Base Ingredients:

1 x cup of self raising flour (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 x cup of unsweetened desiccated coconut, 1/2 cup of  sugar, 1/2 cup (4 oz or 125 grams) melted butter, finely grated zest of one lemon.

*Note –  If you’re gluten intolerant, this works fine with a commercial gluten-free flour mix.

Method:

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

Line a 28cm x 18cm (7 inch by 11 inch) slice tin with some baking paper.

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and then mix through the melted butter.  The mixture should be moist and crumbly.

Press the base into the tin, being careful not to press down too heavily. (If you compact the base too much it becomes very hard to cut after it has cooked.)

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the top is nicely golden.

Remove from oven and cool completely. (This step is essential!)

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Topping:

1 x 395g can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice, pulp of 3 passionfruit.

Heat oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit), and then just before you pop the slice back in, knock the temperature back to 140 degrees for your fan forced oven or equivalent.

passfruits

Whisk the condensed milk, lemon juice and passionfruit pulp together.  The mixture will thicken from the acidity of the lemon juice. At this stage you should taste it… (Okay, I made that bit up, but who can resist?)

Pour the passionfruit topping over the biscuit base and smooth over until you have a good coverage.

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Bake in the slow oven for twenty minutes. The topping should be firm to your touch, and pale golden.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  Store in refrigerator in a hot climate, or if you are not eating this all in one day.  To serve, cut into small squares.

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Easy Apple and Cinnamon Bundt Cake Recipe

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I love this easy cake.  It takes five minutes to make, and is a favourite for morning or afternoon tea, or as a simple warm dessert. It’s a moist, light vanilla cake with a caramel-ly soft apple topping and a mouth-watering crust of cinnamon sugar. Even if you’re not a cake maker I encourage you to give this one a go!

I’ve been experimenting with different varieties of apples lately. The apple I’ve used in this cake is one of the first of the season for a wonderful old heritage variety called Cox’s Orange Pippin. But this is always delicious with Granny Smith apples too.

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Cake Ingredients:

65g 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, 1 tablespoon sugar extra and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. 1 x apple, cored and cut into very thin slices.  1 x bundt pan well greased with butter or 1 x 20cm round cake tin, paper lined.

* Note – if you don’t have a bundt tin use a 20cm round cake tin, well lined with paper, and put the apples on the top! Then serve apple side up. It will turn out more like a traditional tea cake, but still be just as yum.

Topping ingredients:

1 x tablespoon melted butter, 1 x tablespoon sugar and 1 x teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method:

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

Place butter, sugar, egg and vanilla in bowl and beat until thick and creamy (about 2 minutes).

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Fold through the yoghurt and flour until combined.

Arrange your sliced apples in the bottom of the bundt tin, sprinkling your layers with the  sugar and cinnamon.

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Then carefully dollop your cake batter on top and smooth out to cover to the edges.

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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.

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Cool in tin for five minutes, then give it a shake to loosen it and invert onto a serving plate. Resist picking off any of that delicious apple, even though I know you’ll want to.  Fulfillment is mere moments away!

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Topping:

Melt butter and brush over the warm cake.  Then mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over top of cake. Let cake cool.

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Travels well for taking to friends’ houses! Enjoy, and please let me know how it turned out.

CIMG3100

PS – If you’re aiming to impress, and want to use this as a dessert cake, serve warm with ice-cream. This goes REALLY well with salted caramel ice-cream… Your guests will gobble it all up and think you a kitchen genius. :)

Heavenly Blueberry Crumble Slice Recipe

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It’s bucketing down here at the farm again, and there’s not much for me to do but sleep, cook or sit on the verandah sipping tea. We still have no power here after the big Australia Day Weekend Wet, but Ben has fired up the generator for a while and my biscuit tins are empty so I am on a mission.  The workers are hungry, (they’re always hungry!) and this is an easy slice to make when you have electricity.  In fact, with a bit of elbow grease I’ve made this with a wooden spoon, my bare hands and a camp oven over an open fire, but why bother when today I have a four hour window of oven-ready cooking time!

This is a very versatile slice.  It can be made with any fruit you have to hand (I like apple, apricot and nectarine too), but I have a mammoth bucket of blueberries in the fridge from the local farmers markets last week, and we need to use everything up before it goes off.  This slice eats well hot or cold.  But keep it in an airtight tin in the fridge if you live in a warm climate. You can also make a double batch and freeze one for later. (Mind you I don’t think this batch will last that long…)

Note – this can also be made just as easily by substituting gluten-free flour, and I have done so many times.

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Ingredients:

Base – 1 cup of sugar, 3 cups of plain flour (all-purpose for my American friends), 1 cup of cold butter cut into small cubes (250 grams, 8 ounces or 2 sticks), 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, zest of one lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Hint – make sure the butter really is cold.

Fruit Filling – 4 cups of blueberries (or fruit of your choice), 1/2 cup of sugar, juice of one lemon, 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour. I heaped teaspoon cinnamon, reserved.

Method: Place the cubed butter and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and whizz to combine.  You don’t want to mix it to a cream, you want to just barely combine it. Then add in the flour and baking powder and whizz again.  Dump in the egg, lemon zest and vanilla and process one more time.  The mixture should be soft and crumbly.  Divide in two portions.  (If you don’t have a food processor, use a scone knife to cut the butter through the sugar and flour, or rub it together between your fingertips.)

Press one half of the dough into the bottom of a baking paper-lined 28cm x 18cm (9 inch by 13 inch) slice tin. Don’t worry if it looks a little dry.

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Now mix your sugar, lemon juice and cornflour together, and then mix thoroughly through your blueberries.  Tip these over the base and spread out evenly with a spoon.

Mix the cinnamon through the remaining dough and then crumble over the top of the fruit, making sure to get the mixture right to the edges. Bake in a moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit ) for 45 minutes until golden brown.

Cool in the tin.

If you cut your slice while it is still warm it will bleed a little, but that’s the price you pay for immediate gratification.

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Okay, my baking is done, the tea is made, the sodden workers have returned and the generator is about to go off again. Thanks for all your kind thoughts and well wishes. I’ll catch up with all your messages once I have an uninterrupted power supply.

Sending much love to you all from my well-provisioned little farmhouse island,

Nicole ♥ xx

PS. A very unhappy Bert and Harry waiting for the rain to stop…

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Happy Birthday, Mum!

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It’s my mum’s birthday today. I can’t pop in and see her, take her flowers or make her a cake because she’s visiting with my brother down in Tasmania. (And yes, they are all safe from the fires, thank you!)

So instead I thought I’d take a moment to say thank you to my mum for some of the ways she has enriched my life.

Thank you mum for teaching me manners, and helping me understand that the feelings of others are important.  Thank you for teaching me to be considerate and compassionate.

Thank you for letting me follow you around the kitchen, for fostering my love of cooking, and for letting me make dinner – even when I did use every herb and condiment, and every pot and pan just to make one very strange-tasting dish.

Thanks for letting us spend so much time with our grandparents.  I am only now appreciating what a gift that is in my life.

Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to make sure we got a good education.

Thank you for teaching me that we should celebrate the important occasions in our lives.  In honour of this last one, here’s cake.  (BTW – You were the one who taught me how to make the chocolate leaves…)

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I hope you get to indulge in some fabulous tasty treats today. I love you.  {{{HUGS}}}

Happy Birthday Mum!

And if any of you would like to make this delicious Celebration Chocolate Mud Cake for yourself, my easy-to-follow recipe is here:

Celebration Chocolate Mud Cake Recipe

PS Don’t feel you have to wait for a special occasion to make this, because there is always something to celebrate in life!

Rhubarb Cream Puff Recipe

When you’re in a hurry, but still want something fabulous for dessert, this is it! There is no particular skill required, and the beauty of this recipe is that you can use any seasonal stewed fruit if you can’t get rhubarb!

Ingredients to Serve Four: one bunch of rhubarb, 2 apples, sugar, one cup or 300ml cream, one lemon, 2 sheets of commercial puff pastry, one egg, vanilla essence, raw sugar, 2 tablespoons flaked almonds, ground coriander seed (optional)

Rhubarb Compote:

Wash the rhubarb stalks well, and cut into inch long pieces.  I used one large bunch, which had about 8 stems in it. Weigh the raw rhubarb, and then measure twenty percent of the total weight of the rhubarb as raw (demerara) sugar. Then chop two pink lady apples (or any other apple of your choice) into smallish pieces, leaving the skin on but removing the core. Throw the sugar, rhubarb and apple into a pot. Add a squeeze of lemon juice. The rhubarb will break down and release its own liquid so no other fluid is required.  Cover your pot and place over a low heat.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick.  It will take about ten to fifteen minutes to cook, and the rhubarb and apple will be soft and delicious. Set aside.  You can serve this warm or cool – whatever is your preference.

Cream:

Beat 300ml cream (or a cup – don’t get too fussy about quantities here), a dash of vanilla and a spoonful of sugar to taste (you don’t want it too sweet) until it forms soft peaks.

Pastry:

Preheat your oven to the temperature recommended by the pastry manufacturer.  Use two sheets of a commercial puff pastry. Cut each sheet into four.

Lay the sheets on some baking paper on a metal tray.

Beat the egg with a dash of water, and brush over the pastry.  Then sprinkle four with a little raw (demerara) sugar,  and the other four with some sugar, a dusting of ground coriander seed and the flaked almonds.

Put into the oven until puffed and golden (about ten minutes).

To assemble, flip the four squares that have no almonds upside down onto a serving plate.  Add a layer of rhubarb, pushing roughly to the edges.

Spread a splodge of cream on top of the rhubarb.

Top with the other pastry lid, and you’re done. These are best made close to serving time so that they don’t go soggy.

Pastry lids can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container. Recipe can easily be increased for a crowd.  For an afternoon tea or something slightly daintier, you could also cut your raw pastry squares in half again, which will end up making eight long fingers instead of the four larger puffs.

If you have any compote left over, it goes very well with scones (biscuits), or as a sponge filling.  It’s also a perfect match with a good vanilla ice-cream.  Enjoy!

Simple Baked Camenbert Recipe

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Our little farmhouse is as popular as any Byron Bay bed and breakfast come weekends,especially on Market Weekends! I’m returning home this morning, after a very big week of psychic work in Brisbane, and this afternoon guests arrive to spend a few nights with us.  It doesn’t give me much time to get ready, in anticipation of feeding the hungry hordes.

Afternoon drinks on the veranda is a much-looked-forward-to Friday ritual in our neck of the woods, and I know my visitors will be hungry after their long drive.  I won’t have had much time to whip up anything very spectacular – so my fallback treat today is Baked Camenbert.  Baking camenbert is so simple, and the result is a rich, melty fondue-reminiscent cheesy heaven! You can scoop it out onto bread or crackers, and there is always a fight to eat the ‘skin’ at the end of the cheese-dipping session.

Our beverages of choice will be Hendricks Gin and Tonic (thanks to my dear friend Rachel for putting me on to this gin), Stone and Wood Pacific Ale (a locally brewed and quite excellent beer) and perhaps a bottle of bubbles or a crisp dry white wine.

Now, to the business of baking camenbert.  I have some splendid, meal-worthy variations of this recipe but for today let’s just start with the basics.  You’ll need a wheel of camenbert (more if there is a crowd!), and some good quality crackers, crispbread or mini-toasts.  A good fresh bread, ripped into chunks can also work well.  I like the camenberts that come in the little wooden boxes.  The box helps the cheese stay in shape as it bakes, but if you can’t get hold of one like that don’t worry.  It will still work out fine!

If you want to make your own crackers and crispbread, I thoroughly recommend the recipes from the fabulous Darla Cooks blog. Just click on the link to visit cracker recipe heaven. Here’s a picture from Darla’s blog of her own crispbread making efforts:

This image courtesy of the amazing Darla Magee-Price

Anyway, back to cheese….

Using a sharp knife (serrated ones work very well for this) carefully cut the top rind off your wheel of cheese.  Then score the inside of the cheese lightly to help it cook through evenly.

If you have some sprigs of fresh rosemary, and a little fresh garlic to hand, these will turn your camenbert into something magical.  It’s so easy.  Just skin a few garlic cloves, cut in half if enormous, and poke into the cheese.  Poke a few sprigs of rosemary in the cheese as well.

Now place your cheese on a baking tray and pop it into a very hot oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you don’t have a nifty wooden box for your cheese, and the rind is quite soft, you can place the cheese in a small oven proof bowl or ramekin, or make a little paper and aluminum foil collar to keep your cheese in shape.  Or live on the wild side, put a piece of baking paper under your cheese and be prepared to eat it sloppy if it doesn’t hold its shape.

Check in with your cheese every so often.  You want it browned and bubbly but not burned.

To serve, simply slide your cheese onto a serving platter, surround with crackers, provide a knife if that’s your kind of entertaining style, and watch it be demolished!

Nana’s Pikelet Recipe and a Few Good Yarns

Find yourself a cup of tea; the teapot is behind you.  Now tell me about hundreds of things.  ~Saki

Pikelets are a bit of an institution round here, especially for morning or afternoon tea. For those of you not in the know, pikelets are like fluffy little pancakes – very tasty with a cup of tea and a neighbourly chat.

Yesterday our good friend Geoff came to visit.  Round here, we all refer to him as ‘Timber Cutter’. He’s an old, old man now, with big gnarled hands and still-strong arms (although his skin has thinned and he’s always got a bit of bark off), and he remains a demon with a chainsaw.  He can fell anything, quickly, safely and accurately.

Over the years he has logged up and down the north coast of New South Wales, and he knows this country and its seasons like no-one else I’ve ever met. Geoff’s not a well-educated man, education was a luxury when he was growing up, but his manners and values are old-school and he is one of life’s true gentlemen. He has an enquiring mind, and keen observation skills.  He thinks deeply, and speaks after much consideration.  When he speaks it’s generally worth listening to. These days he doesn’t do much felling. He’s replaced that with talking. I think he’s making up for all that time when he was out in the bush on his own, or too busy for idle chatter. Oh man, Timber Cutter can talk.  But we never complain.  We just fill up the teapot with a good strong brew, go out onto the shady verandah, keep the tasty treats coming, and sit around listening to his many tales. Pikelets are his favourite, and I always make enough for him to take some home.  I use my Nana’s recipe.  The following recipe will serve four, but I always double it!

Ingredients:  1 cup self raising flour (for my American friends, you can make self raising flour by adding 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt to one cup of all purpose cake flour),1 large egg, 1/2 cup of milk,1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of melted butter or 1 tablespoon of cream, extra butter for your skillet/frypan.

*Note – these work just as well with commercial gluten-free flour.  I also like making them with 1/2 cup rice flour and 1/2 cup buckwheat flour and two teaspoons baking powder for my gluten-free friends.  Spelt flour, while not gluten-free, is also great!

The finished product, ready to be devoured!

Method:  Add the vinegar or lemon juice to the milk to sour it, and set aside.  (Nana always made her pikelet batter by hand but if you want, you can mix this with an electric beater!)

Sift the flour and sugar into a large bowl and make a well in the centre.  Whisk the egg and pour into the centre of the well.  Then add a little milk. Using a wooden spoon gradually beat the mixture from the centre, slowly incorporating more of the dry ingredients.  Keep adding a little more milk until the mixture is combined and has a thick, creamy consistency.  Add in your butter or cream and stir again until combined.  Let the batter sit for ten minutes to thicken further.

Rest your batter for a superior pikelet :)

Heat a heavy based skillet or frypan and grease lightly.  Place spoonfuls of mixture, well spaced onto the hot surface.  When they begin to show large bubbles on the surface, turn them over.

Nice big bubbles show it’s nearly time to turn them over…

Pikelets are delicious served with butter and jam, jam and cream, or butter and golden syrup.  My Pa also liked his with a thick smear of butter, sprinkled with sugar, and then doused in lemon juice. They are great as a lunchbox snack and it’s easy to add variations to the batter.  Some of my favourites include:

  • Stewed apple chunks and a dusting of cinnamon
  • fresh blueberries and a little lemon zest
  • sultanas/raisins
  • date pieces and a shake or two of powdered ginger
  • mashed up ripe banana

While we munched away and sipped our tea, Timber Cutter regaled us with stories of the Frost of ’54, which came in November (nearly Summer in Australia) and decimated the lucerne and potato crops, timber-getting at the back of Kyogle in the 1950’s, and tales of growing up in a time where more people had a horse and cart than a car. We laughed and cried over crazy stories and tales of tragedy. Then we went for a walk around the paddocks, looking for koalas and watching the birds.

Can you see me? Sorry – she was up very high and the zoom on my i-phone is not flash.

All in all it was a very satisfying afternoon of yarns, friendship and a shared table.

Don’t you love Bert the dog, gazing hopefully up at the dwindling pikelet pile!