Easy Puff Pastry Quiche

“Lunch makes me feel a bit better.” 
~  Suzanne Collins

 

Recently my friend Carly and I popped in to her parents’ house for lunch, and then a tour of her mum’s garden. Jewel made a lovely salad with fresh greens from her vegetable patch, and I took over a simple quiche that I’d whipped up from bits and pieces I had on hand.

(I also took a slab of my favourite fruit cake for us to have with a cup of tea. Rosco, Carly’s dad is a big fruitcake fan!)

Many years ago, when I was a college student, I worked in my holidays as a shearers’ cook on big outback sheep stations. The shearers and shed hands were mad for my quiche, but I didn’t dare call it that – far too fancy a name for them! Instead I called it Bacon and Egg Pie and they’d eat it with lashings of tomato sauce and not a lettuce leaf in sight.

This is a simple meal to throw together, and the puff pastry makes for a yummy texture combination with the silky egg filling.

Serve it warm or cold. It is also great for lunchboxes, will freeze well, or keeps in the fridge for three days.

You can also vary the filling to make this vegetarian, or to use up whatever is in your fridge.

I used a 24cm springform pan to cook my quiche, but you can use any dish that suits your fancy. Just make sure the sides are high enough to contain your filling.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry or enough to line your serving dish
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1 onion, diced and sauted in a little oil until soft but not brown
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of diced ham
  • 1/2 cup of diced swiss cheese (if you’re cheese mad use a little more)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini
  • a handful of grated tasty cheese or parmesan for the top of your quiche
  • salt and pepper
  • a little oil or butter

Want to make this vegetarian? Omit the ham and use a cup of other vegetables of your choice. Capsicum (bell pepper) and broccoli are favourites of mine. Once you’ve made this quiche a few times you’ll be confident to change out the ingredients to make all kinds of flavour combinations.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Rub a little oil or butter around the inside of your pie dish and then line it with the pastry making sure. It’s okay to cut pieces to fit. Just overlap them a little and then press them together well. Also make sure that the pastry goes high enough up the sides of your dish. (It’s even okay if it sticks over the top a little. Rustic is good too. Mine’s rustic because I only just had enough pastry to cover the dish roughly.) Then prick the pastry base all over with the tines of a fork.

Now use baking paper to line the inside of the pan, and add some pastry weights. I actually use uncooked brown rice. You could even use dry beans. This is called baking blind, and you do this to enable the base of the pastry to be firm instead of soggy.

Bake the pastry for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove from oven. Drop the temperature of your oven back down to 180 degrees or 170 degrees for fan-forced. Leave your pastry shell to cool for ten minutes and then carefully remove the paper and weights. Replace the shell back in the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the base is golden brown. (Don’t panic if it puffs up. The weight of your filling will sink it back down again.)

 

Prepare the filling for your quiche while your pie crust is in oven:

  1. Dice your onion and then saute the onion in a frypan until pale, soft and slightly coloured but not brown.
  2. Chop your cheese and ham into small cubes.
  3. Slice your zucchini or any other vegetables you are using.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and beat together with a fork. Add salt and pepper and mix again.

To finish the quiche add the softened onion to the bottom of the pie. Then sprinkle the cheese and ham into the dish. Pout the egg mixture over and then add the zucchini slices to the top of the egg. Sprinkle a handful of grated cheese on top and return quiche to the oven. Bake for thirty minutes or until quiche is lightly coloured and firm to touch.

Serve on its own or with a crisp salad.

Here’s the process in pictures:

Tropical Pie Recipe

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“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
~ Ruth Reichl

 

And so, the moment of truth…

Does the Tropical Pie of my childhood still measure up?

*Nicole laughs gleefully and claps her hands*

Darn tootin’ right it does!

The pie has a crunchy toasted coconut crust, and a creamy light filling, flavoured with lemon, orange and pineapple. Heaven in a bowl, really. It speaks of summer, and relaxed tropical nights.

I think this particular dessert is fancy enough to serve at a dinner party or a fancy gathering, but it will also be a welcome addition to a family barbeque or a casual weekend meal. It’s actually a much more sophisticated recipe than I’d realised, and the flavour nuances are just as I’d remembered them. Maybe better.

There are a few steps, so you’ll need to allocate a little time for each part of the preparation – this one’s not a simple throw-together dessert. But hey, sometimes that little extra effort really does pay off. I’d make this the day before or early in the morning of the evening you’ll need it.

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Ingredients:

Crust: 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, 60g (2 ounces) melted butter plus extra butter for greasing pie tin

Filling: 1 x 440g (15 ounce) can of pineapple pieces (I used the pineapple in natural juice with no added sugar, but in the seventies it was sugar all the way!), 5 teaspoons gelatine, 1/2 cup castor sugar OR the equivalent of Natvia or your favourite sweetener, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 eggs, separated, 1 tablespoon rum, 1 tablespoon Cointreau or orange juice, 1 and 1/4 cups (1/2 pint) of cream

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Method for Base:

1. Grease a 9 inch/23 centimetre pie plate, or use baking paper to line a spring-form tin of the same dimensions.

2. Preheat oven to slow – 120C or 250F. If it’s a fan-forced oven knock the temperature back to 110C or 230F

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3. Add the coconut to the melted butter, mixing well. Press firmly into the base and up the sides of the pie dish. If you don’t press firmly, the base will not hold together. I like to use a cup or glass with a firm base and straight sides to really press that crust well.

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Yes, Soul Sanctuary girls, I am still wearing my Friendship Bracelet :D.2015-01-20 14.12.21

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Look how lovely that crust is! I am already dreaming up other fillings for it…

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Method for Filling:

1. Empty and save the juice from the can of pineapple, then add enough water to make 1 and 1/2 cups. Place juice in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest, and then sprinkle the gelatine over the top. Place over moderate heat, and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

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2. Beat egg yolks until thick and foamy.

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3. Gently pour a small amount of the hot liquid into the yolks, whisking all the while. Continue whisking and add the hot liquid very slowly until it is all added. Then add in the rum and Cointreau.

4. Chill this mixture until it has the consistency of unbeaten egg white.

5. Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until stiff.

6. Beat the cream until thick.

7. Fold the drained pineapple and cream into the egg yolk mixture.

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8. Then gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Spoon into the pie crust and chill until well set.

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Serve on its own or with some cream or a good ice-cream.

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According to my husband, Tropical Pie also proves to be excellent breakfast food. 😉

I hope you enjoy this recipe from my childhood.

It really is as good as I remember!

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Why This Psychic Blogs About Cooking!

Raspberry Tiramisu

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
~ Laurie Colwin

“If you are careful,’ Garp wrote, ‘if you use good ingredients, and you don’t take any shortcuts, then you can usually cook something very good. Sometimes it is the only worthwhile product you can salvage from a day; what you make to eat. With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane.”
~ John Irving, The World According to Garp

 

Someone sent me an email yesterday. I present an excerpt here for your interest;

Nicole, I’m really puzzled over your blog. You are a psychic. What the *#@^ are you writing about cooking for? Also, enough with the photos of your garden and your dogs. Anyone can write about that so leave it to them. More how-to’s about being a psychic and your psychic stories. That’s what I want.

Hmmm…

I made myself a pot of tea, went and hosed my vegetable garden, and thought about how to respond.

It’s true. I am psychic. And that is a very big part of my life. But it’s not ALL of my life.

Further to that, this person also wrote:

“It must be wonderful to be psychic. How glamorous and exciting.”

That made me laugh. Glamorous? Not much, my friend. Exciting? Not really the word I would have chosen.

It has been a big week for me – as well as dealing with my horror Lyme meds I’ve been reaching out to support a friend as she suffers a major health crisis, holding the space for others coming through grief and trauma, and guiding a student experiencing a major spiritual breakthrough. I also advised authorities over a difficult matter, comforted a client who had received a positive cancer diagnosis after finally going to the doctor at my insistence, and guided others through life’s major crossroads.

That’s a normal week for me.

I cannot speak for others who are psychic, but I can speak of what this life is like for me.

I adore what I do, but it is also a great responsibility.  Being psychic, being aware of the thoughts and feelings of others, having knowledge of situations and possibilities, being compelled to come to the aid of people – it’s exhausting.  I can’t turn off seeing auras and energy all around me.  I am constantly aware of things others cannot see, some of which, at times, I would rather not know.

And I am always, always on duty.

I’m not talking about the times when I am working with clients, or running workshops or retreats.  I’m expecting to do psychic work then, and I’m prepared and ready for that.

The truth is I cannot plan my days with any certitude. It doesn’t matter whether I am healthy or unwell, busy or on a day off.  It does not matter what time of the day or night.  If I am called to serve, I must heed that call.

I might wake from a dream, or emerge from a meditation with the need to contact someone, provide information and then support them. Perhaps I will need to try and prevent a suicide.  I might spend time helping a lost soul cross over, comforting a child and guiding them with their own spiritual and psychic connections, or helping an unborn twin save their sibling. My holidays get interrupted, even when I’m in the middle of the ocean, or I might be suddenly called to intervene with healing a past life trauma for a complete stranger.

The images, information and emotions are like constant background noise.  And then sometimes that volume gets cranked way up.

My main method of coping – besides tapping into nature, community and the grounded joys of everyday life – is meditation. Meditation clears the energetic debris at the end of the day, and I can reach out and send love and healing so that others feel supported. Meditation also starts my day.  I can set my intent, tune in and open myself to what most needs focus or support, and direct my energies to that end.  Meditation makes room in my mind, and it uplifts my soul. It’s one of the reasons why I include so many meditations in my blog.

Here's a particularly annoying photo of the blossoms on my lemonade tree. It's shame this isn't a scratch and sniff blog - these blossoms smell so good!  :)

Here’s a particularly annoying photo of the blossoms on my lemonade tree. It’s a shame this isn’t a scratch and sniff blog – these blossoms smell so good! 🙂

But that’s not cooking, is it? Meditation is still kind of psychic…

Here’s the thing. Every day I see humanity in all its glorious wonder, frailty, beauty, brutality and ugliness. I taste and feel life as viscerally as if it is all happening to me, and through me.

At times I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, and at other times I feel uproariously free, grateful and alive. I am privileged to see and feel with this weird kind of subtlety and sensitivity.  It is an honour to peer into the fabric of the Universe and glimpse some of its magic.

It’s a path I take very seriously.

But it’s not glamorous, or particularly exciting. Instead I find it humbling, hard work and at times extraordinarily rewarding.

So why blog recipes?

Cooking is actually very important to me. Sorry, that may sound a bit trite. Let me explain. It’s where I feel my grandmothers’ hands guiding mine – although they are now passed over. And I really miss my grandmothers! Cooking helps me feel them in the kitchen with me. Preparing food is one of the ways I can show care for my family, friends and community, and it’s the thing I do to stay sane in my often crazy world.

Cooking is often my lifeline, and the thing that normalises me when life feels so very strange. It connects me to my ordinary self. It’s a way to unwind, a form of moving meditation. It’s a way to nurture me and others. Plus… yum!

Also my Nana’s Curried Sausages Recipe beats Jamie Oliver’s and the Women’s Weekly’s in Google rankings. 🙂

Anyway, I digress…

Getting my hands into the dirt in my garden or rambling around my farm talking to the cows keeps me grounded too.

Nurse Bert!

Nurse Bert!

My dogs? They are sometimes the rodeo clowns who prevent me being trampled, sometimes my nurses, sometimes the ones who understand best what I need, and who give me love, comfort and reason to laugh after a hard day.

I’m glad you are keen to develop your psychic skills. But how’s your cooking? How’s your compassion? What are your coping skills? How’s your humanity?

How will you handle being psychic, and all that entails, especially looking after and guiding other people with wisdom and kindness, if you cannot also be rounded and grounded as a person?

Sorry, but I’m going to keep blogging my life – ALL of it – I hope you understand.

All the best,

Nicole

PS – I couldn’t help myself. I guess you mightn’t be reading my blog again after this, so I thought I’d better include one last photo of my awesomely magical dogs…unicorn dogs

My Big Promotion

May Day Queen Being Crowned - 1937.  Image from University of Kentucky

May Day Queen Being Crowned – 1937. Image from University of Kentucky

“Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me.”
~ William Shakespeare

“A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in.”

~ Frederick The Great

 

Yes, it’s true. I have been promoted!

A position of great tradition and, dare I say it, possibility. The sort of opportunity that truly excites me…

I am the newly elected Branch Cookery Officer for the Bangalow CWA. (Country Women’s Association)

Image from zazzle

Image from zazzle

It’s a dream job. I get to host cooking days, organise our local part of the Land Cookery Competition, and showcase the fabulous recipes for which the CWA are famous.

I promise to blog some of these recipes for you in upcoming posts, as well as hints and tips to help you have success whether you are cooking at home, or for a competition. There’s a wealth of talent, wisdom and kitchen magic here in this organisation, and I’m keen to share it with you!

Well, back to the kitchen for me. We have a fundraising cake stall this Saturday, outside our rooms in the main street of Bangalow. Perhaps we’ll see you there! 🙂

Unpacking cakes for judging - Image from John Oxley Library

Unpacking cakes for judging – Image from John Oxley Library

 

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!

Easy Spinach and Ricotta Pie – Gluten Free

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“I’m strong to the finish when I eats me spinach!” ~ Popeye the Sailor Man

Who doesn’t love an easy meal? My misbehaving eye was banished to the naughty corner yesterday so I was cooking with my pirate patch on. Even one-eyed I still managed to whip this up with little effort, proving that ANYONE can cook a nourishing meal for themselves with a little determination.

Spinach and ricotta is a tried and tested combination, and this versatile dish will feed a family, or give singles or couples a good meal and some tasty leftovers.

Leafy greens like spinach are chock-full of nutrients and fibre. I used baby spinach for this recipe, but I have also substituted silverbeet,  beetroot tops, and chard very successfully. The sweet potato really adds to the flavour too and keeps the pie low GI for sustained energy. This recipe is high in protein, and is equally yummy served hot or cold.

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Ingredients:

500g of fresh spinach to give about 2 cups of wilted spinach (you could also use frozen spinach – just defrost and drain before use); 500g of ricotta cheese ( 2 cups), 2 tablespoons of pinenuts, 4 eggs, 4 rashers of bacon – chopped into small pieces, 1 large onion – diced, 2 cloves of garlic – crushed or chopped finely, 1 tablespoon of butter or fat of your choice, 2 cups of golden sweet potato – chopped into small pieces, 1/2 cup of crumbled or grated cheese of your choice – tasty, parmesan, fetta etc, pepper and nutmeg.

Method:

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

Use half the butter to grease a large baking dish. Choose based on how much mixture you make – if you add in extra vegetables you’ll need a bigger dish.You could also line with baking paper if you prefer.

Place a large frypan or saucepan on medium heat and dry-fry your pinenuts until golden. Set aside in a large bowl.

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Now add the raw spinach to your pan and pour in about a tablespoon of water. If it won’t all fit, cook it in batches. Cook over medium heat until wilted. Tip into a colander to drain out any juices.

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Return pan to heat with remaining butter and fry off your bacon, onion and garlic until coloured and fragrant. Cool slightly.

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Tip onion mixture, spinach and sweet potato into the large bowl with the pinenuts. Mix thoroughly. Add cheese and stir again.

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Beat eggs and ricotta until combined and then fold through the spinach mixture. Season with cracked pepper. Pour into prepared baking dish and smooth with the back of a spoon. Grate a little fresh nutmeg over the top.

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Place into the hot oven and bake for 45 minutes or until firm and golden.

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May be eaten hot or cold. Delicious with a salad or seasonal vegetables. It also makes a great lunchbox item or easy breakfast. Will keep in fridge for about five days. Can be frozen too.

If you’re time poor, double the recipe and bake two pies. Eat one now and cool one and then cover well and freeze. Or dollop into greased, non-stick muffin tins and bake individual pies.

Variations:

  • For vegetarians: Omit the bacon.
  • For vegans: Omit bacon, eggs and cheeses. Use 2 cups of cooked white beans, pureed with a little extra garlic and olive oil.
  • For dairy free:  Omit cheeses. Use olive oil instead of butter. 2 cups of cooked white beans, pureed with a little extra garlic and olive oil instead of the ricotta.
  • Try ham, smoked chicken or salmon instead of the bacon.
  • Substitute pumpkin or potato for the sweet potato.
  • Add a few cups of other seasonal vegetables such as zucchini, corn, cauliflower or broccoli to make the meal go a little further or for a different taste.
  • Slice some fresh tomatoes over the top before baking.

Easy Date Loaf Recipe

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“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 
~ Laurie Colwin

 

Our farm is a social place. The pace of life is slower here, and people have time for a chat and a cuppa. It’s also a place where lots of physical work gets done, and I like to have a cake tin or biscuit barrel full so that I have something tasty to offer any visitors or workers with their cup of tea.

This beautiful moist date loaf recipe is handwritten in pencil on the inside cover of an old cookbook I found in an op-shop in Gin Gin when I was still a college student. I wrote the recipe, given to me from memory by an elderly lady named Marge who was busy making cakes and sandwiches with me and a group of other women one long hot summer so we could feed the rural fire-fighting crews during a terrible bush-fire year. Marge wrote written the words ‘economical’ and ‘quick’ in blue pen at the top of the page because these are very important things for a young girl to know, apparently.

It is indeed both of those things – and delicious too – made from simple ingredients most of us have in our pantry. This date loaf packs well for travelling or school lunches and will keep fresh in a sealed tin for up to a week.  It also freezes well so I usually double the mixture, cook two and freeze one for emergencies.

I’ve sometimes served it as a simple warm dessert with a sploodge of cream or ice-cream. The date loaf is also very good served sliced and buttered. When it’s fresh it doesn’t really need the butter, but gee, it’s so good why wouldn’t you?

Ingredients:

4 Weet-Bix, 1 cup of chopped dates, 1 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons of butter (60 grams), 1 teaspoon bicarb soda, 1 egg, 1 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 cup of boiling water.

Variations of this recipe used by my CWA ladies:

  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger or ground cinnamon
  • swap out the sugar for 3 heaped tablespoons of golden syrup or treacle

NoteWeet-Bix are a popular wheat biscuit breakfast cereal in Australia. On other shores they are known as Weetabix.

Method:

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

Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper.

Crumble the Weet-Bix into a large bowl. Add the sugar (or syrup if using instead), chopped dates, butter and bicarb soda. Pour the cup of boiling water over and leave to soften for five minutes.

Add the sifted flour (and spices if using) and egg.  Mix together well with a wooden spoon. The batter will be quite thick. If you are adding walnuts or pecans dump them in now and give another quick stir.

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Pour into the lined tin and place in the oven for forty-five minutes. Test to see if cooked through by inserting fine skewer in center of cake. If it comes out clean it is done, if there is still sticky residue bake a little longer.

Leave in tin ten minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It slices best using a serrated knife.

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