Friday, February 29, 2008

Bountiful Coconut Chocolate Tarts

Marita Says, the deserved winner of last month's Hay Hay its Donna Day, has chosen simplicity as the theme this month, in the form of Coconut Chocolate Tarts. I love simple, I love chocolate with coconut and tarts are just so cute to look at. Congratulations also goes to Barbara from WinosandFoodies, who created this great event, as she renews her wedding vows today with her best friend and lover. I hope you both have a wonderful day.

Hmmm, chocolate and coconut screams of Bounty Bars. How simple is that? Tick. Now the hard part, because pastry frightens the hell out of me for some reason. How can I keep the pastry within the simplicity theme, and not have it taste like cardboard? Then I remembered an episode from The Cook and the Chef, where Maggie Beer made a sour cream pastry. It looked so simple and versatile, as it can be used for both sweet or savoury dishes. So Sour Cream Pastry it is. Only three ingredients. Simple. Another tick.


  • 1 2/3 cups (250g) plain flour
  • 200g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (80g) sour cream
  • 125g milk cooking chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 x 50g Bounty bars, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup thickened cream
  • cocoa powder, to serve
  • strawberry for garnish (optional)


Place chocolate and Bounty bars into a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a large metal spoon, until melted and well combined. Remove from heat. Stir in cream. Place mixture into a bowl. Cover. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours or until firm and thick.

For the pastry, process flour and butter using pulse button until the mixture resembles very rough breadcrumbs. Add ¼ cup of the sour cream and continue to pulse, adding rest of the sour cream if needed to bring dough together enough to feel it beginning to become a ball in the processor. Press the dough quickly and gently into a rectangle. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Roll dough on a lightly floured surface or between 2 sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick. Cut out six rounds to fit into 10 cm tart tins. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to moderately hot (200°C/180°C fan-forced). Place aluminium foil and pastry weights into tart shells, and cook for about 12 minutes. The pastry will be flaky and about 2/3 of the way cooked. Remove foil and weights and cook for another few minutes until golden. With a clean tea towel, gently flatten pastry down whilst still hot, and then allow to cool.

Spoon chocolate mixture into pastry cases. Sprinkle with cocoa and pop a strawberry on top. Serve.

Bread Baking Day #7 =Flatbreads=Fougasse

Fougasse, pronounced FOO-gass, is a French flatbread typically associated with the Provence region, but also found in many other regions, differing in variations. Very similar to one of my all time favourites, the Italian foccacia, it is often slashed in a trellis pattern to resemble an ear of wheat or the tree of life. Well, my "branches" started off widely spaced with lots of room in between them, but once cooked, the branches had all reached out to each other and united in solidarity, a perfect simulation of the unpredictability of the tree of life itself.

Petra from Chili and Ciabatta is hosting this month's BBD#7, a monthly event created by Zorra, and has chosen flatbreads as the theme. I had a small amount of mashed potato left over from last night's dinner, so decided to incorporate that into a bread. "Waste not, want not" my mother always said. Originally an Aloo Paratha leapt into my head, but I kept hearing my overgrown rosemary bush calling to me in the breeze....pick me, pick me.

Potato Rosemary Fougasse


2 cups cooked mashed potato
1 ½ tsp yeast
1 tsp brown sugar
1 ½ cups warm water, divided (you could use the water the potato was cooked in)
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided (more or less depending upon your flour and humidity)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
Cooking spray


Dissolve yeast and sugar in ½ cup of the warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add 2 cups flour, mashed potato, oil, rosemary, and salt to the yeast mixture; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Stir in 2 ½ cups flour. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Divide dough into two pieces, and roll or shape into an oval. Place on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Slash dough into desired pattern, gently pulling slits open, ending your slashes before you reach the edges of the dough. Cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Uncover dough, and bake at 425° for 25 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan. Cool bread on a wire rack. Cut loaf in half lengthwise; cut each half crosswise into 12 pieces.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Chicken and pistachio terrine

On a gourmet food expedition last weekend, I happened to purchase a thin slice of chicken terrine, made by a local cafe, called The Pickled Sisters Cafe (what a great name!) from a little town situated in winery country, called Wahgunyah. They prepare gourmet picnic baskets to take along to the various wineries in the region, along with preserves, pickles, local cheeses etc. The ingredients were listed on the shrink wrapped package, and I knew I was going to really enjoy this. The recommended accompaniment was some peach chutney, so naturally I bought that too!

I wanted to recreate this dish myself, considering one small slice cost around $7.00, and there wouldn't be enough to share around, now would there? I was in luck when I found the recipe here, posted by the chef of the cafe herself.

This is so easy, and so delicious. And of course the peach chutney worked a treat with it. I altered the recipe slightly, using prosciutto instead of bacon. The herbs I chose were parsley, garlic chives and oregano. Lia from Swirling Notions is the kind hostess for Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging event.

Enjoy with a crisp white wine and some crusty bread.

You need:

1 kg diced free range chicken (thigh and breast meat)
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp chopped mixed herbs (fresh)
1 egg
1/2 cup pistachio nuts
1/2 tsp chopped lemon zest
salt and pepper
pitted prunes


Mix all ingredients - reserving prunes and bacon - and season.

Line a terrine mould with prosciutto and fill with the mixture to half. Dot prunes down the centre and top with the remaining filling.

Overlap prosciutto and cover with greaseproof paper and foil. Bake in a water bath at 180 C for 1 hour or until firm.

Serve with peach chutney! How simple is that?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Avocado & Tomato in Verjuice Vercotto Jelly

Sadly I've removed all but two of my tomato plants from the garden today, along with the zucchini's and all but one of the cucumber plants. Autumn is fast approaching, and I'm trying to hold onto the last tastes of summer for as long as possible.

This dish is an adaptation from Maggie Beer's Avocado in Verjuice Jelly. I've altered it only very slightly as I didn't have the full 375 mls of verjuice, which is made from the juice of unripened grapes, and has a tarty sour taste, but without the harshness of vinegar. To make up the full amount required in the recipe, I topped up the verjuice with a product which could be aptly named cousin of verjuice, called vercotto, which is a beautiful deep red colour, and has a stonger sweet and sour flavour. I probably only used about 30 mls of the vercotto. If using verjuice on it's own, the colour of the tomatoes and avocado stand out brilliantly, but I kind of like the deep port wine colour that this dish turned out to be.

Erin, from The Skinny Gourmet is kindly hosting Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging this week


375ml verjuice
1 sprig tarragon
1 large avocado
3 ripe but firm tomatoes – unpeeled.
3 sheets gelatin (6gms) for 1 big mould -if serving in 6 small moulds subtract a half leaf from the original.
Extra Virgin olive Oil
Sea salt flakes
Basil leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
Greens in season (lambs lettuce; rocket)


Bring verjuice to boil and take off immediately, placing tarragon sprig in to infuse.

In a separate bowl, soak gelatine in cold water for approximately 5 minutes and then squeeze moisture out.
Add soft gelatin to warm verjuice and stir (off the heat) for the gelatin to melt.
It is essential that the verjuice be allowed to cool completely at this stage.

Dice tomatoes into cubes approximately 1cm squared and place in a bowl. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and add 2 pinches of salt.
Peel avocado and dice into 2cm squared chunks and place into bowl. Drizzle with verjuice or lemon juice to stop oxidation and add pinch of salt.

If serving as a single dish rather than 6 small ones, choose a glass jelly bowl (approx 600ml) place a few leaves of basil into the base of the glass bowl. Next place avocado chunks spreading evenly around the bowl.

Strain the juices from the tomatoes and add on top of avocado.

Pour cool verjuice mixture into bowl.

Seal the surface with plastic wrap over top and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours (if in large bowl). If using smaller bowl, only 2 hours refrigeration required.

To turn out jelly of this size, stand in a bowl of hot water for 25 seconds. Then turn out onto a serving platter.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Zucchini Sott'Olio and Zucchini Soup

Do you kinda get the impression that zucchini's are taking over my kitchen? Well you would be 100% correct in that assumption. As much as I love them, I'm sick of trying to find ways to use them up before they expire.

This first recipe is from a General Practitioner in Melbourne, Pietro Demaio, who has written a book "Preserving the Italian Way". This book not only shows you how to preserve food, Italian style obviously, but it is also Peter's way of preserving his Calabrian heritage. I've only done this one recipe so far, but shortly the eggplants are going to bowl over the zucchinis, and this book will be invaluable, so I can enjoy the fruits of my labour well into the cold depths of the forthcoming winter.

Ulrike from Kuchenlatein, who, along with Kalyn, is famous for founding blog events, one being the very successful World Bread Baking Day, is kindly hosting this week's installment of Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging,

My method of pressing the zucchini's is somewhat unorthodox, making do with equipment I had on hand, so try to keep your laughter to a minimum please. The amount of moisture that comes out of zucchinis, pressed this way, is enormous.

I hope Peter doesn't mind me sharing this recipe.

ZUCCHINI SOTT'OLIO (or Zucchini in Oil)
1o garden fresh zucchini
5 cloves garlic
Table salt
500 mls white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons of oregano (I used my dried oregano instead of fresh)
Olive oil (extra virgin was my choice here)

Slice the zucchini into 3-4 mm slices.
Place slices into a container that has vertical sides (big enough to hold a plate with bricks on top).
Cover each layer liberally with salt and mix well.
Place a plate over them and then top with a weight of about 10 kgs, or 4 house bricks.
Leave zucchini under weights for 24 hours.
Remove the weights and drain the moisture from the zucchini.
Loosen the slices with your hands then pour on good quality white wine vinegar and mix thoroughly. Allow to stand for an hour. The zucchini will seem to absorb the vinegar.
Replace the plate and weights and press for another 12 hours
Again drain the excess vinegar.
Lastly squeeze the strips by hand and place in a bowl.
Mix the pickled and dry zucchini with chopped fresh garlic, home dried oregano and hot chilli to taste, either whole or finely chopped, and either fresh or dried.
Pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into prepared glass jars.
Press the vegetables, garlic and herbs into the jars, adding a small amount of olive oil as you press down, to ensure that the oil is evenly distributed.
Finally, press firmly and cover with olive oil, ensuring that you have no zucchini above the oil level.
Check after 2-3 days to see if the oil needs topping up, as the vegetables will absorb some of the oil. Seal and store.

These stay very crunchy, and are a marvelous addition to any antipasto plate.

Well, that got rid of a couple of kilo of, only a couple more to go.

Keeping with the Italian theme, this zucchini soup is rich and decadent, with parmigiana reggiano and basil, adding brilliant flavour.


1kg small green zucchini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup packed basil leaves, chopped
sea salt and black pepper
3 cups chicken stock
¼ cup pouring cream
1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
50g finely grated parmigiana reggiano
cream, to serve


Cut zucchini lengthwise into quarters, then into 1cm pieces.

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add garlic, basil, chopped zucchini and 1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste) and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until zucchini is lightly browned and very soft.

Add chicken stock and simmer over medium heat for 8 minutes. Process zucchini mixture, in batches, until smooth, and then return to saucepan. Adjust seasoning to taste with sea salt and cracked black pepper.

Stir in cream, parsley and parmesan and cook over medium heat until heated through; do not boil.

Ladle soup among 6 warm bowls, drizzle with a small amount of cream. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Simply spaghetti

Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging travels to Germany this week, to be hosted by Claudia from Fool for Food. I only wish my grasp of the German language extended beyond "dunkeshein" , "guten tag" and "gesundheit", so I could enjoy some of her wonderful looking recipes.

Spaghetti marinara is my chosen dish this week, and apart from the obvious parsley sprinkled throughout, you're probably wondering what seafood and pasta have to do with blogging about herbs and vegetables. Well...the recipe called for a jar of roasted tomato, garlic and onion pasta sauce. I didn't have any, but I had lots of homegrown tomatoes, several garlic bulbs and of course onions. Roasting the tomatoes brings out their rich, sweet flavour, and of course roasted garlic is just the most delicious tastes I can ever imagine. Once roasted and caramelised, I blitzed them all together in the food processor. This made a thick, almost puree-like sauce, just perfect for adhering to the pasta and seafood mix. You could add some olive oil to make this paste more like the consistency of sauce, or even some tomato paste for extra colour and flavour.

Spaghetti Marinara

375 g dried spaghetti
2 tblsp Chilli oil
450 g fresh seafood marinara (or frozen but fresh is best)
737 g bottle of oven-roasted garlic, onion and tomato pasta sauce
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley
Lemon wedges to serve
Garden salad to serve


Cook pasta in plenty of salted boiling water until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain well and return to pan.
Meanwhile pre-heat a large non-stick frying pan over moderate heat, add chilli oil (you could use plain EVOO if chilli's don't agree with you). Add marinara mix, cook stirring for one minute. Remove from pan.
Add sauce to pan, bring to boil, add marinara mix and simmer, stirring for 3 minutes or until seafood is tender. Remove from heat, stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper.
Add marinara mixture to hot pasta. Toss lightly to combine. Serve with lemon wedges and a garden salad.