Category Archives: pastry

Recipe: Eggplant Tarts

My brother and I have an annual tradition for Christmas, where his gift to me is a ticket to one day of the Boxing Day test, and mine to him is a picnic lunch for my brother and sister-in-law and their guests at the cricket that day.  It’s a pretty good deal all round, except for the fact that my entry into the MCG seems to be the cue for everyone to forget how to bat properly – I’ve watched four batting collapses in four days of cricket over the last three years.  But this year, I was in luck, and got to spend a fabulous day yesterday watching India play test cricket as though they were playing a one day match, and the batting was spectacular (the less said about Australia’s fielding, the better.  Let’s just say that the batsmen spent most of the day throwing caution to the wind and hitting fours all over the place with impunity.  I loved it.).

I always over-cater, and never more so than this year, especially because my mother inexplicably decided to bring lunch for her and dad.  Apparently, it didn’t occur to my mother that I would be catering for them as well.  Anyone would think she had never met me…

Anyway, I made a big beetroot and carrot salad, and planned to make spiced roast pumpkin pasties, only I was really tired when making the pastry and quadrupled the flour when I meant to double it… and of course once I figured that out, I had to add more of everything else and had way too much pastry, so I decided to throw together some eggplant tarts as well.  Naturally, these turned out to be the hit of the day, which is a bit of a pest, since I hadn’t written down anything I’d done.  Or taken any photos, which is why these ones are so bad.

So this is my attempt to reconstruct said tarts, because they really were tasty, and I’d like to make them again sometime.

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Your Shopping List

90 ml olive oil
90 ml cold water
380 g flour (3 cups)
1 tsp herbed salt – I used the Garlic Lovers Spice from Gewürzhaus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

olive oil
lavender salt
2 cloves garlic
2 medium eggplants
1/4 cup white wine
2 roasted peppers, sliced
1 x 180 g container Persian Feta, drained
a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

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Recipe: Asparagus and Carrot Pastries

My blog has gone a bit quiet over the last few days for several reasons. The first is that I bought an iPad, and succumbed to the excitement of cookbook apps and also interactive biology and chemistry textbooks, to the exclusion of all else. The second is that I got really cranky about politics, which meant that I started writing in my politics blog again, and there’s only so much writing I can do in one day. And the third is that… downloading interactive biology and chemistry textbooks (not to mention cookbook apps) kind of used up the last remaining shreds of our broadband for the month. I am currently writing this offline, while waiting for Cate’s Cates to load. It’s been ten minutes so far.   God only knows what it will be like when I have to upload pictures.

So you can expect a few more quiet days around here, until we get our broadband connection back.

Anyway, today is Grand Finals Day, and my team is in it. Very exciting stuff, and probably an apt occasion on which to post the delicious vegetarian goodies I made for last Grand Finals Day and inexplicably never found time to post about.

This is more of an idea than a recipe, but it’s a very good idea, and very easy to make, which works for me. I had bought a packet of puff pastry from the Fairfield Farmers’ Market, and was full of plans to make vegan sausage rolls, but then I was seduced by the simplicity (and cuteness) of asparagus and baby carrots in little puff pastry waistcoats (or more probably straitjackets, now that I look at them, but you probably shouldn’t tell your guests that while you are serving these).

And they were delicious, so everyone was happy. Especially me, because Hawthorn won.

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Your Shopping List

1 packet of puff pastry – I think mine was about 250 g
1-2 tablespoons of basil paste or pesto
1 bunch of asparagus (pick relatively slim asparagus, not the gigantically thick kind)
1 bunch of carrots
salt, pepper, lavender salt, chilli, parmesan – all optional

 

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Recipe: Mini and Terribly Inauthentic Croquembouche

Je suis à Paris!  Et alors il faut écrire une recette typiquement Française, n’est pas?

This is another time-travelling post (spooky!), which is always a risk.  I’ll look pretty silly if I perish in a glacier last week and then this post appears, that’s for sure.

Anyway, assuming no glacier perishment, at the time you are reading this, I am probably sleeping the sleep of the just after a day spent cycling around the gardens of Versailles.  So if any of my GCC buddies are reading this, I want you to know that I’m keeping up the good walk while I’m away.  Or at least, past me thinks that future me will be doing so…

I actually made this croquembouche for Bastille Day (mais oui!), so if you pay close attention to the photo, you will notice that the crème patissière is jumping up and down crying “Liberté”, as it attempts to ooze its way out of the profiteroles.  The profiteroles are, of course, all about “Egalité”, because in a world in which I were actually competent at profiteroles, they would all be the same size.  And meanwhile, the caramel is grimly embodying “Fraternité”, as it tries with all its sugary might to hold the entire tower together in brotherly union.

Having stretched that metaphor as far as it can go and probably further (I’m writing this just before leaving Melbourne and I’m not yet packed, so I’m ever so slightly beside myself right now), let us move on to the recipe itself.  This is the first time I have attempted croquembouche, so naturally I took liberties with the recipe.  Of course I did.  But they were very nice liberties – I used Harry Eastwood’s low-fat profiterole recipe, which actually made some of the best profiteroles I’ve managed yet, and I used my almond milk crème patissière (chocolate and vanilla varieties) inside the chou pastry.  And it’s probably a very good thing I’m leaving France in a couple of days, because they will probably kick me out if they find out what I did to their classic wedding cake recipe.

You know what, though?  It tasted *really* good.  Really, really good.  Better than any other croquembouche I’ve tried so far.  I think it’s that amazing crème patissière recipe, to be honest.  The chocolate version, in particular, is to die for.  Also, almond milk reduces the richness just enough that six people really can demolish this entire tower without regretting it too badly afterward…

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Your shopping list

For the crème patissière:

500 ml almond milk + 100ml f0r the chocolate cream
1 vanilla pod
125 g caster sugar100 g egg yolks (from about 5-6 eggs)
40 g custard powder
25 g cocoa butter
100 g dark chocolate, chopped

For the profiteroles

250 ml water
10 g caster sugar1/2 tsp salt
60 g butter
140 g spelt flour
4 eggs

For the toffee

About 300 g sugar – I’m afraid I didn’t measure it.

You will also need at least three piping bags with plain nozzles – one large nozzle and two small.

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Recipe: Fruit Mince Filo Cigars

Last weekend, I was invited to a Yule celebration at the home of one of my friends from work.  It was an amazingly fun evening (I think I could become addicted to the werewolf card game, even though I’m fairly terrible at it), and also notable for the incredible quantities of potatoes and cream that found their way onto the menu.  This is, perhaps, inevitable when the host and half the guests are French, and are, moreover, from places like Normandy and Burgundy, where potatoes and dairy products are pretty big stuff.  (I am informed that they do not believe in vegetables in these regions.  Other than potatoes.)

So we had roast lamb, and we had roast potatoes, and roast sweet potatoes, and we had pommes dauphines and we had gratin dauphinoise. And there was quiche, too.  I decided that *some* sort of non-potato vegetable wouldn’t go astray, so my offering was ratatouille.  (Which, actually, I was a bit nervous about actually calling ratatouille in front of a group of French people, as I have no idea what an authentic ratatouille is like, but apparently it was acceptable).

For dessert, since we clearly had not had enough cream yet, there were crèmes brulées (we got to blow-torch our brulées at the table, which instantly elevates this dinner party to the best one I have ever attended.  Also, possibly, the most dangerous one, since the blow-torch came out after the second glass of wine for most people at the table, and when you consider that many of the guests have a tendency to gesture a lot with their hands, you will understand why this was a little alarming…), and also waffles with nuttella and whipped cream.  I had considered once again taking the high path and bringing something with actual fruit in it, but the whole Yule / Christmas in Winter spirit overwhelmed me, and it was absolutely necessary to bring something involving spices, brandy and fruit mince.

Which is when I thought of these little cigars.

I actually made these for the first time after Christmas last year, when I realised I had a bit of fruit mince leftover from my mince pies, and also some filo pastry leftover from turning my Christmas chook into handheld chicken and pumpkin filo pies, and decided to combine the two.

They were amazing – astonishingly rich on the inside, but with a lovely, light, crisp pastry that made them a delight to bite into.  Also, they are surprisingly easy to make, which is a bonus.  And fantastic when dipped in double cream.  Which is not vegan, but a good cashew cream might actually be even better.

Of course, I had no idea what proportions of anything I’d used, so I figured I’d save the recipe until I had a bit more time.  Which was why I was half an hour late to the dinner party – it turned out that I didn’t, really, have that much time after all…

It was still worth it, though.  And after all those potatoes, a dessert that was low on the whole pastry/cake/pudding side of things and high on the rich, dried fruit side of things wasn’t a bad match at all.

(Though I suspect a fruit salad, while less Christmassy, would have been even better…)

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Your Shopping List

1 quantity of Easy Fruit Mince, made with cocoa butter instead of butter for vegan goodness.
1 handful each of dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, and chopped dried figs.

1 packet of filo pastry from the fridge section.  Please, not the freezer section.  I cannot stress this highly enough.  If you buy your filo pastry from the fridge, it will come out as lovely, soft, fine, layers of pastry, like fabric that roll like a dream.  If you buy it from the freezer and defrost it, it will come out like paper.  Old, crackling, crumbling paper.  And it will stick to itself and it will break when you try to unroll it and then you will end up with little flakes of pastry everywhere and nothing to roll your fruit mince in, and you will be very sad and you will wish you had taken my advice.  Which is good advice.  Seriously, get your filo from the fridge, or don’t bother.  I don’t want you to be sad, and I’m sure you don’t want that either.
Olive oil spray

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Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Moroccan Chicken and Pumpkin Filo Triangles

I make a variation of this recipe basically every time I do a roast or slow-cooked chicken.  With only two of us in the household, we don’t use much chicken on the first meal, and while I love roast chicken, Andrew doesn’t like it much at all, so the leftovers always go into a pie.

This is another cricket lunchbox menu – I’m pleased to say that when I told my brother what was in our lunch hamper yesterday, the man in front of us turned around and said ‘That sounds absolutely amazing’, which made me feel very smug indeed.  Because it really was a very good lunch, if I say so myself – chicken pastries, zucchini pesto muffins, spinach salad with apricots and blueberries (from the Green Kitchen App, which I enthusiastically recommend to your attention if you don’t have it already), apricot and peach schnapps shortbread, and crispy filo cigars full of fruit mince with double cream to dip them into.  Yum.

lunch

(Though apparently my presence at the cricket causes concussions and batting collapses – yesterday wasn’t a good day for the batsmen on either side, and last year, I presided over Sri Lanka’s total collapse, with bonus concussions, on day three of the Boxing Day test.  My brother wants me to come in to the MCG this afternoon to jinx the Brits, and I’m just trying to decide whether I can face the weather in the name of scientific enquiry.)

Anyway.  These are full of lovely moist chicken, and sweetly spiced pumpkin and chickpeas, all leftover from Christmas Eve Lunch, though you could make this from scratch if you wanted to.  And you might want to, because they are really delicious, warm or cold.

Your Leftovers & Shopping List

Leftover slow-cooked or roasted chicken (about half a chicken)

Leftover roasted carrots, roasted pumpkins and chickpeas, spiced with chilli, ginger, garlic and star anise; or use plain roasted pumpkins, one tin of chickpeas, and chop up one chilli, two garlic cloves and about 2cm of fresh ginger, and sauté briefly until they lose their rawness.  You want this veggie mixture to be between half the weight of the chicken and one and a quarter times the weight – essentially, you don’t want the pastries to taste just of chicken or just of pumpkin, but it’s fine if one side dominates a bit.

2 tsp preserved lemon, finely chopped

1 packet filo pastry, and I strongly recommend you buy it from the fridge section, not the freezer section, because it is much, much easier to work with

olive oil spray

Now what will you do with it?

If the chicken is still on the bone, remove it from the bones, and remove the skin and any other bits that aren’t really edible (use these bits to make stock).  Shred it into a large bowl.

Chop up the pumpkin and carrots, and add to the bowl with the chickpeas and preserved lemon (and spices, if you did them separately).  Again, you shouldn’t need to season this, because you presumably seasoned your chicken and roast veg when you cooked them the first time.

pumpkin

Spray one sheet of filo pastry with olive oil, and put a spoonful of the chicken and pumpkin mix onto the lower half, towards the right hand end.  Essentially, imagine the first fold, which will be folding the pastry in half lengthwise, and the second fold, which will be a triangle folding from the right hand corner up to the first fold, and aim to have your filling in the bit which will be covered by the second fold.

That was totally unintelligible so here is a picture.

filling

Once you have a triangle, flip it over along its vertical side onto the next bit of pastry, then flip it down over its diagonal onto the next bit, then across, and so forth until you are out of pastry.

fold

Put the resulting triangle onto a tray lined with baking paper, and spray it with more olive oil.

Repeat with the rest of the mixture and the filo pastry. (If you have excess filo pastry, I highly recommend making fruit mince cigars with the rest of it – but that’s a recipe for next Christmas, when I will actually pay attention to what I am doing so that I can write it down.)

triangle

Bake at 180°C for about half an hour, turning partway through the cooking time, until the filo is golden and crisp on each side.  Serve hot or at room temperature – the filo will go soft if you have to refrigerate it, but it will still taste lovely.

Variations

This is obviously not a vegetarian meal, though it is dairy and egg free, and also nut free, for a change.  It’s also fairly low GI, due to the chickpeas, and would be lower if you used sweet potato to replace part or all of the pumkpin.

It’s hard to think of a likely variation, since this is all leftovers-based, but you could, of course, make a larger pie, in which case I would layer the chicken with the pumpkin separately, and perhaps add ricotta or spinach layers or both.  Diana Henry has a beautiful recipe along those lines.

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One year ago: A menu for the cricket
Two years ago: Easy pasta dinner

Recipe: Mexican Caramel Tarts for Maria Esther

One of my more exciting finds at the Chocolate Festival on Sunday was Cajeta sauce.  This is a very rich, very sweet, goats’ milk caramel from Mexico, and it’s rather gorgeous.  My instinct is to put it over ice-cream.  In fact, it’s taking everything I have not to give into that instinct right now, because I love ice-cream with caramel sauce, and this is really, really good caramel sauce.  But apparently, it’s more common in Mexico to spread it on plain biscuits, and indeed the stallholder told me that when his mother used to make it, she would sandwich it between plain biscuits and he would then sell these to his schoolmates for $1 each.

My friend Maria Esther is from Mexico, so when I ran into her at morning tea yesterday I immediately started raving about Cajeta, and had she ever eaten it?  Only I couldn’t remember its name, and if I had, I wouldn’t have been pronouncing it right in any case, so I started describing it, and then I told the story about biscuits, and Maria Esther’s eyes lit with the expression of one who fully understands a caramel-biscuit-based economy as she told us that oh yes, she hadn’t had Cajeta in years, but it’s basically the Nutella of the Mexican world.

cajeta

This then diverged into a conversation about the virtues of eating Nutella on bread versus straight out of the jar, but it was clear that Cajeta on biscuits was something that needed to be investigated more fully.  Besides, it’s Maria Esther’s birthday today, and if one can’t indulge in one’s childhood favoourites on one’s birthday, then when can one do so?  I resolved to give this Cajeta-biscuit-sandwich thing a try.

Only there were a couple of problems with this.  First, I have no biscuits.  Second, due to the pantry challenge, I’m pretty much down to wholemeal flour and brown sugar.  And third, I’m not at all sure that, if put between two biscuits, this Cajeta sauce wouldn’t slowly leak out from between them and go *everywhere*.  Wholemeal biscuit tarts were clearly the solution – their sides would keep the caramel from getting too out of hand, and hopefully the slight stodginess and brown flavour of the wholemeal flour and brown sugar would complement and soften the extreme sweetness of the filling without competing with the caramel which was clearly the entire point of this recipe…

I’m glad to say that they did and do, and that, while I would roll the pastry out a little thinner next, these tarts are pretty close to perfect in my view.  But do they recapture the biscuits and Cajeta’s of Maria Esther’s childhood?  Well, you would have to ask her that question…

Your shopping list

90 g butter
90 g brown sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp golden syrup
300 g wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
3/4 tsp baking powder
60 ml milk
1 bottle of Cajeta sauce, or make your own, if you are feeling daring!
 
 

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Recipe: Raw-ish Vegan Sachertorte Pistachio Truffle Tart

chocolate tartI know, I know, that’s a terrible title, but what else could I call it?  It has a raw nut-and-fruit crust, heavy on the pistachios and the apricots, it has a vegan chocolate mousse filling, with more apricot jam to give it a bit of a lift, and the whole thing is rich, rich rich.

But (mostly) good for you!

I mean, think about it – the nuts and dried fruit are full of protein and vitamins and iron.  The bitter, dark chocolate is full of anti-oxidants and happiness.  The tofu has more protein and is undoubtedly healthy in other ways that I’ve forgotten.  It’s practically a tonic!  You should eat it for breakfast!

OK, maybe that’s taking it too far, but I am ridiculously proud of this tart.  You see, it was my turn to bring cake to our monthly admin meeting this week, and, as you might possibly have intuited, it has been fiendishly hot around here.  I really couldn’t face baking anything, but I couldn’t do something sensible like cheesecake, because my admin group also includes a couple of people who can’t eat lactose or gluten.  At this point, a sane person would have given up and gone and bought something for the meeting, but, as we have previously established, I’m not a sane person, at least when it comes to food.

So I crossed a chocolate mousse recipe from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World with a whole lot of different raw truffle and raw cheesecake recipes from people like Hannah at Wayfaring Chocolate and Kiri at Bite Sized Thoughts, and came up with this – a decadent dessert that takes less than an hour to make.  It may be more like half an hour if one is organised and not wandering around the kitchen foraging for likely ingredients.

Incidentally, it tastes amazing…

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Your shopping list:

1/2 cup cashews
1 cup pistachios (plus a handful more to garnish)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seed meal, or ground pistachios, or almond meal
1 cup fresh dates, pits removed
1/2 cup dried apricots (plus a handful more to garnish)
20 ml maple syrup, plus 60 ml for the filling
750 g tofu (a firm one with a fairly silky texture would be good here)
125 ml orange juice
60 ml apricot jam
5 ml orange flower water
650 g dark, dark chocolate, oh yeah.

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Adventures with Ingredients: Kadaifi Pastry, Sweet Cheese, and Kunafa bi Jibin

sideI’m on leave at the moment, and also engaged in a terrifying cookbook cull, which is causing me to madly read as many cookbooks as possible in order to feel less guilty about my terrible cookbook habit (it has, at least, reduced from the 3-book-a-week habit I had in the late 90s, but it’s still pretty severe, not least because I’ve graduated from little tiny Women’s Weekly cookbooks to more expensive and exotic tomes.

One of these is The Arab Table, by May Bsisu.  It’s a book that fascinates me and also fills me with fear – every single recipe seems to go for pages and is *unspeakably* complicated.  The idea of cooking a full meal from this book is terrifying.  (The recipes are all very traditional, and, to be fair, their length is largely due to Bsisu’s conscientious descriptions of exactly how to do things.)

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Recipe: Moroccan Snake Cake

This recipe is adapted from a Claudia Roden recipe (which I think turns up in different forms in several of her books).  It’s fairly heavily adapted, actually.  For one thing, my version is vegan, though yours doesn’t have to be.  For another thing, she claims that this amount serves 30 – 40 people, but I’ve fed this cake to hungry scientists and believe me, 30 people barely got through half of it, largely because it is very rich.  I usually halve the recipe and still wind up taking the recipe to work.

This cake isn’t as tricky as it looks, but I’m warning you now that the central section *is* tricky – your filo sausages will not want to coil tightly around themselves without breaking.  Fortunately, once you get past the middle few coils, the outer ones help to hold them in place, and the cinnamon and icing sugar will cover all the breaks anyway…

Your Shopping List
1.5 kg ground almonds (I find this works well with half almond meal, half whole almonds processed into coarse crumbs)
1 kg caster sugar (this tells you all you need to know about the glycemic index of this recipe)
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
150 ml rosewater
100 ml orange blossom water
500 g filo pastry (refrigerated, not frozen.  This would be a nightmare with de-frosted frozen pastry)
olive oil spray
(optional: 2 egg yolks for glazing, but since I never remember this, I can promise you it works without)
icing sugar and extra cinnamon for decoration

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Recipe: Baklava

I promise there will be a Timon post in the next day or two, but I’m still rather bushed from the last few weeks, and photo posts always take me hours, so you will just have to make do with a recipe for the time being (not an actual recipe for ‘the time being’, though.  I’m not sure what that tastes like, and I haven’t written the recipe for it at any rate). Oh, how you suffer!

Don’t be intimidated by this recipe.  It’s time-consuming and a little fiddly, certainly, but if you take it slowly it’s actually very easy.  And it’s delicious and keeps for days, so it’s worth making the time to make it. 

Two tips for filo pastry without tears (of either kind, in fact): first, never buy the frozen version – defrosted frozen filo pastry is unbelievably fragile and will fall apart if you so much as look at it cross-eyed (and after ten or so layers, you will definitely be cross-eyed).  Seriously, I’ve given up buying the stuff because it always makes me cry – if it’s a choice between frozen filo pastry and cooking something different for dessert, I will cook the something different every time.  Get the stuff from the fridge section.  Trust me on this.

Tip two is that olive oil spray is inauthentic but awesome – I don’t, in fact, use it in this particular recipe, but there is nothing to stop you doing so, and I’d certainly use it for this if I were in a hurry or feeling generally impatient.   I do use it for a lot of other things.  It’s awesome for so many reasons I can hardly count them.  For one thing, spraying a layer of olive oil onto filo pastry is much, much faster than brushing it with butter, and lowers your chance of tearing the pastry significantly.  For another thing, it’s a bit lower in fat (you use much less of it), and of course it’s also vegan.  Olive oil-brushed filo is a bit crispier than the buttery kind, and you might even find you prefer its lighter flavour.

This recipe is lightly adapted from one in Tessa Kiros’s book Food From Many Greek KitchensPretty much my entire feast yesterday came from this book, and it was all lovely, so I can heartily recommend it.

 What are you waiting for?

Your shopping list

360 g white sugar
2 tbsp honey
strip of lemon peel
juice of half a lemon
2-3 cinnamon sticks
150 g almonds
150 g pistachios
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon
22 sheets filo pastry (1 packet should do it)
150 g butter, melted (or your trusty olive oil spray!)
30-50 whole cloves
 

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