Tag Archives: desserts

Recipe: Fruits in Liqueur

A couple of years ago, Diana Henry put out a book called Salt Sugar Smoke, which is all about preserving things.

I’m terrified of preserving things, because my kitchen is always full of dirty dishes and I’m convinced that no matter how careful I am about sterilising jars, I’m going to give everyone botulism.

However.  There was one collection of recipes that that looked so simple that it was basically irresistible.  Also, they are completely full of alcohol, and I defy any botulism bacteria to find a way in to something that is basically alcohol and sugar.

Lots of alcohol.  Lots and lots and LOTS of alcohol.  And sugar.

Lots of alcohol. Lots and lots and LOTS of alcohol. And sugar.

Also also, it’s November, and I’m about to get consumed by Christmas singing.  If I don’t get onto Christmas now, I’m basically stuffed.  And what could be more Christmassy than fruit preserved in excessive quantities of alcohol and sugar?

So on Sunday morning I hied me to the Farmers’ Market for stone fruits, and then to the bottle shop, where I proceeded to buy more alcohol than I have ever seen before (and probably considerably more than I have consumed in my lifetime to date, come to think of it), under the helpful supervision of the kindly Hannah at Dan Murphy’s, who took pity on my complete confusion about what eau de vie was and which kind of rum might work better in Confiture Vieux Garçon, and helped me find options that were not too outrageously expensive.

(She also very kindly did not look at me as though I was a total lush, though, to be fair, my obvious ignorance of what most of the things I was buying actually tasted like probably made it clear that I wasn’t a very promising candidate for alcoholism.  Though I did get quite distracted by a Sicilian blood orange liqueur which I could absolutely not justify buying…)


Anyway, first, I want you to know that putting fruit in alcohol is awesome, and so is Diana Henry’s book.  My personal favourite recipe so far is the aforementioned Confiture Vieux Garçon, which is essentially a thing where you take fruit as it is ripe, mix it with sugar and cover it with brandy, kirsch or rum, and then leave it until the next round of fruit is ripe, at which point you sugar that and add it and cover it with more alcohol, and so on, until your jar is full of layers of different kinds of fruit, all thoroughly sozzled.

But the reason I’m really writing this post, the magic, glorious thing that I discovered this weekend is because I have discovered the ultimate Christmas gift recipe.  You can make it in November and then forget about it while you do all your mad Christmas parties and singing in December.  In fact, you want to make it in November, because it needs time to steep and become glorious.  It looks beautiful.  It tastes divine.  It is luxurious.  And it takes less than five minutes to make.

Do I have your attention?

Here it is:


Your shopping list

500 g dried nectarines
750 ml white muscat Continue reading

Recipe: Italo-Australian Strawberry Trifle

This is one of those recipes that sort of evolved as I wandered along Sydney Road on the weekend, and then started poking around in my pantry at home. 

First, I fell for the beautiful tiny strawberries at La Manna, which were just begging to find their way into a dessert of some sort.  Then, my eyes were seduced by the enormous, glowingly-pink rosewater meringues at Josephine’s.  I pictured a sort of hot pink Eton Mess.  But as I came back from my walk today, I found myself drawn to the beautiful handmade sponge fingers at the Pasticceria on the corner of my street.  So I started thinking trifling thoughts… but trifle is very rich, and I really didn’t feel like making custard – especially when I already had meringues in the house and thus no simple use for all those extra egg whites…

A peek into my fridge, however, reminded me that I still had a bit of low-fat ricotta leftover from another recipe last week, as well as half a tub of mascarpone and a lot of low fat Greek yoghurt.    So that was the creamy part taken care of, though it was a little bit bland… which is when I remembered that I had a sachet of powdered strawberry gum, an Australian native ingredient from a Eucalypt with a sweet, fruity, floral sort of flavour that goes well with strawberries.

All that remained was to find a suitable soaking liquid for the sponge fingers, preferably something not too sweet and not too alcoholic – how fortunate that I had most of a bottle of Wild Dog Natural Produce‘s strawberry vinegar in the house.

The result?  A surprisingly light, fresh-tasting dessert with a wild pink topping.  I am not absolutely certain that the meringue was necessary to this recipe, but it certainly gave it a pizzaz it wouldn’t have had otherwise!  The strawberry gum made the ricotta mascarpone cream rather grey-looking, but the flavour was superb – and it complemented the strawberries beautifully.  I’ll be making this again.


Your Shopping List

100g mascarpone
100 g low fat ricotta
100 g low fat Greek yoghurt
20 g brown sugar
15 ml powdered strawberry gum (optional, but magnificent if you can get it)
6 bit sponge fingers
1/2 cup strawberry vinegar
2 punnets of strawberries (about 400 g once you’ve hulled them)1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 gigantic pink meringue (vanilla, rosewater, raspberry or another berry flavour)

Continue reading

Recipe: Apricot Mousse, or possibly cold soufflé – a reconstruction

Happy Easter! I have heard the words ‘Christ is Risen’ in at least twelve languages, and have learned how having faith in the Resurrection is quite a lot like barracking for the Melbourne Demons, except that one’s hopes are more likely to be fulfilled in the former case.  (Apparently, our minister has been a Melbourne supporter since the mid-sixties.  During that time, Melbourne has won precisely zero premierships, and is mostly found holding up the ladder, or, as my father would have it, ‘lulling you into a false sense of security which may well turn out to be a true one…’).

Also, I finally got to sing a descant, so now I really feel like it’s Easter.  You can’t have a resurrection unless you spend serious time above the stave, that’s what I always say.  It’s possible that my doctrine is a little suspect…

My family used to have a big get together every Easter, with roast lamb and all the trimmings, followed by some sort of spectacular dessert, always provided by my Oma.  The year I was ten or so, she produced this amazing cold apricot soufflé, a beautiful, light, pale orange concoction, made even more exciting to my ten year old mind by the little Easter Eggs decorating it.


I’m not sure why this recipe, of all the recipes Oma ever made, stayed with me, but it did.  And, of course, I have no idea what the recipe was.  I had hoped it would be in Margaret Fulton (I have found a number of Oma’s recipes, suitably adapted, in the pages of my Margaret Fulton cookbook), but the only apricot soufflé in her pages was a baked one – not ideal for when one is expecting guests, really.  I did, however, have a recipe for Apple Nougat Soufflé in a Family Circle cookbook from my childhood, and the combination of whipped cream, egg-whites and gelatine sounded about right for the effect I remember. (No, this recipe is not vegan.  Not even a little bit.  Sorry.  In fact, this might well be the least allergy-friendly recipe I’ve ever done – oh no, wait, it *is* gluten free, so that’s something!)

So it was just a matter of changing a lot of flavours.  And some of the method.  And… well, you know by now what I’m like with recipes.  The result is not Oma’s soufflé – I don’t think Oma would have used orange flower water, and she certainly wouldn’t have used peach schnapps or made a praline garnish – but it is light and fluffy and apricot-flavoured, and it does have little pastel Easter eggs on top.  The spirit is right, even if the actuality is a little altered.

(We lit candles at the service today for those who were no longer with us, and were told of the Latin American tradition of saying ‘presente’ as the names of the dead were read out, to indicate that they were still with us.  This is a tradition I like very much, and I hope it will be continued.  But for me, Oma is far closer to me in the making of this soufflé than in the lighting of a candle.  Presente!)


Your Shopping List

1 1/2 cups of dried apricots
90 g butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon honey1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup peach schnapps
3 tsp gelatine
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp orange flower water
5 eggs, separated
1/2 cup cream
small chocolate eggs in foil

Continue reading

Recipe: Vegan Rhubarb Crumble Ice Cream

The trouble with hot days like this is that all the really *easy* desserts involve dairy.  So if you have someone visiting who can’t eat dairy, then you have a problem.  In the hope of solving this problem, I recently bought The Vegan Scoop, an entire recipe book devoted to dairy- and egg-free ice-creams.  There are some beautiful flavour ideas in there, but there’s just one little difficulty – all the recipes rely on soy creamer, which is relatively hard to get in Australia.  Also, I really don’t like the taste of soy.  Fortunately, almond milk and oat milk make lovely soymilk substitutes, and there’s always that standby, coconut cream, to provide that little extra bit of fat that makes ice-cream properly creamy.

The rhubarb crumble flavour was pretty much a matter of what I had on hand.  I’d made a sort of oat, almond and coconut granola to go with my breakfasts this week, and I’d roasted a lot of rhubarb to make Foolish Mess, so bringing the two together in an ice-cream was irresistible.  Also, I figured that the oat, almond and coconut flavours of the crumble would bring out the subtle flavours of these ingredients in the milk – and that way I could pretend I planned it all along!

The results are very pleasing, if I say so myself – rhubarb flavoured ice-cream with bits of chewy, slightly crunchy, sweet almond and coconut and oats throughout.  In fact, it tastes exactly like frozen rhubarb crumble, which is a little strange, actually. Weirdly wholesome for an ice-cream.  Which does allow you to pretend it’s healthy, of course…


Your shopping list

500 g rhubarb
75 g vanilla sugar
2 tbsp honey or agave nectar or maple syrup
50 g rolled oats
50 g flaked almonds
25 g shredded or flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 tbsp tapioca or arrowroot powder
1 cup oat milk
1/2 cup coconut cream
150 g sugar

Continue reading

Recipe: Foolish Mess

I am posting this recipe solely for the sake of being able to use this title.  Really, who wouldn’t want to eat something with such a silly name?  But it is also a logical name, because Foolish Mess is essentially a cross between Eton Mess and Rhubarb Fool – or it would be if I could bear to use that much cream.  It’s essentially a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream with puréed rhubarb, fresh strawberries and pieces of meringue.

Which is another way of saying, it’s basically the perfect dessert.  Enjoy.


Your Shopping List

500 g  rhubarb
75 g vanilla sugar
350 g low fat Greek yoghurt
150 g thickened or double cream
150 g strawberries, sliced
50 g meringues, crumbled

Continue reading

Recipe: Creamy Decadent Quince Ice-Cream

closeI am so proud of this ice-cream – it’s the creamiest, softest, most beautifully textured ice-cream I’ve ever made, and it really is a total and utter fluke, because it was inspired by leftovers.

Every year at quince time, I find myself totally unable to resist buying more quinces than I can eat in a reasonable time frame.  I use them in sweet recipes, in savoury recipes, baked, poached or slow-cooked, and incorporate them into cakes, crumbles or tagines.  Which is odd, because I am never quite sure whether I like them – I’m just totally seduced by their scent.

Nigella Lawson has a wonderful recipe for roasted quinces in her cookbook, Feast.  You basically take a kilo each of water and sugar, make a syrup, halve the quinces, and bake the whole lot for a few hours (the recipe is on the internet, but since it isn’t from Nigella’s own site, I’d rather not link to it).  It’s incredibly sweet – in fact, you’ve pretty much just candied quinces by the time you are done – and you are left with these totally decadent, deep-red quinces in a thick, quince-infused syrup with an almost jammy consistency from the pectin in the fruit. You can only really eat it in small doses. 

Which is why I always end up, weeks or months after the quince season ends, with a little bowl of candied quinces and syrup in the fridge.  They don’t go off – that’s how much sugar we’re talking about – but the quinces do eventually start to harden a bit.  And you have this glorious syrup, which, I know, is just the thing to drizzle over cakes or ice-cream or whatever, except that I just don’t do that.  In fact, I don’t know what to do with it.

quince syrup

Well, I know now.  It makes the most *amazingly* flavoured and textured icing.  I think something about the way the sugar crystals are dissolved and the pectin thickens things changes the way the ice-cream freezes so that you don’t get ice crystals.  In a less fraught week, I’d look up what Harold McGee had to say on the subject, but at the moment, I’m mostly concerned with preserving this recipe while I remember it.

Because this is hands-down the best ice-cream I’ve ever made. I’m already looking forward to next year’s quince season.

Your Shopping List

300 ml milk.  I used low-fat milk and it worked just fine.
1 vanilla bean
4 large egg yolks
100 g sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom
300 ml cream
2/3 cup thick poaching syrup from Nigella’s quinces
1 cup chopped candied quinces or caramel apples or both, if that’s what your fridge looks like, or neither, because this ice-cream needs no help

Now what will you do with it?


First, you need to make custard.  Scary!  No, not really scary, because I know you already know how to make lemon curd and this is really no harder than that.

Split your vanilla bean lengthways, scrape out the seeds into a small saucepan, and pop the bean in, too.  And then try to figure out how to get the rest of the little, sticky seeds off your knife and fingers, where they now reside.

Heat the milk until it is nearly boiling, then remove it from the heat, and let cool for 15 minutes, so that the vanilla can infuse.

You could spend this time separating your eggs, actually.  Keep the whites for meringues or macarons, because you only need the yolks today.

Beat together the egg yolks, sugar and cardamom until they are pale and fluffy.  This won’t take very long.  Pour the milk slowly into the egg mixture, beating constantly as you go.  You don’t want to cook the eggs, so do make sure the milk isn’t still boiling hot (and if it is, you also haven’t infused it long enough, so be patient!).

There are two ways you can make the custard at this point, because the objective is to heat everything slowly until it thickens, which is just before boiling point.  You want to go slowly so that you don’t get accidental scrambled egg custard, which pleases nobody.  Or at least, nobody that I know.  Traditionally, one whisks the egg mixture in a bowl over a pot of simmering water.  I started off doing this, but it was taking *forever* so I got bored and decided to try a microwave method, similar to the one I use for lemon curd – basically, you put the microwave on at 50% power, and heat the proto-custard, taking it out every 60 seconds and whisking it like mad, until it starts to get thick.  Usually the point where you get one big, gloopy bubble and pull the whole thing out in a hurry is what you are aiming for.


Lay a piece of gladwrap directly on the custard (this prevents it forming a skin), and put in the fridge until the custard is cold.  If you are impatient, like me, you can put it in the freezer, but do check on it every twenty minutes or so – you don’t want to freeze it yet.

Add in the cream, and stir it together well.


Scrape in the quince syrupy-jam, and try to mix through, but don’t worry if the cold makes it all clump up a bit, because the churning seems to magically take care of that.  I have no idea how, but it does.


Now you get to churn it!  And I’m afraid I am presuming for this purpose that you have a machine.   I’m sure the still freezing method would work, but my freezer doesn’t get cold enough for it.  Also, I’m lazy.  So.  Churn your ice-cream in your ice-cream maker until it’s beginning to look like soft-serve.


You can use the churning time to cut up fruit, if you plan to put chunks in.


If you are planning to put in quincey chunks, do so now.  Mine still had syrup attached to them, and the ice-cream promptly un-set, but it didn’t seem to matter, because I wound up freezing it from quite soft, and it still wound up amazingly creamy.


Freeze the ice-cream for an hour or two, until solid.  This will never be a very solid ice-cream, it definitely has a soft-serve consistency and starts to melt pretty quickly at room temperature, but that’s OK, because it’s delicious.  It’s also quite sweet – one only needs a small serve.

One is happy, regardless.



I can’t actually think of too many flavour variations, I’m afraid.  I mean, this recipe is born out of a fairly unique set of leftovers, and if I had anything else quite like it, it would be a different recipe.  It would be interesting to make something similar with a conventional jam, however.

In terms of food allergies, this is of course nut- and gluten-free and vegetarian, but not low-fructose, low-GI, or egg or dairy free, and certainly not vegan.  You might be able to replace the dairy with almond or soy milk and some sort of soy creamer; I’d certainly go with almond rather than soy if possible, for the flavour.  I would not use coconut milk here.  I’m afraid this would be a whole different ice-cream without the eggs, so I can’t help with that one.

This would be lovely paired with a pistachio cake or shortbread; a sprinkling of toasted pistachios over it would also be lovely (especially lightly salted ones, come to think of it).  But it’s beautiful alone, too.



Two years ago: Recipe: Steph’s Sticky Date Pudding Cupcakes with Caramel Sauce

Recipes: Warm Winter Fruit Salad

swollenThis dessert was inspired by the wintry weather and all that lovely dried fruit I bought from Happy Fruit a few weeks ago at the Coburg Farmers’ Market.  And then I ordered some freeze-dried fruit from TasteBom and it arrived with a little note saying that I was their 200th customer, and a few extra goodies, including the most luscious, plump-looking vanilla beans I’ve ever seen.  A perfect combination.

It’s a bit of a nostalgia dish for me – warm and comforting, and faintly reminiscent of my childhood – I think my mum used to make a more alcoholic version of this for dinner parties back in the 80s.

Best of all, the recipe is very simple, and quite delicious – the dried fruit plumps up and becomes pillowy-soft and infused with flavour from the vanilla and marsala, but mostly it just tastes wonderfully of itself.  And, I have to say, it’s pretty exciting to see the dried nectarines swell up until they actually look like nectarine halves.  But then, I am perhaps easily amused by such things…


Your Shopping List

100 g dried apricots
100 g dried apples
100 g dried pears
100 g dried nectarines or dried peaches
50 g raisins
750 ml water
50 ml sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) marsala
half a vanilla bean

Continue reading

Recipe: Plum Crumble with ANZAC tendencies

This recipe came out of a happy conjunction of two things.  The first was the presence of black plums at the Farmers’ Market today, just crying out to be stewed and eaten with love and nostalgia.  The second was, of course, my pantry challenge which has left me completely out of white flour, golden syrup or almond meal, all of which are staples of my various usual crumble toppings (not all together, you understand, but if I can’t do my almondy crumble, I do my golden syrupy one).

I could, I suppose, have been all healthy and used wholemeal flour (something that you will note I’ve managed to totally avoid using during this challenge to date), but I was thinking about my lack of golden syrup and my mind naturally fell to ANZAC biscuits and their coconut-ish flavour.  I could mimic golden syrup somewhat with brown sugar, and of course, I’m still possessed of quite a bit of coconut flour…

The combination was rather divine, actually.  Two childhood treats that go so well together!  But the best part of this whole recipe, I have to tell you, is the *smells*.  The plums simmer gently for an hour or two, until the whole house smells of cinnamon and jam.  The coconut flour hits the warm melted butter and brown sugar and the cook’s nostrils are instantly hit with the most glorious, fresh ANZAC biscuit scent.  And then there’s the smell while it all bakes.

Even if this dessert tasted of cardboard, it would just about be worth making it for the way it makes the kitchen smell.  And it tastes a lot better than that…


Your Shopping List

1 kg plums, any kind, but I do recommend a non-clingstone variety if you can get one
3-4 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
50 g butter
50 g brown sugar
50 g coconut flour
150 g rolled oats

Continue reading

Recipe: Slow Cooked Quinces with Vanilla and Cardamom

quincesbowlI’ll just be honest and say that the main point of this recipe is to have quinces cooking in your kitchen all afternoon, making the house smell amazing.  But the end product is actually delicious too, though not quite as delicious as the aroma – it’s heady and sweet and fruity and all the things you want from quince, and it tastes fabulous with yoghurt and maybe some pomegranate seeds or pistachios sprinkled over the top, so it’s not solely a somewhat expensive room perfumer…

Also, you can use the syrup over ice-cream, or to poach other fruits, or probaby even as a basis for a sorbet.  It’s beautiful, perfumed stuff.  And wonderfully, glowingly red.

Your Shopping List

4 quinces
375 g sugar (plain white sugar is fine, and it’s generally the cheapest option, too)
750 ml water (which you can in fact get from the tap)
1 vanilla bean
1/2 tsp cardamom pods, squashed with a heavy knife to split them partly open, and pods and any escaped seeds added to the mix

Continue reading

Recipe: Pretentious but actually sort of justifiably so strawberries and cream

I try not to do the foodie thing, really.  I mean, I don’t try to avoid the totally obsessed with food thing, because I am absolutely in favour of that, but the organic quail eggs with sea salt drifting like snowflakes over a bed of ethically raised zombie truffles (now you know why they smell like that) thing is a bit much for me. Good food is one of the great pleasures of life, and making it into a source of one-upmanship and anxiety is, I think, against its life-giving spirit.  And now I sound like I’m inventing some strange food-based religion, though one could argue that food is in fact central to most religions, not least because it is life-giving, and I got 5 hours of sleep last night so I really need to get this post under control before it rambles off into theology land.  Though a food philosophy post may be on the agenda soon.

ANYWAY.  Having said all that, this recipe is a bit food-snobby, because it really does require truly wonderful ingredients.  I’m sorry, but there’s no way around it – when there are only three main ingredients in this recipe, and basically no method, those three ingredients have to be really, really good.  So this isn’t a recipe to make with strawberries that are kind of blah but you are in a strawberryish sort of mood – it’s a recipe to make because you found these amazing strawberries and (ideally) lovely, fresh cream today at the market or the greengrocer or maybe even the supermarket, and you want to just sit back and let them do their thing without interference, because their thing is wonderful.

Of course, I will fiddle around and give this recipe a few frills, because that’s who I am – I like to sprinkle my berries with just a splash of kirsch or strawberry syrup or raspberry liqueur, but it’s fine if you don’t have those things.  And I think strawberries and cream want something a bit crunchy and waferish to go with them, but again, this is just decoration.  And speaking of decoration, everything tastes better when you pile it into a tall sundae glass and sprinkle it with little edible stars.  Or grated chocolate.  Or what you will…


Your Shopping List (makes 3 glorious servings)

(No!  Not a shopping list!  This is serendipity – you make the dessert because you have the ingredients, you don’t buy the ingredients to make the dessert…)
Continue reading