Cacao & Chia Bliss Balls – Healthy Homemade Snacks!

Cacao Chia Bliss Balls Healthy Snack
After a few too many weekend pizza binges and really late nights working, I decided it was definitely time for a season of healthier eating and self care. Nothing too radical, no crash diets, but small easy to stick to tweaks to my routine that will hopefully turn into long term lifestyle changes.

More vegetables, less sugar.
More cooking at home, because I find such pleasure in doing it.
Less grabbing an unhealthy lunch on the run purely out of hunger and desperation. 

Mostly I’ve done really well. I am waking up more easily and feel like I have more energy. The main time I struggle with eating healthy is when I haven’t been organised. I tend to make poor choices when I’m really hungry! For me, the key to following through on any new habit is definitely planning. If I forget to get groceries, or don’t have a shopping list, it’s a disaster. It’s really simple – when I have a fridge full of healthy food, I eat healthy!

Cacao Chia Bliss Balls Healthy Snack
And it’s for all of those reasons that I love these little Bliss Balls. They are so easy to make in advance – basically all the ingredients are dumped in the food processor! They make a fantastic snack with the bonus of  being easily portable for when you’re on the go. No more chocolate bars, or store-bought ‘healthy’ granola bars that are actually packed full of sugar and weird ingredients you don’t recognise.

Cacao Chia Bliss Balls Healthy Snack
They are absolutely delicious. I mean that! I’m now a bliss ball convert. It’s the perfect snack that makes you feel like you’re treating yourself after dinner, but really isn’t too naughty. Naturally sweet because of the dates, which also help in binding everything together. Next time I’m going to try them with Medjool dates because lots of people recommend them for their taste and texture.

These bliss balls are vegan, gluten free and contain healthy fats and protein from the nuts, chia seeds and coconut oil. Cacao has a whole lot of health benefits too, like balancing your hormones and reducing blood pressure – plus it’s a proven mood enhancer! There’s nothing artificial. No ingredients you can’t pronounce. It’s all good stuff in here.

Cacao Chia Bliss Balls Healthy Snack
You can definitely use this recipe as a jumping off point to experiment here too. Use cashews, hazelnuts or brazil nuts instead of macadamias as they all have different healthy properties. Maybe some high quality protein powder or matcha instead of the cacao. You could add some tahini or peanut butter. Try different dried fruits like mango or figs – just watch out for the sugar content. The possibilities are literally endless. I definitely have some ideas to try out for next time too, because this batch is all gone!

Cacao Chia Bliss Balls Healthy Snack

Cacao & Chia Bliss Balls

Makes 16
Adapted from Donna Hay

  • 1/2 cup (80g) almonds
  • 1/2 cup (70g) macadamias
  • 1/4 cup (20g) shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cacao powder (not cocoa)
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 16 fresh dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Place the almonds, macadamias, coconut, vanilla, cacao and chia seeds into a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add the dates and coconut oil and process until the mixture comes together. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts for Christmas in July

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts Christmas in July
This year is flying by so fast, it feels like Christmas was only just here… and will be here again real soon once the malls put their decorations in September. But it’s time to dig out your ugly sweaters and fruit mince pies, because we like to celebrate Christmas twice a year! The usual Australian Christmas is very different to what you’re used to in the Northern Hemisphere.

December falls right in the middle of our summer, and there are much more likely to be cold salads, prawns and a swim in the pool after lunch. Celebrating Christmas in July means we get to indulge in all of the traditional dishes and everything else that goes with a winter Christmas when we can truly enjoy them – when it’s cold outside!

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts Christmas in July
I’m thinking hot roast turkey and ham, mulled wine, steamed puddings and fireplaces. And I hope that on the other side of the world, you guys can experience what it’s like to have a Christmas celebration in summer with fresh seafood, cherries and pavlova.

Of course I had to make a little something inspired by the faux-festive season.

I’ve taken the warm, spiced mulled wine we love in winter and turned it into one of the most delicious doughnut glazes ever. But the best part is, I think these babies could be enjoyed no matter which hemisphere you live in.

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts Christmas in July
I used extra dough I had leftover from making the Sticky Date doughnuts, so it already had a hint of spice. As I said in that post, I loved working with this dough. Don’t be scared of working with yeast. You don’t need any fancy equipment. I used my hand mixer with the dough hook attachment, but you could easily make it by hand if you feel like getting a workout at the same time.

Then I reduced down some mulled wine to a sticky syrup – just like in this post. You will have some leftover, which you can use for so many different things – drizzle some over roasted stone fruit, add to a red wine sangria, as a glaze for roast ham or duck, or simply over a few scoops of ice cream. Delicious.

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts Christmas in July
Just a quick note on the mulled wine syrup. Next time I make this – because oh yes, there will be a next time – I would not add sugar to the mulled wine syrup itself. When it gets mixed into the icing sugar to make the glaze, it does become very sweet, so I feel this would help balance it out and make the flavour of the mulling spices more prominent. I’ve allowed for this change in the recipe below.

Look at that super shiny glaze!! I decorated them with fresh raspberries, cherries and orange zest. I loved the tartness and hint of citrus that helped to offset the sweet glaze, and I think they turned out super pretty.

Related Post: Mulled Wine Marshmallows

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts Christmas in July

Mulled Wine Glazed Doughnuts

Doughnuts (Adapted from The Sugar Hit)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 75ml warm water
  • 60g butter, softened
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Mulled Wine Syrup

  • 1 bottle (750ml) red wine
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 5 whole cloves
  • ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • Zest of 1 orange, removed with a vegetable peeler

Mulled Wine Glaze

  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons mulled wine syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Raspberries and extra orange zest, to decorate

To make the doughnuts, place all the ingredients except the butter into a large bowl. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, work on a low speed for about 4 minutes, or until combined and elastic. With the mixer still running, add the butter one piece at a time until it is fully incorporated. There should be no visible pieces. This will take about 5-8 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

To make the mulled wine syrup, place ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30-40 minutes or until liquid is syrupy. It will continue to thicken as it cools. Use immediately or strain into sterilised bottles or jars to give as gifts. Lasts indefinitely in the fridge.

When the dough has risen, punch it down, and scrape it out onto a well-floured surface, pat the dough into a rectangle, about ½ inch (just over 1cm) thick, and cut out 9 donuts using a 2.5inch (5cm) round cutter. Place onto a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic or tea towel again, and set aside to rise for another 45 minutes, or until puffy.

Place about 5cm of oil into a saucepan or use a deep fryer and heat over a low flame, until it reaches 170°C ( °F). To test, place a small piece of dough in the oil, and when it bubbles and rises to the surface, the oil should be the right temperature. Fry the donuts a few at a time (don’t crowd the pan) for about 1 minute each side or until they are golden brown and cooked through. Drain the donuts on paper towels and allow to cool slightly.

To make the glaze, place icing sugar in a bowl with mulled wine syrup and vanilla extract and whisk to make a smooth, pourable glaze. Dip cooled doughnuts into glaze and place onto a cooling rack with a tray placed underneath to catch stray drips of glaze. Decorate with raspberries and orange zest. These doughnuts are best eaten on the day they’re made.

Simple Dinners 17 / One Pot Moroccan Chicken

One Pot Moroccan Chicken
Are you one of those people who finds washing dishes therapeutic? These days I don’t mind so much but as a kid I absolutely hated it. My sister and I would always argue over whose turn it was to wash or dry, and it truly was the bane of our lives. I had no idea a family of four could go through so many dishes in a day. And how many pots and pans could be used to make a single meal?!

One of the reasons I started this Simple Dinners column is to share more recipes just like this and inspire you to maybe try something new for dinner this week.

Everything cooked in the one pot. Not too much washing up. Not too time consuming. Easy for weeknights. Maximum deliciousness.

One Pot Moroccan Chicken
This dish is actually the combination of two recipes I really like and make pretty often – a chunky chicken and vegetable soup with risoni and a Moroccan chicken stew that is usually served with cous cous. One night, I didn’t have the ingredients to make either recipe properly, but had the idea to merge them together. It was really delicious and I’ve been making it this way ever since.

The best thing is that it’s all very easy. You get a big return on investment in terms of comfort and deliciousness for just a small amount of effort. Throw a bunch of super flavourful things into your food processor to make a paste. If you have time, you can marinate your chicken for a few hours or overnight, but if we’re being honest, I always forget this step and it still tastes amazing.

One Pot Moroccan Chicken
Then you brown your lemons, and then the chicken, and add the flavour paste and everything else to the same pot for a nice simmer with the lid on. The risoni is added last to take on all those amazing flavours that have been developing. I like to serve it family style in the same pot it was cooked in with a scattering of fresh herbs and a green salad on the side and everyone can help themselves.

This dish truly does pack a punch with Moroccan flavours – saffron, turmeric, ras el hanout (a medley of North African spices) and preserved lemons, which I just love with chicken. The bold spices pair perfectly with green olives and the brightness of fresh lemons and herbs.

One Pot Moroccan Chicken

One Pot Moroccan Chicken

Adapted from this recipe
Serves 4-6

Spice Paste

  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup coriander
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Thumb size piece of fresh ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
  • Thumb size piece of fresh turmeric (or 1 teaspoon ground turmeric)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout
  • Salt & white pepper, to taste

Moroccan Chicken

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut into thin slices
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 pieces preserved lemon, thinly sliced
  • Splash of white wine, optional
  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup risoni
  • Pitted green olives
  • Fresh coriander and parsley, for garnish

To make the spice paste, place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well combined. If you have time, you can marinate the chicken thighs with the spice paste in a zip-lock bag in the fridge for up to 24 hours, but it is still delicious without this step.

Heat the olive oil in a large deep frypan. Add the lemon slices and cook until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the chicken pieces (reserving the extra spice paste marinade if you did this step) and cook skin side down for about 5 minutes until browned. Turn the pieces over, Add the white wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the fresh spice paste or reserved marinade, 1 cup chicken stock and the preserved lemons. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with the lid to simmer for about 40 minutes.

Taste for seasoning now and add any extra salt, pepper and spices. Add the risoni, some extra stock, the olives and the grilled lemons and cover for a further 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Garnish with chopped coriander and parsley.

One Pot Moroccan Chicken

Sticky Date Doughnuts with Salted Caramel Sauce

sticky date doughnuts
Last year, on the first Friday of June, my Instagram feed was suddenly flooded with doughnuts. Deep fried dough of all shapes and sizes. Glazed and sprinkled. Filled and sugar-coated, in every colour of the rainbow. I wondered what the heck was going on – intrigued of course – before I saw that it was National Doughnut Day. I immediately added the date to my calendar for this year, and recurring every year thereafter. You know, these kinds of things are very important to remember. You don’t want to come empty handed to the doughnut party.

sticky date doughnuts
And oh boy, do I have a treat for you today. If you’ve been reading for a while, you probably know that Sticky Date Pudding is one of my very favourite desserts. It’s an absolute staple in winter – probably why I have experimented and published so many recipes over the years. This time I wanted to combine it with one of my other favourite things – the doughnut. Sticky Date Doughnuts! It’s definitely one of my better ideas… what a fantastic combination!

sticky date doughnuts
This time around I tried a new doughnut dough recipe from one of my favourite food blogs, The Sugar Hit. This recipe is technically for a Portuguese doughnut called a Malasada, but when I read that it was a luxurious dough enriched with eggs, I knew it would be perfect for what I wanted. The recipe was super easy, even though I don’t have a stand mixer these days, I easily made these with the dough attachments on my hand mixer. The dough was beautiful to handle and produced a wonderfully textured doughnut. It might just be my go to recipe from now on.

sticky date doughnuts
The filling was also easy and delicious – basically a caramel made from dates, which are already naturally sweet and have a beautiful flavour. You could use it as a delicious jam. Of course, I had to add some bourbon 🙂

You can’t have sticky date pudding without caramel sauce, so I made my usual recipe a little bit thicker and poured it over the top and it set slightly as it cooled. I don’t make sweets nearly as often as I used to, and it was so nice to get back into the swing of things, making my favourite kind of treat – a twist on a classic that I love. I hope you too are celebrating National Doughnut Day today! I’m having one of these babies for breakfast.

Related Post: Sticky Date Bourbon & Cola Pudding

sticky date doughnuts

Sticky Date Doughnuts with Salted Caramel Sauce

Doughnuts (Adapted from The Sugar Hit)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 75ml warm water
  • 60g butter, softened
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Caramel Date Filling

  • 150g dates
  • 150ml water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon or whisky
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  • Cream

Salted Caramel Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 30g salted butter
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt

To make the doughnuts, place all the ingredients except the butter into a large bowl. Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, work on a low speed for about 4 minutes, or until combined and elastic. With the mixer still running, add the butter one piece at a time until it is fully incorporated. There should be no visible pieces. This will take about 5-8 minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size.

In the meantime, make the date filling. Place the dates, water and vanilla into a small saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10-15 minutes or until softened. Using a stick blender, blend until smooth. Add bourbon, cinnamon, salt and icing sugar and blend again. You might need to thin out the consistency to make it easily pipe-able so add cream 1 tablespoon at a time and blend until smooth. Place into a piping bag and set aside.

To make the salted caramel sauce, place the brown sugar, butter and cream into another small saucepan and stir until combined and the butter has melted. Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir through salt and allow to cool to room temperature.

When the dough has risen, punch it down, and scrape it out onto a well-floured surface, pat the dough into a rectangle, about ½ inch (just over 1cm) thick, and cut out 9 donuts using a 2.5inch (5cm) round cutter. Place onto a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic or tea towel again, and set aside to rise for another 45 minutes, or until puffy.

Place about 5cm of oil into a saucepan or use a deep fryer and heat over a low flame, until it reaches 170°C ( °F). To test, place a small piece of dough in the oil, and when it bubbles and rises to the surface, the oil should be the right temperature.

Fry the donuts a few at a time (don’t crowd the pan) for about 1 minute each side or until they are golden brown and cooked through. Drain the donuts on paper towels and allow to cool slightly.

Use a chopstick to make a hole in each doughnut. Pipe the date filling inside until each doughnut feels heavy. Drizzle salted caramel on top of each doughnut (best done over a cooling rack with a tray or plate underneath) and serve immediately or allow caramel to set slightly. Doughnuts taste best on the day they are made but can be stored in an airtight container and heated in the microwave.

Thursday Tipples 13 / Turkish Delight Mojito

turkish-delight-mojito
I don’t really have a favourite cocktail, or something I order without fail every time. Of course I love Pimms and any unique interpretation of a Pimms Cup will have my attention (like my Garden Party cocktail). I like seeing ingredients like kaffir lime leaves or pandan in a fusion drink done well (like my Passionfruit Kaffir Lime Lemonade). An interesting infusion could be the tipping point, like chilli vodka or maybe a fun novelty garnish. But I suppose it’s just a matter of the flavour combination that suits the atmosphere and my mood at the time. Maybe it’s something new that I wouldn’t have thought of that excites me, or maybe it’s a classic combo that never goes out of style. Anyone else have Taylor Swift in their head now? You’re welcome.

Turkish Delight Mojito
This cocktail is an example of that – combining two complementary flavour combinations in the one drink that really makes it something special. Lime, mint and rum, oh yeah – it’s the basis for the classic Mojito cocktail that people love all over the world. But the combination of mint, rosewater, edible rose petals and white chocolate liqueur is also wonderful and surprising – inspired by Turkish Delight – one of my favourite sweets. But before you start thinking this drink is sickly sweet, it’s definitely not. It’s actually one of the most delicious, refreshing but more-ish cocktails I’ve ever made. The lime and mint help cut through any sweetness, and I didn’t want to stop drinking it.

I love making a big shared cocktail or mocktail drink when my friends come over or whenever I’m hosting a dinner party. My go-to used to be a fruity iced tea served in a trifle bowl, but I am definitely going to make this in a large pitcher next time. The girls will totally love this. It’s such a girly and feminine looking drink.

Turkish Delight Mojito
It’s also super easy to make, you don’t even need a cocktail shaker or a muddler. I used the flat end of my whisk to muddle the lime, mint and rose petals together in a regular tall glass. Make sure you use organic, unsprayed roses for this, or if you can’t find them, skip the petals in the drink itself. If you are just using them for garnish and aren’t eating the flowers, it’s okay to use regular roses.

I was actually going to muddle in fresh pomegranate, which would have turned this drink a beautiful pink colour, but I finished taking these photos, completely forgetting that it was sitting in my fridge until I was done! It would be delicious though, so you should totally do that because it would add a lovely sweetness and tartness at the same time. Then it’s just a matter of adding your booze and crushed ice, stirring gently with a long spoon to combine all those flavours and topping up with soda. Easy!

Turkish Delight Mojito

Turkish Delight Mojito

Serves 1

  • Half a lime, end removed and cut into quarters
  • 8 fresh mint leaves (plus an extra sprig for garnish)
  • 8 organic, unsprayed rose petals (optional, plus extra for garnish)
  • Handful of pomegranate seeds (optional – I forgot to add mine but it would be lovely)
  • 45ml white rum
  • 30ml white chocolate liqueur
  • 15ml rosewater (or to taste)
  • Crushed ice
  • Dash of soda water

Put the lime wedges into a tall glass. Clap your hands together with the mint and rose petals in between and place into the glass with the lime. Muddle to release the juice, but don’t overdo it. If you don’t have a muddler, use the flat end of your whisk or rolling pin. If you are using pomegranate, muddle it together also in this step.

Half fill the glass with crushed ice and pour in the white rum, white chocolate liqueur and rosewater. Stir the mix together combine the flavours. Top up with crushed ice, a splash of the soda water and garnish it with a sprig of mint, a small rose and extra pomegranate if using.

 

Simple Dinners 16 / Roasted Vegetable Salad with Quinoa

Roasted Vegetable Salad
It must just be this time of year, but I’ve been roasting everything in sight. From the last of the summer tomatoes (which are great in this other Simple Dinner recipe) to new season pumpkins and baby beetroots from the farmers market, I just can’t get enough. I have been making big batches of roasted vegetables every few days and using them in different dishes to make a bunch of quick and easy meals. This Roasted Vegetable Salad is a celebration of all that goodness, and one of my current favourite things.

Roasted Vegetable Salad
I love the glorious transformation that takes place in the oven. How a little bit of heat and time can concentrate the flavours in a strawberry or a tomato to make it an even more intense and delicious version of itself. This salad is a work of art, and I certainly don’t mean any fussy plating! The autumnal colour palette of orange, purple and red looks so lovely and elevates it to something very special.

Roasted Vegetable Salad
Served warm or at room temperature, it makes the perfect healthy dinner, with enough leftovers for lunch as well. I could eat this every single day. As we go into winter, this dish will strengthen both your body and soul – the roasted vegetables make it super comforting, but they are also packed with nutrients that will help to boost your immune system for the cold months ahead.

Roasted Vegetable Salad
I roasted pumpkin, cauliflower and baby beets with a good glug of olive oil, turmeric, cumin and fennel seeds. The warm spices are perfect with the earthy sweetness of the root vegetables. I tossed through some cooked quinoa for protein to make it a more satisfying meal, and then some feta, pomegranate and micro greens for some colour and freshness. I served it with a dressing of tahini, lemon and turmeric, which can be whisked together in just a few minutes.

Roasted Vegetable Salad
Of course this dish is a total blank canvas. Here are a couple of ideas for how to mix it up.

  • You can use any kind of roast vegetables that you like. Maybe you prefer sweet potatoes or baby carrots? Let the seasonal ingredients available guide you.
  • Serve as a delicious side for your favourite protein – chicken, steak, lamb or hot smoked salmon would all be great.
  • Use goats cheese or haloumi instead of feta
  • Top with chopped mint or parsley, or even a dollop of quick pesto
  • Stir through some baby spinach, rocket or chopped kale
  • Add a can of drained chickpeas with a drizzle of olive oil to your pan of vegetables in the last 10-15 minutes of roasting time, they will crisp up wonderfully.
  • Add some roasted nuts or blanched green beans for texture
  • If pomegranates aren’t in season, add a drizzle of pomegranate molasses

Related: Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta and Tabouli

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Roasted Vegetable Salad

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a side dish

  • Half butternut pumpkin, cut into 4cm chunks
  • Half cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 bunch baby beets, cut in half if large
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 50g feta, crumbled
  • 1/4 pomegranate, arils removed
  • Micro herbs or finely chopped mint

Turmeric & Tahini Dressing (from Bon Appetit)

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 cup water

Preheat your oven to 170°C ( °F). Place the cut vegetables into a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin and fennel, and massage with your hands to cover evenly. Place into a large roasting dish and cook for 1 hour or until golden and cooked.

In the meantime, cook the quinoa according to packet instructions. Toss through the cooked vegetables and place in a serving dish. Crumble over the feta and scatter the pomegranate and herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To make the dressing, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, turmeric and water until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. This dressing will last 4 days covered in the fridge. Serve slightly warmed with the salad.

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Float

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Float
Can we talk about my serious love for all things tea flavoured? As soon as the weather starts to cool down, my tea consumption goes way up and I start to have all sorts of ideas about how to use tea in cocktails, desserts and baked goods. You should see the document of winter recipe ideas sitting on my desktop. Or the cupboard in my kitchen that houses my tea collection. The door literally can’t close all the way. I mean, how much tea is too much?!

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Float
I love Chai and Matcha, Rooibos and Chamomile, and of course French Earl Grey is a firm favourite. I’ve baked with it several times before and know that the floral tea makes an excellent ice cream and pairs especially well with lemon. It’s a pretty sophisticated flavour combination, so that’s why I made it into a fun and nostalgic Ice Cream Float or ‘Spider’ as we call them here in Australia. I used to love these as a kid, and now I love them even more as a grown up when I can add booze!

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Float
A few scoops of lemon & earl grey ice cream and a quick and easy lemon curd get placed together in a tall glass and topped up with soda or lemonade. It fizzes up theatrically and creates a creamy foam on top. It’s half drink, half dessert, and very satisfying to sip with a straw and eat the rest with a spoon.

I’ve used my super easy no churn ice cream recipe, definitely my go to for consistently creamy and amazing ice cream. You don’t have to worry about egg yolks, making a custard or churning in an ice cream machine, seriously! The ice cream is also delicious on top of a warm fruit pudding or crumble. Earl Grey loves fruit, especially apples, pears and peaches. It’s the perfect accompaniment to many of your favourite autumn desserts!

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Float

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Float

Makes 2 floats

Earl Grey Ice Cream (makes 1 litre)

  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 3 tablespoons loose leaf French Earl Grey tea
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

To make the ice cream, first infuse the cream. Place into a saucepan over medium heat with the tea and lemon zest. Stir to evenly distribute the tea leaves until just boiling. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours. Strain through a fine sieve and refrigerate until cold. When the cream is cold place into a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. In another bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and vanilla. Fold the cream through the condensed milk until just combined. Place into a loaf pan or plastic container and freeze for 4 hours or overnight.

Lemon Curd (makes a little more than you need)

  • 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 165g caster sugar
  • 80g chilled butter
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons

To make the lemon curd, whisk whole eggs, yolks and sugar in a saucepan until smooth, then place pan over a low heat. Add the butter, juice and zest and whisk continuously until thickened. Strain through a sieve into a sterilised jar. Lemon curd keeps, covered, in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Lemon & Earl Grey Ice Cream Floats

  • 4 tablespoons Lemon Curd
  • 4 scoops Earl Grey Ice Cream
  • Lemonade or soda to top up

Place 2 tablespoons lemon curd and 2 scoops of Earl Grey ice cream in the bottom of 2 tall glasses. Top up with lemonade slowly as it will fizz and foam. Enjoy straight away!

Summer Pudding French Toast

Berry Summer Pudding French Toast
The transition from Summer to Autumn has definitely begun here in Sydney, but secretly this is my favourite time of the year. I love it when the mornings and evenings are crisp enough to warrant a jacket but the days are nice and warm. I’m hoping to get in at least one last swim at the beach before it gets too cold!

We found the last of the summer fruit at the farmers market this weekend, but new season apples and pears are starting to make an appearance as well. I’ve already started cooking with pumpkin and making warm curries, dinner tonight will be a comforting beef ragu. But I had to farewell summer with something special – my own take on the aptly named Summer Pudding.

Berry Summer Pudding French Toast
A Summer Pudding is a classic British dessert and a celebration of berries. Typically it is made with stale bread which is soaked with berry juice and then used to line a pudding bowl. In the centre are macerated berries, and it is usually served with cream. I like to imagine it is always eaten in the garden. Sounds good to me!

As you might know by now, I do love a new and interesting twist on a classic dessert. In this case I’ve twisted it all the way to breakfast time. I’ve soaked slices of brioche in a homemade berry syrup, eggs, cream and lots of vanilla to make a pretty purplish-pink French Toast. I used fresh raspberries, blackberries and blueberries, but the best part is that you could make this at any time of year with frozen berries.

Summer-Pudding-French-Toast-3
I tried both single slices and french toast “sandwiches” with berries and mascarpone inside. One tip I would give is to actually let your brioche go a little stale. The recipe was originally used to give a new life to stale white bread. Mine was bought the same day as I made this, and because it was fresh the sandwiches became quite difficult to flip over in the pan.

I cooked them on a very low heat and was hoped the brioche wouldn’t colour too much in the pan so the pink of the berry syrup would be obvious, but it did turn quite golden. However you could still see the pretty pink colour when you cut into the slices, which made me happy as I was eating them. I topped my stack of Summer Pudding French Toast with a scoop of mascarpone, extra berry compote and fresh berries. A scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or a drizzle of maple syrup wouldn’t go astray either, if you’re feeling extra decadent!

Related: Mixed Berry Cobbler with Buttermilk Pastry

Berry Summer Pudding French Toast

Berry Summer Pudding French Toast

Serves 4

  • 1 punnet raspberries
  • 1 punnet blueberries
  • 1 punnet blackberries
  • 1/2 cup raw sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 2 tablespoons Chambord
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 8 slices brioche (a little stale is best)
  • Mascarpone
  • Extra fresh berries, to serve

First make the berry syrup by placing the raspberries, blueberries and blackberries into a small saucepan with the sugar, vanilla and Chambord. Cook over low heat, mashing gently with a fork until the berries release their juices. Simmer until the berry liquid has thickened a little. Strain into a jug and allow to cool. Reserve the berries to serve with the french toast.

Whisk the eggs and cream in a bowl or jug and add the cooled berry syrup. Pour into a shallow dish. If making French Toast Sandwiches spread one slice with mascarpone, top with the berry compote and another slice of brioche. Soak in the egg-cream mixture for 1 minute each side and cook in a pre-heated frypan. I used a non-stick pan over low heat so I wouldn’t have to add butter as I thought that might affect the colour. I cooked them for about 4-5 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining slices of brioche. Serve topped with a scoop of mascarpone or ice cream and extra compote and fresh berries.

Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Peanut & Pretzel Bark

Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Peanut Pretzel Bark
This year my sweet tooth seems to go bye-byes for extended periods of time, which is inconvenient for the frequent updates I hoped to make to this blog! When I do eat sweets, I like dark chocolate, fruit, or something with a good hit of salt to balance everything out. And that is where this delicious Peanut & Pretzel Bark comes in.

Chocolate Peanut Pretzel Bark
Chocolate bark is the easiest thing in the world to make but it’s really fun, tasty and adaptable. All you have to do is melt chocolate (good quality please!), spread it thin and scatter with your favourite toppings. After some time in the fridge to set, you can break it into pieces. Kids totally love it (remember my sprinkle bark cake?) but these days I prefer the more grown-up combination of salty peanuts, pretzels and choc-covered espresso beans with slightly bitter dark chocolate. It’s an amazing mix of flavours.

Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Peanut Pretzel Barka
It would also make a lovely last minute homemade Easter gift for your friends. You know how I love edible homemade treats for the holidays instead of mass-produced chocolate! Get creative with the toppings and use fruit like freeze-dried raspberries and dried figs, shredded coconut, or any other nuts or chopped up candy bar your heart desires. How about a personalised batch for your best friends based on the flavours they love the most? The possibilities are endless so use your imagination.

Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Peanut Pretzel Bark
I’ve paired the sweet-salty bark with an easy and quick (boozy!) chocolate espresso mousse for a fun and interactive dessert. It’s a fantastic last minute Easter dessert that will wow the socks off your friends this long weekend – you don’t need to tell them how easy it was to make! I love that it can be made in advance too. The flavours are a total knockout and the decadence is off the chart, but I love that because of the dark chocolate and salt, it isn’t overly sweet.

Related: Hot Cross Doughnuts

Chocolate Espresso Mousse with Peanut Pretzel Bark

Chocolate Espresso Mousse

  • 120g chocolate (65% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur (I used Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur)
  • 2 egg whites
  • Large pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup whipped cream to serve

Chocolate Peanut & Pretzel Bark

  • 250g chocolate (65% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • Salted peanuts
  • Mini pretzels
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon flaked seasalt

For the chocolate mousse, place chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk and and stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together until thick and pale. Fold mixture into chocolate, then stir in the coffee liqueur and salt. Set aside.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture, then divide it between 3-4 serving glasses. Refrigerate until firm, about 2-3 hours. Serve with whipped cream and shards of Chocolate Peanut Pretzel bark.

In the meantime, make the peanut & pretzel bark. Place a piece of non-stick baking paper onto a flat tray. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate into a thin layer onto the baking paper. Scatter with peanuts, mini pretzels, chopped espresso beans and the sea salt. Refrigerate for at least 2-3 hours until set. Cut or break into shards to serve.

 

Simple Dinners 15 / Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout

Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout
I don’t know how my mother put up with my fussy eating as a kid. She was a busy working mum and dinner time was a real pain point because I wouldn’t want to eat mushrooms, eggs, curry, any kind of seafood, any cut of meat with a bone. Peas were barely tolerated. As I got older and had a couple of basic cooking skills under my belt, I got bored of eating a similar thing every night and made her life difficult all over again!

Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout
Now being a grown up and having to cook for myself every night, I really feel for what she must have gone through all those years, because feeding yourself something healthy and satisfying every night can be hard enough with a busy schedule and a budget, let alone with kids too. As much as I try to eat well, I really don’t like the thought of denying my cravings and feeling hungry, so this Simple Dinner fits the bill perfectly.

Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout
Pesto is one of my go-to dishes whenever I have a few half-bunches of various herbs in the bottom of my crisper drawer. I’ve made it with all sorts of herb combinations over the years but lately I keep seeing interesting looking pestos made with other things like kale and watercress.

For the indulgence factor, I was lucky to receive some samples of the Hot Smoked range from the lovely people at Petuna, and the Ocean Trout paired perfectly with the kale pesto. I loved the way it flaked and the gentle smoked flavour was delicious. I have also enjoyed the Hot Smoked Salmon for breakfast, flaked with avocado and tomato on toast. But you can also feel good that they are high in Omega 3, protein and essential vitamins and minerals.

Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout
You need not worry that a kale pesto is bitter and gross, it’s actually one of the best things to come out of my kitchen in recent times. I added some lemon juice and zest for a bit of zing that went really well with the ocean trout, but if you can’t find it, grilled chicken or prawns would be a fine substitution. I topped the dish with rocket leaves and cherry tomatoes for some extra added freshness. We all really loved it and I’ve made it once more in the meantime. Kale Pesto Spaghetti is definitely being added to my repertoire of quick and simple weeknight dinners! Enjoy!

Related: Ottolenghi’s Herb Pie + 7 Ways to use Leftover Herbs

I received complimentary samples of Petuna Ocean Trout used in this recipe. All opinions are my own.

Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout

Kale Pesto Spaghetti with Ocean Trout

Serves 4

Kale Pesto

  • 3 cups kale, removed from the stem
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Finely grated zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 500g spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 portion Petuna Hot Smoked Atlantic Salmon
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Rocket leaves

Place a pot of lightly salted water on to boil for the spaghetti. To make pesto, place ingredients into a food processor and pulse until combined to taste. Over low heat, add the pesto to a pan with the cream and cook for 5 minutes.  Season to taste.

When the spaghetti is cooked al dente, drain well and then add it to the pan with the pesto sauce. Stir the pesto sauce into the pasta and serve, garnishing with flaked ocean trout, cherry tomatoes and rocket.