Autumn Appropriate

autumn cupcake

Gosh, I didn’t mean to let three weeks go by without a post. I’ve been sick for almost all of that time, so I hope you’ll forgive me. I also had a string of lacklustre recipes emerge from my kitchen that I thought didn’t seem worthy of sharing, or at least not until I’ve altered them to my liking. But mostly, I’ve been revisiting old favourites, many of which I’ve posted here before. There’s been pesto and pie, biscotti, and a new take on these simple slice and bake cookies, adding lemon zest and chopped dried cranberries. They were delicious!

I recently pondered the fact that I had not baked, let alone eaten a cupcake in quite a long time. In fact, they hadn’t really crossed my mind in a while. Surely my infatuation with them was not waning? I firmly believe that you can never outgrow a cupcake, they seem to be much loved by young and old. I decided to make a batch of autumn-appropriate cupcakes with some delicious pears. They are in abundance right now and I can’t get enough. I drank the pear juice reserved from Step 2 of the recipe by itself but couldn’t help but think how delicious it would be with some vanilla-infused vodka in a fruity cocktail.

I loved everything about these cupcakes; they were deliciously moist on the inside, not too sweet but with a hint of warmth from the cinnamon. The chopped walnuts made an interesting textural contrast and the creamy vanilla bean icing set it off in all the right ways. I wasn’t the only fan of these cupcakes either! My (nearly) three-year-old cousin Cooper loved them too, and had an interesting way of eating them. He licked all the icing off the top before he actually ate the cake. Awwww…


Pear and Maple Cupcakes
Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Cupcakes
Makes 12

• 2 medium pears, grated coarsely
• 60g butter, softened
• ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 eggs
• ¼ cup maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¼ cup self-raising flour
• ¾ cup plain flour
• 1/3 cup walnuts (or pecans), finely chopped

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Adapted from Cupcake Project
• 1 ½ cups pure icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)
• 200g butter, room temperature
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1 tablespoon milk

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (355°F) and line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. Strain the juice from the grated pear, squeezing out as much juice as possible.
3. Beat butter, brown sugar and cinnamon with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, maple syrup and vanilla and mix to combine.
4. Add flour and mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Fold in walnuts (or pecans) and grated pear using a large spoon.
5. Divide between paper cases and smooth surface. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.
6. To make vanilla bean buttercream, beat icing sugar with butter until creamy. Add vanilla seeds and milk and beat for another minute. Smooth onto cooled cakes.

Even Better


I had to fend for myself for a few days, while my family were up the coast on holidays. I missed out on going with them because my deadlines week at college happened to coincide with their already-booked week away. I promised myself that I would eat good home-cooked food, because when you’re busy trying to finish projects and only cooking for yourself, it is tempting to take the easy/lazy option and either order a pizza or subsist on only two-minute noodles. Cooking for one is very different to cooking for four, which I usually do. It felt strange to cook so little! I ended up with leftovers of almost everything, but it was nice to have food in the fridge for lunch the next day.

Luckily, I had a good friend come to stay towards the end of the week, so I didn’t go completely mad in my solitude. We had a variety of food-based adventures, since I seem to navigate Sydney purely via coffee shops, and she’d seen The Bridge already. It was so nice to have someone to share things like this with, because sometimes it seems like all my best friends live far away. I think food always tastes better with the people you like.


We took a ferry to Balmain and visited Adriano Zumbo’s famous patisserie; above you can see a tangy and delicious passionfruit tartlet, a salted butter caramel mille-feuille and two varieties of macaron, because we couldn’t help ourselves. We had Sunday brunch at the Bourke St Bakery, or more accurately in the little park opposite (and then went back to try the strawberry vanilla brulée and lemon curd tartlets). On Monday we headed across the road to The Book Kitchen, where the walls are lined with cookbooks. I loved the coffee and the very nice day menu, I can’t wait to go back for lunch one day! For breakfast I had the date and fig pikelets, which were gorgeous, fluffy and studded with hidden surprises. The accompanying poached pear and rhubarb was the perfect match, and just wonderful with the creamy vanilla ricotta. I have it on good authority that their scrambled eggs on sourdough were a winner too.

We also sampled South American ice cream from a place that has recently opened up within walking distance of home, called Patagonia. The dulce de leche ice cream was fantastic, and inspired me to try Alfajores: cookies sandwiched with dulce de leche. I read last November in the(sydney)magazine, about a bakery in Fairfield that does the best Alfajores in Sydney, but it’s closed for renovations at the moment, so I decided to try making my own.

I was slightly concerned by the warnings on the can that it might explode, so I did some research and found that many had success with poking a few holes in the top of the can. The dulce de leche was incredible, I couldn’t help but sneak spoonfuls whenever I went past the kitchen. I’m not sure how traditional my Alfajores are, but I loved them. They reminded me, in a way, of the biscuits in the very first photo I uploaded to Flickr, but with a tastier cookie and creamier filling, these were even better.


Adriano Zumbo
296 Darling St, Balmain

Bourke St Bakery
Corner of Bourke St and Devonshire St, Surry Hills and 130 Broadway (next to Kinkos)

The Book Kitchen
255 Devonshire St, Surry Hills

Patagonia (South American Ice Cream)
231 Coogee Bay Road, Coogee and 55 Smart St, Fairfield

Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
Makes about 25 sandwiched cookies

• 100g unsalted butter, cold, coarsely chopped
• 150g caster sugar
• 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
• 1 cup plain flour
• 150g cornflour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder

Dulce De Leche
• 1 can sweetened condensed milk, label removed

1. To make dulce de leche, make a few small holes in the lid of the can with a can opener. Place in a heavy bottomed pot. Fill with water to just under the top of the can. Simmer for 3 – 4 hours, ensuring that there is always enough water to cover the can. Allow to cool in the water, before opening the can and spooning out the contents. It should be light caramel coloured. Allow to cool completely.
2. Process butter and caster sugar in a food processor until pale and creamy. Add egg and egg yolk and pulse to combine.
3. Sift the flour, cornflour and baking powder together and add to food processor. Pulse until just combined, then form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F) and line an oven tray or two with baking paper.
5. Roll out chilled dough on a lightly floured surface to 5mm thick. Using a 3cm round cookie-cutter, cut rounds and place 5cm apart on the oven tray. Bake for 12-25 minutes, or until lightly golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
6. To assemble, sandwich two biscuits together with 1 teaspoon of dulce de leche in the middle.

Vanilla Flecked

creme brulée

I’m now down to the business end of this Vanilla Project. The fun conceptualising part is over, now is the actual production part, made trickier by the fact that I’m still learning Dreamweaver and Flash! The website had to have an environmental aspect to it, and in my early research I learned about the Rainforest Vanilla Conservation Association. The concept of my website then became a shop selling pure vanilla products, from food to perfume, containing real vanilla grown in this way.

Both vanilla and cocoa are species native to the tropical rainforest, therefore they thrive best in their native environment. Vanilla is a vine and therefore requires the support of a tutor tree. It is difficult to grow under artificial conditions in plantation style settings, where the land is cleared and concrete posts are installed for the vines to grow on. Vanilla production is most sustainable under natural shade trees using traditional production methods.

Cocoa has always been a subsistence crop of poor farmers in developing countries. In recent times, farmers have been abandoning the crop for more lucrative agricultural activities. Dwindling supplies have forced worldwide prices to rise. However, cocoa makes an excellent tutor tree for vanilla vines and has the added benefit of providing an additional source of income for the vanilla farmer. If vanilla and cocoa prices stabilize at a level that gives a good return to the farmers, both crops will be an important source of economic incentives to conserve the tropical rainforest.

A one acre vanilla-cocoa plantation is estimated to annually absorb the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions from burning 2,550 gallons of gasoline. For every serving of real vanilla or chocolate ice cream you enjoy, you are removing from the atmosphere the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions from burning the same weight of gasoline.

I had never made crème brulée before this weekend. In fact I had only ever eaten one in my life, at my favourite Patisserie in The Rocks while waiting for a ferry. I fell in love with the way the crunchy toffee topping gave way to the silky vanilla flecked custard below. I recently found a little kitchen blowtorch for an unbelievable price and I had to have it, so this was its official christening. I picked Dorie Greenspan’s recipe because it looked the simplest and didn’t require as many egg yolks as others I have come across. I am accumulating egg whites at an unbelievable rate, at last count there were fifteen in my freezer! I made vanilla crème brulées this time, keeping with the theme of my project, but I’m looking forward to experimenting with different flavours in the near future.

Crème Brulée
Adapted from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6

• 1 ¼ cups thick (heavy) cream
• ½ cup whole milk
• 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
• 3 egg yolks
• 1/3 cup sugar
• About 6 tablespoons light brown sugar

1. Combine milk, cream and vanilla seeds and bean in a small saucepan. Bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat and allow the mixture to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 95°C (200°F). Place six ramekins on a baking tray.
3. When ready to make the custard, reheat the cream mixture and remove the vanilla bean.
4. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. While still whisking, drizzle in about a quarter of the warm cream mixture. This ensures the eggs won’t curdle. Slowly pour the remainder of the cream and milk and whisk well.
5. Tap the bowl against the bench to remove the bubbles and strain it into the ramekins.
6. Bake the custards for 50-60 minutes or until the centers are set. Allow to cool until they reach room temperature. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate, preferably overnight.
7. Sprinkle each custard with a tablespoon of brown sugar, then caramelise the sugar with a blowtorch until it bubbles and colours. Wait until the bubbles subside before serving.

Seduce Me


I really love the way that food blogging has pushed me outside my comfort zone to try new things, to challenge myself in the kitchen, and to give certain foods a second chance. I was a pretty fussy child, as I’ve mentioned before. As well as spinach, I didn’t eat eggs, seafood, mushrooms, and I was never a huge fan of eggplant.

My dad always told me that when I was older I’d try these foods again and like them, and I think he was onto something. I still can’t eat plain eggs (hard boiled or poached, bleh!), but I have discovered the wonder of omelettes studded with fresh tomatoes and herbs. I’m still working on the mushrooms and seafood, but as far as eggplant is concerned, I think I’m converted.

Trust Jamie Oliver to seduce me with an absolutely beautiful looking pasta dish. It feels like I’ve been cooking a lot of Jamie’s recipes lately, with a couple more planned for the near future. The more of his cookbooks I read, the more I want to spend an afternoon with him, sitting in the pub, drinking good beer and chatting food. He just seems like a cool guy. I also love the way his recipes are written, almost like a casual conversation with a friend, sharing useful advice along with the instructions.

The eggplant in this dish plays a supporting role to the richness of the tomatoes and the creamy mozzarella but its presence is noticeable, enough to add interest and variation to an otherwise quite simple tomato sauce. It also comes together pretty quickly from mostly basic pantry ingredients, making it a nice weeknight meal that can be put together without too much forethought. I think the sauce would also be wonderful in a lasagne. It tastes great with or without the mozzarella, but make sure to use the freshest herbs you can find, it really makes a difference.

Penne with Eggplant, Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Adapted from Jamie’s Dinners by Jamie Oliver
Serves 4 hungry people

• Extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium eggplant, nice and firm and ripe
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
• ½ onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• ½ cup red wine
• Sea salt & pepper
• 50g salted butter
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
• ¼ cup thick cream
• 500g uncooked rigatoni or penne
• ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped
• 100g cow’s milk mozzarella
• Parmesan, to serve

1. Remove both ends of the eggplant and slice into 1cm slices. Slice these across and finely dice into 1cm cubes.
2. Heat 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the eggplant, stirring them around so they are completely coated with oil. Cook for 7-8 minutes on medium heat
3. Add the garlic and onion. When they have a little colour, add the tomatoes, vinegar and wine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the butter and simmer for about 25 minutes. Add the cream and season again if necessary.
4. Cook the pasta according to the packet’s instruction, and then drain it. Return the drained pasta to the cooking pot and stir through the sauce.
5. Just before serving, stir in the mozzarella and basil. Dish up quickly, by the time you start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Ginger

banana bread

When I was a kid I used to love drawing fruit. I honestly cannot count how many fruit bowls I drew, filled with apples, bananas and a bunch of green grapes draped over the edge. It was like almost like a recurring dream, this desire I had to draw fruit. In my high school photography class, I shot and developed nearly a whole roll of black and white film of still life fruit pictures. While I haven’t drawn one in a long while, the sight of a full fruit bowl still makes me happy.

For the last few days there were two bananas starting to look a little bit speckled in my fruit bowl. I immediately resolved to make banana bread, but I had to wait for them to ripen a little more first. It seems amazing to me that such sad and sorry looking bananas can be transformed into such wonderful baked goods. I’d had my eye on this recipe from the delightful blog Orangette for a little while. Molly seems like quite the banana bread aficionado so I just knew it was going to be grand. The plan became even more perfect when I picked up some candied ginger from the shop the other day for another purpose that never came to fruition. Chocolate and Candied Ginger Banana Bread it would be.

The recipe was so easy to put together, with fantastically rewarding results. I loved the tangy sweetness and jewel-like appearance the candied ginger gave. It’s truly a world away from the banana bread I was used to, perhaps also due to the cake-like texture. It would be wonderful with cream or ice cream for dessert, lovely taken on a picnic for lunch, or for a head start on your chocolate consumption, serve this delicious banana bread for Easter Sunday brunch. Don’t feel bad about it, Molly herself now approves of chocolate for breakfast 🙂

Banana Bread with Chocolate and Ginger
Adapted from Orangette
Makes 8 thick slices

• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 115g butter, room temperature
• 2 ripe bananas
• 3 tablespoons milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• ½ cup hazelnut meal
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
• 2 tablespoons candied ginger, finely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well to combine.
3. Peel the bananas, and place in a bowl. Mash with a fork, then mix in the milk and vanilla extract.
4. In another bowl, sift flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the banana mixture. Stir by hand until just combined.
5. Stir in the chocolate and ginger until evenly distributed.
6. Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
7. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Utterly Gorgeous

vanilla ice cream

At the moment, I’m working on a really interesting and fun project at college. It is still in progress, and I’ve been filling a sketchbook with ideas and thumbnails for a website about vanilla. One of the things I love most about my course is the ability to explore issues that we’re passionate about and food is a definitely recurring theme throughout my portfolio. The first step of any design project is research, and for weeks I immersed myself in anything I could find related to vanilla, from encyclopedias to cookbooks, and I even purchased some Madagascan vanilla beans to sample for myself. I think I’m addicted now, I can never go back!

Vanilla is a part of the orchid family, the largest family of flowering plants in the world. Many species of orchid are epiphytes, which means they grow on other plants, using their stronger structure for support. Epiphytes are common in tropical rainforests, to which vanilla is native. In fact the plant only thrives in tropical regions close to the equator that receive adequate rainfall such as Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar, which are now the three largest vanilla producing countries in the world.

It is the most labour intensive of all food crops, as the flowers have to be pollinated by hand. The harvested beans undergo an extensive curing and drying process that can last up to nine months, and have to be rolled away each evening to prevent theft and possible rotting due to condensation in the cooler air. Combined with factors such as the regions’ susceptibility to typhoons and the western world’s commercial reliance on pure vanilla, fluctuations in price are very common.

Today, over 95% of ‘vanilla’ products contain a synthetic flavouring derived from lignin, a by-product of paper manufacturing. Some artificial vanilla essences contain Tonka beans. They have a similar fragrance to vanilla, however are a source of the chemical Coumarin, which can be toxic and is actually banned in the United States.

In the next few weeks I hope to put my vanilla beans to good use and share some recipes, as well as more of my research and designs as the project progresses. Yesterday I made ice cream for the first time. I don’t have an ice cream maker so I used the freeze-and-mix method, which still produced incredibly smooth and utterly gorgeous ice cream. Ironically, now that summer is officially over, the weather feels more summer-like than ever. Perfect ice cream eating weather, I’d say.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
From Modern Classics 2 by Donna Hay
Makes about 1 litre

• 1 cup milk
• 2 cups single cream
• 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
• 6 egg yolks
• 2/3 cup caster sugar

1. Place the milk, cream and vanilla (including the bean) in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture is hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes
2. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk until thick and pale.
3. Remove the vanilla bean from the milk mixture, and slowly pour over the egg yolk mixture. Whisk well to combine.
4. Return the mixture to the pan and stir over low heat until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
5. Set aside to cool. A good way to do this is to fill your sink with a little cold water and a few ice cubes and place the saucepan in there.
6. Either place the custard in an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions OR place the mixture in a metal bowl or cake tin. Cover and freeze for 1 hour. Beat with an electric hand mixer and return to the freezer. Repeat three times at hourly intervals until the ice cream is thick and smooth.

Delicate Art


Recently, I’ve realised that life is like a big balancing act; between where you are and where you want to be, between what you have to do and what you want to do, between what you need and what you want etc. It’s often challenging to find this balance with conflicting factors at work. It’s quite unfortunate that life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but then I don’t think it’s supposed to be easy. You’ve got to take the highs with the lows roller-coaster style, and that leads us right back to the beginning – the delicate art of balance.

And of course we all know the importance of balance for our bodies, it’s something I’ve been trying to work on this year. I have a terrible immune system – I get practically every bug that goes around – and I’ve been trying to strengthen it before winter comes around, by eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables that contain Vitamin C and Carotenoids (but I don’t think carrot cake counts!) Whole grains and nuts contain Vitamin E, so I’ve been making sure to eat my cereal! Foods rich in Omega-3 fats are also very good for your immune system, as is the Zinc found in meat, soy and dairy products. My mum is also interested in how different foods can help the body, so I’ve learned a lot recently about how important it is to eat a variety of good foods with different properties.


I didn’t mean for it to be such a serious post about coleslaw, but this is a prime example of the importance of balance! Too much or little of one ingredient can throw the whole salad off. It took me two attempts to get it right but I’ve found the balance I like. Of course it may be different for you, so I encourage you to try it, and taste as you go along. My favourite part was the sweetness that the apples gave, though you could also use pears or a combination. Roughly chopped walnuts or pecans could also be added to give your coleslaw a nice crunch.

After making this at home, I will never again buy the sloppy, floppy coleslaw they sell at the supermarket. Next time I’ll try making the mayonnaise from scratch, and perhaps adding different kinds of cabbage for colour. I served this with some incredible Maple-Marinated Chicken Pieces, which I will share with you hopefully in the near future.

Adapted from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver
Serves 6 as a side dish

• ¼ cabbage, finely sliced
• 2 carrots, peeled and grated
• ¾ – 1 small red onion, finely chopped
• 2 small pink lady apples, cored, cut into thin matchsticks
• 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• ½ cup mayonnaise (good quality store-bought or home made)
• Salt and pepper

1. Combine the chopped vegetables, apples and parsley in a large bowl. Stir to combine.
2. Add the lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and stir.
3. Serve as a side with the dish of your choice.

Carrot Cake

carrot cake

This wondrous cake had quite innocuous beginnings. I found the recipe in a free magazine from Woolworths supermarket called Fresh. The magazine’s design is quite nice, it has some nice simple dinner ideas in each issue, and it has inspired a couple of new flavour combinations for me. It’s something that I pick up if I see it, but I haven’t really cooked a lot from it. I can’t help but think though, that it would be sort of fun to work on a small food-based magazine like this every month!

It was right around my dad’s birthday last year, and he asked me to make a carrot cake. This was the first recipe I found so I decided to run with it, even though on closer inspection I realised that the instruction to actually add the specified grated carrot to the carrot cake mixture was thoughtlessly omitted! I was certainly not expecting magic, but this little beauty took us all by surprise, and dad exclaimed that this is the best cake he’s ever had – quite the compliment! It was wonderfully moist with subtle but intriguing spices. It was also the first time I’d ever tried cream cheese icing which is now one of my absolute favourites.

In the months since then, I’ve made this cake a few times, steadily making improvements with each attempt. This time I was inspired by an abundance of carrots in the fridge, but really, who needs an excuse!

I think I’ve really nailed it this time, and now I’m glad I didn’t rush to share the recipe with you all last September when I made it for Fathers’ Day. I reduced the 1 cup of oil to ¾ cup then added an extra carrot and a teaspoon of vanilla. I also like to double the quantity of cream cheese icing and turn it into a layer cake. It would also be nice with some finely chopped walnuts or cashews, either in the cake or sprinkled with some cinnamon between the layers.

Carrot Cake
Adapted from Fresh Magazine, June 2007
Serves 8-10

• 3 medium sized carrots, peeled and grated
• ¾ cup olive oil
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 3 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
• ½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
• 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground cloves

Cream Cheese Icing

Note: It’s a good idea to double this mixture if making a layer cake. You’ll have a little leftover, which is nice on toast!

• 250g cream cheese
• 1 cup icing sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 20cm round springform baking tin with baking paper.
2. Beat oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together in an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Sift flour, bicarb soda and spices over the mixture and mix slowly to combine.
3. Fold in grated carrot with a wooden spoon or spatula
4. Spoon into prepared tin. Bake for 1 hour 10 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
5. To make cream cheese icing, combine ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth.
6. Using a serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally. Spread icing in the middle, over the top and sides of the cake. I also sprinkled a little bit of ground cinnamon between the layers of cake.

Something Special

lemon tart

My dad tells a funny story from when I was young. I was sitting in my high chair while they were eating fish and chips for dinner, I stretched out my arm and grabbed a wedge of lemon from the table and proceeded to put it in my mouth, as two-year-olds are wont to do. Imagine my surprise! I screwed up my face and put the lemon down. A few minutes later I decided to give it a second chance, I’m forgiving like that. Another bite, another sour shock, another funny face pulled, but oh no, I hadn’t learnt my lesson quite yet. Can you believe I tried it a third time? It must run in the family, I have an Uncle who will eat a lemon skin and all!

Nowadays I am a real lemon tart girl, second to only one other lovely lady (and she knows who she is!) What does this mean for all the other desserts on the menu? If there’s a lemon meringue pie or a lemon tart, anything chocolate is left for dead, I know what I want without a second thought. I’ve had some good lemon tarts and some bad lemon tarts, but this one? Oh, this one is something special indeed.

Dorie Greenspan calls it The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart, and Fanny too had praised the lemon cream recipe by Pierre Hermé. I think the name is completely justified, it was definitely the best lemon tarts I’ve ever eaten. This was also a chance to try a new method of making sweet tart dough (pâte sablée) and it was fantastic. Dorie’s method of freezing the dough means that you do not have to use baking weights. It is a fairly time consuming recipe, but the end result is absolutely worth the effort. Or if you want to do the preparation in advance, the lemon cream and the unbaked tart crust can be frozen for up to 2 months

On a slightly unrelated note, until recently we had a ‘lemonade’ tree in our backyard. I never knew much about it, except that the fruit it produced was much sweeter than normal lemons. It turns out that it is a hybrid between lemon and Meyer lemon trees. The fruit was round and bright, and I used to eat them like oranges. Unfortunately I never got to cook with them! This saddens me, because they would have been absolutely wonderful in tarts, cakes and cookies. Has anyone else heard of them, or better yet, tried them?

Lemon Tart
Recipe from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Serves 8-10

Note: For this recipe you will need a candy thermometer and a blender or food processor.

For the crust
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• ½ cup icing sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 125g unsalted butter, very cold, cut into pieces
• 1 egg yolk, lightly whisked

For the lemon cream
• 1 cup sugar
• Grated zest of 3 lemons
• 4 eggs
• ¾ cup lemon juice
• 300g unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

1. To make the crust, put the flour, icing sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is coarse. Add the egg yolk a little at a time, pulsing after each addition and then processing in 10-second pulses once the whole egg has been added until the dough forms clumps.
2. Turn the dough onto a flat work surface and lightly knead the dough until all dry ingredients are just incorporated.
3. Butter a 22cm (9 inch) fluted removable-bottom tart pan. Press the dough into the pan evenly. Freeze for about an hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit it tightly against the crust. Bake for 25 minutes.
5. Carefully remove the foil, and press the dough down gently if it has puffed using the back of a spoon. Return it to the oven for another 8 minutes, or until it is beautifully golden brown.
6. Before you start the lemon cream, have a candy thermometer, a strainer and a blender at hand. Simmer a little water in a saucepan.
7. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a large heatproof bowl. Off the heat, rub the mixture together with your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice.
8. Set the bowl over the pan of water and whisk continuously until it reaches 80°C (180°F). As it gets close to temperature it will start to thicken. This can take up to 10 minutes, so be patient!
9. Remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the blender. Discard any solids. Let the cream stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, or until it cools to 60°C (140°F)
10. Turn the blender on high, and add the butter a few pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides to incorporate the butter. Keep the machine on for 3-5 minutes once the butter is in to ensure a perfect lemon cream
11. Pour into an air-tight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (it will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days). When you are ready to assemble the tart, whisk the cream and spoon it into the tart shell.

So Patient

lamb burger

I’ve been patient, so patient. You see, it was right at the tail end of last year’s fig season that I discovered I liked them. I had an amazing caramel fig gelato that made me completely forget why I avoided them for so long in the first place. Waiting for fruit to grow has got to be even more boring than watching paint dry! And then to rub salt in the wounds, there were events like Sugar High Friday that occurred when there were no figs in sight for months around here! (though I must say, all of those submissions looked amazing, and I was particularly upset that I wasn’t able to participate)

I’ve spoken a little about my Nanna before, but I didn’t mention her garden. My grandparents originally came from Malta, which is a tiny island in the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily. When they migrated to Australian in the 1970s with their six children, they brought with them their knowledge and love of Mediterranean food.

My grandfather planted fruit trees in his garden – oranges, blood oranges, lemons, pomegranates, bananas, prickly pears and figs. He planted parsley and mint, and all manner of lovely flowers. I think he even grew tomatoes and grapes at one point! I have fond memories of climbing ladders to pick oranges and lemons to make fresh juice for lunchtime. He has now passed on, but his garden is still flourishing, and my nanna often has more fruit than she knows what to do with! When she offered me some figs, I greedily accepted.

I ate many of them raw, sometimes with ice cream and honey. I looked at many recipes and saw that figs were often paired with walnuts, which inspired these lamb burgers. I was so impressed with how these turned out, the flavours played nicely against each other. I especially liked the slight crunch that the walnuts gave. My dad and sister who aren’t too keen on figs loved them, but I thought they were even better a day later after a sleep in the fridge, which makes me imagine that they’d be good ‘make in advance’ picnic food. The good thing about these burgers is that they can be served with green beans and creamy garlic mashed potato for dinner, or on Turkish bread with salad for lunch. I would have loved to add slices of fig to my burger but I’d eaten them all by then!

Lamb Burgers with Walnuts and Figs
Makes about 10-12 patties

• 600g lamb mince
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 4-5 figs, stalks removed, finely diced
• ¼ cup walnuts, finely chopped
• Sea salt and cracked black pepper
• 3 eggs
• Olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon (or your hands, if you’re keen) until well combined. The mixture should hold together pretty well and not be sloppy.
2. Shape mixture into patties, approximately 10cm in diameter and quite thin because they shrink while cooking
3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Cook 2-3 patties at a time until well browned and cooked through. Allow to drain on paper towels. Serve as desired.