Saturday, 26 January 2013

pavlova, an australian favourite

Happy Australia Day!

Today is our national holiday, a time where most Australians throw a BBQ or catch up with friends and family in the summer warmth.

Since it’s Australia Day, the dessert that ends the festivities should be a pavlova, something named after a Russian ballerina but yet typically Australian.

Or is it?

While it’s true that Australia has very successfully exported pavlova around the world (and taken all the glory), what many of us don’t know is that culinary historians have proven the pavlova was actually invented in New Zealand!

The proof seems to be out there in the form of published recipes and articles, of which New Zealand has many earlier cases than Australia (NZ 1926 v AU 1929).

Knowing this I feel a little cheated, a slight loss of cultural identity, but imagine how the poor Kiwis feel about the fact that Aussies stole their tasty dessert and are unashamedly passing it off as our own!

It's not the first time we've done that, and no doubt it won't be the last.

Regardless of whoever invented it, these days both countries use it as a symbol of cultural identity and since it’s a pavlova there’s plenty to share with everyone.

On the topic of sharing, while I say this recipe serves 10 people (and it does), I have to confess me and three friends managed to polish off the entire thing in 30 minutes.

Prepare yourself for gluttony at its finest.


Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 10.

5 eggwhites, at room temperature
330g (1½ cups) caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 vanilla bean, scraped seeds only (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
300ml thickened cream, whipped
2 passionfruit, pulped
2 bananas, sliced and doused in lemon juice to prevent discolouring
1 punnet strawberries, halved
½ punnet blueberries


1. Preheat the oven to 150’C.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on a high speed until fluffy, about a minute.

3. Reduce speed to slow then gradually add caster sugar until the mixture is thick and glossy with a hard peak.

4. Next beat in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla.

5. Line a baking tray with baking paper and pour the meringue on. Stack high to get a marshmallow interior and thin for a crusty pavlova. Create a concave/nest in the centre to catch all the cream and fruit.

6. Bake the pavlova for 50 minutes until quite firm, then turn the oven off but leave the pavlova in it to cool completely.

7. Spread the cream over the meringue then decorate with fruit. Serve excess fruit on side platter to be passed separately for those who want extra.

Note: The mixing bowl should be clean with no grease in it, the egg whites at room temperature and there should be absolutely no yolk in the white.

Monday, 14 January 2013

strawberry curd tart

This summer, strawberries have been particularly delicious and thankfully cheap. I have been eating them by the punnet, at least one per week or more if I can get to the store regularly.

I have been adding them to smoothies and slushies, macerating them with lemon and sugar, mixing them into flapjacks in the morning and snacking on them just as they are.

I can’t get over how sweet they are this season. Even the stock standard producers are giving us succulent little beauties that remind me of my mother’s garden.

My mum grew a large patch in our sunny front yard, but it seemed like the skinks always got to them first. Worst of all they were very wasteful skinks because they'd gum a berry then move onto the next one without finishing it. When I’d head outside to pick a few they’d all be squashed and mushed, but still attached to the plant as if it was some hilarious skink practical joke.

I decided to go a little crazy for our New Years Day afternoon tea and with four punnets at my disposal I made this fabulous strawberry tart. The curd tasted amazing, the tart shell was perfectly crisp and the fresh strawberries on top gave a burst of juice to contrast with the creamy filling.

There are three steps to this recipe: the curd, the tart shell and the assembly. If you want, buy a tart shell but don’t cut corners on the wonderful strawberry curd.

Strawberry Curd Tart

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 8-10.

250g strawberries (about 1 punnet)
1½ cups strawberry curd (see below)
1 vanilla shortcrust tart shell (see below)


1. Cut the strawberries in long thin slices.

2. Assemble the decorative pattern on a plate to ensure you have enough slices.

3. Fill the pastry shell with strawberry curd. Chill filled pastry in fridge 20 minutes if it needs to firm up.

4. Place the strawberry slices decoratively on top.

5. Eat with abandon!

Note: you can also fold ½ cup of whipped cream into the curd, spread it into the tart base and then freeze it for two hours or so to make a semifreddo style tart.

Strawberry Curd

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 1½ cups (375ml).

250g strawberries (about 1 punnet)
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
4 egg yolks
Juice of ½ lemon
55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
150g salted butter, coarsely chopped


1. Process strawberries and lemon juice in a food processor to make purée, then pass through a fine strainer to remove seeds. Yields about 200g purée.

2. Transfer to a heatproof bowl, add egg yolks, vanilla, sugar and butter. Whisk to combine.

3. Stir continuously over a saucepan of simmering water until thickened to custard consistency (around 15 minutes).

4. Set aside to cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm (2-3 hrs).

Vanilla Shortcrust Tart Shell

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes a 22cm circular shell.

175g chilled butter, chopped into small pieces
1 cup plain flour
¾ cup wholemeal flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 egg


1. In a small bowl, beat egg with vanilla bean paste.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until combined (you will still see flecks of butter).

3. Turn out flour onto a clean working station and make a well.

4. Add egg knead, with hands, until only just combined.

5. Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.

6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180’C and grease 20cm tart tin.

7. Between two sheets of baking paper, roll out pastry to fit tin.

8. Place gently into tin, pressing to fit edges and fixing cracks. Use rolling pin to trim edges making sure not to cut them too close as the pastry will shrink during cooking.

9. Fill the tart tin with baking paper and pie weights (or you can freeze the pastry in the tin for at least 30 minutes and not use pie weights).

10. Bake in oven for 20 minutes then remove baking paper and pie weights and bake another 20 minutes until golden. It’s important the pastry is gold as that’s what imparts the flavour.

11. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from tin.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

pasta alla norma

Pasta alla Norma is one of those soul-satisfying dishes, filling you up, tingling your taste buds and warming your heart. Whoever Norma was, she’s a genius.

The eggplant caramelises into sweet, soft morsels that soak up the richness of the garlicky tomato sauce.

Before serving, the flavours are lifted with fresh basil and crumbled ricotta salata, a beautiful salted, pressed, dried and aged version of the fresh farm cheese. Its crumbly texture makes it more akin to s condiment, adding a slight salty bite the way parmigiano does in other pasta dishes.

Pasta alla Norma

Based on a recipe from Saveur. Serves 2-3.

1 eggplant/aubergine
1 brown onion, finely minced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large red chilli, finely minced
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
400g canned tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil
Fresh basil, to serve
Ricotta salata, to serve
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 180’C.

2. Chop eggplant into bite-sized cubes and place in a baking dish. Toss with salt, pepper and olive oil.

3. Bake eggplant for around 30 minutes, or until soft.

4. In a saucepan, fry onion in a little olive oil until translucent.

5. Add garlic, fresh chilli and dry chilli and fry until fragrant and softened.

6. Add tomato paste and fry until slightly thickened.

7. Add tomatoes and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and add 1 tablespoon shredded
basil and cooked eggplant. Season to taste.

8. Cook pasta until al dente, drain and add to sauce, tossing to combine.

9. Serve with torn basil and grated ricotta salata.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

shaved zucchini, mint, chilli & feta salad

Jamie Oliver is responsible for showing me that zucchini can be eaten raw. I can’t believe I never realised it before, but I was watching his one of his 30 minute meals episodes and he started shaving raw zucchini into a salad.


How had I never figured this out before?

So I combined his raw zucchini idea with another salad he made with grilled zucchini, mint and chilli. Sheer brilliance. So simple and yet friggin’ fresh and delicious.

Jamie, you are amazing. Really.

Shaved Zucchini, Mint, Chilli & Feta Salad


2 smallish zucchini
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
100g feta, crumbled
Salt & pepper, to taste
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Small mint leaves for garnish


1.    Using a peeler or a mandolin, shave the zucchini into super thin slices.

2.    Add mint and chilli, then season with salt and pepper.

3.    Dress with lemon juice and olive oil then toss to coat well.

4.    Gently stir through half the feta.

5.    Pile onto serving plate then scatter with remaining feta and top with small mint leaves.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2013 food challenges

My attempts at 2012's food challenges was beyond dismal, and while I have some decent excuses, instead of starting from scratch I think I'm just going to bring most of 2012's challenges into 2013.

One or two items will be switched out for various reasons. For instance, it's going to be quite impossible to make a week of Wings when it turns out the husband doesn't like chicken wings. Strange, but true. I'll just switch that week to Chicken and hopefully I can cover off some similar recipes using drumsticks instead.

There are some other switches, and a few replacements for the measly four items I managed to complete in 2012, but otherwise most have moved over into 2013.

Wish me luck!

A week of recipes based on
Non-alcoholic drinks

Recreate a food memory
Hartsyard’s truffled cheese fondue
Lindt & Sprüngli's chocolate covered ganache apricots
Ash Street Cellar’s chorizo, artichoke & lemon tapa
Marque's roquefort, beetroot, raspberry & guava dessert

Attempt a coveted dish
Cha Traop Dot (smoky Cambodian eggplant & pork)
Monkey Bread (American cinnamon cake)
Francesinha (Portuguese sandwich)
Fried Green Tomatoes
Pastel de Tres Leches (Mexican three milk cake)
Karfiolleves (Hungarian paprika & cauliflower soup)

Create my own version of
Pecan shortbread
Adaptation of a Noma recipe
Honeydew melon recipe
Rosemary lemonade

Cook a recipe from this book
Momofuku by David Chang & Peter Meehan
My Abuela's Table by Danielle Germaine
The Silver Spoon by Domus
Simple Pleasures by Annabel Langbein

Candy thermometer
Miracle fruit tablets
Photography soft light cube
Deep fryer (I know I really shouldn't, but I wants it!)

What do you hope to attempt in 2013?
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