Monday 30 January 2012

peach cobbler

Baking fruit in pies and crumbles is a wonderful way to serve deliciously ripe yet bruised and marred summer fruits.

So what about the Cobbler?

Cobblers originated in the American colonies when English settlers wanted their traditional, homely pies but needed to be more economical with precious ingredients like butter, suet and flour. Ingeniously they invented the cobbler: a pie without a dough base yet still yielding that pleasurable experience of breaking through flaky pie crust into the stewed fruit or meat treasures beneath.

Pondering this history, Washington Post food writer, Kim O'Donnel, suggested since the apple pie is English and the cobbler is American, perhaps the saying ought to be changed to “American as cobbler”.

The earliest written reference to a cobbler comes from 1839 in The Kentucky Housewife by Lettice Bryan:
“A Peach pot pie, or cobler, as it is often termed, should be made of clingstone peaches, that are very ripe, and then pared and sliced from the stones. Prepare a pot or oven with paste, as directed for the apple pot-pie, put in the prepared peaches, sprinkle on a large handful of brown sugar, pour in plenty of water to cook the peaches without burning them, though there should be but very little liquor or syrup when the pie is done. Put a paste over the top, and bake it with moderate heat, raising the lid occasionally, to see how it is baking. When the crust is brown, and the peaches very soft, invert the crust on a large dish, put the peaches evenly on, and grate loaf sugar thickly over it. Eat it warm or cold. Although it is not a fashionable pie for company, it is very excellent for family use, with cold sweet milk."

It’s fascinating to think they inverted the dish after cooking and served it with the pastry on the base. No wonder they thought the messy end result wasn’t fit for company!

It’s thought that the decorative placing of the crust into biscuit or dumpling shapes reminded people of either cobblestones or small cob loaves (which in turn were named for the cobblestones they themselves resembled). In fact, a cobbler’s rippled surface does look somewhat like a cobblestone street.

A thousand variations on the baseless pie exist across the US including the Crisp, Crumble, Betty, Grunt, Pandowdy, Slump, Buckle and Sonker.

Crisps and Crumbles have oatmeal in their tops; Grunts and Slumps are iron skillet stove-top cobblers from New England; Buckles combine the fruit with a yellow cake-like batter and bake them together; Pandowdies have their crust broken and stirred through the filling during baking; Sonkers are deep dish cobblers from North Carolina; and Brown Betties are layers of fruit and buttered breadcrumbs baked into a bread pudding consistency.

It is traditional that cobblers from the Deep South are made of single fruits, most popular being and blackberry, blueberry and peach, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Since peaches are synonymous with the American Deep South, it’s only fitting I fill this cobbler with slices of fresh, yellow peaches. You could peel them if you like, but once cooked the skin looses its horrid fuzziness and flushes the peach flesh with pretty pink hues. Given it’s easier, I recommend keeping them on.

Peach Cobbler

Anna's very own recipe. Serves 8.


1kg ripe juicy peaches, washed
¼ cup caster sugar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon corn flour

150g (1 cup) self-raising flour*
30g brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
60g butter, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
½ cup buttermilk, heavy cream or natural yoghurt
Milk, for brushing
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, for dusting
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar, for dusting


1. Preheat oven to 190’C.

2. To make filling: cut each peach into eight slices and discard stones.

3. In a large pot, combine peaches, water and cinnamon then cover and simmer until peaches leach juices and start to bubble.

4. Add caster sugar, stir to combine then cover and simmer 3-5 minutes. Taste to ensure mixture is sweet enough. Add more sugar if needed.

5. Using a ladle, transfer a small amount of liquid to a bowl. Add cornflour and combine well.

6. Return cornflour liquid to peaches and stir through for a minute, then remove peaches from heat.

7. Pour peaches into an oven-proof baking dish. Spread evenly along base.

8. To make topping: process flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and sea salt in a food processor until combined.

9. Add buttermilk, heavy cream or natural yoghurt (whichever you use) and process in short bursts until a dough forms.

10. Lightly flour hands and surface, then turn out dough and flatten.

11. Cut out shapes and place over peaches, overlapping.

12. Brush tops with milk, then sprinkle with cinnamon and Demerara sugar.

13. Bake for around 35 minutes or until has risen and turned golden.

Serve with good quality vanilla ice cream or heavy cream.

*Note: use wholemeal flour for extra depth of flavour.

Monday 23 January 2012

ma yi shang shu (ants climbing up a tree)

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

It's Chinese New Year once again and this year we enter into the lair of the Water Dragon.

A Chinese friend told me that dragons are a very auspicious sign and that many Chinese people will be trying hard to have a baby this year so their little ones will grow up as majestic, strong people.

This dish is a nice new year meal because eating long noodles on the first day of the year is supposed to symbolise prosperity throughout the year and long life in general. It does contain meat though, which isn't  traditionally on a new year menu.

And to top it off, the origin of this dish's name is super cute. As SBS Feast Magazine, the source of this awesome dish, explains:
"It is thought a poet bestowed this Szechuan dish with it's name after observing that when the noodles are held up with chopsticks, the bits of meat clinging to it appear like ants climbing a tree."

Ma Yi Shang Shu (Ants Climbing Up A Tree)

Recipe from SBS Feast Magazine Issue #5. Serves 4.

250g minced pork
2 ½ tablespoons salt-reduced soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Chinese rice wine (shaoxing)
1 ½ tablespoons chilli bean sauce (toban djan)
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
250ml chicken stock
150g vermicelli (mung bean) noodles
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4cm piece ginger, grated
Shredded spring onions, to serve


1. Combine pork, 1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine, chilli bean sauce and cornflour. Using your hands, knead pork mixture for 5 minutes until a smooth paste. Set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Combine remaining soy sauce and 1 tablespoon rice wine, sugar, sesame oil and stock in a bowl.

3. Soak noodles in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes or until softened. Drain well.

4. Heat peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add pork mixture and brown, breaking up lumps, for 2 minutes.

5. Add noodles and sauce mixture, and stir for 2 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.

6. Scatter with spring onions to serve.

Sunday 15 January 2012

chicha de piña (spiced pineapple drink)

This recipe is a perfect end to my seven days of pineapple because it gives you something to do with all the pineapple skins and core that you’d otherwise throw away or compost.

I had heard of this Ecuadorian drink before, but since it’s traditionally fermented I’d given it a wide berth. Home fermentations make me a little uneasy with their potential to explode and spray their contents everywhere. In a small apartment, this is not an ideal outcome.

But I discovered Layla’s recipe and she explained that although the traditional chicha is fermented, there are many lighter and easier versions of chicha commonly made and drunk in Ecuador. This is one.

The pineapple scraps are boiled with water, spices and panela, which is unrefined whole cane sugar made from evaporating sugarcane juice. Layla’s blog has a detailed and pleasantly idyllic description of how panela is made in the town she grew up in.

Panela is sold in small cone-shaped pieces in Latin American grocers, but if you can’t find any then Indian/Sri Lankan jaggery is a very similar product.

Layla’s recipe is a fresh chicha, although her blog post also contains instructions on how to make a fermented version if you are more game than I am.

I drank this both hot and cold. It’s a lovely refreshing cold drink on a warm day, but an even ,ore unusual and comforting warmer on a cold winter evening. Highly recommended either way.

Chicha de Piña (Ecuadorian spiced pineapple drink)

Adaptation of Layla’s recipe. Makes 2 litres.

Skin, core and scraps of 1 (well-washed) pineapple
125g panela
2 litres water
2 cassia quills (or cinnamon)
2 cloves
4 allspice berries
(500ml pineapple juice, optional)


1. Combine all of the ingredients in large saucepan

2. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

3. Drink hot or cold, but strain before serving.

Note: I added about 500ml of fresh pineapple juice to the final product, just to make it punchier.

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Saturday 14 January 2012

pineapple carpaccio w mint sugar

This was the dish that completely converted me to fresh mint.

Who would have thought that beautiful, verdant mint would colour sugar so perfectly.

All you have to do is smash the fresh mint with the sugar crystals and you’re left with this crumbly, vibrant topping that lasts for a few days.

I sprinkle it on anything I can, and I’m guessing you will too.

It's a perfect match to the pineapple, but now I'm wondering what other herb sugars would go equally well with slabs of juicy pineapple. Let me know if you test another out!

Pineapple Carpaccio w Mint Sugar

Recipe by Jamie Oliver. Serves 4.

1 ripe pineapple
4 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
1 handful of fresh mint


1. Cut both ends off and peel the skin with a knife, removing any little black bits.

2. Then cut the pineapple into quarters and remove the slightly less tasty core (if you have a pineapple as juicy as mine the core is soft and delicious so I ate that too!).

3. Finely slice your quarters, lengthways, as thin as you can.

4. Lay out flat in one or two layers on a large plate. Don't refrigerate this – just put it to one side.

5. Pick the mint leaves and add them to the sugar in a mortar and pestle then bash the hell out of it. You'll see the sugar change colour and it will smell fantastic. It normally takes about a minute to do if you've got a good wrist action.

6. Sprinkle the mint sugar over the plate of pineapple – making sure you don't let anyone nick any pineapple before you sprinkle the sugar over.

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Friday 13 January 2012

sticky tamarind pork & pineapple skewers

This recipe is influenced by South East Asian cooking, particularly Malaysian and Indonesian food where the salt combines from shrimp paste, the sour from tamarind, the sweet from palm sugar and the spice from chilli peppers.

The bursts of sweet pineapple cushioned between salty morsels of meat make a great meal or addition to a barbecue buffet.

If you don’t have an outdoor barbecue, a grill is just fine but the smoky, charred flavours of a barbecue are a great addition to this dish. I used pork, but you could use chicken just as easily.

Sticky Tamarind Pork & Pineapple Skewers

Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 12 kebabs.


700g pork sirloin, cut into cubes
200ml pineapple juice
400g fresh pineapple, cubed

120g grated palm sugar
80ml pineapple juice (extra)
20ml tamarind paste
6g belacan (shrimp paste)
2 small red (birdseye) chilli, finely chopped


1. To marinate the meat, place the pork and 100ml pineapple juice into a non-reactive dish (ceramic or plastic) and marinate in the fridge for an hour or so (the pineapple enzymes breaks down the protein and tenderises the meat).

2. To make the sauce, combine the palm sugar and pineapple juice in a saucepan and bring to the boil, dissolving the sugar.

3. Continue to simmer the liquid until it forms a sugar syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

4. Wrap belacan in a little aluminium foil and roast in open flame for 30 seconds. You’ll know it’s ready because the smell becomes more apparent.

5. In a mortar and pestle, pound the belcaon and add the chilli into a paste. Add the tamarind paste and combine well. Drizzle in the sugar syrup and mix completely.

6. When ready to cook, drain meat from marinade, skewer then brush with the thick sugar syrup and barbecue, continuing to baste throughout the cooking process.

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Thursday 12 January 2012

caramelised pineapple & coconut cake

One of my favourite cakes is the rich and moist Persian Orange Cake, where whole oranges are blended with almond meal and egg to make a sticky, dense cake.

So instead of using oranges, what about pineapple instead? And what goes better with pineapple than it’s old pal the coconut. Add that too!

What do you get? This awesome sticky-sweet, tropical cake.

And to bring out the natural sugars of the pineapple, cook it a little in advance. This adds a whole new complexity of flavour to the dessert. I hope you enjoy it.

Caramelised Pineapple & Coconut Cake

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 8-10.


550g pineapple flesh
60ml dark rum
6 eggs, beaten
300g almond meal
50g desiccated coconut
100g caster sugar
100g brown sugar
50g demerara sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Coconut Rum Syrup
¼ cup small pineapple pieces
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
40ml coconut rum


1. Preheat oven to 190ºC/170ºc fan forced. Grease springform tin.

2. Panfry or barbeque the pineapple until golden brown and caramelised. Place on a plate or in a bowl and pour rum over hot pineapple. Allow to cool.

3. Blend pineapple and rum mixture thoroughly in a food processor.

4. Add remaining ingredients and blend completely.

5. Pour batter into prepared tin. Bake for 1 hour (if cake is still very wet, cook a little longer).

6. Meanwhile make the coconut rum syrup by heating water and sugar until sugar is dissolved.

7. Add the pineapple pieces then bring to the boil for a minute or two and allow the sugar syrup to thicken.

8. Remove from heat and add coconut rum. Mix well.

9. When the cake is cooked, remove from oven and pour hot syrup all over hot cake, reserving pineapple pieces.

10. Cool cake in tin before gently removing. Decorate with remaining pineapple pieces from the syrup.

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Wednesday 11 January 2012

barbequed chilli pineapple

One of the simplest pineapple recipes you can make is to rub chunky circlets of golden flesh with olive oil and a super hot chilli (like the Takanotsume “hot claw”) then throw it on the barbie.

Absolutely brilliant. Truly.

Barbequed Chilli Pineapple

1 Takanotsume “hot claw” chilli
½ pineapple
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of salt flakes


1. Peel and cut pineapple into round slices.

2. Finely chop chilli, including seeds.

3. Rub the chilli all over the pineapple and place in a bowl.

4. Dress with olive oil and salt and toss around. Leave for 10 minutes.

5. Grill pineapple on hit grill until heated through.

Great with regular pork, ham steaks and fish.

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Tuesday 10 January 2012

amaretto piña colada

On the morning of a big birthday year, I met my friends and sisters on the rooftop pool of a Barcelona hotel and drank these for breakfast.

It’s a typical piña colada, only incredibly enhanced by the sweet almond flavour of amaretto. Combined with the pineapple juice and coconut milk, the almond is divine.

I could drink a gallon of this stuff. Oh, hang on, I did!

Amaretto Piña Colada

Anna’s recipe. Makes 2.

90ml amaretto
65ml white rum
40ml coconut cream
125ml pineapple juice
1 cup ice
1 cup pineapple chunks


1. Blend all ingredients together.

2. Decorate with ridiculous paper umbrella, plastic mermaid or oversized pineapple wedge.

3. Drink, pretending your poolside somewhere in the Caribbean (or a Barcelona roof top).

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Monday 9 January 2012

cactus & pineapple salsa

The Pineapple. The King of Fruit.

How can you not love this amazing creature?

Rough, brown skin.
Head of spiky, cascading leaves.
Sweet, succulent, juicy golden flesh.

To celebrate the season of these beautiful tropical fruits the team at King of Fruit, headquartered in northern Queensland’s Yeppoon, gave me four luscious pineapples so I could cook up a storm.

After cutting into the first, and tasting how sweetly divine it was, I decided to dedicate a full seven days to the delights of these wonderful fruits.

Sevens Days of Pineapple!

Check back at Morsels & Musings each day this week to experience a new pineapple recipe daily:
Salsa de Piña y Nopal (Cactus & Pineapple Salsa)
Amaretto Piña Colada
Barbequed Chilli Pineapple
Caramelised Pineapple & Coconut Cake
Sticky Tamarind Pork & Pineapple Skewers
Pineapple Carpaccio w Mint Sugar
Chicha De Piña (Spiced Pineapple Drink)

First up is a Mexican inspired salsa with cactus, chilli and lime. I served it with pork cutlets that had been marinated with achiote paste, which gets its beautiful red colour from annatto seeds.

Salsa de Piña y Nopal (Cactus & Pineapple Salsa)

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.

1 cup chopped pineapple
¾ cup chopped prepared cactus (see note)
¼ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon sliced fresh Serrano chilli
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
Salt, to taste


1. Combine everything except the salt and coriander, and allow to sit for one hour.

2. Before serving, add fresh coriander and season with salt to taste.

Note: I use cactus (nopales) that come in a jar pre-boiled. Rinse off the thick sap before using.

Achiote Pork Cutlets

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.

4 pork cutlets
1 tablespoon achiote paste
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil, to taste
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Pepper, to taste


1. Prepare marinade by combing the achiote paste, lime juice, olive oil and garlic and blending completely.

2. Seal pork cutlets in a snap lock bag with marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours.

3. Heat griddle pan, grill until cooked through.

Pineapples supplied by the team at King of Fruit

Saturday 7 January 2012

chocolate prune brownies

I have decided to get cracking on my 2012 Food Challenges, given last year I didn’t manage to complete many of them.

So on the very first day of the year, I ticked off my very first food challenge: cooking from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook.

I had recently opened a packet of prunes to wizz up a Prune & Vanilla Smoothie, so I was very happy when I saw this recipe and realised I could finish the pack AND devour some luscious, alcohol-laden baked goods.

To avoid eating the entire slab of brownies all on my own, I took the fresh treats to friends who were visiting from Switzerland.

This presented its own unique challenge because the Swiss are renown chocolate connoisseurs. To make them feel right at home, I used Switzerland's very own Lindt brand to ensure the brownies were incredibly decadent.

Voila! Perfect, fudgy, prune-studded brownies.

I was almost sad to leave them behind at the end of the day, but my tummy tyres were proud of me.

Chocolate Prune Brownies

Recipe from Bourke Street Bakery cook book. Makes 32.

300g pitted prunes, halved
200ml brandy, cognac or hot black tea
55g plain flour
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
300g good-quality dark chocolate (55% cocoa)
80g unsalted butter
300g caster (superfine) sugar
4 eggs
100g sour cream
145g dark chocolate melts (buttons) (55% cocoa)


1. Place the prunes in a bowl and pour over the brandy, cognac or tea. Cover and set aside to soak for 3 days.

2. Preheat the oven to 170’C (325F/Gas 3). Grease a 20 x 30 x 4cm rectangular cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and sugar into a stainless steel bowl and sit over a saucepan of simmering water - making sure the base of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir for 10 minutes, or until the chocolate has melted. Allow to cool.

4. Sift the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a separate bowl.

5. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Add the flour mixture, mix to combine, then add the sour cream, chocolate melts and prunes with the remaining soaking liquid and mix until just combined.

7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour, or until just set. Place your hand on top of the brownie in the centre and wobble to feel if it is set.

8. Allow to cool completely before turning out of the tin. Use a hot knife to cut into squares.

Note: The brownies can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored for up to 4 days at room temperature.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

iced green tea w lychees & lime

It’s lychee season.

A few years ago I got drunk on lychee liqueur and killed my love for lychees . . . until now.

On behalf of Aussie lychee growers, Cessie at IMPACT Communications sent me a box of beautiful, perfect lychees and when I popped the first, slippery nugget into my mouth I swooned with love all over again with these sweet, juicy, tropical fruit.

Oh lychee, I am so happy our love for each other has been rekindled.

This is a versatile iced tea and perfect for summer barbeques. I’ve made it for my sister-in-law when she visited from Sweden early in the year and again in October when The Green Ninja and the VB Samurai visited from Tokyo.

The flavours were inspired by Japanese sensibilities - a love of lychees combined with refreshing green tea and topped off with a little tang and colour from the lime slices.

It's a great addition to summer evening BBQs or any Asian lunch menu.

Lychee & Lime Iced Green Tea

Anna's very own recipe. Makes 1 litre.

3 bags of green tea or 1 tablespoon loose leaves
400ml boiling water
500ml water
200ml sugar syrup
2 limes thinly sliced
16 lychees, peeled & stone removed
Ice, for serving


1. In a jug, pour the hot water over the tea bags and steep the tea for 30 minutes.

2. Remove tea bags, add the remaining water, sugar syrup and allow tea to cool to room temperature.

3. Add limes and lychees then refrigerate until completely chilled. Serve with ice.

Sunday 1 January 2012

2012 food challenges

Welcome to 2012!!!

I decided that setting myself food challenges for the year is a tradition that I want to keep, even if I’m not always successful in meeting those challenges.

Hopefully this coming year I will perform slightly better than previous years? We can only hope!

A week of recipes based on

Cook with a new ingredient
Bush Tomato

Recreate a food memory
Rockpool's savoury chestnut ravioli w cinnamon-apple sauce COMPLETE
Mumu Grill's brown sugar meringue COMPLETE
Lindt & Sprüngli's chocolate covered ganache apricots
Marque's roquefort, beetroot & guava dessert

Attempt a coveted recipe
Pastel de Tres Leches
Pickled seaweed

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

Cook a recipe from this book
My Abuela's Table
The Silver Spoon

Candy thermometer
Popsicle mold
Miracle fruit tablets
Photography soft light cube

Wish me luck!
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