Baileys brownies and chocolate

I’m attempting to make healthier food choices to balance out my baking. How is it going, you ask?

Interestingly.

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Day one: the earth conspired against me and my delicious berry smoothie to ensure that I didn’t get the clean start I was looking for. And there’s that box of chocolate that Nestle sent me, just sitting there, packed to the brim with tempting goodies.

Earl Grey Custard and comfort food

aboveI debated over the title of this blog, because technically tea is not a food, it’s a beverage. And when I was growing up, my siblings and I used to try to treat custard like a beverage! I didn’t think that “comfort beverages” sounded right though.

ANYWAY, this tart combines two of my loves – custard and tea. They’re delicious, comforting and… well, what more could you want? Both of them remind me of my dad. He loves traditional egg custard – just the smell of milk warming on the stove makes me think of him! He also introduced me to earl grey tea when I was a child…I hated it! I used to call it soap tea, no matter how much he espoused its merits!

Apple and rhubarb pie and produce

previewOver the weekend the boy and I went to Orange Grove Markets. I got what I needed and we grabbed a delicious bacon and egg roll for brekkie. It was a regular Sunday morning.

It wasn’t until we made our way to leave that I found this amazingly oversized rhubarb. it was so ridiculously enormous that I made The Boy pose with it in several locations until I got a photo that did it justice. (If you don’t follow me on instagram and wish to see important updates such as my giant rhubarb, click here.)

Chocolate tart with raspberry poached pear

sneakIt just so happened that I came into a large amount of pears over the weekend. It was like my inheritance came in the form of pears. It was delightful.

The only problem is, pears do not last forever. And there are only so many pears one can eat before they start turn brown and mushy.

So I started brainstorming pear-based recipes. I’ve already blogged about my ridiculous love of pears and the many recipes I include them in, so I needed to think up some more plans. This post was a French-inspired one. I love everything about France. I love the people, I love the accents, I love their gardens, their buildings, their art, their FOOD.

Honey pots de creme and Valentines

meringuesOn the weekend I posted some sweet little chocolate meringue morsels and promised an even sweeter dessert to accompany them. This is what you’ve been waiting for with baited breath (ha!) – honey pots de crème.

I’m slightly in love with pots de crème. They tend to combine a whole lot of cream with other, equally bad for you delicious ingredients; kind of like a custard that you can alter to be any flavour your little heart desires.

The first pots that I posted were Nutella, and they will always hold a special place in my heart, but these honey pots are a close second. They’re a super sweet idea for your Valentine’s day dessert (if you celebrate V-Day) OR they would be great to serve if you were having Winnie the Pooh over to dinner.

Christmas musings

custardIt’s been four days since Christmas and I’ve finally worked up the energy to write a blog post. I love the laziness that the Christmas period engenders. Abundant leftovers means that dinners are cobbled together, time off work means that everyone is socialising, and said socialising and leftovers leaves people feeling pooped.

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This is just a little recap of all things Christmas-related, and a hint of things to come.

In the lead up to Christmas I made dad’s famous Christmas pudding with him (it’s a yearly tradition), you can find the recipe here.

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I also experienced some Swedish Christmas cooking and attended a Swedish Christmas eve party, which was delicious!

uncooked

jam

caramel

I also dropped (and broke) my computer at the same time that I was busy baking up a Christmas storm. I didn’t get to post all of my Christmas recipes as a result, but will save them for another time.

I had a recipe card done up for me by house.com.au, and am very excited about it! I hope to continue working with House in the future.

Christmas day was held at my family’s home; Norman was very festive, there was food galore, we had a Christmas tree inside, and one decorated outside as well.

sausage

shameless selfie

lollies

Mum made a gorgeous mango and lychee salad and I promise that I’ll steal the recipe from her before Summer ends.

mango

I consumed far too much of the glorious Christmas pudding that we’d made, and found one of Simone Walsh’s adorable pudding coins in my piece!!

merry coin

The final winner of my teapot competition has been in touch, and all will be sent off tomorrow! The other three winners were announced here, but Gemma had a busy Christmas period and accepted her teapot only recently.

redGemma won the red teapot because of her enthusiastic response – she associated the colour red with my nurses uniform – I love my career, would never do anything else! My granny shopping trolley that I had to purchase at the good food and wine show, you gotta love it for helping carry shopping up 6 flights of stairs!!!
My Harrods Christmas bauble, has set the theme for this year’s decs #obsessedbychristmas”

Christmas time is a big deal in my family, and I love sharing my recipes, decorations and experiences with my readers. I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas!

Christmas and pudding

expertMy claim to this pudding is not all-encompassing; it’s mine, but it’s not. It’s my dad’s. And it’s his mum’s. And it belonged to Quirks before her. This pudding is so deliciously entrenched in my family’s Christmas celebrations that I can’t imagine the festive season without it. So I’ve enlisted number one pudding expert, Neil Quirk to help with this post.

My family does, however, have a claim to Christmas. We don’t do it by halves. We love fairy lights and we have a colour theme for our Christmas tree every year. We also have a real Christmas tree (which I didn’t realise was that unusual until about five years ago, when I discovered that most people have to store their Christmas trees away in a box come January, whereas ours is chopped up and thrown into the garden as compost!) I feel as though my mother darling and I have done a particularly splendid job this year – we have an inside AND outside Christmas tree which is a first.

nativityAnd we have a babushka-style nativity scene.  This makes me happy.

Everything about Christmas is magical, and I like to think that the experience of this pudding is kind of magical too. From the very start, where you bloat your fruit with alcohol, to the mixing in of coins and the lighting of the brandy sauce, this pudding is Christmas.

Makes one 4kg pudding, which serves 30-40

  • 1 unbleached calico  or cotton cloth (about 80cm square)
  • 2 lengths of cotton string
  • 450g raisinsbloated
  • 450g currants
  • 450g mixed fruit
  • 50g glace cherries
  • 150ml rum or brandy
  • 450g butter
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 8-10 eggs
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g blanched, chopped almonds
  • 225g dried breadcrumbs
  • ¼ tsp bicarb
  • 1 pinch salt

mixI’m going to preface this recipe with a warning – you need quite a large bowl to mix this colossal pudding in, and you’ll need an even bigger pot to steam it in. The traditional Quirk family pudding is mixed by hand (which can get quite greasy and sticky in the hot Australian December weather), but you have my permission to use a wooden spoon.

You also need to leave the fruit to imbibe overnight. Pop all of the fruit into a large bowl and pour your rum or brandy over it. Mix well, then cover with cling wrap and leave overnight (or for a few days if you have time.)

dryThe next day, cream your butter and brown sugar together. Add in the chopped almonds and then the lemon rind, mixing thoroughly. Beat your eggs in a separate bowl and add them into the mixture.

At this point in time, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Add your calico or cotton cloth to the water to sterilise it. Leave it to bubble away for at least ten minutes.

coins

If you’re using pudding coins, pop them in to sterilise as well for ten minutes as well. My dad uses genuine sixpences from the Perth mint, but I stumbled across these beauties from jeweller, Simone Walsh and bucked tradition slightly by using them instead of the sixpences.

spoonAdd the flour, nutmeg, spices, breadcrumbs, bicarb and salt and to the mixture and combine. Spoon the alcohol-bloated fruit into the dry ingredients, mixing as you go, until all of the fruit is mixed in.

Grab a colander and take the sterilised items off the boil. Remove the cloth (and coins if you’re using them) from the water. Spread your cloth evenly across the colander and sift a thin layer of flour over the cloth. This flour will form the skin on the pudding.

coinPop the coins into the mixture now, if you’re using them. Each person in my family gets to put a coin in the mixture and make a wish, it’s a tradition. You toss the pudding in and then mix it. It’s dorky, but I love it.

Spoon your mixture onto the cloth in the middle of the colander, it should take on the rounded shape of the colander. When all the mixture is in the colander, cut two medium lengths of cotton string. Take each of the four corners of the cloth and bring them up to make a central stem at the top of the pudding.

You may need to jiggle the mixture slightly to make the mixture rounded and pudding shaped. wrapTake one piece of string and tie a knot  as tightly as possible as close to the base of the stem as possible (it’s easier if you ask for a helper at this point in times. Wind the string around the base a second time, and tie it again.

double knotAbout 4cm up from the initial knot, repeat the double knot process, but make a loop on the top one for hanging.

Fill your kettle several times and pour the boiled water into your boiler (my dad uses an ancient antique electric clothes copper, but you can just use a large soup pot.) Thread a stick or long wooden spoon through the loop that you left in the top not and rest it across the pot, so that your pudding is suspended. Boil for 7-8 hours, topping up the boiled water (so that the pudding stays submerged) and then hang it from the ceiling until Christmas day.

submergeOn Christmas day, boil for 2-3 hours before serving. Peel wet cloth off , invert the pudding, and place it on a large plate. Top with holly for garnish (real or fake, either works), and serve with lashings of cream or custard. If you want to be extra showy, warm 100ml of brandy in the microwave, set it alight, and pour it over the pudding just before serving!

Warn guests to be on the lookout for your pudding coins. It’s supposed to be good luck if you find a coin in your pudding piece…I can only imagine it would be bad luck if you swallowed one!
Neil’s tips:

  • This pudding can be made on Christmas Eve, or up to 2 months in advance.above The longer the pudding hangs, the more time the flavours have to develop and intensify. That’s not to say that it won’t be delicious if you make it on Christmas Eve though!
  • Calico is a sturdier option for pudding making, and can be used to make puddings year after year.
  • sliceHang pudding in a dry, well-ventilated space to inhibit the growth of mould on the outside of the cloth as it is hanging. Check pudding every few days to ensure that all parts of pudding and cloth have sufficient ventilation.
  • If you hang your pudding for a number of days, the fruit will dehydrate and
    give the pudding a dimpled appearance that you’ll be able to see through the cloth. Don’t worry, they’ll re-hydrate when you boil it for the second time.
  • moneyDon’t use modern coins in your pudding. Pre-decimal threepence and sixpence coins have a higher silver content – they’re purer and won’t tarnish, whereas modern coins will turn mouldy and green because they react with the acids in the mixture.

 

Side note: my teapot giveaway ends at midnight tonight!! Enter before it closes!

Gluten free chocolate lasagne and layers

NormanThis weather is all about layers. The torrential rain means that you need about 12 waterproof layers to stay dry. The cold snap means you need several layers underneath your waterproof layers to stay warm. It is a well-documented fact that Norman (and most sausage dogs), regardless of the weather, love being in the middle of a few comfy layers.

So it was only natural that my food would begin to mimic these layers. It is with great delight that I present to you: chocolate lasagne.

Chocolatey chocolate tart and leftover egg yolks

yolkEgg yolks have so much potential.

I hate to waste a good egg yolk because of this potential. I also hate the idea of letting good food go to waste!

This is a great way to use up egg yolks after you’ve made meringues. I made some pretty spooky meringues for Halloween (as you may or may not have seen on my Instagram) so I had five egg yolks to play with. This recipe didn’t use them all up, but it got rid of four and Norman enjoyed lapping up the final yolk!

edgeI took the meringues and this tart to a Halloween party. I say party, but it was better than that – it was a group of my friends watching Hocus Pocus and eating yummy food. The tart works with out without meringue ghosts, in case you were wondering.

Chocolate Nutella pots de crème and chilly weather

Chilly weather is making me fat. I’m staying indoors, seeking out sugar and becoming too attached to the heater. Luckily, chocolate Nutella Pots de crème are not as indulgent as you would imagine. Below a dark layer of chocolatey thickness is a paler, lighter substance…I feel less bad about eating them because they’re not too rich, they’re just right.

These little devils are less posh than they sound. The French vibe they give off is enough to wow dinner guests, but they’re super simple…not to mention delectable! They’re basically a chocolate custard pudding thing – do labels matter? If people ask, just say they’re made entirely of delicious ingredients, they don’t need a name.

You can throw them together in 15 minutes and leave them in the oven to do their work. Pop them in the fridge while you eat mains, and they’re ready to be devoured! They’re adaptable enough to be served alongside a three course dinner, but  will fit neatly along side a casual Sunday lunch menu. Serve them with berries to dress them up, or chuck a spoon straight into them to give them a laid back scruffy feel.

Do what you please, just make sure you lick the bowl.

Chocolate Nutella pots de Crème (aka deliciousness in a ramekin)nom

  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups cream
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2/3 cup nutella
  • 50g chocolate

Preheat your oven to 170°C. Resist the urge to eat the Nutella. Find six ramekins or oven-safe tea cups (I’ve gone for a mix of both because two of my Nanna’s darling ramekins have broken over time.)nutella

Mix together your egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Set them to one side.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate down and add the Nutella. Once you add the Nutella in it should be thicker and glossier. Once again, resist the urge to eat the Nutella from the jar.  Mix the chocolate and Nutella until no lumps remain. Add your cream and milk in and turn up to medium so that it combines. Keep stirring.

Boil your kettle now, you’ll need hot water to surround the filled ramekins later.

mixThe mixture will be speckled, so you need to keep on stirring for about ten minutes. You don’t want speckled pots de crème! Once the mixture is an even colour (with no more speckles) slowly add the egg mixture in. Make sure the chocolate mixture isn’t too hot, you don’t want to cook the sugary egg!

Once all the egg mixture is incorporated, whisk the mixture over heat for five minutes, allowing it to bubble and thicken slightly.

Divide the mixture among the ramekins. If you’re a messy pourer like me, wipe the edges so there are no sloppy bits. Place the ramekins in a baking tray and carefully pour the hot (not boiling) water into the tray, about half way up the ramekins.drop

with water
groupPop them in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. If you can gently press the top of the chocolate without it wobbling too much, they’re done. Put them back in the oven if you’re not 100% sure, the water means that it’s really hard to burn them. This style of cooking also ensures that your mixture is super silky and smooth. When they’re out of the oven, allow them to cool and place them in the fridge until they’re ready to serve.

shavingsUse a vegetable peeler to cover your pots de crème with shavings of chocolate – enjoy!spoon in