Jam session

[Recipe 1] FEIJOA, QUINCE and ROSEWATER JAM transforms into

I’ve been on a jam-making frenzy! “It smells like the doughnut van at the footy” said the husband, and I could only take that as a huge compliment.
Feijoa, quince and rosewater jam is one of my favourite conserve creations to date. I adore feijoas! If you’re unfamiliar with them, they’re a little like a musky guava in taste, with a dash of watermelon and kiwi. They have a short season and are tricky to find, so when my friend Janet dropped off a bag recently I was one happy lady!
I usually stew feijoas with apples, but decided to give feijoa jam a try. Honestly it was as if the stars had aligned as within two days of my jam-making decision I discovered the important reference tool ‘Making men happy with jams and jellies’, published in 1930 and part of the beautiful Little Blue Book series. I also scored lemons from my mum and even styling props in the form of pink paper doilies (from my delightful 7-year old niece ‘especially for your blog’) and pink roses from my neighbours.
I love a robust, zesty jam and was concerned feijoas might be a little delicate in flavour and colour on their own, so decided to chuck in some quinces. Quinces have a similar season to feijoas, and they’re natural partners; both being quite fragrant – almost perfumey – and somewhat exotic. Quinces turn a beautiful ruby red colour after cooking too, which is a fab bonus!
I was so chuffed with how the jam turned out! After giving most of it away as gifts, I made a second batch the following week, reserving some for a pretty damn amazing Middle Eastern style Spiced Linzer Torte we’ve served up to two groups of dinner guests recently. I heavily tweaked the Hairy Bikers recipe, using more flour as I found their mixture a little wet. I also doubled the jam, added lemon zest and cloves (traditional Linzer Torte ingredients); and swapped the cinnamon for cardamom, which pairs beautifully with quinces and feijoas. Lastly, I lined the top edge with flaked almonds, both to hide the scrappy pastry joins and add a bit of crunch. Absolutely bloody delicious, even if I do say so myself!
I’m signing off with a poem by Dougall from Episode 19 of the Magic Roundabout:
“Life is for living.

Jam is for giving.
Love should be spread.
And I’m off to bed.”

Feijoas and quincesFeijoa and quince jam. One Equals Two[Recipe 1] Feijoa, quince and rosewater jam

Ingredients (makes 1.8 kilos/about 4 lb jam):
5 firm quinces (about 1.2–1.3 kilos/2½–2¾ lb)
½ cup (125ml) lemon juice (from 2 medium lemons)
10 cups (2.5 litres) water
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 2 medium lemons)
4 cups (800g/1¾ lb) sugar

8 feijoa (about 500g/1 lb), peeled and chopped
2 small firm pears (about 300g/10½ oz), peeled, cored and chopped into small cubes
1 teaspoon rose water

Rinse and scrub the quinces. Place into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with the lemon juice and water. Boil, covered, for 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the quinces in the syrupy liquid for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
Remove quinces with a slotted spoon and place on a board, reserving the liquid. Add lemon zest and sugar to the liquid and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 1–2 minutes, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Peel off the quince skins. Core quinces and chop roughly. Place into the prepared liquid as you go, to prevent discolouring. Add the feijoa and pear.
Bring to the boil, turn down heat and simmer rapidly, for 1½–2 hours, uncovered, until thick. Stir occasionally, and enjoy watching it turn ruby red right before your eyes! Keep a close eye on the jam towards the end of the cooking process, to ensure it doesn’t stick and burn.
Give the jam 3 whizzes with a stick blender.
Add rose water and simmer for a further two minutes. Remove jam from the heat.
Test to check the jam is ready. Place a small ceramic plate in the freezer for 5 minutes. Spoon a heaped teaspoon of jam onto the plate and return to the freezer for two minutes. If the jam sets and forms a skin it is ready! If the jam is runny and can be poured off the plate, return the saucepan to the stovetop and simmer jam for a further ten minutes, stirring constantly. Test again.
Divide the jam amongst hot, sterilised jars.
Reserve 500g (1 lb) jam for the Spiced Linzer Torte.
Store remaining jam in a cool, dark place.

  • Use good quality fruit that is firm and not over-ripe. Fully ripened fruit contains less pectin, the substance that makes jams set. It’s best to use your fruit as soon as possible after buying or picking.
  • I always add a couple of pears to my jams as they’re high in pectin. This will help achieve a good set even if your hero fruit is beginning to over-ripen.
  • Rose water can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores. If you have roses in your garden, you can make your own! Rose water is beautiful sprinkled on khoshaf (Middle Eastern dried fruit salad).
  • Resist the desperate urge to enjoy your jam immediately! Allow it to further firm up for at least 24 hours, preferably longer, before using.
  • Jam in properly sterilised jars will keep in a cool, dark place for up to ten months. Refrigerate after opening.

Making men happy with jams and jelliesFeijoa, quince and rosewater jam. One Equals TwoSpiced Linzer Torte with quince jam. One Equals Two

[Recipe 2] Spiced Linzer torte

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
175g (6 oz) almond meal

175g (6 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
200g (1⅓ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest, chopped (from 1 lemon)
⅛ teaspoon sea salt
175g (6 oz/1½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg, lightly beaten
500g (1 lb) reserved Feijoa, quince and rosewater jam (see recipe 1)
Egg wash (1 egg yolk, whisked with 1 teaspoon milk)
50g (1.7 oz) flaked almonds
Icing sugar, for dusting

Process almond meal, sugar, cardamom, cloves, flour, lemon zest and salt until combined. Add the cubes of butter and process until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add egg and process until dough just comes together.
Transfer to a bowl (it will look quite crumbly, don’t worry). Knead lightly into a ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Grease a 3cm (1″) deep, 25cm (10″) fluted tart tin, with removable base.
With a sharp knife, cut off one third of the dough (about 260g/9 oz) and roll out between two pieces of baking paper to make a rectangle approx. 25cm x 18cm (10″ x 7″) , and 3mm (.1″) thick. This is for the top layer of pastry strips. Slide onto a tray and pop in the fridge.
Roll the larger piece of dough between two pieces of baking paper into a piece large enough to line the base and sides of the pan, about 5mm (.2″) thick. Carefully press the dough onto the base and up the sides of the prepared pan, trimming off the excess. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, covered in cling film.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Blind bake the pastry: cover pastry base and sides with baking paper. Cut two 6cm/2½” high strips of foil and fold over the sides of the tin to prevent the top edge of the pastry from burning. Fill lined tart case with pastry weights (or uncooked rice) and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove paper, foil and weights. Bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Spread cooled pastry base evenly with reserved Feijoa, quince and rosewater jam.
Remove smaller piece of dough from fridge and, using a sharp knife or pastry wheel, cut into 1½cm (.6″) wide strips. Carefully place strips diagonally over jam to form a criss-cross pattern. Press the edges to seal, and trim off excess.
Very lightly brush pastry strips and outer top edge of pastry with egg wash. Arrange flaked almonds around the edge of the torte, brushing with egg wash here and there. Use an outward movement to prevent the nuts sticking to the brush – ‘wipe’ the brush as if you’re removing paint!
Bake torte for 25–30 minutes, until pastry is pale golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan, then carefully remove and slide onto a serving plate.
Dust Linzer torte lightly with icing sugar, cut into wedges and serve.
[Recipe loosely adapted from the Hairy Bikers]

I’m bananas over you!


It’s Valentines Day tomorrow, an occasion that brings together two of my great loves; anthropomorphised fruit and food puns! Below are a couple of puntastic vintage Valentines Day banana cards, dredged from this flickr collection.
While we’re on the subject of bananas, may I slip (‘scuse yet another pun) into a beautiful natural banana ice cream recipe? It’s a departure from my usual 1=2 theme, but I just had to share it.
You’ll no doubt have a few over-ripe rock hard bananas lurking in your freezer, and once you’ve tried this ice cream, banana cake will be a thing of the past. It’s even better than a Barney Banana, and it has no added sugar.
Processing frozen bananas isn’t my original idea; in fact you can even purchase a special machine for the job. A hardy food processor will perform the task perfectly though, and adding a touch of yogurt or coconut cream makes for a smoother, creamier consistency.
A whipped frozen banana is a thing of great beauty, so rich and silky. Quite honestly, it tastes exactly like ‘real’ ice cream. We’ve been experimenting during Melbourne’s heatwave and have come up with some fab flavour combinations. Methinks the pink one in particular would make a sweet Valentines Day treat for your loved one. My lovely 6 year old, and chief taste tester along with his older brother, can attest to how delicious this stuff is, and one serve contains a whole banana. So ap-peeling!

Natural banana ice creamBanana and mango ice creamBanana and pineapple ice creamBanana and raspberry ice creamNatural frozen banana ice cream, 4 ways

Tips: Peeling and cutting a frozen banana is an easy way to lose a finger. Be careful! I like to cut them in half first, which provides a flat base for easier removal of the skin. Use a sharp knife to take off the skin in downward slices. Bananas can also be peeled first, and frozen nude in a ziplock bag. I tend to throw them into the freezer whole though, as their skin functions as natural packaging!
The riper the banana, the sweeter the ice cream.
Ice cream can be eaten immediately, or popped back in the freezer for an hour for extra firming.
Frozen banana ice cream is best eaten on the day it is made as it will begin to discolour. Frozen leftovers are a lovely addition to a smoothie though.
There are beautiful vanilla yogurts with no added sugar available in Australia; my favourites being Jalna, Evia and 5:am.

Number 1: Banana ice cream (2 ingredients)
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup vanilla yogurt (frozen, if time permits)
Place bananas and yogurt into food processor. Whiz until smooth. Serve as is, or spoon ice cream into a plastic bag with the corner cut off, and pipe into an ice cream cone (pictured). Serves 4.

Number 2: Mango Tango ice cream
1 mango, peeled, chopped and frozen
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup vanilla yogurt
Shredded coconut to decorate
Chop up the frozen mango pieces, and place into food processor with bananas and yogurt. Whiz until smooth. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Serves 4–5.

Number 3: Tropical ice cream (vegan)
1 cup chopped frozen pineapple
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup natural coconut cream, frozen in an ice cube tray
Chop up the frozen pineapple pieces, and place into food processor with bananas and coconut cream blocks. Whiz until smooth. This blend takes a little longer to become smooth. It’ll look quite dry to start with, then will miraculously begin to swirl into a heavenly creamy concoction right before your eyes. Serves 4–5.
Note: Check coconut cream ingredients – many tinned varieties contain thickeners and preservatives. Look for ‘100% natural’ on the label.

Number 4: Banana Berry ice cream
1 cup (125g punnet) frozen raspberries
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
Place raspberries, bananas and yogurt into your food processor. Whiz until smooth. Taste for sweetness and add maple syrup if desired. Whiz again. Serves 4–5.

Vintage Banana Valentines

A fruitful venture

transforms into

May I suggest an excellent Christmas gift idea, perhaps for your parents or in-laws? A food tour! The CAE has a fab list of culinary walks and tours, and I can’t wait to head off on a mushroom hunting expedition with my mum next year. The husband and I took my mother-in-law on a food tour of Sydney Road 12 years ago. It was surprisingly intriguing playing tourist on one of our favourite streets, and I learned the technique for making khoshaf from our guide.
Khoshaf is a traditional Middle Eastern dried fruit salad; made by soaking, rather than stewing, dried fruit in water overnight with fragrant rosewater and spices. I dished it up to my lovely lady friends for breakfast, on our recent holiday in Trentham. A country vacation is not complete without enamelware, and I was rapt to discover 2 classic enamel picnic plates among the unmatched crockery – see my first photo below.
I’m not a fan of overly sweet fruit for breakfast, so although authentic khoshaf includes sugar, I’ve found using a mixture of water and orange juice adds just enough sweetness. Khoshaf usually includes nuts too, but I omit these and serve the fruit with my honeyed nuts on the side instead. The plump fruit and crunchy nuts go beautifully with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Such a lip-smackingly healthy way to start the day!
I made another batch of khoshaf recently, determined to see if I could transform it into a second meal, and lo and behold it morphed into the most addictive Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins. My boys loved these, and I’m both embarrassed and proud to say we ate the lot in one day. I’ve since made another batch, and placed them directly in the freezer.
I used my own go-to muffin recipe as the base. The 1½ cups of reserved dried fruit salad can be replaced with almost any fruit – see ingredients for my banana, coconut and lime muffins and carrot and sultana spice muffins in the recipe notes. I must say dried fruit salad is one of my most favourite muffin additions to date, and I may go and snaffle one from the freezer right now.

Khoshaf (dried fruit salad)[Recipe 1] Khoshaf (dried fruit salad) with honeyed nuts

Ingredients (makes approximately 4 cups):
150g (5¼ oz) dried apples, halved
200g (7 oz) dried apricots (or dried peaches, halved)
150g (5¼ oz) pitted prunes
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1½ cups freshly-squeezed orange juice (from 2 large oranges)
cups water
1½ teaspoons rose water
Honeyed nuts, to serve
Greek yogurt, to serve

Place dried fruit, cinnamon and star anise in a bowl. Bring orange juice and water to the boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the dried fruits and spices. Fruit should be well-covered with liquid, so add more boiling water if necessary. Sprinkle with rosewater.
Stir lightly. Steep overnight in the fridge, covered.
Serve with Greek yogurt, scattered with honeyed nuts.

♦ Reserve 1½ cups of the dried fruit salad for the orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins.

  • Dried fruit salad will keep in the fridge for up to one week. Add a little more boiling water if it begins to need more liquid.
  • You can use any dried fruit for this dish; such as figs, medjool dates, pears or large raisins. This recipe is a great way to use up all those bits and pieces languishing in your pantry. You’ll need a total of 500g (approx. 1 lb).
  • If the idea of dried apricots marinating in a pool of sulphites isn’t appealing, you can use organic apricots – the colour won’t be as vivid but the flavour will be just as fabulous.
  • Rose water can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores, such as Oasis or A1 Bakery. If you have roses in your garden, you can make your own. Leftover pure rosewater can be used as a natural face toner!

Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffinsOrange, mixed fruit, chia muffins

[Recipe 2] Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins

Ingredients (makes 12):
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
½ cup (50g) oat bran
3 tablespoons chia seeds

½ cup (100g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
60 grams (2 oz/½ stick) butter, melted, slightly cooled
1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad, drained, roughly chopped
¼ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Combine flour, oat bran, chia seeds and sugar in a large bowl.
Lightly whisk buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix lightly until just combined.
Add reserved dried fruit salad, orange juice and zest and fold together gently until just combined (a few floury lumps are perfectly fine). Don’t over-mix, or you’ll end up with tough muffins! Divide mixture among 12 lined muffin pans.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow to cool in tray for ten minutes, then turn onto racks to cool completely.

  • Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days – they remain surprisingly moist. If you’re frightened you may polish off the lot in one sitting, they can be frozen for up 2 months and thawed overnight in the fridge.
  • This muffin recipe is easy to vary:
    Banana, lime and coconut muffins: Replace the 1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad with 1 cup mashed banana (you’ll need 2 large very ripe bananas) and ½ cup shredded dried coconut. Replace the orange juice and zest with lime juice and lime zest. Sprinkle with extra shredded coconut.
    Carrot and sultana spice muffins: Add ½ teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the dry ingredients. Replace the 1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad with 1 cup grated carrot (you’ll need 2 large carrots) and ½ cup sultanas.


We’re in the middle of the School holidays and have had a blast so far – lots of crafting including tin can telephones and puppet-making, saw Monsters University (loved it, although it wasn’t a patch on Monsters Inc), playdates, a couple of scootering adventures, visited Scienceworks and Collingwood Children’s Farm, and we’re off to the zoo on Friday.
We’ve also been on a ball-making frenzy. Melbourne is awash with energy balls, with almost every cafe and health store around here pimping their own version. Jill Dupleix wrote a great article about them in Epicure recently. Her supplied recipe looks delicious, and was the inspiration for mine; but the biggest problem with all the energy ball recipes I’ve come across is that they contain nuts. My mission was to create some that could be used in the kid’s lunchboxes next week (their school has a nut-free policy).
My Nut-free raw chocolate energy balls are amazeballs! To be honest, like this post, they were part of a failed planned-overs experiment. My intention was to make cookies from a portion of the energy ball mixture but they just bloody well didn’t work! I really wanted to share the balls recipe though, as they’re so good. They come pretty close to truffles in texture, but they’re actually healthy. Lightly sweetened with honey, lots of dried fruit and seeds and, one of my favourite indulgences, pure organic cacao powder. If you’ve not used it before, you can buy it and check out all the health benefits here – you’ll never go back to ordinary cocoa powder again.
Both my boys gave these balls the thumbs up, as did the husband. Enjoy!
Footnote, April 2014: We’ve been experimenting with different ingredients for the past few months. A recent favourite has been ‘bliss logs’; a mixture of medjool dates, dried apricots, currants, coconut oil, good quality cocoa powder, rolled oats and a dash of maple syrup, rolled into coconut-covered logs (you can see them in my facebook post on April 2nd). Delish!

Nut-free chocolate energy ballsNut-free raw chocolate energy balls

Ingredients (makes 15 large energy balls):
100g (3½ oz) sunflower seeds

50g (1¾ oz) fine desiccated coconut
60g (2 oz) raw powdered cacao
60g (2 oz) organic coconut oil, melted
60g (2 oz) organic honey

85g (3 oz) craisins (dried sweetened cranberries)
5 medjool dates (100g/3½ oz), pitted and chopped
100g (3½ oz) pitted prunes, chopped
Approx. ¼ cup fine desiccated coconut, extra, for rolling

Process sunflower seeds until you have a fine meal. Add all other ingredients except the extra coconut and process until completely combined and smooth.
Refrigerate the mixture for about 15 minutes to make it easier to handle. Roll the refrigerated mixture into approx. 15 golf-ball sized balls and roll in the extra coconut. Refrigerate for at least one hour before eating. Yum!
[Recipe loosely adapted from Jill Dupleix]

  • Craisins can be replaced with dried goji berries, soaked for one hour in hot water and very well drained. You can also add chia seeds and/or sesame seeds.
  • Raw powdered cacao can be found at health food stores or online from Loving earth. Replace with good quality cocoa powder if unavailable.
  • Organic coconut oil is available from health food stores. It’s cold-pressed, and well worth the expense, being rich in short-medium chain fatty acids (these are good fatty acids, unlike long chain fatty acids) fibre, vitamins and minerals. You can read more about it here. Copha, the supermarket variety, is hydrogenated, refined and bleached. AWFUL!
  • Coconut oil can be melted by placing the required quantity in a bowl and sitting it in a sink of warm water until liquified.
  • Energy balls can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 weeks; or frozen for up to 3 months.

Just good friands


Happy Mother’s Day mamma readers. Are you doing anything special tomorrow? I’m looking forward to brekkie in bed and gifts from my son’s Mother’s Day stall at school (hoping for soap on a rope, just secretly).
This week I’m dishing up two pink recipes for Mother’s Day. First up is apple and rhubarb, stewed in pomegranate juice. The pomegranate juice adds a fab burst of pinkness and vitamins. Have also included instructions for seeding and juicing pomegranates. It’s pretty simple – slice them open, drop the chunks in water, furkle about for the seeds, and lightly blend them to extract the juice.
A friend gifted us a big bag of Loving Earth caramelised buckinis recently (thanks Danny!) which we sprinkled on top of the stewed fruit. They’re light and crispy, and absolutely delicious. Shhhh, they’re actually activated too, but I don’t want to risk saying that word out loud after the aftermath of the infamous Pete Evans interview, which had me spluttering into my coffee.
Reserve a cup of the stewed apple and rhubarb and you can make beautiful (even if I do say so myself) Gluten free apple, rhubarb and chia seed friands, perfect for Mother’s Day morning tea.

PomegranateStewed apple and rhubarb[Recipe 1] Apple and rhubarb stewed in pomegranate juice

Ingredients (makes approx. 6 cups):
4 tablespoons brown sugar 
½ cup (125ml) pomegranate juice (from 2 pomegranates)
8 large green apples (1½ kilos/3 lb), peeled, sliced thickly into 1cm (half-inch) slices
1 bunch (4 fat stalks) rhubarb, chopped into 2½ cm (1″) pieces

1 lemon, finely zested (about 1 tablespoon)
Greek yogurt, to serve (or try Good Cook’s home-made yogurt)
Caramelised buckinis, for sprinkling

Place the sugar and pomegranate juice in a large saucepan. Add apple slices, rhubarb and lemon zest and simmer, covered, over a low heat until apples are just tender and still holding their shape; and rhubarb is starting to break down; about 8–10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Allow to cool.
Reserve 1 cup of the stewed apple and rhubarb for the Gluten-free apple, rhubarb and chia seed friands.
Serve the stewed apple and rhubarb with Greek yogurt, scattered with caramelised buckinis.

  • Poached apple and rhubarb will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to one week; or can be frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Poached apple and rhubarb, pureed smooth, is great for kid’s lunchboxes. Keep it in little containers in the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • Caramelised buckinis are available from health food stores or online from Loving Earth. Replace with muesli if unavailable.
  • Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so don’t give them to your rabbits or guinea pigs!

Apple rhubarb friands

[Recipe 2] Gluten-free apple, rhubarb and chia seed friands

Ingredients (makes 10):
1⅓ cups (160g) icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
½ cup (75g) buckwheat flour
1½ cups (180g) oven-roasted almond meal (ground almonds)
2 tablespoons chia seeds

5 egg whites, unbeaten
185 grams (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup (60g) chopped walnuts

♦ 1 cup reserved stewed apple and rhubarb, large apple pieces roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Lightly oil a ten-cup capacity friand tin (or 10 petite loaf pans).
Sift icing sugar and flour into a large bowl. Add almond meal and chia seeds and stir until combined.
Add the unbeaten egg whites and melted butter and stir until well-combined. Fold through the walnuts and reserved stewed apple and rhubarb.
Spoon mixture into prepared friand tin and bake for 15–18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of one.
Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Sprinkle with extra icing sugar if desired.

  • Oven-roasted almond meal is a recent discovery of mine and it’s fabulous, so nutty and flavoursome. It is available at large supermarkets. Replace with traditional almond meal if unavailable.
  • You can replace the stewed apple and rhubarb with poached apple and feijoia for a change. 
  • Unlike muffins, friands will keep fresh and moist in a covered container for up to 3 days.
  • Egg whites are unbeaten for friands – don’t whisk them or the texture will change!

She’ll be apples

[Recipe 1] APPLE, LIME and COCONUT CAKE transforms into 
The School holidays have come to an end and I’m back on the school lunch and kid ferrying treadmill. We didn’t get up to anything fancy, but there was quite a bit of bike-riding, crafting and baking. Took the boys to a Bruno Munari mask-making workshop at Rae Ganim’s fabulous store. Munari is one of my biggest design crushes. His incredible book Circus in the Mist is one of my most treasured possessions (you can scroll through it here), and his kid’s book ABC was well-thumbed when my sons were little.
My boys and their Munari-inspired masks are shown in photos 9 and 11, and below! In the first photo on the Ganim store website you can also catch a glimpse of the exhibition they hosted, Hot Potatoes, with 40 artist’s interpretations of Mr Potato Head. Just gorgeous! There are more great photos of the show on one of my favourite Melbourne blogs, handmadelife. Check out Beci Orpin’s cutie.
My boys love baking and this moist Apple, lime and coconut cake we made for morning tea on the School holidays was a winner. We’ve been making variations of this cake for years – it’s also fab made with pear. The sweet, buttery aroma that fills the house as you bake it is an added bonus, as is the batch of fab Mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts (donuts). When my boys were toddlers I was a purist-mum and fully-fledged member of the food police. Nary a grain of sugar passed their little lips. I’m still a carrot cake/muesli slice kind of gal, but now the boys are strapping lads, I say there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sugar-rolled doughnut, especially if it’s home-made and full of apple! These are delicious and much lower fat than regular doughnuts as they’re baked, not fried. We like to call them no-nuts.
The cake is best baked separately from the mini doughnuts. You can bake the cake first, but we usually cook the doughnuts first, and slice the apples for the cake while we’re waiting.
Enjoy the rest of the week folks.

Bruno Munari masksApple coconut and lime cake[Recipe 1] Apple, lime and coconut cake

185g (6 oz/1½ sticks) butter, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
3 eggs
2½ cups (375g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
¾ cup milk
¾ cup (70g) moist flaked coconut
3 peeled apples (any variety); 2 grated, 1 very thinly sliced
1 lime, zested and juiced 
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Beat butter, vanilla and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
Add flour gradually, alternating with milk, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Stir in the coconut and two grated apples.
♦ Reserve 2¼ cups (approx. 550g) of the apple cake batter for the Mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts.
To the remaining 3 cups (750g batter), stir in the lime zest. Pour into a lined 23cm (10-inch) round springform cake tin. Don’t worry if it looks like a small amount of batter. It will puff up as it bakes.
Place thinly sliced apple on top, drizzle with lime juice and scatter with brown sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack.

  • The apple, lime and coconut cake will keep well in a cake tin for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Baked apple coconut donuts

[Recipe 2] Mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts

2 tablespoons (30g/1 oz) butter, melted 
550g (about 2¼ cups) reserved apple cake batter

¼ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Grease 2 x 12-cup mini muffin pans with the melted butter.
Fill 20 muffin pans with reserved apple cake batter.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a doughnut.
Mix caster sugar and cinnamon together. Place hot cupcakes on a large plate. Scatter cinnamon sugar on top, and roll cupcakes around until well coated with cinnamon sugar.
Makes 20 mini doughnuts.

  • The mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts will keep well in a cake tin for up to 3 days. You’ll probably polish them off in one sitting though – we do! They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Easy squeezy

[Recipe 1] LEMON CURD transforms into
I spent a weekend at my sister’s house in beautiful Ocean Grove recently. She has a bulging lemon tree so I snaffled a bag to take home. I day-dreamed about potential lemon recipes as I drove home along Geelong Road (arguably the most boring stretch of tar in Victoria). Just as I reached the big smoke it came to me – Lemon curd!! The curd my friend Janet makes from her mum’s original recipe is my favourite. Lemon curd is a ripper recipe if you’re lucky enough to have chooks in the backyard and a lemon tree, as you’ll have the two main ingredients covered – eggs and lemon juice.
You can use lemon curd in soooo many different ways – drizzled over pancakes, sandwiched in a sponge cake, smeared on pikelets or plopped on top of Greek yoghurt or ice cream. It’s also a beaut gift to pass on to neighbours, friends and/or family AND, best of all, you can make heavenly (even if I do say so myself) Little lemon tarts with it too.
The crackling sugar topping on the tarts is of course optional, but I can’t stress enough how much fun can be had with a kitchen blowtorch. I found mine at Dalgarnos. A miniature gun that shoots fire – it’s of course my 8-year old’s most favourite, like totally awesome, kitchen gadget.

Lemon curd in a jar

Lemon curd in a bowl[Recipe 1] Lemon curd

375g (12 oz/3 sticks) unsalted butter
2¼ cups (560g) castor (superfine) sugar
1⅔ cups lemon juice, strained (6–8 lemons)
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
6 large eggs, plus 1 extra yolk, at room temperature, beaten

Place butter, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Stir over a low heat until butter has melted. Stir in lemon rind. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow to cool for ten minutes.
Carefully pour in the beaten eggs, whisking continuously with a hand-held whisk. Gradually return to a low heat and stir until thickened, for about 10–15 minutes. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools, so don’t worry if it’s not perfectly thickened. It should be the consistency of thin custard.
Place the hot lemon curd into sterilised jars. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.
Reserve 3 cups Lemon curd for the Little lemon tarts.
Makes 5½ cups.

  • Be careful when adding the eggs – if the eggs are too cold or the butter mixture is too hot, the eggs will curdle. If this does happen though, don’t panic. Press it through a fine sieve, then return it to a low heat and stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
  • Glass jars, lids and rubber rings can be sterilised by running them through your dishwasher on the hottest cycle, on the top shelf.
  • Lemon curd can be stored in sterilised jars, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

Little lemon curd tarts

[Recipe 2] Little lemon tarts

Half quantity sweet shortcrust pastry
2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
1 tablespoon cold water
3 cups reserved lemon curd (½ cup per tart)
Caster (superfine) sugar, for caramelising (optional)
Icing (confectioners) sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Roll out the sweet shortcrust pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper until quite thin, no more than 3mm (⅛-inch) thick. Line six 12cm (5-inch) lightly oiled shallow tart tins (with removable bases) with the pastry, gently pressing down into the edges, and trim to fit. Prick the bases with a fork. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to prevent shrinkage.
Blind bake the pastry to prevent it collapsing: cover pastry bases with baking paper and fill with pastry weights (or uncooked rice). Bake for 10 minutes. Carefully remove paper and weights. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until light golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a small bowl and allow to stand for about 5 minutes.
Add gelatin mixture to reserved lemon curd. Beat until just combined.
Divide curd amongst baked pastry shells. Refrigerate until firm, preferably overnight.
To caramelise the tops, sprinkle a generous layer of castor sugar over the tarts. Wave the flame of a kitchen blowtorch back and forth over the surface until the sugar is golden brown and caramelised. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Yum.
Makes 6 x 12cm tarts.

  • If you don’t own 12cm shallow tart tins, you can also use Texas-style muffin tins.

A sweet victory

[Recipe 1] POACHED APPLE and FEIJOA with HONEYED NUTS transforms into
I was given a bag of feijoas by my mum recently, and at first I had absolutely no idea what to do with them. I’ve seen the lady at our local fruit shop scoffing them raw, skin and all; but after a bit of experimenting, I’ve decided I prefer them stewed. They’re particularly yum poached together with green apples. I’d say feijoas are a cross between pineapple, guava and kiwi; so they lend a lovely exotic flavour to good old stewed apples, and their slightly odd pulpy texture magically disappears when cooked.
Oh, if you can’t find feijoas, or they’re out of season, you can omit them from these recipes and just use apples; or a mixture of apple and pear.
My first recipe is for yum Poached apple and feijoa with honeyed nuts. I’ve been making these nuts for years. We had a weekend away with friends a while ago and the husband and I were on brekkie duty. We plopped some good-quality yoghurt (I’m addicted to Evia) and poached fruit in big serving bowls in the middle of the table, and warmed some nuts on the stove-top with a dash of butter and honey. Pretty damn nice, and so much easier than cooking eggs and bacon for an army.
By reserving two cups of the poached apple and feijoa, you can also whip up a fab Gluten-free upside-down apple and feijoa ginger cake. My niece and brother-in-law are gluten-intolerant; and this cake went down a treat with them. It’s dense, moist, and not too sweet. I’ve been trotting it out around town recently; and have tested it on my parents, our workmate and a girlfriend; and also swapped a chunk with my neighbours for some home-made lemon cordial. Thanks for being my guinea pigs folks! The cooking time is a bit annoying, but I found it really needs a long bake on a low temperature to retain its moisture. Enjoy.

Poached feijoia with honeyed nutsPoached apple and feijoia

[Recipe 1] Poached apple and feijoa with honeyed nuts

Ingredients for the poached fruit (makes 8 cups):
3 tablespoons brown sugar
¾ cup water
10 large green apples (2 kilos/4 lb), peeled, sliced thickly into 1cm (½“) pieces
25 feijoas (1 kilo/2 lb), peeled, quartered
2 cinnamon sticks
For the honeyed nuts (makes 2 cups):
2 tablespoons honey
2–3 teaspoons butter
A good pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup slivered almonds
½ cup pinenuts
½ cup walnuts (or raw cashews), roughly chopped
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds (black or white)

Place the sugar and water in a large saucepan. Add apple slices and cinnamon sticks and simmer, covered, over a low heat until almost tender, and still holding their shape, about 8–10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add feijoas and simmer a further 5 minutes uncovered. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks.
Using a slotted spoon or tongs, reserve 2 cups poached apple and feijoa for the Gluten-free upside-down apple and feijoa ginger cake.
Meanwhile, make the honeyed nuts. Warm the honey and butter in a small saucepan. Add salt, cinnamon, nuts and seeds and stir over a low heat until well coated and sticky, about 2–3 minutes. Serve sprinkled over poached apple and feijoa, with yogurt if desired.

  • Poached apple and feijoa will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to one week.
  • Store honeyed nuts in the fridge, for up to 3 days.

  • Poached apple and feijoa, pureed smooth, is great for kid’s lunchboxes. Keep it in little containers in the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge.

Upside-down fejoia apple ginger cake

[Recipe 2] Gluten-free upside-down apple and feijoa ginger cake

Ingredients (serves 8-10):
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30g/1 oz) butter, melted
2 cups reserved poached apple and feijoa
180g (6 oz/1½ sticks) softened butter, extra
1¼ cups (200g) firmly-packed brown sugar, extra
4 large eggs
1 cup (360g) golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g (7 oz) Greek-style natural yoghurt
2 cups (300g) gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
½ teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat oven to 160°C (325ºF). Note: you’ll be covering the cake with foil part-way through cooking (see recipe).
Line a 25cm (10-inch) baking tin with baking paper.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons brown sugar over base. Pour two tablespoons melted butter over brown sugar.
Arrange poached apple and feijoa in a single layer over butter and sugar.
Cream extra softened butter and extra brown sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Add golden syrup and vanilla and beat well.
In a separate bowl, mix together flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ginger. Fold this into the cake batter, a little at a time, alternating with the yoghurt.
Spoon cake batter over the apple and fejoa and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Cover cake loosely with foil, return to oven, and bake for a further 30–40* minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
*Check it after 30 minutes, and if it’s still wobbly in the centre, pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.
Leave cake to cool in tin for 15 minutes then carefully invert onto a large plate.
Serve warm or at room temperature with cream, yoghurt or ice cream.

  • I’ve used both Core Organic Foods gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour, and Orgran. Both contain starch (maize, tapioca), soya and rice flour.
  • My test kitchen (ie. my lovely friend Janet) made this cake with non-gluten-free plain (all-purpose) flour, and it worked! So you can make it as a standard cake too.
  • The cake keeps well in a covered container for a few days. The flavour actually improves on standing, and it stays nice and moist.

For goodness cake

Use one batch of batter to make a cake and 12 muffins!
[Recipe 2] ABC MUFFINS
You’ll need four very ripe, large bananas for these two recipes so you may need to attach a ‘don’t eat me’ sticky note on them while they ripen. Using the same batter as the base for two different batches of baked treats is excellent in so many ways. It’s a cure for lunchbox fatigue, conserves energy (both your own and your oven’s) and it saves time and money.
The first recipe is for a delicious Banana honey cake. Reserve some of the batter (see the orange diamonds for quantities) and you can bake a batch of ABC muffins at the same time. A’ is for apple, ‘B’ is for banana and ‘C’ is for chocolate, although the ‘C’ ingredient can be easily varied (see tips).
These two recipes are a little different to my usual 1=2 meals as they can be cooked together. If you can’t fit the cake and muffins side by side in your oven, place the muffins on the middle shelf, and the cake below. When you remove the muffins after 25 minutes, move the banana cake up a shelf and continue baking.
Note: If your oven is not a good sharer, you can bake the cake first while you prepare the muffins.

Banana buttermilk cake

[Recipe 1] Banana honey cake

Ingredients (mixture makes 1 cake and 12 muffins):
250 grams (8 oz/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups (450g) caster (superfine) sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup (45g) honey
4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1¾ cups (260g) self-raising (self-rising) flour, sifted
1¾ cups (260g) wholemeal plain (wholewheat all-purpose) flour, sifted, bran returned to bowl
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
¾ cup (180ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Add vanilla, cinnamon and honey and beat well.
Fold in banana until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix together flours and bicarbonate of soda. Fold this into the cake batter, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.
Reserve half the honey banana cake batter, about 4 cups (approx. 950g), for the ABC muffins (see recipe 2 below).
Spoon remaining mixture into a lined 20cm (8-inch) square cake tin.
Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. The ABC muffins (see below) can be cooked at the same time.
Cut cake into thick slices and serve.

  • I like to mash my bananas with a stick blender so they’re beautifully smooth. This works well with the texture of the cake, which is as soft as a pillow thanks to the use of buttermilk.
  • The cake and muffins will keep for 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Both can also be frozen, with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months. Cut up the cake before freezing.

ABC muffins

[Recipe 2] ABC muffins

Ingredients (makes 12):
1 green apple, peeled and grated
2 heaped tablespoons oat bran
½ cup (85g) dark chocolate bits (or any of the other options suggested below this recipe)

4 cups (approx. 950g) reserved banana honey cake batter (see recipe 1)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Put apple, oat bran and chocolate bits into a large bowl.
Fold in reserved banana honey cake batter.
Divide mixture among 12 lined (or greased) muffin pans.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin.
Muffins can be cooked at the same time as the banana honey cake (see Recipe 1) – simply remove the muffins from the oven after 25 minutes (as quickly as possible so the oven doesn’t lose too much heat); and continue cooking the banana cake for a further 15–20 minutes. See extra cooking instructions in my post introduction.

  • You can play around with the ABC muffin recipe. ‘A’ is for apple, ‘B’ is for banana and ‘C’ is for chocolate, but there are many other ‘C’ ingredients that can be used for variety. Swap the chocolate for:
    ½ cup (65g) dessicated coconut OR
    1 medium grated carrot plus 1 extra tablespoon oat bran OR
    ½ cup (100g) currants OR
    ½ cup (100g) chopped cashews

A spicy Christmas

transform into [Recipe 2] FRUIT MINCE CRUMBLE SLICE
Nothing beats a plate of slightly wonky, buttery home-made Fruit mince pies with orange and cranberries. Making fruit mince is surprisingly easy. My recipe contains no suet (shudder) and no alcohol; just lashings of dried fruit with a hint of orange zest, soaked in orange juice and spices. Yum.
Half the fruit mince is reserved as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds) for recipe 2, my moreish Fruit mince crumble slice; which, if you have good self-control, you can put in the freezer for the kid’s lunchboxes in January!

Cranberry Christmas mince tarts

[Recipe 1] Fruit mince pies with orange and cranberries

Ingredients (makes 36 little pies, plus extra mince for Recipe 2):
½ cup (85g) craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
2 cups (300g) raisins, chopped
1 cup (150g) sultanas (golden raisins)
1 cup (150g) pitted prunes, chopped
2 large green Granny Smith apples, peeled, grated
½ cup (100g) firmly-packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon orange zest, finely chopped (1 large orange)
½ cup (125ml) orange juice
1 quantity sweet shortcrust pastry
1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing pastry
Icing sugar, to dust

Combine the craisins, raisins, sultanas, prunes, apple, brown sugar, spices, zest and juice in a bowl. Set aside, covered, in the fridge for at least 2 days (or up to one week) for flavours to develop. Stir once a day.
Remove 1½ cups of the fruit mince and blend until smooth, with a stick blender or food processor. Return to the bowl, and mix thoroughly into the fruit mince.
♦ Reserve half the fruit mince (1½ cups – about 450g/just under 1 lb) for the fruit mince crumble slice.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Roll out the shortcrust pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper until 3mm (⅛-inch) thick thick. Use a round 7cm (2¾-inch) diameter pastry cutter to cut 36 discs from the pastry. Lightly oil 3 x 12-hole shallow, round-based patty pans. Line the 36 patty pans with the pastry circles. Prick the bases with a fork. Bake for 8 minutes, until dry.
Re-roll leftover pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper until 2–3mm (⅛-inch) thick. Use a star-shaped 5cm (2-inch) diameter pastry cutter to cut 36 stars from the pastry. Spoon 1–2 heaped teaspoons of fruit mince into each pastry case. Top with pastry stars. Brush with egg wash. Bake for a further 12 minutes. Cool on wire racks. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

  • Fruit mince can be stored for up to one month in the fridge.
  • Fruit mince tarts can be frozen for up to 3 months, layered between sheets of baking paper in an airtight container. Thaw overnight at room temperature. Make and freeze them in October and be well-prepared for Christmas!
If you run out of fruit mince filling, and are facing a few empty pastry shells, make little jam tarts. Simply spoon chunky jam into the empty pastry shells and top with pastry circles.

Christmas mince slice

[Recipe 2] Fruit mince crumble slice

Ingredients (makes 24 squares):
Oat base:

250 grams (8 oz/2 sticks) butter, melted
¾ cup (150g) firmly-packed brown sugar
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 cup (100g) rolled oats
1½ cups (about 450g/just under 1 lb) reserved fruit mince
Crumble topping:
⅔ cups (185g) reserved oat base mixture (explained below)
¾ cup (75g) desiccated coconut
½ cup (70g) sunflower kernels, lightly crushed in mortar/pestle
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Make the oat base by placing the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add the flour and rolled oats and mix well.
Reserve ⅔ cups (185g) oat base mixture for the crumble topping.
Press the oat base mixture firmly into a lined 23cm (9-inch) x 33cm (13-inch) slice tin. Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until light golden. Allow to cool slightly.
Spread the reserved fruit mince over the base.
To make the crumble topping, stir the coconut, egg and sunflower kernels into the reserved oat base mixture. Scatter the crumble topping over the fruit mince. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden. Cool in the tin.
Cut into squares, and store in the fridge.

  • Fruit mince crumble slice can be frozen for up to 3 months. Layer squares between sheets of baking paper in an airtight container. Thaw overnight at room temperature.
  • My boys love this slice for morning tea at school, and using sunflower kernels keeps the slice nut-free (our school has a no-nuts policy); whilst adding nutty flavour and texture. Sunflower seeds rock as they’re packed with protein, fibre and vitamin E.