Flavourful flakiness

When I was little my sister and I frequented a convenience store nearby our house. The store was a kids' dream – full of an endless variety of candy. While I would often go for hard, sugary candies like 'gobstoppers', my sister typically went for a yummy pastry filled with jam and cream, aptly named ‘passion flakie’.

Over time I have also come to appreciate creamy, flaky pastry items. While I do sometimes crave the trashy flavours of a store-bought, plastic-wrapped dessert, most often I decide to recreate a fresh, somewhat healthier version at home.
So here it is – my version of the passion flakie. I used fresh rhubarb to make a rhubarb, ginger and raspberry compote for a much more adult and classy version of this dessert. I made a cream cheese filling; sweet, creamy and vanilla-flecked. I used puff pastry – store-bought because I didn’t have the time or energy to make puff pastry and well, I just don’t make it as beautifully as I would like to. Once assembled together, these delicious little puffs of cream and sweet-sourness were devoured by my husband – just a few left!

rhubarb, raspberry and ginger cream puffs
makes about 10 little puffs – depending on how generously you fill them!

1 package puff pastry
flour for dusting
icing sugar for sprinkling

300g rhubarb, cut into 2 inch pieces
100g raspberries – frozen is fine
1/2  tsp grated fresh ginger
250ml water
30g raw sugar
2 inch piece lemon peel
1/2 vanilla bean

cream cheese
125g low fat cream cheese
1tbsp thickened cream
1 tbsp dark agave syrup
juice of a lemon wedge

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C
For the pastry: dust surface with flour and roll out pastry.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out 8cm circles and place onto baking sheet lined with baking paper. Place tray of pastry in fridge while prepping other ingredients.
For compote: place all ingredients except raspberries into pot and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or until rhubarb is just soft. Take out rhubarb and add raspberries. Cook until thickened and raspberries have broken down. Add rhubarb back into pot and adjust for sweetness. Take off heat and let cool.
For cream cheese filling: bring cream cheese to room temperature, mix with other ingredients and place into fridge until ready to assemble.
Dust pastry with icing sugar and place into hot oven. Bake 5-6 minutes or until golden. Take out, let cool and slice through the middle to create two halves.  Assemble the puffs, first with a layer of cream and then compote, add the top layer and dust generously with icing sugar. Enjoy!


Cheese & Chutney

It’s cold in Sydney – OK, not freezing but still cold here, especially at night.  And somehow, despite my Canadian tolerance for seriously painful cold, I’ve become a wimp. My new inability to deal with cold keeps me indoors mostly - and what better thing to do when it’s chilly outside than to stay in, stay warm and eat.
The coldness urges me to grab a blanket, a glass of red wine and make a scrumptious snack of baked goat’s cheese with quince and pear chutney…so warming and decadent.
This baked cheese is awesome -- not just good but amazingly awesome. I’ve used the same recipes on other cheeses like camembert and brie – but goat’s cheese is a nice change. Full of flavours like garlic, rosemary and wine. It's creamy, gooey goodness.
Having some fruit sitting in my kitchen, I decided to make a quick chutney to go along with my cheese. Sweet and full of earthy tastes provided by sage and the spiciness added by peppercorns, the chutney was the perfect addition to the salty and smooth texture of the cheese.  The perfect night in...

baked goat’s cheese
serves 4-6 for a party

1 package of goat’s cheese (like goat brie) – you can also use standard brie or camembert
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsbp red wine – I used a full bodied cabernet
freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Take cheese out of package and place into small baking dish or foiled oven tray.  Using a knife, make a fair number of slits halfway into the cheese, making sure not to damage the rind too much.  Place a garlic slice and few pieces of rosemary into each little slit – carefully pushing down into the cheese.  Next, pour wine over the top, sprinkle with pepper and place into oven to bake for 10-15 minutes, or until oozing with delight!
Take out and serve with crackers and chutney

spiced quince and pear chutney

1 quince, peeled, cored and chopped 
2 small pears, peeled, cored and chopped
1 star anise
a few sage leaves shredded
1 sprig rosemary, take leaves off
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup water
1 wedge of lemon

Place all ingredients into medium sized pot and bring to a boil for a few minutes, reduce heat a little and let cook until flavours have blended and water has evaporated.  If not cooked enough, add more water to cook out until you reach desired consistency. Adjust for seasoning and that’s it. Let cool and serve with cheese and bread.  This chutney keeps for a few days in the fridge – unless you decide to preserve it. Enjoy!

Cold and creamy cups of custard

When you crave something creamy, sweet and smooth but also light, why not make some custard. Much like tapioca (see my earlier post) custard has a reputation as an old-school, boring pudding - but I disagree. Adding a bit of flavour and love can turn a plain egg custard into a
magical treat.
My custardly creation is based on a traditional crème caramel making process: I use a base of brown sugar caramel and then add a mix of delicious coconut cream, milk, eggs, dark agave syrup and lime zest. I bake my little pots of creamy goodness and then place them in the fridge to get a wonderfully wobbly but firm texture. 

baked coconut custards with lime
serves 6
*use organic where possible

1/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
pinch sea salt
270 ml coconut cream
200 ml low fat milk (any kind will do)
2 tbsp dark agave syrup (or a similarly sweet sweetner)
zest of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Add brown sugar to a small pot on medium heat and let caramelize.  Pour caramel into 6 ramekins and ensure it covers the bottom.  In a separate large bowl, beat 3 eggs, add coconut cream, milk, salt, and agave syrup and lime zest and mix well. Divide mix between ramekins and place into roasting tray – fill with 1inch of hot water (to create a water bath) and place into oven*.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until set.  Let cool and place into fridge.  To serve carefully tip out custards onto plate. Yum!

*note – I covered the custards with foil for half the baking time – if you don’t want any colour on the top, make sure to cover the whole time.

The greatness of gourds

Australians love their pumpkins and so do I (see here and here).  This orangey gourd is a commonly used ingredient all year round; it’s in sandwiches, pastas, desserts and my favourite – soups!  Pumpkin's sweet and creamy flesh lends a great thick texture and earthy touch to any dish.
Each time I make pumpkin soup I change my recipe.  This time, I roasted the pumpkin to caramelize the sugars, adding another layer of flavour.  Additional ingredients included apples, garlic, rosemary and caraway seeds – a spice that comes from the parsley family and has a very distinct flavour that goes well with hearty foods.  I use caraway for a number of recipes (a delicious one is my rye crispbreads).
This soup is easy to make and much healthier and fresher than any store-bought variety.  It only takes 40 minutes to make and it’s perfect for lunch or dinner.  In the spirit of using everything, I cooked the pumpkin with the skin (yes, this is edible - and full of fibre!) and used the toasted seeds for a garnish.  For a final touch I added a little umami flavour with red miso paste.  The miso provided a salty, sweet and earthy taste and was an excellent replacement for the stock I didn’t have!

roasted pumpkin and apple soup
makes 8 serves or more

1 kg pumpkin
2 pink lady apples (or any other sweet apple)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt and pinch of pepper
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp dried sage
3 cloves garlic – crushed
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tbsp red miso paste
3 cups (approx 700ml) water
1 cup milk (any kind you like)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C

Deseed pumpkin (reserve seeds) and apple and chop into small, even pieces.  In a bowl, add pumpkin, apple, olive oil, salt and pepper, rosemary, sage, garlic and caraway – mix well and place onto lined
baking sheet. 

Bake for 35 minutes or until pumpkin is soft.  Remove woody part of rosemary and garlic skins.  For ‘stock’ – in a bowl add 3 cups of boiled water to 2 tbsp miso paste and mix. Blend soup in portions –
adding 1 cup of miso water at a time to pumpkin and apple mix (this helps to ensure that you use the right amount of water – not too watery, not too thick).

Place blended soup into pot and add 1 cup of milk (again, this might need to be adjusted based on desired consistency).  Check for seasoning and add more salt if necessary.  I served my soups with some fresh basil and toasted pumpkin seeds. Yum!