turkish chocolate torte

turkish chocolate torteWithout a doubt this is my favourite cake. It also becomes the favourite cake of anyone who tries it when I make one.

the cake:
6 egg whites
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 cup (125g) almond meal
500 g halva, roughly chopped
150 g pitted dates, chopped
Grated zest of 2 oranges
120 g dark chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup (60ml) brandy

chocolate ganache:
100 ml pure (thin) cream
150 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

decorations to serve:
2 tablespoons edible dried rose petals (optional)
2 tablespoons slivered pistachios
4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Small mint sprigs

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Grease and line a 24cm springform cake pan with baking paper. Beat egg whites with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating constantly, then beat for 5 minutes or until thick and glossy.

Fold in almond meal, halva, dates, zest and chocolate until just combined. Spoon mixture into the cake pan, then bake for 1 hour 20 minutes or until dry and firm to the touch (the cake will still be moist in the centre when tested with a skewer).

While hot, poke several holes in the top of the cake with a skewer. Pour brandy over cake, then cool completely in the pan.

Meanwhile, for the glaze, place cream and chocolate in a pan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stand for 30 minutes or until a thick pouring consistency.

Remove the cooled cake from the pan, transfer to a platter and pour over the chocolate glaze, allowing it to drip down the sides. Decorate with rose petals, nuts, pomegranate seeds and mint.

Recipe: Valli Little

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when life gives you green tomatoes … make relish

green tomaotes

1 kg green tomatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 green apple, quartered and cored
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp ginger, grated
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground mixed spice
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup malt vinegar

green tomato relish jars

Use a processor to chop ingredients. Then, simmer all ingredients in a large saucepan for 60 minutes. Stir regularly.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

Thermomix:
Add ingredients to the bowl, blend speed 6 for 5 sec. You may need to add half, blend and then add the rest so as to not overfill the bowl.
Set to 45 mins, ‘spoon’, 100c.
Carefully pour hot relish into jars, secure lid and invert jar for 5 mins.

black devil cocktail

black devil martiniIt’s pretty clear that this cocktail is derived from the martini. I’m not a big rum drinker but this made a very palatable version of the beloved martini. This version is simple, classic and a little bit mysterious. The opposite of how I like my men – smart, modern and totally understood.

30 ml white rum
15ml dry vermouth
black olives

Add the rum and vermouth to a well iced cocktail shaker, shake or stir to chill, then pour into a chilled martini glass with black olive garnish.

the bloody mary cocktail: where too much garnish is only just enough

bloody mary cocktailThe Bloody Mary has been called the worlds most complex cocktail. I’d say because each drink is as individual as each of us.

In my opinion, you’ve probably poured the perfect drink when you’ve got to hold the garnish back from going up your nose. By the time the glass reaches your mouth, you’re looking out over a jungle akin to Borneo.

Along with a good helpings of vodka and tomato juice, a well poured Bloody Mary must have some quantities of worcestershire sauce, tabasco, salt of some description, and an array of embellishments.

Enhancements that are worth tinkering with to find your perfect flavor include: lemon juice, pepper (white versus black), sugar (to tone the acidity of the tomato), parsley, beef stock (a Bloody Bull), Clamato juice (a Bloody Ceasar), teriyaki sauce in place of worcestershire sauce (a Bloody Mariyaki) and/or celery salt… but you can probably draw the line at chicken salt.

I’m glad that some precious friends recently reintroduced me the the Bloody Mary. I’ve learned (through some experimentation) that I like my Bloody drink the following way:

30 ml vodka
½ tsp vegetable stock powder (in place of salt)
½ tsp caster sugar
1 cup tomato juice, chilled
1 tsp lemon juice
2 drops tabasco
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
a frond of each, celery and parsley
a slice of lemon (ok, so this is just for show, I can drink with out it)

In a tumbler, dissolve the sugar and stock in a tablespoon of hot water.
Add ice, the worcestershire, tabasco, lemon juice, vodka and tomato juice.
Stir. Garnish.

Naturally, I call mine a Bloody Poppins.

Have you discovered any other adornments to your perfect Bloody drink?

bloody mary garnish celery

a teenie-weenie after-dinner martini

Chocolate martiniThis lovely little bit of sweet velvet debunks the notion that a martini is an aperitif. You won’t need dessert if you opt for one of these chocolate martinis.

30 ml vodka
15 ml frangelico
15 ml white creme de cacao
3 dark chocolate drops

Add the liqueurs to a well iced cocktail shaker, shake, then pour into a chilled martini glass with 3 chocolate drops at the bottom.

tagliatelle with pea and broad bean pesto

tagliatelle with pea and broad bean pesto

We all know that peas and mint are a match made in heaven but try adding broad beans to the mix and you get a wonderful depth to the flavour. This recipe comes from Donna Hay and is worth sharing.

2 cups frozen peas
2 cups fresh shelled or frozen broad beans
½ lemon, juiced
1 cup mint leaves, plus some pretty ones to garnish
1 cup parmesan, finely grated
¼ cup olive oil
1 garlic, clove
1 packet fresh Tagliatelle pasta
2 chorizo, sliced

Put the water for the pasta on to bring to the boil.
Blitz your peas and broad beans in a bowl of water in the microwave to blanch then set aside. When cooled to the touch, shell your broad beans if they aren’t already shelled.
In a food processor add peas, broad beans, mint, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Blitz to a chunky paste. Then add parmesan to gently combine.
Cook the pasta (fresh pasta will only take about 2-4 minutes). Test a piece before you drain.
In a hot pan, fry chorizo until crisping on edges. Remove to kitchen paper.
Gently combine the pesto with the pasta.
Serve and top with chorizo and mint leaves to garnish.

squid pumpkin popcorn pomegranate salad

This salad is a rough imitation of a dish served at Perotta’s at the Gallery in Cairns, Northern Queensland. If you happen be in the area, go and try the real thing. But, if like me, you can only dream of this taste sensation, you can always make my version. Which is not too shabby.salt and chilli squid salad

Rocket leaves, a handful per person
Popcorn, popped (yes, popcorn, in salad, for dinner!), a handful per person
¼ pumpkin, cubed and roasted at 180c for about 20 mins/until golden
½ pomegranate, seeded

Dressing:
1 lime, juiced
½ – 1 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp peanut oil

Squid:
2 – 4 squid tubes, cut into 2cm squares (about one per person is a good gauge)
⅓ cup rice flour
2 tbsp salt
1 – 2 tbsp chilli flakes
oil for frying

Make the dressing by mixing to combine. Adjust the acid vs sweet to your liking.
Combine the flour, salt and chilli flakes in a bowl or bag to make the squid dusting flour. Toss the squid pieces in the flour mix to coat then fry them in oil. I used about half a cup of oil in a fry pan to shallow fry them, turning them over halfway through. They only need about 2 minutes in the hot oil. Set aside on paper towel once golden.
Toss the rocket leaves with some dressing to coat.
Either toss the remaining salad ingredients (minus the popcorn as you don’t want it soggy) with the rocket and dressing, OR, plate the items individually and sprinkle some dressing over at the end. (I do the latter because the pumpkin can fall apart easily)
Top with squid and some extra pomegranate seeds.

salt and chilli squid

devil’s cocktail

Devil's cocktailIt doesn’t taste as evil as it sounds. It’s quite a sophisticated drink with a light wine-like flavour that is suited to evening supping.

45 ml port (I used an aged Tawny)
45 ml dry vermouth
½ tsp lemon juice

Fill a mixing glass with ice.
Pour port, vermouth and lemon over ice. Stir to well chilled.
Pour into a chilled martini glass.
Garnish with lemon rind, or nothing.

chicken fennel and apple salad

A lovely lighter (one bowl) family meal.

I’ve only just discovered the fennel bulb in the last couple of years and now I like it so much that I grow it in the garden. It has a wonderful fresh slightly aniseed flavour and a super crunch factor. I’m yet to try roasting it because I can’t get past using it in salad.

1 BBQ / roast chicken, skinned and shredded
1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
2 red apples, thinly sliced
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup parsley, chopped
½ cup pecans, toasted, chopped
½ cup whole egg mayonnaise
1 tbs maple syrup
salt and black pepper to taste

Place fennel and apple in large serving bowl and toss with 2 tbs of the lemon juice to prevent browning.
Add chicken, onion, parsley and pecans (leave a small amount of nuts to garnish) to bowl and toss to combine.
Whisk mayonnaise, remaining lemon juice, maple syrup, salt and pepper together in a small jug.
When about to serve, dress the salad and toss to combine.
Top with extra pecans.

Chicken apple fennel salad

duck beetroot and pomegranate jewel salad

I adapted this recipe from one created by Valli Little from delicious. magazine. The original uses boiled beets but I prefer to use roasted gems of sweet potato and beetroot, as well as, add much more greenery. I’ve also tampered with the dressing a little bit. Regardless, it is a fantastic recipe and a very beautiful meal.

duck pomegranate beetroot salad recipe

3 beetroot (or more baby beets, halved), peeled and chopped chunky
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped chunky
olive oil
pinch salt
1 pomegranate, seeds removed and set aside
2 duck breasts, with skin
green beans, blanched and set aside
mixed salad leaves (include baby beet leaves if you have them)
6 tbsp soft feta cheese, crumbled
3 tbsp walnuts, chopped and dry roasted
(10 brussel sprout leaves, blanched 1 min with the green beans …I happened to have them so they were added to the one pictured, but I don’t usually include them)

Dressing:
1 tbsp cherry jam*
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
about 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds, crushed to extract their juice

Bake the beetroot and sweet potato until tender in a 180c oven with olive oil and pinch of salt. Time will depend on the size of your pieces. I tend to leave them until quite chip-like but you decide on your preferred level of ‘roasted’.
In a small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients: oil, vinegar, mustard, jam and pomegranate juice. Set aside. If your jam is hard, microwave it for a couple of seconds.
To cook the duck:
Preheat oven to 180c.
Place the duck, skin side down, in a low to medium heat oven-proof pan. Cooking the duck slowly with skin side down will render the fat out and gradually crisp the skin. Discard rendered fat (or keep it for baking potatoes). Turn over the duck to seal for 1 minute on the meat side, then transfer the pan to the oven 10 mins. Set aside to rest.
How to plate up (I tend to prepare each plate for serving but you can do one big platter for the centre of the table):
In a large bowl place the washed salad leaves and mix with 3 tbsp of dressing.
Plate in this order: salad leaves, beetroot, sweet potato, beans, sliced duck breast.
Sprinkle feta crumbs, walnuts and pomegranate seeds. (That’s my plate pictured… I was heavy handed with the pomegranate seeds on purpose. I love them!).
Drizzle with a little more dressing.

Serves two people as a main meal.

*I like a dark cherry jam but alternatives are red currant or cranberry jellies.

duck pomegranate salad detail