Monday, January 31, 2011

Gourmet brekky in a flash!

I woke this morning and just couldn't face the thought of yet another breakfast of 2 weetbix  - you know - New Year's Resolution for a healthy 2011 and all that 'stuff'.   TBG had just walked in with fresh loaves of bread from the bakery and the aroma filled the house.
"Do you want tomato on toast?" he asked.    Perhaps...but MY version.

I thought of a fast and easy bruschetta, and this IS fast.  Probably not quite as delicious as when the bread is prepared on a brustolina grill but hey!  I did promise it was fast.

Just the mention of tomatoes and basil bring memories of summer and Italy.   The sweet perfume of vine ripened tomatoes also takes me back to childhood and being sent out into the garden to choose the ripest ones for dinner.

So here is my recipe for a fast and easy gourmet brekky that will have you walking into the office with a smile on your face!

Bruschetta in a Flash

2 slices of bread (sourdough, pana casa, foccacia or what's at hand!)
1 vine-ripened tomato (finely diced)
1/4 small red onion (finely diced)
fresh basil leaves (shredded)
Garlic-infused Virgin Olive Oil (or plain)
Balsamic Glaze
Sea Salt
Ground Pepper
Toast 2 slices of bread - sourdough works beautifully.  

With a pastry brush dipped in the olive oil, lightly brush over the warm toast.   I don't think the brush even came into contact with the toast which made me feel even better about my NY resolution!   I used a lovely garlic infused oil from Fuch's - an Australian company from the Hunter region that produces delicious oils & vinegars - use caution when saying the name.  (Check out their beautiful products and recipes).

Next, place the finely diced tomatoes and red onion on the toast and top with the shredded fresh basil.

Finish with a dusting of pepper, a little Maldon sea salt and a touch of  Mazzetti Balsamic Glaze.

The whole process took only minutes and I felt as though I'd enjoyed a gourmet breakfast (well, compared to my faithful old Weetbix).

Yes, I'm smiling.
Tell you have a fast and delicious breakfast recipe to share? 

Have a beautiful day!


Annie x

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Recipe: Meringue-Encrusted Lemon Cakes - The Cookbook Challenge Week 2

The theme for this fortnight's challenge was 'lemon'.
My lemon reamer
When I was a child it was common to eat dessert after the evening meal. My Mum would bake custards, rice puddings, stewed fruit or simply jelly & ice cream.  By the time I had my own babies in the 80s, we were far more health conscious and much to my Mother's concern, dessert had become a treat, not an every day occurence.   "But what are you giving the children for dessert?"

Dessert, in our household at least, is still something enjoyed only occasionally after a celebratory lunch or dinner so I like it to be rather special.

My eldest daughter 'taste-testing'
Lemons with their tangy flavour, sweet fragrance and beautiful colour lend themselves to desserts.   I found a luscious, lemony recipe in a book my eldest daughter (pictured above) gave me last year called 'Seasons' by Australian cookbook author, Donna Hay.   The book is a collection of recipes from Donna's bi-monthly cooking magazine.  Divided into Seasons and then into Sweet and Savoury recipes, the book provides not only inspirational, seasonal food but also a feast for the eye with stunning food photography.   Just browsing the pages evokes those feelings of summer, winter, autumn and spring.    From the book...

"Summer means sand
between your toes,
endless days with not much
to do and all day to do it in
and the promise of buckets of fresh,
sparkling flavours 
cooked simply at
day's end."

Seasons by Donna Hay
So, back to my entry for this fortnight's Cookbook Challenge...

Some of you may remember that spectacular dessert, Bombe Alaska - a flaming white mountain of meringue snow blanketing a layer of cake and ice-cream.    They were first produced in 1876 in New York to celebrate the newly acquired territory of Alaska.   A French chef, Jean Giroix, popularized the dessert worldwide a decade later.

The recipe I've chosen is a variation of the Bombe with a lemon twist that Donna Hay calls 'Meringue-Encrusted Lemon Cakes'.  They're basically individual lemon cakes topped with a scoop of ice-cream, covered in meringue and browned quickly under the grill, the meringue acting as an insulator to keep the ice-cream firm.  Not only decadent and delicious but also quite beautiful to present to your guests.

Meringue-Encased Lemon cakes



125 butter, softened
1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
1/4 cup finely grated lemon rind
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
1/3 cup (80ml) milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 scoops good quality vanilla ice-cream


150g egg whites (approximately 4 eggs)
1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar



Preheat the oven to 160 C (320 F).    Place the butter, sugar and lemon rind in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy.  Gradually add the eggs and beat well.  Fold in the flour, baking powder, milk and lemon juice.  Spoon the mixture into 6 x 1 cup-capacity (250ml) lightly greased muffin tins (I used bundt tins) and bake for 30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.  Cool in the tins for 5 minutes.  Remove and cool on a wire rack.

1-cup capacity bundt tins worked well for this recipe
Using a tablespoon, scoop out a hole in the top of each cake - if using bundt tins, there is already a hollow in the top of the cake.  Fill the hole or hollow with a scoop of ice-cream.  Place the cakes on a tray and freeze for 30 minutes.  

Spread the basic meringue mixture over the cakes and place on a baking tray.   Cook under a preheated hot grill (my choice) or in a preheated 200 C (350 F) oven for 2-3 minutes or until the meringue is set and golden.   Serve immediately.  Makes 6.  

Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until stiff peaks form.   Gradually add the sugar and vinegar and beat until the mixture is thick and glossy.  Use immediately.

Until next time, enjoy!


Annie x

For more images visit Ann McLeod Photography

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Recipe: Spiced Peaches - The Cookbook Challenge Week 1

Theme:  Stone fruits

Cookbook:  The Margaret Fulton Cookery Course - Part 28 - circa 1970s

I came across the Cookbook Challenge late last year and thought what a great opportunity to explore new recipes, hone my food photography skills and revisit the hundreds of cookbooks I've been collecting throughout my life.

I come from a line of cooks - my mother earned her living as a cook, my grandmother also and whilst they were never professionally trained, the food they served was always inspirational.  It was through watching both these women cook when I was a child that I developed my own love of cooking. Combine that with a passion for photography and the Cookbook Challenge seemed like fun - 26 recipes on a theme over 52 weeks - cooked, photographed and blogged.

The challenge for Week 1 was 'Stone Fruit'.  Peaches are my favourite fruit with their beautiful golden flesh, velvety skin and their sweet perfume alone reminds me of summer.

My recipe comes from a set of cookbooks I was given as a child in the late 60s or early 70s.   The matriarch of Australian cooking, Margaret Fulton published a weekly cookery course and I'd spend hours looking at the beautiful images and reading the recipes and information.

40 years later these recipes still delight those who try them.

Spiced Peaches

4 large yellow peaches
4 tablespoons brown sugar
16 whole cloves
45 grams (1 1/2 oz) butter (I used much less with good results)

The recipe suggests:  "Delicious as a dessert or a welcome substitute for vegetables, with hot ham or duck". 
Pour boiling water over the peaches, allow to stand for 3 minutes and then skin, halve and stone them. 

Marg Fulton still teaches me today - I had no idea how easy it is to peel peaches using this method!

Arrange in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the brown sugar and a little cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pierce each peach half with 2 cloves.  Cut butter into small pieces, scatter over peaches, slip under the grill for 5 minutes or until heated through.


This is an old fashioned recipe that put a smile on the faces of my family.    By cutting down on the butter it appeased those who are sticking to their health regime.   If wanting to be a little indulgent the peaches would be extra delicious with vanilla ice-cream, custard or a dollop of cream.

I just wish someone would invent aroma-net - the perfume of cinnamon, cloves and peaches was ... sigh!

What's your favourite stone fruit?

The challenge for Week 2?    Citrus
Cooked with love,
Annie x

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Magic of Mushrooms.

After a week by myself (except for the dog, 2 cats and 2 chickens) my family has started to arrive home from their holidays.    Today No. 4 flew in from a wonderful week in Adelaide.  Tomorrow No. 3 and TBG fly in from Hong Kong.   No 3. has been backpacking around Europe for the past 2 months.  It'll be wonderful to see her again.   There'll be lots of excited stories around the dinner table tomorrow night.

Over the past week, with only one to cook for, I thought I'd be tempted to just have lazy dinners like vegemite on toast however I found myself still cooking decent, no-fuss meals.

Mushroom Pasta Sauce

I thought I’d share this simple recipe as it’s a healthy and delicious meal that requires minimal time from you in the kitchen - ideal after a long day at work.   The mushrooms I'd bought at the food festival on Saturday were the inspiration for the choice of meal. Mine is a vegetarian version however for the meat-eaters in your life, you can easily brown some mince with a little garlic in a pan and then stir in the cooked sauce and let it simmer for a short while before pouring over your pasta.

The beautiful mushrooms from Termeil

Mushroom pasta sauce (it’s really a casserole).


350g mushrooms
425g can peeled tomatoes, chopped
(I used Ardmona Rich & Thick Chopped Tomatoes with basil & garlic)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil (or less for oiling the casserole dish)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pepper & salt to taste.


Lightly oil a casserole dish.
Alternate layers of ingredients.
Cover and cook in a 180 degrees oven for 20-30 minutes.

I topped mine with a tiny bit of shaved parmesan.

Delicious and quite healthy (but be sparing with the oil and parmesan.)

Did I enjoy my week Home Alone?    A week was enough.  I'm used to a busy household.    There's nothing better than the smiles and banter of family.    xxx

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Strawberry Smoothie and a Cherry Oven Pancake

The Christmas/New Year period often means that your fridge is bursting with food of every description as you deal with numerous guests, special celebrations and an abundance of scrumptious summer (or winter) fruit and vegetables.  Often we tend to 'bite off more than we can chew' if you know what I mean and fruit and veg become a little too sad to present in their raw form.

My New Year's Resolution for 2011 (well, apart from the perennial 'must become healthier') is to continue my journey towards a sustainable environment and part of that means taking only what I need.  Our grandparents lived a simple life and 'wastefulness' was not in their vocabulary.    So as I went through my fridge, rather than simply 'throwing out' the food that wasn't as pretty as it was when I purchased it, I decided to turn it into something that would once again please the mouths I feed.

I should point out that I don't mean using produce that has developed a green furry coating!  Just when the strawberries or cherries lose that shiny gloss or the mushrooms and bananas become a little brown.

So I decided to kick-start my day with a healthy strawberry smoothie.   No dear, not a strawberry daiquiri which is more suited to the END of the day.

Smoothies are not only nutritious (generally speaking) but also a fast, delicious and easy brekky for those in a rush.

Strawberry Smoothie

Strawberries - not quite as plump and shiny as they were a few days ago but still quite edible

6 Strawberries

1/2 cup of low fat yogurt

1 cup of low fat milk 

Blend all ingredients in a food processor/blender and there you have a delicious, fresh smoothie.

* For my taste, I wanted it a little sweeter so I added a couple of fresh chunks of pineapple I'd cut the previous day and a little of the juice however you can add banana or other fruit.   You could also try a tiny drizzle of honey.

My strawberry smoothie - delicious & satisfing

Cherry Oven Pancake
Back to the fridge and the remaining cherries that TBG bought a few days ago on special are also beginning to look like they need to be eaten NOW!   I'd just read one of my favourite food blogs, Not Quite Nigella, and the author Lorraine had cooked a delicious Rhubarb and Cherry Oven Pancake.   It sounded intriguing and looked like a great way to use the last of the cherries.  I was not disappointed in my cherry version.

It's a very simple recipe and the texture reminded me a little of my mother's baked custards that we'd eat after the Sunday roast when I was growing up.    I'm sure it would taste even more delicious with a dash of cream and a drizzle of maple syrup as Lorraine suggests however in sticking to my New Year's Resolution, it was still a treat without the added kilojoules.

For the recipe, visit Lorraine's blog Not Quite Nigella

My Cherry Oven Pancake

Wishing you all a happy New Year!


Love Annie