Fancy Fruit Platter

With the festivities of the Christmas season now in full swing, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite additions to the family breakfast table.  For when the sun is shining, and day ahead is filled with family and celebrations, we like to keep things light and simple at breakfast time (no doubt saving all important calories for later in the day).

Namely – a Fancy Fruit Platter.

Put a bowl of whole fruit in front of me, and I will look at it with relative ambivalence. But slice the fruit and make it into a salad or a fruit platter? Well you won’t keep me (or the kids!) away from it.

On this occasion we filled the platter with all the wonderful seasonal fruits the market had on offer.  Mango, melon, pineapple, pear, passionfruit, kiwi fruit, apricots, nectarines, strawberries, grapes and blueberries.

Served with some lovely vanilla bean yoghurt and honey granola, and we had ourselves quite the delicious start to the day.

Nutty Date & Chocolate Slice

My two eldest girls can be quite challenging when it comes to food. Miss C will happily eat avocado, mangoes and prawn dumplings by the bucket load, but is generally not all that food focused at meal times (preferring instead to snack and graze throughout the day). Little J would happily have yoghurt for breakfast lunch and dinner, and has no interest in more ‘traditional’ meals such as sandwiches.

Needless to say that if I was to present them with a bowl filled with dates, they would be looked at with suspicion and remain uneaten.

Put dates in a chocolate covered slice however? Well that proved to be a winner!

This slice contains no flour, no eggs, but it does contain nuts so is not allergy-friendly for school lunchboxes.

The texture of this slice is almost fudge-like, and we all loved the little pops of crunchiness throughout. Covering the slice in dark chocolate took the whole slice to the next level too – and worked perfectly to fool my suspicious eaters!

Print Recipe
Nutty Date & Chocolate Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Slice
Prep Time 10 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Line a loaf tin with baking paper, leaving a little overhanging the edges.
  2. Process the dates and nut butter in a food processor for a few minutes, until the mixture is well combined and forms a paste. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir through the puffed rice and chopped nuts.
  3. Press the mixture firmly into the lined tin (it will be quite sticky so you may want to use wet hands to do this). Pour the melted chocolate over the top of the slice, and place in the fridge to set for 1 hour. Cut the slice into squares and serve.
Recipe Notes

Keep the slice in the fridge until ready to eat as it will soften at room temperature.

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Cocktail Hour: Iced Peach Bellini

Yes, friends, cocktail season continues in the MCP household, and I am having a lot of fun creating some new drinks to add to our entertaining repertoire.

This particular cocktail was inspired by the beautiful peaches I came across during a recent trip to the market. I have been eating stone fruit by the bucket-load lately, and figured why not make them the star ingredient of a drink to share with friends.

The peaches were peeled and pureed, then frozen in ice cube trays overnight. The frozen fruit was then laced with raspberry vodka and prosecco, blended to icy perfection, and topped up with a little extra prosecco for good measure.

I actually had grand plans of serving this cocktail on what I expected would be a warm and summery day. But Canberra had other plans, instead presenting us with a cold, grey and rainy day.

And although we may have somewhat unusually indulged in these icy cocktails with the heater on this particular occasion, they were certainly refreshing, and I have no doubt they will make more appearances in the (hopefully) warmer months to come!

Print Recipe
Iced Peach Bellini
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Puree the peaches in a food processor until smooth. Pour into an icecube tray, and freeze.
  2. Blend the peach ice cubes with the vodka and prosecco. Divide among 4 serving glasses and top with extra prosecco and a slice of peach.
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My favourite Lemon and Coconut Slice

When asked to “bring a plate”, I often lean towards creating a sweet treat. Rocky road is usually my “go to” sweet, and is generally well received, but on other occasions I like to bring a plate of lemon slice.  For it is easy to make, requires no baking, and the leftovers keep really well too.

Recently I offered to make a couple slices for a birthday party. I had a few chocolate based ones in mind, and figured my favourite lemon slice would work beautifully as a nice flavour contrast to those. And with some lemons leftover from the peach and lemon cake, well it was a no-brainer really.

So one dreary morning, my helpers and I got to work. Lemons were juiced and zested, biscuits were crumbed and condensed milk and butter were heated. And before too long we had ourselves a big tray of lemon slice, sprinkled with coconut, and ready to be sliced and served.

This was a great slice to make with the kids too. They had a lot of fun turning the food processor on and off, and stirring the coconut and melted ingredients into the biscuit crumbs. Bowls and spoons were licked not long after, and coconut was liberally sprinkled over the iced slice (and most of the kitchen benchtop, but let’s not talk about that…!)

Print Recipe
Lemon and Coconut Slice
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings
slices (or more depending on the size)
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 30 minutes
Servings
slices (or more depending on the size)
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Process the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs. Place in a large bowl, add the coconut, lemon juice and zest, and stir to combine.
  2. Place the sweetened condensed milk and butter in a saucepan. Heat slowly, over a low heat, stirring until the butter has melted.
  3. Pour the butter mixture into the biscuit mixture, and stir until well combined. Press firmly into a slice tin (that is lined with baking paper), and place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  4. Place the icing sugar and extra lemon juice in a small saucepan. Heat gently, stirring, until the sugar has melted and the ingredients have combined. Spread over the chilled slice, and sprinkle with extra coconut. Refrigerate for a couple of hours (or overnight) then slice and serve.
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Peach and Lemon cake

Do you have something that you like the idea of, more than you actually like?

For me, one such thing is  cake. Sure I love creating and baking cakes, but the eating part – yeah not so much. I tend to find them a bit rich and sweet, and after few bites, I’m generally done.

It’s not that I hate cake, it’s just not what I tend to choose when considering the dessert menu.

And it seems that Miss C also shares my ambivalence towards cake. At parties she will politely take a slice of birthday cake when offered, if anything not to miss out on the ritual of the celebration, but moments later she will inevitably ask me quietly if she actually has to eat it.

A lolly bag on the other hand? Well she can empty that in a matter of seconds.

This little cake, however, I thoroughly enjoyed.  It was rustic, light and lemony, and not overly sweet. The little pops of fresh peach throughout were also a nice flavour surprise.

In fact, I enjoyed this cake so much that I ate the whole slice. Who knows, I might even have another slice today…

Print Recipe
Peach and Lemon Cake
Course Baking
Cuisine Cake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Cake
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 160C, and grease / line a round cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest for 5 minutes, or until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and yoghurt, and mix until just combined. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, and top with sliced peaches.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
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Cocktail Hour: Pimm’s Jug

In what I suspect will be a regular feature this Summer, I couldn’t help but put a cocktail on the menu when we had friends around for a BBQ recently. And while I was tempted to serve another Santorini Sunrise, the warmer temperatures had me craving Pimm’s.  The bonus being that I could make a jug before our guests arrived, ready to be poured with little delay once they had settled in. I can’t remember when I first tried Pimm’s, although I have a feeling it was when we travelled to London. Given that Pimm’s is a rather iconic English drink, well it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

On this occasion I went with a mixture of both lemonade and dry ginger ale, making sure to also fill the jug with oranges, strawberries, limes, mint and, of course, cucumber.

And, as one jug soon turned into two, well it proved to be the perfect cocktail for a summery afternoon with friends.


Print Recipe
Pimm's Jug
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
glasses
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Grab a large jug and half fill it with ice. Add half of the fruit and mint to the jug (and divide the remaining fruit and mint between 4 serving glasses).
  2. Add the Pimm's, lemonade and dry ginger ale to the jug, and stir gently to combine.
  3. When ready to serve, add ice to the glasses, and pour over the Pimm's mixture.
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Poached chicken and orange salad

I have, over the years, accumulated a few kitchen ‘gadgets’ that I would now not be without. My food processor and blender get a decent workout on a weekly (if not, daily, basis) and I am in love with my garlic press and citrus zester.

Recently I added a new gadget to my collection – a spiraliser! A gadget that is in no way ‘necessary’, as such, but one that is proving to be a great and interesting addition to the pantry. I’ve spiralised zucchini for pasta, carrots and sweet potatoes for salads, and on this particular occasion – pumpkin.

On the menu? A poached chicken salad with roasted carrots and broccoli, and spiralised pumpkin. Finished with orange slices, almonds and an orange / ginger dressing.

The recipe was inspired by one I found in a Donna Hay magazine, from memory. The chicken was poached in almond milk, garlic and ginger, which was interesting in itself (and reminded me just how simple yet delicious freshly poached chicken can be). I loved the addition of fruit to the salad too, which gave the dish a wonderfully light Summer feel.

Stay tuned for more spiralised salads I suspect!

Print Recipe
Poached chicken and orange salad
Course Salad
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Salad
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the broccoli and carrot on the tray, and spray lightly with oil. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Place the chicken, almond milk, garlic and 1 tbs ginger in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, then transfer the chicken to a board and shred.
  3. Heat 1 tbs oil in a frypan over a medium heat. Cook the pumpkin for a few minutes, stirring, until just softened. Meanwhile, combine the orange juice, 1 tsp ginger and 1 tbs olive oil in a small bowl to make a dressing.
  4. Divide the baby spinach, roasted vegetables, chicken and orange among serving bowls. Top with flaked almonds, and drizzle with the orange ginger dressing, to taste.
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Lemon Meringue Tartlets

I am by no means a green thumb.

Gardening does not come naturally to me, and with the frosty Canberra winters, and hot dry summers, well needless to say – we have lost our fair share of plants over the years.

However, there are two plants I seem to be able to grow in abundance – rosemary and lavender.  In fact, I don’t seem to be able to keep up with their growth – resulting in a decent day of pruning the other week.

The other plant that has survived with relatively little intervention is our lemon tree.  I suspect we just got lucky when we planted it, for despite minimal work on our part, it has given us lots of lemons. Even if it is only still a small tree.

And there is something rather wonderful about being able to collect lemons from your own tree, don’t you think? Which is exactly what I did a few weeks ago when asked to bring a “sweet” to share at a BBQ with our neighbours.

The lemons were soon turned into lemon curd, which was then used to fill homemade tartlet cases, and topped with a little meringue. It wasn’t the quickest of sweets to make, and probably not one that I would make if time was short, but over the course of the day the tartlets came together and the end result was quite pleasing.

I loved the vibrancy of the lemon curd, which on this occasion was not overly sweet and still a little tart. I decided not to go too overboard with the meringue either, stopping at just a few piped rounds – although I could have quite easily been more generous and covered the whole of the tartlet with meringue.

Here’s hoping our lemon tree continues to yield!

Print Recipe
Lemon Meringue Tartlets
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
tartlets
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings
tartlets
Ingredients
Instructions
Curd
  1. Start by making the lemon curd - a day in advance, if possible. Combine the lemon juice, zest, caster sugar and eggs in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a small saucepan of gently simmering water, and heat slowly - whisking continuously. The mixture will slowly turn from a frothy consistency to a thick, velvety consistency - and you will know that it is ready when you can coat the back of a spoon and draw a clear line through it. At this stage, remove the curd from the heat, and whisk through the cold butter until the mixture is rich and glossy. Set aside until ready to use (or place in the fridge overnight).
Tartlets
  1. To make the tartlets, place the flour, icing sugar, salt and butter in a food processor, and pulse until the butter has been cut in. Add the egg, and continue to process until the dough just comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and knead the dough gently. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C, and lightly grease 12 tartlet cases.
  3. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until it is around 4mm thick. Cut out suitably-sized rounds from the dough, and press into the tartlet cases - trimming off any excess. Prick the base of each case a few times with a fork. Place the tartlet cases on a baking tray, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes, then remove the shells and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the meringue, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the caster sugar, one spoonful at a time, continuing to whisk until you have stiff peaks.
  5. To assemble - pipe lemon curd into each of tartlet case. Top with meringue, and brown slightly using a kitchen blow torch.
Recipe Notes

If you don't have tartlet cases, you could make the tartlets using a mini muffin tray.

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Eggplant Tapenade Tuna Nicoise Salad

Following on from my recent “Eat the Freezer” post, I should probably pull together an “Eat the Pantry” series. For similar to my freezer, my pantry is starting to fill up with lots of bits and pieces.  Half packets of pasta, noodles, vinegars and sauces….

You get the idea.

A little while ago I came across this lovely little eggplant tapenade hiding up the back that, from memory, arrived in a gift box of edible goodies for my birthday. And while I would normally save tapenade for pasta, I had a lighter meal in mind, and so this eggplant tapenade nicoise salad came to be.

I steamed baby chat potatoes then, while they were still warm, stirred through a few generous spoonfuls of the tapenade. The remainder of the salad was built using steamed asparagus and beans, chargrilled corn, mesculin, tinned tuna and, of course, a soft boiled egg.

Despite the abundance of other ingredients, the tapenade really shined! It added lots of flavour to the salad, with no additional dressing required. And while on this occasion I used eggplant tapenade,  I think an olive or pepper tapenade would also work really well.

Print Recipe
Eggplant Tapenade Tuna Nicoise Salad
Course Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Course Salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Chargrill corn in a pan until golden brown. Remove kernels and set aside.
  2. Steam chat potatoes for 8 minutes, or until cooked. Place in a large bowl, and while warm, stir through the tapenade.
  3. Steam the asaparagus and beans for 3 to 4 minutes, then refresh by running under cold water.
  4. Add the corn, asparagus, beans, lettuce and tuna to the potatoes, stirring gently to combine.
  5. Place lettuce in serving bowls, and top with the tuna / potato salad mixture, along with two egg halves. Season and serve.
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Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burgers

With the warmer weather having (finally) arrived, I expect you will see more and more BBQ-cooked meals on the menu at our place. For why mess up a pan and heat up the kitchen, when you can cook dinner on the BBQ outside instead!

And while I enjoy the ease and simplicity of throwing some steak or sausages on the BBQ, those dinners can get a little meat-heavy when repeated throughout the warmer months. Instead, it’s nice to change things up a little from time to time –  and these vegetarian sweet potato and quinoa burgers are just perfect for a meat-free BBQ meal.

Combining sweet potatoes, chickpeas and rice / quinoa, you can easily make these burgers in advance and keep them in the fridge until it is time to grill. Throw some extra vegetables on the BBQ too – and you will soon have yourself a tasty meal with very little fuss!


Print Recipe
Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burgers
Course BBQ
Cuisine BBQ, Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course BBQ
Cuisine BBQ, Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Steam sweet potato for 5 minutes or until tender. Mash, then set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Place cooked sweet potato, chickpeas, paprika and cumin in a large bowl, and mash until well combined. Stir through the rice / quinoa and egg, until well combined.
  3. Shape the mixture into 4 large patties, and place on a plate covered with baking paper. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm.
  4. Cook patties on the BBQ or a large frypan (sprayed lightly with oil) for 10 to 15 minutes (turning as required), or until golden brown. Serve with salad and toasted Turkish bread.
Recipe Notes

I served these patties with salad, but you could easily serve them 'burger-style' in a bread roll too.

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