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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Cherry Ripe Power Balls

Growing up, our family had a regular Sunday night ritual. After dinner, Dad would present four chocolates of different varieties to the family, with instructions that we could each choose one. We’d then sit down to some TV time as a family, and noting the era, we probably watched an episode of The Wonder Years, Xena Warrior Princess or, perhaps, Home Improvement.

Generally Dad presented a mars bar, a crunchie bar, a picnic and a cherry ripe. Or, if he was feeling particularly creative, maybe a curly wurly or a kit kat.  And generally there were no arguments when it came time to choose, with each family member having their preferred variety of sugar hit.

Dad would take the picnic bar, Mum would take the cherry ripe, and my brother and I would negotiate over whatever was left.

Although, if we were to have that ritual these days, I would almost certainly opt for the cherry ripe.

For dark chocolate + cherries = yes please!

These tasty little cherry ripe power balls use dates, dried cherries, coconut and cocoa to create a flavour combination that is not all that dissimilar to the ol’ cherry ripe bar.  They are rich, but not overly sweet.

They are, however, a lot healthier and definitely lunchbox friendly – as well as a tasty snack to reach for throughout the day.

What about you? What is your favourite chocolate bar?

Print Recipe
Cherry Ripe Power Balls
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
balls
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings
balls
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until well combined.
  2. Shape and roll into balls, and place on a paper-lined plate. Store in the fridge.
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Green Chicken Curry Meatballs

My love of spicy foods has definitely grown and developed over the years. So much so that aside from a brief abstinence during my first pregnancy (when all spicy foods randomly lost their appeal) many of our dinners will include some sort of chilli or heat-inducing spice.

I’ve also been known to snack on carrots dipped in chilli sauce, but that’s a story for another day…

Needless to say,  a recipe for green chicken curry meatballs in a recent Taste magazine edition caught my attention. You can find the recipe here. 

The chicken meatballs were made using mince, coriander, ginger, garlic and spring onions. Lightly fried, then added to a spicy green curry mixture. Served with rice vermicelli noodles, bamboo shoots and spinach, and finished with some fresh coriander and cucumber (and a good amount of lime juice). Resulting in what can only be described as a rather tasty (and spicy!) mid-week meal.

What about you? What is your favourite curry?

Roasted chorizo and vegetables with couscous

If I had to name my top 3 grains, couscous would definitely be right up there. For not only does it taste good, it is really quick and easy to prepare (aka. the two winning factors in my dinner-making book).

I generally reach for the couscous when I have something spicy or herb-filled on the menu. For it seems to lend itself to Mediterranean-style meals, adding some ‘filler’ without adding too much flavour to what is already a bold-flavoured meal.

So when I had a big batch of vegetables and spicy chorizo roasting in the oven a  while ago, it was little surprise that I made a bowl of couscous to serve alongside. Flavoured simply with a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh herbs.

A dinner bowl packed with flavour – with the couscous being the star accompaniment for sure!

Print Recipe
Roasted chorizo and vegetables with couscous
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Line a roasting dish with baking paper, and spread over the chopped onion, capsicum, pumpkin and chorizo.
  2. Combine the oil, honey, harissa and cumin, and pour over the vegetables and chorizo. Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the chickpeas and zucchini to the baking tray, and continue to roast for a further 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, place couscous in a bowl with 1.5 cups of boiling water. Cover and allow to stand for 5 minutes, or until cooked. Fluff the grains with a fork, and then stir through the lemon juice and herbs.
  5. Serve the couscous with the roasted chorizo and vegetables, along with some mixed lettuce leaves.
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Raspberry and Pistachio Brownies

I’m all for a little indulgence, albeit in moderation. And what could be more indulgent that a chocolate / nut / berry combination – in the form of a homemade brownie. Inspired by a recipe I came across in My Darling Lemon Thyme’s cookbook (ps how gorgeous are her photos!), these luscious brownies made an appearance after dinner a little while ago.

Filled to the absolute brim with dark chocolate, pistachios and raspberries, they were far from “healthy”, but ticked all the boxes when it came to satisfying my sweet tooth. The raspberries added a nice touch of tartness too, meaning the end result was not sickly sweet, while the pistachios gave the slices a little texture.

On this occasion, we served the brownies warm for dessert, with a little vanilla bean ice-cream on the side. The remaining brownies kept well in the fridge for the next few days, becoming more fudge-like (with no complaints there either!).

So, if you are looking to satisfy a craving for sweets, may I suggest you make a batch of these! Be warned, though, they were hard to stop at just one piece…

Print Recipe
Raspberry and Pistachio Brownies
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Course Baking
Cuisine Baking
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22 x 30cm slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the oil, 200g of the chopped chocolate, sugars and salt in a small saucepan. Melt, stirring often, over a low heat. Add the vanilla, remove from the heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture, one at a time, ensuring they incorporate well. Add the almond meal, and sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder. Stir to combine.
  4. Add half of the raspberries and pistachios, and 25g of the chopped chocolate, and stir until just combined. Spread into the prepared slice tray, and sprinkle with the remaining chocolate, raspberries and pistachios.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then slice.
Recipe Notes

These brownies will keep at room temperature in an air-tight container for 2 to 3 days. You can also keep them in the fridge for a week or so, where they will become more fudge-like.

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Potato and Camembert Pasties

Meat pies.

An iconic Aussie treat, that I have just never been into.

Perhaps it stems from my lack of interest in gravy, or perhaps the lack of good meat (generally) in the pie itself

Instead, you’ll find me ordering a sausage roll when we stop at the Bakery for lunch. Or, even better, a vegetable-packed pasty.

Recently, with a view to not letting my freezer hoard of puff pastry get out of hand again, I decided to make some pasties at home. My version ended up quite different to the usual variety though (and I suspect far more indulgent). For the flaky pastry was filled with creamy potato, mustard and camembert cheese.

I made large versions on this occasion, but think they would also work well as smaller ‘finger food’ for a party or special event.

You can keep your meat pies. I’ll take these pasties any day!

 

Print Recipe
Potato and Camembert Pasties
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Vegetarian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place potatoes, cream, mustards and garlic in a small saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat for 20 or 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. Season and set aside to cool slightly. Stir through the camembert and spring onions.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Cut a 20cm circle from each of the pastry sheets, and top half of each of the circles with a 1/4 of the potato mixture, leaving a border.
  3. Brush egg around the edge of the pastry circles and carefully fold in half to enclose the filling. Crimp the edges with a fork to seal.
  4. Brush the tops of the pasties with a little egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
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Life, lately. October 2017.

Enjoying – Netflix. Yes our household has finally come of technological age and we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon. We don’t watch a lot of TV – generally an episode of something after the kids have gone to bed – so Netflix is proving perfect for this purpose. So far we’ve made our way through 3 seasons of Fargo and our ‘must watch’ list is growing by the day.

Planning – A renovation of our backyard, and an overhaul of the bathroom at our unit in Melbourne. Yes life lately has involved  meeting with lots of contractors – and I’m feeling excited (and perhaps a little nervous too) about our upcoming projects. I’m particularly excited for the work we are having done in our backyard given Summer will soon be upon us!

Deciding – On lots of things related to the renovations. Style, structures, fixtures and fittings – and if I’m honest, I’m getting a tad overwhelmed by the process.

Cooking – Lots of power bowls and salads.  Generally filled to the brim with a variety of vegetables, some sort of protein and rice or quinoa.

Drinking – Mineral Water – by the bucket load. I’m currently obsessed, provided that it is the glass bottle version. Thank goodness for Costco and their bulk buy option!

Eating – Not cheese. Little Maggie appears to have developed eczema, so I’ve been told to stay away from dairy for the moment. Sounds easy right? However, given that I used to have a cheese  sandwich for lunch every other day – this has pretty much been torture. Sidenote: I tried dairy free cheese, but won’t be doing that again in a hurry…

Thinking – About where we might like to travel as a family next year. The whole family loved our trip to Fiji last year, so I’m thinking of heading to that region again when Maggie turns 1 (which conveniently is when Canberra is in the midst of Winter).  Samoa perhaps?

Loving – Watching the friendship between my two oldest girls grow and grow. Sure, they have their moments, but for the most part they seem to be great mates and will happily play for hours together. We evened moved them into a shared room last week, and so far its working quite well.

Feeling – Grateful that Maggie is a good sleeper. Neither of her sisters were all that great at sleeping in the first year, but so far Maggie is proving to be quite the superstar (hopefully I haven’t just jinxed myself though…) She generally wakes once or twice a night to feed but will resettle well, meaning that I am not feeling too sleep-deprived when the morning rolls around.

Making – our annual family photo journal and, for once, I am actually up to date. I love the whole process of reminiscing over our family adventures, and getting incredibly nostalgic while doing so.

Wishing – I could find the time to run. I’m sure the ‘time’ is there, somewhere, I just need to fit running time more firmly in my schedule. My daily walks are great, don’t get me wrong, I just really miss running too. Time to get my running mojo back!

 

Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise

 In a previous life, many moons ago now, I worked almost every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night as a bartender. This basically meant that I operated on little weekend sleep for the 4 years I was at university, pulled my fair share of beers and made countless bourbon and cokes (which seemed to be the popular drink of choice amongst the younger clientele at the time).

A highlight of these years was being rostered on in the cocktail bar from time to time, as opposed to the nightclub, where I could have  fun creating cocktails.

And while these days my weekends are far more laid back (with sleep deprivation coming in the form of a newborn rather than an 8-hour bartending shift), I still do love creating cocktails when the opportunity arises.

Take this Santorini Sunrise, for instance – which we served at our recent Father’s Day lunch. It was a simple cocktail, and far from the ‘unique’ cocktails popping up on drink menus today, but it was fresh and fruity – and just the sort of cocktail I was wanting to serve.

A tasty little addition to the MCP cocktail list come Summer time!

What about you? What is you favourite cocktail?

Print Recipe
Cocktail Hour: Santorini Sunrise
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Course Cocktail
Cuisine Drinks
Servings
cocktail
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine vodka, peach schnapps and juices in a shaker, and shake with ice. Pour into a glass (also with ice).
  2. Drizzle grenadine down the side of the glass to create a sunrise effect. Garnish with pineapple slices.
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