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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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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Snickers Rocky Road

I’m interrupting my ‘healthy snack’ series this week, to bring you an extra special treat. I say “interrupting”, as this treat far from healthy, and its nut and sugar content would probably entice a sternly worded letter from your child’s teacher if you sent a piece along in their lunchbox.

But it is delicious.

And sometimes, particularly when one’s sleep is being interrupted by the overnight feeding demands of a newborn, we need to treat ourselves with a little deliciousness.

This rocky road still has the all chocolate and marshmallow hallmarks of the traditional version , but is jazzed up with snickers bars – creating a rather tasty chocolate / nut / caramel combination. The added bonus being that a batch can be made in a matter of moments.

So friends, I suggest you go and make a batch of this snickers rocky road and treat yourself today. Bearing in mind that because it is not school lunch-box friendly, there will be plenty for the grownups to indulge in at home!

You’re welcome!

Snickers Rocky Road

  • 280g marshmallows
  • 280g chopped snickers bars
  • 1 cup rice bubbles / puffed rice
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 350g milk chocolate, melted
  1. Line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the marshmallows, snickers bars, rice bubbles and peanuts in a large bowl. Pour over melted chocolate, and stir to combine well.
  3. Spoon into the prepare tray, and place in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) to set.
  4. Slice and serve.

 

Apricot and white chocolate bars

After the success of last week’s school snack baking session, I was eager to add another homemade treat to our list.

As Miss C, in particular, is a big fan of dried apricots, I hoped that an apricot treat would be well received. While she was a little hesitant to try these apricot and white chocolate bars at first, they did not return home when I packed a couple in her lunchbox – so I’m calling it a win (either that or a school buddy had an extra snack that day). Either way, the speed at which they are disappearing from our kitchen counter suggests that they may also be a hit with the older members of our family…

Somewhere between a bar and a cake, these treats are sweetened simply with a little brown sugar and white chocolate.  They may not be the ‘healthiest’, as such, but they are not overly sweet and the ingredient list is modest.

They slice nicely too, making them perfect to pack into little lunchboxes, and could easily be jazzed up with the addition of walnuts or the like (if you don’t have any school nut-bans to be mindful of, that is). 

Oh and in case you were wondering, I most certainly had my little kitchen helper on hand when making these too!

Apricot and white chocolate bars (makes 18)

  • 1 cup dried apricots, sliced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 120g butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 cups self raising flour, sifted
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease and line a slice tray.
  2. Place apricots and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer until the water has been absorbed. Add the butter and brown sugar, and cook over a low heat – stirring – until the butter and sugar have melted.
  3. Combine the flour and oats in a mixing bowl. Add the apricot mixture and stir to combine.  Fold through the chocolate bits.
  4. Press into lined pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice.

Healthier Honey Bubble Bars

Now that I have a little more time on my hands, I’m keen to get back into the kitchen. To develop new recipes, and generally get creative!

In particular, I want to create some lunchbox treats. Lately I’ve been relying on pre-packaged snacks all too often for the kids, and their ingredient list is far from desirable.

So with the rain falling heavily outside the other day, I got to work on my first lunchbox treat.

A healthier honey bubble bar.

As soon as I began pulling bowls out of the drawer, Little J arrived curiously at the kitchen bench. Actually, she is quite the shadow when I am in the kitchen, always eager to help out. And this being a no-bake treat, well that was just perfect for little hands!

I measured out the ingredients, and she poured them all into a big bowl and gave them a good stir. “Pat-pat-patting” the slice into the baking tin was also a big hit.

In the mix? Puffed rice, shredded coconut, chia seeds, sunflower kernels, butter and honey. Oh some chocolate chips for a little indulgence too.

Pressed into a lined tray, and allowed to firm up overnight in the fridge.

The following day, it was simply a matter of slicing the mixture into bars.

The bars were sweet, without being over-sweet, although I made the rookie mistake of adding the chocolate chips before the melted butter and honey (ie. the chocolate melted).

The honey also made the bases a little sticky,  so I wrapped each bar in some baking paper for ease of transport.

And just like that, my baking mojo has officially returned! Not to mention being able to share some time in the kitchen with Little J.

Stay tuned for more lunchbox treats in the weeks to come!

Healthier Honey Bubble Bars

  • 4 cups puffed rice
  • 2 tbs chia seeds
  • 3 tbs sunflower seeds
  • 1.5 cups shredded coconut
  • 125g butter
  • 220g honey
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Grease and line a slice tray with baking paper.
  2. Combine the puffed rice, chia seeds, sunflower seeds and coconut in a large bowl.
  3. Heat the butter and honey in the microwave until melted and combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir to coat the mixture well. Add the chocolate chips and stir.
  4. Press firmly into the lined tray, and place in the fridge overnight to firm.
  5. Remove from the fridge, and cut into slices. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

 

Tuna and vegetable stuffed sweet potatoes

Growing up we never ate sweet potatoes. I don’t even remember if they were all that available…?  Rather, our plates usually had some sort of white potato on it – generally mashed with lashings of butter and milk, or on the odd occasion they would be oven roasted.

These days, however, I don’t tend to reach for white potatoes in our grocery shop.  Not unless I’m making a potato salad or perhaps to go along with a roast dinner. Instead, I grab sweet potatoes – orange, white or purple – whatever the local green grocer has. The kids love them when they are sliced into wedges and oven baked, or steamed and mashed, and served alongside whatever else they are having for that particular meal.

On this occasion, we went with “stuffed” sweet potatoes. Aka. little roasted sweet potato “boats” that we filled with tuna, vegetables and cheese, and grilled til they were nice and golden.

I added a good drizzle of chilli sauce for the adult’s version (#cravings), while the kid’s ate their version plain. Served with a pile of greens on the side, and this turned out to be one tasty meal indeed!

Tuna and vegetable stuffed sweet potatoes  (serves 4)

  • 4 small sweet potatoes, halved
  • 300g mixed vegetables, steamed (I used carrots, broccoli and corn)
  • 185g tin of tuna in spring water, drained
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • Fresh parsley, chilli sauce  and leafy greens to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 200C.
  2. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out the potato flesh and place in a large bowl. Mash until smooth.
  3. Place the remaining potato skin ‘boats’ onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  4. Add the steamed vegetables, drained tuna and sour cream to the sweet potato flesh, and stir until well combined. Season to taste.
  5. Spoon the tuna / potato mixture back into the sweet potato skins and top with grated cheese.  Bake for a further 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  6. Serve with fresh parsley and chilli sauce, and alongside the leafy greens.

Banana raisin muffins

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Yes, I did it again.

I left some bananas in the fruit bowl too long.

Meaning they were waaaay too overripe to eat, yes, but perfect for a batch of banana muffins.

This time I went with a simple version. No coconut, no berries, just the addition of raisins for some extra sweetness.

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What I love about recipes like these is the yield. Some for now, some for later, and some packaged up and frozen for school lunchbox treats.

And suddenly leaving a few bananas in the fruit bowl too long doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all!

img_1263 Banana raisin muffins (makes 12)

  • 2 cups self raising flour – sifted
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a muffin pan with cases.
  2. Combine dry ingredients, and make a well in the centre.
  3. Combine eggs, bananas, oil, yoghurt and milk – and pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined, then fold through the raisins.
  4. Spoon into the muffin cases, and bake for 20 minutes – or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

 

White chocolate and macadamia cookies

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Canberra feels more like Melbourne at the moment – warm Spring days one minute, and cold overcast days the next.

And rain.

So much rain.

So with two kids who are also a little under the weather, there has been lots of time spent indoors. Lego, puzzles, dress-ups and a personal favourite, baking!

Cookies were on the agenda the other day. But rather than turn to our regular spelt chocolate chip or freckle cookies, we went with a white chocolate and macadamia version instead.

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As is usually the case, Miss C had a great time helping me measure out the ingredients and control the mixer speed, and Little J loved flattening down the cookies when they were placed on the trays. Although both kids quickly disappeared when they realised it was time to do the dishes!?
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The cookies kept well for a few days, and I suspect they would keep for longer if they weren’t gobbled up so quickly!

White chocolate and macadamia cookies (makes 12 large)

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups self raising flour, sifted
  • 120g white chocolate chips
  • 120g chopped macadamias
  1. Preheat oven to 180C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg, and continue beating until combined.
  3. Stir in the sifted flour, chocolate and nuts, and mix until well combined.
  4. Roll out heaped tablespoons of the mixture into balls, and place on the prepared trays (well spaced). Gently press to flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. Cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

What about you? Do you have a favourite cookie recipe?

Rainbow cookies

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Being a family that loves the outdoors, spending almost an entire week inside with 2 sick kids has been..well…interesting.

We’ve had to avoid the frigid outdoor temperatures (which even resulted in a little snow on one day) searching instead for indoor activities to keep everyone entertained.

Needless to say there has been lots of movies, drawing, role play, lego and…baking!

These rainbow cookies were a great baking activity for the girls. Not only for the end result (and all the chocolate freckles we consumed along the way), but also for the process of creating them itself. C loved turning the mixer on and off, and helping me roll the biscuits into little balls, before placing a freckle on top of each. And, J, well she sat nearby passing us various ingredients and even gave the mixture a little stir.

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Into the oven for 14 minutes, then it was ‘hands off’ for at least a few more minutes to allow them to cool. We then wasted no time in having ourselves a lovely afternoon tea of warm cookies straight out of the oven.

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So, while a trip to the park was not an option this week, spending time in the kitchen backing with the kids was a pretty great (and delicious) alternative!

You can find the recipe here.