Friday, February 27, 2015

Sweet Potato Pie

With a Canadian friend leaving to go back to the States, I thought I'd make my version of pumpkin pie, a sweet potato pie for her farewell. The cinnamon and ginger spice aromas wafting through the house, I couldn't wait to have a slice.

I thought I'd also follow the current food fads and make a paleo sweet potato pie. The filling is rich, smooth and thick served with a delish date almond pie crust and yoghurt. It is on the light side of sweet but the maple shards and extra maple add that extra hit of sweetness if need be.  With a nod of approval from my American friends, I think this one's a winner.

Serves 6-8


Sweet potato filling
500g sweet potato 
400mL coconut milk
200mL water
10 dried dates
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g unsalted butter 
260g almond meal
I egg white
pinch of salt

Spice filling
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
finely grated zest of half an orange
60mL (1/4 cup) maple syrup
2 eggs and extra yolk

Shards for decoration
40g (1/4 cup) seed mix (I used sunflower kernels and pepitas)
1 tbs maple syrup
Dollop of Greek yoghurt


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius 

2. Grease a 24cm quiche pan with butter

3. Place sweet potato, coconut milk and water in a on over medium low heat and simmer for 25 mins or until soft. Cool

4. Whizz dates in the food processor until finely chopped.

5. Combine dates with almond meal, vanilla, butter, 1 egg white and a pinch of salt. 

6. Press mixture into the base and sides. Prick base with a fork. Then bake for 15-20mins until dry. 

7. Whizz sweet potato mixture, spices, zest and 60mL (1/4 cup) maple syrup in a food processor. 

8. Add remaining 2 eggs and yolk and whizz to combine. Pour filling into base. Bake for 45 mins or until just set

9. Toss seeds in remaining 1 tbs maple syrup. Bake on a baking paper lined baking tray for 8-10mins until golden. Cool then break into shards

10. Top pie with yoghurt, shards of seeds and extra maple syrup. 

Noodles with prawns and edamame beans and spicy lemon dressing

Refreshingly clean and filling is what I had in mind with this dish. I do love udon especially with a hot broth topped with tempura. But I thought I would pair it back for tonight's meal. Pepe and I were in agreement, perfect quick dinner with a bit of kick.


270g udon noodle packet
6 green prawns or frozen
1 cup of frozen edamame beans
1 tbs sesame seeds lightly roasted 
4 spring onions, thinly sliced

Spicy lemon dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
60mL soy sauce
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tsp chilli flakes
150mL olive oil 


1. Bring a saucepan of water to boil.
2. Add noodles and cook for 3 minutes
3. Throw in the edamame beans at 2 mins to go with cooking
4. Drain and rinse under cold water til cool
5. Add oil to the fry pan on high heat
6. Add prawns to cook one side for 2mins and turn over for another 2 mins
7. For the dressing combine all the ingredients and whisk together then season to taste
8. Place noodles and beans on a plate, drizzle with dressing and toss to coat.
9. Top with sesame seeds and spring onion to serve. 


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Eggplant sang choy bow

The last few days of Frugal February are here and I even managed to get hubby onboard. He made a delicious fruit salad compote with no sugar which went perfectly with a few large spoonfuls of icecream that the kids and I devoured. 

Still in theme of Chinese New Year, I wanted something with eggplant as I've always eaten sang choy bow but have never attempted to try it. I always find that I would have this dish and be full before continuing on with the banquet at my fave Chinese Restaurant. I must say the result is pretty good and I made enough to have again the second night.

 Serves 4


1 iceberg lettuce

1 eggplant diced into 1cm cubes
1 cup of rice bran oil

2 tsp rice bran oil
3 shallots (white part only) finely sliced
2 tsp of freshly finely chopped ginger (typically a knob of ginger as big as your thumb)
1 red chilli sliced finely 
500g pork mince
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Szechuan pepper
227g can water chestnuts drained and chopped
2tbsp chopped coriander leaves


1. Peel 8 lettuce leaves and trim if need be to make into large cups
2. Heat 1 cup of oil in a wok on high
3. Add eggplant pieces and cook for 4mins turning these over. Remove from oil then place onto paper towel lined plate.
3. Remove oil but retain 2 tsp of oil for the next part
4 Stir fry shallots, ginger and chili for 1-2 minutes
5. Add pork mince and cook for 5mins until colour changes
6. Add hoisin, szechuan pepper, soy sauce, sesame oil and water chestnuts.
7. Continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes
8. Transfer into a serving bowl and stir though the coriander
9. Arrange lettuce cups on a platter, spoon a little of the pork mix into each leaf and serve

Handy hints

Great to make big batches to have handy for quick meals.
My kids love this dish so much so we are fighting over the last spoonful of the eggplant mince mix

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quince paste

My inlaws have a quince tree with so much fruit, some that the birds had gotten to, some on the ground and some way up high. As we were visiting for lunch, the kidlets love exploring their grandparent's garden, running after skinks and picking vegetables from the greenhouse and garden plot.

As I scored 2.5kg of quinces, I needed to do something with them. I have previously poached, baked and made a quince cake but this time, I was going to attempt quince paste. Quinces have a high pectin content, especially from just picked, slightly under ripe fruit that hasn't been refrigerated.

I do love quince paste with cheese, especially an aged cheddar and creamy brie. I found that making quince paste is like making jam. I followed Maggie Beer's recipe for my first attempt but as always tweak it slightly.



2.5kg quinces
caster sugar, to equal the weight of puree when cooked
juice of 2 lemons
peel of 1 lemon (this is my addition to the recipe)


1. Wash and quarter the quinces (keep the peel as the pectin is contained in this)

2. Keep the cores and wrap in muslin and cook them with the quinces. (Cutting out the core is a little difficult at first until you get a rhythm of how to best cut these out)

3. In a large heavy based saucepan, pour enough water over the quinces to cover them. Add the lemon peel.

4. Bring to boil then simmer for 30mins until tender enough to puree. (The house will smell amazing at this stage).

5. Drain the quinces, discard the cores in the muslin and weigh the fruit with peel (to check the sugar amount required)

6. Puree the fruit and peel in a food processor

7. Place the puree into a deep heavy based saucepan (I recommend a stock pot) and equal weight of sugar. (I started with 2.5kg, then 2kg of cooked fruit, so this meant 2kg of sugar) 

8. Add the lemon juice and cook over low heat, stirring continuously (for up to 4 hours) or until mixture thickens and turns a deep red colour. You need to stir continuously or else the mixture will explode and pop and stirring stops it from burning.

9. Remove the paste to a biscuit tray lined with baking paper and spread to a 12mm thickness (in my case this was the depth of the biscuit tray 39cm x 26cm).

10. When it cools (about 15 minutes), wet your hands and flatten the surface by gliding your hands over the top of paste removing any ridges and uneven surfaces.

11. Place the tray in an oven on the lowest possible setting and leave to dry overnight. (I used the oven for dinner for an hour beforehand and used the residual heat to dry out the mixture.)

12. When it has set enough to be cut into squares with a hot knife, it is ready to be cooled and stored.

Handy hints

Use a long wooden spoon, you'll need distance as the paste pops, it's hot stuff. I have one from Simon and Johnson that I bought for hubby for our 5th wedding anniversary.

Cut the quinces in half and quarter and core like you would as an apple.

Pack the quince paste between layers of baking paper and wrap in cling wrap as it's quite sticky. 

Store quince paste in an airtight container for up to 1 year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year, Year of the Sheep Pineapple tarts

I love the vibrant red and celebrations that go hand in hand with Chinese New Year. I thought I'd partake in the festivities and make pineapple tarts. The pastry crumb on these tarts are divine, and the pineapple jam is sweet but not too sweet. I couldn't stop myself and bought not one but two pineapples as they smelt so good. I have been wondering how to make these tarts look like sheep, as it is the Year of the Sheep and I think they turned out ok.

Hoping my bestie is impressed with these tasty pineapple treats. Will have to let you know how these compare to the sweet pineapple treats we try in Taiwan in the not to distant future.


Pineapple Filling Ingredients:

2 ripe pineapples
250g sugar

Muslin square to contain the following
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise


1. Remove the tops and bottoms of the pineapple then cut off the peel around the pineapple
2. Use a food processor to blend for a minute or two.
3. Wrap cloves, cinnamon and star anise into the muslin and tie with cotton twine.
4.Throw muslin into a saucepan with blended pineapple and cook at medium high.
5. Stir every couple of minutes until the pineapple juice has reduced and thickened to a jam consistency (this took just under an hour for me)
6. It's ready when it turns a nice golden in colour, spread out onto a dinner plate to cool.
7. Once cool and roll the pineapple jam into a cylindrical shapes or a fat caterpillar. (You will need to do this first before attempting the pastry).

Pastry Ingredients

250g butter
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt

For glazing
Keep the egg white and add a dash of milk and lightly beat til required

Dry ingredients
350g plain flour (all purpose flour)
50g corn flour
25g rice flour (optional, if you have it)


1. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light in colour.

2. Place egg yolks one at a time, beating the mixture until well combined.

3. Add vanilla essence and salt and whisk until fluffy.

4. Fold in dry ingredients (plain flour, cornflour and rice flour) and mix to form a dough. It should be a light crumbly shortbread texture.

5. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a 5cm long tube in your palm, then gently press down with index finger to flatten the dough into a rectangle shape, around 0.5cm thick and 4cm wide.

6. Place the rolled out pineapple jam on the edge of the rectangle shape and roll the dough to wrap around it to form a small elongated roll. Pinch the edges to close in the pineapple jam. Roll between your palms a couple of times to secure the edges.

7. Place the roll on a baking tray lined with greaseproof baking paper. Repeat until all dough mixture and jam filling used up.

8. Preheat oven at 180°C.

9. Use a fork and draw lines on top of the tarts or perhaps attempt to make a sheep, since it is the Year of the Sheep.

10. Brush the rolls with glaze mix.

11. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

12. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight jar.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Chocolate chip cookies

I have cookies on the mind and with a few play dates planned with friends and their kids, this was the perfect excuse to make a batch or two. My girlfriend told me she could smell these on the footpath leading up to our house and was positively drooling.

One batch is definitely not enough, as my kidlets and hubby gobbled these up before I even had two, so I had to make another batch. How can I refuse my youngest when he asks "more cookies please mummy".

Makes 20


60g unsalted butter
95g brown sugar
50g caster sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

100g wholemeal flour
100g almond meal with chia (throw in chia seeds with almonds to make this delicious flour alternative)
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
85g quality dark chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius (150 degrees fan forced)
2. Line two baking trays with baking paper
3. Using electric beaters mix the butter and sugar until well combined
4. Add egg and vanilla extract, continue mixing
5. Add dry ingredients into butter mixture and keep mixing
6. Stir in the chocolate chips
7. Place 20 spoonfuls of mixture onto the baking trays
8. Bake for 15 mins or until golden brown.
9. Cool for 5 minutes before attempting to eat one
10. Watch out they will be gone in 60 seconds.

Handy hints

Store in an air tight container for upto a week, if they last that long.                                    

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Crunchy top berry muffins

I've been looking for a crunchy top mixed berry muffins recipe so after having had a few attempts and I'm onto a winner. Don't forget the baking powder or else you end up with hard little rocks from experience.




1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup grapeseed or olive oil
1/2 cup heaped with mixed berries (frozen or fresh works fine)

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flaked almonds, finely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 180° and line a 12 hole muffin tin.
2. Place plain and wholemeal flours, baking powder, cinnamon, oats,1/2 cup of brown sugar into a large bowl and stir together.
3. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, yoghurt, oil.
4. Whisk the eggs, yoghurt and oil for a couple of seconds in the well that you have created before adding the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
5. Fold through mixed berries, don’t overmix or else your muffins will end up tough.
6. Spoon into muffin tin.
7. To make crumble topping Mix flaked almonds with brown sugar and sprinkle over muffins.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My favourite fluffy ricotta pancakes

Pancakes are always great fun and on this particular Sunday, I thought I'd treat my family to my favourite breakfast of fluffy ricotta pancakes. The ricotta makes these pancakes moist served up with a dollop of my mango and lemon curd, its too good to say no.

Makes 8 to 10 pancakes


1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
zest of 1 lemon or orange just for that citrus zing



1. Add dry ingredients together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.

2. Combine wet ingredients of ricotta, milk, egg yolks, and vanilla in a separate, larger mixing bowl.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, add the zest of orange or lemon, stirring gently until just combined. 

4. Beat the egg whites with a mixer until stiff.

5. Stir a small scoop of the egg whites into the pancake batter to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining egg white with a spatula.

6. Heat a fry pan over medium-high heat. Melt a small bit of butter/or 1tbsp of olive oil in the pan, just enough to coat the surface.

7. Use a 1/4 cup measure to pour batter onto the fry pan. I usually try and fit at least 4 circles on the fry pan. Cook the pancakes for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden and you see a few bubbles popping through the pancakes. Flip the pancakes and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until golden.

8. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.

9. Serve the pancakes immediately with maple syrup, jam or lemon and mango curd.

Handy hints

If you have a handheld mixer, it's very easy to beat the small amount of eggwhites. You don't even need mixer if you have some muscle nearby to whip the eggwhites for you. If you have a stand mixer, start on low speed and gradually increase to the highest speed as the whites start to form bubbles and thicken.

If your ricotta seems to have a lot of liquid, set it in a fine mesh strainer to drain off excess liquid about 30 minutes before you start cooking.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Goat and potato vindaloo

Vindaloo. My first few experiences have been extreme with my chilli tolerance tested to the limits. A curry so fierce that I felt as though my eyeballs were about to blow out. My lips would blister from the slightest taste of the sauce which meant smearing them as quickly with yoghurt to cool them down. However as much as I love chilli, I have had to tone it down as I just can't handle it as well as I used to.

The word 'vindaloo' melds the Portuguese word for wine, vinho - and alhos for garlic. Both ingredients figure prominent in original Portuguese recipes and modern Indian adaptations of the dish. The meat originally prepared by this method was pork. Back in the day, the Portuguese would preserve pork in large barrels of vinegar and garlic to stop them spoiling on long sea voyages. The Goan influence is event with the addition of potent fiery chillies and various spices such as ginger, coriander and cumin.

This goat and potato curry is great to make as a big batch as you know with curries, they just get better each day. This is an adaptation of Yotam Ottolenghi's "Two potato vindaloo" as I added goat into the mix.

You'll need at least 2 hours for the goat to cook in the oven and the smells will let you know that dinner is ready.


Spice mix
8 cardarmon pods
1 tbs cumin seeds
1 tbs coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cloves
1/4 ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika

2 tbs olive oil
12 shallots (300g in total) chopped
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

2 tbs finely chopped ginger
1 fresh red chilli
3 ripe tomatoes peeled and roughly chopped
50mL cider vinegar
400mL water
1tbsp caster sugar

1/2 cup of plain flour
1kg baby goat meat cut into 3cm dice with bone

400g peeled waxy potatoes cut into 2.5cm dice(I used kresta potatoes and kept the skin on)
1 red capsicum cut into 2 cm dice

To serve
mint or coriander leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Start with the spice mix. Dry roast cardamom pods and cumin, coriander seeds in a small frying pan until they begin to pop. (You'll hear it, don't you worry)

3. Transfer roasted spiced to mortar and pestle and add the cloves

4. Work to a fine powder before removing and discarding cardamom pods once the seeds are released.

5. Add turmeric, paprika and cinnamon and set aside.

6. Heat oil in a large heavy based pot with lid.

7. Add shallots with mustard and fenugreek seeds and sauté on med-low heat for 8 minutes or until shallots brown.

8. Stir in the spice mix, ginger, chilli and cook for a further 3 minutes.

9. Next add the tomatoes, vinegar, water, sugar and salt.

10. Bring to boil and leave to simmer, covered for 10 minutes.

11. Whilst sauce is simmering, coat the goat in flour (best to put this in a plastic bag and shake it all about).

12. Add olive oil to a fry pan and place on high heat (this will allow the meat to sear quickly as it hits the pan).

13. Cook all the pieces of meat until nicely browned as this intensifies the flavour.

14. Add the potatoes, red capsicum and goat into the large heavy based pot.

15. Make sure all the vegetables are just immersed in the sauce, add more water if needed.

16. Cover with the lid and place into the oven, continue cooking for 2 hours or until meat is tender.

17. Serve hot with plain rice and garnished with mint or coriander leaves.

Handy Hints

You can replace the rice with cous cous.
Freeze the leftovers to enjoy for midweek meal.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My favourite all time banana bread

Taking part of Frugal February means reassessing your needs and habits to see where you can cut back on spending. A time to spring clean and de-clutter, I know I've been meaning to but keep putting it off.

Such a great initiative. So far, I've sorted out the kids' room, donated toys, sold a few things online and taking stock of the pantry and food in the fridge to create fun meals for the kids.

With a few weary looking fruit in the fruit bowl, I thought it was the perfect excuse to whip up a simple banana bread to use up the over ripe bananas and sweet pears. Perfect for a mid morning play date snack.

Makes 1 loaf


Dry ingredients
1 cup of plain flour
1 cup of wholemeal flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp of freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp of ground cloves
1/2 tsp of salt

250g (1 stick) of unsalted butter
1 cup of brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1 tsp of vanilla extract

2-3 very ripe mashed bananas
1 pear cut up finely (I keep the skin on as I rather like it)

One banana bread coming up


1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees
2. Line the loaf pan with baking paper
3. Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl, mix and leave until needed.
3. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
4. Add 1 egg at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl for even mixing.
5. Add the milk and vanilla extract and continue mixing
6. Add the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix until a smooth creamy consistency
7. Add in the mashed bananas into the mixture
8. Stir in the cut pear
9. Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake for 60-70mins or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
10. Let it cool for 20mins before unmoulding
11. Serve slight warm with a dollop of butter, or at room temperature.

My official taste tester

Handy hints

*This banana bread keeps well wrapped in plastic for up to 3 days at room temperature.
*For longer storage, slice the banana bread to your preferred thickness and wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer for 2 months. I also individually wrap slices rather than to defrost the whole loaf.
*Defrost in plastic wrap at room temperature.
*Or place the frozen banana bread slices into the toasted sandwich maker to give that crisp crunch
*I have also replaced the pears with apples and that works out a treat as well.

Deliciously moist banana bread