Lemon Custard Tart with Fresh Berries

Serves: 6-8

Time: 1 hour + 2 hours resting time for pastry


I used to work at this amazing french bakery, and I remember on my very first shift my boss told me I was allowed to have anything to eat on my break, which included a variety of pies, sandwiches and mouthwatering pastries and tarts. I didn’t know what to do, the choices were endless! Did I want an almond croissant or the pumpkin and feta pie? The pear galette or the roast beef sandwich? After a solid 2 minutes of ‘I CAN’T DECIDE’ syndrome, I laid eyes on the lemon custard tart. There’s something so comforting and homely about lemon desserts that I just can’t resist. I remember my first bite vividly- I was sat on a park bench just outside of the bakery with both my hands cupping the tart as though it were a rare diamond. As I took a bite, I accidentally blew some of the icing sugar that covered the top of the tart all over my pants which to some, looked a tad incriminating, but I didn’t care. It was the best lemon tart I’d ever had. Sweet, but tangy with a perfectly crumbly pastry. From then on, lemon tarts are my go to desserts whether I’m in a restaurant or at home.

(If you were wondering, over the 3 years working at that bakery I managed to try every pie, sandwich, pastry and tart.)

Anyway, nostalgic story aside, let’s get on with it!

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Sweet Pastry Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 30g almond meal
  • 30g icing sugar
  • 125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 egg yolks, reserve the whites
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbs icy cold water

Method:

  1. Whiz flour, almond meal, icing sugar, salt and butter together in a food processor until mixture resembles bread crumbsIMG_0095
  2. Add the yolks and 2-3 tbs cold water and pulse until mixture just comes together. Tip the pastry onto a lightly floured bench and shape into a ball. Cover with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Try not to handle to pastry too much as this will make it tough. IMG_0097
  3. Once chilled, remove from fridge and roll out to 5-10mm thick on lightly floured surface.
  4. Liberally grease tart pan with canola spray (one tip I learned while doing work experience in bakeries is to use some form of oil spray rather than butter or flour -its much quicker and you can get into the nooks and crannies of your tart pan.).
  5. Carefully transfer rolled pastry into tart pan and press to fit. Trim the edges and prick generously with a fork.IMG_0116
  6. Blind bake in a preheated oven at 190ºC oven for 10 minutes. I used rice to substitute baking beads.IMG_0117
  7. After 10 minutes, remove rice or baking beads. Lightly whisk the reserved egg whites from earlier and brush the pastry case. This will help prevent any leakages. Return to the oven for another 10 minutes. Let cool.IMG_0147

IMG_0107Lemon Custard Ingredients:

  • 200g golden or regular caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 150ml thickened cream
  • Zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
  • 100ml lemon juice

Method:

  1. Reduce oven to 150ºC. Whisk sugar and eggs until foamy. Gradually beat in the cream and add the zest and juice. Pour into tart case and bake for 30-40 minutes until just set. Set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from tart pan. IMG_0151
  2. Decorate with fresh blueberries and strawberries, and dust with icing sugar.

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Enjoy!

Warm Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Haloumi

Serves: 4-6

Time: 45 minites


This is my go-to salad- its simple, easy and delicious. In my first year of university, I would make a large batch of this every Sunday in preparation for my lunch throughout the week, although I rarely made it past mid-week before I ran out!

My friend from work actually made me something very similar to this this a few years back, and so I can’t take full credit for this recipe, however over the years I’ve tweaked and changed it to how it is now. Although, now that I think about it, I probably change it every time I make it! That’s the beauty of salads (and food in general). Add what you like, and take out what you don’t like. Usually I make this salad with pumpkin, but I had a sweet potato on hand, and why waste a good opportunity to use sweet potato? I also normally make a basil pesto (or buy a good old jar of pre-made pesto from the supermarket if I’m feeling lazy) to toss through the salad, but today I wasn’t really feeling the pesto-vibe. So, I just opted for a basil, olive oil and lemon dressing. If you don’t like haloumi (but lets face it, everyone likes haloumi), I’ve often grilled a piece of chicken to accompany the salad instead, or even just eaten it as is.

 

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Basil Dressing Ingredients:


  • 1 bunch of basil
  • Juice of 1 lemon (roughly 50ml)
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:


Add all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth. If you like, you can add a clove of garlic, some parmesan cheese and a handful of pine nuts or almonds to make a pesto.

 

Quinoa


Salad ingredients:


  • 3/4 cups of quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups of water (or chicken or vege stock if you’d like to add more flavour)
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 capsicum
  • 1 small sweet potato (or pumpkin)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground corriander
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 1 handful of pumpkin seeds
  • Few handfuls of spinach leaves
  • 180g haloumi
  • Basil dressing (or pesto)

Method:


1. Preheat oven at 180°C. Place walnuts and pumpkin seeds on a tray and lightly toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes until slightly browned and toasted. Give the tray a shake every couple of minutes to avoid burning the nuts and seeds.

2. Prepare quinoa. Rinse quinoa with water to get rid of the dirt and grit. Place in a saucepan with stock or water and bring to the boil. Once boiled, bring down the heat and simmer until cooked. I find that the cooking time for quinoa often varies, so a good indication of when it is done is when all the stock or water has been absorbed and the quinoa is tender (to test, squeeze some quinoa between your fingers). If the quinoa is still on the harder side, add a bit more stock or water and continue to cook until it is done (this generally takes 20-25 minutes). Set aside to let cool slightly.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, chop veges into cubes and throw into a large roasting tray. IMG_0032

IMG_0033Douse with olive oil, add salt, pepper and spices, and toss until evenly coated. Place in an 180°C oven and cook for 15 minutes. Give the veges a toss, then continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes until cooked.

4. While the quinoa and veges are cooking, slice haloumi into sticks and fry in a dry, non-stick pan for a couple minutes on each side until golden.IMG_0038

5. Once veges are cooked let cool for 5-10 minutes. Add the quinoa, nuts, and the dressing to the roasting tray, and toss until combined.

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I like to add the spinach last after the salad has cooled down a tad to prevent the leaves from over-wilting. Serve with haloumi, an extra sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and a spritz of lemon juice.

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Enjoy!

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(Sorry about the photo spam, I couldn’t decide which ones I liked the most!)

 

 

 

Mac and Cheese

Serves: 4-5

Time: 45 minutes


Cheese is probably my ultimate weakness, closely followed by pork, and then carbohydrates. So, what do you get when you add them all together? Absolute happiness.

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Ingredients:


 

  • 400g speck or bacon
  • 400g macaroni
  • 30g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 850ml milk, I added a bit of cream too as I had some left over
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 200g cheddar
  • 200g mozzarella, plus extra to sprinkle on top
  • 2 tsp tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg

 Method:


 

1. Put a large pot on the boil for the pasta. Chop speck or bacon into small dice and pan fry until crispy. Reserve rendered fat if you’d like to add it to the mac and cheese.

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2. Make your roux. To do this, on a medium heat melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Stir continuously until the flour is cooked through. This took me about 4-5 minutes. Then, add the chopped garlic and continue stirring for another 3-4 minutes.

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3. Once you’ve reached a nice golden colour in your roux, turn the heat down to low and slowly whisk in the milk. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Take off the heat, add the nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper (I love pepper so I like to add a lot), and the grated cheeses. I like to use 2 types of cheese; cheddar for taste, and mozzarella for the stringy, cheesy consistency.

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4. Cook the pasta in salted water for 2 minutes less than you normally would and add it to the cheese sauce. This is because we will continue to cook the mac and cheese in the oven to finish it off. Add the cooked speck and stir through.

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5. Spread onto a large tray and sprinkle over the remaining mozzarella. Bake at 200ºC for 10-15 minutes until the cheese melts and becomes golden brown in colour.

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I like to serve it with some roasted broccolini, mainly to convince myself of the balanced meal I’m about to eat, but also because there’s something about broccolini or even plain broccoli that goes so well with mac and cheese. I simply roasted them in the oven for 10 minutes with some salt, pepper and olive oil.

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Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes: 16 (fairly) large cookies

Time: 25-30 minutes


I came across this recipe about 5 years ago when I was heavily into baking (I had a phase during college when I wanted to become a pastry chef), and I’ve used this recipe ever since. However, since I am broadcasting this to the intimidating world of the internet I felt I had to do a little more research on how to create the ULTIMATE cookie. I stumbled across a blog called ‘Sally’s Baking Addiction’, to which the author swears by adding a bit of corn flour to amplify it’s chewiness factor. After trying it, I am converted! The cookies were deliciously chewy without being raw in the middle.

When it comes to food I’m pretty greedy, I won’t deny that. So naturally, I like A LOT of chocolate in my cookies to the point where they basically consist wholly of chocolate with the odd bit of cookie dough here and there. It may seem like the amount of chocolate I use in this recipe is a lot (I would add more but chocolate often comes in 200g packets) but trust me, it’s worth it.

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Ingredients

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp corn flour
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 200g white chocolate, roughly chopped

 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Cream butter, sugars and vanilla extract together until light and fluffy. This normally takes 3-4 minutes. Add egg and beat until combined. Stir in sifted four, bicarb, salt and corn flour in two batches. Once combined, add the chocolate and mix until incorporated.

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2. Roll the dough into balls and place on lined baking tray. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hands. Make sure there is 4-5cm between each ball to allow for spreading. If you like, you can place the rolled balls in the fridge for a few minutes to help reduce spreading. 

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3. Bake for 7-11 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies. My balls were relatively large -around 5cm in diameter- (let’s take a minute to take that sentence in), and so I baked mine for 9-10 minutes. A good indication of their readiness is a golden rim around the edges. After you take the cookies out of the oven, let cool for 15-20 minutes. At first, they may seem undercooked and soft, but they will harden and become that chewy, gooey, delicious cookie that you’ve been slaving away for.

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Serve with a large glass of milk! Or in my case, a mug of milk.

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Enjoy! 

Roast Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves: 6-8

Cooking time: 50-60 minutes


Pumpkin soup -a classic winter warmer to have in your cooking repertoire. In this recipe, I’ve added sweet potato purely because I have a slight affinity for the golden tuberous vegetable, but for those who do not share the same love, by all means just use pumpkin. I almost always roast my vegetables for two reasons; because its incredibly easy and involves almost no effort, but also because I think it’s the best method to lock in flavour, unlike boiling or steaming. For me, the great thing about making soup is that satisfying feeling of comfort when you rug up in front of the tele and slurp an oversized bowl of wholesome soup.
 

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut pumpkin, mine was 1.3kg
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 litre chicken stock

 

To garnish

  • 100-150g speck or bacon, depending on how much you like deliciously cured, fatty pork
  • 1 handful of pumpkin seeds
  • snow pea sprouts

 

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel, deseed and chop the pumpkin and sweet potato into small, 2cm dice. The small dice is not only to speed up the roasting process, but also to achieve greater caramelisation- you want dark gnarly edges as it will give the soup a greater depth of flavour. Place the pumpkin, sweet potato and garlic (with the skin on) in a large roasting tray.

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2. Give the veges a liberal drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle over the herbs and spices along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss until evenly coated.

3. Place into oven and roast for 15 minutes. Give the veges a toss, then bake for a further 15-20 minutes.

4. During these 20 minutes, heat up the stock in a medium saucepan until boiled. Remove from heat. Dry toast pumpkin seeds in a small frypan until they become slightly brown and have puffed up. Set aside. Chop speck into small cubes and fry off until crispy. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, you can save the rendered fat to add to your soup later.

5. Once the veges are golden brown, remove from oven and let cool slightly. Squeeze out the garlic from their skins. Transfer the pumpkin, sweet potato and garlic (add rendered fat at this stage) to a blender along with the stock and blend until smooth. You may need to do 2 or 3 batches depending on the size of your blender.

6. Pour the soup into a large saucepan and warm through before serving. I like to serve my soup with garlicky, buttery, cheesy bread. To do this, add some minced garlic to some butter and spread over slices of bread. Top with grated parmesan cheese and toast in the oven for 3-5 minutes.

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When serving, top with a spoonful of crispy speck and a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds. Garnish with a few snow pea sprouts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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Enjoy!