Coconut Celebration Cake with Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing

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I was having a look at my blog the other day and realized it had been a year since I started, so I thought I’d make a little celebration cake to mark the occassion! While I would love a bit more time to devote to it, I love the outlet it provides me to share my recipes with other foodies. It keeps me inventing new recipes and forces me to take risks in the kitchen, which is a lot of fun. So, thanks to everyone who comes by and checks it out.

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To celebrate, I decided to make one of my all time favourite cakes, a super moist coconut cake that I’ve loved ever since I was little. It’s a Woman’s Weekly classic that uses sour cream to ensure the cake’s moist texture and make sure it isn’t overly sweet. While I love this cake as is, I decided to take it up a notch and add a delicious pomegranate mascarpone icing to really add that oomph! The icing is tangy and complements the cake perfectly. To top it off, I thought the cake needed a bit of texture, so I added some toasted coconut that I just baked in the oven at 220°C for about 6 minutes. And to add some colour, I finished it with some freeze dried raspberries and pomegranate arils. And I have to say, it was incredible. I don’t like to boast to much but flavours and textures in the cake are so delicious, every plate in the house was licked clean. I hope you like it as much as I did!

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Coconut Celebration Cake with Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing

Coconut Cake

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cup caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 500g sour cream
  • 2/3 cup milk

Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs pomegranate molasses

Topping

  • ½ cup toasted coconut flakes
  • Arils of ½ a pomegranate
  • ½ cup freeze dried raspberries

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease two deep 22cm-round cake pans; line base with baking paper.
  2. Beat butter, essence and sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in half the coconut and half the sifted flour, half the sour cream and half the milk, then add remaining coconut, flour, sour cream and milk; stir until smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture into the two pans; bake for about 50 minutes or until cooked when tested. Stand cake in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto wire rack, top-side up, to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, while the cake is baking, start on the icing. In a large bowl beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Add egg, beat well.
Add vanilla, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses and mix until combined.
  6. To assemble the cake: place one of the cakes on a board or cake stand. Using a large spoon, place half the icing mixture into the middle of the cake. You don’t want to spread it all the way to the edge as once you place the second cake on top the weight will push the icing to the side. Place second cake on top and dollop the rest of the icing on top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, pomegranate arils and freeze dried raspberries and serve.

Freekah and Haloumi Salad

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I think making this salad was wishful thinking. Sydney is still rather chilly and dreary at the moment. Getting up in the morning requires well though-out layering of coats and scarves. Work lunches normally consist of soup and numerous cups of hot tea are consumed throughout the day. But I am off to Europe in a month for my first holiday in two years. I think the thought of sunshine, warm water and balmy nights got me confused about which hemisphere I was on. I had urges for something light and fresh – something that I might order while I drink cocktails and relax by the pool in Santorini. This salad seemed to hit the mark rather well though. I may be slightly premature in my food choices but this salad is rather tasty. It’s zingy from the lemon, slightly textural with the crunch of the freekah, salty with the haloumi and with just the right amount of sweetness from the tomatoes. So if you’re dreaming of being on a different continent, do like I did and give this a go!

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Freekah and Haloumi Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

175g freekah, cooked according to packet instructions

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 handful mint, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 spring onions, sliced thinly

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced

125ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra

juice of 2 lemons

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

300g haloumi, cut into 4 slices

 

Method 

Put the freekah in a bowl and add the parsley, mint, red onion, spring onions and vine-ripened tomatoes. Mix well.

Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the freekah and mix through thoroughly.

Place a pan onto the stove on a high heat and add a splash of extra virgin olive oil. When hot, add the haloumi slices and cook on one side for a minute until they turn brown and a crust forms.

Turn over and repeat.

To serve, slice up the haloumi, divide between 4 plates and spoon over the freekah salad.

Rhubarb, Rose and Dark Chocolate Tart

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Sometimes the thought of making a dessert that involves pastry seems like rather too much work. I admit, I have resorted to using the store bought variety on occasion, and while it can deliver quite satisfactory results, it never does quite match the homemade kind. In my head I think that making pastry from scratch is a rather laborious task, but every time I do decide to make it I am pleasantly surprised at how simple it actually is. Yes, it does mean you have to wait a little longer while it chills in the fridge, but usually that gives you time to prepare the tart filling or get on with something else. And, you can always make more than you need and freeze it. Then you’ve got perfect homemade pastry just sitting in the freezer waiting for the next time those tart cravings come calling. You will thank yourself later for doing this, I promise.

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With rhubarb still being in season I thought I would have a go at making a rhubarb and dark chocolate tart that I had seen in an old issue of Donna Hay that was lying around the house. As always when I see something in a magazine, I tweaked and played around with the recipe slightly and I think it turned out pretty well. The base is just the right combination of slightly bittery chocolate and sweet. I like to use cacao as opposed to baking cocoa, as I think it gives the recipe a more robust chocolatey flavour as the cacao beans have not been processed unlike cocoa. The rhubarb adds a nice tang, while the rosewater and sugar helps ensure it isn’t too tart and the chocolate ganache brings the richness that helps marry everything together. This dessert is perfect if you are having a dinner party as you can prepare everything the day before and have it ready in the fridge for when your guests arrive, plus it looks so pretty that everyone will be impressed!

 

Rhubarb, Rose and Dark Chocolate Tart 

Serves 8

  • ¼ cup cacao + plus extra, for dusting
  • 1¼ cups self-raising flour
  • 125g chilled butter, cubed
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons iced water
  • 2 teaspoons dried rose petals

baked rhubarb

  • 400g rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 10cm lengths
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rosewater

dark chocolate ganache

  • 300g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup thickened cream

Place the cocoa, flour, butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add the egg yolks and process to combine. Add the iced water and process until the dough comes together. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Roll pastry out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm-thick. Line a 24cm-round loose-bottomed tart tin with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the base with a fork.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper, fill with baking weights, or uncooked rice if you don’t have baking weights, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 10–15 minutes or until the pastry is light golden. Allow to cool in the tin.

To make the baked rhubarb, place the rhubarb, sugar and rosewater in a bowl and mix to combine. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until tender and just starting to fall apart. Set aside to cool.

To make the dark chocolate ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Place the cream in a saucepan over low heat and stir until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Using a wooden spoon, mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Place the rhubarb in the base of the pastry case and pour over the ganache. Refrigerate for 2–3 hours or until set. Dust with extra cacao and dried rose petals to serve.

Apricot and Blackberry Shortcake

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With the cool, crisp weather we’ve been having lately, my desire for warm, comforting food has only increased. Because to be honest, comfort food is always a winner no matter what the season. For me baking is the ultimate in comfort food. While I love a buttery cupcake, or a creamy cheescake, there is something about fruit and pastry that warms the cockles of your heart. Especially when you make sure it’s sweet, oozy, jammy fruit and rich, crumbly shortcake. Drizzled with some thick cream and you have yourself the perfect winter warmer treat.

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This cake uses apricots and blackberries, but feel free to play around with other stone fruits and berries that are in season, as it is hard to go wrong. Macerating the fruit slightly in the lemon and brown sugar helps it to soften and lets those flavours sink in before they are developed further and intensified in the oven. The addition of clove adds a subtle spice and the almond meal keeps the cake from being too heavy. While this cake has a few steps, each of them is easy and you should be able to get this out of the oven within an hour which is perfect for when those cravings come calling.

 

Apricot and Blackberry Shortcake

Adapted from a recipe by Karen Martini in goodfood.com

Filling

8 large ripe apricots (can used can if not in season)

3 tbsp light brown sugar, plus extra to garnish

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 punnet blackberries (if using frozen, ensure they are thawed first)

1 handful toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Shortcake

150g plain flour

30g cornflour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

100g almond meal

1/2 tsp ground cloves

160g butter, room temp

140g caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a 22- to 24-centimetre springform tin.

2. For the filling, slice the apricots in half and pit. Place the halves into a ceramic dish and toss with brown sugar and lemon juice. Allow to sit, cut-side down, for 10 minutes, then bake for 25 minutes or until the apricots are just starting to collapse. Remove apricots and set aside on kitchen paper. If using canned apricots, you can don’t need to bake them, just place them in the lemon juice and sugar mix and leave aside until required.

3. For the shortcake, mix the flour, cornflour, baking powder, almond meal and cloves together.

4. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until pale and light. Beat in the egg, then add the flour mix and thoroughly combine to a thick paste.

5. Scoop two-thirds of the shortcake into the tin and press into base and up sides in the shape of a shallow basin. Place apricots on the dough, cut-side up, scatter over the blackberries, and dab pinches of the remaining shortcake over the top, leaving some fruit showing.

6. Sprinkle some extra brown sugar and the hazelnuts on the shortcake blobs and bake for 30-40 minutes or until light golden. Allow to cool a little before unmoulding and slicing.

Middle Eastern Barbecued Eggplant with Tahini Dressing and Pomegranates

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Our oven broke last week and it forced me to get a bit experimental in my cooking. I’m confident in my normal domain – the oven and stove. But when you take the oven out of the equation, your choice become considerably more limited. Sure, you can get creative and there are countless dishes you can make that require solely a stove-top. But when you get home from work the first dish that creeps into your head will undoubtedly be pasta. And after a while, or my third night consecutively chowing down on the delicious carb-loaded aforementioned meal, I had reached my limit. I needed something baked. Then I remembered we had a barbeque. That foreign object that sits outside in the garden. To me, the barbeque is the domain of steaks and sausages, not the domain of slow roasted meat, or caramelized vegetables. However, I decided that I needed to break-free from my comforting inside-oven domain and brave the grey, rainy weather to use the barbeque. Under the careful prowess of my boyfriend who helped me turn it on (yes, you read the correctly) I started to get acquainted with the big, scary barbeque. And I can tell any of you other non-barbecue-users that it’s not as a scary as you may think.

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My barbeque has a temperature dial, which helped when trying to figure out how long and what temperature to cook things at. However, a barbeque cannot be treated in the same way as an oven as the heat is not regulated in the same way and may not cook things as evenly as you might be used to. Do not despair. Just keep an eye on what your cooking, move it around to a different part of the barbeque and play with the temperature dials a bit until you get a feel for it. You will get there, I promise and the results will be worth it!

While the barbeque does produce a decidedly more smoky flavoured result, this can be absolutely perfect for some recipes. This recipe for middle eastern braised eggplant being one of them. I have made this dish before in the oven but I was pleasantly surprised that the barbeque produced a far more flavorsome meal. The smoky, charred flavour that finds its way into the eggplant means that the eggplant is soft and tender inside, with a crisp, crunchy skin. Pair this with a tangy, creamy tahini dressing and a fresh hit of pomegranates and I promise you’ll be grateful that you ventured outside.

Middle Eastern Barbequed Eggplant with Tahini Dressing and Pomegranates

Serves 6 as side

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized eggplants, sliced into 1cm thick discs
  • ½ bunch chopped coriander
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds

Marinade

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground chilli
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp dukkah
  • Sea salt to season

Dressing

  • 2 tbs tahini
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs water
  • Juice from 1½ lemons
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • Sea salt to season

 

Method: 

  • Preheat the barbeque to 200°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  • Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl.
  • Place the eggplant discs flat on the baking trays and spread out evenly.
  • Using a pastry brush, dip it into the marinade and baste each disc with the marinade. Repeat on all the discs, turning each over to coat each side.
  • Put the eggplant into the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until soft in the middle and crispy on the outside. Be sure to turn the eggplant discs over so they cook evenly about half way through cooking.
  • While the eggplant is cooking you can make the dressing. For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. The tahini will absorb a lot of the liquid so if it looks a little thick, add a bit more oil, lemon juice or water and taste.
  • Remove the eggplant from the barbeque and place onto a serving tray. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with pomegranates and top with coriander. Serve warm.

 

 

Bircher Porridge with Berry Compote

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In the land of Westeros ‘winter is coming’, but here in Sydney it appears that winter has well and truly arrived. The rain has been tumbling down for over a week now and the temperature has dropped. It’s time to get the jeans and coats back out of the cupboard as it looks like they’re going to be on high rotation for the next few months. While, I’m a summer baby and love nothing more than spending the entire day soaking up the rays at the beach I have to admit there is something rather nice about being inside and cozy, and being able to watch the rain trickle (or cascade) down outside. The only trouble with cold weather is that it makes it that much harder to get out of bed. But with the promise of something warm and sweet, such as this bircher porridge, beckoning you from your snug bed, it might not be quite as hard. This breakfast is simple, quick, but most of all – comforting!

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Bircher Porridge with Berry Compote 

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup bircher muesli
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey or rice malt syrup
  • 4 strawberries, chopped
  • handful raspberries
  • handful blueberries
  • handful flaked coconut
  • small handful natural walnuts

Method:

  1. Place the bircher muesli, almond milk and half the honey in saucepan and place over a medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until it comes to the boil. Once it comes to the bowl, continue to stir continuously until the porridge reaches your desired consistency and take off heat.
  2. At the same time you are making the porridge place the berries and ½ cup water in a saucepan over a high eat. Stir occasionally, allowing the berries to disintegrate and form a sauce with the water. Keep stirring until the berry sauce starts to thicken.
  3. Pour porridge into a bowl, top with berry compote. Sprinkle with coconut and walnuts and drizzle with remaining honey and serve immediately.

Poached Chicken Sambal and Coconut Salad

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I’m a bit obsessed with sambal oelek at the moment. The spicy yet still slightly sweet sauce seems to go with a multitude of dishes, with this simple fresh chicken salad being one of them. The combination of chilli, shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, lime juice amongst others gives this dish the punchy kick it needs to make it a recipe you’ll want to add to weekly repertoire.

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Poached Chicken Sambal and Coconut Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ yellow capsicum, diced
  • 2 sprigs shallot, chopped
  • ¾ cup coconut flakes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup mint, chopped
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 400g chicken breast
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2-3 tbs sambal oelek (adjust to your preference)

Method:

  1. Pour chicken stock into a medium sized saucepan over a high heat. Bring to the boil. Place chicken into saucepan and reduce hit to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and allow to cool.
  2. Use your hands to shred the chicken. Place shredded chicken into a bowl and stir through the sambal oelek. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.