Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce

Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce | gatherandgraze.com

Some dishes remain etched in our minds… often linked to fond memories of the people who we ate them with or the places where we sat to savour and indulge in them. We may not cook them all the time… in fact years may trickle by before we find them on the table once again. In some ways comparable to beautiful, strong friendships that are created over the years. The ones that not only survive, despite the distance and life keeping us busy, but grow stronger… with no need of daily text messages or phone calls every week. The absolute joy of seeing these friends, after months or even years is like waking up on Christmas morning!

Seafood Bonbons were something my mother used to make on occasions for grown-up Dinner Parties with their friends. They were usually served as an entrée/starter before the main meal came out. In the days where the table was beautifully laden with tablecloths, fine china and crystal glasses. Cutlery set out like soldiers either side of the plates… “always work from the outside in!”, my mother taught us well. I was but a child then… but would peep through the dining room door to look in wonder at the beautifully dressed ladies and the feast that they were all partaking in. There was such an element of excitement on Dinner Party nights… the sights and sounds and smells all tucked away, to this day (somewhat hazily, yet sweet) in my mind.

Over the years, we’ve had dinners of our own with friends… not quite the fancy, elegant dinner parties of the 70’s, but the more relaxed and casual versions of the 90’s and 00’s. Seafood Bonbons have made the occasional appearance with some of our dear friends too… and always to much delight and appreciation! On my table this week they featured as a main dish, with two bonbons per person instead of one. I hope you’ll enjoy them as well.

Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce | Gather and Graze

For the Bonbons:

  • 500ml/4 Cups Water
  • 300g Raw Prawn/Shrimp Meat (chopped in halves)
  • 300g Raw Scallops (chopped in halves)
  • 16 (Long) Chives
  • 1 Heaped Tablespoon Cream
  • 1 Clove of Garlic (Crushed)
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 16 Sheets of Filo Pastry (I use Antoniou brand, which are 28cm x 40cm)
  • 75g/5 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (Melted)

For the Sauce:

  • 2 Free-Range Egg Yolks
  • 80ml/⅓ Cup Cream
  • 80ml/⅓ Cup Reserved Stock (from poaching the seafood)
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 30g Unsalted Butter (Softened and Diced)
  • 1 Tablespoon Chives (Chopped)
  • Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Place the water into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the prawns and scallops, cook for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon to a mixing bowl to cool down a little. If there is any excess water that has transferred to the bowl with the seafood, be sure to drain it out. Now add the chives to the saucepan and cook for 3 seconds, remove and also set aside for the moment. Reserve 80mls (⅓ Cup) of the cooking water/stock and set aside for making the sauce later on.

When the prawns and scallops have cooled a little, add the 1 tablespoon of cream, the crushed garlic, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce | gatherandgraze.com

Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC and line 2 large baking trays with parchment/baking paper.

Lay out one sheet of filo pastry on a clean board or bench top (with a short end closest to you) and using a pastry brush, brush on a light layer of melted butter. Place another sheet of filo on top and once again brush the top lightly with butter. Across the end closest to you, scoop an eighth of the prawn/scallop mixture to form a log shape, leaving a section on either side bare. If confused, please see my attempt at a diagram below…

Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce | gatherandgraze.com

Now lift the edge of the filo pastry closest to you and fold it over the mixture. Continue then to roll the pastry right up to the other end. Pinch in the sides to make a bonbon shape and tie the softened chives around either end (as per the photo below). Continue making the other 7 bonbons in the same manner and place on the prepared baking trays. Brush the tops with a little more melted butter.

Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce | gatherandgraze.com

Slide the trays into the pre-heated oven and bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the bonbons are baking in the oven, prepare the sauce so that it’s ready to serve as soon as the bonbons come out of the oven… In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, cream, reserved stock and lemon juice. Place over a gentle heat. Warm the mixture, though do not allow it to boil. Gradually add in the butter, piece by piece and stir until the sauce has thickened to a nice consistency. Add in the chopped chives and season well with salt and pepper.

Serve without delay! Place two bonbons per person onto a plate with some sauce carefully spooned around them. A fresh green salad (in summer) or some lightly steamed greens (in winter) would be the perfect sides to accompany this dish.

Seafood Filo Bonbons with Lemon Cream Sauce | gatherandgraze.com

* Very slightly adapted from a recipe in the Australian Women’s Weekly ‘Dinner Party Cookbook No. 2′

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs | gatherandgraze.com

There are some dishes that I hesitate in posting, as I feel that they’re probably not exciting enough for my fellow bloggers and readers who I know cook to such a high level and have their own tried and tested recipes. However, part of the reason for creating this blog is to provide a go-to guide and resource for my two young boys, so that eventually when they leave the nest 😢 (or even before then perhaps… when they feel inspired to cook up something for dinner for their parents! Yes, I did stress that word ‘perhaps’!)… some of their favourites will be there to  find easily.

This is a dish that I cook reasonably regularly and it’s most definitely one that puts a smile on everyone’s faces! It comes from a well-used cookbook called ‘Apples for Jam’ by Tessa Kiros. The only changes I’ve made are slightly increasing the quantity of meat and upping the amount of spices. Though feel free to make your own decisions as to how fragrant you like your meatballs!

Spaghetti and Meatballs | Gather and Graze

For the Meatballs:

  • 50g (Day Old) Crustless White Bread (broken into small pieces)
  • 4 Tablespoons Milk
  • 250g Beef Mince
  • 250g Pork Mince
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Flat-Leaf Parsley (Finely Chopped)
  • ½ Small Red Onion or French Shallot (Coursely Grated)

(Plus 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil for frying the meatballs)

For the Sauce:

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Peeled and Smashed a bit)
  • 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
  • A few Basil Leaves (Torn)
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 250ml/1 Cup Boiling Water

To serve:

  • 300g Pasta (Spaghetti or Linguine…)
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Begin by making the meatballs… In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread and milk and use fingers to mush it together into something of a paste. Add all other ingredients and once again use hands to mix together until fully combined. Roll into small balls and set aside on a plate until the sauce has been started and you are ready to fry them up.

* Tip: I prefer to place my uncooked meatballs in the fridge for at least half an hour, as they seem to hold their shape a little better when frying.

To make the sauce, place the olive oil and smashed garlic into a medium-sized pot and place over low/medium heat. Heat until the garlic is gently frying and aromatic. Add the tinned tomatoes and basil, along with a grinding of pepper and a pinch of salt. Allow to simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Spaghetti and Meatballs | gatherandgraze.com

At this point, start frying the meatballs in the extra oil in a large frying pan. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown all over.

Spaghetti and Meatballs | gatherandgraze.com

Now add 250mls (1 Cup) of boiling water to the pot with the sauce and stir combine. Add the cooked meatballs into the sauce and continue to cook on a gentle simmer (uncovered) for another 20-25 minutes, until the sauce has thickened beautifully. Be sure to check for seasoning and adjust if need be.

Have your pasta water boiling and ready to go. Cook the pasta until ‘al dente’, then place into a serving bowl. I like to coat the pasta with a small splash of olive oil (so that the strands don’t all stick together), before piling on top the meatballs and sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs | gatherandgraze.com

Serve with some freshly grated parmesan on the side, a crisp green salad and some crusty bread for mopping up the sauce.

Spaghetti and Meatballs | gatherandgraze.com

Dinner was happily eaten outside on this particular evening. A glass of red… or white (as is my preference going into the warmer months) complements this dish rather well too!

Spaghetti and Meatballs | gatherandgraze.com

* Recipe from ‘Apples for Jam’ by Tessa Kiros

Our Late Spring Canberra Garden

The makings of a summer salad or two…

Herbs to enhance all manner of dishes…

The gorgeous garlic (Monaro Red, I think…) planted months ago with my sister-in-law AJ! xx

Lovely to have a few fruit trees finally in the garden… and a quiet place to sit on balmy evenings.

 

Ginger Crunch Slice

Ginger Crunch Slice | gatherandgraze.com

While jotting down some tips recently, for friends heading over to New Zealand in the summer time, I found myself reminiscing about all the wonderful places we visited when we lived there. Wellington of course, is where my memories are the happiest and the strongest. Our little family perched itself on the hillside there for two glorious years, only feeling grumpy through the winter when the sun’s rays didn’t touch the house or deck. Note to self… buy a North-facing property should we ever move back! Wellington (and New Zealand) is a magical place that I’d urge you all to experience at least once in your lifetime.

The following morning/afternoon tea treat brings back such fond memories as well. Almost weekly a dear friend and I would pick up a variety of slices and scones (often of the cheese and chive variety) from a cafe in Khandallah to share with our little ones who were too young for school. We’d make cups of China Rose Tea and nibble on these little pieces of deliciousness, chatting away while the children played happily with toy cars and lego. It truly was a special time and place.

Ginger Crunch is an iconic New Zealand slice… one that you will find recipes for, in the ‘Edmond’s Cookbook’ and many other kiwi cookbooks and websites. It’s base is crisp and crunchy like a biscuit and then topped with the most wonderful gingery fudge-like topping. If you’re a fan of ginger, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with this slice, just like I did. When I baked this the other day, I was running rather low on ground ginger, so decided to add mixed spice to the base instead – for me, this improved upon the slice, giving it a more balanced flavour and almost a hint of Christmas.

Ginger Crunch Slice | Gather and Graze

For the base:

  • 115g/1 Stick Unsalted Butter (softened)
  • 80g/⅓ Cup (Raw) Caster Sugar
  • 190g/1¼ Cups Plain Four
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Mixed Spice (or Ground Ginger if you want an extra kick of ginger)

For the topping:

  • 80g/⅓ Cup Unsalted Butter
  • 2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
  • 120g/1 Cup Icing (Powdered) Sugar
  • 3 Teaspoons Ground Ginger

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 28cm x 18cm slice tin with baking paper.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Sift together the remaining dry and ingredients and add them in 2 lots to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix together until just combined. Press this mixture evenly into the prepared slice tin and bake for approximately 18-20 minutes until golden.

While the base is cooking in the oven, prepare the topping by placing all ingredients into a small saucepan and stir over gentle heat until melted, combined and smooth.

As soon as you remove the base from the oven, while it’s still hot, pour the topping over and spread it out evenly. Allow the slice to cool completely, before cutting into squares or fingers. A small tip is to use a hot knife (heated under a hot tap, then dried) when cutting this slice, to give nice smooth edges.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week (if it lasts that long!)

Ginger Crunch Slice | gatherandgraze.com

Phantom Photos?

Gather and Graze

A quick request… I’d really appreciate if you could please let me know if you’ve opened my posts lately and not been able to see the attached photos. It’s been brought to my attention (by my mum no less!) that for the past 2 posts, the photos have been distinctly absent… just a box with the photo title in the corner showing up.

Thanks so very much… and a slightly early Happy Halloween to all who celebrate it!

Margot.xx

Couscous Salad

Couscous Salad | gatherandgraze.com

After a beautiful, warm, sunny day, we’ll sit down this evening to the first G&T of the season, some grilled meat off the barbecue and this flavourful little salad. It’s exciting to be preparing salads once more and being able to source such beautiful ingredients from both the local Farmer’s Market and our own back garden!

Couscous Salad | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: 6-8 as a side
  • Print

  • 1 Cup Cous Cous
  • 1½ Cups Water
  • ¼ Teaspoon Salt
  • 3 Spring Onions/Shallots (Sliced finely)
  • 1 Medium Red Capsicum/Pepper (Diced finely)
  • 1 Zucchini/Courgette (Diced finely)
  • ½ Cup Roasted Unsalted Cashew Nuts (Roughly Chopped)
  • ⅓ Cup Dried Currants
  • ¼ Cup Raw Pepitas
  • ⅓ Cup Flat-leaf Parsley (Chopped)
  • 1½ Tablespoons Salt-Reduced Soy Sauce
  • 1½ Tablespoons (Freshly Squeezed) Lemon Juice
  • 4 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic (Crushed)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Place the water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and tip in the couscous and salt. Stir briefly to ensure couscous is evenly covered with the water. Allow to stand for 10 minutes or until cooked to your liking.

In the salad bowl you intend to serve the salad in, combine the shallots, capsicum, zucchini, cashew nuts, currants and pepitas.

When the couscous is ready, fluff it up with a fork and then add it to the other ingredients in the salad bowl. Stir gently to combine.

Make the dressing by combining the soy sauce, lemon juice, oil, garlic and a grinding of black pepper. I find it useful to use a small jar when making dressings… which I can shake to mix well.

Add some of the dressing, spoonful by spoonful, gently stirring in, until you have a nice coating over the entire salad. Please note that you may not need to use all of the dressing… just go by taste and sight.

Couscous Salad | Gatherandgraze.com

Chocolate Eclairs (Éclairs au Chocolat)

Chocolate Eclairs | gatherandgraze.com

For almost a year, I indulged in French patisserie like there was going to be no tomorrow. Picture… my 20 year old self… living far from home and family… working in a high school (lycée) in the South of France… feeling homesick at times… often frustrated by the antics of my puberty-stricken students… but thankfully, more often than not, delighting in the company that I kept, along with the food, wine and lifestyle of my beautiful adopted country. I really must confess that I must have been in complete denial that so many ‘tartes aux framboises’, ‘croques-monsieurs’, ‘poulet-frites’ and ‘ficelles’ slathered with Nutella could possibly cause a transformation of my general body shape. Oh dear… the wine and beer as well! My wage while working as an English ‘Assistante’ was certainly not a grand one, so I hate to now think how much of it I invested in the local patisserie/boulangerie and inevitably in that burgeoning waist-line.

Alas, the days of over-indulging in the richest of French food are over. Moderation is most certainly the key my friends! So despite my story of weight-gain through patisserie, I ask you to ignore all that I’ve said above and please join me in partaking of this absolutely delicious afternoon treat… just be sure not to eat them all in one sitting! Eclairs are fun and easy (yes… EASY!) to make. Give them a go!

Chocolate Eclairs (Éclairs au Chocolat) | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: About 10-12 Eclairs
  • Print

  • ½ Quantity Choux Pastry (Recipe Here)
  • 300ml/1¼ Cups Heavy Cream
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 115g/½ Cup (Raw) Caster Sugar
  • 125ml/½ Cup Water
  • 60g/⅓ Cup (70% Cocoa) Dark Chocolate (Chopped)
  • 30g/2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter (Chopped)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking/parchment paper.

Prepare the Choux pastry dough as per the recipe for Profitéroles (in the link above), but instead of piping round puffs onto the baking trays, pipe long sausage shapes instead.

Choux Pastry for Chocolate Eclairs | gatherandgraze.com

Bake for about 35-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp all over. As soon as they are out of the oven, move them onto a cooling rack and place a little slit in the side of each one to allow any steam to escape from the middle. Allow to cool completely.

Choux Pastry for Chocolate Eclairs | Gather and Graze

Whip the cream and vanilla extract to medium peaks, then set aside in the fridge until the chocolate glaze is ready to go.

Whipped Cream for Chocolate Eclairs | gatherandgraze.com

To make the chocolate glaze, combine the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Bring to a boil and allow to boil rapidly for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down a little, before adding in the chocolate and butter. Stir again until completely melted and combined. As it cools a little more it will start to thicken.

Using a piping bag, pipe the whipped cream into the middle of the eclairs through the same slit that was cut to allow any steam out.

Now spoon over the still slightly warm chocolate glaze. Place back on the cooling rack and allow the glaze to set for a minutes, before serving.

Chocolate Eclairs | gatherandgraze.com

  • The method for making the chocolate glaze was adapted from that of a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe.

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi/Tamimi

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi/Tamini

The partnership between Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is one that I find truly inspirational. They both seem to have an intuition for creating beautifully balanced food, that delivers in not only flavour and texture, but visually as well. The fact that their friendship is stronger than politics (one being of Palestinian background and the other Israeli) is also something to be celebrated and admired. How wonderful it would be if the world were full of people as respectful, caring and tolerant as they are… to live in a world where each person can accept and also be accepted for the unique person that he/she is… race, religion, skin colour and sexual orientation being not something we disagree and fight over, but something that is simply a part of us, no more, no less. Ahhh yes… my ever-optimistic heart hopes to one day see a world in peace.

The following dish is one that I’ve cooked several times before, though always using the original recipe which features thinly sliced lemon, rather than the bright and beautiful blood orange that I’ve used here. I must admit to preferring it this new way, as the blood orange gives a sweeter citrus balance that I find much more pleasurable to eat. With the lemon, I find myself scooping most of the slices to the side of my plate, to be left untouched while I devour the rest of my meal. I’ve also adjusted the quantity of onions to just the one… this was plenty ;) in my opinion.

I sense that this recipe is more likely to be attributable to Sami, rather than Yotam, with it being based on the traditional Palestinian dish ‘M’sakhan’ (roasted chicken with sumac on flatbreads – something I’m now desperate to cook as well!) Either way, it’s such a delicious dish and one that I can only urge you to try sometime very soon.

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi/Tamimi

  • 1 Large Free-Range Chicken (jointed into quarters)*
  • 1 Red Onion (thinly sliced)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (crushed)
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1½ Teaspoons Ground Allspice (Pimento)
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon Sumac
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Medium Blood Orange (thinly sliced)
  • 200ml Chicken Stock or water
  • 2 Tablespoons Za’atar
  • 1 Teaspoon Unsalted Butter
  • 50g Pine Nuts
  • 4 Tablespoons Chopped Flat-Leaf Parsley (chopped)

In a large bowl, place the chicken, onion, garlic, oil, spices, blood orange and stock/water. Mix well to ensure the chicken pieces are well coated. Leave to marinade in the fridge for at least a few hours, or if possible overnight.

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi | gatherandgraze.com

Pre-heat the oven 200°C. Transfer the chicken and all of it’s marinade to a large baking tray, with the chicken pieces skin-side up and with a little space between each one. Sprinkle the za’atar over the chicken and onions and then place into the hot oven. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is beautifully coloured and cooked through.

Towards the end of the above cooking time, place the butter into a small frying pan to melt over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt and stir until golden. Transfer to a small plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess butter.

When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a serving plate, along with the onions and orange. Top with the chopped parsley, pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with any or all of the following: warm pita bread / basmati rice / garlicky yoghurt sauce (made by mixing together some Greek yoghurt with a little crushed garlic, olive oil and S&P).

Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za'atar and Blood Orange à la Ottolenghi/Taminin | gatherandgraze.com

* I jointed a chicken for the very first time to prepare this dish. In the past, I’ve used skin-less thigh fillets, but having tried it this way, it’s so obvious that the meat is much more delicious when roasted on the bone and with the skin attached (makes sense really!) I used some tips for how to joint a chicken from the following website: Delia Online. It’s a great technique to learn and really not that hard when it comes down to it.

(Adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi in their cookbook – ‘Ottolenghi, The Cookbook’)

Sturt’s Desert Pea

Sturt's Desert Pea | gatherandgraze.com

Sturt’s Desert Peas (Swainsona Formosa), seen on a leisurely walk with friends in the Australian National Botanic Gardens here in Canberra yesterday afternoon. These unique little flowers are native to the arid regions of Australia. They are also the floral emblem of the state of South Australia.

Banana Bread with Demerara Topping

The Best Banana Bread | gatherandgraze.com

This may well be the easiest cake in the world to bake… but it sure is one of the most delicious Banana Breads that I’ve ever eaten. Ready for the oven in a matter of minutes and on the table ready to be sliced in less than an hour. The demerara spiced topping produces a beautiful crispy crust, which gives way to a moist and flavourful interior. It also keeps well for a day or two in an airtight container, if by chance the whole cake doesn’t get snaffled on the day that it’s made.

Possibly the last cake recipe for a little while on G&G… now that our days are getting longer, I’m looking forward to snapping a few photos of our main meals to share with you instead. Somehow I never seemed to get myself organised enough to cook our dinner at lunchtime to photograph in the optimum light… hmmm, terribly lazy I know!

Banana Bread with Demerara Topping | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

  • 300g/2-3 Medium Bananas
  • 115g/½ Cup Raw Caster Sugar
  • 1 Free-Range Egg
  • 80g/⅓ Cup Unsalted Butter (Melted)
  • 150g/1 Cup Self-Raising Flour
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
  • ¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • Topping: 1 Tablespoon Demerara Sugar mixed with ¼ Teaspoon Cinnamon

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 23x13cm (9x5in) loaf tin.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the sugar, egg and melted butter and whisk well. Sift in the flour, spices and salt and stir until the dry ingredients are just combined. Now scoop the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and sprinkle with the combined Demerara sugar and cinnamon topping, if using.

Place into the oven and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing to a cooling rack. Perfect served either warm, cold or toasted with lashings of butter! The Best Banana Bread | gatherandgraze.com

Belgian Almond Cake (Amandeltaart)

Amandeltaart (Belgian Almond Cake) | gatherandgraze.com

Last week at a local second-hand book fair, I unearthed no less than 8 new cookbooks which all seemed to speak to me in some way and asked (in very polite voices) to come home with me. I’ll be the first to admit it… I struggle with a somewhat unhealthy addiction to cookbooks. I’m by no means a hoarder, but some time down the track when I can no longer manoeuvre my way between the kitchen and dining room because of the piles of cookbooks stacked from floor to ceiling (yes, I’ve seen snippets of those reality tv shows), I’ll be asking for your help!

One of the books that caught my eye at the fair was titled ‘The History of Australian Cooking’ and explains the various influences of cuisine that people from other countries and cultures have brought to Australia over the years. An interesting read that also includes a great introduction on the wide variety of native food that Australian Aborigines hunted and foraged for… and in some cases still do…

It was however the chapter on ‘Dutch Treats and Flemish Fancies’ that became the inspiration for my post today. The Kingdom of Belgium is but a small country, nestled in quite snugly on the coastline between France, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Germany… and for those of us infatuated by all things food around the world, we give thanks to the Belgians for the likes of their delectable chocolate, their wonderful waffles, their pots of deliciously moreish Moules-Frites (Mussels with French Fries)… and not to mention their fabulous array of beers. Perhaps not the most waist-slimming of dishes and drinks to consume on a regular basis, but oh so delicious as a special treat from time to time. The following cake is no exception… it was a little treat for my boys to come home to for afternoon tea today!

Another simple, yet delicious cake to add to the collection… The taste somewhere between a madeleine and a friand.

Belgian Almond Cake (Amandeltaart) | Gather and Graze

  • 125g/½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Softened)
  • 125g/½ Cup Caster Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Finely Grated Lemon (or Orange) Zest
  • 3 Free-Range Eggs (Separated)
  • 125g/1¼ Cups Ground Almonds
  • 75g/½ Cup Plain Flour (Sifted)
  • Icing (Powdered) Sugar (optional – for dusting the top)

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 24cm flan or cake tin.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and one at a time, beat in the separated egg yolks. Remove the mixer bowl from the stand and fold in the ground almonds.

Amandeltaart (Belgian Almond Cake) | gatherandgraze.com

In a separate mixing bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Amandeltaart (Belgian Almond Cake) | gatherandgraze.com

Fold in a third of the beaten egg whites to the butter/almond mixture, then fold in half of the sifted flour. Repeat the folding process with the remaining egg whites and flour.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden on top and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Allow to cool slightly, before removing from the tin. The cake may be served warm or cold (dusted with icing sugar, if you like) and is perfect with a dollop of whipped cream on the side.

Amandeltaart (Belgian Almond Cake) | gatherandgraze.com

Cooking Notes:

  • Next time I plan on baking this in a fluted flan/tart tin which will give a prettier edging.

Home-Made Toasted Muesli / Granola

Toasted Muesli / Granola | Gather and Graze

My fellow food bloggers are a constant source of inspiration to me… both in food and life in general. They really are a wonderful bunch of people who I consider my friends, even though we’ve never met in person. I set aside many recipes that they’ve created… for sometime down the track when time permits, or when the occasion or season is right. My ever-growing list is slightly bewildering with the sheer number of entries, but somewhat comforting in the fact that I know there will always be inspirational recipes to be found when I need them.  Now and then, I see a recipe that I feel compelled to make that exact same day after reading it… often from pure excitement and the anticipation of tasting the wonderful new dish!

So, recently when I came across a fabulous post for Nutty Spiced Apple Granola on Trixie Pin’s ‘Almonds are Mercurial’ blog, I knew immediately that it was high time I too started making my own granola… or toasted muesli (as is oft called in this part of the world). I made up a batch that very same day! A few adaptations were made, due to the ingredients that I already had on hand in the pantry and also to personal preferences and whims… though this is exactly the sort of recipe I would expect people to adapt constantly… keeping it interesting.

HOME-MADE TOASTED MUESLI/GRANOLA | Gather and Graze

  • 400g / 4 Cups Rolled Oats (or a mixture of oats/bran/barley/wheat etc.)
  • 150g / ¾ Cup Raw Macadamia Nuts (Chopped Roughly)
  • 150g / ¾ Cup Raw Almonds (Chopped Roughly)
  • 100g / ½ Cup Sunflower Seeds
  • 1½ Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • ¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 100g / ⅓ Cup Honey
  • 80g / ⅓ Cup Brown Sugar
  • 200g / 1 Cup Apple Puree*
  • 2 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil
  • 75g / ½ Cup Dried Apple (Chopped fairly small)
  • 100g / ½ Cup Dried Peach (Chopped fairly small)

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C and set aside 2 large baking trays.

In a large mixing bowl, place the oats, chopped nuts, seeds and spices. Stir to combine.

In a small saucepan, mix together the honey, brown sugar, oil and apple puree. Stir over low/medium heat until the brown sugar has dissolved. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir to coat the oats and nuts well.

Spread this mixture out evenly over 2 large baking sheets and place into the oven for approximately 30-35 minutes (giving it a stir every 10 minutes to make sure that the oats and nuts don’t brown too quickly… or burn). Note that the mixture will still be soft when you remove it from the oven.

Allow the mixture to cool (and dry) completely, before tossing through the chopped dried fruit and placing into an airtight container.

Toasted Muesli / Granola | Gather and Graze

Notes on Cooking:

  • I made my own 1 cup of puree using 3 Medium Apples, though feel free to substitute other types of fruit puree for a different taste… pear would work really well too.
  • The variations for substituting grains, nuts, seeds and fruit are endless – be adventurous!

Lavender White Chocolate Shortbread

Lavender White Chocolate Shortbread | Gather and Graze

To celebrate the first day of Spring here in the Southern Hemisphere… I’ve created a little floral-infused shortbread recipe to get the season off to a happy start.

The addition of lavender to these buttery, yet light little biscuits may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for me… you could always omit the flowers if you’d prefer, or substitute for perhaps some chopped nuts, some citrus zest or another flavour of your choice.

Here’s to a warm and wonderful Spring and a farewell to winter for another year.

Lavender White Chocolate Shortbread | Gather and Graze

Lavender White Chocolate Shortbread | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: 30 Biscuits/Cookies
  • Print

  • 125g/½ Cup Unsalted Butter
  • 60g/½ Cup Pure Icing Sugar (Powdered Sugar)
  • ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste (or 1 Teapoon Vanilla Extract)
  • 45g/⅓ Cup Cornflour
  • 120g/¾ Cup Plain Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 2 Teaspoons edible Dried Lavender Flowers
  • 75g Chopped White Chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer, cream together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste for a minute or two until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together the cornflour, plain flour, baking powder and salt.  Pour in half of this mixture to the creamed butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Now stir in the lavender and white chocolate, before adding the rest of the flour and mixing until all combined.

Roll mixture into tablespoon-size balls and place on the baking sheets. Flatten slightly on top. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes (removing while they are still quite pale in colour).

Allow to cool for a few minutes on the trays, before placing on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Lavender White Chocolate Shortbread | Gather and Graze

Swedish Spice Cake (Mjuk Pepparkaka)

Swedish Spice Cake (Mjuk Pepparkaka) | Gather and Graze

I’ve not spent much time at all in the kitchen over the past couple of weeks… my thoughts, mind and heart have been elsewhere.

My head and heart both know though, that cooking is therapy for me, just as running, swimming, surfing or tennis will be for others. Whisking, sifting and stirring all create a welcome distraction… and within moments, the scent of softly spiced cake emanating from the oven is in the air… comforting, warm and soothing.

Swedish Spice Cake (Mjuk Pepparkaka) | Gather and Graze

  • 100g/⅓ Cup + 1 Tblespn Unsalted Butter
  • 180g/1 Packed Cup Brown (or Raw) Sugar
  • 2 Free-Range Eggs
  • 200ml/¾ Cup + 1 Tblespn Sour Cream
  • 190g/1¼ Cups Plain Flour
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 Teaspoons Ground Ginger
  • 1½ Teaspoons Ground Cloves
  • Pinch of Salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a (22cm x 13cm) loaf pan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar. Add the sour cream and then the cooled melted butter and continue to whisk until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, spices and salt. In 2 lots, add this to the wet ingredients, stirring between each addition until just combined.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 40-45 minutes, until a cake tester (or toothpick) comes out clean when tested in the middle. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, before removing the cake from the pan to a cooling rack.

This cake is lovely as is, or with a little butter slathered over each slice with a good cup of tea.

My lovely Swedish friend Helena made a version of this Spice Cake to serve for morning tea not so long ago and it inspired me to do a little research of my own on ‘Mjuk Pepparkaka’, which has resulted in this adaptation… a little darker in colour than Helena’s perhaps due to the brown sugar. ‘Mjuk Pepparkaka’ translates literally to ‘Soft Gingerbread’.

A Little Slice of Australia… for FF#28!

We have such unique and varied wildlife here in Australia, so this week for a change I thought I’d share a few photos at Fiesta Friday instead. These were all taken either within our own garden or while camping/holidaying not too far from home.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo | Gather and GrazeSulphur-Crested Cockatoo – intelligent… animated… raucous!

 

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo | Gather and GrazeSulphur-Crested Cockatoo – so beautiful in flight

 

Brush-Tail Possums | Gather and GrazeBrush-Tail Possums at night – mother and child (who really looks a little too old to be hitching a ride with Mum!)

 

Kookaburra | Gather and GrazeKookaburra – renowned for their incredible laugh

 

Echidna | Gather and GrazeEchidna – our amazing monotreme (egg laying mammal)!

 

Koala | Gather and GrazeKoala – looking a little sleepy as usual

 

Magpie | Gather and GrazeMagpie – notorious for their aggressive swooping ability in the spring

 

Kangaroo | Gather and GrazeKangaroo – ahhh, need I say more…

 

Kangaroo with Joey | Gather and GrazeKangaroo with a Joey in her pouch

 

Kangaroo | Gather and GrazeKangaroo

Please come along and join us at Fiesta Friday #28 this week. The fabulous Saucy Gander and I have been invited back for an encore performance of co-hosting (despite due to our ridiculously glamourous Dame Edna get-up from last week).

Angie @ The Novice Gardener, who is the brainchild behind this ever-growing, dynamic online party, deserves both gratitude and admiration from us all for the effort that goes into hosting FF each and every week. I don’t know how she does it… I’m exhausted after just co-hosting for 1 week! You’re amazing Angie! Thank you for all that you do!

So to join in the fun, link your post by clicking on the colourful logo here below. Within your post, please remember to link to the FF#28 posts of ‘The Novice Gardener’, as well as to Saucy and myself (to notify us of your arrival at the party). If you’re new to Fiesta Friday, the guidelines can be perused here… Such a lot of fun and inspiration, bringing together bloggers from around the world and providing the opportunity for your post to shine and be seen.

Happy Fiesta Friday to all and a fabulous weekend!