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!

Layered Chocolate Cheesecake – Fiesta Friday #27!

Layered Chocolate Cheesecake | Gather and Graze

It wasn’t easy, but I’ve removed my full-length Ugg Boots that have been firmly entrenched on my feet for the past two months and they’ve been replaced by a rather stylish set of heels. My Dame Edna frock has been donned, hair coiffed and coloured to the most beautiful lilac you’ve ever seen and my face made glamorous by a set of fancy, bejewelled glasses! I look a little something like this…

Dame Edna Everage – “Hello Possums!”

I suspect I’m not the only one going through this (rather absurd) transformation right now… as it’s Fiesta Friday #27 and the wonderful Saucy Gander and I are coming together this week (in fancy dress) to co-host the big party! Yes, Angie, from The Novice Gardener has bravely allowed not one, but TWO Australian girls in to look after her guests and ensure that everyone has a fantastic time.

Now, as you all well know, Australians are generally renowned for their quiet natures and their reluctance to imbibe anything involving alcohol… ;) However just this once, I’ll partake in a glass (or two) of bubbly with you all and stay up late dancing and chatting until the party-goers get tired and head home!

If you’re a regular at Fiesta Friday, you’ll already know what to do (for the guidelines click here), but for those who’ve not joined the party before, you can easily click on the colourful link just below to add your post (sharing food, photos, experiences… anything at all that has inspired you this week!) Please be sure to link your post to The Novice Gardener (and to Saucy and myself) so that we know when you’ve arrived… then head on over to Fiesta Friday #27 to mix and mingle with all the other friendly folk who have also joined the party!

This really is a great way to gain exposure for your blog and all the hard work that you do. It’s also wonderful how friendships are formed and strengthened with other bloggers through this Fiesta… something truly lovely about getting to know others around the world who share a similar passion for both food and life!

Saucy and I will be around to say hi and to top up your drinks very soon. Cheers, everyone!

This week I’ve decided to bring a little something sweet for dessert… so please grab a plate and a fork and dig in to a slice of my Chocolate on Chocolate Cheesecake. A word of warning – it’s not at all for the faint hearted! :)

Layered Chocolate Cheesecake | Gather and Graze

  • 250g Plain Chocolate Biscuits (I used Arnotts Chocolate Ripple)
  • 100g Finely Chopped Almonds (or nuts of your choice)
  • 125g/½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Melted)
  • 200g/1 Cup Milk Chocolate (Chopped)
  • 200g/1 Cup White Chocolate (Chopped)
  • 2 Gelatine Leaves (I used ‘Gold Strength’ which are 2g each)*
  • 300ml Heavy Cream
  • 500g Cream Cheese (Softened)
  • 80g/⅓ Cup Caster Sugar

Grease a 23cm Springform Cake Tin and line the base with parchment paper.

Blitz the chocolate biscuits in a food processor until fine crumbs, then add the chopped nuts and melted butter and stir until the crumbs are well moistened. Tip the mixture into the cake tin and spread evenly to cover the base and half-way up the sides. Set aside in the fridge until required.

Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl with cold water and allow to soften for about 5 minutes.

While the gelatine is softening, place the cream into a small saucepan and heat until it almost reaches the boil. Remove from the heat and stir through the softened gelatine leaves until they have completely dissolved. Set to one side to cool a little.

In two separate small mixing bowls, place the milk chocolate and white chocolate and melt each carefully in the microwave (or over a double-boiler if you prefer – being careful not to allow any water to mix with the chocolate).

In the food processor (or electric mixer) place the softened cream cheese and process/beat until smooth. Add in the sugar and process once again until well combined, before finally adding the cream/gelatine mixture and giving a quick whizz/beat to incorporate.

Stir in half of the cream cheese mixture into the melted milk chocolate and the other half into the melted white chocolate. Stir to combine.

Spread the white chocolate mixture to create an even layer on top of the chocolate biscuit base and place into the freezer for about 10 minutes. Then add the milk chocolate mixture, spreading evenly to create the top layer. Refrigerate the cake for at least 4-6 hours before removing from the tin and serving.

Fresh berries (particularly raspberries) go perfectly with this luxurious chocolate cheesecake

Layered Chocolate Cheesecake | Gather and Graze

 Cooking Notes

  • Feel free to use powdered gelatine in place of the gelatine leaves. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of gelatine over ¼ Cup of cold water and then stir into the cream, before adding to the cream cheese mixture.

* Adapted from a cake seen on ‘My Kitchen Rules’

Viennese Biscuits

Viennese Biscuits | Gather and Graze

Sometimes life throws a little curve ball at you and knocks you down for a week or two. It was the flu that knocked me down just recently and as much as I’m finally back to at least feeling human again, the lingering cough is still proving hard to shake.

So after a lengthy period of completely healthful hot soups, tisanes and the like, I was ready yesterday to treat myself… with some biscuits that not only taste lovely, but are pretty to the eye as well. The recipe found while rustling through an old ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ Biscuit Cookbook. Forgive me for not posting recipes for soups and flu-kicking hot honey and lemon drinks, but to be honest, I’m a little over them all right now… perhaps some other time!

Viennese Biscuits | Gather and Graze

  • Servings: 35-40 Small Biscuits
  • Print

  • 120g/½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Softened)
  • 50g/Scant ½ Cup Icing (Powdered) Sugar
  • ¼ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Teaspoon Finely Grated Lemon Zest
  • 1 Free-Range Egg (Lightly Beaten)
  • 150g/1 Cup Plain Flour (Sifted)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 100g Dark Chocolate (Melted)
  • Glacé Cherries (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 180°C and line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

In an electric mixer, beat together the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the lightly beaten egg, being sure to mix well after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt, mixing until combined.

Scoop the mixture into a piping bag, fitted with a 1cm star tip nozzle. Pipe 6-8cm lengths onto the baking trays, allowing space between each for spreading. I also piped a number of small rosettes onto the 2nd tray, topping each with half a glacé cherry. Bake for about 7-10 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool completely before dipping one end of the biscuit fingers into melted chocolate. Place onto a piece of parchment paper, until the chocolate has set. Enjoy!

Viennese Biscuits | Gather and Graze

* Recipe from a ‘Le Cordon Bleu’ Biscuit Cookbook

Fatteh Bil Lahme (Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt)

Fatteh Bil Lahme (Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks are one of the ultimate winter comfort foods, in my opinion. I’ve cooked them a number of ways over the years and enjoyed each and every one of them, but today it was a Middle-Eastern flavour I was craving, so decided to improvise and adapt on a range of recipes in a beloved cookbook of mine –  Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’.

‘Fatteh’ / ‘Fatta’ is a general name for a range of dishes that have a layer of toasted flat-bread soaked in stock/sauce at the bottom and a layer of yoghurt on the top. Claudia gives a couple of versions in her book – one with poached chicken and another with stuffed eggplants. All well and good, but surely no match for melt-in-the-mouth lamb shanks!

This is by no means a mid-week, speedily-cooked dinner. It requires a long lazy weekend afternoon of hanging out in the kitchen… though there’s plenty of time once the shanks are on cooking, to read the paper or play boardgames with the kids.

I can’t stress enough how delightful this dish was to sit down to on a winter’s night, though please read my cooking notes at the end of this post for one final little thought…

Fatteh Bil Lahme/Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt | Gather and Graze

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Large Onion (Thickly Sliced)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic (Chopped)
  • 4-6 Free-Range Lamb Shanks
  • 2 x 400g Tins Chopped Tomatoes
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons Pomegranate Molasses
  • 250g/1 Cup Natural Yoghurt
  • 2 Teaspoon(s) Crushed Dried Mint
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)
  • 3 Thin Lebanese/Pitta Breads
  • 1 x 400g Tin Chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • Handful of Fresh Mint (Chopped)
  • 40g/4 Tablespoons Pine Nuts

In a large Dutch Oven (or a large deep saucepan with lid), cook the onion over medium heat in the olive oil (with a little salt) until softened. Add the chopped garlic and continue to cook for a minute or two more. Place the lamb shanks into the pot and brown slightly on all sides, before adding the tomatoes, spices, salt and pepper, pomegranate molasses and enough boiling water to just cover the shanks. Cover and simmer for approximately 2 – 2½ hours, until the lamb is practically falling off the bone. Take the lamb shanks from the pan and remove all meat from the bones.

While the lamb is braising, mix together the yoghurt, crushed garlic and dried mint with a pinch of salt and set it aside for later. It is best if this is at room temperature when you are ready to serve.

Toast the lebanese/pitta breads in the oven, or under the grill until crisp and light brown.

In a large serving dish, break up the toasted bread into pieces and scatter them across the bottom of the dish.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Gather and Graze

Spread the chickpeas over the top of the bread and then layer the shredded lamb over the top of this.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Gather and Graze

Scoop a number of ladlefuls of the tomato/onion sauce that the lamb was cooking in to fully coat all of the ingredients beneath.

Fatteh Bil Lahme | Gather and Graze

Cover the dish with foil and place into a pre-heated 170°C oven for about 20 minutes until heated through.

While the dish is in the oven, toast the pine nuts carefully in a small frypan until golden. Set aside for the moment.

When you are ready to serve, pour the yoghurt over the top of the dish and sprinkle with the toasted pine nuts and fresh mint. Serve with plain basmati rice.

Fatteh Bil Lahme (Lamb Shanks with Chickpeas and Yoghurt) | Gather and Graze

Cooking Notes

  • Our family wasn’t entirely convinced that having a layer of toasted (yet now soggy) bread underneath the dish was the way to go. Next time we’ll make some homemade lebanese flatbreads and serve them on the side… perfect for mopping up all the delicious sauce! Apart from that, the dish was superb and enjoyed by all.

* Recipe from Claudia Roden’s ‘Arabesque’ Cookbook

PS. Apologies for the photos – night time shots with artificial light are not ideal, but if the photos weren’t taken at dinnertime it really wouldn’t have been looking quite so pretty by the following morning.