04 June 2011

The bestest Snapper Pie to warm the cockels of your heart!

The weather is getting a wee bit colder, and I am allowed to say that now we are officially in Winter. And what better way to make you feel all warm and cosy than with some good old comfort food like a snapper pie. I've been wanting to make a snapper pie for quite some time so today I made the effort and I think I even surprised myself at how well it turned out. It's actually not too difficult to make at all but a little time consuming if you want all the flavours to be subtle and lovely. I must say it was one of the most satisfying things to make and eat :)

I first came across Snapper pie through my local, Garfish in Crows Nest. I thought if I'm going to make a version of this pie then it might as well be the one I love. So here is the recipe:

Snapper pie with confit garlic, broccolini & sauce Soubise

There are 5 components to the pie: Snapper, sauce soubise, confit garlic, broccolini and puff pastry. Start with the sauce soubise as it will take you around 1 hour to make.

Sauce Soubise

1 onion thinly sliced
50g butter
2 fresh bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons plain flour
combo of milk & cream to bring it to a creamy sauce consistency
1/4 cup of chicken or vegetable stock

The trick with sauce soubise is to blanch the onions for 2 mins and then transfer to a saucepan and add half the butter and cook on a low heat with the lid on stirring occasionally. The onions will soften but it will take around 45 mins so you need some patience here. In the meantime you can start preparing the pie.

Cut snapper into 60g pieces (per mini pie, use around 250g fresh snapper fillets that have the skin taken off, de-boned etc) and lightly steam for approx 2 mins. Be careful as you just want to have the snapper so it is slightly undercooked. Take immediately from the heat and cool the fish on a cold plate and leave to stand so it does not continue to cook any further.

You can next steam enough broccolini for the equivalent pies you are making.

Confit Garlic

For confit garlic, combine garlic and oil in a saucepan and poach over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until garlic is soft. Remove from heat and cool. Garlic will keep in its oil, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Continue with the sauce Soubise by taking the soft onions and processing with a 1/4 cup of chicken stock to create a onion paste of sorts.

In another saucepan you can add the rest of the butter and melt along with the fresh bay leaves and then remove. Add a few tablespoons of flour until you get a thick paste and then add warmed milk, little by little to the mix continously stirring until you get a lovely bechamel like sauce. Add onion mix to the sauce and continue stirring until you have a lovely creamy sauce soubise.

Assemble the pie by getting a small pie form (see picture above) and placing the steamed broccolini on the bottom and then the steamed fish fillets as a layer on top of the broccolini.  Add the confit garlic and then you can pour over the sauce soubise just so it more or less covers the fish. Place the pie form on your puff pastry and trace around the circumference of the pie dish with an extra 1 cm border. Place it on top of the pie and finish with an egg wash.

Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with a yummy decadent potato mash.

06 June 2010

Childhood Memories

One of my strongest childhood memories is waking up to the smell of pancakes. My Mum used to make them to order for my brother & I on the weekends. We'd sit at the counter while she made them and served them directly onto our plates - one for me and then one for my brother. Still to this day I find it hard to warm them in the oven and then eat them. They really do taste better direct from the pan onto the plate and into your mouth. Our poor Mum would sneak one in if she got the chance in between my brother and I scoffing them down. The beauty of my mother's pancakes was that she made a real variety although more often than not she made crepes. My mother's favourite was Crepe Suzette but my brother and I loved a variety of toppings on ours. Occasionally we'd have maple syrup (but we're talking about the 80s and that was an item of luxury) but more often than not we'd have lemon & sugar, honey & my favourite, my mother's homemade apple sauce. I know most people don't get the apple sauce on pancake thing but in our family it was a tradition - maybe it was my Mum's German heritage as I later discovered Germans also like to put apple sauce on their crepes & Kartoffelpuffer (potato-style pancake).

Every now and again my mother would make us our real treat pancakes - cottage cheese pancakes. They were devine. My Mum got them really crispy & thick and my attempt & photos (below) haven't done hers justice. It was my first attempt and without a recipe not so bad. They at least curbed my craving. Essentially the cottage cheese give an interesting texture and makes a lovely moist pancake. I love biting into the cottage cheese pancake as the slight saltiness of the cottage cheese against the sweetness of the apple sauce creates an explosion of sweet & salt in your mouth. I love that combination - I guess that's why I love salted caramel or salted chocolate. I didn't separate the egg whites which may in retrospect have worked better and helped to create a fluffier, thicker pancake. In any case, the highlight of this dish is the topping. You need to make your own fresh apple sauce - it only takes around 15-20 mins and boy does it make a difference to spoon it warm onto the pancakes and top it off with a little maple syrup. These pancakes are about comfort & good eating and not about style - so let that apple sauce dribble all over the place :)

This is what I did for the cottage cheese pancakes (like I said I just created it so perhaps separating the eggs would achieve a fluffier pancake)


4 organic eggs
1/2 cup organic flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1/2 cup of cottage cheese (use the full fat lumpy variety - not the smooth variety as this ruins the texture & end result) - I enjoy smooth ricotta pancakes as well but this recipe calls for the lumpy cottage cheese for its uniqueness)

Beat the eggs & vanilla essence and slowly whisk in the flour ensuring there are no lumps and beat to a smooth consistency. Let sit for around 10-15 mins and then gently add the cottage cheese and mix through the batter.

In a hot pan, add some butter and fry the pancakes being careful to keep the batter an even shape.

For the Apple Sauce


6 apples (whatever is good & in season) - I used granny smiths because I got them on special and they generally cook up well. Cut into thinnish slices.
1 vanilla pod (de seeded)
5-6 cloves (fish out after cooking)
Add some mixed spice, nutmeg & cinnamon or any spices that go well with poached fruits)
1/2 cup of brown sugar

Add a bit of water to the apples and gently cook- the smell in your kitchen will be amazing. When the apples are soft, take from heat and use a stab mixer to slightly puree - you can leave the apples as they are - some of the pieces will break up and create a puree anyway. I occasionally leave the apples as they are and sometimes I'll puree so it's really a personal preference.

20 October 2009

Pretty in Pink: a birthday cake story

This little blog has become a place to store all our celebratory cake recipes it seems. And while there are so many other things I had wanted to tell you about (such as my favorite Japanese noodle soup place in Brussels or stuffed aubergines that I made a couple of weeks back and which were truly delicious), let’s do first things first and talk about this glorious birthday cake which I always make at the occasion of Mike’s birthday.
As mentioned, Mike grew up in Singapore and with that come all kinds of things: his love for sotong and chicken rice, his passion for fishing and diving, and his complete ignorance of seasonal produce. For him, seasons are more a theoretical concept, in practice all fruit have to be in season and at his disposal ALL THE TIME. Which means that he’ll be desperately looking for strawberries in January and once he finds them he’ll be upset because they taste of absolutely nothing.

When I first asked him, a couple of years ago, what type of birthday cake he would like to have he said: strawberry cake! I reminded him that strawberries are no longer in season in October which caused great puzzlement. But a fruit cake it had to be (berries he said, any kind of berries) and something that can be easily produced in Brussels in mid-October. To my help came two indispensable resources: my friend Markéta and frozen raspberries.

When I told Markéta about my struggle to find the perfect birthday cake recipe for Mike she shared with me the killer recipe by Nigella Lawson for a gorgeous spongy and chocolate-y cake which is begging to be filled with fruit and cream. Since the cake had been tried and tested by Marketa and she had given it her thumb of approval, chances were extremely high that I would give it mine too.

For the filling we debated the options and decided that frozen raspberries would do the trick. Unlike strawberries, frozen raspberries do not lose any of their wonderful color and flavor during the frosting and defrosting process and would therefore satisfy Mike’s desire for summer flavors. And the best bit was: I had everything in fridge and cupboards to get started. The cake base came together super quickly and easily. While it baked I warmed some raspberries with a bit of sugar and vanilla bean, whipped cream and roasted slivered almonds in a dry pan. When the cake had cooled, I cut it in half horizontally and filled it with my raspberry-cream mix and spread the remaining mixture on top and on the sides. I sprinkled the sides with the roasted almonds and looked at my beauty: it was gorgeous, mouth-watering - and PINK! I had made a bright pink cake for my husband…hmmm. Not exactly the most masculine looking cake-but I promise: that's the only flaw, otherwise this cake is pretty much perfect!

You can’t go wrong with chocolate, raspberries and cream I think. The fromage frais is a great partner for this menage a troisL it makes everything light and fresh and brings out the flavors of summer. The best thing about this cake (besides that it tastes divine) is that you can make it at any time of the year. With fresh raspberries when they are in season and frozen ones for the rest of the year.

After Mike had his first slice he put his fork down and said: Please, let’s remember this cake and make it every year for my birthday! And that’s what we do….

(Pink) Raspberry Chocolate Cake
This cake can be made in advance as it only gets better over the days. Its flavors develop as the sponge mellows and becomes juicier. I usually make it the night before the birthday so we can enjoy it first thing in the morning as well as after the birthday dinner( I will tell you about that another time…).
For the cake (adapted from Nigella Lawson)
3/3 cup (175 ml) milk
1 tablespoon(15g) butter
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or 1 package of vanilla sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup (160g) sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

For the raspberry cream
1cup (100 g) (frozen) raspberries
Vanilla bean
Sugar to taste (depending on the sweetness of the fruit, I use about ½ cup)
(A splash of Crème de Casssis)
½ cup (200 g) heavy whipping cream
¾ cup (200 g) fromage frais, crème fraîche or sour cream

To assemble
100 g slivered almonds
A handful of fresh raspberries (if available)or dark chocolate shavings

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit). Grease or line a small springform.

Pour the milk into a small pan with the butter and heat until warm and the butter has melted. When hot, add the vanilla.
Whisk the eggs and sugar till thick, light and frothy (I use my hand-held mixer for that). Meanwhile, combine the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Still beating the eggs and sugar, pour in the hot buttery, vanilla'd milk and when incorporated, slowly fold in the flour-baking soda-cocoa mixture in three batches. I use a wooden spoon for that. Fill the cake mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 25-35 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the cake to a wire rack and let cool completely.

While the is cake baking, roast the slivered almonds in a dry pan over medium heat until golden brown. Shake the pan frequently to avoid the almonds from burning. Set aside.
In another pot, warm the frozen raspberries with the vanilla bean cut in half lengthwise as well as the scraped out seeds of the vanilla bean and the sugar over low heat. The raspberries will defrost, release their juices and disintegrate in parts. That’s exactly what you want them to do. While the raspberries are warming through, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add the Crème de Cassis if using to the raspberries and mix in the the fromage frais or sour cream. Then, in three batches, carefully fold the raspberry mixture into the whipping cream while trying to keep the mixture as light and airy as possible. Cover the bowl with cling film and put in the fridge.

When the cake has cooled completely cut it into half horizontally. Place it on a large (serving) plate. If your cake’s surface is uneven (mine sort of exploded on one side this year) cut any bits that are higher than the rest of the cake. I was very happy about that, because it allowed me to devour these parts immediately. Put half of the raspberry mixture on one layer of the cake and spread out evenly. Put the second layer of the cake on top and press gently. Spread the remaining raspberry mixture evenly over top and side of the cakes. This is a bit tricky and you will have some of the cream dripping off from the sides of the cake. Using a knife helps (and not being a perfectionist like myself helps too).Once all mixture has been used, gently cover the sides of the cake with the slivered almonds to hide the two layers.

Right before serving decorate the cake with either the raspberries or the dark chocolate shavings. The cake keeps in the fridge for up to three days (but I’m quite sure it won’t last that long).

18 October 2009

Ricotta & Chocolate cake

This cake is a wonderful mixture of rich decadent chocolate but with a creamy ricotta base. It has a lovely nutty texture while still having a gooey, moist almost cheesecake consistency. I found the end result is more cheesecake-like than cake. I adapted this Jamie Oliver recipe substituting the almond meal in the recipe and adding hazelnut meal instead which I think worked superbly. The tangy lemon zest added a balance to the rich dark Lindt chocolate I used. One could almost be fooled this cake is not bad for you given the wholesome nutty taste and the added bonus of being gluten free.


500g drained ricotta (I used half quark & half ricotta)
Zest of two lemons
4 large eggs, separated
300g sugar (I used 250g and it worked fine)
250g ground almonds (I used hazelnuts)
250g dark Lindt chocolate, melted
1 vanilla pod, sliced lengthways, seeds removed
Icing sugar & crushed blitzed pistachios to serve


1. Sieve ricotta into a bowl through a fine colander using a wooden spoon to push it through. Add lemon zest, egg yolks, sugar & ground hazelnut and melted chocolate, vanilla sees and combine well.

2. In a clean bowl, whisk egg white until peaks are formed. Then using a large metal spoons gently fold in the egg whites. You want the batter to be well combined but still have some air from the egg whites.

3. Preheat oven to 180c and us a 24 cm round cake tin. Smooth in the mixture and make sure the top is smooth using a lightly greased and flour tin.

4. Preheat oven to 180c and then bake for 45 minutes

5. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then dust with icing sugar and pistachios before serving

07 October 2009

Crispy Asparagus & Potato Tart

Up at the crack of dawn catching a flight back home, at work all day and then finally home to make some warm comfort food on a cold, wet spring evening in Sydney.

It would have been so easy after a long weekend away to simply come home and get some take-away but there is no joy in that and after not being in my kitchen or having touched food in days, I had this craving for this dish which my friend made for me a few weeks back. It's original is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe although being the way I am I slightly tweeked the recipe and it tasted as good as it looks.


1 small spanish onion chopped finely
1 clove of garlic
500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g asparagus spears (I used both white & green), woody ends removed
200g filo pastry (5 sheets with butter layered between each sheet)
30g butter, melted
100g freshly grated Vintage cheddar cheese
100g freshly grated Cheddar cheese
3 large free-range eggs
200 ml double cream
85ml of quark (I substituted some of the cream for quark which worked really well)

Put your potatoes into a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile blanch your asparagus in a separate pan of salted boiling water for 4 minutes, and drain in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Take an ovenproof dish and place layers of filo pastry in the dish, brushing them with melted butter as you go and letting about 2.5cm hang over the edge. Use 5 sheets of pastry.

In a frying pan add the onion & garlic and fry in some butter cooking them nice and slowly in order to caramelize the onions.

When the potatoes are cooked, mash them with the cheeses and add the onion & garlic mix to this. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream/quark and stir in your cheesy mashed potato. Season well with salt & pepper and mix together. Spread the mashed potato over the filo pastry, then bring up the sides of the filo and scrunch them together to form a rim. You now can assemble the tart with the asparagus - I alternated white then green asparagus. I had some fresh marjoram in the fridge so I tore a few leaves and sprinkled them on top.

Bake for around 20 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. I served it with a very simple spring leaf salad.

29 August 2009

Happy Birthday! - Good old fashion satisfaction!

Well, this recipe demonstrates the alchemic nature of baking. I know you love your berries so I found a recipe which I hope you like. It's a sponge but somewhat untraditional with hazelnut and after a 4.5 hour baking session here is the result - hope you like it!

Did you know the ability to whip up the perfect sponge cake was once considered essential in a potential bride and the inability to do so spelled social disaster :)

Love you lots and hope you have a wonderful birthday!



190 gm plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50 gm hazelnut meal
80 gm butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for brushing
8 eggs, at room temperature
220 gm (1 cup) caster sugar
130 gm good-quality raspberry jam, melted with 40ml raspberry liqueur, cooled, for brushing
Chocolate-raspberry cream
250 ml (1 cup) pouring cream
150 gm dark chocolate (54% cocoa solids), melted
20 ml raspberry liqueur
70 gm raspberries, lightly crushed, plus extra whole raspberries, to serve


1 Preheat oven to 160C. Process flour and hazelnut meal in a food processor to combine, then triple-sift and set aside. Brush two 20cm-diameter cake tins with melted butter, line bases with baking paper, dust sides with flour.
2 Triple-sift flour and set aside.
3 Whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds in an electric mixer until thick, pale and tripled in volume (7-8 minutes). Transfer to a mixing bowl.
4 Sift over flour in three batches, folding each batch in with a large metal spoon.
5 Fold in melted butter.
6 Divide evenly between tins, bake until light golden and centre springs back when pressed lightly with your fingertip (20-25 minutes). Pull cake gently away from sides of tin with your fingers or carefully loosen with a knife. Turn onto a wire rack, remove baking paper, turn back over, then cool completely.
7 Meanwhile, for chocolate-raspberry cream, whisk cream, chocolate and liqueur in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (3-4 minutes, don’t over-whisk or mixture will split). Fold in raspberries, refrigerate until starting to firm (10-15 minutes).
8 Brush one cake half with jam mixture, spread with chocolate-raspberry cream, sandwich with remaining half, dust with cocoa and serve with extra raspberries.

26 August 2009

Auguri per il terzo mese di matrimonio

Congratulations Valerie & Mike - it's been 3 months. Where does the time go? Well in your case Val, going on a honeymoon, attending Marketa's wedding in Prague, having the in-laws over, opening wedding presents, enjoying the terrific Belgian summer and baking and lots of it. I thought I'd send you a simple yet non-traditional recipe to add to your collection and something to try while you still have those gorgeous berries available in Europe and you're still in the honeymoon phase of lovingly preparing breakfast in bed for your man - hehe!!!

Buckwheat pancakes with mixed berries


1/2 cup of self-raising flour
1/2 cup of buckwheat flour
1 tablespoon of caster sugar
1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
1 egg
250 g strawberries hulled & quartered
150 g of raspberries or blueberries
1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Maple syrup or low fat natural yoghurt to serve


Sift the self raising flour into a bowl, then stir in the buckwheat flour followed by the sugar, and make a well in the centre.

Whisk the buttermilk and egg together in a jug. Pour into the dry ingredients, then mix slowly, drawing in the flour to make a smooth batter. Cover and allow to stand for 30 minutes which is really important.

In another bowl, combine the berries and icing sugar and set aside.

Heat a non-stick frying pan to medium heat (large enough to cook two pancakes). If you have some heart forms, use those to surprise your husband.

Pour 1/4 cup of batter into pan and cook until golden brown (usually until bubbles form on the surface. You can cook the entire batch of pancakes and keep them warm in the oven or do them fresh to plate whichever you prefer.

A little more info on Buckwheat - it's a good source of protein as well as magnesium and iron. It's a handy flour to use if you wish to use less wheat as it's free of gluten and has a low GI.