Passionfruit Mascarpone Tart

The idea for this tart evolved at the markets on Saturday morning with my son’s girlfriend. We both love lemon meringue pie; my son is not a fan. He loves passionfruit pannacotta; I’ve made it enough lately. So we decided on passionfruit tart, especially since passionfruit are plentiful at the moment.

This recipe is a combination of a few recipes. The pastry is the easiest ever, a melt and mix recipe from “At Home in Provence” by Patricia Wells. I didn’t add almond essence – I hate the stuff – but feel free to add 1/8 teaspoon if you like. And I used vanilla sugar instead of vanilla extract as I generally have a jar of vanilla sugar on hand, using a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s I saw on a pilot Jamie Oliver television show I saw ages ago. All you do is blend together a split and scraped vanilla bean and about 650g of caster sugar, pour through a fine sieve and store in a jar. Voila!

The filling is based on the lemon tart recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s “The Cook’s Companion” with passionfruit juice replacing the lemon juice and mascarpone replacing the cream. Next time, and there will definitely be a next time, I’ll use more passionfruit juice, so that’s what I’ve specified in the recipe.

Passionfruit Mascarpone Tart

Serves 8


125g unsalted butter, melted

90g sugar (I used vanilla sugar)

1/8 teaspoon vanilla pure vanilla extract (unless using vanilla sugar)

Pinch fine sea salt

180 g plain flour


6 large eggs

150 ml passionfruit juice (approx 11 passionfruit, strained)

Pulp of 1 passionfruit

250 g caster sugar

180 g mascarpone

For the pastry, preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 23 cm fluted tin with removable bottom.

In a large bowl, combine the butter ad sugar and stir to blend with a wooden spoon. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to form a soft biscuit-like dough. Do not overmix or let it form a ball.

Quickly transfer the dough to the centre of the tin. Using the tips of your fingers, evenly press the pastry along the bottom and sides of the tin. The dough will be quite thin.

Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake until the dough is slightly puffy and set, about 12-15 minutes.

Turn oven down to 160C (320F).

For the filling, whisk all ingredients together and pour into the cooked pastry shell. Put the tart on a tray and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, until almost set.

Cool in the tin for at least 30 minutes. When cool, dust with icing sugar.

Sticky Pork & Crispy Cucumber

Two recipes this week – Blackened Rum-Spiced Pork Belly with Sesame Cucumber Salad (in honour of Johnny Depp and The Rum Diary which I saw last week) followed by Passionfruit Mascarpone Tart.

The pork is a Karen Martini recipe which looked great when she cooked it on television on Friday night. I made a few changes to Karen’s recipe - two intentional and one unintentional. I used brown sugar instead of palm sugar because I didn’t have quite enough palm sugar in the cupboard. It worked well. I had a 140ml tin of coconut cream so used that instead of opening a larger tin for the benefit of an extra 40 ml. The unintentional change was that I forgot to add the brown onion and I think the end result would have been better with the onion included.

The pork was a hit with my fellow diners – there were 3 of the usuals and a very good friend of mine whose husband and sons were away for the weekend and who, coincidentally, 15 years ago gave me the cookbook which has my favourite pastry recipe and which I used for the passionfruit tart and also saw The Rum Diary with me. We all agreed that the cucumber salad was agreat accompaniment to the pork – the crunchy freshness worked really well with the sticky pork belly.

As my nephew’s girlfriend was on late shift for yet another Sunday night, he took home two pieces of marinated pork and the leftover sauce, as well as the remaining passionfruit tart so she didn’t miss out on the food, just our company!

Blackened Rum-Spiced Pork Belly with Sesame Cucumber Salad

1.5 kg pork belly, skin and bone removed

Lime cheeks to serve

1 handful of corriander, to serve

Rum marinade:

180g brown sugar (or palm sugar, grated)

120 ml dark rum

80 ml fish sauce

150 ml light soy sauce

3 tablespoon tom yum paste

1 large brown onion, finely sliced

6 garlic cloves, crushed

60 ml sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

180 ml cocunut cream

Sesame Cucumber Salad:

5 Lebanes cucumbers

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon iced water

2 pinches sea salt

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 handful coriander leaves

dash of extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Black pepper, to season

Combine all of the marinade ingredients, except the coconut cream, in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 10 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in coconut cream.

Score pork fat in a diamond/crosshatch pattern, then cut into 4cm-wide pieces. Transfer to a glass or ceramic dish and pour over marinade. Cover with cling wrap and refigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 200C (390F). Place the pork in a baking dish, reserving the marinade. Bake for 35-40 minutes (may require less time, depending on the thickness of the pork) until cook, basting occasionally.

Meanwhile put the cucumbers in a plastic bag in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.

Pour reserved marinade in a saucepan and over high heat, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until marinade thickens and becomes a little sticky.

To make the salad, roughly peel the cucumbers. Wrap in a clean tea towel and bash with a rolling pin until smashed into shards. Unwrap and transfer to a chilled bowl. Add remaining salad ingredients and toss to combine. Season with peeper.

Put pork on a serving plate and drizzle over sticky marinade. Serve with lime cheeks and coriander, and cucumber salad on the side.


The Perfect Brownies

This is the best recipe for brownies I have ever come across. The brownies are simply delicious, or to quote my good friend Suzie, they are surely the brownies they make in Heaven.

I found this recipe on Suzie’s blog Munch + Nibble. My daughter, an absolute and self-confessed chocoholic, was studying hard in the last term of her final year at high school and deserved a treat. These brownies fitted the bill perfectly. I took Suzie’s advice and made half the recipe.

This past Sunday our numbers were depleted for Sunday Dinner… My nephew is in Sydney at the moment and his girlfriend, who is a nurse, was working the late shift. I decided to bake some brownies as my son’s girlfriend is also more than partial to chocolate. I hadn’t made this recipe for about 2 years and was pleased to discover the brownies are absolutely as excellent as I remembered!

I used Lindt cooking chocolate – the dark bittersweet (58% cocoa) for the semisweet and the ecuador (75%) cocoa.

They really are heavenly.

Outrageous Brownies

from “The Barefoot Contessa” by Ina Garten (half recipe)

250g unsalted butter

250g plus 175g semisweet chocolate chips, divided

90g unsweetened chocolate

3 extra-large eggs

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

1 1/2 tablespoons real vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided (1/2 cup for batter and remeander in the chips and nuts)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups diced walnut pieces (I used a mixture of walnuts and pecans because that is what I had)

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 5cm sheet pan. Melt together the butter, 250g chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1/2 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 175g of chocolate chips with the remainder of the flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. (I didn’t do this because I forgot). Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Makes about 16.

Mini Chicken and Leek Pies

I have the most fantastic grandmother. This year she will turn 94. Quite an innings.

My little brother and I, along with 2 of my cousins, regularly spent a week or more at my grandparents after Chrismas each year when we were growing up. We had the best time. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised two things: our parents actually sent us to my grandparents so they could have a break and not everyone had grandparents like mine.

If there’s one thing my grandmother taught me it’s not to worry about things you can’t change. Of course, I wish I could remember this more often than I do.

My grandmother is (finally) getting old. Last weekend I went to visit for 5 nights – to take my grandmother for a drive or two, do some shopping and, of course, cook. This was not a big sacrifice – I walked along the beach every morning, found a terrific new (for me) coffee shop and caught up with an old school friend I hadn’t seen for 10 years.

During the 5 nights I was up north, I cooked my heart out. On our drive to Tamborine Mountain I bought some incredibly fresh rhubarb at a roadside stall. My grandmother was delighted – it is one of her favourite foods, especially served with rice custard. I left my grandmother with 45 single serve meals in her freezer which pleased her no end.

So this past Sunday I wasn’t cooking for the usual four, but for my grandmother instead.

I am most definitely a Bill Granger fan. A favourite from his first book “Sydney Food” is his recipe for chicken and leek pies. The recipe makes 6 individual pies but they are way too big for my 4’7″ grandmother so I made the pies in a muffin tin. The recipe made 17 small pies – they worked really well and are the perfect size. Other than omitting the cayenne pepper and substituting the tarragon with thyme, the recipe is Bill’s. Once cooked and cooled, I froze them in individual zip lock bags, ready to defrost and heat when required.

Mini Chicken and Leek Pies

adapted from “Sydney Food” by Bill Granger

1/2 cup plain flour

1 tsp salt

600 g chicken breast fillets, cut into 2cm dice

1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 leeks, white part only, sliced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

125ml ( 1/2 cup) chicken stock

125ml ( 1/2 cup) cream

2 tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 tbsp thyme leaves

4 sheets ready-made puff pastry

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Combine flour, a few grinds of black pepper and salt in a  bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat, shaking off any excess flour. Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes or until light golden. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Return pan to a medium heat, add leeks and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add stock and cream, simmer gently for 5 minutes, then return chicken to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes further. Remove from heat, season and stir through the parsley and thyme.

Cut pastry sheets to fit the base, sides and tops of the holes of a muffin tin. Spoon filling into pastry cases and brush edges with egg yolk. Place tops on pies and crimp edges with a fork. Brush tops with egg yolk and pierce the top of each pie.

Preheat oven to 190C. Place pies in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden and puffed.

Peach & Caramel Cake

Sunday Dinner began in January 2010 as my attempt to see my 2 children, together, for a meal, once a week. My brother’s son, who is 8 weeks older than my son and is at university here, was a welcome addition. The fact that the boys both have great girlfriends is a bonus!

Two years on, my regular Sunday Dinner guests are “the 22 year olds” – my son and his girlfriend of 4.5 years and my nephew and his girlfriend of 2.5 years. The boys are very different but have a strong bond; they travelled together through South America and Europe for 5 months in 2009 and had some great experiences, many of which I will probably never find out about. The boys bounce off each other wonderfully and are usually very entertaining.  My 20 year old daughter is at university in Melbourne and plans her visits home so that she makes a Sunday Dinner. Her 21 year old boyfriend often joins her. My mum is always a welcome guest when she is in town.

Tonight it was the regular five – me and the 22 year olds. My oven has been out of action for way too long. It was replaced this week, so tonight was the first Sunday Dinner for weeks where I could cook using an oven… Hooray!

Because the end of the stone fruit season is closing in, for dessert I decided to try the Peach and Caramel Cake from Cuisine NZ Issue 150.

The recipe specifies 4 large peaches. I could only fit 3 peaches on the bottom of the cake tin so perhaps the peaches I bought were extra-large.  Instead of yoghurt as an accompaniment, I made custard – an absolute favourite of my nephew’s and my son’s girlfriend. I was lucky to have been given 6 eggs from my friends’ chickens on Friday night (as well as 6 quail eggs, 2 of which I used for the custard) so the eggs I used were super fresh.

The cake was really easy and delicious – definitely worth making again (although I will buy a new 24cm springform cake tin as my old tin leaked, onto my new oven!). It was a hit with the kids, especially the chewy caramel edge bits. 


Peach and Caramel Cake (by Celia Harvey)

For the caramel
175g caster sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
4 large peaches, halved, stoned

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Butter and line a 24cm springform tin with baking paper.

Place the sugar and vanilla seeds in a heavy-based frying pan (you need a pan with a thick base to prevent the caramel from cooking too quickly). Add 6 tablespoons of water then place the pan over low heat and cook, without stirring, for 10 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved to create a clear syrup. Increase the heat and boil the mixture rapidly – don’t stir it but carefully swirl the pan as the mixture begins to colour, until it has reached a light mahogany shade. Quickly pour the caramel into the lined tin then place the peach halves, skin side up, over the caramel.

For the cake
150g flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out
4 tablespoons ground almonds
4 eggs, lightly beaten
yoghurt or cream to serve

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the soft butter, sugar, vanilla seeds, almonds and beaten eggs.

Beat until the mixture is smooth and blended – you can use a hand-held mixer or simply a spatula – then spread the cake batter over the peaches. Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake has slightly pulled away from the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool a little, though not completely as the caramel will set. Turn the cake out on to a serving platter and remove the paper. Serve slices warm or at room temperature with yoghurt or cream.