Pear Tarte Tatin

I had time to cook, and think about cooking, this past weekend for the first time in about eight weeks. Life has been just a bit busy with family, work and university.

I have grand illusions when it comes to cooking Tarte Tatin. However, I made an apple tarte tatin earlier this year and it was a bit of a disaster. Never one to give up,on Sunday I made Pear Tarte Tatin from the July 2012 issue of NZ Cuisine. It was really good!

I cooked the pears a couple of hours before I needed them and left them in the pan. This meant there wasn’t much to do before putting the pan in the oven. Instead of serving the tart with zabaglione, I served vanilla bean custard. The recipe says it serves 6 but it serves 8 quite easily. I will definitely make this again – it was delicious.


Pear Tarte Tatin

from NZ Cuisine Issue 153

300g butter puff pastry

5-6 pears, peeled quartered and cored

juice of 2 lemons

50g honey

25g butter

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roll out the pastry to a 27cm-diameter circle, 5mm thick (or to a size that is big enough to overlap your frying pan). Refrigerate until required.

Toss the pear quarters together with the lemon juice.

Melt the honey and butter in a 25cm oven-proof frying pan then arrange the pears in the frying pan in a single layer, peeled skin side down. Add any juices from the pears then cook until any liquid disappears and the pears begin to turn golden brown. Put the pastry circle on top of the pears, tucking the pastry around the edge of the pears inside the frying pan.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes then turn out on a serving plate.

Serves 6-8

Comforting rice custard

My children went through a stage where their favourite breakfast was rice custard, usually accompanied by stewed fruit. I figured it was probably better for them than 90% of breakfast cereals – rice, milk, eggs and a small amount of sugar. It is still a favourite but not for breakfast.

A few Sundays ago I poached some pears and made some rice custard – it was a hit. The trick with this recipe is cooking the rice and milk mixture long enough, so the rice is well cooked. In the past five or so years I have been using arborio rice rather than the short grain white rice I had been using for years.


Rice custard

Makes about 1.25 litres

1/2 cup arborio rice

1 cup water

4 cups milk

I vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped.

1 teaspoon cornflour

2 eggs

3 tablespoons sugar

grated nutmeg


Combine the rice and water in a large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until water has been absorbed. Add the milk and stir every now again until the mixture starts to simmer. Add the vanilla bean. Turn the heat down and leave the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture thickens and the rice is cooked, 30-40 minutes.

Mix the cornfour with a tablespoon of milk. Add eggs and whisk together. Add a cup of the hot milk mixture and whisk. Add the egg mixture to the saucepan off the heat and stir until the mixture thickens – this should happen quite quickly. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated.

Spoon mixture into serving dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and leave to cool.

Serve with poached or stewed fruit or fresh berries.

Lemon tart

No Sunday Dinner this week – everybody except me and Toby were busy or working. Fortunately, I still have something to blog about as I went to dinner at my friend Irene’s last night and took dessert. I didn’t want to go to the shops so when I arrived home at 5:15 pm, the dessert I was going to make had to be from ingredients I had in the pantry as I was due at Irene’s at 7pm.

I love citrus desserts and thought a lemon tart would be a fine dessert to follow Irene’s spaghetti marinara (which was really delicious). The lemon tart from Bill Granger’s Bill’s Basics is a great recipe as it doesn’t require the hassle of pastry. This makes it a bit lighter than the usual tart too. I didn’t have quite enough lemon juice so added about 30ml of orange juice instead. I visited Andrea’s lemon tree this morning and topped up my stock! The only change I would make to this recipe is use slightly less butter – perhaps 100 grams rather than 125 grams.

Lemon tart

from Bill’s Basics by Bill Granger

Serves 6-8

3 eggs

75g (1/2 cup) plain flour

225g (1 cup) caster sugar

125g unsalted butter, melted

zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

150ml lemon juice

300ml cream

to serve:

Icing sugar

Cream or creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 20cm round springform cake tin.

Whisk the eggs and then gradually whisk in the flour. Add the sugar, butter, lemon zest and juice, cream and a pinch of sea salt and whisk well. Pour into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until lightly browned.

Leave in the tin to cool for 20 minutes before turning out and slicing. Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream, creme fraiche or ice cream.

Golden syrup puddings

I love golden syrup. One of our favourite desserts is steamed gold syrup pudding with custard. Unfortunately, when my daughter  returned to Melbourne in February I sent along with her my reserve pasta/stock pot. What I didn’t appreciate was that this is the only pot I have that fits the pudding basin. Needless to say, I haven’t made a steamed pudding since February.

Because the weather was a bit cold and bleak on Sunday, I really felt like golden syrup pudding. I was looking through my cookbooks and came across Golden Syrup Puddings in Bill Granger’s book Every Day. The ramekins I used have a  300 ml capacity which was just as well because the puddings grew as they cooked. I recommend cooking the puddings on a tray as the sauce bubbled over a bit.

These puddings were simple to make and delicious. Bill is definitely the king of self-saucing puddings.

Golden Syrup Puddings

from Every Day by Bill Granger

Serves 4

125 gm (1 cup) self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
95 gm (½ cup) soft brown sugar
60 gm unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract

95 gm (1/2) soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
310 ml boiling water

Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly butter and flour 4 x 250 ml (1 cup) ovenproof dishes/ramekins. Mix the flour, ginger and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the melted butter, egg, milk, golden syrup and vanilla and stir until everything is well combined. Spoon into the dishes

For the sauce, mix all of the ingredients together and carefully using the back of a spoon; pour the sauce evenly over the batter into the dishes. Bake for 20 minutes or until the sponge is firm and golden.

Serve with good quality vanilla ice-cream.

My Aunt

My Aunt celebrates a Big Birthday today – happy birthday and many happy returns! Not only has she been a wonderful aunt, she is also a terrific cook, something she emphatically denies every time we try to praise her. I can hear her now, saying “It’s just simple, it’s easy, it’s nothing” as our eyes feast upon a table groaning with food because without a doubt, the meal she prepares is guaranteed to be very generous.  That’s my aunt.

When it comes to cookbooks and food magazines, we are kindred spirits. If I decide to buy a new cookbook and guilt descends as I approach the sales counter, I can justify the purchase by thinking (a) my aunt would think I should buy it and (b) she probably has the book already. We also share (along with my mother… so perhaps it is genetic…) a love of small tongs - they are so handy – although I only have 4 pairs whereas my aunt probably has about 20 pairs.

With the plentiful supply of pears on offer at the markets this time of year, last week for Sunday Dinner I decided to make Dietmar Sawyer’s Pear Clafoutis for dessert, from this month’s Gourmet Traveller. The recipe fed 5 of us quite easily. I thought this dessert was really delicious – I will definitely make it again.

The hazelnuts on top really made it. I didn’t use the poire Williams eau de vie and I poached the pears cut in quarters rather than whole as I was short on time. As usual, my photography does not do it justice.

Happy birthday to my wonderful Aunt!

Pear and hazelnut clafoutis

from Dietmar Sawyer, Australian Gourmet Traveller July 2012

Serves 4

50 gm hazelnuts
120 gm softened unsalted butter
120 gm caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp milk
100 gm (2/3 cup) plain flour
40 gm hazelnut meal
1 tsp baking powder
To serve: icing sugar
To serve: vanilla bean ice-cream
Poached pears
200 gm caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 ripe beurre Bosc pears
60 ml poire Williams eau de vie (optional)


1 For poached pears, stir sugar, vanilla bean and seeds and 400ml water in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, add pears and liqueur, weight with a plate and bring to the simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low, simmer for 2 minutes, then cool pears completely in poaching liquid (1 hour). Drain pears and thinly slice.
2 Preheat oven to 180C. Spread hazelnuts on an oven tray and roast, shaking occasionally, until browned (8-10 minutes). Rub with a tea towel to remove skins, then coarsely crush with the flat of a chef’s knife and set aside.
3 Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and creamy (6-8 minutes), add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk, beat to combine, then sieve in flour, hazelnut meal and baking powder and fold to combine.
4 Spread a 1cm-thick layer of clafoutis mixture in four buttered 200ml 12cm-diameter ovenproof dishes, arrange sliced pear on top, scatter with crushed hazelnuts and bake until golden and just cooked through (15-20 minutes). Dust with icing sugar and serve hot with vanilla bean ice-cream.


Chocolate heaven

My chocoholic daughter is home for a few nights so it was a logical decision to make a chocolate dessert for Sunday Dinner, on the off chance food really is the way to the heart. It is the second last time Mim will be home before she leaves to study in New York City for a year.

So we had a full complement of 6 for Sunday Dinner this week, although dinner was on Monday night rather than Sunday night due to it being a long weekend. For main course we had slow cooked Greek lamb  which I totally forgot to photgraph so I won’t include the recipe. We all felt for Elyse who was off to work after dinner…night shift is the pits.

For dessert I made Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache from the November 2011 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller. I had no hazelnuts on hand when I started making this cake so used ground almonds which worked very well. I’d like to try it with hazerlnuts though as they are not as bitter as almonds.  If I make this recipe again I will use 90 grams of 55% and 90 grams of 70% dark chcolate for the ganache as the ganache was pretty intense. I didn’t have any chocloate liqueur and chose not to substitute it with anything else. The raspberries were worth the expense – they were the perfect accompaniment. 

Don’t be daunted – this cake was not the challenge it looks, despite having 3 layers. It is well worth the effort.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Cake with Espresso Ganache

From Gourmet Traveller November 2011

Serves 10-12

Cooking Time Prep time 30 mins, cook 55 mins (plus cooling, chilling)

6 eggs, separated
330 gm raw caster sugar
180 gm hazelnut meal
20 gm Dutch-process cocoa, sieved, plus extra to serve
160 gm softened butter
250 gm dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), melted
30 ml espresso-strength coffee
Espresso ganache
160 ml pouring cream
20 ml espresso-strength coffee
180 gm dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
20 ml chocolate liqueur

  Preheat oven to 180C. Whisk eggwhite and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form (3-4 minutes). Gradually add 165gm sugar, whisking until stiff and glossy (3-4 minutes), then fold in hazelnut meal and cocoa. Meanwhile, line base and sides of a buttered 25cm-diameter springform cake tin with baking paper, spoon hazelnut meringue mixture into prepared tin, smooth top and bake until a skewer inserted withdraws clean (15-20 minutes), then set aside.
  Beat butter and remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale and creamy (4-5 minutes), then add yolks one at a time, beating well to combine. Stir in melted chocolate and coffee, then pour onto meringue and bake until centre is firm (25-30 minutes). Refrigerate until firm (2-3 hours).
  For espresso ganache, bring cream and coffee to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, remove from heat, add chocolate and liqueur, stir until smooth. Pour over cake, smooth top. Refrigerate until set (1-2 hours).
  To serve, remove cake from tin, remove paper and serve topped with raspberries.

Pear and almond tart

This is a terrific recipe from Donna Hay - very versatile, as well as being quick and easy. I made it with pears this week as they are in season and are good value at the moment. In summer I make it with nectarines, peaches or apricots. I served the tart with custard as we have a few custard fiends.

Alexander was absent from Sunday Dinner again this week – last exam for university this week so he was swatting. I packed him a take away meal and Jaime delivered it to him… he is a lucky boy!

Pear and almond tart

from Donna Hay Seasons

Serves 6

90 g softened butter

1/2 cup (90 g) brown sugar

2 eggs

1 cup (120 g) ground almonds

1/4 cup (35 g) plain flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind

2 pears, peeled, cored and quartered

1/2 cup brown sugar, extra

raw sugar, for sprinkling

double (thick) cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 160C (320F).

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until just combined. Add the eggs, ground almonds, flour, baking powder and lemon rind and process until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 9.5 cm x 33 cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin. Place the pear and extra brown sugar in a bowl and toss to coat. Press the pear into the tart mixture and bake for 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Sprinkle with raw sugar and allow to cool in the tin.

Serve with cream.

Saffron crème caramel

I love crème caramel; it is a childhood favourite. My paternal grandmother has never been particularly interested in cooking but she cooked a great Christmas pudding every year and she used to make fantastic crème caramel. Because Nanna knew how much I loved it, she regularly made it when we visited or brought it with her when she visited us. I can clearly remember the time my grandparents visited me at boarding school with a homemade crème caramel for me. I ate it outside so that I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone.

As I am fortunate enough to have a good store of saffron at the moment, I chose to make Saffron Crème Caramel with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds this Sunday, from Cook with Us by Gary Mehigan and George Colombaris. Unfortunately, I overcooked them a bit. The recipe said to cook them for 40 minutes at 170C; I cooked them for 40 minutes at 165C but I was distracted and should have checked them at the 35 minute mark. When I opened the oven door they were sizzled and I was quite sure they would be curdled and horrible. Needless to say, I quickly whipped the custards out of the baine-marie rather than leaving them to ‘cool’ and set.

I even made plans for a replacement dessert (on hold now until next week). However, I decided to test one after if had been in the fridge for a few hours and although it wasn’t perfect – there were definite indicators of over-cooking – they were delicious, and by no means a disaster. Because I was sure they were ruined, I didn’t buy the pumpkin seeds but they would be a nice addition.

I really liked this recipe, despite the over-cooking. The hint of orange was delicious.  I would happily make this recipe again.

Saffron Crème Caramel

Serves 8

50 grams pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

a large pinch saffron threads (about 30 threads)

500 ml milk

300 ml pouring cream

rind of 1 orange, in strips, white pith removed

6 eggs

1 cup (220 g) caster sugar


1 cup (220 g) caster sugar

1 cup (250 ml) water

  1. For the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer until golden, about 10 minutes. Working quickly so the caramel doesn’t set, divide the caramel evenly among eight 175 ml-capacity ramekins.Roll the ramekins around to coat the base and sides with caramel. Place the ramekins in a roasting tin and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional). Roast the pumpkin seeds on a baking tray until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the saffron in 1 tablespoon of the milk for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat the remaining milk, cream, orange rind and the saffron mixture in a saucepan over medium heat. Just before it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes.
  5. Lightly whisk the eggs and sugar together, taking care not to create too many bubbles. Gradually pour the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine.
  6. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large jug; this will catch any solids and egg white that is not mixed in well and remove any air bubbles. Divide the mixture evenly between among the prepared ramekins. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to comes two-thrids of the way up the side of the ramekins.
  7. Bake the custards for 40 minutes or until they just bobble; don’t worry as they will still be slightly wet in the centre and will set while they are cooling. Leave the crème caramels to cool and set in the water in the raosting pan.
  8. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan, then cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
  9. To serve, run a knife around the edge of each ramekin and invert the crème caramels onto serving plates, then scatter with the roasted pumpkin seeds.

Lots of limes

A manic week at work last week means that I haven’t had time to reflect on Sunday Dinner until now. The inspiration for this dessert came from my sister-in-law, Kylie. She and my brother were in town for the weekend and when we caught up for breakfast Kylie gave me a bag of limes that she’d bought the day before - she’d gone to buy a couple of limes but found that 2 bags of limes (10 limes in each bag) were the same price as 5 individual limes. When I was discussing what I would make for dessert, my brother suggested Impossible Pie, a childhood favourite that Mum used to cook regularly. The seed was thus sown for Citrus Impossible Pie.

I came across this recipe about 15 years ago. I cannot for the life of me find the original recipe – I have a feeling I found it in a Vogue Entertaining. I love citrus desserts so this recipe is definitely a favourite, especially because it is so easy to make and absolutely fail-proof. My usual guests enjoyed it and Toby walked out the door with the leftovers.

Because I had plenty of limes, the version I made for Sunday Dinner was about two thirds lime and one third orange instead of the lemon and orange combination in the recipe below. I had no slivered almonds in the pantry but lots of blanched almonds so I used those.

Thanks for the limes Kylie!

Citrus Impossible Pie

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ cup melted butter

100g slivered almonds

1 cup desiccated coconut

Grated rind of 1 lemon

Grated rind of 1 orange

½ cup lemon juice

½ cup orange juice

1 cup milk

½ cup plain flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 180C.

Process all ingredients in a food processor for 2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a well greased 28cm pie dish for about an hour or until golden brown on top.

Remove from oven and allow to cool and set. Refrigerate if necessary.

Serve with thick cream and fresh berries.

Serves 8-10

Sublime crème brûlée

Mim offered to make dessert for Sunday Dinner. Two years ago, Mim made crème brûlée for Sunday Dinner but although it tasted good it wasn’t a big success due to the fact we didn’t have a blowtorch so the custard melted and the top wasn’t crisp.She decided to try again, this time with a blowtorch. It was an absolute hit and quite definitely up there with the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had.

We found Guillaume Brahimi’s crème brûlée recipe on the internet. I would definitely use this recipe again. Mim used organic milk and really fresh eggs from friends’ chickens which were sure to have made a difference. The brûlées took a bit longer than 60 minutes to cook – more like 75-80 minutes.

All four of the usuals turned up for dinner, plus Mim as the special guest. Mim can be a bit accident prone so we were a bit concerned she may set the house on fire with the blowtorch. Under Elyse’s supervision, she did a great job.

This dessert was sublime. Not something you’d eat every day but an excellent treat. Thanks Mim!


Vanilla crème brûlée

By Guillaume Brahimi

Serves 4

300ml pure cream

200ml milk

2 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped

100g egg yolks (from 5 eggs)

70g caster sugar

30g demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 130°C.

Place the cream, milk and vanilla seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and remove from heat.

Quickly whisk together the yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl until just combined. Pour the hot cream mixture over the top and whisk again until combined. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve then pour into 4 x 180ml ramekins.

Cover with foil and bake the brûlées in a bain marie for 60 minutes or until set but with a slight wobble. Remove and rest for 20 minutes at room temperature before refrigerating for 4 hours or until cold.

To serve, sprinkle each brûlée with demerara sugar and caramelise using a blowtorch.