walnut halva cake

16 Oct 2017

Although I have a copy of Ottolenghi and Helen Goh's new book Sweet, I've been so busy I haven't had time to bake anything from it as yet. I'm still working my way through Plenty More, where I found this recipe for Walnut and Halva Cake

I made it recently and whilst I loved the halva and walnut filling and topping, I found the cake itself quite bland. As well, the halva completely disintegrated during the cooking process leaving the cake looking a bit like Swiss cheese.

The second time I made the cake, I tweaked the cake recipe; I used pecans because I'd run out of walnuts; I increased the amount of halva in the centre and used a different brand; I also added a bit more sugar to the nuts and tried again.

The second cake was much better but try as I could, I could do nothing to stop the halva from melting into the cake mixture. It doesn't affect the flavour at all; it just makes for a holey cake.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a small loaf cake. If you'd like to make a large loaf cake or a 23 cm cake, try the original Ottolenghi recipe or you can double all the ingredients and keep the baking time the same. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Walnut and Halva Cake – inspired by Ottolenghi
45g unsalted butter
90g walnuts, roughly chopped
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
30g brown sugar
125g plain or vanilla sesame halva, cut into 2 cm pieces

Cake Ingredients
100g unsalted butter at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium eggs, lightly whisked
¾ cup self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1-2 tbs milk, yoghurt or sour cream

Put the butter in a small saucepan on a low to medium heat. Leave to melt, then let it cook for a few minutes until it's light brown and smells slightly nutty. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, stir in the walnuts, the cinnamon and the brown sugar.

Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease a small loaf tin with a little butter, and line the base and sides with baking paper.

In a stand mixer, mix the butter, sugar and vanilla on a medium speed until light and fluffy, then add the eggs. Sift together the flour with a pinch of salt and add this in thirds alternately with the milk to make a smooth batter. Make sure not to over-mix.

Spread half the batter on the base of the cake tin and evenly scatter over half the nut mix. Dot the halva on top, and spread the remaining batter over this. Finally, sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.

Bake for 50 - 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, then gently remove the cake from the tin by lifting the paper. Take off the paper and leave the cake to cool on a wire rack before cutting. The cake will keep for a day or two, stored in an airtight container.

The cake is good enough for a third try. Maybe next time I'll use some walnut meal in the mix and try yet another brand of halva???

Anyway it's time for me to go so until the next time.

Bye for now,


cinnamon knots

9 Oct 2017

I had no idea October 4 was cinnamon bun day when I whipped up a batch of these last Sunday. Every Saturday, as a special treat, I have one of these cinnamon knots for breakfast with a nice cup of tea. It's my way of celebrating the start of the weekend.

My Dad has been making these cinnamon buns all my life. This is his recipe, which I've halved and very slightly adapted. Dad doesn't like sweet things so I've slightly increased the quantity of sugar in the recipe, though it's still low compared to most recipes. The dough is lovely, soft and buttery and easy to work with. 

When we were children we were allowed to shape some of the dough. At the age of 90, Dad still makes these cinnamon buns every few weeks but he doesn't bother making these fancy knots (online tutorial by Issy Hossack). He just makes regular buns or simple unfilled knots topped with cinnamon sugar. I'm not sure why I persist with making the knots because every knot I shape is different, but I do. As I've only made knots with this recipe I'm not sure how many regular cinnamon rolls this makes. Maybe 10-12? Next time I make a batch, I'll make regular cinnamon buns and let you know.

If you make the fancy knots, you use more dough per bun than a regular cinnamon roll but you only use half the filling. I make the whole quantity then just put the leftover filling in the fridge for the next time, as there is always a next time. These knots are best served on the day of baking but freeze very well. As soon as they're cool, I place them into individual plastic bags and pop them into the freezer. 

Here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60 gram eggs. My oven is a regular gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20ºC.

Cinnamon Knots - makes 8 
90g butter               
170 mls milk                               
2 tsp vanilla                          
400 gm plain flour   
½ tsp salt                                 
40g caster sugar  
2¼ tsp dried yeast    
1 egg, beaten  

30g melted butter
cinnamon sugar 
80 g soft butter 
50g brown sugar 
50g caster sugar 
1 tsp golden or maple syrup 
4 tsp ground cinnamon 
50 g almond meal 

Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat, add milk and vanilla and heat until lukewarm. Mix flour, salt, sugar and yeast in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Make a well in the centre, then, with motor running, pour milk mixture and beaten egg into the well and knead until smooth and shiny (2-3 minutes).   

Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1 hour). While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a small bowl, cream together the butter, sugarsthe syrup and the ground cinnamon. Mix in the almond meal to form a paste, ensuring there are no lumps in the mixture. If you make the knots you'll only use half the filling but it stores well in the fridge. If you make cinnamon rolls, you'll need to use all the filling 

Knock back dough on a lightly floured surface, roll out to a 20cm x 35cm rectangle. If you're making knots, cover half the dough with the filling. Fold the dough over to cover the filling and press the edges gently to seal. Cut crosswise into 8 even pieces. Twist each strip a few times to lengthen then loop each piece twice around your hand and tuck in the ends to form a knot. If you choose not to make knots, cover the rolled-out dough with all the filling and roll up lengthwise like a swiss roll. Cut into 10-12 even pieces and process with the baking instructions. 

Place the knots or rolls on an oven tray lined with baking paper and set aside. Coat the buns with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle each bun with a little cinnamon sugar then cover with a tea towel and stand in a warm place to prove (30 minutes). Bake at 180°C for about 25 minutes or until the buns have risen and are well browned. Cool on tray for 15 minutes and then cool to room temperature on a wire rack. These are best served on the day of baking but freeze very well.

I hope you give these a try as the house always smell so good when you bake a batch. 

See you all again next week. 

Bye for now,


blueberry lemon loaf

2 Oct 2017

It's blueberry season in Sydney so blueberries have been plentiful and inexpensive. Each week I buy a punnet aiming to bake with them but end up eating the punnet instead. Last weekend I bought 2 punnets and used one to make this cake.

I used an old favourite lemon butter cake recipe and gently folded through most of the blueberries. I studded the top with the remaining blueberries an idea I pinched from an Ottolenghi recipe.

If you want to make sure the blueberries don't sink to the bottom of the cake, you can lightly dust them in flour before folding them into the batter.

The icing on the cake is just that - a drizzle of lemony glace icing.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a small loaf cake. If you'd like to make a large loaf cake or a 23 cm cake, then double all the ingredients and the baking time will be unchanged. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. 

Blueberry and lemon cake 
125 grams unsalted butter 
125 grams caster sugar 
1 lemon, rind grated and juiced 
2 eggs 
¾ cup self-raising flour 
¼ tsp baking powder 
¼ cup almond meal 
¼ cup buttermilk/milk or yoghurt 
125 g punnet blueberries 

⅓ cup sifted icing sugar 
1 tsp melted butter 
½ lemon, juiced 

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F conventional oven. Grease a small loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. 

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until combined well. Sift the flour and the baking powder together then mix through the almond meal. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk and sufficient lemon juice to make a soft batter. Gently stir in ¾ of the blueberries reserving the rest. Spoon the batter into the greased and lined tin. 

Bake the cake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, then press the remaining blueberries onto the top of the cake. Bake a further 45 minutes or until the cake tests cooked when a skewer is inserted into it. Cool the cake in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning out to cool on a wire rack. When cool drizzle with the icing. 

In a small bowl combine the icing sugar with the melted butter and sufficient lemon juice to make a thick icing. Drizzle over the cake, then let icing set before serving.

I'd forgotten how delicious a simple butter cake tastes. I must make this one again soon.

See you all again soon with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


chocolate raspberry layer cake

25 Sep 2017

A few weeks ago I spent the day at home with a bad headache. As the headache eased, I realised I was bored so I decided to make some jam, as you do. I found some frozen raspberries in the freezer and in 20 minutes I had raspberry jam but I don't really eat jam, so what was I to do?

I'd bookmarked this Julia Turshen recipe for Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake a while back and the layers are sandwiched together with raspberry jam. I used the recipe as my inspiration for this chocolate raspberry layer cake. Originally the cake was going to be a double layer cake but I kept cutting layers and suddenly I was making a triple layer cake.  

I used my own chocolate cake recipe but used the sour cream filling and the chocolate ganache topping from Julia's recipe.

I thought the cake looked pretty good naked and was tempted not to ice the top layer but as I'd already made the ganache, I went ahead with this step.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a triple layer cake. You should be able to make a double layer 8 inch cake with these quantities but the cooking time will be a bit less, maybe 45 minutes. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake
1 cup plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ cup strong hot coffee
40g cocoa powder
125g room temperature unsalted butter, chopped
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
⅓ cup buttermilk

⅓ cup cream
⅓ cup room-temperature sour cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tbs caster sugar
½ cup raspberry jam
Raspberries for serving (optional)

65g dark chocolate, chopped
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tsp golden syrup

Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease and line a 18cm round tin with baking paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Mix the coffee and cocoa together in a small bowl to make a paste, then set aside to cool.

Cream the butter and sugar together with the vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the egg then mix the flour into the mixture alternating with the chocolate mixture and the buttermilk. You should be left with a creamy smooth chocolatey batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top then place the tin onto the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake at 190° C for 1 hour to 1 and 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry. Leave the cake to cool completely before turning out onto a wire rack. While the cake is cooling, make the icing and the filling.

Melt the chopped chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between burst. Remove from the microwave and whisk in the room temperature sour cream and golden syrup. The icing should be smooth and quite silky. Refrigerate the icing which will thicken as it cools. If the icing seizes, just zap for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen the mixture

Whip the cream with the vanilla until stiff. Fold in the room temperature sour cream then sweeten to taste with the sugar. Slice the cake horizontally into 3 layers and spread the cake with the raspberry jam first before topping with the sour cream filling. If you like you can sprinkle a few raspberries over the cream before topping with the next layer. Top with the chocolate icing.

Store the cake in the fridge until serving time but allow to come to room temperature before serving. 

I didn't get to try a slice of the cake but it was very well received and was all gone before lunch was over, which is always a good sign.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


ricotta gnocchi with peas and mint

18 Sep 2017

You know I do cook other things don't you, not just cakes and desserts? In fact I spend all weekend cooking meals for the week ahead. As well as things I can heat up like curries and casseroles, I also like to cook things that take about 20 minutes to get onto the plate.

A few years ago my friend Vanessa asked if I'd ever made ricotta gnocchi. I hadn't but when I eventually did, I wondered why I'd ever made them any other way. You can have gnocchi in the pot in about 10 minutes flat and whilst I love potatoes, I probably love ricotta just as much. 

Apart from salt, pepper and nutmeg all you need are 4 key ingredients - eggs, parmesan cheese, flour and ricotta.

Like all gnocchi, you need to use a light hand with these and only use enough flour to stop the dough from sticking.

I don't usually bother but I decided to roll the gnocchi over a fork to make those characteristic ridges.

I made these gnocchi for my lunch on Saturday but I was faced with a dilemma. What sauce should I make to pair with the gnocchi? I make tomato based sauces all the time and I was a bit worried a tomato sauce would swamp these delicate gnocchi so I looked to Gordon Ramsay for some inspiration. I found this recipe and adapted the sauce a little by swapping mint for the thyme. I thought peas and mint sounded like the perfect combination of spring flavours.

The gnocchi only took a minute or two to cook and the sauce took about 5 minutes to put together so the gnocchi were on my plate in next to no time. If you'd like to try these for yourself, here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon and all eggs are 60 grams. 

Ricotta gnocchi with peas and mint - serves 4

500g fresh ricotta
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra to serve
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup plain flour, plus extra if required

Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
150g peas, defrosted if frozen
Knob of butter
a few sprigs of mint,  leaves only
Zest of 1 lemon

Place ricotta in a fine sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes to drain off any excess liquid. Place drained ricotta in a bowl with grated cheese, egg yolks, salt and nutmeg. Add flour and mix to form a dough. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky and wet. Be careful not to overwork.

Divide dough into quarters and gently roll into two-centimetre-diameter logs on a lightly floured surface. Cut into two-centimetre pieces and gently place on a lightly floured tray. Press down with back of a fork to make indents in each gnocchi. Continue with remaining dough.

To cook gnocchi, drop into a saucepan of simmering, lightly salted water and remove as soon as they float to the top, after one or two minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add the gnocchi to the pan with a pinch of salt and black pepper and sauté for 1-2 minutes on each side until coloured. Add the peas and butter and season to taste. Toss, then add the lemon zest. Serve topped with the mint leaves and some grated parmesan.

So how were the gnocchi? Brilliant! The parmesan cheese in the gnocchi turned a bit crusty when fried and the peas, mint and lemon made for a lovely fresh and light sauce. I've stored some of these gnocchi in the freezer and I'll be having them again for my dinner later this week.

I hope you all had lovely weekends.

See you all again soon.

Bye for now,



upside down blood orange, ricotta, almond and polenta cake

11 Sep 2017

While browsing through instagram a few weeks back, I spied a picture of an upside down blood orange, ricotta, almond and polenta cake adapted from the River Cafe's Lemon Polenta Cake.  

Blood oranges and ricotta are 2 of my favourite things and as I'd already made the River Cafe's lemon cake a few times before, I was keen to give this version a try. When I found that blood oranges were on special at the fruit shop this week I bought a few to make this cake.

Early on Sunday morning, I collected all the ingredients.

You need to use well drained ricotta from the deli for this recipe.

I used a combination of brown sugar and water at the base of the tin as suggested by Deb from Smitten Kitchen then arranged the orange slices over the base before carefully spooning the delicate batter over the fruit. 

Here's the recipe for you, which makes an 8 inch cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. 

Upside down blood orange, polenta and ricotta cake
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 blood oranges
1 lemon
125g almond meal
50g polenta flour
115g unsalted butter, softened
135g caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
165 grams ricotta, drained
75mls orange/lemon juice
Additional 1 tbs caster sugar
¼ cup apricot jam or marmalade

Preheat oven to 170°C. Butter a 8-inch round cake pan and line the base and sides with baking paper. Stir brown sugar and water together. Pour into the base of the prepared cake pan and spread thinly. Set aside. Grate the zest of 1 of the oranges and the lemon. Using a small, sharp knife, slice off 1 cm from the top and bottom of 2 of the oranges. Standing each orange up on a board, carefully but neatly follow the natural curves of the orange with the knife to peel off the remaining skin and all the white pith. Cut each orange horizontally into thin slices. Remove the pips then arrange the slices over the brown sugar base in the cake pan. Juice the third orange then add sufficient lemon juice to make 75 mls.

In a small bowl, combine the almond meal with the polenta flour. Beat the butter, sugar and zests together in a mixer until pale and light. Add the egg yolks one by one. Put the ricotta in a bowl and lightly beat with a fork before adding the blood orange juice. Gently stir the ricotta mixture into the cake batter alternating with the almond mixture. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the extra tablespoon of sugar and whisk until combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the almond mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently smooth the cake batter, trying not to disturb orange slices underneath then bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until set. Test by inserting a skewer, which should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and inverting onto a cake plate. Don't leave the cake for too long before unmoulding or the topping will set and you'll find it impossible to get the cake out of the tin.

While the cake is cooling, heat the jam in the microwave until it melts then gently brush over the cake top. Let the cake cool completely before cutting into slices. Serve as is or with a dollop of double cream. 

This cake is best served on the day of making as the oranges tend to lose their shine. Store any leftover cake in the fridge.

The cake is almost more of a cheesecake than a regular cake and the addition of the orange slices does make this quite soft and a bit of a challenge to cut into neat slices. So don't do what I did and allow the cake to cool completely before cutting a slice. The blood orange version of the cake is much sweeter than the lemon version due to the brown sugar base, which isn't a bad thing. In case you're wondering, the unused blood orange rind didn't go to waste. I candied it in preparation for my Christmas baking and it's drying out on a rack while I type this.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


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