walnut crumble bundt cake

16 Jul 2018

I do like a bundt cake. It's something about the swirls I think and the fact that it's design allows the cake to bake so quickly. 

Somehow I managed to buy 1 kilo of walnut pieces and as I don't particularly like walnuts, I'm not sure how this happened. Anyway I thought I better find a way to use some of the walnuts and decided to make a walnut crumble bundt cake. The crumble idea came directly from Belinda Jeffery's Butter Crunch cake from Mix and Bake, whilst the cake is my own creation.

The cake cooked so quickly, I must admit I over-baked it a little but no-one at work seemed to mind.

The cake went down a treat at work so I snaffled my piece before it all disappeared. 

Here's the recipe for you which make a small bundt cake. If you'd like to make a larger cake, then just double all the ingredients but keep the cooking time the same. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 gm and my oven is a conventional oven, not fan forced. If your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the cooking temperature by 20°C. 

Walnut crumble bundt cake
30g roasted walnut or pecans
30g caster sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Cake Ingredients
125 grams unsalted butter
½ cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
¾ cup self-raising flour
pinch salt
½ tsp baking powder
¼ cup almond meal
¼ - ⅓ cup milk

Optional – icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F conventional oven. Grease and flour a small bundt tin then place in the fridge while you prepare the batter.

Put the nuts, sugar and the cinnamon into a small food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Pour this mixture into a small bowl and set to one side.

To make the cake, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until combined well. Sift the flour with the salt and the baking powder then mix through the almond meal. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk to make a soft batter. You may not need to use all the milk.

Spoon a 2 cm layer of cake batter into the bottom of the prepared tin and smooth out the surface. Sprinkle about ⅓ of the nut mixture over the top and shake the tin gently to even it out. Cover this with another thin layer of batter. Sprinkle another ⅓ of the nut mixture over this. Even it out again, then spread the remaining cake batter on top before sprinkling with the final ⅓ of the nut mixture.

Bake the cake for 35-45 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. If desired, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.

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

Bye for now,


spiced apple loaf

9 Jul 2018

When I saw a recipe for a mulled apple and spelt loaf in July's Gourmet Traveller it reminded me that I had an apple cake recipe that I'd written but hadn't ever made. I'd swapped the apples for pear to make a pear and hazelnut crumble cake then made another version which used rhubarb. I decided to rectify the situation as quickly as possible to make this spiced apple loaf.

It's a simple cake and as the cake is made with melted butter it doesn't take long to put together. I bought some apple puree but you could always make then blitz some stewed apple with a stick blender to make your own.  Once the cake is cool its topped with a simple apple flavoured icing which I decorated with some maple candied walnuts. I've included the recipe but that's a step you could easily skip and just use a few whole walnuts instead. This is not a sweet cake so I think it's best topped with the apple icing otherwise you'll need to increase the quantity of sugar in the cake batter. It's also better served the day after baking giving the flavours more time to develop.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a loaf tin or an 8 inch round cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Spiced apple loaf
1½ cups coarsely chopped, peeled cooking apple (1 large green apple)
2 tbs lemon juice   
1 cup SR flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon     
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch salt    
¼ cup almond meal 
125g melted unsalted butter   
½ cup brown sugar   
½ cup caster sugar   
1 tsp vanilla   
2 eggs
125g apple puree (1 small tub) 
½ cup toasted walnut pieces   

1 cup sifted icing sugar 
45g softened unsalted butter 
The reserved apple and lemon juice.   
Additional 1-2 tbls apple or lemon juice 
walnuts for decoration 

Grease and line the base and sides of a bar or loaf tin. Combine the coarsely chopped apple and the lemon juice in a small bowl. Set to one side for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Drain the apples, reserving the juice for the icing. Sift the dry ingredients into a small bowl. Stir through the almond meal and set to one side.

In a medium size  bowl combine the melted butter, the sugars and vanilla. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Add the flour and apple puree to make a soft batter. If the batter still looks a little dry add a tablespoon of yoghurt or milk. Gently fold in the chopped apple and nuts. Spoon into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top. Place the cake tin on the middle shelf in the oven and bake for 50 minutes at 180°C/350°F or until the cake is cooked when tested with a skewer. If the cake is browning too quickly you may have to cover the top of the cake with greaseproof paper about halfway through the baking time. 

When the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool. When completely cold remove the cake from the tin and remove the lining paper. I like to ice the cake still in the tin to get a smooth edge. Once the icing has set I carefully remove the cake from the tin then remove the lining paper before serving.

In a small bowl, cream the butter with the sifted icing sugar. Add the  reserved apple juice and enough juice to make a spreadable icing. Spread the icing over the top of the cake. Let the icing set a little before decorating with the walnut halves.  

If you'd like to make some maple glazed walnuts, they're simple. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line a small pan with baking paper. Lay out a few whole walnuts and spoon a small amount of maple flavoured syrup over each walnut. Place in the oven and cook for 5 minutes then using tongs, carefully turn the walnut halves over. Return to the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes. Turn one more time to coat the walnuts then transfer to a rack to cool completely. When cool transfer the walnuts to a small container lined with baking paper until and seal until ready to use. I've not stored them for longer than 24 hours so I'm unsure what happens thereafter. They taste so good I've ended up eating all the leftovers!

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

Bye for now,



2 Jul 2018

Ah Rome, the eternal city. I've been to Rome on quite a few occasions but never on the cusp of summer. 

I wish I could say I enjoyed my time in Rome but I didn't. It all started badly. I was feeling unwell and asked for an early check-in to my apartment. When I arrived at the designated time, no-one was there to greet me. Once inside, the apartment hadn't been cleaned and it took another 2 hours before that took place. Instead of resting as I'd hoped, I spent 2 hours walking around the San Lorenzo district filling in time.

A few months earlier I'd bookmarked an apartment close to the centre of Rome but by the time I was ready to book, the apartment was no longer available. I chose another apartment but I clearly didn't do my research very well. The apartment wasn't within walking distance of any destination other than the main railway station; the walk to the station was through a dodgy location so I didn't feel safe walking at night time, so I had to rely on buses. Only one in three buses scheduled would arrive then would take such a circuitous route that it took on average 1½ hours to get to any destination, most of which were only 3-4 kms away. Each day I'd have to adjust my schedule as time would run out.

As San Lorenzo isn't near the historic sites, it probably reflects real Rome. Rubbish was piled up on street corners and some of the streets along which I walked were a bit smelly. This wasn't a Rome I remembered.

My sole reason for travelling to Rome, apart from catching my flight home, was to visit the Borghese Gallery. When I tried to book a ticket a week before arriving in Rome, the only tickets available were at 7.00 p.m. the night before I flew out. I knew I'd be busy packing so that idea went by the wayside. So what to do? 

I've been to Rome 4 times before and have visited the usual suspects, so suddenly I was at a loose end. I decided to do some self-guided walking tours and to revisit some of my favourite locations like the Pantheon and Campo de Fiori.

One can never tire of the Pantheon

nor the vibrancy of the markets,

busy with nonnas doing nonna things.

I walked from the markets to the old Jewish quarter passing this church en route.

I also found this quirky little hardware store housed in a centuries old building.

I visited a number of churches whilst in Rome on the hunt for Caravaggios.

I just loved the light in this church,

and the ceilings were fairly impressive as well.

My favourite walking tour was of Trastevere and I snapped away happily.

I visited plenty of old churches and convents,

photographed crumbling facades

and visited the markets.

My favourite find in Trastevere was the Ospedale Nuovo Regina Margherita. Whilst taking a photo of the adjoining church a lady asked if I'd been inside the hospital and when I said 'no' she told me I really should. I'm so glad I took her advice. The hospital is located within the walls of a former monastery with a beautiful central courtyard garden. It was lovely and I found a black cat grooming itself in the sun, orange trees and olives trees tucked away in the garden.

Then suddenly my battery ran out. I'd checked the battery level before setting out that morning and it was full so I'm not sure what happened and I'd not thought to bring along my spare battery.

I managed to capture these last few images before the battery died completely forcing me to head home. A fitting way to end my time in Rome I thought.

That's my last travel post for now until the itchy feet kick in, so I'll be back again next week with some baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


roasted broccoli chilli and ricotta cake

25 Jun 2018

As you all know I've long had a love affair with Ottolenghi. Following the publication of Sweet, I'm now transferring my affection to his co-author Helen Goh. Helen writes a weekly column which appears in Good Food and this is one of her recipes.

I like to make a meat-free meal each week. I love ricotta, parmesan and chilli and don't mind broccoli, so this recipe fitted the bill. The original recipe serves 6 so I downsized the recipe to fit into my favourite tin and it still made 4 serves. I roasted the broccoli the day before I made the cake and stored it in the fridge. 

The longer the cake was stored in the fridge, the more intense the flavours became. I found the chilli flavour very mild so I topped the cake with some hot sauce for an extra kick. The recipe has quite a few steps and when I remake it, as I'm sure I will, I'm going to see if I can streamline the process a little while maintaining all the flavours. 

Here's the recipe for you which makes a 16cm cake. The link to the original recipe which makes a 20cm cake can be found above. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup, a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Roasted broccoli, chilli and ricotta cake - serves 4
225g broccoli, florets and stems cut into 2-3cm pieces 
100 mls extra virgin olive oil 
2 tsp sea salt flakes 
freshly ground black pepper 
 cloves garlic, peeled, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced 
1 long, mild red chilli, thinly sliced 
1 small onion, peeled and grated 
1 lemon, zested 
3 eggs, lightly beaten 
30g parmesan, plus 1 tbsp extra for sprinkling, finely grated 
150g ricotta cheese 
90g self-raising flour 
salt and pepper 

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Line the base of a 16cm round spring-form cake tin with baking paper.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and blanch the broccoli for 1 minute. Drain the broccoli and transfer to a large oven tray and toss with 1 tbs of the extra virgin olive oil, 3/4 tsp salt flakes and a few turns of the pepper mill. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 200°C. While the broccoli is roasting, pour the remaining olive oil (you should have about 75mls) in a small saucepan, add the garlic and half of the sliced chilli (the other half will be sprinkled over the cake before it goes into the oven), then place over low heat to infuse. When the garlic just begins to colour, about 10 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Remember that the garlic will continue to cook off the stove, so don't allow it to get too brown before removing from the heat. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted broccoli, grated onion and lemon zest. Add the eggs, the cooled infused olive oil and the grated parmesan, then crumble over the ricotta cheese and season with 1 tsp sea salt flakes. Add the flour and fold gently until just combined. Scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin and use a small spatula to smooth the surface. Sprinkle over the 1 tablespoon of extra parmesan cheese and the remaining sliced chillies. 

Place into the oven for 35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before releasing from the cake tin onto a serving plate. 

Tip: the cake is best served warm or at room temperature. It can also be wrapped in cooking foil and refrigerated for up to 3 days. I served the cake with a simple salad with chilli sauce on the side.

See you all again next week with my final travel post from Rome.

Bye for now,



18 Jun 2018

I arrived in Florence with a bit of a thud. I left the tiny little village of Portovenere early in the morning and a few hours later there I was at Santa Maria Novella station in the ever busy, frenetic Florence trying to find the right place to catch the bus to take me to Santo Spirito. It was all too hard so in the end I dragged myself and my bag the 1½ kms to my apartment in Oltrarno, arriving a hot sweaty mess.

It always takes a little time to get one's bearings and although I'd been to Florence a few times. I'd not stayed in Oltrarno before. This was my street corner and once spied I knew I was close to home.

My apartment was just around the corner from the Santo Spirito church and the lively square.

I was lucky enough to hear these choristers practising.

I didn't have to go far to find some great places for dinner including a delicious wood fired pizza at Gusta Pizza.

The square in black and white.

I found a lovely artisanal gelato shop, the Gelateria della Passera, and had a delicious passionfruit and lemon gelato, a must in Florence's heat.

Even though I didn't buy anything here, S. Forno looked very enticing.

It has an unassuming facade so it's easy to miss.

Even though you're on the 'other side' in Oltrarno, nothing in Florence is too far away. Every day I'd walk past the Greek Orthodox Church where I found these beautiful wedding flowers.

I did lots of walking and would catch the local buses if my destination was too far away.

The Ponte Vecchio was my local bridge but often it was so crowded, I'd take the next bridge over.

Florence is uncomfortably busy in summer so I'd leave home at 7.00 a.m. to get some quiet photos without the crowds.

Like this one of il Porcellino.

If he looks familiar, he is. We have a replica statue outside Sydney Hospital with a similar burnished snout.

The duomo is the jewel in the crown of Florence, so it's very crowded around there. Unfortunately the duomo is undergoing renovation so parts are covered in scaffolding at the moment.

I went early to take this black and white photo but had sunshine and a nicer sky when I returned to take the colour version.

Just around the corner from the Duomo I found this cute fruit van.

On my 4th trip to Florence I finally made it to the Uffizi Gallery.

It was worth the wait when I finally got to see the Gallery's Boticellis and the newly restored Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Adoration of the Magi'.

Of course I went to the markets, the Sant'ambrogio market and C. Bio.

I ate my way through a number of tasty Sicilian melons.

A cute idea to repurpose all those old tomato tins.

I made a pilgrimage to the Basilica Santa Croce to see the beautiful Brunelleschi Cloister.

Most people don't seem to know that this cloister exists. I've been twice now and have had the place pretty much to myself on both occasions.

It's a quiet contemplative place and I find it unutterably beautiful.

Churches, galleries, markets. What's missing from Jillian's list? Gardens.

I had 2 gardens on my list, the Pitti Palace Gardens and the Bardini Gardens, both of which are located in Oltrarno.

The Palazzo Pitti gardens are massive and very formal.

I much preferred the Bardini Gardens with their killer views of Florence.

3 days in Florence wasn't long enough but I hope you enjoyed this little snippet of my time in Florence.

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

Bye for now,

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