Food : fantastic lemon almond tart

siya - lemons

siya – lemons

 {More of Siya’s work + interview is here}


You know the old saying “When life gives you lemons…” ? Today I am making my favourite lemon tart. Why?

Well, one of the wheels fell off my car yesterday. I mean LITERALLY FELL OFF. Car was heading north and wheel decided to head west.




Broken ball joint. Yikes. I am so very thankful I was not driving 100kmh down a country road (which I normally do several times a week). Instead, I was driving about 20-30kmh down the main street of town, and so the car just came to a shuddering, grinding halt.

In the middle of the main street. Traffic backing up behind me. Car full of groceries, kids to collect from school. And o.m.g. just look at that WHEEL…

But being so obvious meant that help was nearby. Tow truck, borrowed car, and I’m safe home and it’s all (almost) good. (Just got to deal with the insurance now, and wait for the car to be fixed.)



So let’s do something special with those lemons. I LOVE lemon desserts. This one is a favourite, adapted from an old Women’s Weekly cookbook.



1 cup plain flour
60g butter
2 tblspns castor sugar
approx 1 1/2 tblspn cold water

Sift flour into bowl, add sugar, rub through butter. Add enough water to mix to a firm dough. Roll out to cover the base of a 23cm flan tin, and bake blind {cover pastry with baking paper and filling with rice or beans} in a moderately hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove paper and beans and return to oven for another 5 minutes. Cool slightly.

60g butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
2 egg yolks

Combine butter, sugar, lemon juice and eggs in the top of a double saucepan and stir over simmering water until the mixture thickens to the consistency of custard. Cool, and spread over the cooked pastry base.

90g butter
1 tspn vanilla
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 cup ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten.

Cream butter, vanilla and sugar with an electric mixer; stir in almonds and eggs until they are well combined. This mixture is quite thick and hard to spread over the lemon butter, so place spoonfuls evenly around the tart, then use the back of your spoon to gently spread it to cover the base properly.

Bake the tart in a moderate oven 30 minutes until set.

Fantastic on its own, or serve with whipped cream if you must.


Food : chick pea bites

{sorry, no pretty picture today – you’ll just have to take my word for it!}


These delectable little things are a variation on a childhood favourite. Essentially, they are vegetarian patties made from pulses mixed with peanut paste, tomato and onion, formed into small parcels and shallow-fried, and my brother and I used to gobble them down with gusto. Now, I’ve added in a little cumin for depth and warmth, which has only served to make them even more more-ish.

You can cook up your own chick peas, but using tinned ones makes these a cinch.


chick pea bites

1 x 400g tin chick peas, drained and mashed.
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tspn dried parsley
1 tblspn tomato paste
1 tblspn peanut butter
1/2 tspn salt
1/2 tspn cumin
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg.

Mix all ingredients together, and let the mixture sit for 10 minutes to firm up a little. Form into walnut sized balls and flatten slightly, before shallow-frying. Eat warm or cold.




Food : Danish apple cake


Years ago when we had a telly, my partner and I used to love watching the Two Fat Ladies. They were fabulously entertaining as cooks and personalities – boisterous, loud, and very opinionated. As for their food – it was glorious. Their favourite ingredient was butter – and they were also rather fond of cream, bacon, frying foods and hearty casseroles. And cakes.

So of course we bought the cookbook.

This recipe is based on their “Danish Apple & Prune Cake”, which they in turn took from the Australian cook, Greta Anna. As most ingredients are blended in the food processor, it’s as easy as pie. I’ve omitted the prunes and the walnuts, and toned down the sugar and butter. Even so, it is still rich, and utterly delicious.
(I’ve also made it with gluten-free flour, and it’s perfect.)



danish apple cake

danish apple cake {sitting on a wonderful handmade pokerwork painted tray that was left to me by my mum and has seen better days but it’s still beautiful}


140g butter
200g caster sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
85g self-raising flour
115g ground almonds
125ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp boiling water
1/2 tsp baking powder

2 green apples, cored and sliced
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter


Preheat oven to 190’C.

Cream all the cake ingredients in  a food processor until well-blended (about 20-30 seconds). Pour into a well buttered 25cm round cake tin (I also lined mine with baking paper). Cool it in the tin.

Arrange the apple slices on top of the cake and bake for 45 minutes.

For the topping, melt the butter and mix it with the cinnamon and sugar. Drizzle this mixture over the top of the cake and bake a further 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.


Food : Turkish pumpkin tart


For years I was not convinced that sweet pumpkin pies (or tarts) could be a real thing. I found this recipe in a recipe book of mine called Herbs, Spices and Flavourings, which is now an old and well-used book.  After I tried it, I was totally converted. I love Middle Eastern flavours, so I decided one day to try adding in  some rosewater, and tweaked a few of the other ingredients. The effect is superb ~ sweet, fragrant, and a bit earthy.


Turkish Pumpkin Tart

175g shortcrust pastry (you can use bought, or use my fave shortcrust recipe here, that I’ve used for a Pear & Ricotta Crumble Tart)
750g pumpkin, peeled & sliced
1/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbs rosewater
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
150ml cream
50g crushed walnuts


Heat the oven to 200’C Roll the shortcrust pastry out to line a 20cm flan tin. Place a piece of baking paper over it, fill it with baking beans and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper, and return to the oven for 5 minutes.

Microwave or steam the pumpkin until VERY tender. Mash it until it becomes a super smooth puree, or blend it in a food processor. Then mix the puree with all other ingredients and half the nuts.

Reduce heat to 180’C. Spoon mixture into pastry case and smooth the surface; bake for 30 minutes until set. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and serve with whipped cream.


Food: Stinging nettle risotto {James Vickers}


It’s springtime!! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, the grass is growing…. and so are the nettles. Just looking at them makes me think ‘ouch.’ Like most folk, childhood experiences run deep.


james vickers - nettle risotto

james vickers – stinging nettles


I never knew until a few years ago that you could actually cook them. And they make such a wonderful green! Just remember you need to put some sturdy gloves on before you go out collecting them.

I love a good risotto; I love its creamy textures. And you can change the flavourings around and get an entirely different meal! This recipe with nettles, vegetables and parmesan comes from my friend James, who I met several years ago at uni. Now he runs a catering company in Wagga, and he generously shares this seasonal and wonderful recipe with us here.

The sting can be removed by briefly blanching the nettles in boiling water. You’ll need to end up with about 3 handfuls of blanched nettles, so pick a good-sized bunch of them.


Stinging Nettle Risotto

Bring a pot of water to the boil and briefly blanch the stinging nettles, thus negating the sting.  Drain and keep the water for use in the risotto if required.

Make a quick clear chicken stock or use Massel Chicken Stock cubes or powder. You’ll need around 2 litres.

Sweat off 2 finely diced onions, 3 or 4 finely sliced celery sticks and 6 finely sliced garlic cloves in a liberal amount of olive oil.

Add 250g of Arborio rice (about 1 1/4 cups of dry rice).  Keep it moving until the rice starts to go a little opaque, not brown!  add more olive oil if necessary.

Add stock, ladle by ladle, waiting for each ladle to be absorbed, moving the rice continually with a wooden spoon.  If you run out of stock, use the blanching water.

When your risotto is thick and creamy and your rice is al dente, stir through up to 125g of grated parmesan to taste and then stir through a few good handfuls of chopped nettles.   Season with a good squeeze of lemon juice.  Remove from heat and serve with extra nettles on the side and a couple of parmesan crisps!


AND a bonus Secret Ingredient – if you think that your dish needs salt, add a few good glugs of fish sauce!

james vickers - nettle risotto

james vickers – nettle risotto


James provides catering around the South West Slopes, the Riverina and Mt Hotham in the Victorian Alps. You can find him on his website,


Food : Mandarin almond cake with chocolate butter frosting


As I mentioned a little while ago, our twin boys turned 7 recently. For their birthday cake, I adapted the classic Middle Eastern orange and almond cake, the recipe for which is in the equally classic cookbook by Claudia Roden, A Book of Middle Eastern Food. I chose this recipe because one of them has recently been diagnosed as gluten-intolerant (but not Coeliac), and I needed to expand my repertoire of kid-friendly gluten-free cakes, because it’s mandarin season and they’re fabulous at the moment, and just because.

I cut the recipe down in size a little, just in case the kids didn’t like it (well, what on earth would I do with all that cake?). I also discovered that the mandarin skin is slightly more bitter than orange when boiled, and hence I’ve used proportionally more sugar. The resulting cake has the same texture as the orange, but the mandarin elevates it with its richer perfume.

And a kid’s birthday cake has to have icing, and so I made up some chocolate frosting to top it with. The cake turned out pretty good. Better than jaffas.


mandarin almond cake with chocolate butter frosting

mandarin almond cake with chocolate butter frosting


Mandarin and almond cake

5 medium mandarins (I prefer imperial)
4 eggs
150g almond meal
200g sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Wash and boil the mandarins (unpeeled) in water for around 1.5-2 hours until they’re quite soft. Let them cool, then cut them open and remove the pips. Leaving the skins on, mash the mandarins with a potato masher until they are pulpy (I prefer the texture of this, rather than the smoother result achieved with a blender).

Heat the oven to moderately hot (210deg C).

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients, mix thoroughly, and pour into a spring-form tin (if you don’t have one, make sure you butter your tin and line it with baking paper).

Bake the cake for about 50 minutes, then have a look at it. If it is still very wet, leave it for a bit longer. Cool in the tin before turning out. It should still be quite a moist cake.

Chocolate butter frosting

100g cooking chocolate
100g butter
1 tblspn icing sugar

Melt chocolate over a low heat, then add in melted butter and combine. Stir through icing sugar. Wait until it cools a bit before spreading it on the cake as it will be quite runny when it’s warm.