Sweet

Apricot and Raspberry Tart

It’s that time of year where my favourite fruit is in season, the apricot. To be honest I am perfectly happy eating the treat of my childhood: a rather non-gourmet combination of warm stewed apricot, a handful of crunched up special k and a scoop of vanilla ice cream (try it, trust me!)…however I don’t think that would quite cut it for Island Menu.

So this weekend I went to the little apricot tree that lives near my clothesline (hopefully the landlord doesn’t mind!), raided a few for this dish and decided to try out a variation on the tarte tatin, using apricots and a few raspberries. The dish is very straight forward and while it looks a little bit like an undignified big red mush of fruit, the flavor was good, especially with the nice crispy puff pastry and some vanilla cinnamon cream.

Ingredients

For the Tart:
100g sugar
1/3 cup of brandy (I didn’t have quite enough so used a little water as well)
1 vanilla bean
6-8 apricots stone removed and cut in half (enough to cover the bottom of your fry pan)
Handful of fresh raspberries
1 sheet of puff pastry (I used the Careme one as it is rather good)

Cream:
1 tub of cream (I used Mersey Valley)
2 teaspoons (or more if you prefer it sweeter) icing sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Remove the puff pastry from the freezer and preheat the oven to 190 Celcius. In an oven proof frying pan on a medium heat put the sugar, brandy, scrapped vanilla bean and seeds. Allow this to cook for a while until the sugar has dissolved and the colour is a nice caramel one. Add the halved apricots and cook for 2-3 minutes in the caramel. Then drop a few raspberries in and around the apricots, place the puff pastry over the top and tuck it in around the sides. Place the frypan in the preheated oven and cook for around 25-30minutes or until the pastry looks golden and flaky. Once done remove from the oven and carefully place a plate over the top of the fry pan and turn the pie out, make sure you do this over a bench top as some of the juices may run a little.

Serve warm with the cream.

To make the cream gently whip up some cream and add the icing sugar, cinnamon and vanilla paste.

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Christmas Party

On Saturday afternoon we held a little Christmas gathering at Sam and Lotties with our friends and thought it would be nice to share it here with you on Island Menu. It is such a great time of year in Tasmania the food and produce available is unbeatable and while the weather can still be a little dubious we were fortunate enough to have a warm sunny day.

After a discussion over drinks at the pub earlier in the week we decided that the menu would be simple with lots of little dishes and seasonal bits and pieces for people to try out. I think this worked beautifully and at the end of the night everything had gone so I think it was a success!

For the day we served as a starter some cheeses, smoked salmon, biscuits and bread, then we all sat at the table for the meal. I think there is nothing better than sitting down for a big dinner with all your friends, especially at Christmas.

On the table we had to eat:

Gravlax with dill and horseradish sauce
Home-made bread
Mini abalone and chicken burgers
Bloody mary mussels
Seared beef
Smoked lamb
Crumbed calamari with home-made tartare
Smoked striped trumpeter with egg sauce
Whiskey sauce
Fresh rocket salad and sliced cucumbers
Crayfish
Smashed pink eye potatoes

To drink we had a selection of Tasmanian drinks including some:

Ninth Island Sparkling, Captain Bligh’s apple cider, the boys drank Cascade Blue (they don’t like to stray away from their favourite) followed by some Nant whiskey later in the evening and a lot later Captain Morgan’s Spicy with Cascade Sparkling Apple juice – sounds dirty I know – but is damn fine.

Then later for sweets:

Vanilla shortbread
Cherries
Some great homemade chocolates – thanks Phil
And a raspberry and logan berry cream pie

To make the pie is so simple, use our sweet short crust pastry recipe (the one from lemon meringue and strawberry pie) bake and allow to cool. Then in a bowl mix a tub of Mersey Valley crème fraiche and a tub of Mersey valley double cream, a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, a small lug of Cointreau, a few handfuls of fresh raspberries and logan berries and some icing sugar to taste. Put the mix into the pastry shell, and refrigerate (we actually used the freezer) for an hour or so. Remove it before you want to eat, decorate with more berries and a dusting of icing sugar.

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Steamed Cherry Pudding

For our Christmas cards we came up with a slightly different take on the traditional Christmas pudding – a steamed fresh cherry pudding. It’s simple and light and would work perfectly with some home-made brandy custard.

Ingredients
170g plain flour
2 level tablespoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
6 tablespoons milk
85g butter
1 egg
85g caster sugar
Approximately 250 grams black cherries
Extra sugar to add with the cherries if they are tart


Method

Grease a pudding basin and line the bottom with a layer of cherries, then add another layer of cherries this time a little mushed up to fill any gaps.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder. In another bowl cream the butter and sugar, break in the egg and beat well. Add the milk, vanilla paste and flour then mix to combine. Put the mixture into the prepared basin with greased kitchen paper on top under the lid.

Put the basin in a pot with boiling water (enough to cover the sides but not over the lid). Cook steadily for two hours.

Serve with cream.

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Bread & Butter Pudding with Dark Chocolate & Orange Zest

This is another post from our time as guest bloggers over at the Design Files.

This recipe came about for a few reasons, the first being my desire to try the new Meander Valley Saint Omer butter, I had read somewhere it was as good as some French and that definitely piqued my curiosity. Also I had some lovely eggs from Matthew Evans farm via A Common Ground that I am addicted too, they are sooooo good. So what to do with eggs and butter?

…Bread and butter pudding is something I have only recently, well in the past few years, thought of as a desert I would eat and honestly I have no idea why I had reservations about it! If done well it is amazing. I brought some brioche from a local patisserie called Jean Pascal that I knew would work perfectly, somewhat nicer than some soggy old white bread!

Ingredients:

½ a loaf of brioche cut into slices and then in half
butter to grease the dish, plus enough to butter both sides of the brioche)
6 eggs
600ml milk
Seeds from one vanilla bean
½ teaspoon cinnamon
zest of one orange
1 small block of dark chocolate (I used the lindt 70% cocoa)
1/4 cup caster sugar (I use raw)

To make the pudding:
Preheat the oven to 180 celcius. Grease an oven proof dish (1 litre capacity) and butter both sides of your sliced bread. Layer them in the dish poking in bits of broken chocolate as you go. Once done whisk the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, orange zest, and cinnamon together and gently pour over the bread, you might need to do this in installments waiting for the bread to absorb the mix. Sprinkle a little bit of extra sugar over the top and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes but as always keep an eye on it. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

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Duck Egg Sponge with Homemade Strawberry Jam, Fresh Strawberries and Sweet Mascarpone Cream

We are so fortunate because friends own the Hillwood Berry Farm in the Tamar Valley and so last weekend Lottie, Sam and I and a few others went up for a bit of a road trip. The weather was absolutely stunning and we got there just in time to watch the sunset, have a beer and a tour of the property, not to mention taste test a few brilliant strawberries. Followed by a bit of star trail photography….well that was Sam not me, I held the drinks.

We, mostly Lottie and I – Sam was having a boys moment scouting the damn for fish, picked lots to bring home the next day and then had a really lovely time just sitting at the café’s deck in the sunshine, eating ice cream and the odd strawberry or two.
So the question when home was what to do with a fridge full of the best strawberries? I made a big batch of strawberry jam one night last week (using the Sally Wise recipe from A Year In A Bottle), made some strawberry jelly as a bit of an experiment (tasted good but didn’t set well) and then finally a fantastic duck egg sponge with jam, fresh strawberries and sweet mascarpone cream.

Strawberry Jam
1.5 kg strawberries hulled
1.5 kg sugar
juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup water

Place the strawberries, lemon and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.  Then add the sugar and return to the boil stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Cook the jam until it reaches setting point (105 celcius). Once it has reached this point take it off the heat and sit for ten minutes. Put the jam into steralised jars and seal.

Sponge
I used the recipe here from Not Quite Nigella because, well a sponge is not something to stuff around with and is one for those few things I make and strictly follow a recipe for, and it turned out beautifully.

Mascarpone cream
Tub of mascarpone
Teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
Icing sugar to taste

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, adding the icing sugar to taste.
To construct the sponge put the bottom cake onto a plate or stand and spread with jam, add a layer of sliced fresh strawberries and some of the mascarpone cream. Put the second cake on top and spread with more cream. Decorate with more fresh strawberries as you like.

Big big thank you to Boon and Stack for having us to stay and for the most amazing fruit. If you are visiting that part of the world I would definitely recommend dropping by. And yes this is shameless promotion but only because I feel it is most worthy of it!

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