sweet potato and cacao brownies

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Now, let me just start this post by saying that I am a huge skeptic when it comes to ‘healthy’  versions of sweet treats such as mashed bean brownies, applesauce muffins and the like. I won’t touch them with a bargepole. Mostly as they taste quite horrible and, more importantly, because I love, consume and see the benefits of quality cultured butter consumption (I’ve even started making my own using this tutorial from the gorgeous Heidi Sze via Tucker. OBSESSED).

Case in point: last Sunday morning, I decided to make a batch of chewy, crackly brownies to bring as a contribution to our nephew’s birthday dinner that evening. Whilst I was rustling around in the refrigerator for my batch-churned Pepe Saya, Aaron chimed in: “…can you make healthy ones?”.

I immediately screwed up my nose. Healthy ones? For a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD? Uh, no. That’s not gonna go down well. But then my eye caught a bag of golden sweet potatoes, peacefully languishing in the vegetable drawer. An idea came to mind; a nutrient-filled, coconut drenched, cacao dusted idea.

Sweet potato brownies.

taters

After a little bit of internet research, I soon discovered that this idea wasn’t exactly new; in fact, a few hundred thousand million (or more) people have been baking these beauties since at least 2013. Most versions attest to be paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free and the like, and indeed they are – however, as someone who is fortunate enough to have no dietary restrictions, I just thought that they sounded delicious.

After inventing my own recipe, I did a little taste test prior to packing a plate for the nephew’s birthday party (I was still filled with flourishing seeds of doubt). A sliver revealed a moist, fudgy, supremely chocolatey brownie with a very faint shadow of sweet potato (mostly masked by smooth aftertastes of mild coconut, cacao and vanilla). I fell immediately in love and, after sharing a sliver with a very enthusiastic Aaron, my waning hope was sweetly restored.

We skipped off to the birthday party (cue glowing smiles of happiness).

cacao

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Now, in fear of habitually exceeding my blogger word allowance, I’ll cut out the niceties and head straight to the ‘kid verdict’ from our nephew’s birthday dinner. After the first few chews, these did not pass (I’m imagining Gandalf and the bridge of Khazad-dûm).

Possibly due to the vague aftertaste of coconut and sweet potato. Probably due to a childish unfamiliarity with healthy versions of sweet indulgences. Positively due to my enthusiastic cries of “They’re healthy!!” during the first few bites. Man, I’ve got a lot to learn about parenting.

I later returned to our vehicle with a superficial smile and an almost-full plate of sweet potato brownies. Despite Aaron’s reassurance (ah, bless that man) I was crushed, kicking myself for not using my tried and tested brownie recipe (one of my very first novice posts on WordPress, still a fail-safe favourite in our house and others). You live and you learn.

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Anyway, it’s now been four days since I tasted the lingering bitterness of healthy baking defeat. I guess it was to be expected, but the buoyancy of imbued hope lingered high over my sea of doubts.

I’m probably not going to attempt healthy baking for children again unless they’re my own (whom, in my idealized, not-yet-a-parent mind are going to be raised on wholefoods and rice malt syrup). Or unless I coat each said item in melted dairy milk chocolate. Hm.

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After my story of failure, you’re possibly wondering why this recipe still made it to blog-post stage. Well, Aaron and I adore these little beauties. We’ve been devouring delicious slivers over the past few days with hot coffee or as an after-dinner treat, with reassurance that they’re choc-full of goodness.

I used milk chocolate chips for the version that I took to our nephew’s house (predominantly due to the kid factor – silly me) however future batches will be made with the substitution of either crunchy cacao nibs or 70% cocoa dark chocolate – the bitterness will do wonders in off-setting the mild taste of sweet potato.

Nope, they’re no crackle-topped, butter-filled brownies. They don’t ooze with melted chocolate. But they’re a marvelous staple to have in the fridge when you just want a fudgy chocolate fix without the regret. Just don’t tell the children that they’re healthy.

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Sweet Potato and Cacao Brownies

Makes 16 – 20 squares

  • 500g peeled, cubed sweet potato (I used gold, however the milder white sweet potato would work well)
  • 2 free-range eggs, whisked
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup rice malt syrup
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract*
  • 3 tbsp coconut flour*
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped bar chocolate or chocolate chips* (optional, I’d recommend 70% dark chocolate)
  • pinch of sea salt flakes

Line a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) brownie pan with baking paper, then set aside.

Place the cubed sweet potato into a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover. Boil until tender, then leave to cool in the cooking liquid.

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).

Pulse the cooked sweet potato in a blender with 1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid for 30 seconds or until just smooth (don’t over-process your sweet potatoes, you don’t want a gluggy mess).

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Transfer into a large bowl and add the coconut oil, rice malt syrup and vanilla extract.

Once thoroughly combined, add in the whisked egg and your dry ingredients – the coconut flour, cacao, baking powder, a pinch of sea salt and the chocolate chips.

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Mix well, then spoon into the prepared brownie pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Leave to cool, dust with some reserved cacao and slice into however many squares you like. Eat straight from the fridge, at room temperature or slightly heated with some cold dairy or coconut cream.

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*Exchange the vanilla extract for hazelnut liqueur, sweet orange extract or a few drops of peppermint oil if you like. Substitute chocolate chips for a handful of cacao nibs to add crunch and extra nutrients. Substitute coconut flour for oat flour or buckwheat flour if you like; I’d probably just cut down a bit of the sweet potato cooking liquid due to the reduced absorbency of alternative flours.

P.S. I had a little collaborator attempting to eat the goods helping me with this brownie shoot. You might be able to spot him here:

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kanelbullar (swedish cinnamon buns)

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With each day that passes, I feel more and more blessed to be in Malmö, Sweden. Each morning, Aaron and I have woken to dappled light through curtains and the gentle sound of waves against the nearby pier.

Upon entering the kitchen, we’ve been met with a heaving table full of rye bread, cold cuts, various cheeses, jordgubbe marmelad (strawberry jam), fruit, butter and hot tea. The generosity of this spread has only been surpassed by the warmth of my Uncle and Aunt’s hospitality; they are truly the most beautiful of people and I feel blessed to call them family.

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Despite suffering from a persistent cold over the past week, I’ve seen quite a lot of the Southern part of Sweden (Skåne). We’ve eaten fried herring and gravadlax (cured salmon) by the seaside, climbed the rocks of Ales Stenar in Kåseberga and toured the town of Ystad (of Henning Mankell’s Wallander fame). We’ve also taken multiple trips down to Malmö harbor to sit, breathe and watch the sun set. 

Last week, we also become acquainted with a Swedish specialty, Kalles Kaviar and uh… the video series below pretty much reflects my tasting experience. Let’s just call it ‘Swedish Vegemite‘.

 

However, despite the negative Kalles experience, there are many Swedish foods that I’ve actually loved. Surprisingly, one is Mimosa Sallad (a mixture of fruit and mayonnaise, to be eaten with cold cuts and bread) which I’ve pretty much eaten every morning since I arrived. Yes, I dislike mayonnaise, but… it’s good. Go figure.

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Last Sunday, my Uncle and Aunt also treated me to a day of Swedish cooking lessons, beginning with Kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) and ending with Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs).

After an afternoon of kneading, mixing, frying, chatting and drooling in a cinnamon-scented cloud, the entire family came over for a traditional Swedish dinner: piles of köttbullar, boiled potatoes, peas, brown gravy and lingon sylt (lingonberry jam) followed by hot coffee and warm kanelbullar.

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Aaron and I were in Swedish food heaven. So were the rest of the family, judging from the contented sounds and expressions around the table. By the end of the night, our table of seven adults and two children had devoured around thirty kanelbullar. It’s not our fault, they were baked whilst the köttbullar were frying, so… uh, we ate a few as an entree. And a few more with hot milk before going to bed.

Warm cinnamon buns can do that to you.

My Uncle and Aunt were both kind enough to share their recipes with me so that both you and I could reproduce traditional Swedish fare at home. Today I’m sharing my Uncle’s recipe for kanelbullar (which was passed to him from his friend Annette) so get ready to enter your own cinnamon scented cloud of sweet content…

outoftheoven

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)

Makes 40

Please note: I had a little bit of trouble with metric conversions (as Swedish cooks tend to use ‘litres’ and ‘decilitres’ for measurement of dry ingredients) but hopefully the quantities below are correct; please let me know if you have any difficulties.

Dough:

  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 150g salted butter or margarine
  • 500ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 175g white caster sugar
  • 1.5kg plain flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the milk, salt and sugar into the butter, then heat until ‘finger warm’ (lukewarm). Transfer into a large bowl and crumble in the fresh yeast. Stir until completely dissolved.

flourbowlf

At this point you can either use your hands (old-fashioned kneading) or use a mixer with a dough hook attachment. If using a mixer, gradually add in the flour until the mixture forms a ball (there should be no visible flour left in the bowl). The dough should be smooth and non-sticky to touch. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place to rest for 30 minutes.

If hand-kneading, turn the mixture out onto a clean, floured surface when the flour is thoroughly combined. Knead until the dough is smooth and non-sticky (my Finnish/Swedish aunty said that her mother used to ‘throw the dough on the table for the yeast to activate’). Return to the bowl, cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

dough

Whilst the dough is resting, make your filling as follows.

ingredients

Filling:

  • 120g salted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar*
  • 100g white caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp powdered cinnamon
  • to glaze: 1 free-range egg, lightly whisked

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk by hand or with a whisk attachment until smooth, thick and creamy.

* If you can’t find vanilla sugar, just add in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar and about 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste.

filling

Set aside in a cool place (not the fridge, as it’ll be too difficult to spread later) until the dough is thoroughly rested.

To assemble:

Set out two flat oven trays. Place 20 paper patty pan cases onto each, then set aside.

Prepare the kanelbullar: after 30 minutes, your dough should have doubled in size. Turn it onto a floured surface and punch out the air. Cut the dough into four pieces for easy rolling, then roll the first piece into a large rectangle (about 5mm thick).

preparingdough1 fillingspread

Evenly spread 1/4 of the cinnamon filling over the dough with a butter knife or spatula.

Roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder.

roll cut

Cut into ten pieces (about 3cm for each), then place each piece into a patty pan case (cut side up).

buns

Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Cover each tray of kanelbullar with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for another 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Half way through the second resting time, pre-heat your oven to 225 degrees C (435 degrees f). When the kanelbullar have rested, use a pastry brush to glaze each bun with beaten egg.

glaze1 glaze2

Bake each tray for 8-10 minutes or until risen and light golden brown.

These buns are best eaten warm, straight out of the oven with a hot cup of coffee. They definitely won’t last long (the picture below is annoyingly out of focus as little fingers were moving too fast… but I love it anyway. My cousin’s five year old daughter managed to eat five kanelbullar on her own, with keen fingers and an excited grin. Impressive!).

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If you don’t consume these buns within two days, freeze them in an airtight container or bag for up to one month (just microwave each bun for a few seconds until warm and soft again).

läcker!

roasted figs with honey, cointreau and mint. and contemplation

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I’ve been contemplative today. Unsettled and ruminative; mostly about life itself, the short time that we grace the planet, the responsibility that comes with a time-limited existence. It’s mostly due to reading this blog post from Matt Treadwell yesterday, alongside this article in The West Australian.

Life is short. We are born, we breathe, we leave our tread on temperamental sand. Then, in a moment, we’re extinguished. Our flesh dissolves, leaving nothing but dust and scattered memories.

Those memories should mean something. Not necessarily on a global scale, through acclaim or notoriety; but rather, by leaving our homes in a better condition than when we arrived. By ‘home’, I’m referring to more than our personal structures of wood our brick; I mean our neighbourhoods, the earth and its people.

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First and foremost, I want to invest my life into those I love, the people who swell my heart when I wake in the morning. I want to feed my family, to turn the soil, to provide nourishment, love and generosity. Secondly, I want to give to those less fortunate than myself. That principle is embedded in my faith and in my heart, and I’ve felt an increasing urgency towards demonstration.

Complacency is the enemy of effectiveness. Oblivion breeds ignorance. We should encourage neither.

I should probably apologise as so far, this post has become both bleak and multi-faceted. In an attempt to confine my thoughts, I’m choosing just one issue for the rest of this post: nourishment, growth and tending the earth we walk upon.

mint

I feel blessed to be part of a community of bloggers who often share similar thoughts to my own, so apologies if I’m preaching to the converted. But I’d like to take a moment to talk about unsprayed, natural, organic food that’s sold from earth-stained hands, not the supermarket duopoly. Perishable, imperfect, seasonal food that both nourishes and protects our bodies. The way nature intended.

If or when we have children, I’d like them to know how to grow their own food, how to nourish the earth and live lightly on this fragile planet. I want them to eat oranges in winter, broad beans in spring and squash in the summer heat. Supermarkets have led to general ignorance about seasonal food, mostly as importation of produce and cold preservation leads to year-round availability.

Convenient? Yes. Natural? Hell no.

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Now, I’m not knocking those of you who shop at supermarkets occasionally, particularly for dry goods or other products that aren’t available at the markets. I do the same myself; I give in to convenience or necessity. However, for both health reasons and ‘green reasons’, I do feel that it’s our responsibility to support those who are trying to make an imprint on the earth through growing natural, unsprayed and organic produce for wider sale. It’s better for the ecosystem, for the next generation and most of all, for our bodies.

Two years ago, I discovered a wonderful blog called Whole Larder Love. It’s written by a ‘grubby bush kid’ named Rohan Anderson who cooks, harvests, fishes and hunts his own fresh produce in country Victoria, Australia. Rohan has since gone on to write a book whilst also starting up a small business, supplying fresh, organic fruit and vegetable boxes to hungry folks in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs.

Last week, Rohan wrote this blog post calling for help to sustain his business. Due to insufficient orders, he’s currently operating below costs. For reasons of disclosure, I don’t know Rohan and I have no personal investment in his business. I’m writing purely in support of one guy who is trying to make a difference, to support his family and the next generation. If you live in Melbourne or surrounding areas, I’d encourage you to read this blog post and take a look at his shop.

For those who live over the west side, I’ve compiled a list of equivalents in our local area who provide good, local, organic, natural food.

Market:

Box deliveries:

Or even better, if you have the space, grow your own.

Now, after that huge rant, here’s a recipe using one of my absolute favourite fruits of the season: fresh figs, which are presently being harvested in fragrant abundance. Over the past week, my beautiful colleague Belinda brought in two bags of these beauties for me, handpicked from her neighbour’s tree. We ate them, warm from the oven with homemade pistachio ice cream, crumbled shortbread and sighs of sweet content.

roasted

Roasted Figs with Honey, Cointreau and Mint

Serves 4-8

  • 8 large fresh figs
  • 2 tbsp good quality honey
  • about 1 tbsp Cointreau (substitute Grand Marnier or another triple sec)
  • ground cinnamon
  • fresh mint, washed and finely shredded, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees f). Line a heavy flat baking tray with parchment.

Cut each fig in half, then lay each cut side up onto the baking tray. Drizzle over the honey and Cointreau, then sprinkle each with a little cinnamon.

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Place into the oven and roast until fragrant, bubbling and slightly golden around the edges.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with mint and topped with any syrup from the baking tray, Fabulous with ice cream, marscapone or double cream.

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love and other drugs

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon, and I’m sitting on the sofa listening to the dull roar of traffic on the highway. An intoxicating breeze is blowing through the door; warm, not hot, but pleasant enough to induce a sense of sleep. A sigh escapes which then becomes a yawn. My eyelids press shut and a watery, fatigue-induced tear trickles down my face.

Blink. It’s only 3:09pm. Much too early for sleep… well, unless you’re over sixty-five, but for me that’s a whole lifetime away. So, why the yawn? Well, it’s partly accumulated exhaustion from the week-that-was, for as per usual, I did far too much. I also woke up unusually early for a Saturday, 7:15am to be exact. By 8:30am my tired being was shivering in a cool room surrounded by hundreds of flower buckets, eagerly scrawling botanical names into a black notebook. No, I’m not getting married (that was so last year) and I’m not an event planner. However, if you did guess along those lines, you’d be partly right. In exactly three weeks, two lovely friends of mine are getting married and I’m excited to say that I’ve been blessed with the privilege of managing their flowers.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t exactly (nor remotely) have formal training in this area. I did, however, create a full range of impromptu bouquets, boutonnieres, posies and table settings for a beautiful wedding that took place around this time last year. Yep, I’ll humbly say that it was my own… a decision that was rashly made to save money. Strangely enough, I’ve been getting floristry requests ever since. Quite amusing really.

Anyway, back to this morning. By 10:30am I was sitting at a wonky mosaic table with the beautiful bride-to-be, the maid of honour and a pressed tin cup full of sugar at Boucla Kafenion. Over breakfast (I had a creamy bittersweet mocha followed by herby, caramelised mushrooms atop walnut toast, adorned with soft, lemony feta) we continued to plan, reminisce and laugh until our plates were empty and our hearts were full (yeah, it’s corny but true). I returned home to give my husband a kiss before baking a tin full of 70% dark cocoa, cherry and almond brownies.

Densely rich, they’re little squares of brownie heaven topped with Cherry Ripe, marshmallows, dessicated coconut, melted 70% organic dark chocolate and toasted almonds. I got the basic concept from here but used my own brownie recipe (minus walnuts) and an individual take on rocky road topping.

In case you’re wondering, there’s no exact recipe in today’s post. Apart from the brownies, I’ve done plenty of cooking over the past couple of weeks but in the midst of family gatherings, roast dinners and tapas nights there’s been no time to sit down and work out measurements and cooking times.

It’s a little frustrating in terms of the progress of my blog (or lack thereof!) but I can also honestly say that I love the fact that my food is consumed even faster than it’s made. When I look around the table at contented smiles, the only remnants being sticky hands and streaked plates, I’m a happy woman. It’s an investment of my energy and love, one plate at a time.

So, it’s a couple of hours til tonight’s hen’s night, which leaves me just enough time to stare over the balcony into the mottled greenness of the remaining afternoon. It’s making me contemplative… mostly about how I felt at this time last year, when it was just over three weeks til my own wedding. I was a flutter of nerves and excitement, steadied by the confirmation of love that I felt in my heart. Aaron was, and is, everything that I could have prayed for in a man. I feel blessed every time wake in the morning to see his ruffled hair and sleepy eyes, his skin imprinted with lines from his pillow. I’m thankful for the opportunity to love him, knowing that he loves me back in spite of my (multiple) flaws.

But that’s enough soppiness for one day. I promise that my next post will be full of recipe goodness… possibly the start of a Summer salad series (which may cause excitement for some of my friends who have christened me the ‘Salad Queen’). I’ll leave you with a list of some of the food that I’ve cooked over the past few weeks… if you’d like me to include any of the recipes in future posts, leave me a comment below. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Recent Mess:

  • Herbed roast pork with crackling, apple & rhubarb sauce and wine gravy
  • Paprika potatoes with lemon-infused sour cream
  • Moroccan-spiced carrots with tahini yoghurt dressing and pistachios
  • Roasted beetroot dip with yoghurt, cashews and cumin
  • Dukkah crusted lamb with thick tzatsiki
  • Orange, lavender & cinnamon-spiced pavlova with vanilla bean cream, strawberry & rhubarb preserve and fresh mint
  • Quinoa salad with beetroot, goat’s feta and mint
  • Balsamic roasted field mushrooms with bacon jam, pine nuts and feta
  • Green apple and walnut salad with herbs and lemon dressing
  • Oven-roasted, spiced chickpeas with sweet potato and parsley
  • Rum and raisin brownies
  • Oat crumble slice with cinnamon & blueberries
  • Paprika chicken with cacciatore sausage, zucchini, red wine and olives
  • Grilled asparagus with lemon oil, parmesan and lemon zest
  • Eye fillet steak with bacon and mushrooms, borlotti bean & lemon puree, Parmesan toasts and parsley salad
  • Strawberry, apple, orange and ginger Sangria
  • Gin cocktails with star anise, clove & cardamom infused orange syrup and fresh rosemary over ice

Extra note: the beautiful curry paste above was a present from a generous friend who lovingly made it from scratch. For a long time I’ve been intending to create a post with it as the centre, but in the midst of everything else it has not as yet happened. Thanks Sara for your thoughtfulness, generosity and friendship. Watch this space.

lemon and sweet lime curd

Last week, a friend of mine gave me a bag filled with yellow citrus. The small golden orbs were a little unusual, puzzling me with the fragrance of a lemon whilst resembling more of an overripe lime. After a bit of discussion I was told that they were actually Palestinian sweet limes, which are native to both India & Mexico. They’re naturally lower in acid than their bright-green cousins and typically display a blushed yellow hue.

So, whats a cook to do when given a glut of sweet limes? Well, at first, I ate one. Juicy and sweet by nature, this variety of lime tastes a bit like a cross between a lime and an orange whilst having the scent of a lemon. It’s both unusual and delicious.

This is a mingle of both Tahitian & Palestinian sweet limes but the latter are the yellowish fruit (both central & on the right)

Well, after one week I’m now pleased to say that I’ve used sweet limes in a variety of ways, from dressing a range of salads to making a gin cocktail featuring herbs and my favourite spirit, Hendrick‘s dry gin (if you haven’t tried it, get some!! It’s got notes of cucumber, rose & juniper all wrapped up in syrupy gin deliciousness. Definitely recommended). I’ve also used to make two varieties of curd: 1) lemon with both sweet and Tahitian limes and 2) ruby red grapefruit and sweet lime. Both are delicious, but the lemon variety was sweetly satisfying with a Tahitian lime kick.

The recipe below is for the lemon & sweet lime curd, but I’d encourage you to try the grapefruit variation by swapping the lemon & Tahitian lime for 2 ruby red grapefruit (zest & juice). You’ll also need to reduce the sugar a little to compensate for the reduced amount of acid, and whilst I won’t give you an exact amount I’ll encourage you to start at 120g then add & taste as you go. If you can’t get hold of sweet limes, feel free to use the base recipe and substitute any citrus fruit you desire. They’ll all be delicious, and perfect with everything from pavlova to toast and tea.

Lemon & Sweet Lime Curd

Makes roughly 1 litre (4 metric cups)

  • 440g (2 cups) sugar
  • 250g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 5-6 egg yolks
  • zest & juice of 1 lemon*
  • zest & juice of 5 sweet limes*
  • zest & juice of 2 Tahitian limes*

Method:

Wash and dry your citrus fruit, then finely grate the rind.  Juice fruit and reserve the equivalent of 250mls (1 cup) of juice. You can either strain your juice at this stage, or just remove the pips whilst reserving any fruit pulp (I like the latter option, probably because I just like rustic home-cooked food!).

Whisk your eggs, egg yolks & sugar until smooth, then place your pan over a low heat. Add the juice, rind, sugar & butter and keep whisking until the mixture thickens.  You’re looking for it to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon… for me it takes around 20 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the eggs will curdle & you’ll be left with a congealed, eggy mess!

Once your mixture has thickened, take it off the heat & allow it to cool a little. Pour it into your pre-prepared hot sterilised jars (you will need four 250ml/1 cup jars, see ‘notes’). Seal and invert jars for 2 minutes before turning them upright and allowing them to cool.

Notes:

*substitute with your choice of citrus fruit. You will need juice equivalent to 250mls (1 cup). Make sure you adjust levels of sugar according to the acidity of your chosen fruit.

Preparing your Jars: Taste has a great tutorial on how to sterilise jars for your jams, chutneys & preserves. See link here.

Sealed curd will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. You can also put your curd into an airtight, sealed container and freeze it for up to three months. Whisk again upon defrosting.

frangipane tart with rhubarb pomegranate compote and pistachio crumble

It’s a Monday afternoon and I’m sitting at my kitchen table watching some deep red compote slowly seep into green-flecked pistachio pastry. The afternoon sun seems to complement the redness, highlighting chunks of moist rhubarb in pomegranate syrup under a blanket of lemon-scented frangipane. The tart is left over from a Sunday lunch spent with family at my mother’s house, where we merrily ate roasted bird with all the trimmings whilst discussing the nature of parenting in today’s society. As you can imagine, this soon required sweetening, in the form of the above mentioned tart with lashings of vanilla ice-cream.

You’ll find below the first version of my tart ‘recipe’, which I will endeavour to refine as I get used to measuring things. It’s got a crunchy pistachio, lemon & spice pastry base covered with rhubarb & pomegranate compote, soft lemon-infused frangipane & a drizzle of syrup. The tart filling went well with the accompanying pistachio oat crumble, vanilla ice cream & a sprinkling of fragrant thyme, however it’s equally delicious enjoyed on it’s own with a healthy dollop of double cream. Instructions for all of the elements are below so feel free to add or substitute as you wish.

And that’s my first post completed! Well, except for the recipe, so read on right here:

Frangipane Tart with Rhubarb Pomegranate Compote & Spiced Lemon Pistachio Oat Crumble

(I’ve divided this recipe up into sections for convenience, but I’d recommend you read through to the bottom before baking to understand how everything fits together)

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 140g unsalted butter , cut into small pieces
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g pistachio nuts, coarsely ground in a mortar & pestle
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp Herbie’s fragrant sweet spices* (or equivalent 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ground cardamom, 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • a few drops of vanilla extract

To make the pastry: Rub the flour & butter together in a large bowl until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add in the sugar, lemon zest, crushed pistachios, spices & a pinch of salt. Mix slightly. Work in the egg yolk & vanilla until you have a smooth dough – don’t worry if it’s still a little crumbly, it’s quite a ‘short’ pastry so this is to be expected. Shape your dough into a slightly flattened disc, wrap it in plastic wrap & refrigerate it for at least an hour, or even overnight.

When you are ready to bake: Flour a flat surface & roll your dough out to about 0.5cm thick. Roll it over your rolling pin & place it into a 22-25cm round fluted tart tin with a removable base. Don’t worry if it breaks, just pick up any stray pieces & press them into the tart pan until you’ve completely covered the base & sides. Leave a slight pastry overhang as it’ll shrink a little as it cooks. Prick the base with a fork to allow for steam escaping as you blind-bake it. Refrigerate the tin & pastry case for 20 minutes prior to blind-baking.

Blind baking: Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (320 degrees f). Place some greaseproof paper inside your unbaked tart shell, and fill it with ceramic pie weights, beans or rice. Place your tart shell in the oven & bake it for about 10 minutes with the weights, then five minutes uncovered. Remove it when it’s just started to ‘dry’ or set on the base & the edges are just slightly golden. Remove & allow to cool slightly before covering it in compote (recipe below).

Rhubarb Pomegranate Compote:

  • approximately 4-5 cups of fresh rhubarb, tips & ends of stalk removed (including green leaves) sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar (or to taste)
  • Juice of 1 pomegranate, seeds strained out
  • a squeeze of lemon juice

To make the compote: Place all of the above ingredients into a medium saucepan & bring to the boil, stirring regularly. Allow to reduce to a syrupy consistency & taste for sweetness (add a little more sugar or lemon as required, the intention is to create a sweet-but-tart jam). The compote is ready when the rhubarb has broken down & the mixture will slightly set when placed onto a cold (refrigerated) plate. Remove from heat & allow to cool slightly. Fill your blind-baked tart shell to a depth of 1cm. You will need about another half-cup of this mixture to use with extra rhubarb for serving; however I placed the rest of my mixture into a sterilised jar (you can sterilise your own jars by either placing them in a very hot oven until hot, or placing them in the sink with boiling water) and I’ve still got about a third of the jar left to use on toast or as an ice-cream topping.

Frangipane Filling:

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 110g almond meal
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1-2 tsp almond essence

To prepare the Frangipane: Cream butter & caster sugar together with a hand-blender (or Kitchen Aid, if you’re lucky enough to have one). Add in egg, then egg yolk, one at a time until creamy. Fold in your almond meal, lemon zest & almond essence to taste. Now you can either pipe or spoon your frangipane mixture into your tart shell, over your rhubarb compote. Don’t worry if there are any small gaps, as they will fill naturally as the frangipane cooks. I topped mine with a swirl of rhubarb compote, for decorative purposes.

Now, heat your oven to 180 degrees C (360 degrees f). Place your tart tin onto another flat tray (the tray will conduct the heat & ensure that the base of your tart is crisp & golden) and cook it, turning the tray regularly if you do not have a fan-forced oven, for 30-40 minutes until the frangipane is puffed & golden and your tart shell is biscuity brown. After cooking, trim away any overhanging pastry for neat edges. Whilst your tart is still hot, glaze the top with warmed honey, paying special attention to the pastry edges. Allow to cool.

Pistachio & Oat Crumble:

  • 40g caster sugar
  • 40g plain flour
  • 1/4 cup wholegrain oats
  • 30g chilled butter, chopped into small cubes
  • grated rind of half a lemon
  • 1/2 tsp of Herbie’s fragrant sweet spices*
  • 100g pistachio nuts, coarsely ground in a mortar & pestle

For the crumble: Mix flour, sugar, spices, oats & ground pistachios together in a bowl. Rub in your butter by hand until the mixture clumps together like coarse breadcrumbs. Tip your mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, and make sure that all of the clumps are roughly the same size (though I do like having some bigger chunks of biscuity crumble every now and then). Bake in the oven (alongside your tart, if able) at 180 degrees C (360 degrees f) for approx 10 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To serve:

  • I like to serve a wedge of the frangipane tart with a spoonful of extra compote (I steamed three extra sticks of rhubarb, washed and cut into 1cm pieces, very briefly in a splash of water with a vanilla bean then mixed this with the extra 1/2 cup of reserved compote for a ‘chunkier’ mixture), a sprinkling of crunchy pistachio crumble, some fresh thyme leaves & a scoop of vanilla ice cream or double cream. In the photos I actually mixed the extra reserved compote with sliced strawberries which is equally delicious.
  • Leftovers can be kept in the fridge, covered, for a few days. I would recommend letting the tart come to room temperature before serving.

Notes:

*Herbie’s fragrant sweet spices is a beautiful mix of ground coriander seeds, cassia bark, cinnamon quills, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, poppy seeds, cloves, cardamom & rose petals which I’ve come to love as a fragrant addition to cakes, pastries & other baked goods. You can buy your own here (or check out the Herbie’s website to find this spice mix and other Herbie’s products).

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