Christmas Down Under – Gingerbread Homestead

•December 8, 2013 • 1 Comment


The Gingerbread House is a bit of a Christmas stalwart, complete with white royal icing forming icicles off the roof eaves. It’s one of those fantastic northern hemisphere things – it makes sense in that context to dedicate a chilly weekend to baking the components and then putting it together and decorating it. In my imagination there’s carols playing on the sound system, the snow’s coming down outside, an the amazing smell of gingerbread wafting from the kitchen.

The reality in an Australian context is a wee bit different – at least in my experience. It’s hot and humid and about 35 degrees outside, the romance of Christmas baking is well and truly dissipated, I’ve scalded myself with sugar syrup at least four times, and my gingerbread house has adopted a disturbing lean that would prevent it from passing even the most cursory building code inspection.

This year I contemplated having a go at Adrian Zumbo’s Gingerbread House until I actually read through the recipe and decided the effort-to-result ratio was waaay out of whack. Also I sobered up.

So what to do? My original plan was to buy the do-it-yourself Gingerbread House from Aldi, and maybe just amend with some of the techniques in the Zumbo recipe – the caramel crunch brickwork, for example, or the chocolate roof tiles, or edible toadstools to dot around the house.

And then I found this recipe.

No more snowy eaves, or high arched roof. This is an Aussie Gingerbread Homestead, complete with redback spider (even if it’s on the roof instead of the toilet seat in the outside dunny).  The recipe that follows is by Claire Brookman, the Deputy Food Editor from Super Food Ideas magazine, which describes it as “challenging” (if, by “challenging”, you mean “insanely time consuming”).

Now, up until now, the rule has been that I don’t post recipes unless we’ve tried them.  But I have to be honest and tell you that just typing out the recipe made me stress out, imagining how my version could appear in a “Nailed It” slideshow on Pinterest. It’s also possible that this little project will take longer than it took the original settlers to get a roof over their heads. So if I do actually give this one a go this year, I’ll come back and update with my own photographs … just don’t hold your breath.

Gingerbread Homestead 


  • 35 x 40cm piece of MDF
  • 24cm square, 2mm thick cardboard
  • Templates – see end of the recipe.



For the Gingerbread:

  • 450g butter, chopped
  • 1.5 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 cup golden syrup
  • 3 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup ground ginger
  • 3 teaspoons allspice
  • 1.5 teaspoon baking powder
  • 10 cups plain flour
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Royal Icing

  • 4 egg whites
  • 6 cups pure icing sugar, sifted
  • Colouring agent (if you want the visible icing to blend better with he walls and roof)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

To decorate:

  • 30 fruit flavoured or musk sticks
  • 16 licorice allsorts
  • 2/3 x 80g packet ice-cream wafers
  • 12 chocolate wafer sticks
  • 1 vanilla cream biscuit, halved, icing removed and discarded
  • 1 green jelly fruit ring
  • 5 Jols (sugar-free pastilles)
  • 18 red jubes
  • 18 green jubes
  • 2.5  x 160g packets strawberry flavoured sour straps (you’ll need 48)
  • 5cm piece honeycomb chocolate bar
  • 1 large white marshmallow
  • 18 chocolate mini drops
  • 2 rainbow sour straps
  • 2cm piece licorice strap, cut into 8 thin strips
  • 2 chocolate flake bars
  • 5 chocolate freckles
  • 3 mint leaves, halved horizontally
  • 1 red jelly snake (choose the smallest one you can, in keeping with the scale of the homestead)


  1. Make Gingerbread:

a) Place butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over medium heat.
b) Cook, stirring, for 5 mins or until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then remove from heat.
c) Stir in bicarb of soda, then transfer to a large bowl and cool for 30 mins.
d) Sift ginger, allspice, baking powder and flour into a bowl.
e) Add half the flour to the butter mixture and stir well.
f) Add egg, stirring to combine.
g) Stir in the remaining flour mixture until a sticky dough forms.
h) Divide dough into five portions and shape into discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
i) Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced, and line two baking trays with baking paper.
j) Roll one portion of dough between two sheets of baking paper until 4mm thick.
k) Using the “front and back” template (see below), cut two rectangles from the dough, re-rolling the scraps.
l) Place on prepared trays and bake 12-15 mins or until golden and just firm to touch.
m) Stand on trays for 10 mins then transfer to cool on a wire rack.
n) Repeat steps (j) to (m) using the “side template” – you’ll need two of these – and cool as earlier.
o) Repeat steps (j) to (m) using the “roof” template – again, you’ll need two – and repeat the cooling process.
p) Repeat steps (j) to (m), cutting two components cut from the “roof side” template. (Only bake 10-12 mins)
q) Repeat steps (j) to (m) using the “awning” template – only one of these!
      2. Make Royal icing:
a) Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy.
b) Gradually add icing sugar, whisking until smooth and combined.
c) Stir in lemon juice and colouring, if you decided to go that way.
d) Cover icing with damp paper towel to prevent it from drying out

      3. Assemble the Homestead Superstructure
a) Pipe icing onto the edge of one ‘side’ piece.
b) Carefully attach to one of the “front and back” pieces
c) Place on MDF board (hold in place until icing begins to set), using glasses to help hold up sides.
d) Repeat process with remaining pieces, continuing to use glasses to hold walls in place while icing sets.
e) Pipe icing onto one top edge of the “roof” triangle.
f)  Carefully attach one “roof” piece to the triangles (hold until icing begins to set).
g) Ice top edges of triangles and first ‘roof piece’, then attach second ‘roof’ piece.
h) Set aside for 1 hour or until icing has set.
i) Meanwhile, pipe 4 lines lengthways across ‘awning’.
j) Arrange fruit sticks on ‘awning’, trimming to fit.
k) Set aside for 1 hour or until icing has set.
l) Arrange allsorts in 4 rows of 4 on a flat surface the size of the MDF board.
m) Pipe a little icing on top of each allsort. Place MDF board on top.
n) Reserve 1 wafer, then pipe icing to place the remaining wafers (trimming to fit) around the house for an elevated verandah.
o) Lightly score square cardboard 4cm in from 1 edge. Following score line, lightly fold cardboard.
p) Pipe icing around top of house.
q) Position cardboard over top of house with the folded piece overhanging the front. Set aside for 20 minutes.
r) Pipe icing around outside edge of cardboard. Carefully place roof on house (hold in place until icing begins to set).
s) Using icing, attach 2 chocolate wafer sticks on either side of each house corner.
t) Pipe icing in a decorative pattern on corners between sticks. Set aside for 30 minutes or until set.

    3. The Roof, Doors and Windows
a)  Using icing, arrange biscuits on front of house to form a door (hold until icing begins to set).
b)  Using a little icing, attach Jols to fruit ring to form a wreath.
c) Using a little icing, attach wreath to door (hold until icing begins to set).
d) Attach jubes to house with icing to form windows (2 at front, 2 on side, 3 on back and 2 on side of roof).
e) Pipe around jubes to define windows.
f) Trim about 1cm from 1 short end of each sour strap. Place 1 strap on a flat surface.
g) Pipe a little icing along 1 long edge. Top with another sour strap, overlapping by half. Repeat with 10 straps.
h) Repeat process with 10 straps.
i) Repeat process 3 more times to form shingles for roof. Set aside for 10 minutes.
j) Using icing, attach shingles to roof.
k) Trim end of honeycomb bar on an angle and attach with icing to back of roof to form a chimney

  3. Decorate
 a) Top chimney with a little icing and a marshmallow to form smoke.
b) Reserve 1 red and 3 purple mini drops.
c) Cut yellow strips from rainbow sour straps. Cut yellow strips into thin lengths.
d) Using the picture as a guide and a little icing, attach yellow strips and mini drops to roof to form Christmas lights.
e) Using a little icing, attach licorice and reserved red mini drop to front of roof to form a redback spider.
f) Using icing, attach 4 chocolate wafer sticks along front of veranda (holding in place until icing begins to set).
g) Pipe a thick strip of icing along back edge of awning, all over over-hanging cardboard, and a little icing on top of each stick.
h) Put awning into place, holding until icing begins to set (fill any gaps with icing). Set aside for 2 hours or until set.
i)  Cut flakes into three 6cm pieces. Place flakes in front of house to form steps.
j)  Arrange freckles in front of steps for path.
k) Place mint leaves in front of house.
l) Using a little icing, attach 1 reserved purple mini drop to top of mint leaves to form flowers.
m) Place snake on verandah.
n) Using a 5.5cm x 7.5cm kangaroo cutter, cut a kangaroo from reserved ice-cream wafer.
o) Using a little icing, place in front of house.

TEMPLATES – Print on A3 Paper

Front and Back Template Roof template

Awning Template


Mexican Prawn Salad

•December 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Mexican Prawn Salad

With summer now officially here, it’s no surprise we’ve been craving crunch and colour and freshness. This salad (drawn from the december edition of Taste magazine) fits the bill on all counts. The good news is that this recipe is not only gluten-free, but packs a whopping great 28g of protein in each serve.

Mexican Prawn Salad

Serves 4

  • 400g peeled, deveined prawns, tails intact
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves, + 1/4 cup extra
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sweet corn cobs, cooked, kernels removed
  • 200g grape tomatoes, halved
  • 400g can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 2 green spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 40g butter, chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeño chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • 1 tbs honey
  • Lime cheeks and corn chips (we used Red Rock’s Jalapeño Pepper and Mature Cheddar), to serve
  1. Combine prawns, 1tbsp coriander leaves, lime juice, garlic, sweet paprika and 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a bowl. Set aside for 10 mins to marinate.
  2. Meanwhile, combined the corn, tomato, kidney beans, extra chopped coriander, spring onions and remaining oil in large bowl.
  3. Preheat a bbq or chargrill on medium high.
  4. Cook, prawns, turning, for 3 mins or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Simmer for 1 minute or until foaming.
  6. Stir in jalapeño for 1 minute or until butter is a nutty golden.
  7. Remove from hat; stir in lime juice and honey.
  8. Divide corn mixture among serving plates and top with chargrilled prawns.
  9. Drizzle with jalapeño butter sauce.
  10. Serve with lime cheeks and corn chips.

Caramel Popcorn Sundaes

•September 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

86 Popcorn ice cream sundae

Down to the nation’s capital for the Turner and Tate exhibition, and we needed somewhere to eat on Saturday night. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited Canberra, and while there are plenty of old favourites, I wanted something new.  Not expecting to get in, I called up for a booking at relative newcomer, 86 in Braddon.  Sure, the Weekend Australian ranked it in its top 50 hottest restaurants and it scored 14.5 in the  SMH 2014 good food guide , but let’s be honest: I was really there for this dessert.  A late booking for four? No problem! I still don’t know what good karmic deed I had done to make this possible, but I don’t really care; we had a restaurant booking for Saturday night, an art gallery crawl ahead, and a Caramel Popcorn Sundae in my future.

The place was packed, loud, and I’m not sure high-volume hip hop was exactly what my dining companions were after on such a Capital-C Cultural weekend. But the food was really pretty good, with an amazing delicious pumpkin tortellini the standout; while the much-lauded ghetto beef was good it didn’t actually have me on the floor writhing in ecstasy. But dessert did not disappoint. The creamy salty sweetness! The fluffy popcorn and crunchy peanut brittle! Caramel Sauce! I thought I might die from the gorgeous retro kitsch of it all.

I’d already planned to give it a bit of a go when I got back home, so imagine my excitement when I discovered the Caramel Popcorn Sundae was not only on the cover of this month’s Gourmet Traveller, the recipe was inside … oh happy day! Despite being an ice-cream-making virgin, I was determined to finally use the ice-cream attachment on my Kitchen Aid in the service of this, possibly my favourite dessert evah. I’m actually tempted to throw a dinner party soon, just to serve it up and spread the word.

One warning though: you need to start the recipe a day ahead – and you need to actually decide to do it two days ahead, unless you have a super schmick automatic ice cream maker that doesn’t need the churning bowl to be frozen for at least 15 hours before use.

86’s Caramel Popcorn Sundaes

Makes 8

  • Unknown-18 small waffle ice cream cones
  • Icing sugar, to serve

Buttered Popcorn Ice Cream

  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 40 grams popping corn80grams butter, melted
  • 500ml (2 cups) milk
  • 500 ml (2 cups) pouring cream – abt 35% fat
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 8 egg yolks

Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp liquid glucose
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 30 grams of butter
  • 160ml pouring cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 40 grams popping corn
  • sea salt

Peanut Brittle

  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup liquid glucose
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 5 grams butter
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

86 Interior 3 (Pic Melissa Adams)To make the Buttered Popcorn ice cream …

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan to medium-high heat, add one corn kernel – when it begins to spin, add the rest and cover with lid. Once popping begins, lift pan from flame and shake – this helps ensure you won’t burn the popcorn. Popping should cease in about 5 minutes.
  2. Drain popcorn on absorbent paper, place in a bowl and pout melted butter over; toss to combine.
  3. Bring milk and cream to simmer in a saucepan, then pour it over popcorn and refrigerate overnight to infuse the flavour.
  4. The next morning return to stovetop, bring to the simmer over medium heat and then strain, pressing the solids to extract the liquid. Discard the solids.
  5. Return to pot and add vanilla before bringing back to a simmer.
  6. Whisk sugar and egg yolks in a bowl until pale and thick.
  7. Add milk mixture in a steady stream, whisking until incorporated.
  8. Pour into (yet another!) saucepan and stir over medium heat until the mixture thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon. Go easy on the heat here – one thing you don’t want in this ice cream is scrambled egg yolks. The recipe says this should take about 6-7 minutes; I’m a scaredy cat so it takes me longer.
  9. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until chilled.
  10. Churn in an ice cream maker and freeze until required (at least 3 hours as the ice cream needs to “bloom”, according to my Kitchen Aid instruction book …)

To make the Peanut Brittle …

  1. Combine sugar, glucose, and 60mls water in a saucepan over medium heat, shaking to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Increase heat to high and cook to 127°C on a sugar thermometer (about 4-5 mins).
  3. Add peanuts and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 148°C (6-8 mins).
  4. Remove from heat, then stir in butter, bicarb and vanilla.
  5. Carefully pour onto a lightly oiled baking tray and spread thinly with a metal spatula.
  6. Set aside to cool, then break into small pieces.
  7. Store in an airtight container until required (up to 2 weeks).

popcorn icecream sundayTo make Caramel Sauce …

  1. Stir sugar, glucose, cram of tartar and 60mls water in a saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves (3-4 mins).
  2. increase heat to high and cook, swirling pan occasionally and brushing down sides with a west pastry brush as required, until golden caramel in colour (5-6 mins).
  3. Remove from heat and add butter, then cream in a steady stream, stirring to combine.
  4. Add vanilla and 1 tsp salt; stir and set aside.

To make buttered popcorn …

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan to medium-high heat, add corn and stir until it begins to pop.
  2. Cover and shake until popping stops (5-6 minute).
  3. Drain on absorbent paper, transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.

To Serve … finally!

  1. Drizzle caramel sauce (you may need to reheat slightly if it has thickened too much) into the base of serving glasses
  2. Scatter with peanut brittle and popcorn.
  3. Top with two scoops of popcorn ice cream.
  4. Drizzle sparingly with more caramel sauce.
  5. Scatter peanut brittle crumbs over the top.
  6. Finish with a waffle cone and a dusting of icing sugar.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

Gus Armstrong and Sean Royal (Pic Melissa Adams)86 Owners Gus Armstrong and Sean Royal
Pic Credit (for this and other restaurant shot, above)
Melissa Adams.

Barbecued Ginger Ale Pork Ribs

•September 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment


We made these for an Election Night dinner party last Saturday night (if, by dinner party, you mean sitting around the tv conducting expert armchair analysis before drinking far too much and falling asleep on the sofa) and they are not only super simple but absolutely amazingly delicious.

The recipe is by Katie Quinn Davies of What Katie Ate fame –  I pulled it from her cookbook but a quick check shows it’s not on her blog (although there are some very tasty-looking Coca Cola ribs that I have bookmarked to try). Sadly my hurried iphone photo is not the best (see above re drinking too much) which really doesn’t do the ribs justice.  But if you really want to see how good they can look, scroll down to the bottom of the post where I’ve included KQD’s photo of her ribs. Now that’s what I’m talking about – that’s what properly (and soberly) styled ribs look like in all their delightful glossy goodness.

But back to this particular recipe. We’ve actually got a very traditional and much-loved American-style BBQ ribs recipe which we have cooked for friends and family at about seventy slipillion barbecues, but it’s a bit of a labour of love that literally takes ages and ages: you have to make the spice rub, marinade the ribs overnight, slow-cook the chipotle sauce, slow bake in the oven and then – only then – throw them onto the barbecue (which of course is the only bit the guests ever get to see). And while we love them and have received plenty of compliments over the years, I couldn’t help thinking on Saturday night that this whole process was so much quicker and easier, and the results so delicious, that maybe all that endless effort wasn’t necessary except on very special (or time-rich) occasions. Given time is pretty much what I never have enough of, I have a sneaking suspicion that these may just become my go-to ribs recipe for the immediate future.

The one warning I would issue with this recipe is to reiterate what Ms Quinn Davies herself advises: be prepared to double, triple or even quadruple the batch. They. Are. That. Good.  And let’s face it: who doesn’t mind a little bit of late night Nigella-action when one slips down to the fridge in one’s negligee and rather lasciviously devours a leftover rib or two by the dim refrigerator light?

Barbecued Ginger Ale Pork Ribs

ginger-ale-ribsServes 4

  • 1 kg pork baby back ribs (usually sold by butchers as American ribs)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tbsp Barbecue Sauce
  • 1 long red chilli, seeds removed and thinly sliced
  • 3 cups ginger ale
  • sesame seeds, to serve
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the ribs and simmer for 30 minutes, skimming off any fat rom time to time.
  2. Preheat the oven to 140°C.
  3. Using a sturdy pair of tongs, remove the ribs from the pan and place in a large roasting tin. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the balsamic vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, chilli and ginger ale.
  5. Pour the mixture over the ribs, then cook them in the oven for 2 hours, basting them as frequently as you can (say every 15 minutes or so).
  6. After about 90 minutes the sauce will start to thicken – keep basting, because now the glossy stickiness begins and dinner isn;t too far away).
  7. Serve the ribs sprinkled with a little extra sliced chilli, a scattering of sea salt and sesame seeds – don’t forget the napkins!

And here is what it looks like when the pros do it … all credit for the below to the amazing and altogether rather glam KQD.


Poppa Wan’s BBQ Pork Roast

•July 21, 2013 • 1 Comment

imagesSunday night is traditionally the night for a good hearty roast – relegated to the weekend, I suspect, because that’s when everyone has the time to do all the prep (not to mention the clean-up afterwards). Maybe it’s also because you can shove the damn thing in the oven and get on with doing whatever you want to do in your much-too-limited spare time.

Don’t get me wrong – a roast is great. But sometimes you want to step outside the lines just a little bit, and this particular roast is the one to do it with.

51RIHKonMDL._SL500_AA300_ The recipe comes from Chinese restauranteur Papa Wan, who just happens to be the father of stylist (and new Target ambassador) Gok Wan. We first saw it done when Gok swapped frocks for woks in the BBC tv series Gok Cooks Chinese  and have tried it a couple of times now, but are still working to get it just right.

Unfortunately this is the one recipe that neither appeared on the Channel 4 website associated with the show, or on Gok’s personal blog, so we had to watch the show a couple of times with one person in the lounge yelling instructions to the other in the kitchen. Yes I know, I know – I could simply buy the cookbook. But I’ve been on a strict no-cookbook diet for a while now; I have not one but two overloaded shelves of rarely-used cookbooks, bought in a rush of enthusiasm but then left to sit there gathering dust while I make something I saw in the SMH or Delicious or some other magazine I picked up because supermarket lines are the most boring places in the world.

I have to say that throwing this dish together this afternoon and fiddling around trying to get the marinade right has me questioning my wisdom in this regard. In fact the only thing stopping me from jumping on Amazon right now is trying to decide which of my existing cookbooks has to be winnowed out to make room. And thus, through indecision, is my weekly book budget saved.

This dish goes incredibly well with his green bean stir fry (the recipe for which you can find here). I personally don’t think anything else is necessary, but tonight we’re adding a potato gratin to use up some leftover bacon, the rind end of the parmesan and cocktail potatoes which I suspect are about a week away from sprouting new life.

Poppa Wan’s Sunday Night BBQ Pork Roast

 IMG_1322  Ingredients:

  • 1 pork loin – somewhere between 500g and 1 kg
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 heaped tbsp hoi sin sauce
  • 2 tbsp yellow bean sauce (I substituted ma po sauce, which is a spicy bean paste)
  • 5 cm knob of ginger, julienned (on reflection I think I’d grate it; julienning may be all very cheffy but it’s a pain and not really necessary)
  • 1 tsp Five Spice Powder
  • 1 tsp star anise powder (or to taste)
  • 4 tsp sugar


  1. Mix the marinade ingredients in a bowl and adjust to taste.
  2. Massage the pork loin with the marinade and place in a ziploc bag.
  3. Pour the rest of the marinade in the ziploc bag; expel the air and store in the fridge for a minimum of two hours to let the flavours infuse.
  4. Preheat oven to 210ºC.
  5. Place pork in a roasting dish and cover with any remaining marinade
  6. Roast at 210ºC for 10 minutes, then knock the heat back to 180ºC and roast for another 30-40 minutes. (Times will vary depending on the size of your pork loin).
  7. Rest the pork for 20 mins, then slice and serve


Movida’s Spiced Apple and Ginger Pudding

•July 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment


If you were looking for a warming winter pudding – either to go with the Slow-Cooked Beef Cheeks recipe or just as a treat to glam up a more prosaic cold weather dinner  – it’s hard to go past this one, which is also from Movida. Couldn’t be easier – and if you’re serving it at a dinner party, there’s the advantage of being able to pre-prepare these and then just stick them in the oven when you serve the first course. Magic!

The Butterscotch Sauce is also ridiculously easy … and it doesn’t just go with this pudding. The only time we’ve ever had any leftovers (believe me, this sauce is just that good) we’ve used them to bling up an ordinary bowl of ice cream or plain vanilla cake (even store bought … sssssh) and make it something special. And I can hereby confirm that it is a vicious rumour to suggest that I have on occasion stood at the fridge door, spoon in hand, to make a Nigella-Lawson-type midnight foray to the kitchen for a sweet hit.

I pinched it from the Smitten Kitchen website, who pinched it from The Washington Post, who pinched it from The Perfect Cake cookbook by Susan G. Purdy. See? I told you this recipe was good. Oh, and if you are so inclined, you could always add some sort of liquor to give it a grown-up twist…

The recipes for both the pudding and the sauce are after the jump.

Spiced Apple and Ginger Pudding


  • 125g butter
  • 150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 65g brown sugar
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 100g treacle
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g milk
  • 2 pink lady apples, coarsely grated


  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Melt 50 grams of butter and brush inside eight dariole moulds. Dust moulds with flour, tap out excess and set aside. Dissolve bicarb soda in water and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining butter, sugar, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan until melted and smooth.
  3. Beat eggs and milk together in a separate bowl. Add bicarb soda water to golden syrup mix and stir well (it may foam a little).
  4. Pour both liquid mixes into flour, add grated apple and combine well.
  5. Pour into prepared moulds to three-quarters full, cover with butter-brushed foil and fold it over the top of the mould tightly. Place moulds in a deep baking tray, fill with boiling water three-quarters up the side of the moulds. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Serve with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream or creme fraiche.

Butterscotch Sauce

smittenkitchentrademarkedlogoMakes 2/3 to 3/4 cup sauce

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (about 109 grams) packed dark or light brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) heavy cream
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar, cream and salt and whisk until well blended.
  2. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine .
  4. Taste the sauce (Careful, it’s hot sugar!) to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla, whisking well after each addition.
  5. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It can be refrigerated in an airtight container and reheated in a microwave or small saucepan.

COOKS NOTE: This sauce will keep at least two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.


Movida’s Slow-Cooked Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez

•July 14, 2013 • Leave a Comment

IMG_1316Winter is just made for slow cooking – cheap cuts of meat, cooking away all afternoon and filling the kitchen with the most amazing smells, and a hearty warming dinner at the end of it all.  It makes the cold almost bearable!


But I have to admit last winter we got a little bit jaded with slow cooking, largely because so many of the slow cooking dishes are tomato based and end up tasting very much the same.

There’s a richness and intensity of flavour that is so recognisable and familiar that we found ourselves looking at the slow cooker, then at each other, and then reaching for something else in the pantry.

So we were both pretty excited with this recipe, by  MoVida’s Frank Camorra. We’ve both eaten at Movida in Melbourne, and I have a soft spot for Movida in Sydney after a couple of lovely lunches and afterwork drinks there with friends, so there’s that emotional glow you get from recreating one of the meals from a restaurant fave. The other big plus is that there’s no tomato in the dish, so none of that hyper-intensive taste profile that jades your palate so quickly. This is instead just a  gorgeous, rustic stew that I would happily serve at a winter dinner party for much-loved friends.

And if you need more encouragement, Aldi is currently selling beef cheeks at the absolutely ridiculous price of  $6 or so for 600 grams. Delicious, simple, tasty and cheap – you really can’t ask for a lot more than that! I don’t like the mouthfeel of any kind of puree or mash, so at the risk of being sacrilegious, we served this with panfried polenta squares (to mop up the delicious cooking jus) and beans with garlic and lemon (perfect for cutting through the richness). The recipe – with the intended cauliflower puree – follows.

Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez

movida_logoServes 6

  • 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) beef cheeks
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) red wine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 185 ml (6 fl oz/¾ cup) cream
  • 40g (1 ½ oz) butter


1. Trim the beef cheeks to neaten them up and remove any sinew and silver skin. Season well.

2. Heat half the olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Brown the beef cheeks for 2 minutes on each side, or until golden, then remove from the pan.

3. Add the remaining olive oil, then add the carrot, garlic and onion and sauté over high heat for 12-15 minutes, or until well browned. Stir in the sherry, wine, bay leaves, thyme, sea salt and 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) water.

4. Reduce the heat as low as possible, add the beef cheeks, then cover and cook for 3-4 hours, or until the cheeks are beginning to fall apart.

5. Meanwhile, put the cauliflower, cream and butter in a saucepan, season to taste with salt, then cover and cook over low heat for 35 minutes, or until very tender. Place the cauliflower mixture in a blender and process until smooth. Keep the puree warm.

6. The sauce from the beef cheeks should by now be reduced and glaze-like. If it needs further reducing, remove the cheeks from the pan, cover with foil to keep them warm and simmer the sauce over high heat until nicely reduced. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and return to the pan; gently reheat the cheeks in the sauce if necessary.

Serve the cheeks and their sauce on warm plates with the cauliflower puree on the side.