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Bianca’s Spiced Nuts

Bianca has always loved nuts and believes every drink should be served with nuts …. or olives. When she was living in the USA she discovered these delicious nuts, often served warm. Let’s revolutionise Australia by adopting this delicious concept. Bianca recommends almonds and pistachios here. To double the recipe, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and bake the nuts on 2 baking sheets, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. 

Orange-Cardamom Spiced Nuts

Bianca recommends almonds and pistachios here. To double the recipe, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and bake the nuts on 2 baking sheets, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. 

Makes 3-4 cups

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1.5 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pound(500g) unsalted nuts
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat with cooking spray.
  • Whisk egg white, orange juice, zest, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl.
  • Add nuts and toss to coat.
  • Drain in colander thoroughly, 4 to 5 minutes. 
  • Mix sugar, ground cardamom, and pepper in large bowl. Add drained nuts and toss to coat.
  • Spread nuts evenly on prepared baking sheet and bake 40 to 45 minutes until dry and crisp, rotating sheet halfway through baking time.
  • Cool completely. Break nuts apart and serve.
  • Nuts can be stored in airtight container for 3 weeks.

Butter Rum Glazed Nuts

These are my favourites.

Makes about 2 cups

  • 2 cups raw walnuts or pecan halves
  • Warm Spice Mix
    • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Rum Glaze
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Line rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread nuts in even layer;
  • Toast 4 minutes, rotate pan. Continue to toast until fragrant and colour deepens slightly, another 4 minutes.
  • Transfer cookie sheet with nuts to wire rack.
  • For the spice mix: While nuts are toasting, stir together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in medium bowl; Set aside.
  • For the glaze: Bring rum, vanilla, brown sugar, and butter to boil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly.
  • Stir in toasted nuts and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until nuts are shiny and almost all liquid has evaporated, about 1½ minutes. 
  • Transfer glazed nuts to bowl with spice mix; toss well to coat. Return glazed and spiced nuts to parchment-lined cookie sheet to cool.
  • Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Pork with Walnuts

We didn’t often eat pork – mainly cause I didn’t know how to cook it without it tasting dry. One day I discovered this recipe which leaves the meat moist and fall off the bone with a rich delicious sauce. It’s a great winter dish suitable for a dinner party or a delicious treat for the family.

Serves 6-8.

8 lean pork loin chops with the rind removed
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1.5 cups canned pineapple juice
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
3 Tablespoons vinegar
2 Tablespoons soya sauce
1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
3-4 strips lemon zest – approx from half a lemon
1 cup chopped walnuts
parsley or chopped sultanas to serve with rice (optional)

  1. Dust chops with flour and brown in a little olive oil. Remove.
  2. Brown sliced onions and garlic over low heat until onions are very brown and add remaining ingredients excluding the walnuts. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes.
  3. Place pork chops in a casserole dish in a single layer. If using a Le Creuset casserole dish, use the same dish you used for browning to save on the washing up.
  4. Pour onion mixture over top of pork chops.
  5. Cover casserole dish and bake for an hour in a moderate over at 180 C (350 F).
  6. Serve with rice sprinkled with parsley and/or sultanas and extra chopped walnuts.

Rubes Fruit Cake for Christmas or a Wedding

RubyChristmas is almost upon us and time to start thinking about getting those christmas cakes going. Ruby is renowned for her baking and here she shares her spectacular fruit cake recipe which is equally good for christmas or your wedding. Ruby says “Gladioli Botha,  an International Sugar Artist Judge, won first prize on the Rand Royal Show and many other shows for this Christmas Cake year after year.  I belonged to a cake decorating club called Sugar Craft for many years and Gladioli Botha was our President and and my mentor – she shared her fabulous recipe with me. I used this as a base for the wedding cakes I baked and decorated  in my wonderful little business in Johannesburg where I lived for 25 years.  I have made this cake for at least 150 brides. So here we go.”

Prepare tins
You need two tins, 8 inch square
Line each tin with a double layer of foil, shiny side to the inside.
Spread with butter.

4 1/2lbs of mixed fruit: raisins, sultanas, currants, candied peel(optional-I don’t use, some people don’t like it)*
1 lb dates, finely chopped *
1 1/2 lbs butter *
1 1/2 lbs brown sugar *
1/2 lb pecans
1/2 lb glazed fruit
1 lb fresh cherries,halved and pips removed

12 eggs, extra large
2 lbs cake flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice
]1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons bi carb

2 cups brandy
1 cup masala


  1. Boil together  all ingredients marked with * with 2 cups water and 1 cup brandy for 15 minutes.
  2. Turn into a large bowl and add 2 teaspoons bi carb and stir. Leave to cool completely.
  3. Cut pecans, chop glazed fruit, wash cherries, which have been halved, and add to cooled mixture.
  4. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture alternating with the eggs which have been beaten.
  5. Fill tins 2/3rds full. Wet hands with water and pat the top of the mixture until even – it will look sort of milky.
  6. NOW HERE IS THE TRICK. Put both tins into a cooking bag (roasting bag) and tie with string.
  7. Bake at 130 deg C for about 3 hours – 8″ square or 4 – 41/2 hours for a round tin
  8. You can smell when it is cooked. Not sure – stick a  skewer into it and if it comes out clean its cooked.
  9. Take out the oven and pour remaining 1 cup brandy and 1 cup masala over the cakes whilst still in the cake tin. Put them back into the roasting bags and cover them with a blanket and allow them to cool completely (18 hours).
  10. Decorate if you are an artist or eat as is.
  11. Thank you, Ruby.

John’s Bacon and Egg Pie – Perfect for New Years Brunch

John loves his food and his cooking. He arrives at our New Year’s brunch and produces his pie, warm from the oven, with a flourish. It is spectacularly good.  John always has the knack of making it look particularly professional too.IMG_1193

8 rashers bacon
12 eggs
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
Quality readymade puff pastry, rolled out thinly

  1.  Preheat oven to 220°C.
  2. Line a 20cmx30cm deep Lamingtin style baking tin with thinly rolled out puff pastry.
  3. Chop bacon into 5cm pieces and fry in a frying pan until cooked.
  4. Sprinkle bacon over pastry spreading evenly.
  5. Break eggs over, keeping the yolks whole.
  6. Sprinkle with parsley and cover with thickly sliced tomatoes.
  7. Cover pie with remaining pastry and trim edges.
  8. Brush pastry with beaten egg to create a golden glaze.
  9. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 190°C and bake for another 20 minutes or until pastry is cooked.
  10. Serve warm cut into wedges.

Coconut Meringues with Berries – Refreshing, Modern finish to Christmas

Who doesn’t like meringues? And berries are a reminder of hot summer days and look so christmassy. If you’re looking for an alternative to the usual christmas desserts, this one is a winner. Make the meringues a day ahead and store in an airtight container. Prepare berries in the morning.

Serves 8

4 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
2 punnets strawberries, each sliced into 4
1 punnet blueberries
1 punnet raspberries
2 Tablespoons fresh orange or lemon juice
plain yoghurt to serve, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 100°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Draw four 10cm circles on each tray.
  2. Whisk egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl using a Kenwood mixer until soft peaks form.
  3. Then whilst whisking, use the 1 cup of caster sugar to add one tablespoon at a time to egg whites, mixing well after each addition. Whisk until mixture is thick and glossy.
  4. Gently stir in coconut – do not whisk.
  5. Spoon the meringue evenly onto the circles you have drawn on the baking trays.
  6. Bake for 90 minutes or until crisp. Cool meringues on trays.
  7. Combine berries in a bowl and add orange or lemon juice. Cover and marinade up to 90minutes.
  8.  To serve, place a meringue on a dinner plate. Gently press a cavity on top with a spoon. Top with a dollop of yoghurt. Spoon over berries.
  9. Serve immediately so that meringues retain their crispness.

Peaches Poached in Champagne for New Year’s Brunch

The peaches look sensational as a table centrepiece in large white shallow bowl with their glorious colours. Use as a starter for New Year’s brunch instead of fresh fruit, or as a dessert for a summer lunch or dinner.  The key element for flavour is the vanilla bean and to use only champagne – no water. An option is to use pink champagne which will add a glorious colour to the syrup. Don’t keep dish for too long as peaches will lose their shape and become wrinkly after about 18hours – it will still taste fine. I used to make the night before the brunch and leave elevated overnight over a basin of water so that the ants couldn’t get in.

Serves 12

20 small peaches or 12 large peaches – do not use cling peaches
1 bottle champagne or sparkling wine
1.3 cups caster sugar
Rind and juice of 2 oranges
1 vanilla bean

  1. Place caster sugar and champagne in a large saucepan with orange juice and rind, and vanilla bean.
  2. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  3. Add unpeeled peaches. Cover and simmer over low heat for 8-10 minutes until just tender. When skin starts to split, they are ready.
  4. Remove peaches with slotted spoon – skins should just slip off easily.
  5. Simmer liquid over medium heat without lid until reduced to 2 cups. It will be thick and syrupy.
  6. Remove vanilla bean. Pour syrup over peaches.
  7. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Sourdough Toasts with Feta and Herb Spread and Roasted Capsicum

Serve these versatile toasts for brunch or with drinks. They even make a light lunch. Buy some marinaded capsicum or make it a few days ahead of time as it is time consuming and fiddly. I serve these on my large black Alessi platters and the colours look stunning. Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Traveller many moons ago.

Makes 16 toasts.

200g Danish or other soft feta
¼ cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 spring onions, finely sliced
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 Tablespoons basil, chopped
2 red capsicum, roasted. Select here for recipe select -> Roast Capsicum
1 loaf long sourdough bread cut into rounds

  1. Place all ingredients except capsicum and bread in food processor and process until smooth.
  2. Slice roasted capsicum into thin strips.
  3. Just before serving, grill the bread.
  4. Spread bread thickly with cheese spread and garnish with 2 strips of capsicum and a little extra drizzled olive oil.

Christmas Fruit Mince Tarts like Granny used to make them.

This recipe uses a shortcrust pastry which goes all biscuity and is quite divine despite the simplicity of the pastry. These are very traditional – hearty and delicious. The pastry is prepared using a Kenwood mixer rather than a food processor and the extra few minutes required are well worth the result. The pastry allows for a substantial quantity – only make as many tarts as you need and eat warm if you can. Save the remaining pastry in the fridge for another occasion during the festive season. 

Makes 48 tarts (7cm diameter) with lids.

250g butter
500g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 cups Self Raising flour
1½ cups plain flour
2 jars Robertson’s fruit mince

  1. Cream butter and sugar in Kenwood Mixer until almost white.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating all the while
  3. Add flour and knead well
  4. Break into two portions, wrap in cling wrap and store in fridge.
  5. Grease a 12 cup muffin baking pan with capacity for twelve 7cm diameter tarts.
  6. Roll pastry out to about ¼cm thick – you definitely don’t want these too thin.
  7. Using a 10cm cutter, cut rounds and line holes of prepared pan.
  8. Fill with Robertson’s fruit mince.
  9. Using a 7cm cutter, cut tops and place on top of fruit mince.
  10. Pinch pastry closed and brush with egg.
  11. Bake at 170°C for 15- 20minutes until lightly browned.
  12. Immediately turn out onto a wire rack so that pastry crisps up and does not get soggy.
  13. Cool 20minutes and serve sprinkled with icing sugar. They are wonderful eaten cold but even better slightly warm. For ultimate flavour, eat them on the same day you bake them or reheat if made the day before.

Garlic Prawns – Ideal Start to a Festive Meal

This is our traditional family starter – Christmas is the time to splash out on expensive ingredients like prawns and indulge. The secret to this recipe is to get the amount of cooking for the prawns just right – rather undercook than overcook as they will continue to cook by themselves. The biggest workload is peeling and deveining the prawns, which can be done ahead of time and delegated to another member of the family.
Serves 4

500g green king prawns (4 per person)
1 cup canola oil
60g butter
4 large cloves garlic
1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley

  1. Shell prawns, leaving the tail intact, and remove the back vein.
  2. Place all ingredients except the prawns in a saucepan. Heat until butter has melted and oil is very hot.
  3. Add prawns
  4. After 1 minute (no longer) remove from heat. The prawns will continue cooking in the residual heat.
  5. Serve in individual soufflé dishes or ramekins with wholemeal bread to mop up the sauce.

Christmas Ice Cream Pud makes a Welcome Change

I believe a hot Christmas pud is too heavy after a big meal – not quite right for our hot southern summer Christmases. Younger children prefer the ice cream variety to the more traditional pud too.  I like to serve plain as I feel adding chocolate or caramel sauce is too rich and berries don’t go well with the mixed fruit. You can decorate with a crumbled Cadbury flake or some additional glace fruit if you wish. Make the pud weeks or days ahead to allow more free time on Christmas day to enjoy presents and be with the family. 

Serves 8-12 depending on serving size.

1½ cups quality fruit mixture with REAL glace cherries. I use Sunbeam brand.
1 cup boiling water
2 litres vanilla ice cream – a brand like Peters or Blue Ribbon is fine
1/2 cup additional mixed glace fruit, finely chopped
2 cups coarsely crushed biscuits- ginger nuts or butternut snaps work best
2 Tablespoons sherry

  1. Simmer fruit mix in boiling water for about 10minutes. Cool.
  2. Water should be absorbed. If not drain excess water.
  3. Add glace fruit, crushed biscuits, and sherry to fruit mix.
  4. Select an 18cm diameter conical mould. The Tupperware lettuce container, if you have one, works well. Using a cooking spray or lining the mould with cling wrap will make unmoulding easier.
  5. Line the mould with 1½ litres softened ice cream taking ice cream all the way up the sides – leave gap in the centre for the fruit mixture.
  6. Fill centre with fruit mixture. Smooth remaining ice cream over the top.
  7. Cover top with alcan foil or a lid. Freeze till required – at least overnight.
  8. Unmould onto serving platter just before eating.  Dunk in warm – not hot – water for a few seconds if it sticks. Refreeze on serving platter for 10minutes or so.
  9. Decorate with Cadbury Flake or Glace fruit if using.
  10. Refreeze anything leftover for another day.

Cabbage Salad with a Soya Dressing and Dukkah Topping

This is an unusual salad that works really well,  particularly with Ham. It is important that the cabbage is really finely sliced. The topping and the dressing are enough for a whole cabbage or 16 – 24 people. Make the topping and dressing at least the day before as they need to be cooled before use and do keep for two weeks. Incidentally the topping is delicious as a snack on its own or used as a Dukkah.

Serves 6-8 depending on total number of salads served.FullSizeRender-2

¼ green cabbage

½ cup slivered almonds or pine nuts
½ cup sesame seeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
1x30g packet Mamee Noodles,BarBQ flavour, crushed. See Note.

Dressing Simmer for 2 minutes. Cool.
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup brown vinegar
¼ cup soya sauce
¼ cup sugar

  1. Toast almonds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds on 120°C until brown, checking frequently.
  2. Cool and add crushed noodles – store in an airtight container like a Tupperware until required.
  3. Slice cabbage very finely and place in large shallow bowl.
  4. Toss with a quarter of the dressing once it has cooled.
  5. Sprinkle with a quarter of the nut/seed mixture just before serving.

IMG_0643Note: Mamee Noodles are a fried noodle snack for school lunch boxes found at most supermarkets. If substituting instant cup-o-noodles, then crush, sprinkle with paprika and bake with rest of topping ingredients. It’s strange but a great addition for texture. Of course you can omit this ingredient.


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