Crostata – a Taste of Italy
On a recent visit to Italy we explored the countryside of Umbria with it’s authentic renaissance towns in perfect condition still occupied by locals with hardly a tourist in site. We stayed at a romantic AirBNB, Magic Winds, with welcoming hosts who produced the best peaches I have ever tasted from their parent’s farm, heavenly jam made according to Papa’s secret recipe and, for breakfast, Bernadetta and Sylvio produced this delicious Crostata. It’s not particularly sweet and the pastry is bread-like and keeps a few days. We love it for breakfast, afternoon tea or even dessert. We don’t have homemade jam but it’s important to use a quality product like Hanks Apricot Jam or perhaps the Harris Farm Market Blueberry Jam(add a handful of blueberries and some lemon zest to make it extra special). I also think it would be delicious using a good marmelade.
150g white sugar
1/2 cake fresh yeast or 1.5x7g sachet dry yeast (you need 10g)
2 cups jam(Hanks apricot or Harris Farm Blueberry + fresh Blueberries – optional) or marmelade.
- Break eggs and mix yolk and egg whites lightly with a fork in the Kenwood mixing bowl.
- Add sugar and beat in Kenwood Mixer with the ‘K’ hook until mixture forms a thick white cream and forms an ‘S’.
- Cut the butter into small cubes. Whilst continuing to mix the egg mixture, add the butter to the egg mixture a cube at a time.
- Then add flour and yeast slowly, mixing all the time.
- Now knead until you reach a homogenous mixture. I use the kneading hook on the Kenwood mixer for a while then finish off by hand.
- Place dough in the Fridge at least 30 minutes.
- Pull and stretch the dough then place 80% of it in 28cm round baking tin or a 24x34cm rectangular tin. Retain the rest of the dough to make strips for the top. This size pan will result in a bread like consistency. Use a slightly larger pan if you prefer a crispier base.
- Spread the jam on the dough in the tin leaving a ½ cm border around the edge free.
- Now make strips with remaining dough and layer across in a criss cross fashion.
- Bake at 170 degrees C for approximately 30-35 minutes.Buoni appetito!!!
NOTE: If the base is thin it will have be more crispy like a pastry consistency and if it is thicker it will be more bread like. Both are nice – it depends on what you are trying to achieve.
I recently discovered baking mushrooms maintains the earthy taste and deep flavours of mushrooms far better than any other cooking method. This dish is simple, quick, versatile and tastes – oh so good.
Brown, Swiss or Portobello Mushrooms have the most flavour
- Heat oven to 220 C.
- Tear mushrooms and place in 20cm diameter metal baking dish.
- Sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs of your choice. I like thyme or continental parsley.
- Dot with a few little knobs of butter – you need very little.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Serve as is as an innovative and healthy snack or starter. Alternatively makes a great breakfast or lunch dish if you spread sourdough toast with goats cheese and serve mushrooms on top of the goats cheese with a few extra herbs sprinkled on top.
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.
8 rashers bacon
¼ cup chopped parsley
3 large tomatoes, thickly sliced
Quality readymade puff pastry, rolled out thinly
- Preheat oven to 220°C.
- Line a 20cmx30cm deep Lamingtin style baking tin with thinly rolled out puff pastry.
- Chop bacon into 5cm pieces and fry in a frying pan until cooked.
- Sprinkle bacon over pastry spreading evenly.
- Break eggs over, keeping the yolks whole.
- Sprinkle with parsley and cover with thickly sliced tomatoes.
- Cover pie with remaining pastry and trim edges.
- Brush pastry with beaten egg to create a golden glaze.
- Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 190°C and bake for another 20 minutes or until pastry is cooked.
- Serve warm cut into wedges.
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.
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
- Place caster sugar and champagne in a large saucepan with orange juice and rind, and vanilla bean.
- Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
- Add unpeeled peaches. Cover and simmer over low heat for 8-10 minutes until just tender. When skin starts to split, they are ready.
- Remove peaches with slotted spoon – skins should just slip off easily.
- Simmer liquid over medium heat without lid until reduced to 2 cups. It will be thick and syrupy.
- Remove vanilla bean. Pour syrup over peaches.
- Cool and serve at room temperature.
Menu for a Relaxed Family Festive Season
Click here for a Print Friendly Version ===> Xmas Menu
Bacon and Egg Pie – Easy, Tasty and Perfect for every Picnic or School Lunchbox
This is the family’s most popular picnic and bushwalking food – of course it is wonderful for brunch and a very special treat in a school lunchbox. I used to bake it early in the morning and wrap in foil as it came out of the oven. It would still be slightly warm when we ate it. Nothing tasted better after some exercise – something about simple flavours.
3 rashers bacon, diced
2 sheets puff pastry
- Heat oven to 200°C
- Layer 1xsheet of puff pastry in a 23cm diameter pie dish.
- Cook bacon until crispy in microwave or frying pan.
- Drain all fat and scatter cooked bacon evenly over puff pastry.
- Break eggs over bacon being careful to keep yolks whole.
- Top with second sheet of puff pastry and crimp edges.
- Brush top of pastry with egg white.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until pastry is browned.
- Serve at room temperature or cold.
Dad’s Homemade Natural Muesli
Dad has eaten natural muesli for breakfast for the 35 years I have known him. In the late nineties natural muesli was unobtainable in New York. Dad became real moody and difficult until I found a health food shop that stocked natural ingredients and began making him this home made version. I used Hawaiian mix to provide the dried fruit component but you can add whatever you like.
3 cups rolled oats
1½ cups oat bran
2 cups rye flakes
½ cup wheatgerm
½ cup roasted sunflower seeds
75g unblanched almonds
3 cups Hawaiian mix
Mix all together and keep in an airtight container
Note: You can add linseed and/or buckwheat instead of bran if you prefer these.
Ideas for Natural Muesli
- Use as a topping for plain yoghurt and fruit. Particularly good with sliced banana or blueberries.
- Eat with orange juice as a change from milk the way dad does
Perfect the Humble Boiled Egg
Ever wondered how the french turn out those boiled eggs with the yolk all gooey and the whites just set? Use refrigerated eggs, steam them, and handle with tongs. Your boiled eggs will taste so good you’ll never bother with the complication of poached eggs again. Use the best quality eggs you can find and get the timing perfect – the stopwatch on your iPad or iPhone can guarantee success. If you live at high altitude you will need to experiment with the timing as water boils at a lower temperature.
Works for up to 4 eggs – same steps will work perfectly with 1 or 2 as well
Approx 16cm diameter saucepan or pot with lid
Up to 4 refrigerated eggs – do NOT bring up to room temperature
- Fill pot with water to around 2cm depth and bring to boil. Eggs will be steamed and should not be submerged.
- Use a pair of tongs to lower eggs into simmering water gently, one at a time. Using tongs instead of a spoon will eliminate the hairline cracks and seepage of the white that you often get when boiling eggs. Using refrigerated eggs will mean the white will cook quicker as it is closer to the surface and the yolk will take a lot longer resulting in a soft yolk.
- Place lid on the pot – remember they are being steamed.
- If you are at sea level boil for EXACTLY 4 minutes, 30 seconds for 700g eggs; 5 minutes for 800g eggs. This will result in a set white and a soft yolk. You may need to adjust this sightly for personal taste but use 20 second increments only as 20 seconds has a significant impact.
- Eat with little soldiers.
- Better still, shell the egg. Remember to crack the top of the egg first when shelling to minimise the shell sticking when you remove it. Mash egg onto a slice of soy and linseed toast. Top with a quality salt like Maldon and black pepper. Eat immediately.
- It’s delicious. This will become a regular breakfast or snack.
Great Way to Cook Salmon Perfectly Every Time
Looking for the perfect dish for a summer lunch? This is an easy way to cook perfect salmon. It serves 6 and is delicious with a green salad and a potato salad. Allow 200g salmon per person. See variations below for other ideas of how to use the salmon.
The key to success is to buy quality salmon and get the timing right. If you are using a fillet that is less than 1.2kg ADJUST THE TIMING. If cooking only two individual fillets should be butted up against one another and will take in the region of 6 to 8 minutes to cook.
- 1×1.2kg side of salmon skin on, pin boned
- 2T wholegrain mustard like Dijon
- 1-2 bunches dill, chopped
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 1T capers
- ½ red onion, finely diced
- Preheat oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Place the salmon, skin side down on prepared tray, smear with Dijon mustard, scatter on dill, lemon zest, capers and onion, pour over lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- Place in the oven and bake 12-14 minutes until salmon is opaque.
- Remove from oven and rest 5 minutes using Alcan foil to make a tent over tin to keep warm.
- If serving whole move to a long plate carefully with two spatulas removing the skin which should come off easily.
- Break salmon into pieces by hand and serve on salad as a light lunch. Optionally add a softly poached egg.
- Pile pieces of salmon on toast and place a poached egg on top and serve as a breakfast dish.