Tag Archive | festive season

Granny Panzera’s Shortbread from Ruby

RubyRuby is back with another recipe. This time a recipe inherited from her grandmother.  It’s another christmas favourite, Shortbread. These are beautiful. Thank you Ruby. 

Makes approx 40 Shortbread Fingers.

4 1/2 cups cake flour
1 cup maizena (cornflour)
1/2 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup icing sugar
pinch salt
500g(1 lb) butter, very very soft

  1. Heat oven to 150°C(300°F).
  2. Beat sugar and butter till creamy.
  3. Stir in the maizena  (cornflour).
  4. Then quickly work in the flour and pinch of salt.
  5. I use my processor. – do not over beat
  6. Put into a 40cm x 25cm(15″ x  10″)  or equivalent baking tray about 2″ deep. Flatten mixture evenly. Poke holes in the mixture about every 5cm (2″) apart. Neaten the edges.
  7. Place in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Turn baking tray around to ensure even baking. Then turn the oven down to 140°C(275°F) for the next 40 minutes. The shortbread colour should remain cream – or maybe a deeper shade of cream – NOT brown.
  9. Remove from oven and slice into fingers whilst still hot. Leave in the baking tray until it is cool.

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.

Jeanette shares her Bean and Avocado Dip

Jeanette is a neighbour from Northbridge that makes this mean dip with a ‘mexican’ twist ideal for any barbecue or party. It’s large, made with wonderful ingredients like avocado, sour cream and kidney beans, and so easy to put together – ideal for a crowd. Thank you Jeanette.

Serves 10-12.

Layer the following:

  • 1 tin red Kidney beans, well mashed
  • 3 avocados mashed with lemon juice, garlic and pepper
  • carton sour cream mixed with 1/2 pkt taco sauce
  • Top with 2 finely chopped tomatoes and half a bunch of chives

Serve with lebanese bread, corn chips or water biscuits.

Kathy Shares Auntie Betty Bourke’s Crème Caramel

kathyphoto2Auntie Betty, one of my family’s stand out cooks,  was born in 1912 – the only daughter of my Grandparents, Donald and Ivy Bourke. Her brother and my father, Donald,  was born in 1913.  At one point in Sydney’s social history Donald and Ivy were ‘The People to Know’ as they rubbed shoulders with the likes of the Packers, Smiths, Archibolds, Norman Lindsay and others. They often went to the races and afterwards met at someone’s house where the families competed to produce the most wondrous meal. Ivy’s upbringing in country hotels where she often helped out in the kitchen meant she frequently claimed the prize.  

So Betty, who never married, grew up in this environment through two world wars, a severe financial depression and was able to put together an amazing budget meal that presented beautifully.  She spent most of her post war years in London and Europe and sent home “foreign” recipes for mum to try.  In retrospect they were what locals in those foreign lands would have been using for generations. Here is her Crème Caramel.

Note: It is best to make this a day ahead of time as it is a little messy and fiddly … and the caramel infuses the custard for longer so it tastes better too.

Serves 8-10. Fewer people are likely to demolish the lot too !!!

CaramelCreme Caramal

1½ cups white sugar
2 cups water

  1. Place sugar and water in a saucepan.  Stir over low heat till sugar dissolves.
    Stop stirring. Increase heat and bring to boil.  Boil till mixture turns to deep golden brown. This last bit happens quite quickly so watch it carefully.
  2. Pour caramel evenly into moulded 22-23cm diameter cake tin.  Note: You need a moulded rather than spring tin where the bottom of the tin can be removed so the custard does not leak.


4 cups milk
2x300ml cartons cream, (2½ cups)
1 cup castor sugar
Vanilla Extract to taste or use a Vanilla Bean
8 eggs
3 egg yolks, extra
punnet strawberries  or mixed berries to serve

  1. Place eggs, extra yolks, vanilla and sugar in bowl. Beat lightly to combine.
  2. Pour milk and cream into a saucepan.  Bring to scalding point. Cool slightly and pour into egg mixture stirring quickly all the time.
  3. Strain combined mixture into a large jug to remove egg bits.
  4. Put caramel lined pan into a baking dish containing about 2 cms warm water. Pour mixture into pan.  Hopefully the custard mixture reaches the top lip of the pan.
  5. Bake in moderate oven( 170°C to 180°C) for approx 35 mins or until custard is firm.
  6. Cool and refrigerate.

To serve:

  • Dip pan with custard into very warm water to melt a little of the toffee/caramel on the sides. Then place serving plate over the top and flip. This has to be done quickly to catch the runny bits of toffee/caramel. It should pop out easily at that point.
  • Tidy up the plate. Place strawberries in the centre of the creme caramel.  Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve with cream.

It looks sensational and I guarantee everyone will have two helpings!!!

Sausage rolls – Make your own to delight friends and family

These homemade sausage rolls are always a hit.  The secret is using a quality lean beef mince. Serve them for afternoon tea, at a cocktail party or put them in lunch boxes or a picnic – so easy to put together and so versatile and popular. 

Makes approx 24

750g beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon mixed dried herbs or one tablespoon fresh
4 slices bread
warm water
1xpacket of 2-3 quality puff pastry sheets 30cm square, at room temperature
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water to brush pastry
Tomato sauce, optional to serve

  1. Put the beef mince, finely chopped onion and herbs into a mixing bowl.
  2. Cut crusts from bread and put into separate bowl. Pour over enough warm water, just to cover. Stand 5 minutes.
  3. Drain water from bread. Squeeze bread gently to extract water.
  4. Add bread to mince mixture. Mix well. Bread absorbs any excess fat and helps to prevent meat shrinkage inside pastry during cooking.
  5. Cut each sheet of puff pastry in half. Put meat in piping bag without nozzle or use a plastic bag with end cut off.
  6. Pipe meat mixture down one side of  halved puff pastry sheets. Turn edge of pastry over filling then turn again so that filling is enclosed completely and pastry join is on underside.
  7. Place pastry with meat filling on a baking tray. Flatten slightly with back of a large knife. Brush with egg wash of 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water.
  8. Cut rolls into 5cm pieces, separating slightly.
  9. Pre-heat the oven to 250C (475°F). Bake 10 minutes.
  10. Reduce heat to 180C (350°F). Bake a further 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and rest 10 minutes before serving with tomato sauce.

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.

Nougat Tartufi – An Ice Cream Dessert that has it all

This ice cream dessert is one of my family’s favourites – something extra special with the textures of the nuts, the chewy nougat and the velvety chocolate that tastes like more.  Don’t store in freezer for more than a week as the nuts do go soft and then it is not quite so good.

Serves 8-10

3L softened – not melted – vanilla ice cream
75g slivered almonds, toasted
75g hazelnuts, sliced
200g dark chocolate, melted
270g nougat, finely diced
4T honey

  1. Fold nougat and nuts gently into ice cream. Swirl melted chocolate through.
  2. Place in individual serving dishes. Alternatively place in two small loaf tins(25cmx8cm) or one larger loaf tin.
  3. Unmould and serve sliced as is or with mixed berries.

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.
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