Sunday, August 28, 2011

Classic Shepherd's Pie

Serves 4


1 tbs olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped or grated
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, trimmed, finely chopped (optional)
500g lamb or beef mince
2 tbs plain flour
375ml beef stock
1 dried bay leaf
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 (about 200g each) desiree potatoes, peeled, chopped
40g butter, chopped
125ml (½ cup) milk
1 tsp parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Melted butter, to brush


Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add lamb mince and cook, stirring to break up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until lamb changes colour.

Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until combined. Add stock, bay leaf, Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile: cook potato in a saucepan of salted boiling water for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain well. Return to the pan with the butter. Use a potato masher or fork to mash until smooth. Add milk and use a wooden spoon to stir until combined. Add Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Remove bay leaf from the lamb mixture then spoon mixture into a 2L (8 cup) capacity ovenproof baking dish. Top with mashed potato and use a fork to spread over lamb mixture. Brush with butter. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until mashed potato is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Notes & Tips

You can substitute the celery in this recipe with some peas instead

For a nicer presentation, you can pipe the mashed potatoes instead of using a fork. You'll just have to allow the potatoes to cool down a bit before putting it into the piping bag

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie

Caught up with some girls from church over brunch and we stopped over at Adriano Zumbo's patisserie at Balmain for morning tea and then an afternoon tea at Adriano Zumbo's Cafe in Rozelle! Pure indulgence, I know!

It was about elevenish when we visited his patisserie in Balmain and there was already a small crowd hanging outside. When we went inside there was an assortment of pastries, breads and perfectly presented desserts.

I had originally picked 5 desserts but in the end decided to not get the chocolate mousse as the shop assistants advised for it to not be left out for more than half an hour. Since the girls and I still had plans to visit the Balmain and Rozelle markets I thought I could pick it up later in the afternoon but alas there was none left! So in the end I purchased a lemon meringue éclair, pear perfection, malteaser and passionfruit/citrus tart.

Lemon Meringue Éclair- as the name suggests, is a cross between a lemon meringue tart and chocolate éclair (two of my favourite desserts combined together). This dessert was simply delicious- the eclair choux pastry was cooked golden, filled with a lemon curd type filling- there were even chunks of lemon inside it which gave this dessert bursts of extra lemon, yum! For the top of the eclair instead of the usual chocolate fondant it was the meringue. It was very moreish!

Pear Perfection- by far the most elaborate looking out of all the ones that I had bought. This dessert was also featured in a pressure test on Junior Masterchef so naturally I was very keen to try this. I have to admit though I was slightly disappointed with this dessert as I didn't taste much pear flavour but having said that, pear isn't a very strong flavour in and of itself so it would've been hard to carry alot of that through in this dessert. As you can see in the photo below, this dessert was perfectly stacked with each layer perfectly defined. You can also see the different techniques and effort that went into making this dessert.

Malteser- This dessert had melted alot by the time I brought it home. In fact, it had collapsed and was a sloppy mess but despite the presentation being lost, the flavours remained intact and they were  fantastic and it tasted as the name suggesed, like those little balls of Maltesers.

Citrus tart- The most unassuming and plain looking of all the ones that I bought but it tasted absolutely delicious! The pastry base was nice, thin and short and the citrus filling was flavoursome and tangy. So refreshing to eat, elegant to look at and simple flavours to enjoy.

Unfortunately there wasn't a huge selection of macaroons to pick from on the day which was disappointing since I wanted to get a pack full of different flavours to share with other friends (I'm personally not a big fan of the macaroon).
Coffee Brulee was by far my favourite flavour out of the entire selection available on the day and as the name suggests it was like a creme brulee only coffee flavoured. Sugar crystals were coated on the outside of the macaroon with a coffee flavoured filling in the middle.
Lemon and Olive Oil- a classic combination flavour that always works well together. Could definitely taste both flavours infused into the macaroon.
Rice Pudding- this really did taste like a rice pudding! And I know what you're thinking 'durrh! That's what it says' but I didn't expect it to taste so much alike. This macaroon had a coating of cinnamon powder on the outside whilst the filling inside was soft and tasted "ricey".
Pear and Vanilla- again I couldn't taste much of the pear flavour in this but you could taste the vanilla. My girlfriends simply loved this flavour.

In the afternoon we decided to pay a visit to the cafe to get a cup of coffee and relax after a day of shopping. To our surprise, the place was a lot more smaller than what we had made it out to be and there really weren't all that many seats to sit on, maybe 9 in total? It was more like a bar with a couple of stools! Having said that though, where you are seated, you have full view of inside the kitchen and where they make all those yummy desserts ready to be delivered to the shops and customers.

I saw Adriano's team of pastry chefs piping macaroons and making various slices and bases. Some customers came to the shop to pick up their orders so I was also able to see 1 croquembouche and 1 macaroon tower. Impressive looking indeed!

Then suddenly, whilst we were enjoying our pastries, we caught a glimpse of the man himself Adriano Zumbo, inside the kitchen giving some directions to his staff. We all giggled hysterically that we caught sight of him and were frantically grabbing our cameras and phones from our handbags to take snapshots of him. Some of the girls were even banging on the window hoping to get his attention. Whilst it would've totally been awesome if we could've all got a photo with him it was still pretty cool that we got to see a glimpse of him in the flesh =)

Next time we're going to try and visit his new shop in Manly! Can't wait to try some more of Adriano's creations.

Adriano Zumbo Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Easy Beans

Budget friendly, healthy and tasty baked bean dish that is easy to make as a mid-week meal.

Serves 2


1 tbsp olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
250ml (1 cup) passata (tomato pasta sauce)
125ml (½ cup) water
1 tbs golden syrup
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
400g can cannellini beans, drained
2 tbs chopped fresh continental parsley


  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add the carrot and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  2. Add passata, water, golden syrup, paprika and cayenne pepper to the pan and stir until well combined. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens.
  3. Add cannellini beans. Turn off the heat and allow the residual heat to cook the beans. Stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on buttered toast or with garlic bread.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chocolate Cake Truffles

I made these chocolate cake truffles for a women's evangelistic event at my church. It was a great night of chocolate feasting and hearing about what the bible and God had to say about the topic of forgiveness.

For these cake truffles be sure to use couverture chocolate and not compound chocolate for a more luxurious taste. Also, be careful to not overheat the chocolate when melting it otherwise it will be clumpy and gluggy making it difficult for you to coat your chocolate cake balls evenly. However, if that does happen, try adding a bit of vegetable oil and it should thin out a bit making it a bit easier to work with.

Warning! These chocolate cake truffles are very rich and not good for the waistline!


1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake Mix)
1 tub chocolate frosting (I used Betty Crocker chocolate frosting)
375g milk chocolate (couverture)
375g white chocolate (couverture)
shredded coconut
chocolate sprinkles
piping bags
icing pens
styrofoam box or old egg cartons
electric fondue pot (if you can afford one)


Bake the cake mix according to package directions. Once the cake has been cooled completely,  process it in a food processor until fine crumbs form. I usually bake the cake overnight.

Transfer to a large bowl and stir in half of the frosting container. You just want enough to get the crumbs to stick together when you roll them into balls.  Do not add so much that the mixture becomes soft and mushy! (The chocolate frosting is what acts as a glue to hold the cake balls together). Use your hands to mix the frosting evenly throughout the crumbled cake mix until the cake mix is well moistened. Your cake mix should be moist enough to shape into a large mound and keep its shape.

Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll 2 teaspoonfuls of cake mixture into a ball. Place on the prepared tray. Repeat with remaining cake mixture. You should be able to get 45-50 cake balls from a single batch of cake mix.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight. I usually do this step the day before and then dip them the following day or for same day results, leave the balls to set early in the morning and dip later in the afternoon.  Do not freeze them before dipping or it may cause the chocolate to crack after they are dipped.

Place the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate melts and is smooth
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on medium for 60 seconds. Stir. Repeat until chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth.

Use a skewer or truffle dipper to dip truffles, one at a time, into melted chocolate to coat. Gently tap the skewer or dipper on the edge of the bowl to allow excess chocolate to drip off.  

Immediately cover with chocolate sprinkles/toppings before the chocolate has a chance to set, then insert in a Styrofoam block or upside down egg carton to harden. (I wrap my Styrofoam board in plastic wrap to keep it clean so I can reuse it).

Notes & Tips

·     Make sure you process the cake to fine crumbs; if there are chunks of cake, the mixture may be hard to roll and your truffles may be uneven and lumpy.
To turn these chocolate cake truffles into cake pops, simply insert a lollipop stick into the base of the cake truffle (the flat bottom end), dip into the melted chocolate, decorate as desire, then once set package in clear cellophane tied with a ribbon. 

You can also pipe patterns onto the top of the chocolate cake truffles if you wish.

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