Friday, December 21, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special - Italian Christmas Cake

This little recipe was one handed down from my nona and is traditionally known as Italian Christmas Cake.  I love all the Christmas flavours in this cake, the cinnamon, anise, brandy, hazelnuts, chocolate - it's just delicious!

Italian Christmas Cake


  • 185g sultanas
  • 1/4 cup marsala or brandy
  • 250g almonds
  • 125g hazelnuts
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 250g candied peel
  • 125g bitter chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125g sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed anise seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 60g butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g mixed glace fruits

Soak sultanas un marsala or brandy overnight.

Place roughly chopped almonds and hazelnuts with pine nuts, candied peel, chocolate and soaked sultanas in a large bowl.   Add sugar and mix together.

Mix flour, spices and baking powder together and blend into fruit mixture.

Heat honey and butter together in a small saucepan until butter melts.  Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs together until light and fluffy then beat in honey and butter mixture.  Pour over fruit mixture and fold together until well amalgamated.

Transfer the mixture to a 25cm greased tin, pressing down well.  Slice glace fruit into smaller pieces and arrange in a pattern over surface.   Bake in oven preheated to 180 degrees celsius for 45 to 60 minutes.  Allow to cool on rack or in tin.

You can pur a little extra marsala or brandy over the top of the cake when still warm if you want a little extra punch!

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special - Golden Baked Apples

Apples inspire the most traditional of Christmas images for me...along with cinnamon sticks!  Here's a little recipe for Christmas that combines both...

Golden Baked Apples


  • 6 Golden apples
  • 90g brown sugar
  • 60g chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 60g butter
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Core apples.

Combine brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon and half the butter in a mixing bowl.

Stuff apples with the mixture.

Place in an ovenproof dish with lemon juice mixed with with a little water in the base.

Dot  surface with remaining butter.

Bake in oven preheated to 180 degrees celsius for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes.  Test with a skewer.

Serve hot or cold.  It is nicely plated with a scoop of ice cream or cream!

Cocinar, comer y ser felix,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special - Festival Fruit Cake

We're on our last few days of our Christmas special and it seems fitting to finish it off with traditional fruit cakes.

Today's recipe is for a Festival Fruit cake which is unusually light.  You should ideally make it a week before you want to serve it.

Festival Cake


  • 185g glace pineapple, chopped
  • 185g chopped mixed peel
  • 60g shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecan nuts or walnuts
  • 1/2 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
  • Apricot Jam
  • Halved pecan nuts or walnuts
  • Glace cherries

Combine pineapple, peel, coconut and nuts, add 2 tablespoons of the flours, sifted together and toss well.  Beat together butter, sugar and eggs at high speed on mixer for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the rest of the sifted flours alternately with the pineapple juice.  Lightly fold in the fruit mixture and spoon into a greased 20cm x 10cm loaf tin, lined on base with greaseproof paper.

Bake in a slow oven for 1 1/4 hours (150 degrees celsius) or until well done when tested.  Put aside until cold.  War, the apricot jam , push through a sieve and brush over cake.

Decorate with the nuts and cherries!

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special - Apricot Ice Cream Savoiardi Dessert

When the days get a little warm, there are times you want to eschew the heavier puddings and reach for some ice cream.  This dessert elevates that one step by creating a gorgeous looking dessert which matches the joy of it's burst of sunshine look with taste!

Apricot Ice Cream Savoiardi Dessert


  • 1 litre vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
  • 150g packet of sponge fingers (savoiardi)
  • 425g of apricot halves (whole if available)
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • Whipped cream (to garnish)

Pack ice cream into a 4 cup, straight sided mould (a 1 litre yoghurt container is ideal).  Unmould on a chilled serving plate.

Quickly press the sponge fingers onto top and sides of ice cream to cover completely, cutting to fit where needed.  Place briefly in the freezer.

Drain apricots, reserving 1 tablespoon of the syrup.

Heat reserved syrup with jam over low heat until melted.

Brush over sponge fingers until all is absorbed.  Freeze.

Just before serving arrange apricots and swirls of whipped cream around the base.


Cocina, comer y ser feliz!

Monday, December 17, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Fig and Prosciutto Roses

Taking a little time to make some decorative plates can make all the difference to a Christmas table, but keeping it simple is just as important.  The days are hectic enough as it is!

These lovely little starters for the table are a nice way to ease into the festive foods!

Fig and Prosciutto Roses


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • 4 slices prosciutto ham
  • 8 small, fresh, ripe figs (when fresh figs aren't available you can substitute with dried figs or cherry tomatoes as well as rockmelon)

In a shallow dish combine vinegar, lemon juice and seasonings to taste.

Cut each slice of prosciutto lengthwise into 2 strips, add oil to the mixture and marinate for up to 1 hour.

Wash and wipe figs dry.  With a sharp knife, cut each from ti to almost through to base into 8 segments, gently press open into petals.

Drain strips and roll each piece into a rosette and place in centre of the figs.  Serve straight away.

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Creamed Potatoes and Ham

When you have lovely BBQ lunches over Christmas, or roast some lovely hams or meats there's nothing lovelier than a creamed potato dish to accompany the joy!  For a vegetarian version replace the Ham with capsicum or mushrooms.

Creamed Potatoes and Ham


750g of medium potatoes
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
3/4 cup cream
250g thinly sliced leg or shoulder ham
3 eggs, beaten

Cook potatoes in boiling, slated water until tender but still firm.  Drain and cool.

Peel and slice thinly.

Arrange a single layer of potato slices at the bottom of a lightly buttered round baking dish or casserole.  Sprinkly lightly with salt, pepper and half the cheese, our i half the cream.

Layer remaining potatoes, alternately with ham to fill the dish, ending with potatoes.  Sprinkle again with salt, pepper and remaining cheese.

Beat together the eggs and remaining cream and spoon over all.

Bake in a moderately hot oven (190 degrees celsius) until eggs are set and top is bubbly and browned.  Around 25-30minutes.  Serve hot!

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Chocolate Pear Mice

It twas the night before Christmas and all the through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a Chocolate Pear Mouse!

I love these little gems for the Christmas table. Kids love the fun and adults just adore the clever way to combine juice pears with delicious chocolate!!  You can't go wrong!

Chocolate Pear Mice


  • 6 firm small pears
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 100g of chocolate buttons to melt
  • Pink marshmallows
  • Cachous (silver like sprinkle shaped balls)
  • 2 strips of flat licorice

Wash and dry pears, remove stem and bud end.  Slice in half and remove the core.  Brush with lemon juice.

Set pears flat side down on a wire rack over a tray to catch drips.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or a bain marie until melted.

Paint or spoon melted chocolate over pears and leave to set.

Cut 12 fine strips for licorice tails.  Decorate with remaining licorice for whiskers.

Use marshmallows cut into tiny pieces for ears and coloured cachous for eyes, I like pink!

Keep i cool place or in a container in fridge.

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Chocolate Peach Hedgehogs

Christmas without chocolate would be sad!  After our delightful Chocolate Cherry Cake we can add a few more fun chocolate goodies to the table.  Today we'll make some gorgeous Chocolate Peach Hedgehogs!

Chocolate Peach Hedgehogs


  • 6 firm peaches
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 200g of chocolate buttons to melt
  • 100g of chocolate chips
  • Jelly Beans 

Wash peaches and dry well.

Cut off a slice to give a flat base.  Brush cut edge with lemon juice.

Place peaches on a wire rack set over a tray to catch drips.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or a bain marie until melted.

Paint or spoon melted chocolate over the peaches.  Leave until just setting.

Decorate each peach with the chocolate chips so they form spines of the hedgehog.

Attach two eyes and a nose with your favourite coloured jelly beans, I like to use golden jelly beans for eyes and a black snout.

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Chocolate Cherry Cake

Cherries dominate the Christmas table!  They are juice and red and you can use them to decorate and provide delicious morsels of freshness to any fruit platter.

But what happens you combine Chocolate and Cherries?  Christmas Magic!

Chocolate Cherry Cake


  • 90g butter, softened
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs separated
  • 90g toasted ground hazelnuts
  • 185g good quality dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 450ml thick cream, lightly whipped
  • 500g cherries, stoned
  • Ground cinnamon and cocoa powder

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add egg yolks one at a time beating until thick.  Beat in hazelnuts, alternating with chocolate.

Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form and fold lightly into chocolate mixture.

Grease and flour a 23cm springform tin and line the base with some baking paper.

Pour mixture into the tin and bake in a preheated oven (170 degrees celsius) for about 1 hour or until risen and set.

Allow to sit in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool.

When cake is cold, slice in half and spread top surface of both layers with cream.  Slice one third of the cherries in halves and place on lower cake layer.  Cover with the top layer and arrange remaining cherries in circles on the cream, leaving space between cherries.  Dust the surface of the cake with cinnamon and cocoa.  Keep in the fridge until ready to serve!

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Seasoned Veal Roll

Our Christmas meat fest continues today with the Seasoned Veal Roll.  What I love about this one is that you can eat it hot or cold and it makes for wonderful Boxing Day leftovers!

Seasoned Veal Roll


  • 750g veal topside steak in one piece (ask butcher to cut in half  horizontally for you)
  • 1 cup fig chutney
  • 1 cup fresh soft breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 30g butter

Take your veal and open out to form one large flat piece.

Combine chutney, breadcrumbs and pine nuts; spread mixture evenly over meat.

Roll, swiss roll fashion, from one long end; tie securely with string.

Heat oil in roasting tin over direct heat; add butter, and when foaming, add veal and brown well on all sides.

Place tin in a moderate oven (180 degrees celsius) bake until veal is tender, about 50-60 minutes.

Serve hot or cold with vegetables or a lovely fresh side salad.

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12 Days of Christmas Special: Beef Provencale

I remember the Christmas table, filled with delightful treats and beautiful meat dishes.  In the next Christmas special posts I'll be sharing with you some of my mum's classic recipes for the Christmas table!

Beef Provencale served with a delicious salad or potato salad was always one of my absolute favourites!

Beef Provencale


  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 x 2kg piece fresh silverside
  • 4 medium sized carrots
  • 2 medium sized onions
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup beef stock
  • 1/2 cup red burgundy or claret wine
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 12 large green olives
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cut garlic into slivers, make slits here and there in the meat and insert a sliver in each.

Tie meat to keep in shape.  Cut carrots into thick slices or small wedges and chop the onions.

Heat about 3 tablespoons oil in a large pan, add the meat and slowly brown all over, sprinkling lightly with sugar half way through.  Remove from pan, add carrots and onions and let these cook gently for 3-4 minutes.

Pour oil from the pan, add peppercorns, the parsley, bay leaf and sprig of thyme tied together (or dried thyme) tomatoes (sieve if you don't want the seeds), wine and stir well.

Replace meat, cover pan and cook gently for 1 3/4 to 2 hours or until tender.  Turn the meat and baste frequently with the liquid in the saucepan.

Once cooked, put the meat and carrots on a platter, remove string from meat, keep hot.

Strain the stock into a small saucepan and re-heat, add the cornflour mixed to a cream with water.  Cook, stirring until boiled, add the olives and simmer for 3 mintes.  Pour some over meat and carrots. Lovely with baked potatoes or a fresh salad!

Cocinar, comer y ser feliz!

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