Festive Rocky Road


Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without rocky road.  Thanks to my father’s obsession, rocky road has been a Christmas necessity in my family since I can remember.  And it’s usually one of the first festive delights I make to get me into the Christmas spirit.  Opening the fridge to see a platter stacked high with large shards of deep dark chocolate studded with squishy marshmallows, roasted nuts and glace ruby red cherries lets me instantly know the season of joyful overindulgence has certainly begun.  

This year’s rocky road recipe comes from the queen of fabulous overindulgence herself, the beautiful Nigella Lawson.  You won’t be surprised to hear that one of my many loves in watching the wonderful cooking programs offered up by the food channel and this year’s Nigella Christmas special featured this gorgeous and incredibly decadent rocky road recipe. 


A little touch of Christmas & white chocolate, honey & macadamia panforte

I adore this time of year, I absolutely love it!  All year I long for my opportunity to truly wallow in the Christmas spirit and even though many of the carols claim Christmas involves sipping eggnog, roasting chestnuts by the fire and dashing through the snow, for me Christmas is the smell of sunscreen, mangoes and watermelon, hot sand dashes to the ocean and fighting for prime position in front of the air conditioner. 

With that being said I still hold a very special place in my heart for traditional Christmas cookery...there is something so magical about the merry aromas of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves and their ability to instantly transform your mood from one that resembles the grouchy Grinch to jolly old Saint Nic.  One Christmas classic that I adore has to be fruit cake, however on a scorching summer’s day fruit cake filled with its plump, juicy, boozy dried and candied fruits and heavy Christmas spices no matter how wonderfully Christmassy is completely out of place.  So for me, Christmas cookery is all about finding a balance between honouring tradition and celebrating the beautiful Australian summer.  And this white chocolate, honey & macadamia panforte is a delicious example.


Heavenly Vanilla Bean and Buttermilk Cake

Ah to be back in the kitchen!!  Although 2012 didn’t involve much baking in my kitchen, I certainly had a bun in the oven!  After nine months of vegemite sandwiches, dry cereal, toast and crackers I am very overjoyed, happy and proud to introduce our beautiful little baby girl, Graziella.  And I feel so fantastic to see the return of my appetite and to be back in my lovely kitchen!


A drizzly afternoon and my very rustic banana bread

The weather has yet again taken another cool turn with the past couple of days consisting of overcast, cloudy, gloomy and constantly drizzly weather.   So I figure with days like these I have no other choice but to grab my cardigan, switch the oven on and bake!

Not that I need an excuse to bake but I just find that when the weather is anything but welcoming outside I tend to gravitate home towards the reassuring allure of a comforting warm oven and the smell of wonderfully nurturing baked goods that emerge from it.  There really is no better way to spend a brisk, breezy, rainy afternoon than nestled aside the kitchen bench, serenely stirring a mixture that will soon become a gorgeously fragrant, comforting and very rustic banana bread.


Pistachio Sandies

 I’ve been meaning to share these wonderfully delicious, delicate, melt in your mouth and buttery pistachio sandies with you for a while however each and every time I bake a batch they seem to disappear before I’ve even had a chance to photograph them.  It seems they really are that delicious. 

These little green speckled buttery babies are very much like shortbread.  They possess the same wonderful melt in the mouth qualities of shortbread however are spiked with tiny pieces of wonderfully green pistachio that provides a gorgeous texture making them a fantastic biscuit in their own right.

These sandies are a delight to prepare and in a matter of mere minutes the sweet buttery dough is ready to be rolled and placed into a hot oven.  Fifteen minutes later wonderfully golden sandies emerge smelling of sweet vanilla, all that’s left is for the sandies to be rolled in icing sugar and dipped in an espresso. Enjoy K x

Pistachio Sandies
Adapted from Cannelle et Vanille

115 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup pistachios, chopped
pinch of salt
icing sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 180°C.  Cream the butter and icing sugar together until creamy, light and pale.  Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat to combine.   Add the plain flour, salt and chopped pistachios and mix until combined and dough is formed.  Take tablespoon portions of the dough and form into balls.  Place balls on a baking tray lined with baking paper, leaving a 3 centimetre space between each ball.  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden.  Allow to cool slightly and roll sandies in icing sugar while still warm.


My latest obsession & another heirloom tomato tart

Pistachios have long been one of my favourite ingredients, I adore them.  Another obsession I have, baked fruit crumbles.  I hold a very special place in my heart for a vintage ceramic dish filled with sticky, bubbling, gooey, caramelised fruit baked in a piping hot oven covered in a thick layer of golden, nutty, crunchy crumble topping.  That said a problem I’ve been grappling with of late is how to incorporate my beloved crumble into a steamy, scorching hot summer’s day.  The thought of jammy, sticky, piping hot fruit being retrieved from the oven is completely unappealing, especially considering there are days where the stinking hot temperatures have me believing I in fact live in an oven.  In truth there are days I purposely do not bake because the thought of turning on the inferno oven is utterly unbearable and would resemble a form of torture handed out in Guantanamo bay.


A peachy afternoon

This weekend I wanted to make use of each and every white fleshed peach perched on my kitchen counter.  For the past week R. and I have been trying our best to make our way through the fruit bowl full of the delicious, juicy and wonderfully sweet stone fruit but they just don’t seem to be disappearing.  So I decided a wonderfully relaxed Saturday afternoon spent at home in the kitchen would solve our stone fruit dilemma.


A trip to the market & heirloom tomatoes

‘Wow, look at those beautiful heirloom tomatoes’ I pointed out to R. as we strolled through the sun drenched food market one lazy yet beautiful weekday afternoon.  I immediately plucked the punnet filled with orange, red cherry and purple grape coloured heirloom tomatoes and placed into my almost full basket along with baby zucchini, bunches of asparagus, a beautifully exquisite tin of chestnut puree, a bunch of gorgeously fragrant thyme and a wonderful pale wodge of creamy feta cheese.

Before we’d even had the chance to pay for our gourmet goodies my mind was already at home, pacing through my kitchen plotting various ways to celebrate these wonderful tomatoes.  However my attention quickly returned to the market the moment I spotted a delicious packet of dried figs, yes I’ll have those to I thought.  Thrilled with my purchases I remembered exactly why I adore shopping for food so much, I just love the excitement of planning what to eat once I’ve been newly inspired by what’s on offer at the market.  I find that each and every visit brings with it the discovery of new and wonderful delights to try, an exotic cheese, or a new import of some kind or I have the pleasure of reacquainting myself with old favourites which inspire me more than you could ever know.


Carrot soup and a rainy afternoon

This morning I awoke to a dark, grey and quite grim, cloud filled sky, with no sight of the sun or my beloved summer time heat.  Hmm, what on earth has happened to summer I immediately thought?  She’s completely gone, nowhere in sight.  I reached for my favourite white knitted cardigan and made my way to the coffee machine.  Sipping my morning espresso I looked out at the cloud filled grey sky and suddenly felt grateful for a day filled with drizzly rain, cool breezes and an overcast, sombre, almost autumnal mood.  I immediately opened all of the windows to let the breeze send cool chills through the house and cheerfully embraced the rainy, cloudy weather with an open heart and empty stomach.  My mind then instantly thought of soup.


A sweltering summers day

For the past couple of days a sweltering heat wave has swept over Brisbane bringing with it scorching temperatures and muggy, stagnant, humid air leaving me hot, just a little bothered and craving cool, crunchy, refreshing and rejuvenating summer salads. 

And today this blistering heat has me obsessing over baby fennel, chilled pear sliced paper thin on a mandolin, emerald hued mint, zesty lemon dressings and pink plump figs.  Oh and frozen mango and banana yoghurt, one of the most delicious ways to cool down other than a dip in the ocean.


An island summers day

North Stradbroke Island has been my holiday island escape for as long as I can remember.  As a child each and every Christmas holiday was spent swimming in the crystal blue ocean, fishing for whiting off of the rocks, stumbling up the hill of Cylinder Beach in search of salty hot fish and chips and dawdling along the ocean’s edge collecting shells whilst basking in the hot summer sun.

The smell of watermelon, sunscreen and mango instantly bring me back to my wonderful holiday memories and although we didn’t have the luxury of spending a week on the island this summer, a summer’s day was a delightful consolation.

Straddie is a wonderful escape, with little development the island remains relatively untouched with just enough shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes to suffice the shopping and hunger appetites of enthused tourists and ultra relaxed locals.


A New Year and Apricot, Pistachio & Honey Tea Cakes

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had the pleasure of enjoying a truly relaxing and rejuvenating Christmas holiday!  With a new year brings new hopes, dreams and aspirations.  I have to admit, I truly do love this time of year, I think it’s the childlike amazement and wonder I feel when eagerly anticipating what the new year will bring along with it.  Always an optimist, at the beginning of a New Year, I set my heart and goals towards all of the wonderful things that I wish to come to fruition and I thoroughly enjoy my ritual of sitting down with a cup of tea, my moleskin notepad and jotting down the desires and dreams I wish to pursue during the year.