Monday, 21 March 2016

Pears, Pears, Pears, Pear, Avocado and Parmesan Bruschetta

Yes it is pear time! They are ripening beautifully on the trees in my local orchard and with autumn closing in, new seasons pears and apples are flooding the markets.  It's a time to really enjoy these wonderful fruits.

Pears have so many personalities. They can be sweet and 'tarted' up with sugar and chocolate (see my post under Chocolate and Pear Tart ), and with pastry and eggs. They can be mean and savoury in a chutney or pickle or quite refined with a cheese board. 

There's nothing to dislike about pears. Did you know that it was the Romans that first cultivated the pear, and brought it to Europe - as they did with so many other things! Those amazing Romans, is there anything they didn't do?? Although they have been grown in China for around 3000 years.

All pears are low GI, have about 22 calories each, contains vitamin B2, C and E, copper, iron and potassium. And they are delicious to eat just by themselves.
There are many different kinds of pears and each are treated differently in the kitchen, so it is best to find out from your fruit seller which pears are suitable for your recipe. 

So why am I waffling on about pears today? I want to introduce you to one of my favourite fast recipes - Pear, Avocado and Parmesan Bruchetta. A great entree or lunch dish in 5 minutes.


INGREDIENTS - Serves 2 people

1 avocado peeled and mashed
2 pears cored and sliced
shaved parmesan
4 slices of sour dough bread
salt and pepper
rocket or lettuce for garnish
squeeze of lemon

  • Toast the bread
  • In a small bowl mash avocado. Add a squeeze of lemon, salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • Spread toast with mashed avocado, top with 2 or 3 slices of pear. Give another squeeze of lemon to the pear to stop it browning.
  • Top the pear with shave parmesan and add rocket or shredded lettuce. You can serve with some extra lemon quarters.
Its as simple as this, now eat it and enjoy it.

Monday, 7 March 2016

It's Nearly Easter - Simnel Cake

First Christmas, then Valentine's Day and then it's all guns blazing to Easter although I think the traditional chocolate eggs appeared straight after Christmas in Adelaide.

It's the beginning of March and by now you are probably fed up of the range of sugary treats available for Easter. It's hard not to be tempted by so many different shapes and sizes, but if you check the sugar content in them, it may stop you in your tracks. 

Not content with it's push for the chocolate Bilby, Australian Easter chocolate now stretches to a chocolate wombat, koala, ladybug and duck. It seems so utterly pointless to me! Easter is Easter Eggs! So let's just be done with it.

I'm choosing not to eat chocolate,  so I've decided to go with a traditional Easter cake, the Simnel Cake. This is a VERY fruity cake with marzipan, on the top and on the inside. It is a cake that is traditionally eaten in parts of Europe, England and Ireland and keeps well (unless you have friends like mine.)

The top of the cake is decorated with marzipan balls - 11 in total which represents the 12 apostles -  minus Judas! I'm not religious at all, but I do like this cake and marzipan is one of my favourite flavours. And I'm no longer eating chocolate!!!!!!!

What's your favourite Easter treat? I'd love to hear from you.

You can vary the fruit in this cake to suit what you have available as long as the quantities remain the same.



You will need to use a cake tin with a removable base approx 20 cms in diameter. Grease and line the base and sides with a double layer of baking paper to avoid the cake over cooking and drying out.

160g plain flour
80g glace cherries
80g almond meal
160g currants
160g sultanas
160g raisins
160g soft brown sugar
80g candid peel
3 large free range eggs
juice and zest of an orange
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground mixed spice
160g soft butter
pinch salt
400g Marzipan 
Icing sugar for dusting
1 tablespoon warmed Jam or marmalade 

Place all the fruit and peel into a bowl, pour over the orange juice and set aside for a few hours or overnight if possible. This will allow the fruit to plump up with the juice.

Add sugar and butter to a large bowl and beat together for about 4 minutes until light and creamy. Add beaten eggs a little at a time and beat well between additions until all is incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together all the dry ingredients; flour, spices, almond meal, salt. Add the dry ingredients to the fruit mixture and mix thoroughly until all is well combined.

Put half the cake mixture into the prepared tin. Using icing sugar, roll out 1/3rd of the marzipan and lay on top of the cake mixture, now place the rest of the cake mixture on top. Smooth the top, leaving a little dip in the centre.

Bake in a preheated oven 150ยบ fan forced/300F/gas 2
for 2 - 2 ½ hours until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes then turn onto a rack to cool completely.

Once the cake is cold, spread a tablespoon of apricot jam or marmalade on the top of the cake. Make 11 small balls to top the cake and roll out the rest of the marzipan and place this on top of the cake. Place the small balls along the edge of the cake, securing them with remaining jam.

Heat a grill or use a domestic blow torch to lightly brown (burnish) the top of the cake (see photos).