Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus and Rum Sauce & Baby Bananas



Rum and Ice Cream photoI just arrived back home from my three months in Paris. There are things I miss about Paris – the opportunity to speak French, the street markets, the fresh fish markets and some of the quaint ancient streets. I especially remember the relationship with my local Paris fishmonger who advised me to begin filleting  my Turbot “with the white side facing up’ so you can more clearly identify where the backbone is.” But it is always good to be back home.

While in Paris, I had been introduced to several recipes using dried Hibiscus flowers and decided to give this a go. “Where in the world am I going to find dried Hibiscus flowers?” I asked myself. I looked out the window to my front yard and there was the answer: I already had a ready and willing Hibiscus plant, ready to give up its pretty red flowers (however you can buy them at your local wholefoods store or on Amazon).

Hibiscus flowers will give a delicious fruity taste to your recipes and are good for lowering your blood pressure and your cholesterol. Give it a try!

When using Hibiscus flowers in a recipe, you first need to remove the stamens and then dry the flowers. I dried mine by first pulling the flowers apart and then placing them in a low oven at 200 F (100 C) for 30 minutes. I then turned off the oven and let the flowers sit for another 30 minutes to completely dry out.

                        Hibiscus Flowers Hibiscus whole

You then re-hydrate the flowers by placing them in boiling water and letting them steep (or infuse) in the water for at least 15 minutes, then straining out the flowers. You can either just drink this Hibiscus ‘tea’ on its own or use it as a base to flavour other dishes, which I have done here for my recipe ‘Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus Rum Sauce & Baby Bananas.’  


Vanilla Ice Cream with Hibiscus and Rum Sauce and Baby Bananas
Serves 4
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  1. Vanilla Ice Cream to serve 4
  2. 2 cups (5 g) dried Hibiscus flowers
  3. 1 cup boiled water
  4. 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  5. ½ cup orange juice
  6. 30 ml rum
  7. 1 cinnamon stick
For the sugar syrup
  1. ¼ cup sugar combined with ¼ cup water
  1. Grated lime zest
  2. Raspberries or strawberries
  1. To dry the Hibiscus flowers, place the petals on a tray and heat in oven at 200 F for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the flowers in the oven for another 30 minutes to dry.
  2. Place the dried flowers in a cup of boiled water; add the grated ginger and let steep (infuse) for at least 15 minutes. Strain the flowers and ginger from the liquid. Add the orange juice to the Hibiscus liquid; place in a saucepan and over medium heat, reduce to ¾ of the original volume.
  3. To make the sugar syrup, add ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup water together in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens a little.
  4. Add the rum and cinnamon stick to the Hibiscus/orange juice mixture and gradually add some sugar syrup until the sauce sweetens to your taste.
  5. To assemble the dessert, add some of the Hibiscus sauce to the bottom of a serving dish. Slice each baby banana in half and place several slices vertically on the side of each dish. Add the vanilla ice cream in the center of the dish, add some more sauce on top of the ice cream. Add some grated lime zest and top with either a raspberry or strawberry.
  1. Omit the rum if serving to children.
  2. The sauce will thicken more when allowed to cool to room temperature. Add more sugar syrup to the Hibiscus sauce if you wish to thicken it further.
G'day Soufflé
 Rum and Ice Cream 2


Verrine with marinated shrimp, artichoke hearts and garlic mousse

    Verrine 1 of 1

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I updated my blog but I’ve been Sooooo Busy lately-      I just graduated from Superior Cuisine at the Le Cordon Bleu school in Paris! This course was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Not only did we have to attend 30 demonstrations and practical classes, but we had to design a menu for our final exam and execute it in 4 hours (and write up a dossier in French describing our ingredients and technique). Here is a picture taken of me at the graduation ceremony with my favourite chef, Marc Vaca.

I did it!

LCB Graduation chef Vaca

What is a picture of a verrine doing at the top of my blog page? Well, for my recent final exam at Le Cordon Bleu, we had to invent a verrine using ingredients from a prescribed list. I had never heard of a verrine before coming to Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu school, but they have become popular in France over the past 10 years, and have now made their way to the U.S. and other countries.

What is a Verrine?

A verrine is layered food presented in a glass, usually for an appetizer or dessert. It can be served hot or cold, but if you’re presenting a hot verrine, be sure to use an ovenproof glass without a stem. Verrines are a great way to show off your creativity by using different colors and textures and you can even introduce an element of surprise for your guests (maybe add a quail’s egg at the bottom of your verrine)?

For my verrine, I used marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts nestled in a tomato concassé base and topped with a delicious garlic mousse. We also had to garnish the verrine with a croustillant, or something crunchy, so I used potato chips that I cut in a waffle shape using my mandoline slicer. If you’re not a fan of garlic, don’t be turned off by the garlic mousse. The garlic is first roasted in the oven and the pulp is then folded into some whipped cream with a pinch of salt- producing a nice mild flavour.

So, here is my verrine recipe for Marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts with concassé tomatoes and garlic mousse. The recipe serves 4 people.

Step 1: Roast the garlic head for the garlic mousse

Pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Slice off the top of a garlic head, revealing a little of the insides of the garlic cloves (a bread knife is handy here). Remove some of the papery outer layers. Brush the top of the garlic head with some olive oil, cover with aluminium foil and bake in the oven until the garlic softens, usually about 30 – 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

Cut off top of garlic head, brush with oil and bake in aluminium foil Verrine Garlic  Step 2: Marinate the shrimp and artichoke hearts. While the garlic is roasting in the oven, marinate the shrimp and artichoke hearts. (For my exam, I had to cook my artichokes from scratch in order to get the artichoke hearts, but you can buy them in a jar in a supermarket).Best to use raw shrimp: remove the heads and shells of 4 shrimps or prawns and then coat both the shrimp and 4 artichoke hearts in olive oil and the juice and zest of one lemon. Let marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes (longer, if possible).

After the shrimp are marinated, pan fry them in a little butter for a few minutes until cooked through and then chop them into small pieces.

Step 3: Prepare the Tomato Concassé

Tomato Concassé refers to tomatoes that have been skinned, seeded and chopped into pieces. For detailed instructions on how to skin and seed tomatoes, click here.  Add 4 diced tomatoes to a saucepan and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon and 4 tablespoons of white wine to the mixture. Season with salt and pepper and simmer until the mixture becomes soft. Add some water to the pan if the mixture becomes too dry. 

 Step 4: Prepare the Garlic Mousse

Squeeze the garlic pulp out of each garlic clove and mash into a smooth paste. Whip 90 ml (3/4 cup) of thickened cream with electric beaters until stiff peaks are formed. Gradually fold in the mashed garlic paste into the cream until the mixture is smooth. The garlic taste should not overwhelm the mousse; adjust the amount of garlic paste accordingly. Add a pinch of salt.

Step 5: Prepare the Waffle-shaped potato chips

Peel a small or medium potato. Slice thin pieces using a mandoline; I used a special attachment on my mandoline to produce a ‘waffle’ pattern. Fry the potato chips for several minutes in hot oil until they turn a golden brown.

 Step 6: Assemble the Verrine

Place the tomato concassé mixture in the bottom of the verrine and add several pieces of the chopped shrimp and diced artichoke hearts. Spread some garlic mousse on top and finish with several potato chips and a piece of coriander on top.

Verrine 1 of 1

Lobster Chartreuse – from my Paris balcony



It’s not easy photographing food inside a small Paris apartment. I don’t have the advantage of the large expanse of light coming in from my living room window in Australia. There’s just a small kitchen window here next to my work bench and when the sun passes over this area, I then walk 15 steps to the other side of the apartment to catch the light from my little front balcony. So it’s here that I photographed my next dish Lobster Chartreuse.

This recipe is an adaptation from a dish we learned during the advanced course at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school. We weren’t told why it is called ‘Lobster Chartreuse’. Chartreuse is the name of a liqueur, however we didn’t use any of that in the recipe. Anyway, it’s a catchy name, so let’s just leave it at that.

This recipe pairs freshly cooked lobster and a rich sauce with fresh fruit and candied orange and lemon peel.  It appeals to most of the senses: visual, smell and most of all, taste- so you can have it all!

I used fresh lobster that I bought from my local Paris fish monger, but you can use already prepared lobster meat. The recipe is a bit fiddly, requiring making a fresh sauce and then assembling the carrot and radish pieces inside the ring mold. But, if you want to impress your guests or family on a special occasion, this is it! 



  • 1 Lobster (live or fresh)
  • 1 large leek (white part)
  • 1 long daikon radish or 2 smaller round ones
  • 2 carrots
  • softened butter for the ring molds

For the Mousse stuffing

  • 60 g white fish meat (raw)
  • 1 egg white
  • 60 ml cream
  • salt/pepper

For the candied orange and lemon peel

  • 1 orange
  • 1 lemon
  • syrup

Lobster Sauce

  • shells from the lobster
  • green part of the leek, chopped
  • 1/2 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • tomato paste
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 150 ml fish or chicken stock
  • salt/pepper


  • 100 g baby spinach leaves
  • candied orange and lemon peel


  • Prepare the lobster: there are several ways to ‘terminate’ a lobster, but I used a large knife to cut through its head. Separate the head from the body and then separate the large claws from the body. Place the body and claws in boiling water; cook the body for about 5 minutes and the large claws for about 7 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool.
  • Remove the meat from the body and tail section by turning it over and cutting through the lobster’s ‘underbelly’ using kitchen scissors and then removing the meat.

Cut through ‘underbelly’ of lobster to remove the meat

Lobster (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

  • To remove the meat from the large claws, some people advise cracking them open using the back of a large knife. This didn’t work for me since the claws were very thick and hard. Instead I cracked them open by using a medium-sized rock from the garden (smashing down on the claws). My husband gave me this brilliant idea, I was at a loss of what to do next!
  • Prepare the lobster sauce: chop up the green leafy part of a leek, then dice 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 onion and 1 tomato. Add these ingredients to a pan with hot oil, then add the lobster shells. Lower the heat and stir until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato paste, white wine and fish (or chicken) stock. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes. Strain through a sieve and then reduce the sauce to about 50% of its previous volume.

 Add the lobster shells to a pan with the vegetables, wine and tomato pasteLobster 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

  •  Prepare the candied orange and lemon peel: cut the orange and lemon peel into very fine julienne slices. Bring to boil 1 cup water with 3/4 sugar to form a syrup. Cook the orange and lemon peel in the syrup until they become soft and candied.
  • Prepare the mousse stuffing: place the raw white fish (I used whiting) into a blender, along with the egg white, salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth then add the cream. The stuffing should hold together like a smooth paste.
  • Slice the white part of a leek into thin circles about 1/4 inch wide. Place them in a single layer into a pan with a little butter and water. Cook them over low heat for several minutes until they are softened.
  • Slice the carrots and daikon radish into thin strips about 1/2 inch wide and the height of your ring mold. Cook in simmering, salted water until the veggies are cooked ‘al dente’- with a bit of a crunch still remaining in the texture.
  • Assemble the ingredients in the ring mold: butter the inside of your ring mold with softened butter. Place the mold on top of a piece of plastic wrap and then cut a circle of baking paper to fit the bottom of your mold. Place the carrot and radish strips vertically inside the mold, alternating between the two and overlapping the strips. Bring the plastic wrap to fit up over the sides of the mold. You will be placing this mold into a warm water bath (bain marie) to cook the lobster chartreuse.

  Alternate the carrot and daikon radish strips inside the ring mold

  • First, place a layer of the cooked white leek circles on the bottom of the mold, then add a layer of the mousse stuffing, followed by a layer of loose lobster meat (retain the meat of the lobster tail and claws to decorate the plate). Add a bit of the reduced lobster sauce the repeat the whole process.

Layer the inside of the ring mold with white leeks, mousse stuffing and lobster meat.

  • Finish with a thin layer of the mousse stuffing on top. Bake in a bain marie 180 C (360 F) for about 15-20 minutes until the top part of the mold becomes firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool for several minutes and release the lobster chartreuse from the  ring mold.

Finish with a layer of mousse stuffing on top- place in bain marie to cook in oven

  • To plate the dish, add a layer of cooked baby spinach on the plate. Place the ring mold on top of the spinach and gently remove it. Place some of the candied orange and lemon pieces on top, lay the meat from the lobster body and claw on the side of the plate. Place a few orange slices on the side and arrange some of the reduced sauce around the lobster pieces.






My Paris- Quail stuffed with shitake mushrooms with sweetbreads and glazed onions



DANS LE FOUR, MADAME- DANS LE FOUR!” the French Chef shouted at me during my class at the Paris Cordon Bleu School. We were making ‘Quail stuffed with shitake mushrooms with veal sweetbreads and glazed pearl onions.’ I was late in putting my quail in the oven to cook and the supervising chef was telling me to hurry up and put it in the oven (le four) to cook.

But who could blame me for being late when we had so many steps to complete for this dish! First, we had to de-bone a quail, which almost required the skill of a micro-surgeon. Have you seen how tiny a quail is?

A lot of poultry in France is sold with the head of the bird still attached to the body, so the customer can readily see what kind of bird you are buying. So my quail arrived at my work station with its head still in tact. I stroked the feathers of the head and they felt so soft, compared to the rest of the body. I hesitated, almost not wanting to wake up this ‘sleeping bird.’


Quail 2 of 2) (1 of 1)

After removing the head, we cut out a small hole in the backside of the quail and pulled out the heart, liver and all of the other insides and then removed the ‘wishbone’ (if you can find it). Then taking a paring knife, we delicately reached inside the quail and scraped the meat away from the bones, without tearing the skin. This was not an easy feat, but my mission was accomplished- at the end, my quail looked like a tiny ‘quail suit,’ empty of its bones (except the leg bones, which were left in).

De-boned Quail – ready to be stuffed

Quail 3 of 3) (1 of 1)

We then trussed the bird using a 10 inch long trussing needle- it seemed rather ridiculous using such a large needle to truss such a small bird, but we’re all here at Le Cordon Bleu to learn new techniques, right?

The final dish included the quail stuffed with diced shitake mushrooms and chicken livers and also veal sweetbreads cooked in a delicious braising liquid. This braising liquid included a mirepoix of diced carrots, celery and onions, red wine, veal stock and was also flavoured with the quail bones. Sweetbreads (ris de veau) are made from an animal’s pancreas or thymus glands. I’m usually not fond of organ meat, but this tasted delicious when served with the sauce made from the reduced braising liquid.

Sweetbreads – from animal’s pancreas or thymus glands

SweetbreadsAnd what was the overall verdict for this dish? I usually don’t care for quail too much, since there is not very much meat on this bird. However, the shitake mushroom and chicken liver stuffing ‘plumped up’ the quail nicely and added a delicious texture to the dish. Yes, I’ll be trying this dish again one day, but next time I’ll be sure to put the quail earlier dans le four!

You can also serve the quail cut in half to reveal the stuffing

Quail (4 of 4) (1 of 1)

 P.S. Please also refer to my post Julia Child’s Boned Duck Baked in Pastry.



My Paris: Sea Bass Coulibiac + Tomatoes Stuffed with Broccio Cheese


Fish Pie (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

My next lesson at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris was given by Chef Patrick Terrien, who will be retiring next week after 15 years at the school. Yes, we will miss him!

The recipe here is Sea Bass Coulibiac and tomatoes stuffed with Broccio Cheese (Bar en croute facon coulibiac, avec tomates farcies au broccio). Coulibiac (or ‘fish pie’) is a Russian-inspired dish included in Escoffier’s famous cookbook, “The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery.” Reportedly, Russians used to put various ingredients in their pie, like cabbage and sturgeon, but we used Sea Bass and even hard-boiled quail eggs.

It’s a truly delicious dish, especially when served with a creamy beurre blanc sauce.

First, we gutted and filleted a 1 kg (2.2 pound) Sea Bass, a fish with a nice flaky texture and thankfully, not too much ‘pin boning’ required.(It still takes me about 10 minutes to fillet a fish, while professionals do it in less than 2 minutes)!

 Fish Pie (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

We then made a yeast dough, letting it double in size, before rolling it out in a rectangular shape.Fish Pie (3 of 3) (1 of 1)Next, we made a delicious filling made of rice, fresh tarragon, diced salmon, diced mushrooms and fresh quail eggs. The filling was then layered with alternating rows of the sea bass fillets. The quail eggs are optional, but they do look ‘cute’ when you slice into the pie and see them hiding there! The layered filling is then wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, cooled in the fridge and then unwrapped on top of the dough.

 The dough is then folded inwards, starting with one long edge and followed by the two sides. We then added some dough decorations, brushed the dough with water or egg wash, then baked in the oven for 35 minutes.

 Fish Pie ( 9 of 9) (1 of 1)

 This dish is then topped off with a delicious beurre blanc sauce and served with  tomatoes stuffed with Broccio cheese. Broccio cheese is a soft cheese from Corsica, but you could also use Ricotta cheese instead.

Fish Pie (1 of 1) (1 of 1)

And what was the result from my class practical? The chef said my dish was ‘delicious’ but scolded me for not keeping my work station clean. No matter how hard I try, it seems that liquids keep on bubbling out of my pans onto the stove surface- impossible to keep immaculate!

Please join me later for my next blog, Boned Quail stuffed with Shitake Mushrooms!






My Paris- John Dory Fillets with red spices, wild rice and tropical fruit


John Dory( 4 of 4) (1 of 1)

This was our first Practical class in Cuisine at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu school. First, we watched a 2.5 hour demonstration (“demo”) followed by a 2.5 hour practical session held in a smaller room with 10 stoves. I was rather nervous beforehand; I wanted to make sure I got a good position at the communal work station, which would be close to the dish washing station. Otherwise, you have to traipse across the room to frequently get your pots and pans washed by the plongeurs. Yay, I was able to get a good spot!

The dish that we prepared today was John Dory fillets with red spices, wild rice with tropical fruit and red kidney bean “French fries” (Effeuillée de Saint-Pierre aux Épices Rouges, Riz Sauvage aux Fruits Exotiques, Frites de Haricots Rouges). This dish doesn’t sound ‘French’ I hear you say? Well, we’re now getting into fusion cooking in the Superior class, working with influences from other types of cuisines. (I have a feeling I may have seen the last of heavy French creams and buttery recipes? Maybe not)!

For this recipe, we had to first cook Wild Rice, which we were told was not a member of the rice family, but is actually a grain. This was then blended with some diced papaya and mango fruit. Then we were each given a John Dory fish to fillet (called Saint-Pierre in French). Thank goodness the fish had already been gutted, but we had to each completely fillet the fish ourselves. This was not an easy task since this fish is rather big (1.5 kilos or 3.3 pounds) and has a very tough exterior and big back bone. No dramas here- I got this task done alright.

John Dory Fish (Saint-Pierre)

John Dory( 3 of 3) (1 of 1)

We then had to make a sauce for the fish, flavoured from the fish bones, onion, garlic, diced papaya and mango, white wine, lime juice and Tandoori spices. I like tropical fruit, so this sauce was a nice variation from the usual buttery French sauces often used in fish recipes. The sauce was reduced, then finished off with some diced cilantro and a little butter to thicken.

For an added touch, we made some red kidney bean ‘French fries.’ This consisted of puréed kidney beans rolled into a ball shape, then breaded and deep-fried. These were then placed on the plate as a sort of decoration. Frankly, I thought these ‘French fries’ were a bit strange. Instead, it would be better to use puréed potatoes in place of the kidney beans- why mess with ‘French fries’ by changing the consistency to red kidney beans?

All in all, the dish had a interesting fruity taste, which contrasted nicely with the wild rice (riz sauvage). And thanks to one of my classmates who helped me at the last minute to get my food plated up in time!

During the class demonstration, the chef also made a dish called Smoked Surf and Turf Duo, which consisted of smoked eel, salmon, vainaigrette dressing, a sauce and Beetroot Mousse which was sprayed from a siphon ‘whipped cream’ dispenser. The topping almost looks like cherries (which I love) but is actually sliced beets.

John Dory (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

Please join me for the next blog of my Cordon Bleu experience: Sea Bass Coulibiac with Tomatoes Stuffed with Broccio Cheese.
















Hello from Paris!

Paris Sights 6 of 6) (1 of 1)

 I finally arrived in Paris to start my 10-week course in Advanced Cuisine (Superior Cuisine’) at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. God, it’s a long ways from South Australia, with 20 hours of flying and a 6-hour layover in Singapore. Needless to say, I’m a little nervous since it’s been two years since I completed the Intermediate Cuisine course here. Most of the other students in my class have already been cooking together for the past 6 months, so I hope I fit in alright!  

My Paris apartment is located in the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondisement, an area which also includes the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Gardens. Every morning I take an early morning walk up the Rue Mouffetard, an ancient Roman street with an open air market and lots of food shops. During my walk, I descend the hill towards the Seine River and behold the wonderful site of the Notre Dame Cathedral, a 20-minute walk from where I live.  

The view from my Latin Quarter Paris apartment Paris apartment vue Rue Mouffetard in the early morning Rue Mouffe Morning Notre Dama Cathedral- almost 1,000 years old! Paris Sights 8 of 8) (1 of 1) But I’m here in Paris to cook and eat, right? One of my favourite Paris markets is the one located at Boulevard Raspail, open three times a week. There are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables with an organic market on Sundays. This market is well-known for the vendor with potato pancakes, which is still on my ‘must taste’ list!

An added bonus is you can easily walk from this market to Gertrude Stein’s former apartment at 27 rue de Fleurus, where she lived with Alice B. Toklas for almost 40 years. As I walked past her apartment recently, the door to the lobby was open due to renovations. I slipped inside the lobby ‘sight unseen’ and was honored to be able to walk in the same hallowed halls as Picasso and Ernest Hemingway, who regularly visited Gertrude to discuss art and writing.

Gertrude Stein’s former apartment at 27 rue des Fleurus

Gertrude Stein

Nearby Gertrude Stein’s apartment is the well-known bread bakery, Poilâne, located at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi. Their signature sour dough bread is baked in a wood-burning oven and  is made of 4 ingredients: sourdough, stoneground wheat flour, water and sea salt from Guérande. It carries the signature mark P for Poilâne and each loaf weighs about 4lbs or 1.9kg. That’s a lot of bread and should last at least one week!

Poilâne Bread Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Poilâne Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Poilâne Bakery at 8 rue du Cherche-Midi

Signature Poilâne bread baked with letter ‘P’

Signature Sourdough bread with signature 'P'

Signature Sourdough bread with signature ‘P’

Walking back from the Poilâne bakery to my apartment, I passed by the Sadahuru Aoki patisserie on the Boulevard de Port Royal, founded 15 years ago by the Japanese pâtissier of the same name. Aoki’s philosophy to baking is simply stated:

“Creating something delicious. To achieve this goal, it is essential to maintain simplicity.” – Aoki

And I certainly knew where he was coming from. I entered his store and bought one of his delights called Sensuelle. consisting of layers of ganache and flavoured mousse set on a base of textured biscuit and topped with a miniature macaron.

Sadahuru Aoki Patisserie- Paris

Paris Sifghts (2 of 2) (1 of 1)

 Layered Pastries topped with a mini Macaron

Layered pastry topped with a mini Macaron

Layered pastry topped with a mini Macaron

With my belly full after visiting several of Paris’ culinary delights, it was back to my Paris apartment to rest before starting my course in Superior Cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Please follow my blog as I present photos and recipes from my 10-week course at LCB!

Pear and Frangipane Tart with Apricot Glaze

    Pear Tart Cropped I’ve recently been so busy that I haven’t been able to post many new recipes on my blog. I’ve been busy with studying two university courses in French language, teaching French cooking classes and getting ready to leave for Paris soon to complete the 10-week Advanced Cuisine class at Le Cordon Bleu. (I also just finished reading Julia Child’s wonderful book, My Life in France). Sounds like I may have some sort of addiction to French things? So what better way to celebrate than with a Pear Tart filled with an almond-based frangipane and topped with an apricot glaze! I’ve always loved the way the sliced pears are layered in this recipe – it takes a little time, but it’s worth it.

There are three stages to making this recipe:

  • making the sugar crust pastry and blind baking it
  • preparing the frangipane filling made with ground almonds and then baking it inside the prepared tart shell
  • lightly poaching several pears and then layering the thin slices on top of the frangipane filling- then topped with a final apricot glaze.

So let’s get started.

Step 1: Prepare the sugar crust pastry (Pâte Sablée) A Pâte Sablée pastry is just like a short crust pastry, except an egg and sugar are added. The addition of the sugar makes it more difficult to roll the pastry because it can break a part more easily. Make sure your dough is thoroughly chilled before you roll it out. If the dough does break, try pressing the broken pieces together with your fingers. Otherwise, you can skip trying to roll out the dough and just press the dough into the sides and bottom of your tart pan, using your fingers. Makes one 9 inch (23 cm) tart Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 9 tbsp. butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 egg
  • additional cold water, if required

Pre-heat oven to 180 C (360 F). Add the flour, sugar and salt to a large mixing bowl. Cut the cold butter into cubes and then add to the dry ingredients. Rub the butter and flour together briskly between the palms of your hands and tips of your fingers until it becomes like sand. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the egg – blend well using a large spoon. Transfer the ingredients directly onto your benchtop (kitchen counter) and form into a rough ball. Using the heel of your hand, push a small part of the dough along the surface away from you, then regather the ingredients into a ball shape. Repeat several times until the ingredients are thoroughly blended and you form a nice, round ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour (or in the freezer for 10 minutes).


 Step 2: Roll out the dough and blind bake

Next, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a lightly-floured work surface, ending with the dough at least 2 cm larger than your tart pan with removable bottom. Fold the dough in half and transfer to the tart pan, unfold and then press the dough gently against the sides of the pan. Roll a rolling pin across the top of the pan to remove the excess pastry. Prick the bottom of the pastry with the ends of a fork. Cover the bottom of the pastry with a large sheet of parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw beans and then blind bake for 15 minutes at 180 C (360 F). The crust should be a light biscuit-brown color. Remove from oven and let cool.

   Step 3: Prepare the Almond Frangipane Filling Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 1 tsp corn flour (corn starch)
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 200 grams dark cooking chocolate (optional)

Combine the butter and sugar in a food processor until smooth. Add the ground almonds, flour and corn flour and pulse until combined. Add the egg and extra egg white, vanilla and almond extracts and blend until very smooth. Melt the dark chocolate in the microwave or in a bowl placed over a pan of simmering water. Spread the chocolate on top of the prepared pastry shell that has been blind-baked. Now add the frangipane custard on top of the chocolate layer and bake at 180 C (360 F) for 20 – 25 minutes until the custard is cooked until medium brown in color. Pear Tart (4 of 4) (1 of 1)  Step 4: Poach the Pears and arrange thin slices in circular pattern on top of tart.  Ingredients

  • 3 medium ripe pears
  • 3 -4 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice with some lemon peel
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the Apricot Glaze

  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1 tbsp. water or Cointreau

Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice and peel, cinnamon stick and vanilla extract in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil. While the liquid is heating, peel and cut the pears in half. Remove the stems and core then place the pear halves in the water and reduce heat to a simmer. Poach the pears for about 6 – 10 minutes until they are tender when pierced with a knife, but still a bit firm. Do not overcook; they must still hold their shape. Remove the pears from the liquid and let cool. Slice them into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick. Arrange the fruit on top of the tart in an overlapping circular pattern and top with a strawberry (optional). Heat together apricot jam and water (or Cointreau) in a small saucepan until warm and smooth. Brush the glaze over the top of the tart, including the pears and exposed frangipane. Serve warm or at room temperature.   Pear Tart (3 of 3) (1 of 1) Pear Tart Long Cropped

Shane Delia’s Smoked Turkish Salad with Halvah and Macadamias


Smoked Turkish Salad (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

I’ve never smoked so much in my life – the good kind of smoking, that is! I recently attended Shane Delia’s ‘Smoking in the Kitchen’ master class at Adelaide’s Tasting Australia event. Shane taught us how to make a Smoked Turkish Salad with halvah and smoked macadamia nuts. Halvah means ‘sweet’ in Arabic and is made from sesame flour and honey. Halvah is very sweet, indeed, but if you use it sparingly, it provides a wonderful contrast to the other flavors in this recipe. The crowning touch is the Turkish Black Chilli sprinkled on top of the salad, giving it a gentle fruity, peppery flavour.

Shane is the chef/owner of the restaurant Maha in Melbourne, renowned for its modern Middle Eastern cuisine. He was also the host of his own TV show called Spice Journey, which led his viewers on a delightful culinary journey through the Middle East, including Lebanon and Iran.

Shane and Me

Shane and Me

 First, Shane taught us how to smoke the macadamia nuts, Turkish bread and salt flakes using a smoking box filled with smoking wood chips or saw dust (I used hickory saw dust for my salad). To add further flavor, I added some sage leaves on top of the saw dust. (Note: you can buy the smoking box and saw dust at Barbeque specialty stores, such as Barbeques Galore in Australia and the USA).

 Smoking Box cropped

Next, place the smoking box directly on top of the stove top (glass top stoves are easiest, but you could also use gas or electric grill stoves). After several minutes, ribbons of smoke will start to rise from the smoking box- wait another 3 – 5 minutes until smoke really starts to billow.

Then, place the smoking box inside a pan large enough to hold your macadamia nuts, salt flakes and Turkish bread. Immediately cover the whole pan with aluminum foil and wait at least 15 minutes until all ingredients have been smoked. (I recommend taking the pan outdoors while it smokes).

Smoking Box in Pan

Next step is to coarsely grind the macadamia nuts with mortar and pestle. Sauté two  shallots in a pan with some butter, add 40 ml red wine vinegar to the pan, along with the crushed macadamia nuts and some fresh torn sage leaves. Simmer for several minutes.

Now you’re ready to assemble the salad. In a large bowl, add enough salad greens to serve four people. Add 2 -3 tablespoons of olive oil to lightly coat the salad mixture. Now add the shallot/macadamia nut mixture from the pan, some ham pieces (I used torn Serrano ham), small pieces of the smoked Turkish bread and a little bit of crushed halvah.

Finally, cap the salad with a poached egg and sprinkle the smoked salt flakes on top of the egg, along with some Turkish Black Chilli. This is a wonderful substitute for pepper- it has a gentle heat, a slightly fruity flavour with some chocolate undertones. If you can’t find this chilli, then you can substitute fresh ground black pepper. Serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

Note: you can buy Turkish Black Chilli online from or

Turkish Black Chilli

Turkish Black Chilli

 Smoked Turkish Salad (2 of 2) (1 of 1)


Smoked Turkish Salad with Halvah and Macadamias
Serves 4
A delicious Middle Eastern salad with smoked macadamias and halvah
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For the Smoking Box
  1. Wood chips or saw dust for smoking
  2. Sage Leaves (optional)
  3. Salt flakes placed in small container
  4. 100 grams Macadamia nuts placed in small container
  5. Slab of Turkish Bread
For the Skillet
  1. 1 tbsp. butter
  2. 2 shallots, finely chopped
  3. Ground macadamia nuts (smoked)
  4. 40 ml red wine vinegar
  5. Several torn sage leaves
For the Salad
  1. Mixture of Salad Greens to Serve 4
  2. 2 - 3 tbsp. olive oil
  3. Serrano ham pieces (or other ham)
  4. Small amount of crushed Halvah
  5. Smoked Turkish bread pieces
  6. Shallot/Macadamia mixture from pan
  7. Salt flakes and Turkish Black Chilli
  8. Poached Eggs
To smoke the ingredients
  1. Fill the smoking box 1/2 full with either wood chips or saw dust. Refer to the directions provided by the manufacturer. Add some torn Sage leaves on top (or orange or apple peel) for additional flavors.
  2. Place the smoking box directly on top of the stove burner. Wait for several minutes until the mixture starts to smoke, letting it smoke for an additional 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from heat using an oven mit.
  3. Place the smoking box inside large pan holding the macadamia nuts, salt flakes and slab of Turkish bread. Immediately cover the entire pan with foil and let smoke for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Remove macadamia nuts from pan and coarsely crush using mortar and pestle.
For the Skillet
  1. Over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp. butter to pan. Gently sauté the diced shallots, then add the crushed macadamia nuts, red wine vinegar and several freshly torn sage leaves. Let simmer for several minutes.
To assemble the salad
  1. Add salad greens to a large bowl, enough to serve four
  2. Add enough olive oil to lightly coat the salad greens (2-3 tbsp.)
  3. To the salad, add some ham pieces, a small amount of crushed halvah to taste and the shallot/macadamia mixture from the pan. Break the Turkish bread into small pieces and add that to the salad.
  4. Serve the salad into 4 separate bowls. Add a poached egg on top of each serve. Garnish with the smoked salt flakes and some Turkish Black Chilli or freshly ground pepper.
  5. Salad can be served warm or room temperature.
G'day Soufflé


Soft Ricotta Pancakes with Honeycomb Butter


 Ricotta Pancakes New  Cropped

 Pancakes as soft as pillows- really?  Yep, it’s the Ricotta cheese in this recipe that makes them so soft and delicious. And the Honeycomb Butter adds a ‘gold-flecked crunch sensation’ to this breakfast (lunch or dinner) meal.

I adapted this recipe from Bill Granger’s Bills Sydney Food cookbook- but hey, pancakes don’t only belong to Australian ‘Sydney-siders’, do they? (I thought they were invented by the Americans).!

Don’t swallow these pancakes too fast- you’ll want to savor the combined flavors of the pancakes, bananas, honeycomb and strawberries. And if there is any honeycomb butter left over, you can freeze it and later use it on your toast.

 Ricotta Pancakes New second photo

Method for making the Honeycomb butter


  • 50 g (2 tbsp.) honeycomb
  • 125 g (4 ounces) butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp. honey

Step 1 – Prepare the Honeycomb

For the honeycomb, I used the chocolate-covered honeycomb candy that you buy at the supermarket. First, remove the chocolate coating from the honeycomb  (but you could leave this on, if you want some extra ‘decadence’).

Honey Combe cropped


Step 2 – Crush the Honeycomb using a rolling pin



Step 3 - Place the softened butter, crushed honeycomb and honey in a blender and combine until smooth

Then shape into a ball or log shape and place in fridge until hardened.



Soft Ricotta Pancakes with Honeycomb Butter
Yields 8
Soft Ricotta pancakes that will roll off your tongue - crowned with a dab of golden crunch honeycomb butter
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For the Honeycomb Butter
  1. 125 g (4 oz) softened butter
  2. 50 g (2 heaping tablespoons) crushed honeycomb candy
  3. 1 tbsp. honey
For the Pancake Batter
  1. 1 1/3 cups ricotta
  2. 3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
  3. 4 egg yolks
  4. 4 egg whites
  5. 1 cup plain flour
  6. 1 tsp baking powder
  7. pinch of salt
To serve
  1. 1 sliced banana
  2. Several strawberries
  3. Honeycomb butter
  4. Maple Syrup (optional)
  1. Prepare the Honeycomb Butter (see instructions above). Form into ball or log, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least 1 hour to chill.
For the Pancakes
  1. Combine the ricotta, milk and egg yolks in a bowl and mix with electric beaters or large wooden spoon.
  2. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the ingredients and mix until smooth.
  3. In separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites with electric beaters until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold the egg whites into the batter, using a large spoon or spatula.
  4. Lightly grease a non-stick fry pan or griddle with butter. Drop 3 - 4 tablespoons of batter for each pancake onto the pan, cook on medium heat for several minutes until the underside turns golden brown and small bubbles appear on the top of the pancake. Flip the pancake over and cook the other side until golden brown.
  5. To serve, slice a banana in half length-wise. Arrange the slices on a plate, along with 3 - 4 pancakes. Place several dabs of the Honeycomb butter on top of the pancakes. Garnish with several strawberries and some maple syrup (optional).
Adapted from Bill Granger's 'Bills Sydney Food' cookbook
Adapted from Bill Granger's 'Bills Sydney Food' cookbook
G'day Soufflé
 Ricotta Pancakes New Yes LR