Surviving the Le Cordon Bleu Superior Final Exam


As some of my readers know, I completed the Diploma of Cuisine at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu School. That was one year ago and the glitz of the graduation ceremony and the after-party has long worn off. However, every once in awhile I think back to the  final practical exam I had to do in order to graduate, remembering the hard work and stress.

For the exam, we were given a list of ingredients required to design a verrine appetizer and a main course with various side dishes. We were then given 4 hours to prepare and execute our dishes in a high intensity atmosphere- for every minute you went over the 4 hours, you were docked 1 point! Adding to the stress was the knowledge that Le Cordon Bleu had failed 9 students at the Paris school the previous semester and 7 students the semester before that. Prior to the exam, I would wake up several times in the middle of the night wondering if I would pass or not- “What was someone MY AGE doing in Paris going through all that stress? Shouldn’t I be home pottering in the garden or perhaps knitting some booties?”

Well, here is my story.

The Ateliers (Workshops)

In order to help prepare us for the final exam, the Cordon Bleu school held two practice workshops (ateliers) several weeks before the exam. For the first atelier, we were required to prepare an appetizer and main course using essential ingredients of sea bream, jumbo shrimp, chicken, avocado and rock melon (as well as 10 other ingredients). The main challenge was to design a dish where all the ingredients fit together, rather than looking like a hodgepodge.

I decided to save the chicken for my main course and use the sea bream and jumbo shrimp for the appetizer. I first filleted the fish, poached it, then placed it inside a ring mold lined on the outside with thinly sliced zucchini pieces. I also placed several drops of coriander (cilantro) coulis around the rock melon to enhance the flavour- I normally don’t like rock melon but this coulis actually made the melon taste good! I also made a smear of white beurre blanc sauce to go on the plate.

I sweated for 5 hours in this workshop without a break and was pretty satisfied with my dishes, but unfortunately the chef cut my work down in about 60 seconds flat.

The Chef’s Verdict:

  • use an odd-number of rock melon pieces (3 pieces) instead of even-numbered 4 pieces
  • he didn’t like the coulis
  • don’t use the beurre blanc sauce, it’s not necessary for the plate
  • the zucchini ring stuffed with the sea bream looked ‘too heavy’ on the plate; being an appetizer, it should be smaller with fewer elements on the plate
  • the thin line of brunoise vegetables on the plate was the only thing he liked!

He was equally dismissive of my main course dish with the stuffed chicken breasts, refusing to even taste my red pepper sabayon sauce! Oh well, I thought, maybe I’ll do better at the next atelier scheduled for two weeks later.

The second atelier workshop didn’t go any better, with the chef telling me several times that I was “failing” since I wasn’t keeping my work station clean enough. This workshop required using sardines as one of the main ingredients, so I decided to copy a recipe that was presented to us previously in the Intermediate Cuisine class last semester. Certainly he couldn’t say anything negative about my dish now?

The chef’s verdict: “Your dish looks like something a 5-year-old could have done!” This chef also told me the following week that I was “too old to do modern plating.” This was during a practical class where I was struggling to plate up a veal dish- finally I just placed everything on the plate and hoped for the best. That he thought I was trying to do “modern plating” was laughable! Whatever happened to the concept of “positive re-enforcement” in the classroom? Anyway, with a lot of negativity surrounding me, I was seriously starting to doubt whether I would survive the upcoming 4-hour superior cuisine exam!

Finally, a breath of fresh air appeared in the form of Chef Marc Vaca! We were now given the list of principal ingredients for our final exam: golden chanterelle mushrooms, a flat fish turbot and shrimp were to be used (along with other ingredients) to design and execute a verrine appetizer and main course (to be plated up and duplicated on four separate plates). We were strongly advised to first discuss our proposed exam dishes with a chef, to ensure we were on track. I asked Chef Vaca to be my adviser and he spent over an hour one evening with me discussing my proposed dishes. He was very enthusiastic, approving of some of my ideas and bouncing off new ones- it was also fascinating listening to him talk about his own past experience with chef competitions. The practice run-through of our final exam was coming up in a few days and I was now starting to feel a bit more confident.

The practice run-through

This practice run-through allowed us to prepare our dishes under exam conditions before the “final day” arrived. My confidence took a nose-dive when I found it took me 5 hours to prepare my dishes instead of the required 4 hours! As one chef said, “if you are late more than ten minutes, then you may as just well go home because you’ll fail!” With only 3 days to go before the final exam, I know I had to do some serious practicing to try and get my routine down to 4 hours. That night, I lay awake with knots in my stomach, wondering how I could shave off one whole hour from my exam.

The next day, I went out and bought all the ingredients to practice my exam run-through at home, including a 70 euro ($100) turbot fish. I tried to think of a mantra that would inspire me during the exam and I came up with a line from a Seinfeld show: “You can do it, and you will do it!” This was the line from Elaine’s psychiatrist, Dr Reston, when he tried to convince her to call Kramer to verify that Kramer was really her boyfriend.

Line from Seinfeld: “You can, and you will!”

Reston photo

When I went through the practice run-through at home, I tried to fillet the turbot in less than 10 minutes, but I just couldn’t mange it, it was such a big fish to handle- but not to worry- I still had 3 hours and 50 minutes left to finish up everything. Armed with my mantra of “You can and you will!” and a fierce determination to finish on time, I was able to finish my run-through in 3 hours and 45 minutes- leaving me enough time to finish and plate up nicely! What a relief and there were no knots in my stomach that night!

Here is a picture of the verrine appetizer that I did for the exam, consisting of garlic mousse on top of marinated shrimp and artichoke hearts, set in a tomato base.

Exam Here is a picture of my main course ‘Turbot with chanterelle mushroom sauce’– however when I added all the other elements to the plate, I thought it looked a little crowded and ‘not pulled together.’

Turbot with chanterelle mushrooms

Turbot with chanterelle mushrooms


Final exam plate

Final exam plate

The Day of the Final Exam

The day of the final exam finally arrived- the school scheduled the students to start their exams spaced ten minutes apart- I was scheduled to start in the third slot starting at 8:30 am. I was afraid that the ‘mean chef’ would be supervising the exam (the one who told me I was failing and that I was ‘too old’ to do modern plating). When I entered the room, I was relieved to see that Chef Vaca would be supervising.

During the exam, everything went reasonably smoothly- no sauces were burned, no fish were ruined due to bad filleting techniques. First off the bat was to get the beets soaking in a vinegar solution in order to pickle them, then to fillet the turbot and prepare a sauce using the bones of the fish, and to roast a whole head of garlic in order to make the garlic mousse (but watch out, the garlic is very hot when trying to handle it). Every few minutes, I said my mantra to myself, “You can, and you will!”

As the four hours was almost up, I found I was racing against time: I would not be able to finish in time to plate up nicely- it would be a dash to just get everything on the four plates. Five minutes before I had to finish, I started to dish up my 4 verrines before turning to my main dishes. Something inspiring started to happen here. A rallying cry came from one of the other students who had just finished her exam, “Come on Fran, you can do it, hurry up!” I was amazed that another student was trying to encourage me. Then another amazing thing happened, the assistant who was assigned to help out and to deliver the finished dishes to the judges also started to yell, “Come on, you can do it!” She even rushed over to my station and helped me to plate up some of my verrines for me. I eventually got everything plated up right on the nose of four hours- not a second to spare. However, I was a little disappointed that I had to leave off a few of the decorative elements on my plates and that I couldn’t do my plating satisfactorily.

After I started to clean up my station in order to leave, I heard the chef yell to a student, “Vous êtes onze minutes en retard!” (you are 11 minutes late!). I felt sorry for him but I later found out that he passed his exam. I wasn’t sure if I had passed or not and I would have to wait 5 days to find out- it turns out that I did pass!

Why have I written so much here about the final exam at the Cordon Bleu School? Perhaps it was to allow me a chance to whinge and to get some things off my chest. But another reason is to encourage you to try to succeed even when others try to discourage you with their negativity. Also to show that other people will willingly rally around you even when you were not expecting it! You can and you will!

Tell me dear reader, have you ever had an inspiring experience or had to overcome negativity from someone?

Chef Marc Vaca and me at the Paris Le Cordon Bleu graduation ceremony






Frozen Chocolate Nougat with Sour Cherry Coulis

You’ll make friends for life with this recipe!

This recipe is a frozen chocolate mousse filled with some soft candied fruit, sour cherries and nougatine, a caramalized mixture of sugar and flaked almonds- a truly delightful dessert!

When you hear the word nougat (pronounced Nu-gah), you may think of the candy made of honey, sugar, candied fruit and flaked almonds- something I wasn’t particularly attracted to as a kid growing up. However, in recent years, chefs have been incorporating the concept of nougat into a frozen chocolate mousse made from whipped cream and meringue- now you can count me in!

When you bite into the frozen dessert, your senses are further awakened by the bright red cherry sauce and the sprigs of fresh mint accompanying the dish.

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A few words about making the Nougatine filling:

First, melt 1 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the 1/2 cup (115 g) sugar and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Watch carefully as the sugar can easily burn.


Next, add the 1/2 cup (50 g) slivered almonds to the pan and stir until they turn golden brown. Transfer the mixture onto parchment paper that has been brushed with some vegetable oil and spread evenly using a spatula.


Let the nougatine cool, then place another piece of parchment paper on top of the mixture and crush coarsely using a rolling pin, rolling the pin back and forth across the mixture.


Note: the recipe calls for filling the chocolate mousse with the nougatine, candied fruit and sour cherries, but you can reduce or eliminate some of the components if desired.


Frozen Chocolate Nougat with Sour Cherry Coulis
Serves 6
A delicious chocolate mousse filled with candied fruit, crushed nougatine and sour cherries.
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For the Nougatine
  1. 1 tbsp butter
  2. 50 g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
  3. 115 g (1/2 cup) sugar
For the Italian Meringue
  1. 200 g (3/4 cup + 3 tbsp) sugar, cooked to 118 C (245 F)
  2. 2 tbsp water
  3. 4 egg whites
For the Frozen Chocolate Nougat
  1. 180 g (3/4 cup) dark cooking chocolate
  2. 450 (3 ½ cups) ml thick cream, whipped
  3. 80 g (1/2 cup) candied fruit, diced
  4. 40 canned sour cherries (‘Morello’ or other kind of sour cherries)
For the cherry coulis
  1. 125 ml (1/2 cup) juice from the canned sour cherries
  2. 2 tbsp sugar
  3. Dash of balsamic vinegar
For the decoration
  1. Fresh mint leaves
  2. Sour cherries
  3. Flaked almonds
  4. Crushed nougatine
To make the Nougatine
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon until the mixture turns golden brown. Add the flaked almonds and stir until they turn golden brown. Transfer the mixture to a piece of parchment paper that has been lightly brushed with vegetable oil and spread evenly with a spatula. Let cool, place another layer of parchment paper on top of the mixture and crush coarsely using a rolling pin.
To make the Italian Meringue
  1. Place the 200 g sugar in a saucepan along with 2 tbsp water. Over medium high heat, stir the sugar until it comes almost to a boiling point, reaching a maximum of 118 C (245 F). In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Gradually pour the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites while continuing to mix with the electric beaters. Continue to beat until the mixture is smooth and shiny, with soft peaks forming.
To make the frozen Chocolate Nougat
  1. Whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form and set aside.
  2. To melt the chocolate, place it in a heatproof bowl that fits snugly over a pot of simmering water. Heat until chocolate is completely melted. Remove bowl from heat, stir in the candied fruit and sour cherries. Now gently fold in the Italian meringue, whipped cream and crushed nougatine into the mixture, keeping the mixture light and fluffy.
  3. Pour the mixture into ring molds that have been placed on parchment-lined baking trays and place in freezer for several hours. Alternatively, you can transfer mixture into several loaf pans (7 inch by 3 inches). Before serving, prepare the sour cherry coulis: heat the juice from the canned sour cherries in a small saucepan, add the sugar and dash of balsamic vinegar, stir for several minutes until the mixture thickens.
  4. To serve, remove the frozen mixture from the ring molds by running a sharp knife around the edge of the mold and ‘push through’ the mixture onto a serving plate. Place some flaked almonds and crushed nougatine on top of the frozen nougat, a sour cherry and a mint leaf. Decorate the edge of the plate with some of the cherry coulis, sour cherries and mint leaves.
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu
Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu
G'day Soufflé

Smoked and Fresh Salmon Roulade with Leeks


Smoked Salmon Mastering Seafood II

This recipe was adapted from my Superior Cuisine Class at the Paris Cordon Bleu School and even though it came from the advanced class, it is pretty easy to prepare, but still mouth-watering delicious. It combines smoked salmon with raw salmon that is first marinated in lemon juice; the citric acids in the juice wind up ‘cooking’ the salmon, so there should be no worries about eating it. All the flavors infuse together nicely: the smokiness of the salmon, the lemon juice, shallots, capers, chives- making this either a nice appetizer or mains for lunch time.

I garnished my plate with several dots of reduced balsamic vinegar and some caviar placed on top of dried coriander leaves- this helps to dress up the plate a bit.

My last post Calamari and Prawn Thai Salad, revealed that I’m in the midst of teaching a class called ‘Mastering Seafood’, so I’ll be teaching this Salmon Roulade recipe to the class. Last week, I gave the class a preliminary taste of this recipe and there were lots of ‘oohs and aahs’ being emitted! It was also great to see some of the students taking their Whole Baked Snappers out of the oven and learning new techniques of making Crab Bisque using the shells of the crabs.

 Smoke and Fresh Salmon Roulade with Leeks (see printable recipe below)


  •  100 g of smoked salmon, thinly sliced
  • 200 g fresh raw salmon, thinly sliced
  • Juice from 3 lemons

 Filling for the salmon roulade

  •  2 hard-boiled egg whites
  • 2 tsp chives, diced
  • 2 tbsp shallots, diced
  • 3 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 1 leek (white part) sliced into julienned strips
  • 1 tbsp butter


  • Slice the fresh raw salmon into thin strips of about 2 mm or 1/8 inch thick. Marinate the salmon in the juice of 2-3 lemons for at least 30 minutes until the flesh turns a light pink. This marinade will ‘cook’ the salmon.
  • To prepare the filling, roughly chop the egg whites from two hard-boiled eggs. Add this to the bowl of a food processor along with the chives, shallots, ricotta cheese, olive oil and capers. Process until smooth and set aside. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Slice the white part of a leek in half lengthwise, then cut into thin julienne strips. Soften the leeks in a little butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop.
  • To assemble the roulade, place the thin strips of smoked salmon on a large piece of plastic wrap set on a work surface, overlapping them to form a rectangular shape about 9 inches wide (23 cm) and 5 inches long (13 cm).

Smoked Salmon

  • Spread the ricotta cheese filling in the center of the smoked salmon rectangle, leaving a margin of about one inch on the sides. Now add the thin slices of marinated fresh salmon on top of the filling, followed by a thin strip of leeks.
  • Lift the edges of the salmon mixture and begin to roll it up into a tight sausage shape, with the plastic wrap remaining on the outside of the roulade. Hold the two ends of the plastic wrap close to the salmon mixture as you roll it into the sausage shape. Tie each end tightly with some kitchen string.
  • Place the roulade in the fridge for at least two hours until the it becomes firmer and the flavors start to infuse together. Slice into rounds about 1 – 2 inches thick and serve on top of a small bed of mixed greens. Decorate the plate with some dots of reduced balsamic vinegar and dried coriander leaves, if desired.


Smoked and Fresh Salmon Roulade with Leeks
Serves 6
A lovely combination of fresh and smoked salmon flavors will leave you wanting more!
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  1. 100 g of smoked salmon, thinly sliced
  2. 200 g fresh raw salmon, thinly sliced
  3. Juice from 3 lemons
Filling for the salmon roulade
  1. 2 hard-boiled egg whites
  2. 2 tsp chives, diced
  3. 2 tbsp shallots, diced
  4. 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  5. 3 tbsp olive oil
  6. 1 tbsp capers
  7. Salt/pepper to taste
  8. 1 leek (white part) sliced into julienned strips
  9. 1 tbsp butter (to cook the leeks in)
  1. Slice the fresh raw salmon into thin strips of about 2 mm or 1/8 inch thick. Marinate the salmon in the juice of 2-3 lemons for at least 30 minutes until the flesh turns a light pink. This marinade will ‘cook’ the salmon.
  2. To prepare the filling, roughly chop the egg whites from two hard-boiled eggs. Add this to the bowl of a food processor along with the chives, shallots, ricotta cheese, olive oil and capers. Process until smooth and set aside.
  3. Slice the white part of a leek in half lengthwise, then cut into thin julienne strips. Soften the leeks in a little butter in a small saucepan on the stovetop.
  4. To assemble the roulade, place the thin strips of smoked salmon on a large piece of plastic wrap set on a work surface, overlapping them to form a rectangular shape about 9 inches wide (23 cm) and 5 inches long (13 cms).
  5. Spread the ricotta cheese filling in the center of the smoked salmon rectangle, leaving a margin of about one inch on the sides. Now add the thin slices of marinated fresh salmon on top of the filling, followed by a thin strip of leeks.
  6. Begin to roll-up the salmon mixture into a tight sausage shape, with the plastic wrap remaining on the outside of the roulade. Hold the two ends of the plastic wrap close to the salmon mixture as you roll it into the sausage shape. Tie each end tightly with some kitchen string.
  7. Place the roulade in the fridge for at least two hours until the roulade becomes firmer and the flavours start to infuse together. Slice into rounds about 1 – 2 inches thick and serve on top of a small bed of mixed greens. Decorate the plate with some dots of reduced balsamic vinegar and dried coriander leaves, if desired.
Adapted from Cordon Bleu Cooking School
Adapted from Cordon Bleu Cooking School
G'day Soufflé

Grilled Calamari and Prawn Thai Salad

Calamari Salad

Mastering Seafood

I’ve just started to teach a cooking class for adults called ‘Mastering Seafood’ and this is one of the dishes I taught in the first class. It’s an easy dish but it let’s you brush up on your technique of how to cut open a calamari (squid) tube, score it and fry it lightly on the stove top.

When you cook with calamari, you can buy a ‘tube’ that has already been cleaned or you can ‘go for broke’ and clean one yourself, slicing off the head, removing the ‘beak’ and cleaning out the innards, etc. I showed the class how to do both techniques but I believe most people would prefer to buy an already-cleaned calamari.

This recipe oozes with flavours: the prawns and calamari are first marinated in a chili, garlic and ginger marinade; then lightly sautéed on the stovetop. They are then layered on top of salad greens that are mixed with some mint and basil; avocado slices and  toasted sesame seeds and peanuts are also featured in this dish.

I also showed the class how to bake a whole Snapper and how to make Crab Bisque (see my previous post ‘Crab Bisque and my blog 1-year anniversary’ for the recipe). I’ll be featuring some more recipes from my ‘Mastering Seafood’ class, so please stay tuned!

(P.S. When I sat down to eat this dish for my dinner, the whole plate fell face down onto the floor- prawns, calamari and everything went ‘splat.’ I remembered something about a ‘5-second rule’ and scooped everything up. It was still delicious! I guess even culinary teachers make mistakes).

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Calamari and Prawn Thai Salad
Serves 4
Delicious prawns and calamari marinated in a garlic, ginger and chili sauce; served on a bed on mixed greens with Thai flavors
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  1. 2 calamari tubes, cleaned
  2. 12 raw prawns or shrimp
For the Ginger and Chilli Marinade
  1. ½ fresh red chilli- chopped finely
  2. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  3. 1 tbsp fresh peeled ginger, chopped
  4. 25 ml olive oil
  5. 25 ml vegetable oil
  6. Salt to taste
For the Salad Dressing
  1. 30ml lime juice
  2. 30ml rice wine vinegar
  3. 30ml fish sauce
  4. 30g palm sugar
For the Thai Salad Greens
  1. Salad Greens to serve 4
  2. Coriander
  3. Thai basil (or ‘regular’ basil)
  4. Mint leaves
  5. 1 spring onion, sliced lengthwise in 3 cm strips
  6. Bean shoots
  7. 1 avocado
  8. 20g toasted peanuts, diced finely
  9. 20g sesame seeds
  1. To make the marinade, finely chop the chilli, ginger and garlic, then lightly sauté the mixture in a little olive oil on the stovetop for about one minute. Transfer to a food processor bowl and purée with the olive and vegetable oils until smooth.
  2. Cut through one side of a calamari tube, open it out and score the inside of the flesh using a diagonal criss-cross pattern (spacing the cuts about 2 mm apart). Peel and de-vein the prawns, leaving tail on. Add the prawns and calamari to the marinade and let set for 10-15 minutes to marinate.
  3. Dry roast (at 180 C) the sesame seeds and peanuts until golden brown- about 5-6 minutes.
  4. To make the dressing, combine the palm sugar, vinegar, lime juice and fish sauce in a small saucepan. Over medium high heat, whisk the ingredients until the sugar dissolves, continue to whisk, then reduce the heat and let the mixture reduce until it thickens a little. Let cool.
  5. Pan-fry the prawns and calamari in a little oil and butter, turning to cook on both sides. Only cook for a few minutes to avoid over-cooking.
  6. To prepare the salad, cut spring onion into 3cm batons and slice lengthways; add to salad greens along with some mint, basil and coriander and toss with about 3-4 tbsp. of the salad dressing (careful not to add too much dressing).
  7. To plate, add a bed of the tossed greens on a plate, add a few bean shoots on top, then several avocado slices. Arrange some calamari slices and prawns on top, sprinkle with some of the toasted sesame seeds and peanuts, then add a few more greens on top.
G'day Soufflé

Brioche with Lemon Curd Filling

Brioche larger

This post has taught me a lesson: never leave your food lying around while you are setting up your food photography shot, or it might get eaten before you’re finished! After setting up my brioche shot, I went away for awhile and when I came back, someone (aka my daughter) had taken a huge bite out of the brioche. Good thing I had a few ‘spares’ lying around. Then, I went away again and found that my daughter-in-law had now taken a huge bite out of the new brioche! I guess brioches are so good that people just can’t help themselves!

Are they bread or pastry?

As I started to write this post, I wondered whether a brioche is considered to be a bread or a pastry? Wikipedia has shed some light on this question, saying a brioche is made in the same way as bread but has a ‘richer aspect of pastry’ due to the addition of the extra eggs, butter and sugar. Whatever brioches are called, I love them; they’re extra light and flaky, no doubt caused by the large amount of butter incorporated into the dough. I added a personal touch to my recipe by adding a dollop of lemon curd in the center of the brioche after being baked. Hmmm, I think my brioche is starting to sound like a pastry, don’t you?

The French typically eat les brioches with jam and butter for breakfast or with a coffee break, but one might be forgiven for waking up at midnight to have a bite or two. Julia Child has a 7-page long instruction on how to make brioches in her book Mastering the Arts of French Cooking but my version is a lot simpler using an electric mixer or food processor.

Brioches are usually made with some sort of fluted tin that flares outward a bit- I used several small tart pans for my brioche with the lemon curd filling and then used a regular cake pan for my larger brioche (with no filling).

The brioche dough is rather wet and gloopy after the first rising so you’ll need to place it in the fridge for several hours (or overnight) to be able to congeal the butter and allow you to shape the dough. After resting in the fridge, the dough is formed into small balls; one ball is first placed in the center of the baking tin, then 5 balls are arranged around it and then one final ball is placed on top. After doubling in size, the brioches are baked in the oven, the ‘top ball’ is then removed and a lovely dollop of lemon curd placed in the middle of the brioche.

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 5 balls are arranged around a center ball, then one final ball placed on topBrioche

Mmmm, les brioches straight out of the oven!


 Large Brioche baked in a cake panBrioche

Brioche with Lemon Curd Filling
Serves 6
A soft, flaky brioche with a sumptuous lemon curd filling.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min
Required Equipment
  1. 4 small tart pans, about 4 ½ (11 cms) inches wide or one large oven-proof bowl
For the brioche
  1. 1 sachet (7 gm) dried yeast
  2. 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  3. 1/2 cup caster sugar
  4. Finely grated rind of 1 orange
  5. 2 1/3 cups plain flour
  6. 3 eggs + 1 extra for eggwash
  7. 6 oz (185 gm) softened butter
For the Lemon Curd
  1. 2 eggs + 2 egg yolks
  2. 3/4 cup caster sugar
  3. 1/3 cup (80 gm) softened butter
  4. Zest and juice from 2 lemons
For the Lemon Curd
  1. Whisk whole eggs, yolks and sugar in a saucepan until smooth, then place pan over a low heat. Add the butter, juice and zest and whisk continuously until thickened. Strain through a sieve into a small bowl and place in fridge until ready to use.
For the brioche
  1. Combine the dry yeast and warm milk in a small bowl; let rest for a few minutes until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add the sugar and orange rind and stir; transfer ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook (or food processor fitted with a 'dough blade’).
  2. Add the flour in 3 batches along with an egg with each, kneading (mixing) until smooth between each addition. With the motor running, gradually add the softened butter and mix for 3-4 minutes until the batter is smooth and shiny.
  3. Transfer to a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap in a warm place until the mixture doubles in size (1 - 2 hours). Knock the dough back down, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and weight the dough down with a plate. Place in fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight.
  4. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for one minute into a ball shape. Divide the dough into small balls about 1 inch wide (the size of the balls will depend on the size of your tart pans or the bowl that you use). Place one ball in the center of your pan, then arrange 5-6 balls around it. Using your index finger, make a small indentation in the center ball; this is where the lemon curd filling will go after the brioche has been baked. Now place one more ball on top of the center ball.Repeat this with the other tart pans.
  5. Cover the pans with a tea towel and stand in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. Brush the dough with eggwash (one egg combined with a little water) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C (350 F) for 20-25 minutes, or until the dough has turned golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Remove the brioche from the tins (or bowl); remove the top ball from the center of the brioche and add a small amount of lemon curd into the center of each brioche. Serve warm on the day of baking or lightly toasted the following day.
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
G'day Soufflé


















Snapper with Mango Salsa – a step in the right direction!


Snapper with Mango Salsa

I’ve been taking Salsa dance lessons recently, loving the Latin rhythms, the hips moving, the quick twists and turns. (Hubby won’t attend the classes with me but reluctantly allows me to teach him a few steps at home). So with the word ‘Salsa’ on my mind, I decided to let this blossom into a recipe for Mango Salsa, served on a moist piece of Snapper. (This wouldn’t be the first time that dance movements have inspired food recipes)!

This Salsa recipe combines mango, red onion, fresh chili, coriander and lime juice- I love the combination of the sweet, sour and spicy flavors of the salsa that go beautifully with fish. On our recent road trip from Adelaide to Western Australia, I made this recipe several times along the way, using fresh Pink Snapper from Western Australia. Although it was Winter on our trip and fresh local mango was out of season, I was happy to see fresh mangoes for sale from Mexico! (See my recent post Australian Outback Adventure: from Adelaide to Ningaloo Reef)

Mango salsa goes well with Snapper, but you could use any white fish with this recipe. Whether it’s dance or food, I think Salsa is the way to go!


Fish Salsa

Snapper with Mango Salsa
Serves 2
A topping made of mango, chili and coriander that will liven up your fish dish!
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  1. Snapper (or other white fish) for 2 servings
  2. 1 mango, peeled and cubed
  3. 1/2 red onion, diced
  4. 1/2 red chili, seeded and diced
  5. 3-4 tbsp. chopped coriander (cilantro)
  6. juice from 1 lime
  7. 1/2 tomato, diced
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C (350 F).
For the salsa
  1. Cut 1 mango into small cubes of about 1/4 inch and place in mixing bowl.
  2. Add the red onion, red chili and tomato to the mixture. Finely chop 3 - 4 tbsp. of coriander and add this to the bowl along with the lime juice.
  3. Mix all ingredients and adjust to taste (you may want to increase the chili if you prefer it spicy).
For the fish
  1. Wrap each serving of fish in foil, season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until the fish is cooked (larger fish may require longer cooking).
  2. Remove fish from oven and top with the mango salsa.
  1. Instead of baking the fish in the oven, you could also pan fry it gently in a little oil and butter. I served my fish on a layer of steamed baby spinach (optional).
G'day Soufflé

Chocolate Kahlua Tiramisu



Tiramisu 1

I think my dessert might be classed as a ‘cheat’s tiramisu’ because I left out the sponge cake or ladyfingers- but it does have a delicious blend of whipped cream and mascarpone cheese layered with coffee-infused melted chocolate and a splash of Kahlua. Oh yeah, we can forget about those lady fingers this time!

Unfortunately, I’ll have to forget about going on a diet for the time being. I gained 6 pounds on my recent 5-week road trip that took us from Adelaide, South Australia up through the coast of Western Australia to Exmouth (see my post Australian Outback Adventure: from Adelaide to Ningaloo Reef). I find it hard to maintain my weight while travelling, with long hours sitting in a car and eating many meals in restaurants. For dinner, I always ordered just one bowl of soup and then ate a few morsels from Len’s dinner in order to cut back, but the weight still kept piling on. Maybe it was all the lobster and oysters I ate on the trip!

But first I’ll eat this delicious dessert and then go on a diet. Tell me, dear reader, do you tend to gain weight when you travel?

P.S. Would LOVE it if you’d Like my G’day Souffle’ Facebook page!


Chocolate Kahlua Tiramisu
Yields 4
A creamy mixture of mascarpone cheese and whipped cream blended with layers of melted chocolate and a splash of Kahlua.
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  1. 1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
  2. 1/2 cup (125 g) mascarpone cheese or ricotta cheese
  3. 1/4 cup (40 g) icing (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
  4. 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  5. 100 g dark chocolate, melted
  6. 2 tbsps. liquid coffee or espresso, cooled
  7. 3 tbsp. Kahlua liqueur (or other coffee liqueur)
  1. Whip the cream with electric beaters until soft peaks form. Fold in the mascarpone cheese and sifted confectioner's sugar, then stir until the mixture is smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the melted chocolate, vanilla extract, liquid coffee and Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur). To serve, spoon 1 tbsp. of the melted chocolate mixture on the bottom of a serving glass, followed by several tbsps. of the cream/mascarpone cheese mixture. Continue alternating layers of the chocolate mixture with the cream mixture, ending with several pieces of chocolate bits on top.
  1. You can substitute ricotta cheese for the mascarpone cheese, if desired.
Adapted from Donna Hay
Adapted from Donna Hay
G'day Soufflé

Spaghetti with Lobster- the Australian experience


Spaghetti with Lobster Sauce

Len and I have been driving through the Australian Outback for the past 3 weeks, part of a 10,000 km round-trip tour from Adelaide, South Australia to Exmouth, Western Australia (see my post Australian Outback Adventure: from Adelaide to Ningaloo Reef). After driving across the treeless, dusty Nullarbor Plain, we finally reached Cervantes, Western Australia– famous for its lobster and fishing industry. I couldn’t wait to pick up a few lobsters so I could try cooking with some of the local produce.

In order to learn more about the Western Australia Rock Lobster industry and to pick up a lobster or two, we first toured the Lobster Shack, a lobster processing plant started by the Thompson family in the 1960s. During the self-guided tour, we learned that the Western Australia Rock Lobster industry contributes about $600 million to the overall Australian economy and is responsible for 1/5 of the lobster output of the country. What impressive stats!

Western Australia Rock Lobsters being processed- “I’ll take that one, please!” photo attributed to

Lobster Shack

The processing of the lobsters is highly automated and driven  by technology imported from Iceland. First, the live lobsters are placed in cold water to stun them and then are placed on a conveyer belt for grading them into different baskets according to their weight. An ‘A-graded’ lobster is the lightest and an ‘F-graded’ one is the heaviest. I was amazed to learn that the whole process is computerized and the conveyer belt ‘knows’ which basket to direct the lobsters to.

Grading the lobsters according to weight- small ones go to the ‘A’ basket and big ones to the ‘F’ basket

Grading lobsters

It turns out that the Japanese prefer the smaller lobsters and the citizens of Dubai prefer the larger 2 kg (4.5 lbs) lobsters. I think I’d go for the larger ones, myself!

The baskets of lobsters are then carried to tanks where they are ‘purged’ for three days- given no food and relying only on nutrients from the water piped into the tanks. The lobsters are then packaged in saw dust and other wrapping material and transported to Perth International Airport, where they are shipped all over the world.

 Holding Tanks where the lobsters are ‘purged’ for three days

 “I’m off to Perth International Airport for shipping to other parts of the world”

With the two lobsters that I then bought, what better way to honor my visit to the Lobster Shack than to make a recipe for Spaghetti and Lobster– to be prepared at my little rented cabin by the beach. Simple enough to be prepared in a small kitchen, yet mouth-watering delicious.

 The Method:

  • To prepare the lobster sauce, detach the tail and claws from the lobster body and remove the meat from them (note: the Western Australia Rock Lobster does not have big claws, therefore there’s not much meat in them).
  • Gather all the shells together and break them up loosely using a rolling pin or meat cleaver.

Breaking up the Lobster Shells

  • Heat the shells in a pan with some oil, then add the leek, onion, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, white wine and chicken stock- let simmer for at least 20 minutes.

  • Strain the ingredients- return the liquid to the pan and reduce to 50%; thicken sauce with cubes of cold butter and season with salt/pepper. Add sliced mushrooms (optional) until cooked, then add the chunks of cooked lobster for a few minutes until re-heated.
  • Serve the sauce on top of cooked spaghetti and garnish with several parsley sprigs.



Spaghetti with Lobster
Serves 2
Spaghetti with chunks of fresh lobster and a delicious homemade lobster sauce.
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  1. 1 cooked lobster (minimum of 750 grams or 1.6 lbs)
  2. 1 packet of spaghetti (enough to serve 2)
For the lobster sauce
  1. lobster shells
  2. green part of one leek, chopped
  3. 1/2 onion chopped
  4. 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  5. 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  6. 1 tomato, diced
  7. 100 ml white wine
  8. 200 ml fish or chicken stock
  9. 125 cold butter, cubed
  10. salt/pepper
For the garnish
  1. 6 medium mushrooms, thinly sliced
  2. several sprigs parsley
  1. Remove the tail and legs from the cooked lobster- remove the meat and set aside. Crush the lobster shells using a rolling pin or meat mallet.
For the lobster sauce
  1. Chop up the green leafy part of a leek, then add to a pan with some hot oil along with the chopped onion, crushed garlic cloves and 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.
  2. Gradually add the cold butter cubes and stir until the sauce thickens. Add the sliced mushrooms and lobster pieces to the sauce and simmer for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.
  3. Serve the sauce and lobster pieces on a bed of cooked spaghetti. Garnish with several sprigs of parsley.
G'day Soufflé

Australian Outback Adventure: from Adelaide to Ningaloo Reef


Great Australian Bight, South Australia


We’re bound for Western Australia!


One of the advantages of belonging to the ‘Grey Nomads’ set is being able to take off when you want, for as long as you want, to wherever you want (almost).  So Len and I decided to take advantage of our privileged status and set off on a road trip that would take us from Adelaide, South Australia to Exmouth, Western Australia- a round-trip of almost 10,000 km (6,200 miles) that would take us through some stunning Outback scenery.

A lot of Australians huddle close to the large capital cities and rarely venture out into the Outback. I thought it was important for us to experience the vast open spaces of Australia with its miles of flat scrubland, the kind of experience that turns your thoughts inward at times.

Our daughter had lived in Western Australia for 5 years and spoke of places like Monkey Mia and the Ningaloo Reef- located far up the coast from the capital of Perth. Were there really monkeys living on the coast of Western Australia? I just had to see for myself! (ha ha)

In order to travel by car from South Australia to Western Australia, you have to first cross the Nullarbor Plain, a desolate expanse of some 1,100 kms (685 miles). The word Nullabor means “no tree” in Latin, so you can get the drift of what it’s like crossing this vast, treeless, almost mesmerising plain.

Edward Ayers, the first European to cross the Nullarbor Plain in 1841, described the area as “a hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature, the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams.” But he didn’t have the benefit of a paved road or air-conditioned car to travel in, so here are some of the gems that he may have missed:

Head of the Bight, South Australia     Distance: 1,055 kms from Adelaide (655 miles)

Starting from Adelaide, it took us two days of driving to get to the Head of the Bight, SA. Stunning Bunda Cliffs overlook the area where Southern Right Whales breed between June and October each year. These cliffs are made of limestone and form the longest uninterrupted line of sea cliffs in the world.

Nullarbor (4 of 4) (1 of 1)Nullarbor (3 of 3) (1 of 1)

The whale-watching platform is 20 kms off the main road, where you can view the whales doing their tail slapping, blow-holing and belly rolling. We saw one whale with her calf- it’s amazing how these mammals can exist in the ocean. Whales can hold their breath for 15 minutes and even longer for sperm whales.


 Nullabor Roadhouse  1,130 kms from Adelaide

Our first night on the Nullarbor Plain was spent at the Nullarbor Roadhouse- very basic but comfortable accommodation. We were blessed  with lovely storm clouds and a double rainbow at sunset time.

Nullarbor Rainbow

 Cocklebiddy, Western Australia   1,537 kms from Adelaide

After crossing the border into Western Australia, we stayed at a tiny roadhouse in Cocklebiddy- only 8 humans live here and 1.234 million kangaroos. That’s what I call being outnumbered. I was so excited to finally arrive in W.A. that I said to Len, “Are we getting close to the coast yet?” “Heck no, we’ve got another two days of driving yet to go,” said Len. Driving distances between towns and roadhouses can be huge in Australia- I guess that’s why we call this the Outback!

Cocklebiddy SA

 The ‘Longest Straight Road in Australia’   1,602 kms from Adelaide

Arriving at Caiguna, Western Australia, we encountered the beginning of the longest straight road in Australia (ranking number two in the world)- stretching 147 kms or 90 miles of “straight, unaldulterated boringness.” It wasn’t so boring for us, though- we listened to our old CD’s of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and the Kingston Trio. You can definitely tell we’re old throwbacks from the 1960’s!

Straight road

We passed briefly through Gingin, a small agricultural town 92 kms north of Perth. You never know what you’re going to run into when you’re travelling- Gingin was full of purple bras strung out on lines all over town and many women were wearing their purple bras on the outside of their clothing. It turns out that the town was sponsoring a cancer awareness campaign.

Purple bra campaign in Gingin, WA

Purple Bras

After 7 days of travelling, we finally arrived in a small coastal town called Cervantes, Western Australia situated close to The Pinnacles in Namburg National Park. There are hundreds of limestone structures looming up from the sandy floor, created from the breakdown of seashells millions of years ago. We got drenched with rain there but fortunately the storm didn’t last very long.

The Pinnacles


 Pinnacles WA

 Monkey Mia, Western Australia  3,475 kms from Adelaide

On our way to Monkey Mia (pronounced MY-AH), we stopped briefly in Geralton to buy two Western Australian Lobsters so I could make Spaghtetti with Lobster Sauce for our next night’s dinner. Then on to Monkey Mia which confirmed my belief that there are no monkeys living there! The word ‘Mia’ means ‘home’ or ‘shelter’ in Aboriginal language and it’s thought that the town derived its name from a pet monkey that early Malay pearlers owned in the area.

Monkey Mia is known for its Bottlenose Dolphins that come to feed on the shoreline. The dolphin feeding is restricted to three times in the morning so that the dolphins will still be encouraged to hunt for their own food.


Monkey Mia is located on Shark Bay and one of my favourite experiences was taking a 4 km walk through the bush, overlooking the beautiful bay.

Nullarbor Monkey Mia (13 of 13) (1 of 1)

This dolphin came close to our boat as we toured Shark Bay to view various marine life.

Monkey Mia Dolphin

We took a 4WD tour of Cape Peron National Park near Monkey Mia and learned a fascinating detail about this area. In 1818 the French explorer, Louis Freycinet, spent two weeks surveying the area around Cape Peron. One day he encountered the Malgana Aboriginal people living in the area and in order to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, the ship’s artist, Jacques Arago, played the castanets and danced to the rhythms. The Aboriginal elders joined in and danced wildly and the two parties then exchanged gifts. It’s amazing to learn that someone had played the castanets on such an isolated place so long ago!

Cape Peron National Park (near Monkey Mia)  where castanets were played 200 years ago by a Frenchman

Skip Jack Point

After  full day of 4WD touring, a delicious meal of seafood awaited us at the Monkey Mia Resort restaurant. 

 Monkey Mia Cafe

Ningaloo Reef at Exmouth, Western Australia  4,800 kms from Adelaide

Coral Reef located close to the shoreline

ningaloo photo

After 2.5 weeks on the road, we finally reached Exmouth, Western Australia- which is our turn-around point before heading back to Adelaide. Ningaloo Reef is located on the East Indian Ocean and is 260 km long and is World Heritage listed. It is a ‘fringing reef’ which means the coral reef is located very close to shore – I was able to put on my flippers and snorkel mask and wade right out into the coral area, close to the shoreline.

We also took a glass-bottom boat ride that took us further out into the coral reef. Here’s a picture of me donning my snorkling gear before plunging into the pristine water. I was greeted with valleys of exquisitely shaped corals and wondrous flows of different fish- including a sea turtle that floated past.

Fish Monster!

Ningaloo Snorkle

I snorkeled in about 15 feet of water, but I still wanted to hang onto my yellow ‘noodle’ for safety!

 Coral ReefTomorrow we start home to Adelaide. There’s nothing like home, but I won’t look forward to having to change from wearing my shorts here in the tropics to donning my tracksuit in ‘wintery’ Adelaide. I hope you can visit the west coast of Western Australia sometime!











Cherry Cheesecake Dump Cake


Dump Cake (1 of 1) (1 of 1) Dump Cake

The first time I heard of Dump Cake was in the 1970s when I was living in Baltimore. A friend said she was going to bring a ‘Dump Cake’ along to dinner and I was certainly intrigued by the name. Then 40 years later, I decided to buy a cookbook that features over 250 dump cake recipes- yes, it was time for me to take the ‘dump plunge.’

Dump Cakes usually require a 1-2-3 DUMP strategy: first you ‘dump’ a can of fruit or pie filling into a cake pan (but it can be fresh fruit), then you add a packet of cake mix on top, followed by a stick of butter- I can’t think of anything easier! It takes less than ten minutes to assemble and only 20 – 30 minutes to bake.

I find that the texture of a dump cake is crispier and slightly crunchier than traditional cake- almost like a cobbler.

Instead of using canned cherry pie filling, I made mine from ‘scratch’, using drained cherries from a jar, sugar and corn flour (see detailed recipe below). 

For my Cherry Cheesecake Dump Cake:

First I ‘dumped’ the cherry pie filling into a cake pan, followed by slices of cream cheese.

Dump Cake

Then I added a packet of white (or yellow) cake mix on top:

 Finally, I placed 1/2 cup butter slices on top of the mixture, followed by some slivered almonds.

Dump Cake

Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 20 – 30 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Serve plain or with ice cream or whipped cream.

Are you up for the Dump Challenge?

Dump Cake


Cherry Cheesecake Dump Cake
Serves 4
A delicious cake with a cherry and cream cheese filling. Fast and easy!
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
For the cherry pie filling
  1. 4 cups tart cherries from jar, pitted and drained
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 1/4 - 1/2 cup corn flour or corn starch
Remaining ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (125 g cream cheese) cut into small pieces
  2. 1 cake mix (white or yellow cake mix)
  3. 1/2 cup butter, cut into thin slices
  4. 1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional)
To make the cherry pie filling
  1. Drain the cherries and place in saucepan with the water and sugar. Bring to boil, reduce heat and then stir in the corn flour. Let simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens.
  2. Pour mixture into cake pan and add small pieces of cream cheese on top.
  3. Spread the cake mixture on top, then add the thin slices of butter. Sprinkle the slivered almonds on top.
  4. Bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream (optional).
  1. To serve my cake, I added extra juices from the cherry filling as a garnish.
G'day Soufflé