Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sugar & Spice - Easter Brunch

Easter is looming so I have prepared a quick, light, and TASTY Easter Brunch menu which we will share with friends on Saturday. There will be heaps of kids, loads of chocolate and good company so a convivial atmosphere is expected. Oh and don't forget excellent company needs excellent coffee. 5Senses is my favourite coffee - try the AM blend. www.fivesensescoffee.com.au/ and best of all you can order on-line (Not sure outside Australia). I am going to make some bunny biscuits for the kids to ice and decorate and perhaps we can do some rice bubble cakes decorated with Easter eggs. Should be lots of FUN

Easter Brunch Menu
  • Prosciutto, Asparagus & Tomato Tart
  • French Toast with Caramelised Banana, Bacon and Maple Syrup
  • Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
  • Home-made Hot Cross Buns
  • Easter Chocolate Cake

Prosciutto, Asparagus & Tomato Tart

This is so easy and quick and it's super delicious

Heat your oven to 220C while your pastry rests - it is really important to put puff pastry into a very hot oven as this is what causes the pastry to lift or rise.

You will need:

1 Pack all butter puff pastry

A bunch of fresh green asparagus, lightly blanched and sliced in half lengthways

5 Slices Prosciutto OR your favourite cured ham

About a half cupful of Cherry or Rosa tomatoes, halved

1 Cup Mozzarella, grated

1 Egg mixed with 15ml milk (egg wash)


Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet and sprinkle the cheese all over the pastry, leaving a 2cm gap from the edge of the pastry.

Place all the ingredients attractively over the cheese, tearing the ham into bite sized strips

Brush the edge of the pastry with the egg wash

Place the tart in the fridge to rest for 1/2 hour - DON'T FORGET TO TURN ON THE OVEN

Place the tart into the preheated oven and bake 15 minutes at 220 and then turn the heat to 150 and cook another 10 minutes or so until the pastry is golden and well risen and cooked through.

French Toast with Caramelised Bananas, Crispy Bacon & Maple Syrup

I don't think there is anything more comforting or more decadent than this combination. It is definitely my favourite breakfast
EVER. I had this in a little restaurant/ cafe in Notting Hill in London called 202 and this is my attempt to replicate it:

Start with a lovely chunky slices of sour dough bread (their slices were about an inch thick)

1 Banana and 2 smoked bacon rashers per person. (Try to find an organic bacon as I find the commercial varieties full of water and additives and completely flavourless), and finally lashing of Maple syrup. You must use the real thing here - the flavoured syrups simply won't do. I know the real one is expensive but it is so worth the investment I PROMISE and I have a few other recipes up my sleeve where it can be used.
2 Eggs beaten per portion
Butter for frying.

Heat your oven to 100C - to keep the bananas and bacon warm while you fry the toast.
Peel the bananas and slice in half lengthways
Heat a heavy based pan and add a generous dollop of butter and allow it to melt
Place the bananas flat side down into the pan for about 2 minutes or until beautifully golden and then turn them carefully with a spatula and fry the other side - set them aside in the oven.
Grill the bacon until crispy and set aside in the warm oven

Whisk the eggs in a large square flat dish (so you can lay the bread in the egg and turn it over without squashing the sides)

Heat a clean heavy based pan until hot (if it is cold the egg won't brown nicely)
Add a generous knob of butter to the pan and then dip the egg on both sides into the egg (I don't like my French toast soggy so I do this at the last minute) and then place into the hot melted butter and fry. About 2 minutes per side should do the trick.
Place a slice of toast on a gorgeous big whit plate, pile on the bacon and banana and then drizzle with heaps of Maple syrup.

Recipes and Pics to follow!!

As promised here are the pictures and recipes for the rest of the menu, I have to say we had a great day with friends and most importantly the kids had a blast and a complete chocolate overdose so it's chicken nuggets and chips with veggies for dinner!! Watch out for my really easy mid week fish dish.

Ginger & Spice Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns
500g Flour
5ml Salt
50ml Castor Sugar

15 ml Mixed Spice
5 ml Cinnamon ground 25ml Butter 15ml Instant dry Yeast 200ml Luke warm water 1 Egg
150ml chopped crystallised ginger

Slack Dough for the Crosses
200ml Flour
10ml vegetable oil
100ml milk
5ml Baking Powder
Pinch Salt

Sugar Syrup for Glazing
125ml Sugar 125ml Water

Heat your oven to 220C
Sift the flour, salt, sugar and spices together into a bowl and then stir in the yeast

Rub in the butter

Make a well in the flour and add the egg and lukewarm water - don't add all the water at once, you need a soft pliable dough - not too tough and not too sloppy - rather add a little more if needed.

Mix well until the dough is formed and then knead until smooth and glossy

Place the dough in a clean greased bowl and cover with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in volume - this should take an hour in a normal kitchen
Knock down the dough and add the ginger and form the dough into 12 balls and place on a greased oven tray and allow to prove (about 30 minutes)
Make the slack dough by combining all the ingredients to form a thick but runny paste and just before placing the buns in the oven, pipe the crosses onto the buns.
Bake 12 - 15 minutes or until the buns are golden and cooked through
While the buns are baking make the sugar syrup by boiling the sugar and water together until syrupy
As soon as the buns come out of the oven brush them with the glaze.
Serve them piping hot with butter and freshly brewed coffee. Mmmmm

Easter Cake

For this I made a decadently rich chocolate mud cake and then covered it in chocolate ganache and added Lindt bunnies and balls - trying to make a more modern interpretation of the traditional Easter Simnel cake where the 11 marzipan balls atop the cake represent the 11Disciples - (Judas being omitted)


Monday, March 29, 2010

Sunday Evening Dinner - Rare beef Fillet with Parmesan, Pine Nuts & aged Balsamic,

What better place to start than with an easy Sunday dinner, I love doing something a bit more special for the family over the weekend before we hit the drudgery of school, dancing and the hundreds of other daily tasks which eat up - pardon the pun - our time. I have been trying to instil the old fashioned value of all sitting together at the dinner table. This is one of our favourites: Rare Roast Beef Fillet with Pine Nuts, Parmesan shavings and aged Balsamic Vinegar. Served with Yummy, Crispy Parmesan and Basil Roast Potatoes. I enlist the help of Paige our youngest daughter and budding cook.

Beef Fillet

1 Beef fillet - approx 700g (feeds 4 for dinner and a little left over for sarmies during the week)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - some

Cracked Black Pepper - a good grinding to cover the meat

Fresh Garlic Cloves - about 5

Fresh Lemon Zest - from 1 lemon

Rub the meat well with the olive oil, black pepper and lemon zest and place in a marinading dish with the garlic cloves for about an hour and turn from time to time.

TOP TIP: Always cook meat which is at room temperature to get a better end result and then allow to rest at least 10 minutes after cooking.


3 small potatoes per person - my family love roast potatoes (I like the Ruby Lou for roasting, the crisp beautifully and the flesh stays creamy.
Flour for dusting
1/2 Cup Finely Grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
Fresh Basil leaves very finely chopped (about a teaspoon once chopped)
2 Tablespoons butter melted

Heat the oven to 200C

Wash the potatoes and slice in half lengthways leaving the skin on.
Pat dry and then toss well in the melted butter
Toss through the Flour, Parmesan, Basil and Salt.

Place in a roasting tray and bake 40 - 50 mins until crisp and golden.
As soon as the potatoes go into the oven I brown the fillet in a searingly hot pan - my husband calls me Smokey Robinson because I always smoke out the whole house. Use a heavy based pan and allow it to start smoking naturally - DO NOT add oil to the pan there should be enough oil on the meat. Add to the pan and allow to brown very well on all sides

While the meat is browning toast a good generous handful of Pine Nuts - watch them carefully or they burn- and make some Parmesan shavings, a little helper is great for this job.
Once the meat is well browned place into the same tray as the potatoes and roast 20 minutes (Rare). Remove the meat and test for doneness using the touch method - give the meat a good squeeze, if it is bouncy it is rare, the firmer it feels the more "done" it is and then allow it to rest 10 minutes before slicing.
While the meat is resting, toss some Rocket and Baby Spinach with some good Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a little Maldon Salt And place on a beautiful white plate. Add the meat and layer with a little more of the salad leaves, Pine Nuts and Parmesan shavings, and finish off with a good drizzle of Aged Balsamic vinegar

So after all that Paige and I ate alone at the table because Zoe and her dad had gone fishing and she was having such a great time they stayed longer than anticipated, but hey it was still delicious and Paige and I had a great time together in the kitchen. Try this with a good glass of red.