On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

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Pumpkin, Kumara and Feta muffins

This was the final baked item I had for Mum’s birthday afternoon tea. While I could happily be left in a corner nibbling on sweet cakes and slices, I know it’s not for everyone. I am slightly jealous of people who know when enough is enough, or are just as happy to eat something savoury and pass on the sweet treats.

I wish I had that sort of willpower.

I searched online looking for a nice recipe. I’d just bought some paper muffin paper and was hoping to use them, you know, to make them look like the type of muffin you’d buy in a cafe.

I didn’t use the papers, as you’ll see.

Savoury muffins aren’t something I go in search for so I was a little lost when deciding what ingredients I would put together. Sundried tomato and ham seemed like a good idea to me.

Then I came across this recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks.


The story is quite fascinating. I had no idea Savoury Muffins weren’t everyday cafe food in every corner of the world. But it seems New Zealand, and Australia, are the only countries you’ll find a good selection of savoury muffins alongside sweet muffins.

I changed the recipe only slightly, by that I mean I added some Kumara (sweet potato).

I think they look great. The veg while roasting smelt so nice. I used my fancy Lemon and Mandarin Olive Oil to roast them in. They’re very colourful, and they had a nice consistency.

This is one occasion that I wished I hadn’t been so precise. The feta on top of the muffins would have looked far better crumbled rather than my very meticulous cubes.

I totally agree with Heidi’s comment, these are best served just warmed. I didn’t, I had them cold, but had eaten one warm. The warmth makes a difference. So you’ve been warned Winking smile




And a final note. There were muffins left over, and while Mr Fussy is not at all keen on pumpkin, and even less keen on kumara he wanted to wrap some up to take for lunch the following day. That’s progress.



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Black Forest Cake: An update

I made my Mum a BFC for her birthday this month. I started out having a practice run which you can read about here.

The changes I made are:

  • Warm the eggs by whisking them over boiling water.
  • Use the correct Kenwood attachment, you know, the one designed to put air into eggs.
  • Soak the cherries in the Cherry Brandy – not convinced this added anything to the flavour.
  • Use all of the syrup – new pastry brush helped keep my impatience in check.
  • Spread two of the layers with Barkers Cherry Jam – that certainly helped the cherry flavour along.
  • Buy proper chocolate. The recipe didn’t call for baking chocolate but because I was melting it I thought it was baking chocolate. Wrong! I used Whittakers but can’t remember if it was 50% or 72%.
  • Load up a layer with cherries, so the layer is completely covered.
  • I put a lid on the syrup straight away and used all the Cherry Brandy left in the dish the cherries were soaking in.



I was much more happier with the second attempt. Mark was keen to eat the cake and it taste so much better.

And although my Christchurch family joined us for the afternoon tea, there was plenty of food left. And half of this cake.

The left overs went next door. My neighbour returned the cake stand the following day to tell me that when she was a teenager, she had a German student staying with her family. The student made them a BFC. And as she recalls it, my cake was every bit as good.

Here’s a bunch of photos of the process this time around.





I preferred the photos prior to placing the cherries on top. Possibly because I hadn’t drained them properly and the juice swirled round the rosettes I’d piped. Of course had it been the right season I’d have had fresh cherries with stalk intact.


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Alfajores, with Dulce de Leche, of course

If you’ve been following along you know that I’ve made Dulce de Leche. Obviously I could just spoon the stuff into my mouth and get fat from all that goodness, but it was probably a more sensible (boring) idea to use it in baking.


Paula of Vintage Kitchen Notes had made Alfajores, using her Grandmother’s recipe no less.

Alfajores are an Argentinian sweet treat. Paula lives in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina. Of course other countries are also known for Alfajores too.

My first and only encounter of Alfajores was at Patagonia Chocolates in Queenstown. The one I had, though called an Alfajore, was a chocolate biscuit completely covered in dark chocolate. That set the scene for what I expected this recipe would yield.

The biscuit I made was completely different, a much more firm biscuit yet so much lighter. The one from Patagonia was almost like a the base of a slice than a biscuit.

I started out making this recipe the way Paula described. By hand you cream the butter and sugar. I tried, I really did. I worked hard and it was tiring and my shoulder was protesting. And I reasoned that Paula’s Grandmother probably didn’t have the luxury of a hand mixer or cake mixer and I felt certain she wouldn’t mind if I dragged mine out to get things moving along a bit quicker, and without so much grumbling.

This is like no other biscuit I have ever made. And the idea of rolling the mixture out like pastry and cutting it into rounds was really novel. I didn’t even own a straight biscuit cutter until Friday.

I felt my pastry was a little on the sticky side and added two more tablespoons of cornflour, and then it all just came together perfectly, just as Paula had described.


My oven cooks too fast so I didn’t need to bake these as long as Paula had suggested, but then she said they need only be barely coloured. So when the biscuits reached that point I knew they were ready.

Putting them together, to make a sandwich was dead simple.

The biscuits is usually rolled in finely chopped nuts or coconut. Since Mr Fussy wont eat nuts and isn’t keen on coconut I dressed them up a little by dipping some of them into chocolate.

I can’t quite describe the flavour of the biscuits. The Cognac we had (which we didn’t even realise we had) was flavoured with Passionfruit juices, pink Grapefruit and Mango. Sounds like a bit of a hodge podge. No wonder I’m struggling trying to describe the flavour of the biscuits.

They are quite crumbly. Don’t eat them without a plate, or suffer the consequences of vacuuming, or finding a dog to eat the crumbs off the floor.

I hope I made them right, but I can’t be sure because the one Alfajore I have had before was never going to be a good comparison.

I enjoyed making something quite different. And we’re still snacking on them. I think I would have ended up with around 25 complete biscuits i.e 50 odd single biscuits.

You can find the recipe here:

Alfajores by Vintage Kitchen Notes




A few last comments. As you’ll notice if you go to Paula’s post, the Dulce de Leche that comes from NZ Highlander Condensed Milk doesn’t really look the same as what I’ve seen elsewhere. The richness in colour and the thickness in consistency just doesn’t eventuate from boiling our Condensed Milk. I’m convinced, now that I’ve tried two different brands, that Condensed Milk is not the same worldwide.

I guess the next step is to make it from scratch by boiling down milk. I might try it one day, but it’s a long process that can take more than an hour, and during that time you need to be watching the pot all the time. You know what it’s like when you boil Milk. The moment you take your eyes off the pot it’ll boil over.

Mr Fussy also commented that he couldn’t really get a good taste of caramel. He’s right.

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Lemon Blueberry Crumb Cake

This is another recipe from Vintage Kitchen Notes.

Before I get into the making of this cake, I want to state right up front that you must make this, in fact I implore you to make this cake.

What are you doing? Why haven’t you gone to the kitchen yet?

Okay, you want to know why I think it’s a cake that must be made.

It’s not often that I take a first bite of something and am immediately delighted with the flavour. But this cake got everything right. The texture the flavour the smell. It ticked all the boxes for me. It’s not a sickly sweet cake, and it looks a bit, ah, rustic, but it’s got such a sweet delicate flavour of lemon and cinnamon and blueberry. It’s just the right amount of everything. And I just love that crumble topping adding a little bit of crunch. This cake is a 10/10. Of course that’s just my opinion.



On Paula’s blog, yes I feel like I can call her by her first name, (this is the third of her recipes I’ve made. It seems like we’re on the same wavelength when it comes to the type of baking that we enjoy to make and eat) is a much more presentable photo of this cake. I don’t have an 8” round cake pan. And I certainly think a round cake looks more attractive. But I don’t care because I know how delightful this cake tastes and I could just eat it until it’s all gone. Of course that would make me sad, because then there’d be no more.

It’s so easy to make. There’s nothing complicated, except if you struggle with the word “scatter”. You have to scatter the Blueberries. Honestly that sort of thing makes me so uncomfortable. I want order, not higgledy piggledy. I want evenness, not casualness. It doesn’t quite make me ill to be so slap happy about the placement of things, but I do have some anxiety when I look down at the cake and know that it’s all a bit whimsical and not tidy and everything in nice neat rows, evenly spaced, perfect.

Enough. It’s making me feel like I’m fighting an inner war. I want to be carefree, but it’s so difficult to let go.

Back to the cake. Here’s a few photos of how it all came together.


And then the hardest part. Scattering all those lovely frozen (or fresh) Blueberries


An important note about baking this, is in my oven, the cake cooked from the edges first. Even though I had specifically placed some of these Blueberries so they were tucked around the sides, during cooking they sort of piled into the middle of the cake.

I did put a few more than 3/4 of a cup of them in, and it might have been too much fruit. Or it could just be the way that my oven cooks.

Though I’ve never seen a cake bake that way before so I think it was the berries on top sinking into the batter the way they did. Anyway, don’t panic if that happens. It will still turn out beautifully.

I’ve just realised I don’t have a photo of what the cake looks like cut. The only way to remedy that was to have a(nother) slice. I’ve just had a piece with lunch. Oh the sacrifices I make.


So here it is, because I know you’re itching to get stuck in and make this ASAP:

Lemon Blueberry Crumb Cake by Vintage Kitchen Notes (Instructions rewritten)


2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar

½ cup packed golden brown sugar

Grated zest of 2 lemons

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup vegetable oil

2 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1 cup sour cream

1 large egg (I used size 7)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (mine were frozen)

Icing sugar, for dusting



  • Heat oven to 170ºC.
  • Lightly butter or spray a non-stick 8 inch round or square pan. (I line the bottom of the tin with baking paper – always, even if it’s a non-stick pan).
  • In a bowl stir flour, sugars, zest and cinnamon.
  • Make a hole in the middle, add oil and lemon juice and mix with a fork until flour is evenly moistened and mixture forms clumps.
  • Set aside 1 cup of this mixture – this is used as the crumb
  • To the remaining mixture add egg, sour cream, vanilla, baking powder and baking soda.
  • Mix well with an electric mixer until batter is smooth.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with reserved cup of crumb mixture.
  • Scatter (try!) blueberries on top.
  • Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until dry, golden and a tester inserted comes out clean. (my cake took closer to 55 minutes, though I have the temperature a little lower because my oven is on the too hot side – my cake is still very moist, and delicious, did I mention that already?).
  • Let the cake rest in the tin for around 10 minutes.
  • Turn the cake onto a cooling rack.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve.


My notes and recommendations:

Always have eggs (and butter when using) at room temperature

When using fresh juice, strain it first

Dust the icing sugar just before you serve, otherwise you’ll find the icing sugar is absorbed by the cake

For a cake like this that clearly has a right side up and wont be iced, use two cooling racks. Turn the cake out onto one (now the top is on the rack), place the second rack on the bottom of the cake and then turn the cake so that it’s back up the right way. Follow?

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Chocolate Pud anyone?

After making the Lemon & Ginger Ice Cream I was left with 4 egg yolks. I couldn’t tip them out, they needed to be used. But on/with what?

After a quick search on Google I came to a pretty neat website that provides a collection of recipes based on the number of yolks you have.

Because I know you’ll find this helpful, here’s the link.

Sunday morning I gave Mr Fussy two choices. A Lemon Pound Cake, or Chocolate Pudding.

Although the choice was his, I was hoping he would pick the pudding. The reason was that I would use the experience as a guide to make sure the chocolate mixture I have for the Black Forest Cake was the correct consistency. The recipe I’m using (and have used once before) says “pudding like”.

I’ve never had pudding. Well I’ve had pudding, of course I have, but it’s the name given for a warm dessert. At least within my family.

Clearly, given the title of this post, Mr Fussy chose Chocolate Pudding (silent prayer of thanks to the kitchen Gods).

I used a Martha Stewart recipe for Chocolate Pudding. There were a couple of choices. This is the very first Martha Stewart recipe I’ve made. And it was a piece of cake. I’m not sure you can go wrong with this recipe. So long as you read the instructions correctly. Which I’m happy to report I did. Surprise!

Vanilla or Chocolate Pudding by Martha Stewart.

This is all you’ll need (the salt is missing from the shot, but not from the pudding).



And this is what it looks like all cooked up. There’s the pudding consistency I’ll be using as my guide with the BFC tomorrow.


And this is me puddling about with different “props”.  And those are glasses, as in tumblers. Just normal every day drinking glasses. I did look in Stevens, Farmers, Briscoes and Living and Giving. I was looking for something cute. But nothing jumped out at me and I thought darn it, the glasses at home will be good enough. Right?


That’s my one. I used up the rest of the cream and piled on loads more Mandarins than what I started out with.

I’m not one for eating cold custard. I hate Custard Squares. I’ve seen too many shows where they test bacteria of chilled cabinet food from cafes. And usually the results are enough to make you sick, literally. But even before any such programme, I never liked the idea of cold custard. Don’t get me started on Trifle. This was quite nice. Silky and smooth and a lovely chocolate taste given it’s cocoa. Of course that’s Dutch processed cocoa in there.


And what did Mr Fussy think of it?  I’m sure that’s the question everyone has on their lips. He said it was like Instant Pudding. I was so tempted to buy a packet of Instant Pudding to see if it turned out the same and to see if he could tell the difference.

My recollections of Instant Pudding was as a pudding, usually served with tinned fruit salad or it was used to make biscuits. I think this Chocolate Pudding is a bit flasher than what you’ll get in a packet whipped with milk and left to set in the fridge for an hour or whatever. I hope.

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Dulce de Leche

Mmmm, I love caramel. I REALLY love caramel. Yet I’ve never made Dulce de Leche. And I have no idea why really. It’s super easy. And there’s a variety of different ways to do it.

Many moons ago I gave one method a go. I put a tin of Highlander Condensed Milk into a pot and I let it boil several hours.

But I actually didn’t like the flavour. It was too intense but not with a real caramel flavour that I’ve enjoyed in many baked slices before.

Tan Square and Skites (a family favourite I remember making time and time again as a youngster) are just two recipes that have the sort of caramel flavour I use as my gauge on other baked goods.

I made my Dulce de Leche using a method Davide Lebovitz describes on his blog. Here’s the link.

Other methods are taking the label off, putting it in a slow cooker with the tin covered in water and leaving it for 8 hours.

Or you could make it from scratch. I came across this YouTube clip last night showing that method.

And then of course you can buy a tin of “Caramel” from the supermarket. There’s nothing to say this is Dulce de Leche. But given you just boil a tin of Condensed Milk I’m a little puzzled by the lack of name.  Perhaps you can only call it DLD if you use a particular method and maybe when you mass produce you don’t follow those standards. I don’t know.




Anyway, all that aside, here’s a few photos of what I started with, and what I ended up with.


Pour the hot water into the roasting pan when you’ve got the pan in the oven. I quickly realised that would be the smarter way to proceed after I’d poured the water into the pan while it was on the bench, then I tentatively walked 4 or so paces with the full swirling boiled water to the oven.

At 40 minutes I checked the water level and needed to pour more in. You will actually see the water boiling in the pan during the cooking.

I ended up leaving mine in for the 75 minutes.

Here’s what it looked like coming out. It’s certainly more caramel coloured but it’s not close to what the pictures are I’ve seen online, and on David Lebovitz’s website.



You can tell the condensed milk boiled since there’s little bubbles here.

I let it cool completely (obviously I took the dish out of the roasting pan) before I whisked this. And the whisk was struggling to move through this, but I still don’t think it’s as thick as photos I’ve seen of this either.



I’m quite fond of these jars. They are from Rose’s Marmalade. My favourite is Sweet Orange. The detail in the glass is quite pretty and it’s an unusual shape.

So here we are. The finished product ready to be used. And I licked the spatula (of course!) and it tasted ok. Not too sweet, thanks to adding a little sea salt. Still not quite the same as the caramel I have loved for many many years (it has golden syrup, butter and brown sugar in it) but I’m sure everyone who tastes it will be happy enough and I’m very much looking forward to trying it.


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Lemon and Ginger Ice Cream

I want to make ice cream so bad. Almost weekly I scour the interwebs checking to see if anyone local has Cuisinart Ice Cream makers for sale, and I really mean, on special.


My brother and sister-in-law make ice cream and very successfully. They use up any leftovers and have loads of fun making and eating ice cream.

Mostly I like the idea of knowing what’s in my food. Another reason I’m “pro” making my own bread.

But there’s no ice cream maker for me, not this month anyway.  I can blame a rather stupid mistake that resulted in an unexpected bill. That’s gobbled into my ice cream fund, but has not diminished my desire to make ice cream.

When I saw Annabel Langbein’s pin on Pintrest for Lemon and Ginger Ice Cream I knew that would fill the need, momentarily at least.

I wont go into the recipe since I didn’t change anything. Well I did, but it was one of those “oops, is that what the recipe said. Oh well”.

One of my famous blunders that, thankfully, didn’t result in a horrible mess and waste.

Let’s say that you can make this with Icing Sugar, you know, if you happen to mis-read the ingredients.

Oh, there was a very tiny change, I used Honey Greek Yoghurt. It was another one of those rare (cough) moments when I didn’t read properly. I was sure I had picked plain Greek yoghurt off the supermarket shelf.


Lemon and Ginger Ice Cream by Annabel Langbein.



I’ve decided that Mark will from now on have the title of “Mr Fussy”.

The first and lasting comment when he tasted the ice cream was how tart it was. It’s definitely got a big citrus hit.

How much of that is influenced by using icing sugar instead of castor sugar I don’t know.

We’ve just finished the last of the ice cream, and the Ginger Cake I’d made the same day. Because of the tartness of the ice cream, serving it with something, like the cake, helps to mellow the flavours. Though we are big citrus fans.

Here’s Mr Fussy about 40 years ago, and as he is today. Still tucking into ice cream. At least he’s no longer eating ice cream in his jammies. Actually, maybe it’s not pj’s, maybe that was the ‘fashion” back then for little boys. After all, how naughty it would be to eat ice cream for breakfast, or still be mooching around in your pj’s at lunch time.  Ok, so we all wish we could do that. Being a “grown up” can be dull.


Yes, I ask myself the same question, what happened to all that curly hair. Mr Fussy will tell you marriage has a lot to do with it Winking smile