Zucchini cardamom cake with lemon cream cheese filling and pistachio

Zucchini Cardamom Cake for Queen’s Birthday

Zucchini cake for Queen's birthday

Yipeeh, a toast to the Queen and her birthday celebration which brings us a public holiday on Monday. I love the fact that since we moved to Australia, no public holiday is lost. If a public holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday is free nevertheless.

Perfect for holding a high tea ceremony or less formal just to invite friends over to a Kaffeeklatsch (coffee and gossip). This cake recipe uses grated zucchini which may sound a bit unusual but it will keep the cake moist for days. The pistachios add a delicious crunch and the cardamom and lemon aromatic flavour.

I guess this is not your ordinary cake for high tea but very yummy indeed. It will go well with black tea and coffee but also chai tea is great served with this cake. The Finns mix cardamom also into their ground coffee, which is nice as well.

Zucchini cardamom cake with lemon cream cheese filling and pistachio

Recipe for Zucchini cardamom cake with lemon cream cheese frosting

185ml vegetable oil
220g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
75g unsalted pistachios, finely chopped, plus 35g unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped, to decorate
60g almond meal
2 cups grated zucchini (about 3-4)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
225g self-raising flour
75g plain flour

Lemon frosting
180g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar, sifted
250g cream cheese, softened
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, plus extra lemon zest, to decorate

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a 22cm springform pan and line base and sides with baking paper.
Using an electric kitchen mixer, whisk the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until thick. Stir in chopped nuts, almond meal, zucchini and spices. Sift over soda and flours, and stir to combine. Pour into pan and bake for 70 minutes or until a skewer inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.
For the lemon frosting, use electric beaters to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With motor running, gradually add cheese, beating well between additions. Add zest and juice and beat until smooth.
Using a bread knife, slice the cake into two rounds and set top aside. Spread a third of the frosting over the bottom half, then replace top and spread cake with remaining frosting. Decorate with chopped pistachios and lemon zest.

Greek Easter Biscuits

A while ago, we visited Martha from Crave Good Food  and we asked her for her favourite recipe. Having a Greek background she sent us the recipe for these beautiful Greek Easter biscuits – perfect for afternoon tea.

The dough is easy to make and fun for the kids too. The traditional shape is a plaid or little rounds, sprinkled with sesame seeds for a nice crunch.

These biscuits, Koulourakia in Greek, are an authentic treat on Easter sunday.

Here is Martha’s recipe for traditional Greek Easter Biscuits:

This is a family recipe that never fails.   Even though these biscuits are traditionally reserved for Easter, it is not uncommon for my mother  to whip up this recipe during school holidays as an opportunity to get the grandkids baking along side her. Makes approx. 45 biscuits.

250 g unsalted butter
50 ml olive or vegetable oil
2 cups caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
5 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup full cream milk, lukewarm
1 kg self-raising flour
sesame seeds (optional)

1 egg, lightly beaten
50 ml olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons water              

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Melt the butter. Stir together butter and oil and add the sugar. Add the eggs and milk and whisk to combine. Sift the flour and baking powder and slowly add to the wet mix. Beat until the dough is well combined.
Set aside and rest for approx. 10 mins.  Stir together the glaze and set aside. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to 15 cm long rope then fold over and twist to get a plaid-like shape. Brush plaids with the glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).
Bake 10-15 minutes or until golden. Put on a wire rack to cool.

Blood Orange Tarts with Candied Orange

This year seems to already be flying away and we here in Sydney have welcomed autumn. Funny thing for an European to think of Easter in autumn. So, when the two of us think of Easter, spring still comes to mind, blooming flowers everywhere in beautiful vibrant colours. We love poppies, so wonderfully delicate yet vibrant and poppy seeds are much loved for baking in Europe. Eggs are obviously a staple for baking especially around Easter and Corina also remembers blood oranges from her time in Texas.

There you are, our ingredients of choice for these delicious tarts. If you can’t get blood oranges, use normal ones but omit the lemon juice.

There’s certainly something opulent and mysterious about this kind of fruit and it was once reserved only for royalty and the very privileged.

The flesh develops its characteristic maroon colour when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night. Sometimes there is dark colouring on the outside rind as well, depending on the variety.
Blood oranges are usually sweeter than the normal orange and therefore I added a bit of lemon juice to my tart filling. The distinctive dark flesh colour is caused by the anthocyanins, a family of antioxidants. It also contains a rich blend of vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, vitamin A and fibre. Quite a superfood!

Blood orange tarts with candied orange

3/4 cup thickened cream
4 eggs
½ cup caster sugar
3 teaspoons finely grated blood orange rind
2/3 cup blood orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornflour

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
125g butter, chilled, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon water, chilled

Candied orange slices
1 cup caster sugar
2/3 cup fresh blood orange juice
1/3 cup water
1 blood orange, thinly sliced

For the pastry, put flour, sugar and butter in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg, poppy seeds and water. Process until dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth. Shape into a disc. Cover in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Grease 8 little fluted, loose-based tartlets (ø 12cm) tins. Roll out pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper to form a large circle. Line base and sides of prepared tins with pastry. Trim excess. Re-roll pastry scraps and line remaining tins. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Place tins on a baking tray. Line pastry with baking paper. Fill with ceramic pie weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights or rice and paper. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden. Cool.
Reduce oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced. Whisk cream, eggs, sugar, blood orange rind, blood orange juice, lemon juice and cornflour in a bowl until smooth. Pour into pastry case. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until just set. Cool for 20 minutes. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, to make the orange syrup, stir sugar, orange juice and water in a small saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add orange slices. Increase heat and simmer, without stirring, for 4-5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly. Serve with tarts.

Shibori – Japanese fabric dyeing technique

A week ago I participated in a Shibori fabric dyeing class at the Community College in Rose Bay. It was such a rainy day and I was happy to spent it inside and to learn something new. We used only natural dye such as indigo, turmeric and black tea.

Our teacher Zoe MacDonell guided us through the techniques for different shapes and patterns. Basically it’s trying to prevent the colour to reach certain areas of the fabric to penetrate. That can be done by folding, tieing, clamping or binding. Rubber bands, synthetic string, buttons or even marbles are great to use. My favourite technique was the diagonal constantine fold which I then wrapped around a metal pole, tied it up with string and rubberbands before I dipped it into the dye. You need to wear gloves otherwise your hands will be stained and indigo in particular is a very strong dye. In fact, the indigo on my fabric is still rubbing off so I am not sure what to use those for. Might just end up in my props cupboard ;-)

There are the so-called mordants, mineral salts which will either enhance, intensify or change the colour. It also helps to fix the dye colour.

We used only three different natural dye but Zoe told us we could also use ground coffee, henna, onion skin or different sorts of leaves. I know that onion skin works well as I use this for Easter eggs. However, you have to extract the colour by cooking the dye out before you can dip the fabric in.

Lightweight natural fabric such as silk, cotton or linen works best. Smaller pieces are easier to handle than bigger ones and, the dyeing process is quite a messy one as you will see from the photos I took.

From raw to colour

Crave Good Food

s'more - Crave Good Food

Meet Martha Delfas, founder of Crave – Good Food in Sydney.

A couple of weeks ago, we had the pleasure of personally meeting Martha and spent a morning with her chatting about and tasting beautiful artisan food and what inspired her to bring Crave to the table (literally).

Crave was born by her love for cooking and food made with passion and heart. Martha describes herself as someone who lives to eat and not eat to live. A passion that was passed to her early on by her mum.

Having extensive experience in retail, Martha saw a niche in bringing honest, simple and beautiful food to consumers who don’t live in urban neighbourhoods with a deli just around the corner. And ‘voila’, the Crave tasting box was born.

Whether it is locally and sustainably produced honey by urban beekeeper Elke, handcrafted peanut butter from a small manufacturer in Sydney or the award winning relishes by Atticus & Max, one thing is clear, Martha’s passion for great food and supporting small artisan producers catches you the minute you are in her presence and every tasting box sent out brings a little bit of that and her favourite food to your table.

The crave tasting boxes are available on a monthly subscription, as a one off sample tasting box or if you would like to surprise someone special also as a gift box. Soon there will be a gluten free option available to cater for all those with a passion for good food.

Happy Australia Day

This weekend on the 26 January is Australia Day, the national public holiday day in Australia. It commemorates and celebrates the arrival of the first fleet when eleven ships from Great Britain first landed in Sydney Cove (now Circular Quay).

There are lots of activities you can do Australia-wide but the funniest activity I think is the Australia Day Thong Challenge in Bondi Beach. Australian summers are hot and the most versatile “shoe” is the thong (in other countries known as flip flop). They haven’t been invented here, in fact the most popular ones are Hawaianas but it’s safe to say that almost every Australian owns at least a pair.

A picnic at the beach or the local park is also a favourite pastime on this important day and usually everyone will bring a plate and just enjoy summer. A true blue dish to have would be a pavlova. A meringue base topped with fluffy cream and fresh fruits. Absolutely delicious and very popular.

This dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the Russian ballet dancer during one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. However the nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years. But let’s not get caught up in this.

This recipe makes you small individual pavlovas which are easier to carry around. Make sure to keep the cream as cold as possible.

6 eggwhites
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white wine vinegar
300 ml cream
2 punnets raspberries
4 passionfruits

Preheat the oven to 150°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Use an electric mixer to whisk the eggwhites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, until meringue is thick and glossy and sugar is dissolved. Rub a little meringue between your fingers, if it’s still gritty, continue to whisk until sugar dissolves. Add the vinegar and cornflour and fold until just combined.

Place 4 dollops of meringue on each baking tray, making a shallow indent in the centre of each with the back of a spoon.

Place in oven, reduce heat to 120°C and bake for 1 hour. Leave in the switched-off oven for 2-3 hours until meringues are dry and oven is completely cool. (They’ll keep for up to 2 days in an airtight container.)

Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Dollop cream on top of meringue nest and top with raspberries and passionfruit. Serve immediately.

Australia Day Pavlova - s'more

Happy Holidays

Icy cold air, snowflakes and twinkling candles on a Christmas tree. The smell of mandarines, peanuts and cinnamon in the air. Mum or grandma baking Christmas cookies in the kitchen… These are all typical Swiss and/or German Christmas childhood memories.

Living in Australia, where we have a BBQ for Christmas and go to the beach, bringing back some of those memories inspired us to our new magazine for Christmas. So if you want to know what a Brunsli, Mailänderli or a Lebkuchen is, then look no further and get baking.

To keep you going whilst you are baking or just in case you get really hungry, there is a hearty Baked Beans recipe.

And just in case you are searching for gift ideas, why not give some beautifully wrapped home made cookies or if you would like to venture further, have a look at Juliana’s craft project.


Christmas is around the Corner

Yes, Christmas is nearly upon us, only 20 more sleeps. We are working like mad to finish our little Christmas magazine and it should be up any day. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, here some photos we couldn’t find a space in the magazine for….

Easter Inspiration

A few weeks ago Kristin and I packed the car and drove up to the Blue Mountains in Sydney to shoot the Easter e-mag. Our amazing and utterly creative hosts Juliana an artist/crafter/designer, her husband Lenny Bartulin a novelist, and their son Luka made us so welcome. Even though the weather looked very grim on Saturday, on Sunday morning the sun peaked out and it was the perfect day for the photo shoot.

To Juliana, Lenny, Luca and all our beautiful models, thank you so much for being part of this project and for making it such a wonderful experience.

We got so many great photos, here some that did not make it into the magazine but we still love.