Spinach, Leek and Feta Tart

This savoury tart is a delicious and easy way to eat your greens. I always associate it with spring picnics (which it is perfect for!) but it is also a great midweek meal or work/school lunch.

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Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
200g Greek feta, crumbled
1 leek
20g butter
160g baby spinach leaves
½ cup sour cream
½ cup thickened cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

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Method
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Cut the leek in half and thinly slice the white and pale green part to achieve 1 cup full.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and lightly sauté the leek over a medium heat for 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add spinach to the saucepan, cover and cook until wilted. Take off the heat and then press leaves into a strainer to remove excess moisture.

In a bowl, combine sour cream, cream and eggs. Add the feta, leek, spinach and basil. Stir will and season to taste.

Line a non-stick rectangular quiche pan (35cm x 13cm) with the two pieces of pastry, overlapping slightly, and gently push the pieces together in the middle to seal the pastry case. Trim excess pastry. Lightly prick the pastry base with a fork and place the quiche pan onto an oven tray.

Bake the pastry case for 50-10mins until it has started to colour and puff.

Pour in prepared filling and bake for 30-35mins until firm and golden in the centre.

Remove from baking tray and allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!

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Adapted from Baker’s Secret

My Famous Guacamole

It feels a bit cheeky to call this a recipe as it’s so easy and basically impossible to mess up, but it’s been my most requested ‘recipe’ among my friends and it’s about time I shared it. Adjust it to suit your palate (no two guacamoles I make are exactly the same), but here is the basis of the guacamole that features prominently at most Bills gatherings. We usually serve it with salted corn chips, but it also works well with flavoured Doritos, crackers, veggie sticks, or my sister’s weird but delicious favourite, salt and vinegar chips. Of course it is also a perfect addition to tacos, burritos and nachos.

Warning: once you make it for your friends, you will never be allowed to bring anything else to a party… ever!

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Ingredients (makes enough for 1 packet of corn chips)
2 ripe avocados
1 medium sized clove of garlic, finely diced
2 teaspoons tomato, finely chopped
3 teaspoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
Salt
Pepper
Coriander leaves, to serve
Corn chips, to serve

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Ft. Adelaide Crows scarf in the background because it’s AFL Grand Final Day!!

Cut up the avocados into small cubes and scoop into a medium sized bowl. Mash gently with a fork until mostly squashed but with some lumps (I prefer the term ‘texture’) remaining.

Dice the garlic (making the pieces as small as possible) and tomato and add to the avocado. Gently stir through with the fork.

Add in the lime juice, sweet chilli sauce and tabasco sauce (if desired). Stir until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Taste it and add more of any of the ingredients until it’s balanced and to your liking.

Transfer into a small serving bowl, top with a couple of coriander leaves and enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Emma, my neighbour from Canberra.

And because it’s always stuck in my head, enjoy the horrendously catchy ‘Guacamole Song’ here!!

Bacon, Caramelised Onion & Thyme Piroshki

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Piroshki (also known as pirozhki or pyrizhky), literally translating to ‘small pie’, are individual-sized buns with either a sweet or savoury filling. There are many variants of piroshki across Eastern Europe, but this recipe most closely resembles the Russian version. These piroshki are baked rather than fried and stuffed with the dreamy combination of bacon, caramelised onion and thyme. We usually serve these as hors d’oeuvres but they are great for lunches and picnics as they are easily transportable and don’t make a mess.

While they do take time and effort to make, they more than make up for it in terms of flavour and I find the baking process is very rewarding. There’s something so satisfying about making things from scratch and I’m always left feeling very self-righteous (plus who doesn’t love kneading dough? So fun and therapeutic). Next time you have a free afternoon, try making a batch – your tastebuds will definitely thank you for it!

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Ingredients (makes 35-40)
60g fresh yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
315ml lukewarm milk
375g plain flour
Salt & pepper
125g melted butter
3 large brown onions, chopped
55g butter, extra
250g bacon
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 egg, beaten

Method
Combine the yeast and sugar; stir in the milk.

In a large bowl, mix flour and 2 teaspoons salt and make a well in the centre. Pour the yeast mixture and the melted butter into the centre. Beat well for 3 minutes until a smooth batter is formed. Cover with Gladwrap and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Gently cook onions in extra butter until golden. Chop bacon finely and add to the onions along with a teaspoon of pepper and the thyme leaves.

Knead the risen dough lightly and then divide into 35 to 40 portions. Wrap a teaspoon of the bacon filling into each portion of the dough. Allow the buns to prove in a warm place on greased trays for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 230°C.

Brush each bun with egg and bake in the prepared oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Hors D’Oeuvres (1988) by June Budgen.

Parmesan and Fennel Seed Biscuits

These crumbly, flavoursome biscuits are perfect for entertaining. Try them on a cheese platter or serve by themselves with a good red wine. Delicious!

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Ingredients (makes ~35 medium stars)
120g parmesan cheese, roughly chopped
1 cup plain flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
150g cold butter, chopped
2⅓ teaspoons fennel seeds, plus extra for decoration
1 tablespoon milk, plus extra for brushing

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Blitz the parmesan in a food processor until finely grated. Add flour and cornflour and process until combined. With the motor running, add the butter and blitz until fine crumbs form. Add fennel seeds and milk and blitz until a dough forms.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 20 seconds. Cover dough in Gladwrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C (~160°C fan-forced). Line 3 baking trays with baking paper.

Roll dough out with a rolling pin until approximately 5mm thick. Cut out medium stars (or other shape of your choosing) and place on prepared trays. Brush each biscuit with a small amount of milk and sprinkle with extra fennel seeds.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. Enjoy!

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Adapted from Donna Hay’s ‘Fennel and Parmesan Biscuits’.

Tropical Ice Cream

This delicious, easy dessert has all the tastes of summer and is perfect served with fresh fruit on a balmy evening. thumb_img_3009_1024Ingredients (serves 6-8)
1 litre good quality vanilla ice cream
100g unsalted pistachio nuts
¾ cup desiccated coconut
Pulp of 2 passionfruit
2 tablespoons honey
Fresh fruit, to serve

Method
Allow ice cream to soften at room temperature until just soft.

Remove pistachio nuts from shells. Cover nuts with boiling water and remove their dark skins. Dry thoroughly.

Place coconut in a dry pan and cook over a gentle heat until golden, stirring constantly. Remove from pan.

Combine ice-cream, nuts, ½ cup of the coconut, passionfruit pulp and honey. Place in a glad-wrap lined container (I use a log tin), cover and freeze for at least 2 hours

Serve topped with the remaining toasted coconut and fresh fruit. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Sydney Market Authority

The Port Elliot Bakery – the Best in South Australia

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the Port Elliot Bakery is the best in South Australia*. Yes, it’s a bold statement considering SA’s dozens of award-winning bakeries, but the Port Elliot Bakery’s consistent 5 star reviews, 4000-strong “Port Elliot Bakery appreciation society” Facebook group, and regular 50m+ queues set it apart from the rest and are a testament to its excellence. The bakery is located on the main street of Port Elliot, a small town on the Fleurieu Peninsular about an hour’s drive south of Adelaide, and is a must-visit when you’re in the area.

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Just some of the delicious offerings from the Port Elliot Bakery. (Image: Michael Mangahas)
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The unassuming shopfront of the Port Elliot Bakery – although you will never see it this empty! (Image: travelguide.net.au)

The Port Elliot Bakery was established in 1989 by the Gormon-Horrocks family, who still own and operate it today. However the site has hosted a bakery since the 1860s, and its tradition of using fresh produce and baking  daily on the premises is maintained, along with the original wood fired oven.

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The original Port Elliot bakers, the Bebee family (Image: portelliotbakery.com)  

I am fortunate enough to have visited the Port Elliot Bakery regularly for over 20 years, as it is located about 10mins drive away from my family’s holiday house. I can honestly say that I have never left disappointed as the food is always delicious and the service is quick and friendly (no matter how long the line-up is).

The pies, pasties and sausage rolls come in a wide range of delicious flavours and always have perfect crisp, flaky pastry, and the enormous array of beautiful and tempting sweets is sure to impress the harshest of critics.

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A selection of their savoury goods. (Image: The Port Elliot Bakery Facebook page)

While everything I’ve tried has been excellent, my go-to is their steak and bacon pie (so mouthwateringly tender and flavoursome) with a chocolate doughnut and a Farmer’s Union ice-coffee – perfection!

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Look at that perfect pastry…
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Melt in your mouth steak paired with bacon and a rich flavour-packed gravy… what more could you ask for?!
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With a deep golden exterior, soft fluffy interior and a dark chocolate icing, these are the doughnuts of my dreams
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Bailey is always more than happy to assist in eating Port Elliot Bakery goods!  

One of the reasons I love the bakery so much, is that it’s constantly innovating and updating its menu. The bakery offers a new “pie of the month” each month, and its recent Nutella and Oreo doughnut additions already have cult followings!

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The bakery’s new Oreo cookies & cream doughnuts (Image: The Port Elliot Bakery Facebook Page)

The bakery has also developed a range of vegan options including ‘Fruchoc’, ‘Bounty’ and ‘Snickers’ slices, bliss balls, and salads.

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“Fruchoc slice” a vegan option. (Image: the Port Elliot Bakery Facebook page)

Next time you’re down in the Fleurieu area, make sure you give the Port Elliot Bakery a visit. My advice is to get in early to avoid disappointment as the bakery is so popular that many items sell-out before 1pm. There is seating outside the bakery, but we like to drive to the Freeman Lookout and eat our bakery goodies with a magnificent ocean view where, between May and October, you might even be lucky enough to see whales.

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Freeman Lookout

Port Elliot Bakery

Open: 7am-5:30pm every day but Christmas Day, Proclamation Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday.
Location: 
31 North Terrace, Port Elliot, South Australia
Phone: (08) 8554 2475
Price: from $2.50
Rating: 5/5 cupcakes
5-star

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* I’m sure if Jane Austen had tried their baked goods she would agree!

5 Minute Chocolate & Peanut Butter Fudge

This fudge is so easy it almost doesn’t qualify as a recipe. 5 ingredients. 5 steps. 5 minutes. Good as gold!

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Ingredients (makes ~30 pieces)
¾ cup good quality peanut butter (smooth or crunchy will work)
225g white chocolate
225g dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch sea salt

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Method
Line a 12 x 22cm loaf pan with baking paper.

Melt dark and white chocolate in separate bowls in the microwave.

Combine half of the peanut butter with the white chocolate and stir until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and sea salt to taste. Combine the remaining peanut butter with the dark chocolate. Allow both mixtures to cool slightly.

Drop alternate spoonfuls of white and dark chocolate mixtures into the pan and shake to level the mixture. To get the swirly marbled effect, pull a skewer through the mixture.

Refrigerate until set. Cut into squares. Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Easy Peanut Butter Fudge’ from Cadbury Kitchen.

 

Powder Puffs with Strawberries and Cream

This is probably my most requested recipe and I feel terrible for having kept it in the Bills/Payne/James/Hockney family vault for so long! My Mum (and her mother and grandmother before her) makes powder puffs for special occasions and they are always incredibly popular. They’re dead easy to make and the “sponge biscuits” keep in an airtight container for ages**. The only trick is to fill them with cream far enough in advance so they soften up – then they’re like eating sweet, fluffy clouds. I love them filled with strawberries and cream, lightly dusted with icing sugar, but you could fill them with just about anything.

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Ingredients (makes approximately 45 sandwiched powder puffs)
3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ cup plain flour
½ cup cornflour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon bicarb soda

To fill
Whipped, sweetened cream flavoured with a drop or two of vanilla extract
Strawberries, thinly sliced

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Method
Preheat the oven to 200°C (or 180°C fan-forced). Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper (you will fill approximately 6 trays due to spreading, but I just rotate and re-use the trays).

Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixers until light and fluffy. Add in sifted flours, cream of tartar and bicarb soda and mix until just combined.

Drop ½ teaspoons’ worth of the mixture onto the prepared trays, leaving plenty of room to spread (I usually fit 12-15 on my large trays). Bake for 6 minutes* and then leave to cool slightly, before removing from the tray with a metal spatula and letting them cool completely on a wire cake rack. Repeat this process with the remaining mixture.

2-3 hours before serving, match each sponge biscuit with another of approximately equal size. Spread each ‘biscuit’ generously with thickened, sweetened cream and add sliced strawberries to one half before sandwiching them together.

Dust with a little icing sugar just before serving. Enjoy!

Notes:
*They will harden like a biscuit (they’re supposed to, don’t worry), but will soften when you add the cream later.
** Store in an airtight container with grease-proof paper between each layer so they don’t stickthumb_IMG_1897_1024.jpg

Adapted from a very old family recipe.

Chocolate Berry Meringue Nests

These meringue nests are the perfect conclusion to a summer dinner party or BBQ. They are light, flavoursome and not too sweet when paired with fresh berries and whipped cream. I especially love that they look like you’ve gone to a lot of effort (when they’re really very simple to make) and they don’t heat up the house too much while baking!

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Ingredients (makes 4)
3 egg whites
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla essence
1 tablespoon dark dutch cocoa powder
300ml thickened cream, whipped
Fresh berries, to decorate (I used strawberries, raspberries and blueberries)

Method
Preheat oven to 120 degrees C (~100 degrees C fan-forced). Line a large oven tray with baking paper.

Beat egg whites in a medium bowl with an electric mixer or mixmaster until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until the sugar dissolves between each addition. Add in vanilla essence and cocoa powder.

Divide the meringue mixture into 4 roughly equal sized dollops on the baking tray, and spread into circles approximately 11cm in diameter.

Bake in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until meringues are firm. Turn off the oven and let meringues cool for 5 minutes, before letting them cool completely with the door ajar.

Top meringues with whipped cream and berries. Enjoy!

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Adapted from ‘Chocolate Berry Meringues’ in The Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook ‘Best Food’, 2005 reprint.

Brown Sugar Pecan Praline Cookies

These cookies are soft and buttery, topped with a brown sugar frosting & crunchy pecan praline. I made these ready for having with tea & coffee at out ‘Chrisgiving’ celebration tonight and I must say I am pleasantly surprised – they are very more-ish and feel appropriately Thanksgiving-y.

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Ingredients (Makes around 35-45 cookies)
For the cookies
250g butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup finely chopped pecans

For the praline
1 cup pecans
½ cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
For the icing
1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup milk
1 tbsp butter
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
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Method
In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.

Add the flour and baking soda and beat until combined. Gently stir in the chopped pecans.
Cover the dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30mins.
While the dough is chilling, make the pecan praline. To make the praline, combine all ingredients in a frying pan over a moderate heat and stir well. Continue to stir as the water evaporates and the pecans become covered in white sugar. Continue stirring as the sugar melts to form a toffee around the pecans. Once all of the almonds are coated in toffee, pour onto a tray lined with baking paper to cool. Once cool, cut up with a knife or blitz in a food processor to make a fine crumb.
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I then blitzed these in the food processor for a few seconds to get a finer crumb
Preheat the oven to 160°C fan-forced. Line 3 large baking trays with baking paper. Shape dough into roughly golf-ball sized balls, flatten them with the palm of your hand and place them approximately 4cm apart on the lined baking trays.
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Bake for 10-15 mins or until fully cooked and lightly browned at the edges. Cool for 10 mins on their trays before transferring to a cooling rack.
To make the icing combine brown sugar and milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to a boil and boil for approximately 3 mins, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in butter.
Add in the icing sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. If the frosting is too thin, add more icing sugar (but leave it for a few minutes before doing this as it will thicken over time). If too thick, add more milk.
Spread icing on each cookie and top with praline. Let the icing set fully before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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Adapted from ‘Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies’ from The Recipe Rebel