Chicken Pesto Pot Pies

These chicken and pesto pot pies are absolutely delicious and surprisingly quick, as they use both pre-bought pesto and pastry. Feel free to add/change the veggies as you like.

Ingredients (makes 6)
450-500g chicken thighs, chopped
40g butter
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced
½ carrot, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
4 button mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons plain flour
¾ cup chicken stock
¾ cup thickened cream
2 tablespoons basil pesto
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
Milk, to brush

Method
Pan fry your chicken over a medium-high heat until just cooked through. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Melt the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the leek and carrot and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 1 minute, then add the flour and stir for a further minute. Gradually stir in the chicken stock, then bring the mixture to simmer. Add the cream and cook for 3 minutes, stirring, until thickened. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in pesto and season to taste. Add the cooked chicken and stir to combine.

Using your ramekins as a stencil, cut 6 pie lids from the puff pastry sheets. Fill each ramekin with the pie mixture and then top with a pastry lid. Make a small hole in the centre to allow steam to escape. Decorate as desired using pastry offcuts (I put initials on mine). Brush each pie lid with milk. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘Chicken Pesto Pies’ in delicious. More Please (2010)

Melting Snowman Cookies

These lightly spiced Christmas cookies are almost too cute to eat (almost…. sorry Frosty!)

Ingredients (makes approx. 30 large round cookies)
250g butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
3 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

3 cups icing sugar
Boiling water
30 white marshmallows
2 packets of mini M&Ms
Edible textas (black and orange)

Method

Cream butter, sugar & vanilla using electric beaters until well combined. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy.

Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, mix sifted dry ingredients into wet ingredients until a dough forms. Knead gently for 1-2 minutes on a lightly floured bench and then divide into 2 roughly equal pieces, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced). Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface using a rolling pin until you reach your desired thickness (I like mine around 5-6mm) and cut out circles using a large round cookie cutter. Repeat until you have used all the dough.

Place onto a baking tray (they don’t have to be spread out much as they don’t really expand) and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden.

When the cookies are cooled, make your icing by adding boiling water gradually to the icing sugar until you have the desired consistency (thin enough to spread easily, but not so thin that it runs off the cookies).

To decorate, spread icing onto the cookie so it looks like a puddle, attach the white marshmallow to the ‘back’ and 2 M&M buttons. When the icing has dried completely, gently draw on the arms and facial details (my snowmen are surprised, but you can add whatever expressions you like). Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘The Best Valentine Sugar Cookies’ on Alice & Lois.com
Decorations inspired by various versions on Pinterest

Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

As the weather cools down, I am craving hot chocolates and crisp nights around the campfire, both of which are infinitely improved by the addition of marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are on an entirely different level to store bought. Their texture is  impossibly soft, light and dreamy with none of the powderyness that even the best quality store bought varieties have. These are perfect for eating as is, roasting over a fire, popping into a steaming mug of hot chocolate, or combining with chocolate and graham crackers (or equivalent) to make s’mores. Do yourself a favour and make some, stat! These marshmallows are so good, I am already thinking of how I can use the base recipe to make different flavours and variations (how good would Baileys marshies be?!)

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Ingredients (makes ~30)
½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons flavourless, powdered gelatine
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
1 ½ cups caster sugar
⅔ cups liquid glucose
½ cup water, extra
1 cup icing sugar, sifted

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Spray a 20cm x 30cm slice tin with cooking oil and line the bottom with baking paper.  Place the warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer, add gelatine and vanilla and stir to combine. Set aside.

Place the caster sugar, glucose and extra water in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Allow to boil, without stirring, for 6–7 minutes until the temperature reaches 115°C on a sugar thermometer. With the electric mixer on high, add the hot syrup to the vanilla gelatine mixture in a thin steady stream, and beat for 5-10 minutes or until white, thick and glossy.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Using a spatula sprayed with cooking oil, smooth the top of the marshmallow.

Refrigerate for 1–2 hours or until set. Gently tip the marshmallow, top-side-down onto a clean, flat surface dusted with icing sugar. Peel off the baking paper and sift icing sugar over the top. Dust a large knife with icing sugar and cut marshmallows into squares. Enjoy!

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Can be stored in the fridge for ~1 week

Adapted from Donna Hay’s ‘Caramel Swirl Marshmallows’

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Rhubarb & Cinnamon Muffins

These are some of my favourite muffins and one of the most delicious ways to use rhubarb. The combination of the tart rhubarb and buttermilk with the crunchy sugar and cinnamon crust is a match made in heaven. Try them warm out of the oven and try and stop at one!

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Ingredients (makes 16)
For the rhubarb mixture
1 bunch rhubarb, washed, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar

For the muffins
1 cup rhubarb mixture
1 ¼ cups plain flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup buttermilk
¾ cup olive oil
1 egg

For the sugar-cinnamon crust
⅓ cup sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

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Method
Preheat the oven to 180°C fan-forced. Line muffin tins with 16 patty pans.

Chop rhubarb into small, even pieces and cook with water and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the rhubarb is tender and the sugar has dissolved. Stand for 5 minutes to cool.

Add flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Carefully pour in the buttermilk, olive oil and egg and gently stir to combine. Mix in the cooked rhubarb, being careful not to over-stir (note: the mixture is supposed to be very wet, don’t worry!)

Spoon mixture evenly into muffin cases & top with mixed sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Top with extra stewed rhubarb and cream if desired. Enjoy!

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Recipe adapted from Grandma

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce

When my sister and I were younger we loved nothing more than “sticky tape pudding” on a cold winter’s night. Not much has changed, but (to our great relief) we now know that the secret ingredient to our favourite pudding is not sticky tape. This dessert is perfect served warm out of the oven, swimming in a pool of butterscotch sauce, with a good helping of vanilla ice-cream.

P.S. This butterscotch sauce is liquid gold. I sometimes make it just to go on ice-cream for the ultimate sundae & it never lasts long in our household!

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
Pudding
1 ½ cups chopped dates
1 cup water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
60g butter
¾ cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 cup self raising flour, sifted

Butterscotch Sauce
125g butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup golden syrup
300ml thickened cream

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Method
Grease and line a 20cm round cake pan with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180°C (160 fan-forced).

Combine dates and water in a small saucepan, bring to boil, remove from heat & then add bicarb soda and stand for 5 mins.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; combine well. Fold in flour alternately with date mixture into the egg mix and gently stir until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan.

Make sauce by heating butter in small saucepan, adding the sugar and syrup (handy hint: spray your ¼ cup with a bit of cooking oil before adding the golden syrup and it will come out much more easily!) and stirring over the heat (without boiling) until the sugar is dissolved. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes without stirring. Remove from heat & stir in cream.

Pour ¼ cup of sauce over the pudding and return to the oven for a further 5 mins (with foil over the top so it doesn’t darken too much).

Cut into desired size pieces and serve with lots of sauce and vanilla ice-cream.

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Recipe from Mum (originally adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly)

Torta Caprese (Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake)

This cake is my new dinner party go-to. The cake itself has it all; it’s intensely chocolate-y, rich and moist, the perfect dessert cake and between you and me, it is INCREDIBLY easy (yes, I am shouting at you). It takes very little time, dirties very few dishes and keeps well (although it never lasts long around here!) To serve, simply dust with icing sugar and top with berries and ice-cream.

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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
200g butter
200g dark chocolate
4 eggs, separated
170g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g almond meal
Icing sugar, to dust
Ice cream & berries, to serve

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Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C (or around 150 fan-forced). Grease & line a 24cm cake pan with baking paper.

Melt the butter and set aside.

Process (or finely chop) the chocolate until it is in tiny bits, but still retains a little texture.

Place egg yolks, sugar & vanilla in a medium bowl and beat until pale and thick. Fold in chocolate, butter and almond meal (mixture will be very thick)

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggwhites until soft peaks form. Gently fold in chocolate mixture, ensuring you don’t knock the air out.

Spoon into the prepared pan, level the top and bake for 50-60 minutes or until just firm to the touch.

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Set aside to cool in the pan, then turn out.

Serve while still warm with icing sugar, berries and ice cream. Bellissimo!

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Adapted from ‘Torta Caprese’ in delicious. ‘Wicked: Sinful desserts from your favourite chefs’.