Lamb, mint and haloumi sausage rolls

Sausage rolls 4It is hard to believe that almost nine months have passed since I discovered I was pregnant, yet here I am counting down the days until I welcome my first child to the world. Despite the pregnancy symptoms and constant fatigue, time really has flown by surprisingly quickly.

Part of the reason for that is that I did over commit myself during my pregnancy (first timer mistake). Before I found out I was pregnant, I had applied for an online postgrad university course which I was accepted into and decided to start the first unit in my second trimester. So during my second and most of my third trimester, not only was I working full time while pregnant, I was also studying at home. To say I found it difficult (writing reports all day at work then coming home to uni reading and writing assignments) would be an understatement. But I have finished my first unit (with pretty good grades on all my assessments) and have finally slowed down to prepare for my new life as a mum (besides all the appointments that seem to fill up the week).

Part of my preparation has included filling up the freezer with lots of ready cooked (or ready to be cooked) meals. I think winter is a great time to be in the later stages of pregnancy. Besides not melting in the Australian heat, it is quite mild but also a great time for soups, casseroles and oven baked foods that freeze really well. Some of the recipes I have made have been some old favourites, but I have also tried some new ones so there will be a few new posts to follow with those recipes.

But first here is the recipe for some very tasty sausage rolls that were made for me for my baby shower. They were so good I begged the recipe off my friends and made a batch for last night’s dinner (with half the batch going into the freezer and the rest as leftovers for today). I would have liked trying to freeze half of the batch before cooking, then defrosting and cooking later, however as I was using lamb mince that had already been frozen, I couldn’t do this. I may try this another time and will update the post then.

If you don’t like mint, this isn’t the recipe for you, but mint is one of my favourite herbs and I really like the combination of flavours in this recipe, something a little bit different from your usual sausage roll. However you could try replacing the mint and mint jelly with another herb and chutney or jelly. That is the great thing about recipes, you can experiment and adapt to your own taste.

Click here for the recipe

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More cooking classes at Sweet Artist Academy – Small Cakes 2 and Assorted Pastries

croissants and briochedanishes boxIndividual cakes 2

After such a successful and enjoyable first class with Patrick Vuaillat at Sweet Artist Academy in June I couldn’t resist enrolling in a couple more classes once my musical had finished (to read more about my first class and some background on the Academy, click here).

First up was Individual Cakes – 2. My first class at Sweet Artist Academy was the individual cakes class, however Patrick has since introduced new recipes in the class (the summer range) and after seeing photos of the new cakes, I was hooked. There was no repetition of what we were taught in the first class, everything was new and I learnt a lot of new recipes/techniques.

The individual cakes class is the most technical cooking class Patrick runs. You make a number of separate components for the cakes in the morning, and then finish the components and assemble the cakes in the afternoon. Although a technical class, it is achievable for home bakers (we had one complete beginner in our class). Patrick provides great support and help throughout; making sure everyone has completed each step before moving onto the next one. The cakes you go home with at the end of the day are amazing. I was certainly ready for a nap by the time I got home though!  Click here for more

Chocolate and orange tarts

choc orange tart

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not that fond of chocolate (strange I know). I will always bypass a chocolate dessert for something made from citrus or berries. If I am going to eat (or bake) something with chocolate, I need something added to it to cut through the richness of the chocolate.

When I saw the cover recipe of the March BBC Good Food magazine, with the classic combination of chocolate and orange, I knew it was something I wanted to try. And with a house warming to go to this weekend, it was the recipe for me.

The recipe in the magazine used store bought sweet crust pastry, with cocoa added to it in a food processor to make a chocolate pastry. I decided I had to make the chocolate pastry from scratch. Not the best plan when you only have a few hours to make the whole tart at the end of the week and the house/kitchen is boiling hot (it is a warm summer here in Perth). But I persevered. If you can give the pastry a couple of hours in the fridge it is much easier to work with and you can roll it a bit thinner. I had to make it a bit thicker as it wasn’t quite cool enough when I rolled it…but the end result was still good. I also wanted to make small individual tarts as I thought that would be easier at a house warming than a large one that needed to be cut.

The filling for these is almost like a cross between a curd and a custard. Don’t take your eyes off it when it is on the stove. I went to check the pastry and it started boiling and almost curdled. Thankfully it still worked and the end result was a good combination of the rich chocolate from the ganache drizzle and pastry, and the sweet tartness of the oranges. I used my favourite ganache recipe instead of the one in the magazine which had the addition of golden syrup as I thought this would be too sweet. The recipe below has more ganache than you’ll need to drizzle on top of the tarts. However I had extra pastry so I made more tart shells and filled the rest with the ganache for rich chocolate tarts with a hint of orange in the pastry and ganache.

choc orange ganache tarts

Click here for the recipe

Christmas Baking Class Week 1 (Part 2) – Cinnamon Pastry and Frangipane Tarts (with Raspberry)

Frangipane and raspberry tarts

I have previously posted about the  5 week Christmas baking course I am taking with Sarah Brigden (babyCakes) through Tuart College, where in the first class we made fruit mince (see post here). We then used the fruit mince to make fruit mince tarts with a frangipane (almond cream) filling/topping.

My fruit mince is still developing its flavour in the fridge, so I decided to make these tarts but with raspberries instead, as I always have some  in my freezer. The results were delicious and very popular both at home and at work. Mum has already asked for these for our family Christmas lunch.

The cinnamon pastry brings a nice added flavour to the tart, however you could leave it out or replace it with citrus zest, ground ginger, mixed spices –  it is up to you.

This pastry will keep in the fridge for 5 days before cooking or up to 3 months in the freezer (wrapped in cling wrap and placed in a sealed container or bag), while the frangipane will keep for a week in the fridge. To make these tarts with fruit mince, you can add it either before the frangipane or on top. Don’t overfill the tart cases, as the frangipane does rise a bit when it bakes.

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 8 La Religieuse

 La Religieuse 1

I’m finally back to baking and blogging after more than a month away. My apologies for my absence, but my other hobby was taking up all of my spare time. As I have mentioned before, my other passion is musical theatre, and I was cast in a local (community) musical theatre production, which hit the stage recently for a one week run. And so my time was taken up with rehearsals and then performances.

However, the musical has now finished and it is back to cooking, cooking classes, baking and blogging. The show went well, with great feedback from the audiences.  The best part was meeting all the children from the audience in character after the show. They loved that. It was a lot of work and over too quickly, but well worth it. It has reignited my love and passion for musical theatre!

But for now, there are no more shows on the horizon so I have more time for my baking and blogging. The final episode of GABO is now a distant memory, however I set myself the challenge of cooking all the technical challenges, and there is only the final weeks challenge left to go, LA Religieuse. However, as usual I did change it a bit. I decided to just do chocolate and vanilla filled versions, rather than the chocolate, coffee and rose.

I have to say I had issues with this bake. Even though I’ve made both choux pastry and crème patisserie before. Part of it could have been that I was recovering from a migraine when I first started on Saturday, and the rest was not reading the recipe correctly and then rushing and taking short cuts at the end. My first crème patisserie was a bit grainy (the sugar hadn’t dissolved using the GABO method which had the sugar in with the milk) and I put the large and small choux pastry in the oven at the same time instead of cooking them separately. So after enjoying some fresh air and sunshine at the Unwined food and wine festival in Subiaco today, I decided to start again. This time I used my normal crème patisserie recipe (which I much prefer) and cooked the choux in batches as it was supposed to, with much better results. I have to admit though, by the time I got to the assembly stage I was tired and rushing. My icing was too runny, and I didn’t want to make a second batch. And I used whipped cream instead of melted white chocolate which wasn’t firm enough. So they weren’t very pretty in the end and not very stable. But they still tasted nice and the choux pastry itself turned out great.

I have to say next time I will just cook éclairs or profiteroles, which can all go in the oven at one time, and they are much easier to assemble.  All in all, after the first failure, I was pretty happy with the outcome taste wise, although they are a very sweet and rich dessert. I am very happy that I managed to get through all 8 of the technical challenges (some better than others). Of course, cooking in your own kitchen is completely different to the high stress environment of the GABO tent, but who knows…I might have read the recipe properly if I was there!

Next up? I start a 5 week Christmas Baking Class with Sarah Brigden from babyCakes this week.

Click here for the recipe

The Great Australian Bake Off Technical Challenge – Week 4 Quiche with Layered Pastry

Quiche

As I posted last weekend, for some silly reason I decided to try to recreate the Week 3 (Brandy Snaps) and Week 4 (Quiche) GABO technical challenges at the same time. As I’ve said previously, all was going well until I started to get a migraine.

Normally when I make quiche, I use a shortcrust pastry, so I was intrigued with the idea of using rough puff pastry instead. Quiche is a great portable meal, perfect for work lunches or picnics, and great for using up leftovers from the fridge. You don’t have to stick to the fillings in this recipe. I used to make a cheat’s all in one quiche, without making the pastry (you just add pastry mix in with the filling, and it forms a base – I will post it in the future), but in more recent times I have always made it with the short crust pastry, as previously posted here.

The rough puff pastry worked quite well and was a nice change to the shortcrust, but required a lot more effort and I think is more at risk of the dreaded “soggy bottom”. You do have to make it by hand though. This isn’t a pastry you can make in the food processor. I also found mine needed a bit longer cooking time, as the very centre of the pastry was not quite cooked enough.

I had planned to take step by step photos of the pastry making process and folding, unfortunately when I went to use my camera its battery was flat, so there is only the finished photo. Sorry, I’ll try again next time.

On the whole, the fact that I managed to finish a reasonable quiche while fighting a migraine (and without burning or cutting myself) I think was an achievement, although the edges of the pastry were a bit rustic. It still tasted nice and provided a great lunch/dinner on the run before rehearsals. However, I don’t plan on making it with this pastry again if I’m making a large sized quiche. I might try it with canapé sized ones next time though.

Next technical challenge? Coffee scrolls.

Click here for the recipe