Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Mince Pies

Christmas tarts? My friends and I after a few too many G&Ts, yes. But for the purposes of this post, I mean the fruit mince variety.

Mince tarts are one of my favourite things about the weeks leading up to Christmas. They become my staple coffee treat and I like to compare them from different bakeries, much to the amusement of Mr LP. He is so over them.

I keep meaning to compile a collage to compare them all but they never last long enough for a photo.

I have been making these buttery babies - stuffed with fresh cranberries, plenty of booze and walnuts, for my cafes for nearly five years and they are now a Christmas favourite.

In other news, Little Pudding is now supplying treats to Joe Black X in King St, near the new Louis Vuitton store. They are stocking my banana bread, brownies, lemon curd tartlets, salted caramel peanut tarts and friands.

If you live in Sydney and work in the CBD, check it out. Grant and Bec make fantastic coffee using Toby’s Estate.

Larissa x

Mince Pies

250g plain flour, sifted
50g icing sugar, sifted
125g cold butter, diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
Dash of milk

Fruit mince
½ cup port
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups mixed fruit
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
Zest and juice of one orange
One granny smith or Bramley apple, peeled and grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup brandy
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180C.
Place sifted flour and icing sugar in a food processor.
Add butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and milk and process until the mixture comes together as dough.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and shape it gently into a ball (do not knead it).
Cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins.
Roll pastry dough out on a lightly floured surface to even 1.5mm thickness. Use a medium-sized fluted cookie cutter to cut out tart rounds and place into a 12-hole tart or standard muffin tin. Put this into the freezer for 5 mins. Cut out stars with remaining pastry.
Fill the tarts with a generous dollop of fruit before placing a pastry star on top.
Brush the star with egg wash (one egg whisked with a dash of milk) or plain milk to help brown during baking.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and try to stop at one! I like them with brandy cream as well but it is widely acknowledged that I'm a chops.

For fruit:
Place all ingredients except vanilla and brandy in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 mins until rich and fragrant. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to “mince” the fruit or if you prefer a smoother filling, blitz for a couple of seconds with a hand-blender.
When the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the walnuts, vanilla and brandy.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Golden Door Masterclass

I’m not really in the business of cooking healthily.

And I’m not one for rising before the sun, especially if it has nothing to do with a crying baby.

But if The Golden Door is involved, well, that changes things.

A couple of Sundays ago I dragged myself out of bed before 6am and pulled on shorts, T-shirt and sneakers to go for a walk with a bunch of other spring chickens and the Golden Door Health Retreat crew in the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

A couple of times each year, the crew from the GD’s retreats (Elysia in the NSW Hunter Valley and Willowvale in the Gold Coast hinterland) visit a few capital cities to lead walks and reacquaint past guests with the GD way of life - like cooking without sugar and butter and greeting the sun each morning with Tai Chi. Perfect. Did I mention the clincher? No caffeine.

You might ask how a cake-baking coffee hound like me survived two week-long stints at the GD?

It’s largely due to the chefs and the incredible food they serve. You really don’t realise you’re missing the bad stuff (ok, except coffee). Tip: detox before you go to avoid migraines.

Anyhoo, I was pretty excited when the GD announced they were bringing head chef David Hunter down to Sydney with them to teach a cooking master class after the usual walk.

My fellow GD devotee, Mum, rustled up a group of us and we made a day of it, beginning with Tai Chi before a 45min walk around the gardens.

If you’re going to greet the day it may as well be on a gorgeous, sun-drenched morning like this one.

Some of the local scenery, little sister walking and Poolside Cafe

On the home stretch, the lure of coffee at Poolside Cafe above Boy Charleton Pool was too much and we snuck in for brekkie (yes, poached eggs and house made beans. Sorry, I wolved it down before I thought about taking a photo. Guess that’s a good sign).

We reconvened a couple of hours later at the Sydney Seafood School at the Fish Market for the cooking class.

Cooking demonstrations are part of the GD program and are interesting to watch but it’s always more fun when you can have a go at preparing dishes yourself.

After watching David cook prawn and spinach mousse parcels, an aromatic snapper curry with a carrot and almond salad and a dessert of carob verrines with cashew cream, we divided into groups to recreate it all for lunch. Recipes below.

The snapper curry was the standout for me. Like a lot of GD recipes, the ingredients list is a bit daunting (a whole page) but cooking it was quite simple. Admittedly, we did have our spice mix and measurements all pre-prepared for us.

To save on time, David suggested grinding the spice mix in advance so it was ready when you need it. Also, once prepared, the curry can be frozen which is always a bonus for anyone with time issues. Lord knows, I’m one of them!

For this recipe, we learnt how to pan “fry” a piece of fish achieving a caramelised, crispy skin using only lemon juice, salt and pepper. Amazing!

Mum, Jan, Dani and Steph in action

Dessert was equally fabulous. It was like a healthy trifle with chocolate flavoured custard, nut crumble and delicious cashew cream. This too was quite easy to do although shopping for some of the ingredients would involve a trip to the health food store and some research into other uses for things like coconut nectar, which I foresee sitting in my pantry for years untouched, less two tablespoons for this recipe.

When our benches were clean and we had dumped all of our dirty pots and pans onto a trolley for someone else to wash up (love it!), we took our lunch into the dining room and sat with the GD staff who happily sampled our efforts over a glass of crisp white.

We had a blast, learnt loads and went home with full bellies and takeaway containers crammed with curry and salad, which Mr LP gratefully tucked into.

It was definitely worth getting up early on a Sunday. Bring on the next one!

Larissa x

The Golden Door’s Fish Curry
With Brown Rice and Quinoa

(Serves 6)

Spice Mix
6 Cloves
3 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cardamom pods
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp caraway seeds
3 tsp black mustard seeds

Lightly toast the spices in a fry pan until they start to crackle and are fragrant. Remove from the heat and place in a blender or mortar & pestle and finely grind. Makes ½ cup (this curry takes 2 tsp).

250g leek
150g pumpkin, diced
150g tomato, diced
150g pineapple, diced
3 tsp red or green curry paste
1 tsp coconut nectar or palm sugar
1 tsp each of fresh coriander, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and chopped lemongrass
2 tsp spice mix (above)
50g cashew nuts
1tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp lime zest
Juice of half a lime
600mls vegetable stock
200mls coconut milk
Fresh herbs to serve, like coriander and basil

Vegies and fish
150g cauliflower florets
½ onion, sliced
1 bulb of baby fennel, sliced
Handful of baby spinach leaves
700g fresh snapper fillets
Juice of half a lemon

Brown Rice and Quinoa
300g brown rice
50g red quinoa
750ml water


Preheat oven to 180C.

Place rice and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 mins.
Add quinoa and cook for a further 10 mins. Drain and rinse before serving.

For sauce, place sliced onion and fennel on a lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 mins.
Place all ingredients except coconut milk, veggie stock, herbs and lime into a saucepan.
Add 100ml of veggie stock to ingredients and bring to boil.
Cook for 5 mins then add rest of stock and continue cooking for a further 10 mins.
Add coconut milk, lime and herbs and cook for a further 5 mins.
Place sauce in a blender and blend until smooth.
Return to pot and add spinach and cauliflower, baked onion and fennel.
Bring back to the boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.

Place lemon juice in frying pan with a little salt and pepper. Bring to heat, then add fish and cook for approx 2 mins or until juice is slightly caramelised.
Deglaze by adding a small amount of water and turn fish. Cook for another 2 mins, approximately, then place lid on pan and turn off heat. Allow to stand for 1 minute then place on a bed of rice and quinoa. Serve with curry sauce and carrot salad (recipe below).

The Golden Door's Carrot and Bean Sprout Salad with Seasoned Almonds

4 medium carrots (julienned finely)
100g slithered almonds
3 tbsp tamari (thick soy sauce)
200g bean sprouts
100g snow pea sprouts


Preheat oven to 180C. Place slithered almonds on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Put in oven for 3-4mins until slightly golden.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with tamari and leave to cool.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add sliced carrots and blanch for 1 minute. Remove, drain and place into cold water.
Place remaining ingredients into a serving bowl (bean sprouts and snow pea sprouts). Drain carrots from cold water and add to salad bowl with sprouts. Mix seasoned almonds through vegetables.

The Golden Door's Carob Verrines with Coconut, Date and Nut Crumble, served with Cashew Cream and Berry Coulis

Carob Mousse
500mls Rice Milk
100mls coconut cream (or coconut milk for a lighter option)
3 Cardamom pods, cracked
½ tsp cinnamon
Zest of a small mandarin
2 tsp coconut nectar
2 tbsp carob powder
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
2 tbsp cornflour

80g figs, finely chopped
80g dates, finely chopped
100g Brazil nuts, finely chopped (I would use pecans here instead)
30g shredded coconut

Cashew Cream
1 ½ cups raw cashew nuts
220mls coconut water
3 tbsp maple syrup or coconut nectar
1 tsp vanilla

Berry Coulis
300g berries (eg. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
Juice of half an orange
1 tsp maple syrup
Fresh berries to serve


Soak raw cashews in coconut water for at least 30mins then blend cashew cream ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Crumble – place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz.

Berry Coulis – place all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a sieve and set aside until ready to use.

Mousse – Combine all ingredients except cornflour in a saucepan.
Bring to the boil and simmer for appx 4 mins. Mix the cornflour with a little water and add. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of the berry coulis into a serving glass. Add a little crumble then a layer of mousse. Finish with a dollop of cashew cream, then sprinkle on more crumble and fresh berries on top.