Venetian Duck Ragu

Slow Cooked Duck Ragu for Pasta

I was recently watching Rick Stein’s television series, From Venice to Istanbul, and it really struck me how different the cooking of this section of the Veneto region is to the rest of Italy. The use of spices such as cinnamon and curry powder bring to the cuisine a real hint of its Byzantine past. This duck ragu, which is not a Rick Stein recipe by the way, is a great example where the cinnamon adds depth and complexity to a slow cooked sauce.

I love duck and it’s such a shame that people are either a little intimidated to cook with it or think it’s unhealthy. In fact, duck is very hard to get wrong as it will rarely dry out, especially the legs as in this recipe and duck fat is far better for you (as is butter) than those horrid hydrogenated vegetable oils. So if you see some duck legs sitting on your supermarket shelf this weekend grab them and try this very simple and delicious ragu.

Ingredients – Serves 6 (I halved the recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 duck legs
2 onions, finely chopped
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons plain flour
1 cup red wine
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
3 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons milk
600g large tubular paccheri pasta or pappardelle
Freshly grated Parmesan to serve

Method

Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pan which has a lid. Season the duck legs with salt and pepper Add them to the pan and cook on all sides for about 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove to a plate and set aside. Add the onions to the pan along with a pinch of salt and cook for until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, then stir in the cinnamon and flour and cook for a another minute. Return the duck to the pan, add the wine, tomatoes, stock, herbs, sugar and seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat, cover with a lid and cook for two hours, stirring every now and then.

Venetian Duck Ragu Venetian Duck Ragu

Carefully lift the duck legs out of the sauce and place on a plate – they will be very tender so try not to lose any of the meat. Pull off and discard the fat, then shred the meat with two forks and discard the bones. Add the meat back to the sauce and check the seasoning, then add the milk and simmer, uncovered, for a further 10-15 minutes while you cook the pasta.

Venetian Duck Ragu Venetian Duck Ragu

Cook the pasta following package instructions, then drain, reserving a cup of the pasta water, and add the pasta to the ragu. Stir to coat all the pasta in the sauce and cook for 1 minute more, adding a splash of pasta water if it looks dry. Serve with grated Parmesan.

Slow Coked Duck Ragu

Marinated Fried Zucchini with Mint

An Italian Side Dish - Marinaded Fried Zucchini with Mint

I am always on the look out for new and different side dishes. Even though a side dish is the supporting act in a meal and never the star of the show, a really good side can turn an ordinary or plain main into something very special. I guess that’s why side dishes in steak restaurants are so crucial. This zucchini (or courgette) dish is a lovely recipe that hails from southern Spain where the technique of frying an ingredient then marinading it is quite  common. It’s also  popular in Italy where zucchini are cut quite thick and left out in the sun to dry before being fried which intensifies its flavour. The addition of mint makes this wonderfully refreshing and the garlic is really essential to bring out the flavour of the zucchini. This pairs beautifully with roast chicken and game as well as lamb or fish.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller

500gm zucchini, cut diagonally into 2.5cm-thick lengths
60 ml (¼ cup) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
garlic cloves, 1 cut into 4 slices; 1 finely chopped
dried red chilli, crushed or a large pinch of crushed chilli flakes
2 tablespoons thinly sliced mint
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Sea salt

Method

Line an oven tray with paper towels. Place zucchini on tray and stand to drain for a minimum of 30 minutes ut the longer you can leave them out the better they will be. Pat dry with paper towel.

  

Place oil and garlic slices in a large frying pan over medium heat and gently fry until golden brown. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and discard. Increase heat to medium-high. Add zucchini in batches and fry until browned on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels, then place on a serving plate. Scatter with finely chopped garlic, sea salt, chilli and mint, season to taste, drizzle with vinegar and serve at room temperature. If serving the next day, cover the plate with plastic wrap and store in a cool place, but not the refrigerator.

An Italian Side Dish - Marinated Fried Zucchini with Mint

Miso Crab Risotto with Ginger Butter & Crispy Tarragon

Donna Hay - Miso Crab Risotto with Ginger Butter & Crispy Tarragon

It’s hard to photograph a risotto that is almost all white and make it look appealing, well hard for me anyway, but I can assure you that this crab risotto from Donna Hay is very delicious and very indulgent. I love the use of miso and ginger that give this risotto just a little nudge towards Asia. You’ll need to use fresh crab meat for this recipe, tinned or vacuum packed crab won’t be good here. In Sydney you can buy picked blue swimmer crab meat from most fish mongers and also from the fish market, it’s expensive but in a dish like this well worth the cost. This risotto would make a lovely starter for a special occasion dinner. The prep work involved is quite easy and a good tip for when you want to cook risotto for company is to prepare the recipe to the stage just before the first ladle of stock is added  then keep the pot covered and at room temperature. When you’re 20 minutes away from wanting to serve just bring the pot back up to heat with your first ladle of stock and continue as normal. Doing it this way minimises the amount of time you’re away from your guests and your risotto won’t suffer in the slightest – this is how risotto is prepped in a lot of restaurants.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6     Adapted from Donna Hay

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 sprigs tarragon
3 eschalots (French shallots), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
⅓ cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon white miso paste
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 cups arborio rice
1.25 litres fish stock, heated – I used a light chicken stock
Miso Crab Butter
150g unsalted butter chopped
1 ½ tablespoons white miso paste
500g cooked crab meat
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Method

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Carefully add the tarragon, in batches and cook for 30 seconds or until crisp. Set aside on a paper towel.

Add the eschalots and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally for 6-8 minutes or until translucent, being careful not to get any colour on them. Add the sherry, miso, salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice and cook stirring for 1-2 minutes. Add the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring until each cup is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 25 minutes.

To make the miso crab butter, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the miso and cook for 1 minute. Add the crab and lemon rind and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the mixture is foaming and the crab is heated through. Add the ginger and lemon juice and stir to combine. Divide the risotto between bowls, spoon over the miso crab butter, sprinkle with black pepper and serve with the crispy tarragon.

Best Ever Risotto - Miso Crab Risotto with Ginger Butter

 

Blue Cheese & Walnut Crackers

Ina Garten's Stilton & Walnut Crackers

Apologies for my long absence – we’ve just returned from a long holiday to Canada and Alaska. I do normally publish posts when we’re away but the scenery and natural splendour of that part of the world were so amazing that I wanted to spend as little time as possible on my laptop. As you can imagine we took a LOT of photos which I’ll be boring my friends and family with over the coming weeks and these Stilton and walnuts crackers will make the perfect slide-night treat. Blue cheese and walnuts are one of those natural food pairings so it’s little wonder that these are very delicious and very addictive. They have a lovely shortbread like texture and would make a great accompaniment to a cheese board but they’re just as good on their own with a glass of wine or champagne. I sometimes make a batch of these and keep the uncooked log in the freezer and then just defrost, slice and bake them when needed.

Ingredients – Makes 30 crackers  Adapted from Ina Garten/The Barefoot Contessa

120g unsalted butter at room temperature
230g Stilton cheese, crumbled, at room temperature – you can replace with any other semi-firm blue cheese
1½ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
½ cup roughly chopped walnuts – I used slightly more

Method

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and cheese together for 1 minute, or until smooth. With the mixer on low-speed, add the flour, salt and pepper and mix until it’s in large crumbles, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of water and mix until combined.

  

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 12-inch long log. Brush the log completely with the egg wash. Spread the walnuts in a square on a cutting board and roll the log back and forth in the walnuts pressing lightly, and distributing them evenly on the outside of the log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Blue Cheese & Walnut Crackers Ina Garten - Blue Cheese & Walnut Crackers Barefoot Contessa - Blue Cheese & Walnut Crackers

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the log into slices that are just under a centimetre thick with a small, sharp knife and place the crackers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Ina Garten's Stilton & Blue Cheese Crackers

Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

Simon Hopkinson's Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

If you love unctuous, sticky slow cooked lamb then you need to make this recipe. If you love perfectly cooked, tender and flavoursome cannellini beans then you need to make this recipe. If you love the flavours and textures of cassoulet then you need to make this recipe. Am I making myself clear people – this is really delicious and I’m so glad I discovered this recipe from one of my all time favourite food heroes, Simon Hopkinson. I know it’s the height of summer in the northern hemisphere and maybe this isn’t something that you want to whip up on a blistering hot day so you’re allowed to file this for a later date but for readers closer to home where the days are cool and the nights are darn right chilly this is the perfect winter warmer. I mentioned cassoulet above and this really does mimic the flavours one finds in a traditional cassoulet but with half the work and not as many diverse cuts of meat – no duck confit, sausages or pork belly. All these are replaced with lamb shanks and a small amount of thick cut slab bacon or speck. What it does have in common with cassoulet is the beans and oh what beans these are. Slow cooked along with the lamb so they soak up all their amazing flavour with a  wonderful crust forming on top of the dish just as you would find in the best cassoulets.

Ingredients – Serves 4  Adapted from Simon Hopkinson

350g dried white beans, cannellini, or haricot
400g cherry tomatoes
8 cloves of garlic
Several sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped off by hand
200ml sweet vermouth
2 tablespoons olive oil
250g streaky bacon in a piece, rind removed and cut into 2cm chunks – I used speck
4 large meaty lamb shanks
300g onions, chopped
300g carrots, peeled and chopped into small chunks
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
350ml best quality beef stock
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper

Method

Put the beans in a roomy pan and cover with water (no salt) to at least 4cm above the beans. Bring up to a boil, switch off the heat and leave in the water for 1 hour – or longer, if desired, as they won’t spoil.

Put the tomatoes in a liquidiser together with the garlic (unpeeled), thyme leaves and vermouth and process until smooth. Suspend a fine sieve over a deep pan or bowl and tip the mixture into it. Press well down into the sieve with a small ladle until a “raw tomato soup” has been passed through from the messy mulch (skins, seeds, etc), which should then be discarded. Now put this mixture to one side.

Using a large, preferably cast-iron pot (a Le Creuset would be ideal) heat the olive oil over a moderate flame. Tip in the bacon and allow to fry quietly for about 5 minutes, or until lightly gilded and its fat has run. Lift out the bacon and reserve on a large plate. Season the shanks and slowly fry in the bacon fat until all surfaces are nicely browned. Lift out and place alongside the bacon.

Introduce the onions and carrots to the pot and allow them to sweat for about 10 minutes, or until lightly coloured. If your pan is running dry add a little more oil. Add the tomato mixture, bring up to a bubble and allow to cook for a further 10 minutes.


Stir in the bay leaves, cloves and stock. Now, reintroduce the bacon and lamb shanks and push under the liquid to cover them. Bring up to a simmer, partially cover the pot and cook very slowly, for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 150C. By this time the beans should have had their hour’s soak. Drain them, rinse well and return them to the pot in which they soaked. Cover with fresh water and bring them up to a simmer (again, no salt). Allow to cook quietly for about 20 minutes, switch off the heat, cover and put to one side. Once the lamb has had its hour’s simmering, drain the beans once more and stir into the partly stewed lamb and vegetables. Stir together well, thoroughly distributing the beans among the meat.

Bring up to a quiet but significant simmer before sliding into the oven. Cook for a further 1½ – 2 hours, uncovered, until both beans and lamb are meltingly tender and the liquid surrounding them has somewhat reduced, having by now formed a nice and gooey burnished look to the surface of the stew.

Remove from oven, add the parsley and carefully stir it in. Serve just as it is, directly from the pot, onto heated plates, at the table.

Best Ever Winter Comfort Food - Braised Lamb Shanks with White Beans

Cardamom Yogurt Cake

The Perfect Cake for a Cup of Tea - Yogurt Cardamom Cake

Not all cakes need to be fancy. In fact, sometimes the only thing that will hit the spot is a nice plain cake, nothing too sweet or overwhelming but definitely flavourful and moist. This is that cake. A great all rounder that’s easy to whip up and goes perfectly with a nice cup of tea. It stores well and retains its moistness thanks to the use of yogurt. I love the scent and flavour of cardamom and the quantities below will give you a subtle hint of it but if you want more intensity then double the amount, which is what I’ll do next time. You’ll also get a more intense cardamom flavour if you pound the seeds from fresh cardamom pods rather than using ground cardamom from a jar.

Ingredients  Adapted from Rachel Allen

250 g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
225 g caster sugar
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 small orange
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds (from about 12–14 pods) or 1 tsp ready- ground cardamom
4 eggs
225 ml natural yogurt – I just measured 1 cup
350 g plain flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
for the icing
225 g icing sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon ready-ground cardamom or the ground seeds of 5 cardamom pods
2 – 2½ tablespoon natural yogurt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and butter a bundt tin well. If you’re using a standard type of cake tin, butter the sides and line the base with a disc of baking parchment. Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Next, beat in the orange juice and zest and the ground cardamom. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, then mix in the yogurt. Next sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, folding in just until combined.

  

Tip the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula or palette knife. Bake the cake for 50–55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for just 5 minutes, then, if using a bundt tin, place a wire rack on the top and invert the cake so it is upside down, then remove the tin, turn upright again and leave to cool on the wire rack.

 Cardamom Yogurt Cake with Orange 

As the cake cools, make the icing. Beat together the icing sugar, cardamom and 25ml of the yogurt, adding a tiny bit more yoghurt if the mixture seems too stiff. (It should be a thick drizzling consistency: too thin and the icing will slide off the cake – too thick and you won’t be able to drizzle it.)

Place the cake on a cake stand or serving plate, then drizzle the icing backwards and forwards from the centre to the outside of the cake in a zigzag pattern.

Rachel Allen Cardamom Yogurt Cake

Martin Boetz’s Thai Crispy Pork Belly & Pineapple Curry

Martin Boetz Pork Belly with Crispy Crackling & Pineapple Curry

Martin Boetz used to be the executive chef at a wonderful Thai restaurant in Sydney called Longrain. Unfortunately he left the helm to pursue other ventures which is such a shame as he really set the gold standard for modern Thai food here in Sydney. Luckily though we can continue to recreate Martin’s amazing food via his cook books. This recipe for a crispy pork belly curry is from his second book New Thai Food which showcases very approachable Thai recipes for the home cook. Any meal featuring pork with crispy crackling is going to be good but when it’s paired with a deeply savoury curry sauce flecked with sweet pineapple, it takes the humble pork belly to new heights. Speaking of the pork, this method of steaming then roasting the pork belly is a great one to use when you’re short of time and went tender fall apart flesh and crispy skin, a process which would normally take double the amount of time using just an oven.

Crispy Pork Belly for Thai Curry

One word of note on this recipe and others from the same book; I have found the dishes can come out way too salty at times and to avoid this happening you need to be careful about the type of fish sauce you use. I think if you follow Martin’s measurements for fish sauce then you need to use a very mild one. If you’re fish sauce is a normal grade one from the supermarket then it’s best to lower the amount of fish sauce or water it down slightly to ensure your finished dish isn’t overly salty.

Ingredients – Serves 4   Adapted from Martin Boetz’s  New Thai Food

1 x 500g pork belly, with skin
1 teaspoon salt
60ml coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons best quality red curry paste
200g palm sugar
100ml fish sauce, see note above – if your fish sauce is very strong use only 60ml
250ml coconut milk
3 long red chillies, halved and seeded
5 kaffir lime leaves
60g fresh pineapple, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces – I used triple this amount
1½ tablespoons tamarind paste
Large handful of fresh Thai basil leaves

Method

Put the pork belly on a piece of baking paper or banana leaf in a steamer and set over boiling water. Cover and steam for 45 minutes, topping up the water in the steamer as necessary. Remove the pork and leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Rub the pork belly with the salt, put in a roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the red curry paste and fry, stirring continuously, until the paste is fragrant and it releases the oil – this takes about 8 minutes. (As the moisture in the curry paste evaporates, the oil is released, which indicates that the paste is cooked out.)

Add the palm sugar and fish sauce and cook, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved, for about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Stir in the chillies and lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When the pork is golden and crisp, remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes. Slice into pieces and set aside. When you are ready to serve, bring the curry back to a simmer. Add the pineapple and tamarind, stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the pork slices and heat through. Stir in the basil, then spoon the curry into serving bowls and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Martin Boetz - Thai curry of Crispy Pork Belly & Pineapple

Golden Syrup & Macadamia Tart

Golden Syrup & Macadamia Tart

Although this tart tastes and looks indulgent the recipe is surprisingly frugal in its ingredients and composition. The Cucina Povera that we hear so much about in Mediterranean  cuisine existed here and in England too after the war when food rationing meant that housewives had to be extra inventive to create tasty appealing meals, and this tart is a prime example. You would never think that the filling of this tart is made from stale breadcrumbs and golden syrup, in fact it tastes and has the texture of a fancy frangipane filling. Granted the macadamias are a touch of extravagance, although maybe not so much back then, and if you wish you can always replace them with almonds or hazelnuts but the macadamias do add a lovely richness. This is such an easy tart to make and every time I serve it I get asked for the recipe. You can dress it up for dessert by serving it with ice cream but it’s just lovely on its own with a cup of coffee or tea.

Ingredients   Adapted from Ben O’Donoghue

For the Pastry
1⅔ cups (250g) plain flour
100g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
2 tablespoons icing sugar, sifted
2 egg yolks

For the Filling
3¼ cups (225g) fresh breadcrumbs
100g unsalted butter
1¼ cups (440g) golden syrup
Grated zest of 1 orange, plus 3 tablespoons juice
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup (150g) macadamia nuts, halved – you can also use hazelnuts or almonds

Method

For pastry, pulse flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a processor, then whiz until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sugar and yolks, then whiz until mixture forms a ball (add 1-2 tbs cold water if needed). Knead on a lightly floured surface for 1-2 minutes until smooth, then enclose in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Grease a 24cm loose-bottomed tart pan. Grate chilled pastry over pan and use clean hands to evenly press into base and sides. (Pastry with a high butter content can be hard to work with, and this is an easy method that doesn’t need a rolling pin.) Chill for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line pastry with baking paper and fill with pastry weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove weights and paper, then bake for a further 5-8 minutes or until tart shell is light golden brown and the base is cooked. Set aside.

Golden Syrup Tart Golden Syrup & Macadamia Tart

Meanwhile, stir breadcrumbs, butter, syrup, zest, juice and nutmeg in a pan over low heat until butter is just melted and mixture is combined. (It’ll be slightly loose at first, but the bread will start to thicken mixture.) Tip mixture into the tart shell and arrange nuts, cut-side down, in a concentric pattern on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes until filling is firm to touch in centre. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan. Carefully remove the tart from the pan, then dust with icing sugar and serve warm or cold.

Golden Syrup & Macadamia Tart

Shrimp Étouffée – A New Orleans Classic

Best Ever Étouffée - A New Orleans Classic Dish

Creole food is not something that’s commonly available in Sydney which is a shame as the food from that region is really delicious. So when I get a craving for Cajun food I whip up one of my favourites – Étouffée.  Étouffée is basically a thick stew that is made with a roux which is cooked until golden brown to ensure that it’s full of flavour and colour. It’s extremely important to cook your butter and flour until it’s a deep deep brown, otherwise the gravy will be insipid.  By the way this is also a great method to use when you want to make a gravy but your pan drippings are too meagre to give a full-bodied colour to your sauce. The shellfish traditionally used in Étouffée is crawfish but as crawfish can be hard to come by shrimp is more commonly used, nice big ones if possible. Étouffée is usually served with lots of rice to mop up the delicious gravy and the classic presentation is to plate a nice circular mound of rice in the centre of a plate (use a small bowl to shape the rice) and then pour the shrimps and gravy around the rice – it looks as good as it tastes!

Ingredients – Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil
4-5 whole shrimp per person, peeled and deveined (reserve the shells and heads)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 cups best quality chicken stock
1 cup water
60g butter
⅓ cup flour
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
A large pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, finely diced
1 cup celery, finely diced
1 green capsicum, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 spring onions, sliced
¼ cup chopped parsley
4 cups cooked white rice

Method

Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat, add the shrimp shells and heads, along with the bay leaves and tomato paste. Cook, pressing down hard on the shells with a potato masher or the back of a spoon (this releases all their lovely shellfish flavour), until the shrimp shells are seared and turned red, and the heads are soft. Add the chicken stock and water, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain the stock through a sieve, you should have roughly 2 cups of shellfish stock. Set aside.

Étouffée Stock Étouffée Roux 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and gradually whisk in the flour making sure there are no lumps. Continue to cook, whisking the roux over medium low heat until it turns a deep brown colour. This can take up to 10 minutes depending on your heat but make sure you whisk constantly to avoid the roux burning and turning bitter. As the roux cooks it will smell lovely and toasted – getting a nice deep colour on the roux is the most essential step in the recipe.

Add the thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper to the roux. Mix well to combine all of the spices. Add the onion, celery, capsicum, and garlic to the pan and stir and cook for a few minutes until the onions have started to softened a little. Again moderate your heat so as the roux doesn’t burn.

How to Make Étouffée  Shrimp Étouffée

Add the stock, stirring the whole time. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally . Increase the heat and add the peeled shrimp and spring onions. Stir everything together until the shrimp is just cooked and changed colour. To serve, place some rice in the middle of each plate and pour the étouffée around the rice,  garnish with the chopped parsley.

Cajun Classic Recipe for Shrimp Étouffée

Apricot & Walnut Buttermilk Cake

An Autumn Cake - Apricot & Walnut

As the weather finally starts to get cooler in Sydney I find myself more willing to crank up the oven and do some baking. Those hot humid days of summer are more suited to fruit and ice creams but nothing beats a nice moist cake with a hot cup of tea or coffee on a brisk autumn day. I’m a big fan of cakes which include buttermilk, they always have such a nice crumb and are wonderfully moist. This coffee cake is no exception and has the added bonus of using two of my favourite ingredients – walnuts and apricots! This is an easy cake to pull together, in fact you won’t even need to pull out your stand mixer, but like all cakes you’ll get the best results if you measure carefully and make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature.

Ingredients

For the cake:
2 cups plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda (bi-carbonate of soda)
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup diced dried apricots
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
½ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
¼ cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted
⅓ cup apricot jam or preserves
¼ cup chopped walnuts
For the glaze:
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
2½ tablespoons buttermilk
Method

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan. For easier removal of cake from the pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and lightly grease parchment. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the apricot pieces and whisk to combine.

  

Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, ½ cup sugar, and butter in a separate bowl. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to until just combined. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Dollop jam by teaspoonfuls over batter and swirl with a knife. Sprinkle walnuts on top of batter. Sprinkle remaining 1 teaspoon sugar on top of walnuts.

 Apricot & Walnut Coffee Cake 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the glaze: Stir together icing sugar and buttermilk in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake.
Apricot & Walnut Coffee Cake