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Posts from the ‘pies, tarts & pastries’ Category

The Asparagus Table – La Vignarola – Italian Spring Soup, Wholemeal Asparagus Tart and Egg Asparagus Soldiers

Some of the simplest things in life are best, how often have you heard that remark?  The long awaited asparagus season is here in New Zealand and keeping it simple with asparagus certainly highlights the veg at it’s best. My favourite way to eat asparagus is just lightly steamed served with eggs ‘anyway’ and lashings of butter,  try a fun quirky way of serving the spears with your soft boiled egg using them as ‘dunking soldiers’. As I was eating the asparagus and boiled eggs my mind had already wandered onto truffle oil drizzled into the shell…watch out shopping bill, truffle oil may well be in the next basket.

The Italian spring soup La Vignarola is perfect for show casing not only asparagus but also lovely spring vegetables of podded peas and broad beans. If you can’t find them freshly podded and don’t have them sprouting away in your garden, snap frozen are pretty convenient and taste great too. A simple tart of asparagus with sour cream and mustard is easy for anyone to whip up, I made a wholemeal pastry but you can always buy pre bought if you are short on time or don’t have ‘pastry fingers’.

La Vignarola – Spring Soup


4 spring onions, sliced

2 bunches asparagus

200g frozen peas, defrosted

200g broad beans, podded (you can use frozen)

200g jar marinated artichoke hearts

3 cloves garlic

2 cups vegetable stock

Large handful each of parsley & mint, finely chopped

Zest and juice 1 small lemon

100g shaved Pecorino to serve

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper


Cut the woody ends off the asparagus spears and discard, then cut spears into three.

Place a little olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.

Add the spring onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the asparagus, podded broad beans and stock to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Add the peas, artichokes juice and zest of the lemon to the saucepan and season with salt & pepper.

You can add some of the artichoke marinade to the soup also if you wish, tasting as you do.

Add the parsley and mint.

Bring the soup to the boil then remove from the heat and serve immediately, you want the veg to be crisp and green.

Serve the soup with shaved pecorino and crust bread

Asparagus Tart – serves 6

Ingredients – pastry
110g butter

180g wholemeal flour
1 egg

2 Tbsp iced water

pinch of salt

Method – Pastry

Place flour, butter and salt in the bowl and whiz until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the egg and water and knead together briefly to form a dough.

Rest the pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Roll pastry out to fit tart tin and press into place, trim edges off pastry.

Ingredients – Tart Filling

1 bunch spring asparagus

250g sour cream

2 large free range eggs

2 heaped tsp whole grain mustard

salt & pepper to season

ground black pepper

Method – Tart Filling

Pre-heat oven at 180C & grease & flour a 20cm loose bottom tart tin.

Remove the woody ends from the asparagus and cut spear in half.

Whisk together the sour cream, eggs and mustard and season with a little salt & pepper.

Pour mixture into the pastry base.

Lay the asparagus half spears on top of the mixture in pastry case, alternating tip and base as in picture.

Grind some black pepper over the top of asparagus.

Bake in oven on a lower shelf (to crisp pastry base) for 35-40 minutes until tart is set and golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing tart from mould.
Serve warm of chilled


Italian Sfinci with Orange Ricotta Cream

Last week I ran a pastry class, teaching the group how to make a choux pastry. The classes are all hands on so everyone gets to make their own pastries and more importantly take a batch home with them. From the choux pastry we made traditional Chocolate Eclairs and Profiteroles but the champion of the evening was certainly these irresistible Italian treats. Sfinci are the Italians answer to doughnuts and they certainly have a way of of making doughnuts rather look clumsy and unrefined. They are made from a choux style pastry, deep fried until they turn golden and puff up into these heavenly feather light balls of crispy dough. They are so light you will be able to fool yourself that they can’t possibly be unhealthy, share them with friends if you feel guilty about eating them all, then everyone including your waistline will be happy!

If you can resist not eating them all before they have a chance to cool down, they really are delectable filled with the ricotta and orange cream.

Some Sfinci are made from a yeast batter but I like this style.

I just know my NZ blogger friends will love them so I have dedicated this post to our monthly blogging event Sweet New Zealand which was created byAlessandra who is Italian, let’s see what she thinks of them! This months event is hosted by After Taste where you will find lots more Kiwi goodness in the next few days.

65ml water
65ml whole milk
55g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp caster sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
100g plain flour
3 free-range medium eggs, beaten
500 ml vegetable oil
250g ricotta
20g orange candied peel
1Tbsp icing sugar
Extra castor sugar to roll the Sfinci in

Put the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a high heat.
Take off the heat, immediately tip in the flour and quickly stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.
Return to a medium heat and cook for about 2 minute until the mixture comes away from the side of the pan, the flour needs to be cooked a little.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool, gradually whisk in the beaten eggs until you have a smooth dropping consistency.
Place the vegetable oil into a pan and heat to approx 180C. If you haven’t got a thermometer just test small blobs of the dough, if they start to fry immediately and slowly go golden the temperature is correct. If they brown rapidly then it is too hot.
Spoon rough tablespoons of dough into hot oil in batches and turn occasionally until golden and cooked through (2-3 minutes; be careful as hot oil will spit).
Use a slotted spoon to remove the Sfinci from the pan once cooked and place on a tray with the extra castor sugar and roll them in the sugar to coat.
Once cooled, cut them open and fill them with ricotta cream.
To make the ricotta cream, mix together the ricotta, one tablespoon of icing sugar and orange candied peel.


Sticky Crunchy Apple Flapjack Tart


While pondering on this recipe and what I was actually creating, the old Superman saying came to mind, ‘is it a bird…is it a plane…no its…’ Well it’s a Heinz 57 cross breed with a flapjack which is a British oat slice and and a desire to have an apple tart with a difference. If you aren’t familiar with the flapjack it a moreishly sweet, chewy centre and crispy outer oat slice. If it wasn’t for the ton of golden syrup or brown sugar that goes into it it would be rather good for you. I have sandwiched apples in between my slice, pressing the bottom layer into a base and crumbling the the second layer over the top. It has proved to be quite versatile this week as a dessert hot with ice cream or yoghurt and the left overs made a great lunchbox slice and even a substitute breakfast crumbled in a bowl with yoghurt. Of course you could substitute pears or stonefly it when it is in season.

150g rolled oats (finer flakes)
150g whole oats
50g wholemeal flour
150g butter
100g soft brown sugar
3 large granny smith apples
2 tsp cinnamon

Pre heat oven to 180C and grease a 22cm tart tin with a loose removable bottom.
Core the apples, and chop into approx 1 inch pieces. If you read my blog regularly you will know I don’t peel apples and pears but you can if you prefer.
Put the sugar and butter in a pan over a low heat. Once melted add all the oats, flour and cinnamon and stir to combine.
Press two thirds of the mixture into the prepared tin with a metal spoon, if the mixture sticks to the spoon, rinse and use the wet spoon to continue pressing.
Bake for 15 minutes and remove from the oven.
Cover the part baked base with the chopped apples.
Cover the apples with the rest of the mixture by crumbling it over the top.
Bake for another 30 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or yoghurt. Stays fresh for a week.

Fisherman’s Pie with Cauliflower and Kumara Potato Top


As the winter rolls in and the wild west winds start to rattle the house, its time to crank up the indoor heating and firing up the oven on is one sure way of heating an old kiwi Bach. Coming from a country of central heating and double glazing the flimsy Kiwi houses made from gib and weatherboard without insulation or heating were a bit of a shock when I arrived in NZ. Winter is short here and relatively warm compared to Europe but I still didn’t get the ‘no heating’ malarkey but if you meet a Kiwi through winter you will see they are a hardy bunch, still wearing their Jandels (that’s flip flops to the Brits and Thongs for the Aussies), shorts and T-shirt as the temperatures dip below double figures.

Put another jumper or thermals on we’re the words often uttered by my Kiwi husband and there’s me a obviously spoilt Brit thinking thermals were for expeditions to the Antarctic or fancy ski trips to the Alps not for keeping oneself warm on your sofa! Sometimes we have to get a little creative and we all know a way to a mans heart is his stomach so I started making more casseroles, breads and pies, the perfect way to heat up the house and make it smell great too without someone complaining about the heating bill! So if you need a winter warmer this easy fish pie is a sure thing. It’s based on Jamie’s easy method, no white sauce to prepare and just potatoes and leek to pre cook. I have replaced the regular potato with our New Zealand golden Kumara (sweet potato) and added some cauliflower to the base.

This pie is best if you can use a variety of firm white fish, mixing a little bit of smoked fish for flavour, salmon or even prawns. Make sure that all the fish is scaled and pin boned, nothing worse than scales or bones with a mouthful of creamy mash.

1kg mixed fish fillets (I used salmon, smoked fish and Hoki), cut into 1 inch chunks
1 large leek, finely sliced
1/2 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 Tbsp butter
1.5kg golden kumara potatoes, roughly chopped
200ml single cream
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
50g grated cheddar style cheese
100g Feta cheese, crumbled
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C.
In a ceramic or Pyrex dish that can be used on direct heat add 1 tablespoon of butter and place over a low heat.
Add the leeks and cook for 10 minutes until they are soft.
Put the Kumara with 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a large saucespan of water and bring to the boil, cook until just tender.
Drain the Kumara and add a tablespoon of butter and mash with a potato masher. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cream, feta and mustard to the leeks in the dish and stir thoroughly, turn off heat under dish.
Add the fish chunks, lemon juice, zest and cauliflower florets to the dish and stir so everything is coated with sauce.
Spread the mashed Kumara potato over the top of the fillings.
Sprinkle the grated cheddar over the top.
Cook for 45-50 minutes or until golden and crisp on top and the filling is bubbling.

Pumpkin Custard Tart with a Caramel Crunch


Well into pumpkin season here in NZ we have been making the most of this local produce but this week, instead of a savoury dish I fancied making something sweet. I have never been a big fan of pumpkin pie, finding them a little too sweet but perhaps I have never experienced a good one.
I had a vision of a pumpkin tart with a brûlée crust, a slightly burnt bitter toffee balancing the creamy sweet pumpkin custard. The only snag was I didn’t have a fancy blow torch gadget but that wasn’t going to stop me was it? I could Portuguese my tart, adding a toffee crisp to the cooked chilled tart afterwards and it worked a dream.

My recommendation for making the tart is add the toffee just before or up to an hour before serving. The toffee once in contact with the tart will eventually start to dissolve. You can make the tart in advance, even the day before and refrigerate. The toffee is easy to make and can be done just before serving which also warms the tart up a little. Before serving, bash the toffee crust with the back of a spoon to crackle the top and make it easier to portion.

This is also my entry to our monthly New Zealand Sweet NZ event hosted by Shirleen over at Sugar & Spice and All Things Nice. Shirleen is also my partner in crime organizing this years Food Bloggers conference in Wellington. Take a look at our schedule, I bet you wish you could join us?

Ingredients – Pastry
180g of flour
110g butter
1 egg
50g of icing sugar
Extra butter and flour for lining the tin

Method – Pastry
Preheat oven on ‘bake’ to 170C.
Butter and flour a 24cm – 26cm tart tin
Place the flour, sugar & butter in a bowl and rub the ingredients together with your finger tips until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Or use a food processor to whiz them together.
Add the egg and bring dough together into a ball then flatten slightly.
Rest dough in fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out.
Roll out pastry dough thinly to fit tart tin.

Ingredients Pumpkin Custard
250ml milk
1 cup chopped pumpkin = 1/2 small butternut pumpkin
2 tbsp honey or castor sugar
Seeds of one vanilla bean
3 eggs

Method – Pumpkin Custard
Steam or simmer the pumpkin in a pot of water for 10 minutes until soft then drain any liquid away.
Allow pumpkin to cool.
Whizz all the custard ingredients together in a food processor and pour into the tart case.
Place the tart on a lower shelf in your oven to cook the base through.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until tart is firm and started to puff slightly.
Remove from oven and chill completely before adding the toffee crunch.

Ingredients – Toffee Crunch
100g / 1 cup castor sugar
50ml / 1/2 cup water

Method – Toffee Crunch
Place the water and sugar in a small pan over a low heat until sugar has dissolved.
Turn the heat up so the syrup is gently boiling.
Boil the syrup until it starts to turn golden brown, approx 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let it stand for a minute, it will continue to cook and turn a darker brown.
Pour onto the chilled pumpkin custard, you may need a spoon to spread it but work quickly as it will set immediately it cools.
Don’t worry if it is a bit messy, you are going to take the back of a spoon and tap it so the surface cracks and is easier to portion the tart.


Winter Comfort Food with Apple & Ginger Tart Tatin


What can be more comforting than a warm apple tart? I’m not a big pie fan, one two many layers of pastry for my taste but hubby loves pies so the Tart Tatin is a good compromise and really easy to make. Don’t believe any of those Masterchef challenges that make it look hard, it really isn’t and if you use store bought puff pastry it’s even quicker.

I have used sweet short crust pastry and have offered my recipe here if you prefer to make your own make your own. With slightly more than half fat to flour in this recipe it ensures a nice rich melt in the mouth pastry. The recipe,will make 1 large tart or 4 mini tarts.

6 large apples, peel, cored and quartered
10ml water
100g butter
100g castor sugar
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 large sheet of puff pastry or recipe noted above

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Over a low heat dissolve the water and sugar in a medium sized frying pan (oven proof), cast iron if you have one.
Add the butter and gently heat until starting to caramelise. Stir in the grated ginger.
Add the apples and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, shake the pan now and then to coat them in the caramel.
Remove from the heat and arrange the apples to fan round the pan.
Lay the pastry over the apples then tuck the pastry round the apples and down the inside of the pan.
Place tart in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden.
When the tart is cooked remove pan from the oven and allow tart to rest for 5 minutes.
Running a knife round the edge to dislodge any pastry that has stuck and invert the tart onto a plate.
Serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt.

Chocolate Pear Galette with Praline Crunch


You will have seen this picture before, it’s the recipe I submitted for the food blogger feature in the Taste Magazine in April. I said I would reveal the recipe on my blog for those not in NZ after the magazine was no longer being sold in store so here it is. I will keep my fingers crossed that one day I can write and style more recipes for magazines. In the meantime you might find me on Life & Style

180g plain flour
110g butter
50g sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp cocoa
2-3 pears
Praline Topping
50g hazelnuts
1/2 cup water
1 cup castor sugar
additional sugar for dusting
A little milk for glazing the pastry

To prepare the praline put the water & sugar for the toffee in a pan on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved then turn up the heat.
The sugar liquid should boil and start to turn golden brown, once it does turn off the heat and add the hazelnuts to the pan.
Pour mixture out onto a grease tin to cool. Once set, blend in a food processor or bash with a mortar & pestle!
For the pastry, place the flour, cocoa & butter in a bowl.
Work the ingredients together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and gently knead the dough together and divide into 4 equal portions, shape them into balls and flatten.
Rest dough in fridge for an hour before rolling out.
Preheat oven on ‘bake’ to 180C .
Prepare the pears by coring them, slicing them into halves and then into 1 cm thick wedges.
Roll one piece of dough into a circle the size of a ‘side plate’.
Arrange pear wedges in a circle from the centre of the dough leaving 4cm free at edges.
Fold dough into the centre, pleating as you go, it doesn’t have to be perfect, galettes are rustic.
Brush the pastry with a little milk and dust the whole galette with sugar.
Repeat with the rest of the dough. Alternatively you can make one large galette.
Sprinkle praline mixture over the top of each galette and place on a non stick baking tray.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown (a larger galette will take approx 35 minutes).


Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I much prefer cupcakes to muffins, the texture is much lighter and they are a little treat you don’t feel guilty about having whereas the muffins sold here are dinosaur sized and leave you waddling around for hours afterward. I know you don’t need to eat a whole one at once but that is easier said that done when it is sitting in front of you. I’d like to say this was my invention a lemon meringue cupcake but I did first try them at the fabulous cupcake shop Delish in Forest Hill, Auckland and just knew I had to make my own. It’s a gorgeous little shop which sells many varieties of cupcakes as well as products to make and decorate you own cupcakes, they even take online orders.

Ingredients – cupcakes

  • 125g butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 125g SR flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk


  1. pre heat oven 160C
  2. Place 10-12 cup cake cases into a small cupcake tray, this help hold the shape of the cup cake.
  3. Place butter & sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk or good old fashioned wooded spoon until light and fluffy.
  4. Add one egg at a time and whisk in between both additions.
  5. Sift flour into mixture and fold gently through with a metal spoon so not to loose all the air that has been beaten in.
  6. Spoon mixture into cases, about 2/3 full. I was offered a great tip from someone who read my blog and suggested using an ice cream scoop to get a consistent size, brilliant.
  7. Bake in oven for 25- 30 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out of the sponge clean.
  8. Allow to cool before removing from tin. Hollow out the centre and fill with ½ tsp lemon curd.

Making the curd and meringue means you use all of the eggs, yolks in the curd and white for the meringue. You will find a lemon curd recipe here, you will only need half the quantity.

Ingredients – meringue

  • 2 free range egg whites (keep yolks for curd)
  • 100g castor sugar
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar

Method – meringue

  1. Pre-heat oven to 120C and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.
  2. Place egg whites in a large bowl and whisk till fluffy
  3. Gradually add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time, whisking in between each addition until firm peaks have formed.
  4. Add vinegar and whisk again.
  5. Spoon all meringue into a piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe onto the baking sheet enough meringue crowns for the top of the cupcakes.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until crispy but not brown.
  7. Place crown on top of the cupcake and serve

Lemon Almond Bread

It’s Sunday morning and a rather late start to the day for me after a lively night with Friends. I’ve still managed to get my morning swim in before breakfast, albeit a slow crawl across the pool as the others keep lapping me. I’m starving on my return home but after a sausage workshop and a Bavarian festival yesterday all I find in the fridge are the leftovers; sausages, sauerkraut and potato salad, not really what I had in mind, the body is craving a sugar injection. Luckily I had made a double batch of sweet bread dough last week and pulled that out of the freezer to make something not so sausage like for morning tea. A quick rummage in the cupboard delivered ground almonds and lemon peel, if I bound them together with egg I though  it might make a kind of citrus marzipan filling. I’m please to say the results did offer a light bread with a not too sweet citrus marzipan style filling, very satisfying and now it was time to put my feet up and have a wee siesta after all that hard work!

Ingredients – makes 1 loaf

  • 400g high grade flour
  • 40g sugar
  • 80g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 150g lemon candy peel
  • 140g ground almonds
  • 1 large egg
  • sprinkle of slivered almonds for decoration


  1. Heat oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Add the yeast to the warm milk to allow it to dissolve.
  3. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the middle.
  4. Add the yeast and milk, sugar, vanilla and melted butter to the well and bring together to form a tacky bread like dough.
  5. Knead dough for 10 minutes and then allow to rest in a warm place till double in size.
  6. Place the candy peel, ground almonds and egg into a bowl and beat together.
  7. Roll the dough out into a rectangle about 2/3 inch thick, 14 inches by 12 inches.
  8. Spread the almond mixture over the dough to completely cover and then roll across the narrowest width.
  9. With seam side down place the roll onto a baking tray for a ‘free form’ loaf or into a loaf tin.
  10. Lightly spray with oil and cover with a plastic bag.
  11. Allow to prove till double in size.
  12. glaze with a little egg wash and sprinkle with slivered almonds
  13. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown

A Taste of Spring – Asparagus & Goats Cheese Galette

Once the asparagus starts to appear in the veggie stores it is a sure sign that spring is on it’s way, although it doesn’t necessarily mean the good weather is on it’s way and for Aucklander’s it can mean wet raining spring days and it is at this time of year that most people seem to complain about the weather. Being English I don’t think we have very bad weather here but then I am at an advantage having grown up in Northern England where you thought sitting on a beach with a windbreak and a blanket was a great way to spend summer!

The first flush of asparagus is always very expensive but I just can’t help myself, I just have to have some, I have waited eight months to see it’s little green tips again. This week alone I have eaten it ‘natural’ in a risotto and now in a Galette. Do I ever get tired of it? Never, so there will be lots of asparagus recipes to come.


  • 180g of flour
  • 110g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 large bunch of asparagus
  • 50g goats cheese or goat feta, chopped or crumbled
  • 2 tbsp ricotta
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • handful fresh thyme leaves
  • salt & pepper.


  • Slice asparagus down the centre and remove about 1 inch from the end if it is ‘woody’. At this stage do not trim the asparagus down to size, you will do that once arranging it on the pastry.
  • Mix together the ricotta, lemon zest, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper together.
  • Preheat oven on ‘bake’ to 180C.
  • Place the flour & butter in a bowl.
  • Work the ingredients together until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Add the egg and bring dough together then flatten slightly.
  • Rest dough in fridge for 20 minutes before rolling out.
  • Roll dough out to a circle the size of a large dinner plate
  • Spread the ricotta mix over the centre of the pastry leaving an inch from the edging free.
  • Arrange the asparagus around the centre, tips to the middle.
  • Cut the asparagus down to size 1 inch before the edge of the pastry (where ricotta ends).
  • Fold the outside of the pastry into the centre, pleating as you go, it doesn’t have to be perfect, galettes are rustic.
  • Use the extra ends to fill in between the spears by slicing them lengthways to create a long triangle.
  • Brush the asparagus with a little melted butter to prevent it from drying on the oven.
  • Sprinkle with goats cheese.
  • Bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Sprinkle with some fresh thyme and serve warm with a salad or a a slice as a pre-dinner nibble!
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