Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Joe's Italian birthday dinner was finished off with this fluffy, creamy tiramisu. In Italian, tiramisu literally means "pick me up" which I think is a very fitting title because it's one of those desserts that just makes life seem a little bit better :-)

This recipe goes way back to when my sister, Bel, was in high school and she wanted to cook something Italian for a Home Economics project. She stumbled upon this gem (no idea where!) and it has become well-loved by my family ever since. It's not a typical tiramisu - it has no fancy liqueur or marscapone. Instead it has a rich lemon cream cheese filling which marries surprisingly well with the coffee and cocoa flavours.


25 sponge fingers (aka lady fingers or savioardi biscuits)
8 tbsn cold black sweet coffee
4 egg yolks
½ cup castor sugar
3 drops vanilla essence
½ grated lemon rind
350g cream cheese
2 tspn lemon juice
250ml single cream
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp icing sugar
  1. Arrange ½ sponge fingers in an even layer on the bottom of a dish and spoon ½ coffee over.
  2. Put egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and lemon rind in a heat proof bowl. Stand the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water (or use a double boiler) and whisk until very thick and creamy. This is a good arm workout as it takes about 10-12 minutes.
  3. Beat cream cheese and lemon juice in bowl until smooth.
  4. Combine egg and cream cheese mix and stir until evenly combined.
  5. Spread ½ mix evenly over sponge fingers.
  6. Add another layer of sponge fingers and sprinkle with remaining coffee.
  7. Cover with remaining cream cheese mix and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  8. Whip the cream until stiff and spread over dessert.
  9. Sift an even layer of cocoa and a light layer of icing sugar over the top. Stand back and admire your work!
Serves 6

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Italian Birthday

It's birthday time in the Cancelleri household (yay!), and what better way to celebrate than with some tasty Italian food. The birthday man, Joe, requested a cheesy, bacony, garlicky gnocchi bake which went down a treat. It was simple to make and very tasty - you can't go wrong with this combination of flavours!

If you've got a busy week coming up, this can be made ahead of time up to Step 8 and frozen. Add the mozzarella after thawing and bake for easy weeknight deliciousness.

Gnocchi Bake
Adapted from Good Taste

1 tbs olive oil
1 large brown onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 short-cut bacon rashers, coarsely chopped
200g button or baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
400g can diced tomatoes, partly drained of juice
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
salt and freshly cracked pepper
120g baby spinach leaves
500g pkt shelf-fresh gnocchi
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (optional)
200g fresh mozzarella or bocconcini, drained, torn in half
  1. Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic, stirring, for 1 minute.
  2. Add bacon and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until bacon is lightly golden.
  3. Add mushroom and cook for 3-4 minutes or until mushroom is soft.
  4. Add the wine. Cook, scraping any bits from the base of the pan, for 3-4 minutes or until wine reduces by half.
  5. Stir in the tomato and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Preheat oven to 180°C (360°F). Cook the gnocchi in a large saucepan of salted boiling water following packet directions.
  7. While the gnocchi is cooking, stir the spinach into the tomato mixture until it just wilts.
  8. When the gnocchi is ready, drain and then add to tomato mixture. Stir to combine.
  9. Pour into one medium-sized casserole dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and top with the mozzarella. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese melts and becomes golden brown.

Friday, May 13, 2011

When my nieces came to play...

In the battle of the bulge, I generally aim to avoid baking sweet and buttery items. I like sweet things just a little too much and have no self control when it comes to a fresh batch of cookies. But what better excuse to indulge than when my gorgeous nieces, Meg and Elisha, came to my house for a sleep-over? After all, cooking together is a bonding experience, so really it was my duty as an aunt to lead such an endeavor. After all, no girly sleep-over is complete without some sweet treats and I was dying to try out my new alphabet cookie cutters.

We used a basic sugar cookie recipe, which we decorated with coloured sugar. There seems to be some debate over whether the coloured sugar should be added before or after baking. Add it before and it sticks nicely to the dough shapes, but the colours are paler after being baked. Sprinkle the sugar on after, and you need something like corn syrup or egg white to help the sugar stick. We decided to go for the latter and were quite happy with the results.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup plain flour
Pinch salt
125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tpsn of vanilla essence
milk (if too dry)

For the coloured sugar:
1 cup castor sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup (or use 1-2 egg whites)
food colouring
  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
  2. Mix butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  3. Add egg, flour and salt, mix well. If mixture is too dry then add some milk.
  4. Knead lightly and roll out on a floured board to about 5mm.
  5. Cut out in desired shapes and place on a greased cookie tray.
  6. Bake for 15 mins, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool completely before decorating.
  7. While the cookies are baking and cooling, make the coloured sugar: place 1/4 cup castor sugar into four seperate, small ziplock bags (or small bowls). If you are only using one colour, you will only need one bag/bowl.
  8. Add a few drops of food colouring, seal the bag and shake until the colour is evenly distributed through the sugar. Add more colouring until you reach the desired depth of colour. Repeat for each colour. You can even try blending colours to make new colours (e.g. red and blue to make purple).
  9. When cool, mix the corn syrup (or egg white) with a teaspoon of water. Apply a very small amount to each cookie with a pastry brush. Sprinkly with coloured sugar. Shake of excess.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw

Happy Cinco de Mayo! This recipe is dedicated to my dear sister, Bel, who, after returning from a recent trip to the US, is lamenting the absence of good Mexican food in Australia. Unfortunately we don't have very authentic Hispanic food Down Under. Our version is piled with cheese and tomato, which is a far cry from the real stuff which is packed with spices, lime and fresh herbs. Such a shame. To fill the void give this recipe a go. The meat is slow-cooked for up to 8 hours, so after a long day at work you can arrive home to the most amazing aroma. My husband said it tasted very authentic and declared it a 'winner'.

Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw
From Real Simple

3 pounds (1.3kg) beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 to 3 tablespoons chopped canned chipotles in adobo sauce*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
kosher salt
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage (about 1⁄3 medium cabbage)
4 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
12 6-inch corn tortillas
sour cream, pickled jalapeño peppers and hot sauce, for serving
  1. In a 4- to 6-quart (approx 4-6L) slow cooker, toss together the beef, onion, garlic, chipotles, oregano, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt.
  2. Cover and cook until the beef is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 ½ to 4 hours ( I went for long and slow.)
  3. Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 180°C (350°F). In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes, cilantro, lime juice, and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  4. Wrap the tortillas in foil and bake until warm, 5 to 10 minutes. If you're feeling lazy, it works just fine to zap them in the microwave for about 30 seconds.
  5. While the tortillas are heating, transfer the beef to a medium bowl (reserve the cooking liquid) and shred, using 2 forks. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl with the beef and toss to combine.
  6. Fill the tortillas with the beef and slaw. Serve with the sour cream, jalapeños, hot sauce, and lime wedges.
* I'm not sure if cans of chipotle in adobo sauce are widely available in Australia. If you find some, let me know where you made the discovery so I can spread the word. The adobo sauce is key so it really is worth searching for to make this recipe! The chipotles (which are smoked jalepeno chillis) give the dish a delicious smoky flavour. If you can't find it, I found a recipe here that you could use instead to make your own.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Have you ever eaten something that was totally delicious, only to find out after you've finished that it was made from something you normally wouldn't find appealing? Reminds me of eating snake soup in China, but that's another story. Fortunately, this recipe is surprising in a completely wonderful way. Being a flourless chocolate cake, one would assume that it would largely consist of almond or hazelnut meal, but instead it's made from pureed chick peas! I know - it sounds terrible, but it's absolutely delicious and the added bonus is you can convince yourself that it's practically health food :-)

My mother-in-law found this winning recipe at allrecipes.com, where it received so many rave reviews that she just had to give it a go. The reviews were 100% correct - the cake is moist and rich, almost like a brownie, and it was a breeze to make. You can't taste the chick peas at all and the texture is divine. So try serving it up the next time you have people over and wait until they have finished to tell them what it was made of ;-)

Find the recipe here!