Vanilla panna cotta with poached fruit and chocolate coffee crumble


I do enjoy winter in Brisbane. The sun shines and although the west wind blows with force in August, life is pretty pleasant. This kind of weather inspires long walks and great food.

Last week I made a lovely dessert with three elements. The addition of coffee crumble gave it a lovely crunch. Crumbles being added to a dessert plate are very “in” at that moment. I visited Darren’s Purchese’s sweet studio in Melbourne and I bought the cook book so I could learn how to make crumbles. Once you master them you can store them in an airtight jar and use them on other occasions. You could even sprinkle this one on savoury meals.

You can prepare this dessert before hand and then plate the three elements before serving. Here is the recipe for you.

Poached Fruit (Quince, Pear and Strawberries)

3 cups of water
1 1/3 cup (265g) sugar
4 Bosc pears, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Quince peeled, cored and cut into slices
8 Strawberries, hulled and quartered

Add one cinnamon quill, one split vanilla bean and 2-3 star anise.


1. In a large saucepan, heat the water and sugar until warm and the sugar is dissolved. Add cinnamon quill, a split vanilla bean and 2 or 3 star anise.

2. Slide the pear and quince pieces into the sugar syrup

3. Keep the liquid at a very low boil and simmer the pears until cooked through, 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the slices.

4. Remove from heat and let the fruit cool in their liquid. This is when I add the strawberries.

Coffee chocolate crumble (This is from Darren Purchase Sweet Studio Cook Book)

Image 1

75g plain flour ( make this gluten free flour if you need to)

30g unsweetened cocoa powder

5g table salt

75g caster sugar

50g muscovado sugar

125g ground almonds

30g freshly ground coffee

100 g unsalted butter melted and cooled

55g candied cocoa nibs finely chopped.


Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Sieve the flour cocoa powder and salt together into a large bowl. Add the sugar, ground almonds and coffee and mix to distribute evenly.

Add the butter and mix with your fingertips until all of the ingredients form a coarse crumb.

Sprinkle the mixture on a baking tray lined with baking paper to a thickness of 1cm and rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool naturally. Pulse the cooled crumbs in a food processor for a few seconds until fine crumbs are formed.

Add the chopped candied cocoa nibs for texture. Store in an airtight container.

Vanilla Panna Cotta


2 cups heavy cream
2 vanilla beans
1/2 cup sugar
3 sheets of titanium gelatine sheets
2 cups whole milk
Place the cream and milk in a saucepan. Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a knife then add the seeds and pod to the saucepan. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Discard the vanilla pod. Soak the gelatin in water until soft, then squeeze out excess water and add to the warm milk mixture. Stir the mixture until dissolved. Divide among six to eight 4-ounce ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, at least 6 hours or overnight.
IMG_9831 To assemble, place Panna Cotta on a serving plate, sprinkle some coffee crumble on top of Panna Cotta, add  the sweet fruit syrup then the fruit. Finally, place some crumble on the plate and some fruit around the Panna Cotta.
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Rhubarb Apple and Prune Cake

IMG_9500 I visited South bank today and the Regional Flavours food and lifestyle event.

It was great to wander around amongst all the fantastic food and produce that comes from Queensland. Lots of exciting new ideas and some old classics. I saw a fantastic bunch of Rhubarb and of course I had to purchase it. When I returned to my kitchen I couldn’t wait to bake an old favourite of mine.

Here is the recipe for you to enjoy



Serves 6
150g butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g plain flour
1½ tsp vanilla sugar
½ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
25g butter
50g  brown sugar
2-3 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla sugar or extract
4-5 sticks (400g) rhubarb, cut into 12cm lengths
1 green granny smith apple cut into small pieces
6 pitted prunes cut into small pieces1 First, make the topping. In a saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and cinnamon. When bubbling slightly, add the rhubarb, apple and prunes and stew for a few minutes until completely coated. Take off the heat and leave to cool.2 To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next.

3 In a bowl, sift the flour, salt, vanilla sugar and baking powder and fold in with the wet mixture. Line a 23cm-diameter baking dish with high sides (minimum 5cm) with baking paper. Add the batter and spread evenly. Carefully and evenly add  2/3 of the rhubarb apple and prune mixture on top.  The last third will be placed on top of the cake before serving

4 Bake in the oven at 180C  This can take anything from 35-45 minutes. Check with a skewer: if it comes out clean, it’s done. Leave to cool

This cake is great served warm with custard or ice cream.



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Lemon Polenta and Coconut Cake and my return to Brisbane

IMG_0005I have hit a difficult spot. In all my years of blogging I have not had this happen before. I don’t feel like writing on my site anymore. I don’t know if I am burnt out or if I have just come to the end of the journey but I have had a three week break and I still haven’t found that passion that I have always had.

Has this ever happened to you? When I first started writing, I didn’t really think anyone would notice or read what I wrote. I started before Twitter so really only friends were interested in my recipes. Then when Twitter started food blogs really took off. Now I am invited to openings of new restaurants, blogger’s conferences, media launches and all sorts of events to do with food. It has been a wild ride.

I am going to just slow it down a bit, take it easy and see what happens. So if you notice a change now you know what has been going on.

In my last week in Sydney I stopped at a little cafe and ordered a coffee and a little treat called a lemon, coconut and polenta cake. It was absolutely delicious and so when I returned to my apartment I looked up the recipe and tried to copy it. I’m sorry to say that mine did not work out as well. The one at the cafe must have been made from a more refined polenta and it was not as grainy.

IMG_9801lemon polentaIngredients

  • 225g/7 1/8 oz butter at room temperature

  • 225g/7 1/8 oz caster or superfine sugar

  • 3 eggs (165g/5 1.2 oz) lightly beaten

  • 110g /3 3/4oz ground almond

  • 110g /3 3/4oz shredded coconut long thread

  • 110g /3 3/4oz fine polenta

  • finely grated zest of 2 lemon

  • 2.5 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract


  • 225g/ 71/8oz icing confectioner’s sugar, sieved

  • 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice

  • Lemon zest


IMG_9982 just baked

Put the oven on 150C. You can use mini or normal muffin trays, butter them well and place a little square or circle of parchment on the base as shown to prevent any sticking. This is REALLY important as these tend to stick to the tin. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until lump free. Slowly beat in the eggs, then fold in the ground almonds, polenta, lemon zest, lemon juice, baking powder and vanilla.

Pour into cake tin. Fill them 2/3 of the way up. Use the back of a spoon to flatten the top. Bake for 25-30 mins. Remove the squares of parchment.

To make the icing, mix the sieved icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth. Spoon over the cakes letting the icing dribble down the sides a bit. Leave the icing to set then sprinkle a little lemon zest on the top.

IMG_0008 last


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