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Picked the last of the mangoes this morning.  Maybe a week more of mango gluttony, then it’s over (except for the chutney and the pickles and the icecream) for another year.

So here’s the mango upside down cake recipe, so I remember it for next year.

The Recipe:

Turn your oven on to heat up to medium (180°C or 350°F).

Grease a 20 cm cake tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Make the mango topping first.

Slice enough mangoes to nearly cover the bottom of the cake pan in a single layer.  Arrange them in a decorative circle if you like. Sprinkle half a cup of chopped macadamia nuts in the gaps.

In a frypan, melt a good dessertspoon of butter and a good dessertspoon of raw sugar. Cook for a few minutes till the butter sugar mix just starts to caramelise and go sticky, then drizzle this mix over the mangoes and nuts.

Now make the cake batter.

In a food processor, blend together 100 gm butter (just under half a cup, or most of a stick) with half a cup of  brown sugar.

When it is nice and fluffy, add three eggs, one by one, and half a cup of chopped mango.

Then a teaspoon of vanilla, or scrape half a pod, and a cup of self-raising flour.

Pour this over the mango topping.

Bake for around 40 minutes in a medium oven till a straw comes out clean.

Cool for ten minutes or so in the pan, then carefully turn out. I run a knife around the edge of the cake in the pan, put a plate over the top, then invert and tap lightly on the bottom of the pan.  Carefully peel off the paper. Voila!


Our glut crop at the moment is mangoes. Mangoes have a good year every second year, and a great year every forth or sixth. We had mango salsa with our poached eggs for breakfast and mango icecream after dinner last night. I’ve made  mango pickle and mango chutney, a year’s supply and some to give away.  Every visitor leaves with a bag of them, and still they come. So tonight, for Brett and Johanna’s anniversary party, it has to be a mango plate.

I thought about mango cake – I have a good recipe for a mango upside down cake I should post – but my favourite dish to take to a party is always little tarts.  They make such easily transportable finger food, so easy, and they look so party-food. I’ve made mango cheesecake before, mixing the mango pulp through the cheesecake mix, but it wasn’t a keeper for me.  This one though is. Simple shortcrust pastry, lightly blind baked, then half filled with a slightly lemony cheesecake mix, topped with mango jelly.

The Recipe:

The Pastry:

In the food processor, put

  • 3 cups of plain flour (I use wholemeal because that’s what I have, but for party food, I sift the bran out, so it is more like unbleached flour).
  • 6 big dessertspoons of cold butter
  • 1 dessertspoon sugar

Don’t overprocess it – little flakes of butter are fine.  The key to making good pastry is not overworking it.

Then add cool water, little bit by little, till the dough holds together in a ball.

Roll the pastry out on a floured benchtop till it is ½cm or so thick, then cut rounds with a small bowl.

Lightly grease muffin or tartlet tins with butter and line them with the pastry.  It will flute a little since the pastry is flat and the muffin tins cups, but that gives a nice shape to the finished tarts.

Bake the pastry cases for around 10 minutes till they are firm but not yet colouring.

The Cheesecake Filling

Blend together

  • 1 tub (250 grams) cream cheese
  • The same tub three-quarters full (around 200 grams) of plain yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 dessertspoons sugar
  • a teaspoon lemon rind
  • juice of half a small lemon
  • a little vanilla essence 

Pour the cheesecake mix into the pastry cases. It should two-thirds fill them all. Bake for another fifteen minutes or so till they are set and the pastry is lightly golden.

Cool before pouring in the mango jelly.

Mango Jelly

You need enough gelatine to set 1 litre of water, so that is two sachets, or 6 teaspoons of powdered gelatine or 12 sheets of leaf gelatine.  Follow the instructions on your gelatine.

The mango pulp though doesn’t set as readily as water, so you need 500 ml of mango pulp.

Dissolve the gelatine in 250 ml of boiling water, then mix the gelatine water into the mango pulp to give you 750 ml altogether.

Pour over the cooled cheesecakes to fill the tart cases.

If you can find enough room in the fridge, they set quicker, especially given mango season is summer! In my fridge they take about an hour and a half to set.


spinach and bocconcini rolls

For about 9 months of the year we have silver beet, (or Swiss chard if you are in US).  There’s a few months from midsummer to midautumn when the grasshoppers feast on any left in the garden, but there aren’t many left because most spring plantings just bolt to seed.  Egyptian spinach – Mulaheyah – fills the gap.  But proper English spinach, now that’s another thing.

Spinach is up there with kale, one of those superfoods with enough vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients to make vitamin pills look silly. In particular, cooked spinach is a stunning source of Vitamin K, useful for preventing osteoporosis among other things.  Silver beet substitutes for spinach in most recipes, but real spinach, soil grown in season, is a treat. I’m at the edge of the climate range for real English spinach, but for a month or so each year in late winter we feast on it.

Silver beet is a bit tougher and does better for longer cooking.  Spinach though just needs to be blanched.  Under a poached egg, with lemony garlicky mushrooms, in Greens as Themselves.  Or in these little spinach and cheese rolls that are not baked but shallow fried so they come together fast.

The Recipe:

This makes just a dozen little canape sized rolls. I like making recipes in small quantities myself – it saves leftovers and often there’s a quantum leap in how fast and easy it is to make a little batch to a big batch.  And for you, a small batch gives you a chance to decide if you like it or if you want to tweak the recipe for your own taste before you commit too many ingredients.  But, having said all that, the recipe can easily be doubled or trebled, and I would think they would freeze well before frying –  just like ravioli, in layers separated with greaseproof paper.  Which would allow you to just take a few out to fry for lunch boxes whenever. I am looking forward to trying them out on nearly 3-year-old Teo but I imagine they might be very kids lunch box acceptable.  They are very adult lunch box acceptable.

To make the wrappers:

Blend an egg with ½ cup of plain flour (wholemeal or unbleached) and a pinch of salt to make a kneadable dough.  If it is too dry, add a teaspoon or two of oil.  This is a basic pasta or won-ton recipe, so I would think you could use bought wrappers if you like, but making your own is so very easy and you get to use real egg.

Let it rest for a minute while you make the filling, then roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a well floured benchtop, or with a pasta machine, to make a long strip, about 10 cm (4 inches) wide.  Make the ends as square as you can so you don’t have to trim too much off to square them up.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

Blanch a bunch of spinach in boiling water for just a minute or two to wilt it, then drain and squeeze it to remove all the liquid.  It will reduce to about ¼ cup.

Put it in the food processor (you don’t need to wash it after the pastry blending) with

  • 1 ball of bocconcini (or you could substitute 35 gm or so of mozzarella or any really melty cheese)
  • 1 slice parmesan or any tasty cheese

Pulse the spinach in the food processor with the cheeses very briefly, just to chop it all together without blending it. Taste the filling and add salt to taste.   I like adding half a teaspoon of grated lemon rind too.  Or, for adults, a little touch of wasabi. Taste and see what you think.

To assemble and cook:

Mix a dessertspoon of plain flour with a little water to make a paste.  Use a pastry brush, or just your fingers, to spread it thinly over the pastry.  Leave a smidgen for later.

Lay the spinach mixture down the middle, then roll it into a log.


Paint the top side with the leftover flour and water paste and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Cut into 75 cm (3 inch) lengths, then let them sit to dry on a floured benchtop for 10 minutes or so.

Heat 10 cm (½ inch) or so of oil in a heavy bottomed fry pan.  (I use light olive oil for frying like this because it has a high enough smoke point and it’s monounsaturated). Fry the rolls until they are golden, turning with tongs.

They are wonderful warm but also ideal for lunch boxes or made-ahead hors d’oeuvres with a spicy dipping sauce.

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eggplant dip

The low-light photo doesn’t do it justice.  Usually I don’t post something the first time I make it, but this will be the last time for the season too. I had to pick the last of the season’s red eggplants – the chooks are now in the bed they were in, getting it ready for all the winter leafies – cauliflowers and celeriac and silver beet and cabbage –  to be planted out.  Enough pickles on the shelf, and no tahini in the pantry for baba ganoush, and a batch of chick peas cooked for felafel.

So I tried something different.  And now there are no more eggplants till next year to do it again, and I want to remember this for myself if no-one else.  So you will have to make do with the photo!

The Recipe:

The quantities are a little vague – I didn’t think I was making a recipe to post so I didn’t measure.  But it’s the kind of recipe that you make to taste anyhow.

  • I started with about 3 cups of peeled and diced red eggplant. It would probably work just as well with black eggplant.
  • Massage through a handful of salt, and let sit for an hour or so, then rinse and squeeze the eggplant.
  • You end up with about 2 cups of washed and squeezed eggplant.
  • Fry or bake in a bit of olive oil, until the eggplant is very soft.  I fried this lot and it took about 15 minutes on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • As it cooked, I added in a chili chopped fine, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic,  and a thumb of turmeric grated.
  • Scrape it all into a bowl and with a fork, mash and whip together with one small red onion, finely diced, juice of a lime (about 80 ml, or ¼ cup) and three big dessertspoons of plain Greek yoghurt.  The lime is the key.  You could probably substitute lemon but the lime juice gives it a really interesting distinctive flavour.  And limes are in season, and I have enough lime pickles on the shelf too!
  • Put in the fridge and allow to mature for a couple of hours if possible.

We ate it with felafel and tabouli and an impromptu dinner guest, and it has knocked baba ganoush off its spot as my favourite eggplant sauce or dip.


pumpkin feta tarts

Basic shortcrust pastry is so so so easy, I don’t get it why people buy frozen?  Puff pastry, ok, that’s  a bit tricky (but still worth making your own).  Phyllo, yep, right, I buy that most of the time.  But shortcrust – nah,  it takes less to make your own than it does to peel off that blue plastic, and you get to use real butter and no nasty transfats.

The recipe quantities and temperatures and times are a bit vague, because it really doesn’t matter too much.  The more butter (and the less water) in your pastry, the more melt-in-the-mouth it is, but also the harder to handle (and the more calories).  If you use lots of butter, you need to get it quite cool, or the butter melts as you are trying to roll it out and it gets sticky.  But it’s very delicious and you can make the pastry quite thick and the star of the dish.  If you are in a hurry, or the pastry is not the star of the dish, you can go light on the butter and roll it out thin for a more cracker-like pastry that is easy to handle.

That’s it really.  All the rest is elaboration on the theme.

You can use cream or sour cream or oil in place of butter, but it works like melted butter and the pastry is harder to handle and might need to be rolled between sheets of greaseproof paper.  If you have an egg white elsewhere in a recipe, you can substitute an egg yolk for part of the butter and it makes it slightly less “short” but still delicious and easier to handle than all butter.  Any saturated fat (that sets solid at room temperature) can be substituted for the butter and you are just thinking about the taste rather than the texture. If you are using a low fat pastry and a low fat filling, a bit of “blind baking” first stops the filling soaking into the pastry and making it soggy.  Blind baking just means covering your pastry with greaseproof paper and filling with uncooked beans, or rice, or chickpeas or something similar, and cooking for 10 minutes or so before filling.  The beans are dry already so it doesn’t hurt them.  If the pastry, or the filling, has a lot of butter, oil, cheese or eggs it, the pastry won’t go soggy and there’s usually no need.

The flour needs to be flour – it is the little grains of starch in it exploding that makes pastry. It can be wholemeal or unbleached, but other flours like besan behave differently.  You can make pastry from them but it is a different story.  Self-raising flour is a different story too.

The recipe makes 12 tartlets. They are perfect for lunch boxes, or party finger food – which is where these went. These are really quick and simple, and they were a party hit.

The Pastry:

You can do this in a food processor, or just cut the butter into tiny cubes and rub it into the flour with your fingertips, till it resembles breadcrumbs. (My nanna used to say that the best pastry makers have cool hands, because the object of the exercise is to have tiny flecks of un-melted butter mixed through the flour.)

  • 1 cup of wholemeal plain flour (wholemeal or unbleached)
  • 2 heaped dessertspoons of cold butter
  • pinch salt

Add just enough cold water to make a soft dough.  Add it  carefully, spoonful at a time.  Put your dough in the fridge to cool down while you start the pumpkin off.

The Filling:

Peel, dice, and roast a cup and a half of pumpkin and one larg-ish red onion.  Dice the pumpkin into 1 to 1.5 cm dice.  You can sprinkle with a bit of fresh thyme if you have some.  It will cook really quickly – you’ll just have time to roll out the  pastry.

Blend together:

  • 2 eggs
  • a big dessertspoon of plain yoghurt (or cream, or sour cream)
  • 100 grams Danish or Greek feta (the smooth kind, preferably)
  • A little grating of parmesan

I use my food processor for the pastry, then without needing to wash it, for the filling.  But you could also just beat them together with an egg beater.

Assembling and baking:

Grease 12 muffin tins or tart cases.

On a floured benchtop, roll the dough out, cut out 12 circles and line the tart cases.  My regular sized muffin tray is perfect for this, and the lid from one of my large storage jars is perfect for cutting the pastry out.

Spoon the pumpkin and onion evenly into the tart cases. Spoon the egg and feta mix evenly over them.

Bake in a medium-hot oven for around 20 to 30 minutes, till the tart cases are crisp and colouring and the egg mix is set.

They are best is you let them cool before eating. No Teo, they aren’t cool yet.


pecan crust pie

My friend Joe is gluten intolerant, and not very dairy tolerant either which makes making dessert for him a pain in the ass but I love him so here is my best, Joe friendly dessert recipe! It uses pecans for the crust and we still have some from last year’s harvest needing to be used up, and we also have some very early pumpkins.  Otherwise the ingredients are all things you are likely to have in the pantry.

The Recipe:

In a food processor, blend together

  • 2 cups pecans
  • 2 big dessertspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 egg

Blend till it binds together. I like it a bit textured, not smooth, but if you make it too textured the crust has trouble holding together.  If you look at the picture, the edge of the crust is starting to crack, which means I didn’t blend this one quite enough. Don’t try to reduce the amount of sugar – it turns toffee-ish and helps the crust hold together. It’s not overly sweet anyhow, but if you want less sugar, reduce it from the filling.

Oil a pie dish with a bland tasting oil and press the nut crust mix into it.  Decoratively pinch the edge.

Wide out the food processor and blend together:

  • 1 ½ cups cooked pumpkin
  • 2 dessertspoons brown sugar
  • a little vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch allspice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

Blend until smooth, then pour into the shell.

Bake in a medium oven for around 45 minutes till the centre is just set and the crust is golden.

It’s good just as it is, but for dairy tolerant people, it’s lovely with  greek yoghurt and strawberries, or glorious warm with  icecream.


mini chico rolls

It being the party season and all.

Though I have to confess, this was our lunch yesterday.  In our defense, the filling meets healthy – and is possibly even a decent way to get lots of vegetables into a children’s party plate.

mini chico roll filling

The Recipe:

This recipe fills two dozen wonton wrappers – what we get in a packet of wrappers from the supermarket.  Using bought ones makes the recipe really really fast and easy, but making your own isn’t hard especially if you use a pasta machine, so I’ll include the wrapper recipe too.

Part 1: Wonton Wrappers

You can buy wonton wrappers in the fridge at any supermarket these days, but if you make your own, you can use real egg.  In a food processor, blitz until the dough just comes together (just a few seconds)

  • ½ cup of flour (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • 1  large egg
  • a couple of teaspoons of  any light flavoured oil
  • pinch salt

Flour the workbench well and knead very briefly, kneading in enough more flour to make a smooth, non-sticky, soft dough. Then leave it to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

Part 2: The Filling

For 24  ( a packet of skins) you need about two cups of filling when it is all raw.  The inspiration for these actually came from harvesting the very last of the season’s cabbages out of the garden.  I used cabbage, snake beans, carrots, and spring onions, all finely chopped and shredded.  You can use a food processor to coarsely grate if you are in a real hurry.

Add a half thumb of ginger, finely grated, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, a little chili to taste, a handful of herbs finely chopped (lemon basil, Thai basil, coriander, mint or a mixture) and a couple of teaspoons of light soy sauce.

Add a little oil to a wide pan or a wok, get it hot, and cook the filling, stirring, for just a couple of minutes.  You are trying more to dry it all than to cook it, and best to leave undercooked rather than over.

Mix a spoonful of cornflour (corn starch) with water (or ordinary plain flour if you don’t have cornflour in the pantry).  Take the vegetables off the stove and add a little of it to the hot vegetable mix, just enough to make it all sticky.  Keep the rest for sealing the rolls.

Let the filling cool a little while you roll out the wrappers.

Part 3: Assembling and frying

If you are using home-made wrappers, use a pasta machine, or a rolling pin and a well floured benchtop, to roll out the dough till it is translucent thin.  You will be cutting it into 10cm squares, so aim for a 10 cm wide pasta strip.

Put a teaspoonful of filling  on each wrapper.  Roll diagonally, folding the corners in. Use a finger dipped in the flour and water mix on the last corner to seal.

Wipe out your wok or pan and heat up a couple of centimetres of frying oil until it is quite hot.  I usually use light olive oil for frying like this because it has mostly monounsaturated fats, it  has  a high smoke point and it’s fairly neutral flavoured.

Fry in two or three batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, use tongs to turn them and fry for just a couple of minutes till they are brown and crispy.

You can keep them warm in an oven if you have to, but they are best eaten freshly cooked and hot with a soy and sweet chili dipping sauce.



I seem to have dozens of half written posts and  not so great photos banked up, shoved into random folders to get back to after Bentley.  There’s a late pick of turtle beans being slow cooked and turned into a kind of ful medames.  There’s the new induction hotplate so we can fast cook using solar electricity.  There’s the first harvest of red claw from the dam and a fairly spectacular red claw pasta.  There’s the first flush of the citrus glut and kumquat marmalaide.  There’s the new drake named Bentley because he arrived the day of the (provisional) victory.

But I’m going to start with this one because the time for it is right now. Guavas are in glut right now and I keep seeing unharvested trees everywhere. Guava jelly, which can be made as jam to spread on toast (just by using half the quantity of sugar) but is spectacular as a firm jelly to eat with cheese on crackers is the only really good thing I know to do with a glut of guavas, but it’s a really good thing to do with it.  I don’t make a lot of jams or jellies – in general I find  fresh fruit better than the version cooked down with lots of sugar for just about every kind of fruit.  But the flying foxes and birds love our guavas and strawberry guavas so much that even the uneaten fruit risks little bite marks and I don’t fancy sharing saliva with a bat.  And though I love the aroma of guavas I’m not so keen on the texture.   This took me literally minutes to make and was worth depriving the bats.

Guava Jelly

I used a mixture of guavas and strawberry guavas, the big ones roughly chopped and the small ones just left whole. Add a bit of water to start them off, then cook enough to make a soft mash, that you can strain through a chessecloth to get the juice.  I did this stage in a pressure cooker, which meant I only needed to add a little water – about a third of a cup for each cup of guavas – and pressure cook for just a few minutes. If you cook in a pot you will need to add a bit more water and cook for maybe 10 or 15 minutes.

I lined my big colander with cheesecloth and sat it over a pot, poured in the guava mash, let it strain for 5 minutes, then twisted the cheesecloth to make a little bundle and weighed it down with my heavy mortar and pestle to squeeze out all the juice. This is important even if you have so many guavas you can just waste them because the seeds have the pectin in them, so that last squeeze of juice is the one that makes it set.

Put a saucer in the freezer.

Grease a plate with a lip with butter (or two or three if you are making a large batch).

Measure the guava juice back into a pot, and for each cup of juice add a cup of sugar and the juice of quarter of a lemon.  I used raw sugar because that’s what I had, but if you want the clear  jewel like jellies, refined white sugar would be better.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes till it starts to thicken, then test it every couple of minutes by putting a teaspoonful on the cold saucer till it turns to jelly.

Working quickly (or it will set in the pot) pour the jelly out onto the greased plate and tilt to spread it into a thin layer.  It will set in a couple of minutes and you can use a sharp knife to cut it into squares.

If you are not serving straight away, chill the jellies in a single layer before you put them all in a container in the fridge, or they’ll stick together.

With camembert or brie or white castello cheese and crackers, it’s a gourmet feast.


My daughter made this with jaboticabas. She sent me the pic.  “It is so good mum. Same recipe as your guava jelly on witcheskitchen.com.au but with cinnamon and nutmeg and star anise. So simple for such an extravagant treat.”

jaboticaba jelly



bunya nuts Bunya nuts are in season, and it is easy to see why aboriginal people arranged festivals around bunya season.  We stopped on the way to Brisbane to visit our son and pick up a native bee hive (more on that later) and picked up half a dozen cones that had dropped from a tree.  A feasting quantity.

Bunyas aren’t a taste sensation but they’re nice – a fairly mild, slightly sweet, chestnut or waxy potato flavour.  They dry out if they are roasted once they are shelled, and they don’t absorb sauces or marinades very well – in curries and dishes like that, the bunyas are a bit of a filler. They make a good “potato salad”, and they work really well in pesto, and I’m experimenting with grinding them the way aboriginal people used to and making cakes or patties.  But so far, my favourite use of them is just boiled and served with a dipping sauce.

I took these to a party last night.  I actually took a couple of dipping sauces. The mayo and harissa one was very good, and lemon butter with parsley is nice,  but this was the one that won the day.

The Recipe:

The Bunyas:

The method here is exactly the same as preparing them for pesto, or really anything else.  The big green cones fall apart as they ripen.  It’s fairly easy to peel off the corm to release the nuts inside, that look like this:

You can roast them at this stage, but I think they are better boiled or pressure cooked.  Boiling takes an hour or so, but pressure cooking is much faster.  I pressure cooked these for 20 minutes then cooled them, then cut them in halves and scooped out the nut.

There is a knack to doing this without cutting your fingers off.  Use a big heavy knife – the kind you’d use for a pumpkin.  Hold the nut with one hand, sitting it on its fat end, and get the blade of the knife dug in across the pointy end.  Shift your holding hand to the top of the knife and cut down.  Once you have the knack, it’s easy and fast.

The Dipping Sauce:

The basis for the sauce is home made whole egg mayonnaise.

Two Minute Mayonnaise

making mayonnaise with a stick blenderThe super easy, super fast, super reliable way to make mayonnaise is with a stick blender. No dribbling the oil in, no splitting, no whisking.

There are two bits of chemistry that make it work.

  1. You put all the ingredients in the blender jug and they separate.  The oil floats on top of everything else.
  2. You put the stick blender in the bottom and start it, and it creates a little vortex, dragging the oil down at the perfect rate to emulsify it.

Works every time.

It’s so easy, I like to make small amounts of fresh mayonnaise when I need it, rather than a big batch to keep in the fridge. It uses raw egg, so it’s good to make with eggs from chooks you know are well fed and healthy.

whole egg mayonnaise

Put in the blender jug:

  • 1 whole egg
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • good pinch of salt
  • 100 ml of light olive oil (or other mild flavoured oil – not virgin olive oil – it makes bitter mayo).

Put the stick blender in and let it settle for a minute to separate into layers. Then, with the blender fully submerged, hit the button. Once it has started to emulsify, you can move the blender around. Don’t think you can make less by skimping on the oil – it won’t thicken. If it is thin, pour another swig of oil on top, and with the blender fully submerged, hit the button again.

Once the mayo is emulsified, add:

  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped
  • big marble of peeled ginger, roughly chopped

Blend until they are blended in.  Taste for enough salt.  Scrape into a dipping bowl, and, if you can, leave in the fridge for an hour or so for the flavours to blend in.