Crisp Ham Hock and Pumpkin Salad by Alice Hart

I bought the new cookbook by Alice Hart, sight unseen. The cover was my only glimpse into this fabulous book. Although that’s not totally true, I’ve cooked from Alice’s books before and I knew it would be great, I new I needed to have it (words from a cookbook addict for sure).
And I was right. The book is a beautiful and Alice should be very pleased with this one. Friends At My Table is a collection of recipes you can use individually or as a menu to share with friends. From Vietnamese inspired bridal showers, to Autumn picnics, glamping, and a beach cricket barbeque menu. There is alot of the outdoors in Alice’s books which reflects her love of traveling in her beloved campervan, Myrtle the Hurtle. It’s inspiring.

I was going to share the recipe for these delicious little blueberry, almond and vanilla choux buns with you but then I made the crisp ham and pumpkin salad. Alice describes the recipe as her favourite in the book, and I know why.

OK so the picture doesn’t do it justice. There are a few components to the dish before assembly but it’s simple and you will want to make it again and again. I reduced the serving size by a third to make two perfect portions. The recipe is not exactly the same as printed but pretty much. It is shared with you by the kind permission of Quadrille Publishing.

Crisp Ham Hock and Pumpkin Salad, chilli dressing and toasted pumpkin seeds.


1 small smoked ham hock

300g pumpkins, peeled and diced 5cm

1 tablespoon olive oil

35g pumpkin seeds

2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves

a small handful of coriander

a small handful of thai basil leaves or more coriander

1 large ripe avocado, cut into segments


2 kaffir lime leaves (I thought I had some in the freezer but no, so I added lime zest when the juice is added)

3 tablespoons mild olive oil

1 shallot, very finely sliced

15g palm sugar or 1 tablespoon of brown sugar

1/2-1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

thumbnail size piece of ginger cut into fine matchsticks

half a garlic clove finely chopped

1 lemon grass stalk, outside leaves peeled to the white inner and finely sliced

1 tablespoon soy sauce

juice of half a lime

half a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil


Preheat oven to 140°C fan. Put the hock into a small roasting tin, cover with foil and roast for 2 or so hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Let it cool enough to remove the skin and excess fat. Break into small pieces. This maybe done up to two days in advance. Return meat to room temperature cover with foil and heat in a low oven.

For the pumpkin heat the oven to 220°C fan. Toss the pumpkin in oil, season  and roast in a lined baking tin for 30 mins or until tender and edges golden. This can also be done two days ahead and reheated in the same way as the hock.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry frying pan, shaking them about until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool.

To prepare the lime leaves, stack them on top of each other, cut out the stalk, roll tightly and slice as thinly as possible. Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a moderate frying pan, add shallots and cook gently for 10 minutes but not to colour. Add sugar and cook for two minutes. Then add the chilli, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves. Keep the heat very low and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly before adding soy sauce, lime juice (and lime zest if using instead of lime leaves), remaining olive oil and sesame oil.

Combine salad leaves and herbs, scatter the pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, avocado and ham pieces over it, followed by the dressing and cracked black pepper to taste.

Very happily serves 2.

Dan Lepard’s Sticky Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake and some little grubs

Sticky lemon cakes never go out of fashion. Cupcakes and macarons will come and go but a good old lemon cake will always be there. Well that’s just my opinion of course. The fact that Dan Lepard included not just one, in his new book, “Short and Sweet”, may go in my favour.

I love being close to my family again after being away for so many years. So when my sister needs a babysitter I’m the first to put my hand up. I’m also the first to look for opportunities to cook for them. Anyway I wanted an excuse to try some recipes from Dan’s new book.

I don’t know if Dan realises but he has a bit of a cult following. His regular Guardian column is one I often read and one of the few I actually make the recipes from. The last one being tamarind spice biscuits. A slightly unconventional biscuit flavour that turned out to be absolutely moreish and one I filed in favourites book, to make again.

These days I make use of the Sydney sun and I put my butter in the sun to melt. While I was waiting for this to happen I got the other ingredients ready. I don’t normally have oatmeal in the cupboard but I always have rolled oats. So I whizzed them up in the food processor and set them aside in a bowl. The butter had melted and I added the oil, sugar and lemon zest. The lemons are organic, from my parents garden. I steal them all the time. One had a slight bruise but I just zested around it (it was a massive lemon and I hate to waste it). I sat it next to the oats and continued on. Just as I was about to throw in the oats I noticed some little yellow grubs, actually quite alot of them. I thought it was strange as I had gone through the oats after whizzing them in the food processor to remove any husks. I couldn’t see anymore in the rolled oats bag either but I promptly threw them out. THEN as I picked up the bruised lemon I saw one coming out! Quick as a flash they had moved home from the lemon to the oats. I guess storing them in a bowl on the shelf above the boiler was a happy environment for them. Eeek hey.

If you would like the recipe, buy Dan’s fabulous book, you won’t be disappointed! The original recipe is also available here

Orange Chiffon Cake and the Monday Morning Cooking Club

I have accumulated quite alot of cookbooks. Propably no more than any other person out there with a slight obsession in cooking, baking and collecting vintage cookbooks. My mother reluctantly buys them for me when asked what I want for my birthday (she thinks I have too many) and Christmas is easy, I always ask for a subscription to Gourmet Traveller. I could have a worse obsession! or a more expensive one! oh yeah I do, vintage jewellery.

Monday Morning Cooking Club is a collection of tried and well tested recipes from a group of ladies who, yes, meet on monday mornings to cook and chat. In fact they met on Monday mornings for three years! They wanted to gather recipes that told a story. They realised the Jewish community have a strong association with food and the stories surrounding them. They began emailing everyone they knew asking for recommendations for the best home cook they knew. Eventually they had acummulated a list and they wrote to each one asking for their most cherished recipes.

The testing began and eventually the list of recipes began to develop.

Each recipe in the book is preluded by a story from the person who revealed their recipe. To know that your making a recipe that a family has enjoyed for generations is somewhat comforting. It also means it has been tested, alot.

I have made a few things from it and there are still alot more on my waiting list. The custard chiffon cake was the first. It was my first time I made a chiffon cake too. I couldn’t have wished for it to turn out better! I took it to work and the complements were endless, along with requests for the recipe.

The second recipe I tried was the apple and cinnamon pie. I made it for dessert after a family Sunday roast. A simple ‘cake’ that still turned out fabulous even though I thought I had stuffed it up by coring the apples and cutting them with a mandolin so the cake batter kind of fell through the apples. An obvious mistake, after the fact, but the ‘cake’ turned out so well it pleased my 97 year old grandfather and more importantly my father who is a big apple pie fan.

I’ve also tested out the the Israeli couscous soup, which is nothing mindblowing but a good store cupboard standby dinner. I liked the novelty and texture of the tiny round balls of ‘couscous’.

I was in the baking mood and wanted something impressive to take to work so I made a chiffon cake again, this time the orange version. It turned out just as well, even though I thought I had over beat the egg whites. It may sound like I’m a hopeless baker but truth be known I’m just very hard on myself and perfection is hard to master in my eyes. Once again it turned our beautifully and my workmates were overcome with amazement at the height and fluffy texture of my cake. I just smiled and blushed but inside I was just a bit coy ,as I knew how easy it really was.

There are some good savoury recipes in this book but for me the real interest is in the baking. There are some great recipes in here for things I’ve never tried to make before such as mamoul, hamantashen, palacsinta, beigli, and an amazing looking zserbo slice. These are probably some of the real heros’ of the book for me. My comfort is I know I they have been tested, time and time again, before going into the book. So I have that reassuring feeling that they should turn out. So here it is…

Orange Chiffon Cake                                              Serves 12

8 eggs, separated

345g (1 ½ cups) caster sugar

185ml (¾ cup) vegetable oil (I used extra light olive oil)

185ml (¾ cup) fresh orange juice (about 3-4 oranges)

finely grated zest of ½ a lemon

225g (1½ cups) self-raising flour, sifted


Preheat oven to 180°C. You will need an angel cake (chiffon) cake tin. Do not grease it.

Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add 115g (½ cup) caster sugar and continue whisking until egg whites are stiff but not dry. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil and keep beating until well combined.

Add the orange juice (which I strained with a sieve to get out any fleshy bits) and lemon zest. Add the flour carefully, then beat to make sure the flour is well combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the flour mixture with a metal spoon, until just mixed through. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

After removing the cake from the oven, immediately invert it to cool by balancing the middle funnel over a bottle neck. The cake will be dangling upside down. Leave it there until it is completely cool to stop it from collapsing. When cool remove from the bottle and run a knife around the outside of the cake and the funnel. Lift the base out of the tin, then use the knife to ease the cake off the base.

If you have any crumbly bits or you just like the look, you can sieve a fine layer of icing sugar over the top.

Bill’s Basics – Coq au Vin

So Bill Granger has hit London!  Actually he, and his beautiful family, have been here for a while. The London food scene is at such an exciting time it has managed to entice him away from sunny Sydney. Bill has been spending his time in London getting a feel for the city, and looking for the right place to open an outpost of the famous Australian ‘Bills’. He has certainly not been idle though, publishing his 8th book while he has been here.Once again Bill doesn’t disappoint, divided into Baking, Breakfast, Soup, Salad etc, he makes it easy to find what you need.  I have used many of Bill’s recipes in the past and they have all worked. All of them.  I’m sure this book will continue to do the same. There is a great mix of recipes, in a clean line, beautifully photographed book.

I thought I would try out the Bill’s take on Coq au Vin.  It was so so simple and the aroma coming from the oven was enough to convince me I was in for a good lunch.

Bill’s Coq au Vin


1.5kg chicken, jointed

150g diced bacon or lardons

10 french shallots, peeled

a few thyme sprigs

a rosemary sprig

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil

250mls white wine

a small knob of butter

350g mixed mushrooms (such as oyster and chestnut), sliced

3 garlic cloves, crushed with the back of a knife

a small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley


Preheat oven to 220°C/ gas mark 7.

Arrange the chicken pieces in a large roasting tin and scatter the bacon, shallots, thyme, rosemary and chilli flakes. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and roast for 20 mins.

Add the wine to the tin and roast for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven.

Heat the butter and remaining olive oil in frying pan and cook the mushrooms and garlic over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.

Tip into the tin and scatter over the parsley.

Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

Bill is not a trained chef, just a guy who loves food. I think this is one of the things that makes his recipes work. He understands the demands of a busy life. His recipes look, and are, so simple yet they yield great taste with minimal effort. Fresh, simple flavours.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before London is home to its first ‘Bills’.  I will be first in line.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishing for providing my copy of Bill’s Basics.

Alice’s Cook Book and Passionfruit Slice

As you know, I don’t usually do brunches, but when there is something special to entice me, I can make the exception.

Brunch with Alice Hart at La Fromagerie is that sort of exception.

Alice seemed a little nervous, in front of this small group, but was sweet, warm, friendly and seemed driven by the thoughts of an environmental, food enthusiast.

Alice’s Cook Book is really not any old ordinary cookbook, but a part of the New Voice In Food series from Quadrille Publishing, supporting new talent in the food world.

I wasn’t sure about the format of the book when I first saw it but the titles of the recipes drew me in. I soon began to enjoy the arrangement of the recipes into picnics, camper vans, seasonal Sunday lunches etc. It began to be a story and I could see that Alice had put alot of herself into this book.

Alice demonstrated a few recipes from the book, discussed her inspiration and enthusiasm for her first cookbook.

The first offering was Blueberry and Granola Muffins. A light muffin made on a wholemeal/plain flour mix, yoghurt, granola and berries. Easy enough and tasty too.

Alice then demonstrated her Roast Courgette and Butternut Agrodolce with Stuffed Courgette Flowers. She really made each dish look easy to do. The courgette and butternut mix was brought together by the agrodolce (sour/sweet), beautifully balanced flavours of sugar and red wine vinegar . La Fromagerie had, of course, supplied an amazing fresh goats cheese with a distinctive citrus flavour. This balanced the dish very well.
Our next brunch treat was something which had caught my eye in her book too. Beetroot-Cured Side of Salmon with Aioli and Shaved Fennel Salad. It is a really beautiful dish. Curing the salmon is an incredibly easy preparation. Aioli, sounds difficult but only requires one strong hand and one gently pouring one (or a food processor!). La Fromagerie had added some borage flowers which had a delicate cucumber taste. A great dish for a party of friends on a summers day.
Our final taste from Alice’s Cook Book was a Mocha Affogato. A complete hit of chocolate icecream, from The Ivy House, with the signature La Fromagerie coffee, Le Piantagioni,  poured hot over the top.

We have a much loved family recipe from my late paternal grandmother for Passionfruit slice. She kept it a secret and all the women were trying to coax it out of my Aunt after her passing. I think my sister now has a copy.

So I was curious to try this version to see how it stands up.

Passionfruit Slice

For the Base:

200g digestive biscuits

60g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

600g cream cheese

2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

2 free-range egg yolks

1tbsp cornflour, sifted

250g caster sugar

200ml fresh passionfruit juice (the sieved pulp from about 12 fruits, depending on size)

seeds scraped from a vanilla pod, or 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Topping:

3 gelatine leaves

200ml freshly squeezed orange juice

25g caster sugar

50ml passionfruit pulp or juice

mango or pineapple to serve.


Preheat oven to 160*C. Line 20x30cm, 6mm deep, tin or dish, with parchment paper.

Place the biscuits in a food processor until finely crushed. Add the melted butter and pulse briefly, then press into the tin. Bake for 10mins and set aside.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl until smooth. beat in eggs, yolks and cornflour, then the sugar and passionfruit juice and vanilla. Don’t over mix, as too much air will cause the cooked cheesecake to crack.

Pour over biscuit base and smooth the top. bake for about 30 mins, until wobbly in the centre but not brown on top. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door open for 15 mins ( to minimise cracking). remove from oven and set aside to cool completely before chilling in the fridge for at least an hr.

To make the topping, soak gelatine in cold water to soften. Heat 4 tblp of the orange juice with the sugar until simmering. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatine sheets. Add the remaining orange juice and passionfruit pulp or juice.

Chill for 20mins, then pour over cheesecake and return to fridge for at least 4 hrs, preferably overnight.

Beautifully creamy and delicate passionfruit, it’s as kitsch as you can get but, of course, it didn’t have a scratch on my Nan’s. 🙂

Thanks to Quadrille Publishing for providing Alice’s Cook Book.