27 September 2011

Chocolate Caramel Tart

This is most definitely not for the faint hearted...rich, decadent and indulgent. You think you wouldn't possibly be able to finish it all, yet somehow you do.  This tart was on the cover of Gourmet Traveller a few years ago and it insisted on being made. Since then it has made a few appearances.  If you love chocolate and caramel then this tart is for you.

As it was on the cover of their annual French issue it was the perfect dessert for my French bistro themed Supper Club.

Chocolate Caramel Tart, from Gourmet Traveller and a fabulous French issue quite some time ago.

I have included the recipe for the pastry, which I will get around to making myself one day, however this time round the pastry cases come courtesy of Sabato, whose pastry skills, at this point in time, are far to superior to mine. I need to head over to Hungry and Frozen for some pastry lessons and so can you...just over here.

It looks a little trickier than it is, just break it down and plan ahead as it does take a bit of time while you wait for caramel and mousse to set.  That leaves you plenty of time for a cuppa or whatever pottering around takes your fancy.

Serves 10


Shortcrust pastry
240 gm (1¾ cups)  plain flour
60 gm  caster sugar
180 gm  unsalted butter, chilled, coarsely chopped

Or you could buy a good quality tart case or little tartlets.

225 gm (1 cup)  white sugar
80 ml (1/3 cup)  thickened cream
70 gm  butter, coarsely chopped

Chocolate mousse
200 gm  dark chocolate (53% cocoa solids), coarsely chopped - I used Whittaker's Dark Block
4  eggs, separated
185 ml (¾ cup)  thickened cream
2 tbsp  caster sugar

165gm  dark chocolate (53% cocoa solids) coarsely chopped - I used a mixture of Whittaker's Dark Block and Dark Ghana
60 ml (¼ cup)  pouring cream
40 gm  unsalted butter, softened

To serve, whipped cream...am extra indulgence yes, but it does cut the richness of the tart. 

The best chocolate!


if you are making your own shortcrust pastry, place flour and sugar in a food processor and whizz to combine, add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add 2 tablespoons of chilled water and process until mixture just comes together. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 190C /375F. Roll out pastry to 5mm thick on a lightly floured surface, line a 26cm-diameter tart tin and refrigerate for 1 hour. Blind bake for 20 minutes (see note). You can also  make individual tarts. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Or use these and get straight on to the caramel.

For caramel, firstly don't be afraid!  Just take your time and keep an eye on it and you will be fine. Place the sugar and 250ml of water in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and cook, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if sugar crystals form, until mixture is deep golden, about 10-15 minutes. You really do want quite a deep gold to deliver a real rich caramelly flavour.  Remove from the heat, add the cream and the butter and stir to combine.  Just be careful as the mixture will spit. Pour the caramel into the pastry base or bases if making individual tarts and refrigerate until firm. It will take 1-2 hours.

Next up chocolate mousse. This would actually be quite lovely as a dessert all on its own.  Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, remove from heat, cool to room temperature, add the egg yolks, stir to combine and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream until soft peaks form and set aside. Whisk egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form, gradually add sugar and continue whisking until well combined. Fold a third of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold in a third of the cream. Repeat with the remaining egg white and cream until combined, spoon over the cooled caramel, smooth top flush with tart edges and refrigerate until firm, another 2-3 hours.

For the ganache combine the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan and stir over a low heat until chocolate melts.  Remove from the heat, add the butter and stir to combine. Cool to room temperature and then spread in an even layer over chocolate mousse. Refrigerate until set, about 30-40 minutes. Serve tart with whipped cream.

*Note For blind baking, line a pastry-lined tart tin with baking paper, then fill with weights (ceramic, rice and dried beans work best).

This dessert does look incredibly elegant and it is a little bit of chocolate heaven.  Crisp pastry and then that wonderful layer of caramel, set and almost a little fudge like.  Then rich yet light chocolate mousse and who doesn't like a little ganache.  Adding a little of Whittaker's Dark Ghana, 72% cocoa, to the mix makes it unbelievably rich and delivers that wonderful bitter dark chocolate flavour which just adds another dimension.

So if you have a little time give this tart a go, your chocolate loving friends will thank you for it!

This is also my entry for this month's Sweet New Zealand being hosted, this month by Alli, over at Pease Pudding, so if you would like to join in head over there and check it out.

If you like this you might like this; Bailey's Chocolate Truffle Cake

Bon Appetit!

24 September 2011

Auckland Eats - Queenie's Lunchroom

A Friday breakfast a few weeks ago found me and my breakfast buddy at Queenies Lunchroom.  The cutest little place just off College Hill in Ponsonby.  It is ever so quaint, and a little kitsch, but ever so charmingly kitsch. Lots of vintage china and even a chandelier made from a deer's antlers.  Somehow it all works and very much has a tearoom, or lunchroom, from a bygone era feel.

As always first order of the day was coffee and it arrived as it should, strong and black with a nice crema on the top.  Hot water on the side too, which is always a good sign.  So we were off to a very good start.

There is an array of wonderful home baking on offer from cakes and slices to scones.  However we were their for breakfast.  Eggs and toast of course on offer, even boiled egg and soldiers, a childhood and adult favourite of mine.  Other than that a menu all her own.  On the sweet side of things homemade Queenies granola with raspberries, honey & yoghurt and crumpets with lemon curd, mascarpone and berries.  Definitely think a return visit is in order for the crumpets, but I was more in the mind for something savoury.  

Not the usual fare on offer, a cassoulet with chorizo and cannellini beans, a fried egg and toast or huevos rancheros fried eggs on a corn tortilla with spicy tomato salsa and crème fraiche.  An omelette with smoked fish, spring onions, capers and cream cheese.  I was very tempted by the Kosheri - Egyptian rice and lentils with spinach and a tomato, avocado & yoghurt salad, but neither me or my breakfast buddy could go past the Turkish eggs; poached eggs with babaghanoush, yoghurt, hot chilli butter and toast.

Heavenly, the best breakfast, well certainly a favourite.  The eggs perfectly poached with a runny yolk,  a little heat from the chilli, cool fresh tartness from the yoghurt and the creamy babaghanoush underneath all melding with that golden, runny yolk. Only one word really, and yes that is delicious. Turkish toast on the side slather in butter not half bad either.

So a return visit to Queenies Lunchroom will be most definitely be in order.

Check out those yolks!


24a Spring Street, Freemans Bay,
Auckland, New Zealand

Serving Refreshments Daily
from 7 o'clock to 3.30 Monday through Friday,
from 8 o'clock to 3.30 Saturday & Sunday

Telephone: (09) 378 8977
Email: allana@queenieslunchroom.co.nz

19 September 2011

The First Spring Asparagus

The weather may have other ideas, however the getting my hands on the first asparagus of the season signifies Spring really is here.  I adore asparagus and its arrival is always eagerly anticipated and I was excited to find so early in the season.

What to do with those first green spears?  Dipped in a soft boiled egg?  Drizzled with a little hollandaise?  Wrapped in prosciutto?  All good options but I opted for a simple salad that allows the asparagus, just as it is, to shine through.  Leaving the asparagus raw allows its fresh sweetness to step in to the spotlight.  This is a light, bright salad and perfect for Spring...now we just need the weather to play along.

Asparagus Salad with a Lemony Parmesan Vinaigrette

Serves 4


1 bunch or 16 spears of asparagus
2 tbsp Parmesan, finely grated, extra to shave a few shards
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup lemon olive oil, if you don't have lemon olive oil regular extra virgin olive oil will also work
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper


Bend the asparagus spears and they will break naturally to remove any woody bits and then with a vegetable peeler shave the spears in to long ribbons.  Place the ribbons in a medium sized bowl.  For the dressing place the Parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon olive oil and a pinch of pepper in to a small bowl.  Whisk well to combine everything together in to what will be a reasonably thick consistency.  Drizzle the vinaigrette over the asparagus and toss gently to coat.  Mound the asparagus on to a large platter or individual plates and shave over a few more shards of Parmesan.

This salad really does feel like the essence of Spring.  A sweet crunch from the asparagus all enveloped and in the vinaigrette which is bursting with a fresh lemon hit and then the deeper sharpness of the Parmesan.  It will be dinner tonight alongside a little salmon.

16 September 2011

Supper Club & A Little More Pate

I loved this month's challenge! Pate...for those of you who read this blog there have been various incarnations...the classic  Chicken Liver Pate  plus Orange and Thyme Chicken Liver Pate , Port and Chicken Liver Pate and even going way back to one of my first posts on Toast for Chicken Liver Pate with Red Onion & Pomegranate Molasses Chutney

On looking through these past pate adventures that last one, or rather the first one, brings me full circle as I served it at my first turn at hosting Supper Club back in June 2010 and wrote about in the my post about our inaugural Supper Club, hosted by Kristen.  It is Kristen that actually introduced us all to Suppler Club having joined one while living in Holland for a few years.  We'd seen photos on Facebook and then over brunch when she returned to New Zealand we got talking about starting up our own.  So just over 12 months ago our Supper Club was born.

This past week saw us enter our third round of Supper Club.  So many fabulous meals and always such a good night with the Supper Clubber girls.  It really is a monthly treat to look forward to in anticipation of what culinary delights we will get to savour.  So many highlights, well all highlights really.  

Chocolate Hazelnut Ravioli

Among them the best vegetable soup, herby potato cakes with bubbling goat cheese, a buttery pistachio coated salmon, a delicious parsnip and pear puree, moist and decadent orange and almond cake drenched in a Grand Marnier syrup and simply delicious, and ever so pretty chocolate hazelnut ravioli. And one couldn't forget a whole Martin Bosley inspired dinner and an unforgettable fondue that was quite an experience...just lets say lots of flames! 

Martin Bosley Cured Salmon

This time around I was inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table, a bit of a favourite at the moment.  To start it was the salmon rillettes, a wonderful fresh combination of poached and smoked salmon with chilli and lemon zest.  On to mains and pepper steak with a creamy brandy sauce and on the side celeriac puree drizzled with brown butter, yes brown butter.  Everything was good but the celeriac puree was positively ambrosial.  Hoping to catch the tail end of celeriac season so I can make a HUGE batch and freeze it to tide me over until next winter.

The pate de campagne wasn't originally on the menu but having rustled up a batch it really was too good not too share and it fitted in perfectly with the French Bistro theme, so it featured as a little pre dinner nibble along with some herbed olives, which again went down a treat, seriously the best olives ever. 

It was also relatively easy to make, grind and mix the meat and spices, pack in to a terrine mold and cook in a water bath at a really low heat.  Refrigerate with a weight on top to compact it and there you have it, another delicious pate. The rich meaty pate with the aromatics from all the spices peeking through a perfect little nibble with a little gherkin or cornichon, either or providing a the contrasting sweet yet tart pickle that goes so well with pate.

If you check back soon I am sure there will soon be my version of pate de campagne as somewhat addicted to pate making.  In the meantime you will need to check out Ruhlman's Charucterie or check out one of these pates... Chicken Liver Pate , Orange and Thyme Chicken Liver Pate , Port and Chicken Liver Pate or Chicken Liver Pate with Red Onion & Pomegranate Molasses Chutney.

One Year Ago - Supper Club #4


12 September 2011

Herbed Olives

These are the perfect little accompaniment to an aperitif.  I was not always a fan of the briny, salty olive.  It took a summer holiday to Spain, Puerto Banus to be specific, to turn me on to to these briny, tart little morsels.  Something about sitting, poolside on a hot Mediterranean summer evening, Frank Sinatra singing in the back ground (we had limited CDs but Ole Blue Eyes was perfect), G&T  in hand as a pre dinner aperitif was magical, and olives were the perfect accompaniment.  Since then we have remained good friends, whether as an aperitif, in a Greek salad or stirred through a pasta puttanesca.

Herbed Olives inspired by Dorie Greenspan and Around My French Table

I adored the olives from Around My French Table as has everyone who has tasted them.  I think it is the warming of the olive oil and infusing it with all the wonderful herbs and spices that make these really quite special.  I now have a jarful on hand at all times.  They will keep for a couple of months and the left over oil is so full of flavour.  Whatever you do, don't throw it away! Dress salads or drizzle over fish or chicken before grilling.

This is my take on herbed olives, upping the anti on some of the spices that I like, a little more chilli as I like a little heat and the addition of some oregano.  I love the pungent, almost spicy and a little lemony flavour of oregano. Feel free to use what you have to hand, orange zest is also lovely and fresh chillies or maybe even a little preserved lemon could be a good addition for a little more of a fragrant Moroccan flavour.


2 cups olives
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1/2 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1/2 tbsp oregano leaves
1 rosemary sprigs
1 thyme sprigs
1 oregano sprig
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
4 strips lemon zest
Salt and Pepper


Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, and once hot, add the coriander seeds, peppercorns and fennel seeds and toast for just a moment to release their aromas. Remove from the heat and set aside in small bowl.

Turn the heat down to low and pour in 1/2 a cup of olive oil and add all the other ingredients and the toasted seeds. Gently heat the oil to infuse it with all the flavours of the herbs and spices for a couple of minutes.  Add the olives to the frying pan and give everything a toss around to coat the olives in the infused oil, and all the herbs and spices.

Pour the olives in to a medium to large jar and top with more olive oil to completely cover the olives.  Close the jar and give it a shake to mix everything together.  Let the olives cool to room temperature and serve straight away if you can't wait.  Perfect on a summer afternoon with a G&T.  

However, if you have a little patience leave the olives in the fridge overnight or even for a week or 2 to allow the flavours to develop.  Just remove them from the the fridge an hour or so before serving.

You must try these.  Everyone who has sampled them has loved them.  They really are the best olives I have ever tasted and they will continue to make repeat appearances at the table.  So full of flavour, all the different flavours infused in the olive oil.

If you like this you might like this Yucatecan Guacamole
One year ago - Mediterranean Seafood


11 September 2011

Mushroom & Rocket Salad with a Honey Truffle Vinaigrette

A spectacular Spring day in Auckland and what better way to start it but a walk around One Tree Hill.  So fortunate to have such a beautiful park so close by. It is especially wonderful in spring, daffodils blooming and lambs gamboling. Yesterday was purely for exercise as the annual get in shape for summer begins, and I was going to make a return visit this morning to take some photos, however our beautiful spring weather has turned to this.

Though I am not complaining as it does makes for a nice lazy Sunday. Beets are roasting and leeks and fennel are braising, soon to join some pepper steak for Sunday dinner.

But yesterday, the sky was blue and the sun was shining putting me in the mood for salad.  Somewhere recently came across a truffle and honey combination, not quite sure where, but that is what inspired this little salad.

Mushroom and Rocket Salad with a Honey Truffle Vinaigrette

Hardly a recipe really and no real measurements as such, so easy to whip up for a light lunch or it would also make for an easy little entree. 


Mushrooms - 3-4 per person, depending on size and peoples appetites.
Olive Oil
Rocket - a couple of handfuls per person
Parmesan - Parmigiano-Reggiano

And for the dressing - feel free to adjust to taste. I like a quite tart dressing so veer more to the vinegar side of vinaigrette.

1 tsp Honey
2 tbsp White Truffle Olive Oil
1 tbsp Muscatel Vinaigrette or other white wine vinegar
Tiny pinch of salt

Heat a griddle or frying pan over a medium heat and brush the mushrooms with a little olive oil and season with a little salt.  Grill for a few minutes each side and set aside.  While the mushrooms are grilling mix together the dressing.  Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.

Lightly dress the rocket with a little of the dressing, leaving some aside.  Pile the rocket on a plate and top with some Parmesan shaving.  Top the salad with the mushrooms and drizzle then with a little of the dressing.

I loved this salad and this may well be my new favourite dressing. It is earthy, yet sweet with just a subtle hint of truffle..  I was a while coming round to truffles but this truffle infused olive oil converted me; Mas Portell White Truffle Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  It is dreamy and just ever so fragrantly infused with white truffle flavour.  If you are in NZ you can get it at the wonderful Sabato along with many, many, other tasty delights.  At the moment I seem to have developed somewhat of an addiction to their roast Marcona Almonds, not to mention all the cheese, salamis, and sweet treats on offer.

The warm mushrooms soak up the dressing, the sweet truffle flavours melding with the earthy mushrooms before a fresh peppery kick from the rocket and to finish the wonderful salty Parmigiano-Reggiano. It would have been perfect with a nice chilled glass of Chardonnay.

If you like this you might like this - Shaved Fennel and Zucchini Salad
One year ago - Possibly the best Chocolate Cake Ever


04 September 2011


I was lucky enough to get a beautiful box of citrus from the lovely Arfi over at HomeMades.  Lemons, Tahitian limes, tangelos, mandarins plus a bag full of grapefruit. So what do with this boxful of bright citrus. First up were a couple of variations on the clementine cake with a mix of tangelos and mandarin and then we headed in for some marmalade making.  Suffice to say I won't be running short of marmalade any time soon.

For the first batch I made Gourmet Gannets Grapefruit, Cardamom and Orange Blossom Marmalade.  It is a little exotic and wonderfully fragrant from the orange blossom water.  So head over here if you would like to try it for yourself.

Lime Marmalade


12 limes
About 1.75kg (5lb) white granulated sugar


Wash the limes, cut them in half and juice them.  Reserve the juice.  Place the skins in a bowl, cover them with cold water and pop them in the fridge overnight.

The next day drain the skins and cut them in to quarters. Remove the flesh and membranes and place them in muslin square and tie in to a bag with some kitchen string.

Thinly slice the skins. I went with quite fine shreds as I don't like large 'bits' in my marmalade.  If you do like the 'bits' you can slice a little thicker.  Place the limes in a preserving pan or a large heavy based saucepan with the muslin bag, 2 litres of water and the reserved juice.  Cover tightly, as you don't want to lose too much of the liquid, and simmer gently for about an hour and a half or until the fruit is soft. While the limes are cooking place a couple of small plates in the fridge to chill.

Remove the muslin bag and give it a good squeeze to get out all the pectin filled juice which is what will help your marmalade set. Weigh the fruit and the liquid and then put it back in the pan and add the same weight of sugar.  Gently heat the mixture, stirring to to dissolve the sugar and then turn up the heat to bring it to a rolling boil.  Once it had reached boiling point test of a set.

To test for a set place a spoonful on one of the chilled plates.  Leave it for a moment and then check to see if it wrinkles when pushed with your finger.  If it wrinkles is ready, if not just boil for a few more minutes and then check again. Once it has reached setting point turn off the heat, give it a stir to distribute the rind evenly, and let it cool slightly for 10-15 minutes.  Pour in to warm sterilised jars* and seal.

*To sterilise your jars wash them and the lids in warm soapy water, place them oven at 110C/225F for half an hour

This little jars are just bursting with lime.

Lemon, Orange and Grapefruit Marmalade


2 lemons
1 orange
1 grapefruit
About 2 ½ cups brown sugar

Wash the fruit and cut them in to fine shreds or a fine dice.  Your preference, as above I am not a fan of the 'bits' so fir this batch I went with a fine dice. Remove the pips and any membrane.  Pop the pips on to some muslin and tie in to a bag.

Measure the citrus and use the same volume of water and sugar as you have citrus. Pop a couple of small plates in to the fridge. Place the citrus in a preserving pan or heavy based saucepan with the same amount of water and bring to a boil over a medium heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer the for 30 - 40 minutes or until the citrus is very soft.

Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Bring to a boil over a medium heat and simmer until it reaches setting point.  Probably 20-30 minutes but check after 15 minutes. Once set let it cool for 10 minutes and then pour in to warm sterilised jars.

This one is almost as good as marmalade made with Seville Oranges.

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