Saturday, April 13, 2013

Autumn Fruit Pudding

I love Autumn. The weather is cooling down (especially the nights), the days are crisp and clear and the season brings a whole new batch of fresh produce. The Summer fruit and vegetables are starting to disappear and the Autumn harvest begins. Today's recipe is inspired by that change of season, using a range of delicious Autumn fruits to create a comforting, warming and flavour filled pudding - just perfect for the cooler weather.

This pudding is comprised of aromatic roasted fruits, given a extra punch with vanilla and a touch of lime - and a light vanilla cake top that is just delicious served warm with something creamy like ice cream or custard. I made mine in one pan, but you could easily make individual serves if that takes your fancy. The recipe is very adaptable. Use whatever fruits you can find wherever you are. In my case, I had some wonderful organic nectarines, black plums, a punnet of strawberries and a big bunch of rhubarb. This combination not only made for a beautiful flavour, but a fantastic ruby coloured result.

Gorgeous Autumn Fruit
- about to go into the oven
I thought the dessert had an old fashioned vibe about it, so I served the Autumn Fruit Pudding on some gorgeous vintage English china that I picked up last Christmas holidays at a secondhand store in Nowra, NSW. (If you are ever in that part of the world, look up "The Everything Store" - full of all kinds of treasures!) The china really caught my eye with it's beautiful peacock coloured pattern. The set comprised of a large serving bowl and six smaller dessert bowls and was made by Keeling & Company in Staffordshire, England. They produced a range of striking brightly coloured china called Losol Ware from 1886 to 1936. I did a bit of online research and found that my china is the "Rushton" design pattern and circa 1912. 
Although this china is over 100 years old, it gets plenty of outings. I have taken to using the bigger bowl as a salad dish. I absolutely hate the idea of having beautiful things locked up in a cupboard and not used. That whole notion is just so stupid and precious. These items were made to be used, so that's just what I do! I do draw the line though, at putting them in the dishwasher - I wash and dry these by hand due to the fine gold edging around the rim of the bowls. I don't think they would fare well being machine washed under extreme heat. Every time I eat off these beautiful dishes, I ponder who may have owned them before, and what kinds of food was served on them. I wonder who brought them here from England, and how they have survived 100 years without a chip or crack. Amazing. Makes me enjoy this Autumn Fruit Pudding even more.

Autumn Fruit Pudding

You will need:
For the filling: 1 bunch rhubarb, 1 punnet strawberries, 4 nectarines, 4-6 plums, 1 vanilla bean, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, juice of 1 lime, 1 vanilla pod

For the pudding top: 125g butter, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups self raising flour, 1/3 cup milk, 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons icing sugar (to dust on the top)

Method: Remove and discard the leaves from the rhubarb and chop the rhubarb stalks into pieces about 3cm long. Cut the stalks from the strawberries and remove the stones from the plums and nectarines. Leave the strawberries whole but chop the plums and nectarines into large chunks. Split the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds with a knife.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Combine the fruit, lime juice and brown sugar and vanilla beans (including the pod) and bake on a tray or shallow baking dish for 25 minutes, stirring through once, about halfway through cooking. Set the fruit aside to cool.

To make the pudding top, Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat together until all combined. Now add half of the flour and half of the milk until well mixed. Add the remaining milk and flour and combine thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 160C. In a heatproof dish, spoon the fruit mixture. Remove the vanilla pod.  Now pour the pudding mixture over the top and bake for around 45 minutes until lightly golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before dusting with icing sugar.

Serve warm with cream, yogurt, custard or ice cream.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pork and Fennel Sausage Rolls

I love a homemade sausage roll. The flaky pastry, the moist, seasoned filling - pure comfort food that makes me think of childhood birthday parties and Mum making trays of them on the holidays. Look, I don't even mind a dodgy servo sausage roll either if truth be told! Whole different ball game of course, but who can resist meat in pastry? Sausage rolls are not a new invention and folks have loved their sausage rolls for hundreds of years.

The original ye olde sausage roll first appeared as a picnic food in the 1800's, was served hot and cold and at first did not contain any pastry. The filling was frequently comprised of cold roast veal and ham, or cold fowl and tongue minced and seasoned with dried herbs. The mixture was shaped and then breadcrumbed and fried - a little like that other well known picnic staple, the Scotch egg. Eventually, people started encasing the mixture in shortcrust pastry and eventually the puff pastry versions that we know today.

My recipe is based on one of my favourite combinations - pork and fennel, and inspired by the delicious sausage rolls they make at the fabulous Bourke Street Bakery in Sydney. Yes, it is a bit of a tarted up sausage roll, but the flavours are just delicious and they aren't difficult to make. I strongly suggest you make an extra batch , as they freeze brilliantly and are a great thing to have up your sleeve for a quick lunch or if guests drop by. Who doesn't love a homemade sausage roll?

My other suggestion is not to use pork mince that is super, super lean or has not even a touch of visible fat in it. Like any sausage, it needs a little fat for moisture and flavour. Using "diet" pork mince will result in a dry sausage roll - you have been warned. So what are you waiting for? Head to the kitchen and whip up a few trays of these beauties!

Pork and Fennel Sausage Rolls

You will need: 1kg free range pork mince. 1 bulb fennel diced finely, 1 large white onion diced finely, 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs, 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seed, generous pinch of allspice, 1 teaspoon fennel seed chopped, pinch of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 lightly beaten free range egg, salt, ground, black pepper, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds. 3-4 sheets pre- rolled puff pastry.

Method: Preheat the oven to 220C.

In a pan, heat the olive oil and cook the fennel, fennel seed, garlic and onion down until soft. Season with a little salt and pepper as it cooks.

Combine the pork mince, breadcrumbs, parsley, paprika, mustard seed, allspice, cayenne pepper, and plenty of salt and pepper in a large bowl with the cooked onion and fennel mixture. Combine extremely well - clean hands are best for this.

Cut each of the sheets of pastry into two rectangular pieces. Brush one edge with some of the beaten egg. Lay the meat mixture in the middle of the pastry, ensuring it is densely packed (you don't want big air holes in the sausage roll as it cooks)

Roll up the sausage roll and press the pastry together well where the pastry joins - ideally, it should overlap a little to avoid splitting as it cooks. I use a fork for this. Place seam side down onto a lined baking tray or silicone baking sheet. Gently cut each roll into two, to make large sausage rolls, or into four to make party size roll.

Repeat with the rest of the pastry and pork mixture. Prick each sausage roll with a fork, brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle lightly with the poppy seeds.

Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown - about 25 minutes.

NB: These sausage rolls freeze really well. Just ensure they are cold when you put them in the freezer and wrap well.