Tarte au vin cuit de poires (Swiss-French pear tart)

Vin cuit, as the name does not imply, has absolutely nothing to do with wine…

Tarte au vin cuit de poires

Vin cuit is a Swiss-French specialty – a thick, molasses-type syrup made by slowly boiling down pear (or apple) juice. As far as my research goes, in Dutch they have “perenstroop” and the German equivalent may or may not be “birnekraut”, but for those outside Europe, I think pear butter would work really well. There are loads of recipes online for making your own pear butter, so why not give it a go now they are coming into season, and use some of it in this tart?

Makes 1 x 25cm / 10″ tart
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Baking time: 10 minutes + 25 minutes
Cooling time: 10 minutes + 1 hour


pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry)
dried beans or rice or pie weights for blind baking
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
200ml (4/5 cup) vin cuit de poires or pear butter
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
100ml (2/5 cup) double cream


Preheat oven to 200°C / 390°F / Gas Mark 6, and lightly grease a 25cm / 10″ pie plate.

Line the pie plate with the pastry, prick all over the bottom with a fork, line with parchment and fill with pie weights. Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then place pie plate on a wire rack to cool a little.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk, or a hand-held electric mixer, whisk together the eggs and yolk, vin cuit (or pear butter), sugar and cream, until smooth.

Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake in centre of oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until it’s completely set but still a little bit jiggly in the middle, like a flan.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool before cutting.

Posted in dessert, swiss, tart&pie | 2 Comments

Angel hair pasta with marinated tomatoes and stracchino

Here’s another super easy but super flavourful pasta dinner, with next to no cooking. Perfect for a summer evening and using the bounty of the season’s tomatoes.

Angel hair pasta with marinated tomatoes and stracchino

Stracchino is quite probably my favourite young, soft cheese – it’s pretty much just incredibly thick cream, so smooth and delicate. While you will find recipes for making your own online, all the ones I’ve looked at include rennet, which stracchino cheese does not normally have, using milk enzymes instead. The name stracchino comes from the word stracch, a word in the Lombard dialect meaning tired. It alludes to the milk produced by the cows tired by the seasonal migration to the valley after the mountain pasture during the summer months.

Makes 4 generous servings
Preparation: 10 minutes
Marinating: at least 2 hours
Cooking: about 3 minutes
If you can’t get stracchino (a.k.a. crescenza) cheese, you can use mascarpone or fresh mozzarella


250g (9 oz) cherry tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried thyme
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar
1/2 cup black olives
1 Tbsp capers or caper berries
3 Tbsp olive oil
handful fresh basil leaves
250g (9 oz) stracchino
500g (about 1lb) angel hair pasta (capellini)


Quarter the cherry tomatoes and put them in a medium sized mixing bowl.

Crush the garlic over the tomatoes, roughly chop the olives and capers and add them along with the dried herbs, salt and pepper and sugar.

Drizzle the olive oil over the top then stir to combine everything well. Allow to marinate for at least 2 hours, the longer the better, stirring occasionally.

Tear the basil into pieces and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the packet directions, until al dente. Drain, reserving a little pasta cooking water, and return pasta to the pot. Toss the tomato mixture through the pasta, adding a little of the pasta cooking water as needed to make it saucy.

Toss through the basil, transfer to a serving platter or plates and dollop on the stracchino. Serve immediately.

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Tuscan-style roasted summer vegetables

Here’s a wonderful way to showcase the season’s very best vegetables, which I learned in a cooking class in Tuscany a few years ago. The vegetables are topped with an incredibly flavourful pangrattato – literally translated, it means “breadcrumbs”, but that simplistic definition does not do it justice! This version of this delicious meal includes my favourite vegetables, but you can change them to suit the season and your tastes – just be sure to cut them so they are all done at the same time.

Tuscan-style roasted summer vegetables

I serve this at room temperature with a glass of Chianti and a hunk of crusty bread. It goes excellently with pasta or grilled polenta, too.

Serves 4 – 8 (main or side)
Preparation time: about 15 minutes
Cooking time: about 45 minutes


1 large eggplant (aubergine)
2 large zucchini (courgette)
2 red bell peppers (capsicum)
250g (about 1/2 lb) cherry tomatoes
1/2 jar quartered artichoke hearts (about 12 pieces)


10 black olives, minced
8 capers, minced
generous handful fresh herbs, minced (e.g. basil, parsley, oregano, sage, thyme)
zest of 1 organic lemon
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan (omit for vegan)
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs (or toasted fresh breadcrumbs)
salt and pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling


Preheat oven to 210°C / 410°F / Gas Mark 6 and generously oil a large rimmed baking tray.

Slice the eggplant, zucchini and peppers into circles or strips as desired and spread all the vegetables and artichokes on the baking tray.

Mix all the pangrattato ingredients together, sprinkle evenly over vegetables and drizzle generously with olive oil.

Roast for about 45 minutes, until vegetables are soft.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Posted in italian | 2 Comments

Soba noodle salad

This Asian noodle salad is a bit of fusion – Japanese buckwheat noodles tossed with ingredients inspired by Pad Thai.

Soba noodle salad

Soba noodles are great in a salad – firm to the bite and providing a lovely earthy balance to the fresh vegetables, chewy tofu, crunchy peanuts and deliciously sweet and tangy sauce.

Some notes on tamarind paste: There are several different kinds that have wildly different strengths and textures. I used to buy one that is quite liquid, in a bottle. If you use one like that, you won’t need any water to thin the sauce but you may need to add more paste because it has a milder flavour. Recently, though, I found a tamarind paste that is just that – squashed tamarinds. It’s a block which is quite solid. If you use one like this, you will probably need to add a little water to thin the sauce and you’ll get more flavour to your spoonful of paste. If you get a jar or tub that is somewhere between these extremes, just use your judgment. Note, also, that if you use block paste, you may need to use a blender to mix the sauce.

Serves 4 – 8 (main or side)
Preparation: about 30 minutes
Chilling: about 1 hour

The sauce

2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp – 1 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce (to taste)
1 – 2 Tbsp tamarind paste (to taste)
3 – 4 Tbsp sugar (to taste)
Juice of 1 lime

The salad

400g (14 oz) firm tofu
2 Tbsp peanut oil
250g (9 oz) soba noodles
2 spring onions (scallions), chopped
1 large red bell pepper (capsicum), julienned
15cm (6″) piece English (garden) cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
250g (about 1/2 lb) mung bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup roasted peanuts for garnish


Using the smaller quantity given for each ingredient to start with, combine ingredients for the sauce in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of water if required (depending on thickness the tamarind paste). Adjust the ingredient ratios to suit your own tastes, depending on whether you like it sweeter or tangier. Set aside.

Press tofu dry between sheets of paper towel then cut into bite-sized pieces. Heat peanut oil in a large skillet and fry the tofu until crisp and brown, a few minutes on each side – do this in batches if necessary. Remove from heat and spread on paper towel to drain and cool a little. They will become chewy as they cool.

Boil the noodles as per the directions on the packet – they are better to be a little undercooked. When done, drain, rinse with cold water, drain again well and toss in a large bowl with the sauce.

Combine the noodles, tofu and vegetables and refrigerate until well chilled.

Sprinkle with peanuts before serving.

Posted in asian, salad, tofu, vegan | Leave a comment

Triple-layer ice cream cake

Three ice cream layers loaded with Biscoff spread, dark chocolate and meringue pieces.

Triple-layer ice cream cake

I had a jar of Biscoff spread sitting in the pantry after picking it up on a whim… in fact, I have a whole shelf full of stuff that I’m not exactly sure what to do with! You know how it goes – you read about something often enough on food blogs and stumble across it in a store so you buy some. Then you need to come up with something interesting to do with it.

Offering to bring dessert to a casual dinner with friends proved to be the perfect inspiration in this case! With our European heatwave still in full swing, ice cream was a no-brainer. Ice cream cake with three layers of different flavours and textures was the winner. A creamy cookie butter layer, a rich mousse-like chocolate layer and soft vanilla layer studded with chewy meringue pieces come together to make this a delightful summertime treat.

Triple-layer ice cream cake

Makes 2 medium sized ice cream cakes, each serving 8 – 12
Preparation: about 20 minutes
Freezing: at least 8 hours, or overnight


500ml (2 cups) whole cream
1 x 397g (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, chilled
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g (7 oz) dark chocolate
150g (about 5 oz or 2/3 cup) Biscoff spread (cookie butter)
2 large or 4 small meringues – about 1 cup when crumbled


Melt chocolate by stirring over low heat in a double boiler, a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in a microwave on medium and stirring every 20 seconds. Set aside to cool a little while you prepare the rest of the parts.

Stir the Biscoff spread in a bowl until loosened.

Crumble the meringues roughly into another bowl.

Prepare 2 medium loaf pans or 1.2 litre (2 1/2 pint) plastic containers by lining completely with plastic wrap, leaving enough overhang to cover the top.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream on medium-high speed until thick and fluffy, but not quite to the texture of whipped cream, 3 – 4 minutes on medium.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla extract and beat just until very soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted – it should have a thick, mousse-like consistency.

Divide mixture into three separate bowls (it will yield about 300g or 10 1/2 oz per bowl).

Using an electric mixer, beat the melted chocolate into one of the bowls; use a wooden spoon or spatula to thoroughly mix the Biscoff spread into another, and fold the meringue pieces into the third.

Divide the meringue mixture evenly between the two containers; carefully spoon and spread the chocolate mixture over that; then carefully spoon and spread the Biscoff mixture over the top. You will probably get some intermingling of layers, but just be as gentle as you can to avoid mixing them too much.

Fold the plastic wrap overhang over the top and freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.

To serve, uncover the top, turn out onto a serving plate and remove plastic wrap. Slice and serve.

Posted in cake, dessert, ice cream | 1 Comment

Yafawi Sfeeha

Feta and spinach, or zucchini and halloumi – two delicious savoury fillings for these little hand pies.

yafawi sfeeha

It’s Daring Bakers time! This month we made Yafawi Sfeeha – little coiled hand pies, filled with all sorts of lovely things. I made 2 different kinds over the course of the month, and have taken notes for lots more, both savoury and sweet. The pastry is a dream to work with, and the possibilities are endless for filling them. They make a fantastic make-ahead dinner, are perfect for a picnic, or just a snack on the go. And what could be cuter than these little coils of goodness?!

Each filling recipe makes enough for one full batch of pastries
Makes: 16 pieces
Dough: 15 minutes active, several hours or overnight resting
Filling: 10 minutes for the feta & spinach, 2 hours for the zucchini & halloumi (incl. cooling)
Assembly: about 45 minutes
Baking: 20 – 25 minutes

For the dough

420g (3 cups scooped and scraped) all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
45ml (3 Tbsp) olive oil
240ml (1 cup) warm milk
about 120ml (1/2 cup) additional olive oil for working the dough

Feta & spinach filling

500g (18 oz) feta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
100g (3 1/2 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 Tbsp finely minced flat-leaf parsley
pinch nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper

Zucchini & halloumi filling

500g (18 oz) zucchini, grated
1 medium brown onion, finely sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
350g (12 oz) halloumi, grated
freshly ground black pepper

For assembling

2 Tbsp sesame seeds for sprinkling

To make the dough

Mix flour, salt, sugar and vegetable oil then start adding the warm milk until you get a tender and slightly sticky dough. Kneading will take about 8 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or 12 minutes by hand.

Form the dough into 16 balls. Place on a baking sheet that is very well greased with olive oil and liberally spread more oil over dough. Cover and let rest at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerate overnight and bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Feta & spinach filling

Crumble the feta into a bowl, mix in the beaten egg, then mix in the spinach, parsley, nutmeg and pepper to taste.

Zucchini & halloumi filling

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and cook the onion until translucent. Add the grated zucchini by handfuls until it is all incorporated. Season well with freshly ground black pepper and cook over medium-low heat for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini has cooked down and the liquid has been cooked off. Set aside to cool completely.

Combine zucchini with grated halloumi in a large bowl.

Assembly & Baking

Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F / gas mark 6) and oil a large rimmed baking sheet.

Brush a round tray liberally with olive oil (this will be your work surface).

Take one piece of dough and, using well oiled hands, gently spread it out thinly and evenly into as large a circle as possible, 20 – 25cm (8 – 10″) in diameter. I found the best way to do this to avoid getting holes in the dough was to use the palm of my hand to flatten the ball out, then push gently out with the heel of my hand as I rotated the tray with my other hand. Once it is spread out, fold the upper edge to the centre then fold the opposite edge to the centre to meet it.

Spread about one heaped tablespoon of the filling (you can divide it in the bowl into 16 portions first, to make it easier to judge) in a long sausage along the length of the dough, leaving a little space at the ends for sealing.

Roll into a long tight rope, making sure that it is tight enough to ensure no filling escapes. I found the easiest way to do this was to lift one side of the dough and stretch it over the filling, then lift the other side and stretch it over the top, then roll the whole thing back and forth to even it out and help seal the seam. Seal the ends by pinching closed. Start at one end and roll the dough into a coil.

Place the coiled Sfeeha onto the baking sheet. Continue making the rest of your Sfeeha using oil to keep them nice and moist.

Brush with oil again, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake in centre of oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Serve hot or at room temperature.


Daring Kitchen blog-checking lines: The July Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Manal from Manal’s Bites. She introduced us to an authentic Palestinian dish from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad. The “Yafawi Sfeeha” or also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet tender and full of flavor.

The original recipe, including other (vegetarian, non-vegetarian and sweet) fillings and step-by-step pictures, can be found here.

Posted in daring bakers, pastry, tart&pie | 8 Comments

Orecchiette with broccoli

This is a super easy but super tasty pasta dinner, with amazing tastes and textures.

Orecchiette with broccoli

I often find myself cycling through two or three of the same old tomato-based ways of serving pasta, mostly because of fussy eaters, but it turns out that broccoli is one of the few green vegetables that is universally accepted by my hoard. One of my favourite pasta dishes is orecchiette with cime di rapa (rapini… turnip tops… broccoli rabe… so many names!) but it’s not popular with my kids and cime di rapa only appears in the markets here randomly, so when I planned to cook it this week and there wasn’t any of that peppery leaf to be found, I opted to use broccoli instead. It was a winner!

Serves 4
Preparation: 15 minutes active time


1/2 cup olive oil
2 – 3 tsp chilli flakes
4 – 5 large cloves garlic
1 head broccoli
500g (about 1 lb) orecchiette


In a small saucepan, add the olive oil and chilli flakes. Finely slice the garlic cloves and add them to the oil, then heat on low until the oil starts to bubble. Remove from heat and set aside – I do this ahead of time and leave it for at least an hour or so, to allow the oil to absorb plenty of flavour.

Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to the boil and cook the orecchiette according to the packet directions. Add the broccoli to the pot about two minutes before the end of the cooking time.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and return it to the pot. Pour the oil in and toss to coat everything.

Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan, if desired.

Posted in italian, pasta | 4 Comments