© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Chocolate and Custard Torte

70g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
1 x 600ml ctn thickened cream
4 egg yolks
200g good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
100ml thin cream
4 bought hot cross buns, thinly sliced vertically
2 Tbsp warm water
2 1/2 tsp gelatine powder
2 tsp cocoa powder

1. Place the sugar, vanilla bean and half the thickened cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a gentle boil. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium heatproof jug. Discard the vanilla bean.
2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the cream mixture. Return to the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the custard coats the back of a spoon. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.
3. Meanwhile, combine the chocolate and thin cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water). Use a metal spoon to stir until the chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.
4. Line the base of a round 24cm (base measurement) springform pan with non-stick baking paper. Arrange half the hot cross bun slices, in a single layer, over the base of the pan. Spread half the chocolate mixture evenly over the base to cover completely. Repeat with the remaining hot cross bun and chocolate mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour or until set.
5. Whisk the remaining thickened cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. Use a large metal spoon to gently fold the cream into the custard mixture.
6. Place the warm water in a small heatproof jug. Sprinkle with gelatine and whisk with a fork until the gelatine dissolves. Gently fold the gelatine mixture into the custard mixture. Pour over the chocolate base. Cover and place in fridge for 3 hours or overnight to set. Dust with the cocoa powder to serve.

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Chocolate Hazelnut Self-Saucing Puddings

1/2 cup (125ml) milk
50g dark chocolate, chopped
50g butter, chopped
1/4 cup (60g) chocolate-hazelnut spread
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
1/4 cup (30g) hazelnut meal
1/3 cup (70g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (100g) brown sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked
1/3 cup (35g) cocoa powder, extra
1 1/2 cups (375ml) boiling water
Vanilla ice-cream or double cream, to serve

Chocolate Sauce:
50g butter
50g dark chocolate
1/4 cup (60g) chocolate-hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (60ml) thin cream

1. Preheat oven to 160C. Lightly grease six 2/3 cup (160ml) ovenproof dishes and place on an oven tray.
2. Combine the milk, chocolate, butter, chocolate-hazelnut spread and cocoa powder in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
3. Place the flour, hazelnut meal, caster sugar and 2 tbs of the brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and egg and stir to combine. Pour mixture evenly among the prepared dishes.
4. Combine the extra cocoa powder and remaining brown sugar in jug. Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Pour evenly among the dishes, over the batter. Cook in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until puddings rise and are just cooked though. Remove from heat. Set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.
5. Meanwhile, to make the chocolate sauce, combine the butter, chocolate, chocolate-hazelnut spread and cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until chocolate and butter melt, and mixture is smooth.
6. Top the warm puddings with ice-cream or thickened cream and drizzle with hot chocolate sauce. Serve immediately.

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Chicken Salad with Spiced Figs and Buffalo Mozzarella

4 x 200g chicken breast fillets (skin on) *
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 buffalo mozzarella balls ** or 6 bocconcini, torn into bite-sized pieces
4 prosciutto slices, torn
2 cups rocket leaves

Spiced Figs:
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (375ml) dry red wine
1/2 cup (125ml) balsamic vinegar
1 cinnamon quill
6 cardamom pods
6 peppercorns
2 star anise
2cm piece ginger, thinly sliced
4 lemon slices
8 fresh figs

1. For the figs, place all ingredients except figs in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add figs and simmer for a further 3 minutes or until figs soften slightly. Remove figs with a slotted spoon and set aside. Return pan to the heat and simmer liquid for 4-5 minutes until reduced to 1 cup. Remove from heat, return figs to pan, then allow to cool. (The figs can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Season chicken. Heat oil in an ovenproof pan over medium heat. Cook chicken for 3-4 minutes each side until golden. Transfer to the oven for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Rest while you prepare the salad ingredients.
3. Remove figs from syrup and halve. Slice the chicken into strips. Arrange chicken, figs, mozzarella, prosciutto and rocket on a serving platter. Drizzle with some of the spiced fig syrup, then season and serve.

* Chicken breasts with skin on are available from butchers and poultry shops.

** Buffalo mozzarella is from delis and gourmet food shops.

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Caramel Banana Tart

1 sheet shortcrust pastry, thawed
300g fresh, reduced-fat ricotta
110g pkt goat’s cheese
60g (1/3 cup) icing sugar mixture
40g butter
55g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
60ml (1/4 cup) thickened cream
3 small bananas, peeled, thinly sliced diagonally
45g (1/4 cup) dry roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

After rolling out pastry, line a 11 x 34cm tart tin with removable base. Don’t trim the top as it will shrink during baking, you can cut off excess after. Prick all over the base with a fork and place in the freezer for 5 minutes to rest.

Bake for approx 15 minutes or until crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and carefully trim off excess pastry. Remove from the tin and remove the base. Place on a serving plate and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, use an electric mixer to beat the ricotta, goats cheese and icing sugar until smooth.

In a small saucepan, place butter, brown sugar and cream. Cook over low heat, stirring for about 5 minutes or until melted and combined. Set aside to cool slightly.

Spoon the ricotta mixture into the pastry case and use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface. Layer the banana slices, overlapping slightly, over the top. Drizzle the caramel sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the nuts and serve immediately with a little more of the sauce if desired.

© Julie
Photo by Julie O’Malley

Berry Frangipane Tarts

75g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (75g) caster sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup (90g) almond meal
1 Tablespoon (corn) cornflour
150g fresh blueberries and raspberries
1 Tablespoon pure icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease six 5.5cm x 10.5cm loose-based fluted flan tins; place on oven tray.

Beat butter, extract and caster sugar in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg; beat until combined. Stir in meal and cornflour.

Spoon mixture into tins; smooth surface, sprinkle with berries.

Bake tarts about 30 minutes. Stand in tins 10 minutes; turn carefully, top-side up, onto baking-paper-covered wire rack.

Serve tarts warm or cold, dusted with sifted icing sugar.