Monthly Archives: May 2011

Banana Pound Cake

Keeping it homely and simple this weekend.  Because it’s cold outside.

I love bananas but always end up buying more than I can use and eat before at least one or two get very, very ripe.  That’s sufficient inspiration to get baking, don’t you think?  Oh yeah.  Tired of banana bread, tired of the usual banana cakes.  So I made this one up as I went along this morning.  I have to confess that, while I certainly enjoy making elaborate cakes, I prefer the plain and simple when I feel like indulging in a slice of cake myself.

This light and luscious pound cake is lovely for afternoon tea or anytime.  It’s lighter and has a more delicate texture than most pound cakes.  Even the batter is mousse-like.  Best of all, it is bursting with clean, fresh banana flavour.  A much-needed slice of sunshine on a cloudy day.

I love it when a plan comes together.  The simple things in life …

Serves 1 x 20cm round cake or 1 x 30cm oblong fluted cake

The recipe can easily be doubled and baked in a 24cm round cake tin.

125 grams unsalted butter, softened
125 grams sugar
2 medium bananas, very ripe
2 eggs (about 60g each)
grated zest of 1 large lemon
125 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.  Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.  I used a 30cm oblong fluted cake tin instead so I brushed it well with a little extra melted butter and dusted it with some flour.  Make sure to tap out any excess flour from the tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved.  Cut the bananas into a few pieces and add to the butter and sugar and beat until the banana is fully incorporated into the batter.  Add the eggs and the lemon zest and beat well.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add to the batter, beating until the batter is light and fluffy.  Scoop the batter into the prepared cake tin and level the top.

Bake at 180°C/350°F for about 45 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  When cooked, remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.  When cool, remove carefully from the tin.

Dust with icing sugar to serve.  Go make a cup of tea.  Enjoy!


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Filed under All Recipe Posts, Cakes, Fruit

Salted Caramel Gelato & Awards Time

I seem to have abandoned my post (pardon the pun).  Back again now and with a special mission.  Awards!!  Oh, yes, and there is a recipe too 🙂

In the past month or so, I’ve been very lucky (and very stunned) to receive several awards from fellow bloggers and kindred spirits.  As a novice blogger, I’m very grateful to them for their encouragement and inspiration.  I’m honestly in awe of some of the wonderful blogs out there.  The recipes are delightful, the photography is beautiful, showcasing dishes to perfection (especially the desserts!), and the writing is so often imbued with passion, wit, and humour.  I wonder how some of you do it, posting so prolifically, consistently, and with such an ability to entertain.  I’ve only been at it since October 2010 and I must admit I’m pleased with myself if I can post once a week for a few weeks at a time.  I wish I could do it more often.    The great thing is though, I’ve already found a community of kindred spirits out there as well as some pretty inspirational people, all of whom have generous souls.  The desire to share really does reward and enrich and undoubtedly leads to a great deal of good karma and great food.

The first batch of awards was given by the absolutely fantabulous Gourmantine of Gourmantine’s Blog.  Go, go, go and visit her blog.  Now.  This globe-trotting gal dishes up some fabulous food with style and panache.  She’s also extremely lovely and I’m forever grateful for our exchanges and for her encouragement and all too generous comments.

The ‘Versatile Blogger Award’ was given to Chocolate Chilli Mango by the very lovely Natalie at Cook Eat Live Vegetarian.  A fellow vegetarian who’s recipes cross the globe and a variety of cultures.  Wonderful recipes and they’re usually very healthy too.  Everything looks so fresh and delicious you just want to jump into those gorgeous photos and tuck in or rush off to the kitchen and start cooking.

A big thank you to you both 🙂

In keeping with blogger award tradition, here are “a few things about me you may not know” (cringes):

  • While at school, I struggled with a choice between studying physics at university or embarking on a career as a pastry chef.  Physics won out at the time so I got my PhD and left uni as an astrophysicist.  Seriously?  Yep … and now I work as a business consultant.  I’m the ultimate sell-out.
  • My postgraduate years at uni did give me the chance to indulge in both of my passions so I pursued my love of baking and pastry on the side.  I started making customised special occasion cakes as a side-line business.  I called it “Tortes, Tarts, Anything”.  The guys at uni thought it was a funny name. Hmmm 😉
  • I have always loved to read.  My book collection is huge and I treat my books with a reverence that may well be inappropriate.  Strangely though, I only look at my cookbooks for inspiration and rarely follow recipes.
  • I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan.  I have every season on DVD, all the Season 8 comic books, t-shirts and a couple of collector’s mugs.  Not quite sure what came over me but I suspect I’d like to be her when I grow up.  One day.
  • When I travel, I keep a little diary with me.  At the end of each trip, it tends to be filled with excursions to patisseries, chocolatiers and ideas for recipes 🙂
  • While I love to bake and make desserts, I’ve always had an aversion to milk, cream, and eggs.  It’s a little ironic but it makes for interesting times when I have to make pastry cream in large quantities.

Most importantly, I’d like to pass on these awards!  I’ve included Gourmantine and Natalie’s blogs because … well, because I really love their blogs and think they’re fabulous.  These blogs have become part of my favourites that I love to visit regularly – great recipes, charm, wit and humour, gorgeous photos and inspiring generous individuals behind the scenes:

Gourmantine’s Blog

Cook Eat Live Vegetarian


The Pastry Affair

The Cake Mistress


Exclusively Food

Cannelle et Vanille

La Mia Vita Dolce

Trattoria di Martina

Again, a huge chocolate thank you to Gourmantine and Natalie!

A big thank you also to everyone who has subscribed to Chocolate Chilli Mango, or liked my Facebook page, or has visited and provided much appreciated comments and feedback.  I think I would have already given up on it, if it hadn’t been for your support.  I hope the recipes I post in future will give you as much pleasure as they do to me.

You might have noticed a new look to the blog … I’m in the process of overhauling it but have to send a very special thank you to Simone at 365Cups for her fabulous graphic design talents and the great job she’s done to create the Chocolate Chilli Mango logo and all the design elements for web and print.  Not just a savvy business woman but also a very talented graphic designer and a lovely girl.

What?  I forgot the recipe?  No way!  Here it is … and remember, we don’t need no fancy schmancy gelato machines where we’re going

Salted Caramel Gelato

As usual, this gelato is made in a semifreddo style.  It’s rich and creamy but also quite light in texture.  The caramel flavour is intense and very satisfying.

Serves 6 – 8

100 grams sugar
60 grams pure cream (35% milk fat)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel
20 grams salted butter, cubed
50 grams sugar
20 grams water
4 egg yolks
400 grams double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean

Make the caramel.  Place the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan.  I use a solid stainless steel saucepan for this as it is a dry caramel and I like to keep a close eye on the colour.  If it burns, the caramel will be bitter and you will have to throw it out and start again.  You don’t want that.  I don’t want that.  So use a saucepan where you can see the colour clearly.  Have your 60 grams of cream measured and standing by.

Place the saucepan over a low to medium heat.  Using a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon, keep the sugar moving a little over the base of the saucepan so that it doesn’t stick or burn as it melts.  This will help it to melt evenly.  Don’t stir it around vigorously.  Just gently keep it moving until the sugar is completely melted.  Keep an eye on it as the sugar starts to caramelise and darken, stirring it from time to time to keep the colour even as it darkens.  You actually want it to be quite dark.  A lovely deep caramel colour is what you are aiming for, not a light golden hue.  The latter is great when making praline but we are looking for a really intense caramel flavour.  Once the caramel begins to colour, it will darken very quickly.  Be extremely careful not to touch it with your fingers.  You know the drill – caramel and sugar syrups are HOT and will BURN you badly.  So resist the urge to dip.

Once the caramel has reached a lovely deep amber colour, remove it from the heat and gently stir in the cream.  Add the cream gradually to avoid the hot caramel from splashing.  Once added, stir it well.  You can use a whisk to do this or a spatula.  Whisk in the sea salt and the butter.  When it is thoroughly combined, smooth and creamy, set it aside to cool completely while you make the gelato.

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low to medium heat.  Let the sugar dissolve and bring to the boil.  Do not stir.  Place the egg yolks in a bowl nearby.  When the syrup has begun to boil watch it carefully.  Insert the candy thermometer in the syrup and wait until it reaches 115℃.   Beat the egg yolks until light and keep beating as you pour the syrup into the egg yolks in a thin and steady stream.  Beat the yolk and syrup mixture until light and doubled and it has the consistency to form a ribbon.  The bowl should be cool to touch by the time you are finished.

Using a hand-held whisk, gently whisk the cream and vanilla until it forms soft peaks.  Add the salted caramel mixture, and fold in until smooth and lightly thickened.  Fold in the egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated.

Pour the gelato into an airtight container.  Place in the freezer to set.  It’s best to make the gelato at least 6 hours ahead or the day before.  It will keep for several days in the freezer, if you have leftovers.

I like to decorate it with a little salted caramel praline just because it looks pretty.  Enjoy!


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Ice cream & Sorbet

Spiced Persimmon Cakes

I consider myself extremely lucky.  Relatives and friends share their garden harvests every year and this provides both inspiration and opportunity for me to cook and bake things I might otherwise not do.  Over the past few months, I’ve been inundated with chillies, lemons, more chillies times a gazillion (and I’m not saying no), and now persimmons.  I prefer the name kaki.  The soft squishy varieties.  Too many to eat as they are given they have all ripened at once.  I have a persimmon tree in the garden but it’s still a toddler and is not expected to produce fruit for a few more years yet, assuming it survives that long!  Fingers crossed, kaki gods take note.

It’s easy to scoop out the pulp and mix into some cream or yoghurt for a lovely dessert but I wanted to bake something a little different with them.  Persimmons have a really delicate flavour so it’s easy for it to be overwhelmed but a little spice does help to bring out the flavour.  This time I went with persimmon, pistachio, cassia bark and cardamom … rather exotic isn’t it?  Smells heavenly, tastes exotic.  Yum.

You don’t need to frost them at all but I’ve really taken to cream cheese frosting.  This time, though, I made a variation on the cream cheese frosting I usually make.  Instead of cream cheese I used quark with a little double cream added.  It’s incredibly light and the tang of the quark is sensational.  If you can’t get quark or prefer to use cream cheese, just substitute two hundred grams of cream cheese and omit the quark and double cream from the frosting.  Still lovely.

If only we could have scratch ‘n’ sniff blog posts to capture the divine smell of these cakes.  The whole house smells like a hedonistic and luscious fruity spicy blend of India and the Far East.

I hope you enjoy them!

Makes 12 cupcakes

Persimmon Cakes
125 grams brown sugar
125 grams unsalted butter, softened
2  eggs
265 grams persimmon pulp (about 3 ripe persimmons)
100 grams pistachios, finely ground
150 grams plain flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cassia bark or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Creamy Cheese Frosting
110 grams icing sugar
150 grams quark cheese
50 grams double cream
50 grams unsalted butter, melted & cooled
1/2 large ripe persimmon or 1 small ripe persimmon

Pistachio Cardamom Sugar*

*I bought this sugar from a specialty spice shop in Melbourne.  It’s easy to make at home though.  Lightly roast some pistachios and allow to cool.  Chop finely.  To the pistachios add a quantity of light brown sugar and a little ground cardamom.  Start with a small amount of the spice and adjust the amount to taste.  This is a lovely spicy sugar that is great over ice cream or yoghurt, stirred through cream, in pralines.  Anything really.

For the persimmon cakes
Preheat oven to 180°C.

You will need 12 cupcake liners. Place the cupcake liners on a baking tray.
Beat the sugar and butter together until light and creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated.  Add the persimmon pulp and pistachios and beat again until smooth.  Finally, add the sifted flour, baking powder, and spices and beat until the batter is smooth.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners.  Bake at 180°C for about 25 minutes, until golden.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack, until ready to frost, if desired.

For the frosting
Remove the pulp from the persimmon, puree, and place in a mixer bowl.  Add the quark, double cream, and icing sugar.  Whisk until smooth and light.

Whisk the cooled butter until light and slightly thickened.  Add to the cheese mixture and whisk until light and thickened.  Refrigerate until ready to pipe.

Fit a piping bag with a decorative tip and fill with the frosting.  Pipe swirls of frosting on to each cake.

Sprinkle a little pistachio cardamom sugar on top of the frosting.

Serve at room temperature.  These cakes will keep for several days, refrigerated, if frosted.  Without frosting, they should keep for up to a week, stored in an airtight container.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Cupcakes, Fruit

Pear and Walnut Frangipane Tart

I love autumn.  Not the weather getting colder, days getting shorter part.  I’m not so enthused about that.  I need my sunshine.  But while everyone else is raking up leaves and cursing about the mess they make, I think they lend a real beauty to our urban landscape.  Plus it’s fun going for a run and crunching them underfoot.  Yes, I’m rather immature in that way.  And yes, I really do that.

I love autumn because of the fabulous seasonal foods that appear.  Like pearsNuts.  I LOVE pears and nuts.  On their own, they’re wonderful.  Together, they are divine.  Thrown together in a tart with a light flaky crust, the walnuts and almonds whipped into a light frangipane, and the pears gently poached in a vanilla and cassia bark syrup?  There are no words.  Do I detect a little drool?  Totally understandable.  😉

This is the dessert that I make every year for Mother’s Day, but who needs an excuse?  It’s a great dessert for autumn, full stop.  Try to find the most perfect pears you can.  I was lucky enough to get some beautiful unblemished Williams pears at our local organic grocer.  They were just ripening and perfect for poaching.  I usually make this tart with almonds only, but I substituted half the almonds with walnuts this time for something different.  The walnuts give the frangipane a more rustic texture and the flavour is *insert random superlatives here*.

You can prepare the pastry and the poached pears the day before to save time.  I line the tart tin, cover it, and place it in the freezer to chill overnight.  I poach the pears the day before and store, covered in their syrup, in the refrigerator.  Leftover poaching syrup is great kept for use in other desserts or to mix a little through yoghurt or pour over ice cream.  

The pears make a wonderful dessert or breakfast on their own, served with a dollop of yoghurt and some of the reserved syrup.

Capturing this lovely tart “on film” for posterity has been a bit of a challenge …  *damn you, clouds!*  … but I think you can still see its autumnal comfort food appeal.

Mother’s Day or not, this is a lovely dessert for autumn.  Enjoy.  Crunch some leaves underfoot.  Bask in the colours and flavours of the season.

Serves 6 – 8 people (1 x 23cm tart)

Pasta Frolla
175 grams plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
50 grams castor sugar
125 grams unsalted butter, chilled
1 egg yolk

Poached Pears
750 millilitres water
100 grams sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla bean paste
1 stick cassia bark or 1/2 teaspoon ground cassia bark
1 lemon
3 large pears

75 grams unsalted butter
100 grams sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract (optional)
1 egg
65 grams walnuts
65 grams almonds or almond meal
2 tablespoons plain flour
30 millilitres Poire William, pear schnapps, or reserved syrup from poaching the pears

For the pasta frolla
Prepare the pasta frolla as per the recipe in Torta di Ricotta Siciliana.

Line a 23 cm tart tin with the pastry.  Cover the pastry well with cling film or foil and set aside to chill in the freezer for at least half an hour or overnight.

For the poached pears
Place the water and sugar into a saucepan that is large enough to poach three pears.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into the pan.   Add the stick of cassia bark.  Alternatively, add the vanilla bean paste and ground cassia bark to the pan.  Place over a low heat to dissolve the sugar while you prepare the pears.

Add the juice of the lemon to a bowl of cold water.  Peel and slice the pears in half lengthways.  Leave the stem on one half if you like.  Remove the core and seeds with a teaspoon, melon-baller or small paring knife.  Take care to do this as neatly as possible.  Place the pear halves straight into the acidulated water as soon as possible to prevent them browning.

Once the pears are ready, raise the heat on the syrup until the syrup comes to the boil.  Add the pears and lower the heat so that the syrup is gently simmering.  Poach the pears for around 15 – 20 minutes.  This will depend on how ripe the pears were to begin with and how juicy they were.  Check them after about 15 minutes.  They are ready when a skewer pierces them easily.

When cooked, carefully remove the pear halves with a slotted spoon to a dish.  I like to use a rectangular dish or at least one where I can place the pears in a single layer.  Raise the heat on the syrup and reduce it down until you have about 1/2 cup of syrup.  Remove the cassia bark stick, if using.  Pour the syrup evenly over the pears.  Cool the pears, cover, and refrigerate until ready to bake the tart.  I usually poach them the day before and leave them overnight.  Note the lovely colour of the syrup and all those gorgeous vanilla seeds 🙂

Poached pears in vanilla and cassia bark syrup

For the frangipane
Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and creamy and the sugar has dissolved.  Add the egg, and vanilla bean paste and beat until light.

Place the walnuts and almonds (if using whole) in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  You want the consistency of almond meal.  Add the ground nut meal, flour and brandy or syrup to the mixer bowl and beat slowly until combined.

Putting it all together
Preheat oven to 190°C.  Line the pastry case with silicon baking paper and fill with baking weights (or rice/beans).  Bake blind for about 20 minutes.  Carefully remove the paper and weights and bake a further 5 minutes until light golden.  Remove from the oven on to a wire rack and cool slightly before filling.

Fill the pastry case with the frangipane and smooth the top.  Carefully remove the pear halves from the syrup and drain on absorbent paper.  With a sharp knife, cut slices into each pear half to form a fan shape.  To do this, don’t cut all the way through.  Start from just below the stem end so that the stem end remains intact to hold the pear together.  Carefully lift each half on to the top of the tart, slightly fanning out each half.  There is enough space to fit six halves easily.  Brush each pear half with some of the reserved syrup.  This will help keep them moist during baking as well as add a little extra glaze and flavour.  Here’s what it looks like when it’s assembled for the final baking:

Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C and bake the tart for about 50 – 60 minutes or until golden.  Remove from the oven and set on to a wire rack to cool before serving.  Before serving, lightly brush the pear halves with a little more reserved syrup.  This gives them a lovely sheen.  This is optional but worth doing.  Serve the tart slightly warm, or at room temperature, plain or with a dollop of cream or scoop of ice cream.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Fruit, Nuts, Tarts & Patisserie

Blackberry Rose & Chilli Jam

Inspiration can sometimes come at you at the strangest times and from unexpected sources.  Well, in this case, maybe not so wholly unexpected, but it certainly stuck and I couldn’t shake it until I did something about it.   I got the idea for this jam from a beautiful Valentine’s Day flower arrangement by Blumin- From our Garden to You, made up of red roses, blackberries and chillies.  I absolutely loved the arrangement and I knew I wanted to make something sweet with all three ingredients.  Not only do they look beautiful together but they’d taste divine too.  I lay awake at night thinking about it.

I love exotic jams.  Well, I love jams, without fear or favour.  I’m quite partial to a good blackberry jam and nothing says ladylike like a floral rose jam, does it?  I think evidence suggests it’s also safe to assume that I love my chilli jam.  Goes without saying. 😉  It just seemed natural to combine all three.  This jam is, indeed, very pretty with a deep red purple colouring, the subtle perfume of roses and, depending on which chilli and how much you use, a lovely warmth that lingers on the palate.  It’s not meant to be a hot jam, as too much chilli would simply overpower the other ingredients.  Blackberries and roses are from the same plant family … pretty, perfumed, and delicious but also rather prickly with all that thorny action going on.  Adding a little spice with the chilli just seems to be in the right spirit.  A bit like forgetting to remove that last little thorn …

This jam is lovely on toast but would be fabulous on fresh scones or as a filling for mini tarts or macarons.

I originally wanted to make the jam while fresh blackberries were at their peak in summer and the perfumed red roses in my garden were at their best.  Unfortunately, my chillies didn’t fare so well this year and are only now producing in abundance, in Autumn.  If you do use fresh rose petals, make sure you use only un-sprayed roses.  I used frozen blackberries and fortunately, we are lucky to have some beautiful frozen berries available.  Instead of fresh rose petals, I used dried rose petals.  If using fresh, the amount you will need for the jam will be different by volume to what is included in the recipe below.  I have to admit, I extremely happy with the dried rose petals as their perfume and flavour is more intense.  I also used a cayenne chilli in this recipe and that’s about as hot a chilli as I would use for this jam.  Use it sparingly, and if cayenne is too hot for you, try using birds eye chillies or maybe jalapeños instead.

Lovely luscious berry fruit, a hint of rose, and a little warmth at the end.  Makes a nice gift.

No-one will expect the chilli.

I like the unexpected.

Makes 2 jars

500 grams blackberries, fresh or frozen
350 grams sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
2 tablespoons rosewater
1/3 cup dried rose petals
1 – 2 chillies, finely chopped (use 2 only if very mild or very small)

Place the blackberries, sugar, and lemon or lime juice into a heavy based saucepan.  If using frozen berries, there is no need to thaw them before making the jam.  There will be more moisture though so it will take a little longer to evaporate as the jam cooks.

Mix the berries, sugar and juice well and place over a low heat to cook until the sugar dissolves.  Add the rosewater, rose petals, and chilli.  Raise heat to medium then allow to simmer until the berries start to break down and the jam thickens.  It is ready when you drop a little of the jam on to a clean plate and swipe through it with your finger and it leaves a clear path without the jam “flowing” back together.

Pour into clean jars and seal.   Allow to cool down a little until the jars are just warm to the touch and process in a water bath for 45 – 60 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Label and store in a cool, dry place.  Refrigerate once opened.  Unopened jars will keep for at least a year.  Unless you use it all first!

I’ve made two batches of this jam to date.  The first time I made it reasonably thick, as in the photo below, as I planned to use it as a filling for macarons.  I made the second batch a little less thick so that it was more easily spreadable for toast and could be dolloped on to scones.


Filed under All Recipe Posts, Breakfast, Fruit, Jams & Preserves, Special Diet