Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Chocolate-Nut Shortbread Hearts

These easy shortbread cookies are the perfect treat for Valentine's Day. Recipe makes 20-24 cookies.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
4 ounces (125 g) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
1/4 cup shelled hazelnuts
6 ounces (180 g) dark cooking chocolate


1. Grease 2 large baking trays. Sift flour into a mixing bowl.
2. Add the butter, sugar and vanilla to the flour. Using the fingertips, rub the butter in, then, using a clean hand, squeeze and knead together to form a firm dough.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a flat round. Wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for about 15 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Roll out the dough on the floured surface to a 1/4 inch (6 mm) thickness. Cut out 20 shapes using a 2 inch (5 cm) heart-shaped cutter. Re-roll the trimmings to make 4 more shapes, if desired.
5. Transfer the shapes to the baking trays. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave on the baking trays for 2-3 minutes to firm, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
6. For the topping, raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Spread out the hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool; rub the skins off, then chop coarsely.
7. Break up the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth.
8. Dip one side of each cookie into the chocolate or spread it on with a small palette knife. Place the cookies on a sheet of waxed paper. Scatter the hazelnuts over the chocolate-coated half and leave to set.

Tip: This shortbread dough is easy to prepare in a food processor - just mix all the ingredients together until a firm dough forms.

Snow Pea Savories

These vegetable savories are delicious served cold as an appetizer with pre-dinner drinks and make a nice, healthy change from cheese and crackers. The fresh snow peas need to be crisp so don't overcook them. Recipe makes 24.


24 snow peas
4 ounces (125 g) cream cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh chives, chopped
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 small jar red caviar


1. Cook snow peas in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and rise under cold water. Split along curved side, leaving straight side intact.
2. Process remaining ingredients, except caviar, in a food processor. Using a piping bag, pipe mixture into snow peas.
3. Refrigerate until firm. Garnish with red caviar.

Cherry Strudel

Using Filo pastry makes this favorite fruit-filled dessert easy and fuss-free to prepare. Recipe makes 2 strudels.


12 sheets ready-made filo pastry
2 1/2 ounces (75 g) unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 ounces (75 g) crushed Madeira cake crumbs or trifle sponge
Icing sugar, to dust
1 1/2 pound (720 g) jar or tin pitted cherries in syrup
8 teaspoons cornflour or arrowroot
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring essence
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease 2 large baking trays with melted butter.
2. For the filling, drain the cherries and reserve the syrup. Blend the cornflour, smoothly and gradually with 1 cup syrup in a saucepan. Bring to boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Simmer gently for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the cherries, vanilla and cinnamon. Allow to cool.
3. Unfold the sheets of filo pastry, but cover with clear plastic wrap and a damp tea towel. Layer 2 sheets together and brush with melted butter. Layer 2 more sheets on top and brush with more butter. Repeat once more.
4. Spoon half the filling along one long edge of the pastry. Sprinkle with half the cake crumbs. Brush the short edges with a little cold water, then roll up the strudel from the long edge, enclosing the cherry filling.
5. Press the edges together to seal. Lift onto a baking tray, seam-side down, and brush with more butter. Make another strudel as directed and place onto the second baking tray.
6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the baking trays to wire cooling racks to cool for 15 minutes, then lift the strudels onto the wire racks to cool. Dust with icing sugar, slice diagonally, and serve.

Tip: Madeira cake may be bought in most supermarkets. Trifle sponges are sold from some cake shops. You can also use crumbs from suitable leftover homemade cakes.