Puff pastry for flat tarts

How time flies. A few years ago I wrote a couple of  posts on puff pastry tarts, both based on best summer tomatoes.  Details here for one featuring tapenade and here for one with buffalo mozzarella.

Tonight I got around to doing this again.


  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1-2 onions peeled and thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • garlic
  • tomatoes – about 20 cherry or equivalent
  • avocado


Preheat the oven as per packet instructions and then on waxed paper bake the pastry for up to 10 minutes, it really depends on the oven. You don’t want to overdo it, as it’s going back in.

While you are doing all that, caramelise thinly sliced onion  at least one, in olive oil. Take out the onion and add sliced tomato – I added about 20 cherry tomatoes each sliced into three – and a little finely chopped garlic. You don’t want to overcook the tomato, just collapse it.

Take the pastry from the oven, sprinkle with the onion and tomato. Return to oven for at least five minutes. Keep an eye on it, you’ll be able to tell. Meanwhile, peel and slice an avocado.

Take the tart out of the oven, scatter the avocado on top. Slice. Eat. Yum!

And too simple for words.

Belinda Jeffrey’s Cheese & Nigella biscuits

Cheese and Nigella biscuits by Belinda Jeffrey

Jeffrey suggests these with pre-dinner drinks. We have had them with whisky, and tea. I have no idea how long they last, they always get eaten on the spot.


300g plain flour
50g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (or similar)
200g grated cheddar cheese I’ve used Coon, most recently M&S’s mid-strength #3
250g cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1 1/2- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained
Nigella seeds or sesame seeds


I don’t have a mixer and I feel like that changes the order of putting this together. Mix the flours, salt and chilli. Rub in the butter, like you would for scones, until it’s all rather crumbly. Add the cheeses and mix thoroughly. Finally the lemon juice.

Knead it into something that sticks together – you may need a little more butter or lemon-juice. On waxed paper take half the mixture and roll into a long sausage shape, about an Oz 50c piece diameter. Sprinkle the roll and the paper to make sure the seeds stick to the mixture. Roll it up in the waxed paper and pop in the fridge until ready to bake. They need some time in the fridge to become firm enough to slice without crumbling.

Preheat oven to 180C.

Take dough out of the fridge, cut into 5cm pieces, lay on a baking tray on waxed paper and sprinkle with more nigella seeds. It will need 15 minutes in the oven, maybe a tad more, but keep an eye on it from about 10 minute mark as ovens vary so much.

Let them cool a little before serving.

You can freeze the other log, and take it out of the freezer an hour or so before baking.


Belinda Jeffery’s absolutely scrumptious pork pie

absolutely scrumptious pork, thyme and apple pie Belinda Jeffery

aka her family’s ‘Christmas pie’ which is when I make it too

Serves 6-8.


  • shortcrust pastry (she makes her own, I buy it)
  • 500g pork mince
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 180g bacon, rind removed, cut fairly finely
  • 3 teasp finely chopped thyme or oregano
  • 2 tblesp finely chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • nutmeg or ground mace to taste (try 1/4 teasp)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 small eggs, hard-boiled and peeled (I use quail)
  • milk to brush the pastry top (she uses an egg yolk and water)

to serve:

  • red cabbage or beetroot pickle
  • tomato or apricot chutney


  • Preheat oven to 200C and lightly butter a 24cm springform cake tin. Put aside.
  • Mix the filling ingredients except for the small eggs.
  • Line the tin with pastry, leaving a 2 cm overhang. Half-fill tin with mixture and smooth it out. Make 4 little hollows in which the eggs go. Cover with the remaining filling.
  • Dampen the edges of the pastry overhang, add a pastry lid and pinch edges together tightly to seal. Crimp and trim the edges as you please.
  • Brush the top with the milk or eggwash. Prick holes into the top to allow steam to escape. You can embellish the top with left over pastry trim in shapes to taste if you haven’t already eaten it.
  • Put the pie on an oven tray and bake for 15 minutes. Lower temperature to 180C and cook for another 50 minutes. Belinda’s advice is that ‘If the juices bubble up in the final stages of cooking, just mop them up with paper towel and return the pie to the oven to dry out for a few minutes.’ When cooked, leave out to cook in the tin and then chill, preferably overnight.

To serve: run a blunt knife around the edges of the tin to loosen the pie, then release and remove the sides of the tin. Sit on a platter or board in thick slices with the pickles and/or chutney.

It keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Pasties Adelaide style

Some years ago I was in Civic in Canberra and asked if the pasties at the ‘award winning bakery’ were nice. She said ‘yes’ as I was continuing on to explain that I was from Adelaide. ‘Oh no,’ she corrected herself. ‘You won’t think they are nice if you are from Adelaide.’ She went on to wax lyrical about Adelaide pasties and I felt like asking her ‘So why don’t you just make them like that?’ Outside Adelaide it is hard to get a decent pasty in Australia – in fact, you can even add Cornwall to that.

pasty 6

Adelaide pasties

Ingredients as available in Switzerland

puff pastry bought as I couldn’t find shortcrust that wasn’t sweetened

5 medium sized potatoes
2 medium sized carrots
2 turnips, medium sized
mysterious small yellow root vegetables that I used in place of a swede
300-350g minced beef


While the oven is heating to about 170/180C, moderately hot, at any rate, finely chop the vegetables. I do mean finely as they are going into the oven uncooked and you need them to cook as quickly as the pastry.

Mix well with the beef mince, salt and pepper to taste. Salt is important.

Make pasty shapes to taste, this time I used round pieces of pastry, wet the edges, add the mix in the middle, don’t overdo it as they may burst. Crimp firmly closed. Prick tops a few times, brush with milk and pop in the oven.

If you are eating them straight from the oven, give them close to 30 minutes – but check after 20 minutes to make sure they aren’t burning. You can put a bit of alfoil on top if you feel like they need longer but the pastry’s there.

If you are going to be reheating these – I usually freeze them – then undercook them a bit as they will finish cooking when reheating.

If you are reheating and they are frozen, they make take up to an hour, keep an eye on them.

One of the things I really miss when I’m not in Adelaide. They are great cold – maybe better cold – so they can be picnic food.

Hunting for Anglo-Saxon bread in Geneva

One of the things we all most miss when away from home is the bread we are used to. I’ve never really understood why I’m supposed to be all excited here about French bread. I guess that’s partly because the breads I miss most are all Italian. Fancy living in a place where Italian is a national language, but the Italian bread’s no good. Even more surprisingly, when I went to Venice a couple of years ago the bread was no good there either. Maybe it’s the Cornish pasty syndrome all over again, the idea that tradition is more strongly protected away from home and so the Italians in Australia do things better than in Italy.

Another serious bread problem here is getting good white Anglo-Saxon bread, something for which local Australians and English yearn. That, I’ve finally found this year. Globus does a loaf called Jasper which is perfect for white bread occasions. A steak sandwich for example. My steak sandwiches are made with fillet steak and who wants a tough sourdough messing with that delicate meat?

Another is Joe’s Muffins. I’m surprised to see I haven’t yet posted about these. It is a staple on the breakfast menu at Cafe Panette opposite the South Melbourne market. I have a strong distaste for those things in plastic packets that are called English muffins, so I started a trend in my circle of friends to have this on sourdough instead. But much better again is good plain white bread so my happiness was great when I discovered, finally, something that would pass the test here. Jasper bread. Yum. By the way, some French places have a thing they call English bread. It is always dire, avoid at all costs.

Preheat an oven and while that’s happening, layer from the bottom up:

a piece of toast, buttered if you like
avocado, sliced and squashed down onto the toast or mashed
the very nicest tomato deseeded and sliced
bacon which you have first fried: you can dice this or leave it as larger pieces.
cheddar cheese, sliced

As usual, the plainer the fare, the more it rests on the quality of its ingredients. I wouldn’t make this without the best bread, tomatoes and bacon. Avocado is either good or bad. And the cheddar is a matter of personal opinion.

Pop this into the oven until the cheese has melted. The reason I think this is better on soft English style white bread is the thickness and layers. If you really have to hack through strong bread to get a mouth-sized portion of this, by the time you’d done it, you’re building up a sweat and everything has capsized into a mess – and breakfast, as somebody wise should have once said, is not meant to be a time of struggle. Perhaps life isn’t meant to be easy, but surely, Mr Fraser, we are talking about life as it develops after breakfast.

Aussie cheese rusks in Switzerland

I’ve been making these for a very long time now – the recipe post is here.

It had never occurred to me that these might be judged wanting by their cover.

cheese rusks (1)

Here in Geneva we are in that sort of patisserie land where everything has to look beautiful in a groomed, not-a-hair-out-of-place way. Nothing is rustic. Hence the first time I presented these to men, they have to be talked into trying them before they realised how good they were. For me this was an odd experience – we love things to look like we’ve bothered to make them ourselves in Australia. Here that is not so clear.

Still, if the locals are brave enough to try one, they never stop there….I spent a while making a double dose of these to give to Yirlean, our conversation exchange partner so that she wouldn’t miss us on our six week trip to Australia earlier this year. We saw her the very next day and they were gone. GONE!!! They were supposed to last 6 weeks and they didn’t even make 24 hours.

The biggest compliment these rusks have received also comes from Yirlean. She has a very young son she was quite worried about because he wasn’t eating, he was utterly miserable and losing weight. She was planning on taking him to the doctor the next day. But – miracle! – he ate cheese rusks happily, the only thing he would put in his mouth. There’s nothing like a one year old fan. And nothing like a cheese rusk if you are teething.

Tart revisited

The fact is, if it comes right down to it, that pizza dough is best, not least because puff pastry is practically all butter. But needs must. The puff pastry has been in the freezer two years past its useby date and, having survived our first encounter with it (last post), it was time to knock off the rest of it.

Le tart le Thomas
Le tart le Thomas

1 sheet of puff pastry defrosted. The sheet I used is quite large – the size of the oven tray.
pizza sauce – really, this could be thinly sliced tomato or whatever seems suitable along those lines.
good quality buffalo mozzarella
basil leaves, washed and torn
olive oil

I wanted this to be so, so plain. I’d made the pizza sauce ages ago, and discovering it lurking near the puff pastry in the freezer – the perfect match, surely.

Preheat the oven to 220C or whatever your packet instructions suggest. Bake the pastry on its own on baking paper for 10 minutes or so. Somewhere before it browns too much. Remove from oven, spread tomato sauce, or slices of FANTASTIC tomato onto the pastry and pop back in the oven for a few more minutes. Back out, tear the mozzarella into pieces and spread over the base. A drizzle of olive oil and back in the oven for very little time, just to soften the mozzarella and warm it slightly. A minute might be enough. Disperse torn basil leaves over the top and serve.

Mozzarella and basil tart.
Mozzarella and basil tart.

Lebanese and probably Turks and a few others please leave the room….


I suspect I have done something profane. The recipe said ‘lamb’ and lamb is horribly expensive here and the beef was on sale and what can I say?

So, we start off with a Malouf recipe. How lucky was this, picking up Saha for a song at a Geneva book market when I’d been looking that very day at buying it for lots.

My eye was taken by ma’ahani Spicy Sausages with Pine Nuts.

1 teasp cinnamon
” ground ginger
” sweet paprika
” nutmeg
” ground black pepper
half teasp ground cloves
1/2 teasp mahlab (crushed cherry seeds)
splash of red wine
40 gms pine nuts
500g minced lamb shoulder neither too lean, nor too fat
oilve oil for frying
lemon juice to squeeze
lemon wedges

In essence you mix everything together up to and including the lamb. Leave in fridge overnight. Form into little sausage shapes and fry in olive oil.

Okay. I thought mine were rubbish. I’m not saying that isn’t because I used beef – and beef of highly dubious provenance, I imagine…10CHF a kg. Well, it isn’t really going to be beef, I guess. And I’m not saying it’s because the mahlab was missing. But even if I’d done what the recipe required, I suspect these would have been on the bland side.

Take two:

Little Lebanesey Pies by me.

Take the mixture from above. Add dried sultanas, freshly chopped mint, some yoghurt for moisture and to bind. Mix thoroughly.

Get some premade pastry from the supermarket as it is much better than mine.

Make lots of little pies, eating as you go along. Mmmm. Much improved in my opinion!

To me, this is just a couple of hours out of my life when I potter about while doing this. If that’s going to make you huff and puff, does this make it worth it: I’m going to freeze most of them after they are cooked, I’m going to take them out just a tad early before they are too brown. At the drop of a hat, I have a lovely starter for any meal, serve with a little chutney or a yoghurt and mint dip. Or take them on a picnic. I’ve got guests coming for dinner next Sunday and these will be perfect.

my Lebanesey pies

Cheese Rusks

This is an old-fashioned Australian recipe for feeding farmers. That is, it’s a recipe for men who do physically hard work all day and need food to match. So we are not talking delicate. On the other hand, when I was invited to afternoon tea today, ‘you don’t have to bring anything, nobody else is, but if you wanted to make cheese rusks…’

cheese rusks
cheese rusks

The gist of this is dried out scone mixture. It is time-consuming as a consequence. You can make a double mixture – they keep well as long as you are diligent about the slow-drying process.

Rub 75g butter into 225g self-raising flour until crumbly. Add 100g-150g grated cheddar cheese – I use Coon, it’s an excellent cooking cheese – and a little cayenne. Stir an egg into maybe one-third of a cup of milk. Add and mix to the dry ingredients. You want it DRY, but not so dry that you can’t roll it, so add a little flour if necessary. Knead into a ball.

Roll and cut into thick fingers – they need to be thick as you will later be breaking them in halves. Maybe three-quarters of an inch high. Put on tray in a hot oven, about 220C. When they have risen and started to go a little brown on top, take out. This usually takes me about 12 minutes, but for the first time in my life I’m using a good quality oven and 12 minutes was too long, so keep a watchful eye. Turn oven to as low as you like, maybe 100C. Cut open the rusks longways, of course. Put back on a low shelf and wait. And wait. And wait. Until they are really quite dry.

Take out, wait some more until cool before putting in biscuit tin.

Oh, these can be eaten at any time during the process. The parts you break as you are cutting them in half? Eat. The one you poke with your finger when you are later checking how dry they are? Eat.

The quantity you will end up with is a ratio of your original ingredients to your lack of discipline along the way. It can’t be helped.

PS: if you can’t tell what sort of flour you have in the cupboard, the slow way of testing is making a scone. The fast way is putting a teaspoon of it in water and if it doesn’t bubble, it’s plain flour, or SR that has lost its oomph.

I couldn’t resist making sweet biscuits as well. I don’t eat sugar, so living alone now, there aren’t many opportunities to bother with baking biscuits. The ones in the oven as I write are pecan and chocolate, universally loved. I’ll give you the recipe tomorrow.