Tempting treats

Chef Bevan Smith shares some delicious recipes for the festive season.

Christmas has always been a special time. Presents first, a lazy breakfast. Then a change of pace with some backyard cricket or a puzzle, followed by a very late, long lunch with plenty of snacking on fruit and treats in between.

With that in mind, here are four recipes to keep the festive spirit rolling all day long. Strawberry and almond tarts are deliciously small and all too easy to snack on between meals. Make heaps for when the relatives drop by unannounced; they do disappear all too quickly!

If the day is going to be a scorcher, then beat the heat with rhubarb jelly and ice cream. Fabulous for kids of all ages. Jelly, let's face it, is just plain fun.

It is easily made from any kind of fruit and I like it refreshing rather than overly sweet. Good news if you and the team are already sugared up from rummaging through those Christmas stockings.

Panna cotta is an absolute classic and one that I can't help turning to at some point over the holidays. It's easily made ahead of time and gorgeous with any kind of berry or roasted stone fruit. Just sublime; you will make it over and over again.

Lastly, it's more than likely you will still be full from lunch, so why not just skip dinner and finish the day in style with a slice of raspberry sponge cake and a cup of tea.

Light as a feather, it's a great antidote to a big day and equally good eaten in the middle of the night from the fridge or for breakfast the next day.

There, I think we are all covered. Best of the season, everyone, and may 2017 be full of surprises, laughter and the sharing of pleasures. Merry Christmas!

-Bevan and Monique Smith own Riverstone Kitchen, runner-up Best Regional Restaurant in the 2014 Cuisine Good Food Awards.

Photos from Riverstone Kitchen.
Photos from Riverstone Kitchen.
Strawberry and almond tartlets

Makes 24

canola spray
plain flour
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
250g ground almonds
4 free-range eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
50g plain flour
1 cup strawberries
¼ cup natural slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 165degC.

Lightly grease a 24 piece mini muffin tray with canola spray. Dust moulds lightly with flour, discarding any excess.

Place butter, sugar, almonds, eggs, essence and flour into a mixing bowl or food processor and mix well until thoroughly combined.

Place mixture into a piping bag and pipe a tablespoon into each mould.

Cut the strawberries into quarters or rounds and place a piece on top of the frangipane, followed by a few slivered almonds.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and just set.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing from mould. Dust with a little icing sugar and eat at your leisure.

Rhubarb jelly and ice cream

Makes 8

1.5kg rhubarb, washed and roughly chopped
1½ litres water
1½ cups caster sugar
gelatine leaves
vanilla ice cream
extra rhubarb for roasting, optional

Place rhubarb in a large pot with a quarter of the water and soften over a gentle heat.

Once the rhubarb starts to break down, add sugar and the remaining water and continue to simmer until the rhubarb has completely broken down and the colour has bled into the liquid.

Strain through a fine strainer or muslin, allowing the liquid to pass due to its own weight. Adjust sweetness to taste, adding a little extra sugar if needed.

Measure liquid. You will need 1 gelatine leaf per 100ml of liquid to set the jelly. Break up the required number of leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water to soften the sheets.

Warm rhubarb liquid. Strain water off the gelatine and stir gelatine into the rhubarb liquid until completely dissolved. Pour into 8 x 200ml moulds or teacups.

Chill in the fridge until completely set, preferably overnight. If you are feeling fancy, gently roast a little extra rhubarb with a good dredge of caster sugar on top at 160degC, until rhubarb is tender.

When the jelly is ready to serve, dip the moulds into hot water and gently tip out on to a plate or bowl and serve with the roast rhubarb if using and the vanilla ice cream.

Jelly keeps fine in the fridge for up to one week.

Panna cotta with local strawberries and almond bread

Makes 12

3 gelatine leaves
150ml cold milk
900ml cream
120g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
⅓ tsp vanilla paste
1kg local strawberries
100g caster sugar

Almond bread
4 free-range egg whites
140g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
120g plain flour
120g whole natural almonds, lightly roasted

Break the gelatine sheets into thirds and place in a small bowl with milk to soften.

Place half the cream in a small saucepan with the sugar, lemon zest and vanilla.

Bring to a simmer over a medium heat before removing from the heat and strain on to the milk and softened gelatine. Stir until gelatine is completely dissolved.

Half fill a large bowl with ice and chill the bowl containing the panna cotta mixture on top. Stir often with a whisk to prevent the gelatine setting on the bottom of the bowl as it cools.

In a separate bowl, whisk remaining cream to a soft peak. When panna cotta mixture becomes quite thick, whisk in the cream until well combined.

Pour into 12 x 150ml plastic nestle moulds and refrigerate for 4-5 hours or overnight until set.

Hull and roughly chop 1/4 of the strawberries. Place chopped strawberries in a small saucepan with a little water and the caster sugar.

Simmer over a gentle heat until fruit is very soft and sugar dissolved. Pass liquid through a fine strainer and reserve. Discard remaining pulp.

When they are ready to serve, tip each panna cotta on the side and use the tip of a small knife to open a small air pocket on the upper facing side.

Once this is done, the panna cotta will easily slide out on to your plate. Hull and cut in half the remaining strawberries. Toss them in a bowl with the strawberry coulis and serve next to the panna cotta.

Serve with almond bread.

Almond bread (makes 1 loaf)
Preheat oven to 160degC. Whisk egg whites to a firm peak. Continue to whisk, slowly adding the sugar, and beat until whites become glossy and thick.

Gently fold in the zest, flour and almonds. Spoon mixture into a baking paper-lined loaf tin and bake for 35 minutes or until golden.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin. When loaf is completely cool, remove from tin, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until ready to use.

Remove from freezer, allow to defrost slightly and slice as thinly as possible with a sharp bread knife. Lay out on a baking paper-lined baking tray and bake at 100degC for 30 to 45 minutes.

Turn the oven off and allow to cool completely. Once cool, store in an airtight container for up to 10 days.

Raspberry jam sponge cake

Serves 10-12
9 eggs, separated
pinch of salt
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup maize cornflour
2 tsp plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
500g raspberries
100g caster sugar
½ cup maize cornflour
800ml cream
¼ cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
extra icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 180degC. Grease and line with baking paper 2 x 28cm cake tins with removable bases.

Whisk egg whites and salt until firm peaks. Add sugar in three parts as it is whisking. Add yolks one at a time.

Sift flour and baking powder together. Fold into the egg mixture and spoon into the cake tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until sponge is just set.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and placing on a cake rack to continue cooling.

Meanwhile, place the raspberries in a pot with a cup of water and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Add sugar and stir in until dissolved.

Mix cornflour with a little cold water to make a thin slurry. Stir into the raspberries to thicken. Remove from heat and allow jam to cool completely before using.

Once it is cool, spread the jam on one of the sponge layers. Whisk the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla until nice and thick.

Spread cream generously on top of the jam layer, top with the remaining sponge and dust well with icing sugar. Serve immediately; best eaten on the same day.

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