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The hummus is a great addition to a platter or pour it in a jar and top with harissa or pesto and you have an easy homemade gift.
Rhubarb and strawberry are a classic combination and perfect for December as they are both growing rapidly.
You can replace these with stone fruit such as apricots and peaches or other fresh berries when they come into season over the next few weeks.
Cashew caramel bars are great to make ahead of time, as they can be kept in the fridge or freezer and taken out when needed.
Roasted rhubarb and strawberry tart
180g ground almonds
140g caster sugar
75g rice flour
45g desiccated coconut
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cardamom
150g butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 stalks rhubarb, washed, cut into 5cm pieces and dried
3 Tbsp brown sugar
100g fresh strawberries, quartered
¼ cup flaked almonds
whipped cream or yoghurt
Heat oven to 160degC.
Place rhubarb on a lined baking tray, scatter with 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and place in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until just cooked through. Allow to cool.
Grease a 24cm springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
In a medium-sized bowl combine ground almonds, rice flour, desiccated coconut, baking powder, sugar, and ground cardamom.
In another medium-sized bowl, whisk together melted butter, eggs and vanilla bean paste until well combined. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and fold together.
Spoon mixture evenly into prepared cake tin. Carefully place cooked rhubarb pieces and sliced strawberries on top and then sprinkle flaked almonds.
Bake for 35-45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
Cool completely in cake tin before transferring to a plate.
Serve with whipped cream or yoghurt.
Tomato, ricotta and thyme tarts
MAKES 12 SMALL OR 6 LARGE TARTS
1 packet of ready rolled savoury short pastry
300g cherry tomatoes
1 egg yolk
50g parmesan cheese, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
good pinch salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil
fresh thyme sprigs
Heat oven to 180degC.
Using an 11cm round cutter, cut 12 rounds of pastry. Fold 6 pleats to form the sides of each tart shell. This may seem difficult at first but picture the bottom of the shell being a hexagon about 6-7cm across.
For the pleats, brush the outside edges of each round with cold water, lift up one edge and fold the dough up 1.5cm, pinch with finger tips and press a pleat.
Rotate the dough anti-clockwise and repeat until all 6 sides are standing up. Form one tart shell from each dough round.
Transfer the shells to a lined baking tray and refrigerate for 30-40 minutes or until firm and cold. This can be done a day ahead.
Slice cherry tomatoes in half and set aside.
In a food processor, place all filling ingredients and blend for 30 seconds or until mixture is fully combined and smooth.
Remove tart shells from the fridge and, using a fork, prick the base of each shell twice. Evenly distribute the filling into each tart leaving room for the tomatoes.
Place cherry tomato halves on top of the filling, about 3-4 in each tart. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Brush the sides of the pastry with water and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until pastry is golden and the filling has set.
Remove from the oven, drizzle with a little more olive oil and fresh thyme.
Serve on their own or with a fresh leaf and herb salad.
Cashew caramel bars
MAKES 20 BITE-SIZE BARS
2 cups dates
1 cup toasted cashew nuts
½ cup desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
¼ tsp salt
250g dark chocolate (72% or above)
freeze dried strawberry, raspberry or mandarin
crushed almonds, cashews or pistachios
Line a 20cm x 20cm baking dish with baking paper.
Place dates in a medium-sized bowl, cover with boiling water and set aside for 15 minutes to soak, then drain off liquid.
In a food processor, blend together dates, cashew nuts, coconut, vanilla bean paste and salt. Blitz until smooth (you may find it easier to pulse so the dates and cashew nuts beak up better).
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and, using the back of a spoon or small glass jar, press down to flatten the dough. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes until firm.
Remove dish from freezer. Slice the mixture into bars, about 4cm x 5cm wide, placing the bars on a lined baking tray and freeze again for 10 minutes.
Add dark chocolate to a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until fully melted, stirring every 30 seconds.
Remove the bars from the freezer. Dip each bar in chocolate and immediately sprinkle dried fruit or chopped nuts on top. The chocolate will set quickly.
Place on the lined baking tray and then return to the freezer for another 10 minutes.
They are ready for you to enjoy now or place in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
MAKES 2 CUPS
400g can chickpeas, drained
½ tsp baking soda
60ml lemon juice
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
50ml ice cold water
homemade green pesto
a drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Place chickpeas, baking soda and 700ml water in a medium pot on a medium-high heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam that appears. The chickpeas should be collapsing and becoming a bit mushy.
Drain chickpeas and transfer to a food processor. Process until they form a stiff paste. With the machine still running, add tahini, lemon juice, ground cumin, salt and garlic. Slowly pour in water until you get a loose consistency. Continue to process for 5 minutes, this will make for a silky and creamy hummus.
Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge.
If serving straight away, pour hummus on to a flat serving dish and, using the back of a spoon and turning the plate, spread to get a nice round shape.
Top with choice of harissa paste, homemade green pesto, dukkah, crushed nuts and/or a drizzle of good-quality extra virgin olive oil.