Vanilla Honey Peaches with Brandy Sponge Biscuits from Donna Hay Magazine, Summer 2012

A parent should know better than to ever begin instructions with the word, ‘don’t.’ There is no faster way to guide a child toward doing a thing than to tell them not to.

When I put a glass of water in front of Dudette and say, ‘don’t spill that,’ I know she will. By using that word, I’ve guaranteed it.

As I was peeling peaches this morning, I heard my father talking to my three siblings and me. He had just bought the four of us prickly pear fruit and was explaining how to eat it. This included careful instruction on how to hold it.

‘Don’t let it slip out of your hands,’ he cautioned, immediately causing my brother’s hands to tighten, which catapulted the slippery fruit through the air into the ditch.

Sibling snickering, parental scolding and child sobbing ensued.

I felt bad for my brother as I peeled those peaches over a bowl, trying to keep a good grip on the slippery, wonderful fruit. Prickly pear fruit, like peaches, are very slick when peeled. In fact, I prefer my peaches and nectarines fully clothed simply because they’re so much easier to eat that way.

Unfortunately, for this dish, you will need to peel your peaches.

Don’t let them slip.

The Process
The easiest way to peel peaches is to boil them for a minute, then put them in ice water immediately. The skins should peel right off (but they’ll still be slippery). In truth, that was the hardest part of this dish.

The other components are honey with vanilla bean, whipped cream and brandy syrup. Be careful with the brandy syrup because if it boils down too much, it be comes very thick and the lady finger biscuits won’t absorb it as easily.

The Verdict
Unfortunately, this was a lot more visually appealing than it was tasty. The brandy syrup is good, but typical. I found the half cup of whipped cream to be a lot (and I love whipped cream). The honey syrup was the biggest let down. The vanilla was completely lost in the honey flavor. I couldn’t find it at all. In fact, honey overwhelmed everything.

It could be that my honey, being the basic variety, was too strong. Maybe if a more gourmet variety was used, like orange blossom, the results would be better. I don’t know. Hubby and I were very underwhelmed by this Dudette didn’t want anything to do with it.

What I’d Do Different Next Time
I’d use a simple vanilla syrup (vanilla bean, sugar and water) instead of honey in order to let the peach and brandy syrup shine.

Vanilla Honey Peaches with Brandy Sponge Biscuitsprint this recipe
from Donna Hay Magazine, Summer 2012

3/4 cup honey
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup brandy
8 sponge finger biscuits
2 cups single cream, whipped
4 peaches, peeled and halved

Place the honey and vanilla in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until combined. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely. Remove the vanilla bean.

Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, add the brandy and bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes. Pour into a small, shallow dish and set aside to cool completely.

Dip the sponge finger biscuits in the brandy syrup until softened.

Top the biscuits with the cream and peaches and drizzle with vanilla honey to serve. Serves 4.

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Ginger Scones with(out) Plum Compote from Donna Hay Magazine, Summer 2012

Imagine your eight year-old daughter is in the basement. In the depths of that dark, dirt-floored place are men, boys really. Your daughter is sitting on the lap of one of these visitors. Her long red braided pigtails are hanging halfway down her back as she listens to him sing to her softly. He’s singing Christmas carols. She can’t understand the language in which their being sung, but your daughter knows the tune well enough to recognize what it is.

Imagine your teenage son is running across a field. The sun is shining and for the moment he hasn’t a care in the world. As he bursts through the hedgerow to the road on the other side, he surprises a group of men that are in the road and all eyes turn to him as he stops abruptly. Your son stands absolutely still, as though his life hangs in the balance. In front of him, a man gives a derisive snort and the group moves on down the road.

Imagine that there’s a new law in your country. When your child turns eighteen, he will be taken away from you and put in a camp where he’ll work. There is no return from this camp. Children who go there work until they can’t anymore. Your son, the one who was running through the field, is 17. It’s the morning of June 6 and you’re sitting at the table looking at the calendar because in three weeks your son will have a birthday, but this year, there will be no celebration.

Imagine that your grandmother and grandfather were hiding American soldiers in their basement as the young men made their way across Belgium to free the country. Your mom sat on a lap, listening to Christmas carols.

Imagine that your father burst through a hedge into the middle of a German platoon, a platoon that held his life in its hands for those brief moments before the man in charge decided that that life wasn’t worth taking.

Imagine your grandparents hearing the chants and cheers as the news that the Americans have landed in France reaches them and they realize that their son was safe from being sent to a German work camp to work and die.

It is because of American soldiers that my parents are alive. It is because of these brave men and women that a red-headed Belgian was able to meet a French professor, that they would fall in love, get married and have children; like me.

I am grateful and I will always, always remember.

Happy Memorial Day.

The Process

Yes, there was a scone recipe in this Donna Hay magazine. And, of course there’s no way I’d get to the end of the month without making it. Silly you if you thought otherwise.

You’ve probably noticed that there’s no plum compote on my scones. Oops. I thought I had plums but I have nectarines instead. That’s ok though, because I’m not a big fan of anything on my scones except a bit of powdered sugar or glaze.

Instead of making the compote, I did make my own candied ginger (what Donna calls glacé ginger). If you haven’t, you should instead of buying a box of the stuff. It’s easy and costs a lot less. I fall back to one of my favorite chef’s recipes, Alton Brown’s Candied Ginger.

The recipe itself is simple. Buttermilk replaces all butter, which was a unique way of making these. It was a bit soupy when I had mixed everything. I guess my sifting was too good, so I had to add more flour than was called for in order to get a dough that had any kind of structure.

The Verdict

Ginger scones are my favorite and this is one to rival the recipe I’ve been using. It’s delicious. I like the fact that it doesn’t use butter. That’s always a plus in my book. They are tender and have that lack of sweetness that makes the scone such a favorite for me. Hubby liked them as well, which is saying a lot since he’s lost his ‘scone love’ over these past months. Maybe I do make them too often.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Not a thing.

Ginger Scones with(out) Plum Compote from Donna Hay Magazine, Summer 2012
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Baked Good
Cuisine: English
Serves: 10
  • 2 cups self-rising flour, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped glacé ginger
  • ⅔ cup buttermilk, plus extra, for brushing
  • ⅔ cup single (pouring cream)
  • confectioner's sugar and double (thick) cream, to serve

Plum Compote
  • 1½ pounds fortune or blood plums, stones removed and quartered*
  • ½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 400. Place the flour-sugar and ginger in a bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and cream. Use a butter knife to gradually mix the milk and cream into the flour mixture until just combined.
  2. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring the dough together. Roll out to 2 cm thick and use a 6 cm round cutter to cut 10 rounds from the dough. Place the scones on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and brush with the extra buttermilk.
  3. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.
  4. To make the compote, place the plums, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and cook for 6-8 minutes or until softened. Allow to cool. Dust scones with icing sugar and serve with the compote and cream. Makes 10
  5. *Ensure your plums are very ripe or add a little extra sugar, to taste.


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Pineapple and Coconut Loaf from Donna Hay Magazine, May 2012

I was going to try and go with the ‘poor me’ routine by mentioning that I’ve never been to the Caribbean. Hawaii’s beautiful beaches have never felt my bare feet. Are you sobbing for me yet?

Then I remembered that I lived on the shores of the Mediterranean for three years and have been to Greece and spent time on its beaches. And then there was our meandering trip along the French and Italian Rivieras. Yeah, I have a feeling that you won’t feel very sad that I haven’t been to the Caribbean.

But when I think of pineapples and coconuts, Greece, Italy and France don’t come to mind. Gilligan’s Island does.

The crew of the SS Minnow would have worn grass skirts for an entire season if Mary Ann would have retired the coconut cream pie recipe and used this one instead, don’t you figure?

The Process

As loaf cakes go, this one comes together as expected. Sugar and butter creamed, Dry stuff added, stir, stir, bake.

As happens when using international recipes, I ran into a bit of a roadblock with an ingredient; golden syrup. I don’t have any. The grocery stores I tried didn’t have any. I checked it out on Google and making it would have been a more lengthy process than I wanted. But, Google also said that in a pinch dark corn syrup could be substituted, which is what I did.  It’s a bummer that I had to do that, but sometimes it happens.

The Verdict

Dudette, who likes pineapple, didn’t go for this, but it’s hard to get her to eat baked stuff unless they’re the basics like brownies or chocolate chip cookies (make with milk chocolate chips). Hubby and I both enjoyed it. It is definitely a breath of the Caribbean, which I’m just assuming from seeing pictures since I’ve never been there.

The cake itself is dense and very, very moist. The coconut flavor doesn’t really come through strongly but the pineapple is definitely present. I liked this even more with a dollop of whipped cream (big surprise).

What I’d Do Different Next Time

I’d toast the coconut instead of just throwing it in as is.

Pineapple and Coconut Loaf from Donna Hay Magazine, May 2012
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: Australian
Serves: 6-8
  • 125g (about ½ cup) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¼ cups sweetened coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup golden syrup
  • 1¼ cups crushed pineapple, drained
  • Vanilla flavored yogurt, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda.
  2. Add the coconut and golden syrup and mix to combine. Fold through the pineapple and spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 10cm x 10cm loaf pan lined with non-stick baking paper.
  3. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the pan.
  4. Serve with vanilla yogurt. Serves 6-8.
I'd toast the coconut instead of just throwing it in as is.


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Chilled Rice Pudding with Caramel from Donna Hay Magazine, Summer 2012

Egg-in-the-hole will forever remind me of summer camp. When I eat grapefruit I’m still taken back to nursing school, where I put myself through one of those ‘eat a half grapefruit before every meal’ diets. The diet faded, but the memory lasted.

You have food that does that to you, don’t you? It brings back some positive memories; some not so much.

For me, the not so much is rice pudding. It’s not the memory itself that is the negative, but the fact that the rice pudding weaves itself over, and over and over throughout that memory.

It was the year that our family moved to Beirut, Lebanon because my father accepted the position of president of a university there. Soon after our arrival, my mom suffered the double whammy of pancreatitis and a massive gallbladder attack and had to be hospitalized.

Since my Dad had just taken on this new position with huge responsibilities, we spent the first month of our time in Lebanon at a camp in the mountains. I had no idea of the stress and and what a hard time this was on my parents.

Instead, while Mom lay in a hospital in agonizing pain and recuperating from surgery and Dad tried to learn the ropes of university presidency while spending time with her and caring for us, I spent the month oblivious; roaming the woods, finding the big pine cones with sweet pine nut meats inside them, terrorizing the staff and enjoying everything that comes from being a kid at camp.

Except for the rice pudding. Of all the food I ate there, I only remember the rice pudding. Because we ate a lot of it. At every single meal. At room temperature. I can not tell you how I grew to loathe the stuff.

Apparently my mother felt the same way because I don’t remember eating rice pudding at all throughout my childhood, even after we returned to the States (thanks Mom).

But here I am with a dish of rice pudding sitting in front of me. A part of me wants to go for the dramatic and say that I don’t know why I made it, but I do. I made it because of that caramel drizzled on top. In the Donna Hay magazine it looks like caramel on top of vanilla ice cream. It looks so delicious.

So, here I sit. I haven’t eaten it yet. I have no idea if time has allowed my tastes to change or not. I guess we’ll find out together.

The Process

As simple as boiling rice in milk, then adding a bit more milk and cream when you’re done.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a vanilla bean, feel free to use a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead. Do this especially if you don’t know if you like rice pudding. Or if you didn’t and want to see if you do now.

The Verdict

I can’t say that rice pudding will ever top my list of desserts or that I would order this at a restaurant. But I can say that I didn’t loathe it. In fact, I ate about a half serving and enjoyed the taste. The texture thing still gets to me though.

What does that mean? If you’re a rice pudding fan, you’ll love this. It’s creamy and vanilla-y with all that wonderful caramel on top. You should make this.

If you’re weird like me and rice in anything except a bowl of rice reminds you of maggots, shy away from this dessert. I know, I know, I said maggots in a food review. That’s bad.

What I’d Do Different Next Time

Chilled Rice Pudding with Caramel from Donna Hay Magazine, Summer 2012
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: English
Serves: 4
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 cups milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 1 cup milk, extra
  • 1 can dulce de leche or caramel filling
  • ⅓ cup half and half, extra
  1. Place the rice, milk, sugar, vanilla beans and seeds in a medium sauce pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes or until rice is tender.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the cream and extra milk. Place in a bowl and refrigerate 2-3 hours until chilled.
  3. Place the dulce de leche and extra cream in a bowl and whisk to combine. Spoon the caramel over the rice pudding to serve.
  4. Serves 4.


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