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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Restaurant: St Katherine’s, Kew

Celebrity chefs abound in Australia these days and their own venues, I believe, often reflect who they are as people and the passion they bring to the game. On a trip to Melbourne this year I found myself visiting yet another George Calombaris renowned venue. St Katherine’s of Kew is a partnership between Calombaris and equally talented, Shane Delia.

They describe their own venture as a ‘community restaurant’ catering to its “family friendly” suburb and I decided to test them on that description by taking my family along to celebrate my Mum’s birthday. Family dinners are a rare opportunity for us (us all based in three different Trans Tasman locations) and there is always some trepidation about choosing somewhere that can cater to everyone (Dad is a strict vedic vegetarian) and Mum has more unusual aversions to certain foods than any reasonable person! Despite being a great cook you would never believe how unadventurous she is.

The skies opened up and reports were suggesting that more rain had fallen that day than in the entire month, this turned getting to St Katherine’s into a wet adventure. I called ahead to let them know we had been caught in the weather and traffic but were en route. Immediately I got a sense of what they were about - they were friendly and expressed their ‘gratitude’ for letting them know.  It set the pace for the rest of the visit. We were met by a friendly young waiter, who was sweet and charming, and I could see my parents were ready to adopt him (a frequent and often embarrassing habit of theirs!). I had on booking advised of the dietary challenges and expressed an interest in their sharing menu (“When Mum feeds Me” – seemed appropriate don’t you think?). They could not be more accommodating.  Really.  There is a fantastic selection of dishes on their extensive menu already and with a shared menu we got to sample quite an exceptional number of them.

The meze course featured many of their standard menu items – mahamurra, KFC (Katherine’s Fried sticky Chicken), grilled eggplant & labneh, chicken ‘spring rolls’, and the ‘ancient grains’ salad which was a refreshing combination of lentils, currants, parsley & pomegranate seeds (happily dine on this alone).  We had to grab a couple of their mocktails to go along with it and the Greek Elder (elderflower) and Ruby Rose (raspberry-based) were lovely. The generous flat bread arrived toasty warm and in brown paper bags (I found this rather practical as dishes crowded the table and we could pass it around to everyone!). All dishes that Dad could enjoy were brought out separately and thoughtfully explained to him. Again the pleasant hipster waiter dispelled any reservations about the generation gap and was warm and welcoming.

Followed by the main course which included the obligatory couscous thoughtfully prepared and mains of slow cooked rotisserie chicken and grilled salmon fillets in za’atar that were delicious. Accompanied by sides of roasted vegetables and chickpeas, smoky hommous, salad leaves (divine with hazlenuts, dehydrated shankleesh, pomegranate & sunflower seeds). I appreciated that the starters that had not been finished got to remain on the table so that we could continue to graze, dip and combine flavours to our hearts’ content.

Almost to bursting already we gazed at the desserts that were brought out. They were ideal for sharing and sampling, hot cherry jam donuts on chocolate mousse were like a “ZOMG” punctuation mark, alongside a tasting plate of gingerbread crumbs, vanilla panna cotta, orange blossom foam, sumac jelly and sticky date pudding on a salted caramel custard.

This is not even their “Ultimate” menu so can only imagine what delights that would option would include!

This really was a “family” menu of generous serves, deliciously prepared dishes and one that left at least every member of my family feeling they had dined together over amazing food that exuded the love and warmth that a home cooked meal would. Be warned it is a filling selection so plan a relaxed afternoon and maybe a ‘siesta’ – isn’t that how all families bond?

The venue also features dining rooms upstairs for functions and events and has a healthy buzz of activity around it.

Thanks to the team at St Katherine’s for giving us a memorable afternoon on a ferocious day. It was memorable for everyone and I look forward to returning again some day!

* We did not dine as invited guests of St Katherine’s and they were not aware that I planned on blogging about the visit. So it was refreshing they were relaxed around people photographing their food!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Cafe: Beignets? Mais oui s’il vous plait! Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie, North Essendon

A recent quick trip to Melbourne would have left me quite disappointed if I couldn’t fit in at least one decent coffee or dining experience. Thankfully a suburban French bakery allayed my fears and turned out to be a favourite of our hosts. Despite it being a working day, I could fit in a quick lunch a stone’s throw from where we were staying.

I was pleased to have a couple of dining companions, because in addition to their fine company it actually means a few more dishes to sample! Winking smile We were sent off with the very helpful instructions “look out for the white bicycle with the french sticks in a basket”.

A simple crisp white interior automatically draws your attention to the colourful cabinets where your eyes feast on the promise of some delectable pastries and cakes. We decided to start with coffees while we chatted and all of us were happy with our respective brew. We decided food had to be on the cards despite being distracted by the fresh beignets that seemed to be teasing us. We opted for all three styles of crème, jam and chocolat. We decided the savoury brioche also looked too good to miss and I ordered a roasted veg while Mr T chose a spinach and feta.

The beignets arrived at our table first and we all wondered who would crack first. It turned out to be R and has he tucked into his beignet, an opulent ruby jam oozed out. This fresh-as-can be donut doesn’t skimp on filling and R was one happy punter based on his happy little grunts (do blokes even know they do this??!).

Mr T and I were just about ready to succumb but thankfully our savoury brioche arrived in time. The pastry is absolutely gorgeous, decadent and rich without the awful heavy greasy aftermath you can get. Both had a tasty balance of filling to pastry and admittedly they were pretty filling.

This of course didn’t stop us from another round of coffees to accompany our neglected beignets. It was worth the wait! Mine was filled with a smooth creamy vanilla bean infused crème that was just sweet enough (especially with the coating of icing sugar it could have easily been too much). The chocolat beignet had a lovely creamy dark centre that was neither too bitter nor too sweet. We were all fans by the end of that.

With so much to try and running out of time, we grabbed half a dozen croissants to take home. They turned out to be beautifully light and flaky and not really didn’t any filling of any description at all. Definitely made our list of spots for next visit! Have you been here before? What did you think? Oh and how did I find out about this place despite it being a stone’s throw from the sibling’s place? Crowdsourced of course – from one my favourite beagles on twitter!

Parisian Patisserie Boulangerie

19 Keilor Road
Essendon VIC 3040
(03) 9379 3815


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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

"This Board is Left Intentionally Blanc" - Sydney's Fix St James

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I am really long overdue in sharing my love of this place.  The brainchild of sommelier Stuart Knox (voted the Good Food Guide Sommelier of the Year, 2011) this wonderful wine bar and restaurant gives Sydney some long overdue wine bar clout that Melbourne has had a strong hold on for so long.

There are a few things I need to mention - I have been here several times now. Most recently I made a concerted effort not to enjoy so many wines as I had done on previous occasions just so I could share some of the magnificent dishes coming out of the kitchen!  Though previous visits did also involve some great dishes from the kitchen, I was often overwhelmed by the incredible selection of wines that I could enjoy so my documentation skills were somewhat challenged!

One must start with a lovely apertitif and if you are struggling to find something from their extensive wine list, there is always help from their friendly staff. The team are great, they listen to your preferences and easily find something to suit your palate. I love letting them choose something for me - it challenges my taste buds and it is always a great discovery. Tristan or 'oh bearded one' as I like to call him is a patient soul and endures my delight over what I am tasting in the glass (even when it borders on slightly obsessive!).  

Dinner service commences with freshly baked foccacia. We started with oysters au naturel along with a delicious calamari, egglplant and rich chilli oil dish. Washed down with a lovely pinot gris for me & a rose for Mr T, it was a great start.  Mains were a battle between us for the Lamb Ragu Orecchiette and the Pork Shoulder Parcel. Thankfully we are enthusiastic on 'communal dining' so neither would miss out on what the other was enjoying. The reassuring grunts I heard from across the table assured me the lamb was well received and the generous servings will satisfy the pickiest of appetites.  The pork was perfectly matched with a spicy Nero D'Avola from Brash Higgins ‘Amphora Project’, McLaren Vale.  I can see why the team has been sampling it "by the bucket load". I can't wait till I get to try it again! Dessert was a simple chocolate truffle along with a citrus tart. The latter was well matched with a late harvest semillon that helped developed the citrus notes that the tart was lacking. A perfectly cooked tart shell (that a certain Sydney bakery could learn from!) encased a light creme anglaise that was quite at home with refreshing orange slices.  A rowdy table next to us managed to overshadow our side order of broccolini and a soy mocha turned out to be a soy latte so the ambience can be at the behest of their guests! Made us chuckle at any rate and breath a sigh of relief as we're not quite sure how we could have fit in a side dish.

Whether you are enjoying a few nibbles with wine, a cheese platter or a meal are involved, Fix will have something to suit you. I highly recommend giving the "Quick Fix" dining option a go as well. You will be spoiled with a great selection chosen by the kitchen (just let them know your preferences, allergies etc). It is a great way to sample their seasonal dishes and gives you time to focus on your wine!

A few other reasons for loving this place:  

A great sense of style! Those would be Stuart's shoes...!

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And at least one of them supports my favourite rugby team!  And if you are in on a Friday night someone from the kitchen is also going to check on the rugby results too!

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111 Elizabeth Street  Sydney NSW 2000


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Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

The Grounds, An Oasis in Sydney's Alexandria

In just a short time, the latest additon to the stark industrial landscape that is Alexandria, The Grounds, has caught the attention of design-fanatic foodies and reviewers throughout Sydney. I couldn't resist a look-see myself, particularly as there was the promise of an exquisite roast to quench my persistent need for a decent coffee.

What I didn't expect (and likely should have realised) The Grounds actually as the name could suggest as well, has the most delectable outdoor area. In fact it is fair to say that while the interiors, food and coffee captivated others, they left only a passing impression. The gardens however, well that is another story entirely. On a glorious Sydney day, I can't think of a better place to lose oneself in!

The Grounds, Building 7A, 2 Huntley St, Alexandria NSW (02) 9699 2225, www.groundsroasters.com

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Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Press Club, Melbourne

A visit to George Calombaris' (MasterChef) restaurant The Press Club was something I had long coveted so when a business colleague invited us to join them there on our recent visit to Melbourne for my sister's wedding I leapt at the chance.

They have become regulars at this venue, taking numerous clients. I can see why. Having been around since October 2006, The Press Club has weathered the fickle dining scene managing to remain relevant, enjoyable and competitive in a market filled with venues clammering for attention.  A refurbishment in 2010 has created a dining space that manages to take advantage of lovely windows overlooking the street while creating a sumptuous interior without the need for dark mood lighting.

As first time visitors, the 5-course lunch degustation with wine known as the 'mini symposium it is an ideal immersive experience to enjoy what have become signature dishes.  The wine matching is fantastic and we enjoyed the breadth of the selections. The Pinot Noir from Kings Ridge, Oregon stood out in my mind, however none of the selections disappointed.

With a fondness for 'deconstruction' the menu features executions of Greek 'favourites' in a contemporary way.  As Australians have become such tremendous fans of Greek lamb, Calombaris and the TPC team have made sure that their modern interpretation would not disappoint, in fact it was quite decadent.  Another stand out was the salmon. What appeared to be a modest sized dish was packed with flavours. You will undoubtedly spend time guessing what each element on your plate as they have had a great deal of fun plating and creating the alchemy of flavours. Something that even carried through to the serving of a soy mocha at the end!

The service was unhurried and down-to-earth.  The emphasis is on the food, the wine and your company. Exactly where it should be. You can browse the detail of each course in the photo gallery. I am looking forward to a return visit to sample some more dishes and of course check out Calombaris' other successes in Melbourne.

 

72 Flinders Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
(03) 9677 9677

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Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Foveaux, Surry Hills

Returning to a restaurant that had been in my memory as a stand out always fills me with some trepidation. Fear that the memory may be replaced a 'new reality' and the memory may fade into the distance. I needn't have feared this when returning to Surry Hill's quiet achiever, Foveaux.
Also home to Red Door wine bar, Fouveaux offers an intimate dining experience, ideal to enjoy with small groups of family and friends. The muted tones of the interior (including a couple of odd art works that caught our attention causing some amusement between ourselves and our waitress!) and mood lighting mean the attention is focussed on the food and wine. Where it should be IMHO! So great was the return visit that we were back again in the fortnight!  There is plenty that is classic about dining here - fresh bread rolls to the table, a fantastic wine list, amuse bouch and palate cleansers are all part of the dining experience. The friendly, unintrusive staff are always pleasant and relaxed. The kitchen featured behind glass contains some methodical and unfrenzied talent that you occassionally catch watching their clientele for their reactions to the dishes. I love that completely. They are genuinely intested in teasing your taste buds.
On our previous visit we partook of the degustation menu and would still recommend it for a first visit as the wine matching is also fantastic. We dined a la carte and loved the evening. The evening commences with a flavoursome amuse bouche - chilled cucumber soup with goats cheese and delicately flavoured with cumin.  On our second visit, a cooler evening, a warming pumpkin & feta soup tempted our taste buds.  We had to have oysters on both occasions, the first featured my favourite from Pambula and after that from Merimbula (not exactly a poor second). Wine vinegar pearls make these creamy legends of sea very appealing.
Exquisite entrees of smoked duck and confit duck spring rolls and buffalo ricotta cannoli kick us off. They feature wonderfully balanced flavours and the attention to everything on the plate promises a very happy palate.  Mains of wakame roast lamb rump with salt and pepper tofu, miso puree and shaved fennel is one of the richest dishes to try. The flavours are incredible and there have been at least on two occasions the sound of someone going "aaaah" as their try it. The roast mulloway with mussels and pureed watercress with a crispy ciabatta is a delicious choice and as 'unfishy' fish dish you can get. The caramelised olive gratin, with liquorice, sorrel, jerusalem artichokes and threads of crispy sweet carrot is skillfully prepared dish. The gratin features mesmerising wafers like finely sheets of paper and the numerous ingredients on the plate mean this vegetarian dish is anything but the after thought on the menu.
If you're moving on to dessert a delicious "cleanser" (that could be dessert in its own right) of poached pears, nutty crumble and a humble "milk sorbet" makes its way to the table. About now you are likely to question your ability to even look at the dessert. But doubts are soon laid to rest as equally clever desserts arrive at the table. The stand out had to be the thyme parfait and blueberry sorbet that included an ingenious dried lemon sponge that took on the crisp characteristics of a well executed pavlova crust. A difficult to ignore herb, the thyme plays a harmonious role with the sweet lemon curd, tart sorbet and light creaminess of the parfait. The bitterness of the chocolate mousse however proved challenging but its accompanying orange curd was delicious.  The 'deconstructed banoffee pie' which was a banana ice cream with a tonka bean foam, coffee crisp and digestive biscuit crumble found a very happy fan.
And if you hadn't had enough yet, end the evening with delightful petit fours of miniature buttermilk scones with a creamy rasperberry curd and a chocolate, rhubarb, & marshmallow rocky road to keep your coffee company. The menu will over the coming weeks be introducing a few gradual changes which will be completed in about six weeks.
If not in the mood for fine dining, downstairs at The Red Door, the impressive cocktail list has a none too shabby bar menu to be enjoyed in a sumptuous subterranean interior. Many of the liqueurs, bitters and syrups are prepared onsite so the cocktails are out of the ordinary. The waiters are more than happy to share how the mixers are prepared and you can even see them on display in a glass cabinet.
Foveaux is an ideal spot if you actually want to converse with friends and family. Many couples are seen dining here, and as this part of Surry Hills tends to get quiet, you are comfortably able to find parking.  It is also a stone's throw from Central Station but none of its convenience can be outdone by the pride and care evident in its menu.  If you wish to flee the madding crowd that occupies Crown Street, definitely give Fouveaux a go.

1/65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9211 0664 ‎ · foveaux.com.au

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Tina Turner and The Children Beyond Project

I had been sitting on an email that Dad had sent me in early January. I hadn't had a chance to open it and all it said was "Tina Turner" with the only message "Hope you like it". I had this sinking feeling he had sent some awful "dad" joke (you know the ones!) and it would have parodied one of my favourite artists*. The email was buried within a week and I completely obliterated from my memory. But something drew me to it today and left a lasting impression.

The Divine Ms Turner has participated in beautiful Buddhist-inspired project "Children Beyond" sharing a message of peace and unity, that goes beyond religion.  

To have a beautiful sanskrit mantra performed by an artist for whom I have the greatest admiration, was the sunshine in my day. The mantra simply means

May well-being, peace, wholeness and tranquility, happiness and prosperity be achieved by all.

Please enjoy in the spirit in which it is shared. Namaste.

If you would like to know more about the project head to http://tinaturnerblog.com/2011/10/07/tina-turner-blog-review-children-beyond/

The album is available to download on iTunes

*Around this time I guess I need to confess what my long running passion for Tina Turner is and why it is something that comes up in my family constantly - they're getting a near 30 year run on this now! When I was a little girl I used to do impressions of her (no one else). I would don a short tube dress, wild up my hair and whack on some makeup and lip sync entire songs with complete dance moves. My husband has been asking me to show him for 13 years. He can wait!

Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

Film Review: Headhunters - Recruitment is a Dangerous Business?!

Released in August 2011, this Norwegian adaptation of Jo Nesbø's crime novel "Hodejegerne" finally hits Australian cinemas and delivers a witty, and action packed suspense/thriller.  Having enjoyed huge domestic success (even described as a bigger success than Harry Potter and Transformers) it is gracing international audiences who have clearly broadened their tastes thanks to brilliant European releases like Stieg Larsson's Millenium series.

Savvy and successful recruiter, Roger Brown, lives a life less ordinary. Captive to the experiences that only money can buy and married to a stunning successful gallery owner, he  soon finds himself doing whatever it takes to maintain their lifestyle. Even if that means risking it all to run a sophisticated art heist operation. He meets his match when the dashing and mercenary Clas Greve enters his world (audiences will recognise the handsome actor from such greats as Game of Thrones).

There are some graphic action scenes and yet some wickedly funny scenes that keep you thoroughly interested in a well crafted storyline.  A few pop references also enter the film (think Girl who Played with Fire and Slumdog Millionaire).  There are plenty of scenes that upon reflection and over-analysis leave you wondering about logistics but the pace of the film is such that the opportunity to dwell on technicalities is lost (thank goodness!).

A Russian friend who studied in Norway assures me the book is also good fun and is is always the case there is a lot of material that didn't make the cutting room floor. It is definitely on my reading list this year.

As for the author Nesbø- the promotional material describes him:

With his internationally acclaimed crime novels about Police Inspector Harry Hole, Jo Nesbø has had an astounding success, captivating everyone from critics to booksellers and readers. He has received a number of awards for his books, which have been translated to 35 languages, published in 140 countries and sold more than 8,5 millions copies internationally and 2 million copies in Norway alone. Nesbø has been lauded by international critics for having expanded framework of the modern crime novel, and is
today regarded as one of the foremost European writers in the genre.

With a background as a Norwegian pop artist, football player and financial analyst, one can wonder where Nesbø’s horrifying stories originate from. Nesbø believes his fear of the dark when he was a child has fueled his imagination, and given him the extra edge and sense of horror.

Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

Monday, 19 March 2012

More Porn for Booklovers - IKEA Hackers: French Country House Library

French Country House Library


Materials: 60 Billy / Benno Bookcases

Description: Faced with a 11m x 4m landing which had been curtained off at either end as bedrooms we wanted to create a 'built in' library / office. With a 3.3m ceiling height there was an opportunity to build an impressive floor to ceiling installation to house a large book collection and 1500 DVD's.

The house benefits from being symmetrical the landing has 4 doors - 3 to bedrooms and one from the staircase. The doorways are just over a meter wide and so there was an opportunity to use the Billy bridging units above the doors.


So, off to IKEA and ordered 60, yes 60 units to put together and install. 15 full height units each side with half height units mounted upside down on top.
6 Benno cases were cut in half, as were 4 bridging units to fill the space.

Trimmed with oak architrave, door frames extended to fill the space. Gaps filled with Numerar Worktop trim.


At one end
Desk from oak worktop with a centre table on wheeled legs to pull out to access the windows for cleaning.

At the other
Sofa bed and somewhere to curl up and read a book.

See more of the French country house library.

Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

Newtown's Bloodwood, Sydney

Bloodwood has since opening its doors in February 2010 become a staple in Newtown’s dining scene. Located at the southern end of King Street, it continues to attract a steady clientele of resident hipsters and their proud liberal parents!

While casual dining awaits, they don’t take bookings so be prepared to wait but you can use the time to browse the extensive wine list where organic and biodynamic selections take pride of place, or sample a fine cocktail.

We had read a number of mixed reviews about the place before arriving and this made choosing what to order a little challenging. While some commentators suggested the meals were meagre we decided to try four of the entree size meals. The polenta chips had to be one of them and judging by its appearance on every other table we weren’t missing out either.  The socca chickpea pancakes were a gorgeous dish and were quite substantial with the addition of pumpkin, quinoa and feta (and I am guessing the taste mustard seeds).  The asparagus was cooked to perfection with the spanner crab, however the crab was overtaken by a distinctly eggy flavour and the oily breadcrumbs made it quite a heavy dish.  The cassava croquettes were genius round puffy donut shaped balls distinctly like the asian puff balls you get at food fairs, they beautifully set off with the cherry tomato salsa balanced with tart pomegranate seeds and mint.

Thinking we had left room for dessert we valiantly attempted the house proud Bloodwood Trifle and the Chocolate Tarte. The trifle featured a rich pound cake, summer berries, crème anglaise and topped with a light yoghurt mascarpone. The bittersweet chocolate tart reminded me of the Espressoholic Chocolate silk cake, deliciously accompanied by a light fluffy caramel mousse with a salty crunchy peanut topping.  We were done by then, well and truly!

If you’re looking for simple large plated meals, Bloodwood may not be for you, however the dishes are rich and flavourful and we were more than full (pretty much rolling out!). They have achieved a great middle ground for dishes with a few key ingredients and tasty combinations in a casual atmosphere (if you have dining companions that are hard of hearing please be warned that the acoustics may prove challenging as the industrial interior creates competition for voices and music pumped through the sound system).  Though I might need a few more hours yet I certainly know I will look forward to a future visit for more dining adventures with this menu. 

Bloodwood
416 King Street, Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9557 7699

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Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Recipe: An Autumn Treat - Apple Galettes

The weather is cooling in Sydney now (not that we had much of a summer!) and the early signs are here with the end of the summer fruit. But that being said the new season apples are here, and what a versatile fruit it is!

It is also a great opportunity to try out this simple recipe. It was my first opportunity to try making marzipan which thanks to the encouragement of lovely people on twitter I overcame my trepidation and found myself fairly impressed with the effort (first sign – happily nibbling on the raw product!).

So if you are heading to the Saturday markets and bring home a lovely brioche loaf give this recipe a go. I used the Good Food BBC recipe for the marzipan and as you will see from the images I used a whole almond meal (skin on) this gave a lovely nutty texture that complemented the orange rind. Now please excuse my first amateur attempts at this recipe which I am sharing unedited. I will let the food stylers and photographers among you achieve the perfection I lack!

Recipe*

1 brioche loaf
30 g unsalted butter
100g marzipan
3 apples, quartered, cored & sliced
½ cup apricot jam, warmed
1 cup flaked almonds

Preheat oven to 200⁰C. Line an oven tray with baking paper. Cut six 5cm-thick slices from brioche. Using  10-12cm cutter, cut a round from each slice. Put on prepared tray, brush each with butter and spread with 1-2 tbsp marzipan.

Arrange the apple slices on each round. Brush with jam and top with almonds. I used marmalade to go along with the orange scented marzipan. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with crème fraiche or cool to have with a lovely cup of tea!

*This recipe first appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, August 2011

Posted via email from @RadhikaR's Internal Dialogue