baking · food + drink

Italian Christmas Fruitcake – Panforte

Italian Christmas Fruitcake-3615I wanted to make a different type of fruitcake for Christmas this year after finding an old piece of paper with a recipe for a fruitcake. Mum had given me the recipe after clearing out her cookbook cupboard, she never made the fruitcake herself but thought I might like to try it… mum hoards recipes too! Called a Palestrina (an area in Italy) Christmas Cake, this fruitcake is packed with nuts, some dried fruit, dark chocolate and candied orange peel, all bound together with a honey and sugar syrup.  I guess you could call this a panforte, a renowned speciality fruitcake in Siena, Tuscany. It is best to buy a good quality candied orange peel for this recipe and if you have difficulty finding some, try making your own homemade candied orange peel… it’s not difficult. Continue reading “Italian Christmas Fruitcake – Panforte”

breakfast dishes · posts

Poachpod Eggs with Cherry Tomatoes and Vanilla Sea Salt

poached eggs-1045There are a few ways to poach an egg and each person has their favourite method of doing so. I’m not a fan of poaching eggs in a water bath with added vinegar and have always preferred using a dedicated egg poacher instead. My old poaching pan seemed to take forever when poaching eggs and was ditched when I came across these silicone poaching pods. Perfect for poaching eggs, these pods are easy to use and I never seem to have a problem turning out the eggs once cooked. Also, the eggs cook faster than my old poaching pan.

hens 2

Using poaching pods requires a pot with a lid and I use my wide shallow sauté pan for this purpose, which snugly fits six pods. To prevent the eggs from sticking I always rub the insides of the pods with some vegetable oil or butter.  When the eggs are cooked, a large slotted spoon is helpful when removing the pods from the boiling water, but having acquired asbestos fingers over the years, I grab the edges of the silicone pods and lift them out. Sometimes a small amount of water collects on top of the poached eggs which I tip out before removing the eggs from the pods. Running the blunt side of a dinner knife around the edge of the egg helps loosen it from the pod and with a little nudge, the egg slides out easily.

If poaching pods and poaching equipment are not for you the eggs can always be poached using the water bath method, pop over to Simple Recipes blog to see how. Sometimes I like to posh the poached eggs up a little and serve them with lightly sautéed cherry tomatoes and then add a little gourmet touch at the table and sprinkle over some home-made vanilla sea salt (very easy to make) to season the finished dish

Poached Eggs with Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes and Vanilla Sea Salt

(serves 2)


  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 spring onion (green part only), finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 4 slices of toasted bread of your choice
  • home-made vanilla sea salt or sea salt, to season when serving

How to make: Add a few inches of water plus a 1/4 teaspoon salt into a suitable saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, rub the inside of each pod with some vegetable oil or butter and crack an egg into each pod. Turn the heat down so the water comes to a simmer and carefully place the poaching pods into the water, cover with a lid and poach the eggs for about 3 to 4 minutes or until done to your liking.

While the eggs are poaching; heat some olive oil in small sauté pan, add the cherry tomatoes, spring onion and balsamic vinegar. Cook over a gentle heat for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes have softened a little. Turn off the heat, reserve until needed.

Lift the cooked eggs from the saucepan and remove the eggs from the pods. Serve immediately with warm toast and top with sautéd cherry tomatoes. Season the finished dish with vanilla sea salt or sea salt.

Do you use silicone poaching pods? Have you found any other uses for these poaching pods?

appetizers · store cupboard

vanilla infused olive oil

the vanilla bean

The vanilla bean is the fruit of a special orchid family of which there are thousands of varieties, but only one variety (vanilla plantifolia) bears anything edible. It is an expensive spice due to a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

the maturing process

The vanilla orchid starts to flower around three years after planting. The flowers need to be pollinated so that the orchid can produce fruit, this is usually done by hand. The fruit which looks like a long green bean takes about two months to grow and a further eight months to mature before the green beans (also called a pod) are hand-picked for the next stage of the process. In order for the vanilla bean to develop its distinctive flavour and aroma, the hand-picked vanilla bean has to under go months of curing and drying before it can be used. By then the vanilla bean will have shrunk in size and have turned dark brown in colour. Cutting along the length of the vanilla bean reveals thousands of minute seeds which are used extensively in cooking. The three most common types are the Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla bean, Mexican vanilla bean and the Tahitian vanilla bean. Indonesia and India also grow orchids that produce vanilla beans.


I have a little stash of used glass bottles that I refuse to throw out because they look cute or I just like the shape (once they had some nice oils in them) and they look great when filled with your own infused oils. Most of these little bottles will hold about half or one cup of oil, so by infusing smaller amounts of oil at a time keeps everything tasting fresh. Putting the bottles into the dishwasher and running the hot cycle makes sure that they are really clean and sterilized before using.

“No”…my camera sensor does not need a cleaning…it’s the minute seeds of the vanilla bean floating in the olive oil.

How to make vanilla infused olive oil

Fill a small bottle ( mine was 1/2 cup) with a good quality olive oil which I prefer to use, extra virgin oil has a stronger taste which competes with the flavour of the vanilla.

Run the tip of a sharp knife down the length of the vanilla bean to reveal all those minute seeds and pop the whole vanilla bean (or cut in half to fit the bottle) into the glass bottle. Close and give the bottle a gentle shake which will release some of the seeds into the oil.

Store the bottle in a cool dark place for about a week to two weeks, (depends on the strength of the vanilla bean used) remembering to give the bottle a gentle shake every other day to help with the infusing process. Do taste the oil after a week or so and if you are happy with the flavour you can start using it.  Remember…good things are worth waiting for!

This vanilla infused olive oil is a real store cupboard treat and one that I like to have a little supply at hand. The oil adds a hint of vanilla and sweetness  to my finished dishes, for example…drizzled over some crostini with lemon ricotta or a seafood risotto are one of my many culinary uses.

Look out for more vanilla flavour!