food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘nuts

two desserts in one

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Lovingly prepared by Cindy after a Moroccan meal, this dessert combines Baclava-style nuts with a simple strawberry yoghurt. Morocco has it’s version of Baclava and strawberries and yoghurt are a no-brainer as Morocco is the 5th-largest exporter of strawberries in the world.

For the nuts, combine 2 cups of roughly chopped almonds, walnuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts (or just one or two types if you prefer) and toast them a little in a dry pan or in the oven. Place them in a bowl with some cinnamon to taste. Now make a honey syrup with ½ a cup of sugar, ½ a cup of honey, ½ a cup of water and 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice. Heat until boiling and then simmer for 5 minutes or so until thickening. Add the syrup to the nuts and stir to combine. Allow to cool. For the yoghurt, slice 1-2 cups of fresh strawberries and sprinkle them with a little sugar. Let them macerate for a while then add them to thick Greek-style yoghurt. Flavour the yoghurt with the seeds from a vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water if you prefer. Serve together garnished with fresh mint.


Written by michelle picker

April 18, 2018 at 12:08 am

baclava cheesecake

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My friend Deborah made this for a recent celebration. What a brilliant combination of two delicious cakes!

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350ºF). Place ⅓ of a cup each of blanched almonds and hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 5-8 minutes until toasted. Meanwhile, make the honey syrup by combining ½ a cup each of caster sugar and honey, ⅔ of a cup of water and a cinnamon quill in a saucepan. Place over medium heat until the sugar dissolves then simmer without stirring for approximately 15 minutes until syrup thickens slightly. Discard the cinnamon and set aside to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C (320ºF). Butter a 22cm (8″) springform pan and line the bottom with baking paper. Finely chop the almonds and hazelnuts plus ¼ of a cup of walnuts in a food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Add ½ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Now add ¼ of a cup of the honey syrup to the nut mixture and stir to combine. Clean the food processor and add 500g (1 lb) of cream cheese (at room temperature), 300g (10½ oz) of sour cream and ¾ of a cup of caster sugar. Process until smooth. Add 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence and combine. To assemble you will need approximately 10 sheets of filo pastry and melted butter. Brush the first sheet with some melted butter then fold it in half. Place it in the pan allowing it to overhang slightly. Repeat with the remaining filo and melted butter, turning and overlapping each sheet slightly to line the pan completely. Pour half of the cream cheese mixture into the pastry and top with the nut mixture. Pour in the remaining cheese mixture then fold the edges of the pastry over the top of the filling. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the centre is just set. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and leave cheesecake inside until cooled completely. Chill in the fridge for 6 hours and serve with the remaining honey syrup.

* This recipe is from

Written by michelle picker

September 20, 2017 at 12:17 am


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Panforte translated means ‘strong bread’ and comes from the region of Siena in Tuscany, Italy. It was originally known as Panpepato or ‘peppered bread’ due to it’s spicy flavour. It dates back to the 13th century when it was used to pay taxes and is believed to have been carried on quests by Crusaders. My friends Mary, Caroline and I made 2 versions which have been very popular throughout the holiday season. One was spicy fruit and nut….


….and the other was chocolate with orange peel and black pepper.


Preheat your oven to 160ºC (325ºF). Line a 9″ (23cm) spring-form cake tin for each panforte. For the fruit and spice panforte chop up 400g (14 oz) of dried fruit of your choice (we used prunes, pears, sultanas, figs, mixed peel and apricots), and 500g (17½ oz) of mixed nuts (we used almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. In a bowl combine these with 175g (6 oz) of sifted plain flour, 1 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon and mixed spice and mix well. In a small saucepan dissolve the 200g (7 oz) each of honey and sugar and bring the mixture to soft ball stage or 115ºC (240ºF). Immediately add to the fruit and nuts and mix well using a wooden spoon. Transfer into the tin and press down to distribute evenly, using moistened hands. For the chocolate, orange peel and pepper panforte chop 200g (7 oz) of candied orange peel and 325g (11½ oz) of mixed walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. In a bowl combine these with 115g (4 oz) of sifted plain flour, 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger, 1½ teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, ½ a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg and 5 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder. Melt 85g (3 oz) of bittersweet chocolate and set aside. In a small saucepan dissolve the 200g (7 oz) each of honey and sugar and bring the mixture to soft ball stage or 115ºC (240ºF). Immediately add to the fruit and nuts with the melted chocolate and mix well using a wooden spoon. Transfer into the tin and press down to distribute evenly, using moistened hands. Bake the panfortes for 30 – 40 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from the tins. Store in air-tight containers. Dust with icing sugar and slice into thin wedges to serve.

Written by michelle picker

January 10, 2016 at 5:50 am


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These small shortbread pastries are very popular in Palestine and the Gulf States. Filled with dates, pistachios, walnuts and occasionally almonds or figs, Muslims eat them at night during Ramadan and during the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays and Arabic-speaking Christians eat them at Easter. They are also popular among Syrian, Lebanese and Egyptian Jewish communities, who eat them with nut fillings on Purim, and with date fillings on Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah.

Ma'amoul-mouldsThe subject of ma’amoul arose in conversation with my friend Caroline who was not only interested in making them but had some lovely ma’amoul moulds. For our first attempt we considered at least 6 recipes to arrive at these versions. Of course making perfect ma’amoul is something that comes from long tradition and needs plenty of practice. Despite the fact that we would both make changes next time (perhaps a pastry made with semolina would be more crumbly?) we enjoyed ourselves and were proud of our efforts. Reviews from friends and family were pretty good – even my Lebanese grocer, who gives his wife 8 out of 10 for her ma’amoul, gave us a 6!


Mix 500g (1 lb) of flour with 250g (½ lb) of butter until you have a consistency like fine bread-crumbs then add 4-5 tablespoons of milk and 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water or rosewater (we made a batch of each). The consistency should be moist, soft and flexible. If the pastry is too dry just add a little more milk. Now make the fillings. For our rosewater pastry we mixed 225g (10 oz) of walnuts ground to a medium/fine consistency, 300g (10½ oz) of finely chopped dates and 1½ tablespoons of rosewater. For our second filling we used 125g (4½ oz) each of almonds and pistachios ground in batches to a medium/fine consistency,  of a cup sugar and 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water.


To shape the ma’amoul, take a walnut-sized piece of pastry and flatten it in your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the centre and close the pastry over it making sure the pastry is not doubled over and there are no holes. Press into a mould then remove  and place on baking paper on an oven tray. When the tray is full of pastries bake at 160°C (320ºF) for 25 minutes. The pastries should become a little crisp but not brown (except maybe a little on the bottom). Cool the pastries and sprinkle with a liberal amount of icing sugar.       Each batch of pastry and filling makes approximately 36 pastries.

Written by michelle picker

April 29, 2014 at 5:26 am


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This lightly toasted fresh muesli has an abundance of fruit and nuts. Experiment with the ingredients to make it your own.

To make this muesli you will need 750g (26½ oz) of rolled oats, 100g (3½ oz) each of roasted almonds, roasted peanuts, dry-roasted cashews and pepitas, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon each of ground cloves, freshly grated nutmeg and salt, 3 tablespoons each of honey and vegetable oil, and 50g (1¾ oz) each of currants, raisins, dried apricots and prunes.

Preheat oven to 180℃ (350℉). Roughly chop the nuts and combine well with the oats, pepitas and spices. Heat the oil and honey until runny (in a saucepan or the microwave) and add to the dry ingredients, stirring well. Spread into 2 roasting pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes until toasted and changing in colour. Dice the fruit and add to the cooled dry ingredients. Store in airtight jars.

Written by michelle picker

December 6, 2012 at 9:25 am

Posted in breakfast

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florentine XL

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This giant Florentine is probably easier to make than many smaller ones and looks great as a dessert.

In a bowl combine 2 cups of blanched toasted nuts with 2 cups of sweet cereal flakes and ⅓ cup of plain flour. Heat ½ cup each of sugar and honey in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved then pour this mixture into the bowl. Combine well then spread evenly into a prepared cake tin. Bake for 30 minutes at 180C ( 350F ) then carefully remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. When completely cooled, melt     250 grams dark chocolate and allow it to cool slightly before spreading onto the underside of the Florentine. When the chocolate has set a little you can make patterns in the chocolate.

When the chocolate has set, turn the Florentine to serve.

Written by michelle picker

February 18, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Posted in cakes & desserts

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