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Custard tart brûlée with pouched dates & walnuts

Serves 10
PREP 20mins  plus freezing
COOK 50mins 


11/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
grated rind of 1 orange, plus juice of 3 oranges
300g small dates
1/3 cup (35g) walnuts sweet pastry
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp pure icing sugar, sifted
240g plain flour
1 egg, plus 1 extra, lightly beaten

vanilla custard
5 egg yolks
400ml thickened cream
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped 

 Preheat oven to 180C or 160C fan. Grease a 23cm loose-based tart pan.

To make sweet pastry, use an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to beat butter and icing sugar until creamy. Add flour and a pinch of salt, and beat for 30 secs. Add 1 egg and beat for 2 mins, until dough comes together into a ball. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick. Fold pastry over rolling pin and unfold over pan. Using fingertips, gently press pastry into sides of pan without stretching (C). Remove any excess pastry by pressing over edge of pan with your thumb. Prick base of pastry with a fork. Place in freezer for 30 mins.

Line pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking weights, rice or dried beans. Blind bake for 15 mins, until pastry starts to colour. Remove paper and weights. Bake for 10-15 mins, until pastry is golden and firm. Reduce oven to 150C or 130C fan.

 To make vanilla custard, whisk together egg yolks, cream, sugar and vanilla seeds in a large jug until just combined. Brush pastry shell with beaten egg. Pour in custard and bake for 25 mins, until almost set. When you tap side of pan it should wobble only once. Cool completely. Chill for 1 hr.

Meanwhile, combine 1 cup of caster sugar, 1 cup water, and orange rind and juice in a medium saucepan on high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 mins, until reduced by half. Reduce heat to low, add dates and cook for 3-5 mins, until puffed. Remove from heat.

Dust tart with remaining caster sugar and cover pastry with foil. Using a blowtorch, melt sugar until dark golden and caramelised.

7 Drizzle custard tart with orange syrup and top with poached dates and walnuts. Cut into wedges and serve.


Tip- Use a meat thermometer to check when the lamb is done to your liking. Test the thickest part of the meat. As a guide, it’ll read 60C for rare, 65C for medium-rare, 70C for medium and 75C for well done.



 Gary's secrets

• I’ve used dates cooked in orange syrup to make this dessert even more irresistible, but it would be equally good served with a dollop of cream.

• Don’t be afraid to blind bake the pastry case until it is golden brown. It might look dark, but once the custard goes in and the oven temperature is reduced, it won’t go much darker.

• To make individual custard tarts, use 10 x 8.5cm loose-based tart pans and cut the cooking time by half.

Berry Semifreddo & Cookie Sandwiches

PREP 30mins
COOK 40mins


500g frozen raspberries or blackberries, thawed
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
300ml thickened cream
4 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
1 tbsp hot water

peanut cookies
120g butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (110g) sugar
1/2 cup (110g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 3/4 cups (260g) plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (190g) dark choc chips
1 1/4 cups (185g) peanuts


  Place berries and half of sugar in a small non-reactive saucepan on medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 mins, until sugar dissolves. Bring to boil and cook for 15 mins, until a jam consistency. Remove from heat and cool. Beat cream until soft peaks form. Chill until needed.

2 Place eggs, egg yolks, remaining sugar and hot water in a heatproof bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until pale and creamy. Set over a pan of simmering water, without touching water. Hand-whisk constantly, scraping inside bowl, for 8-10 mins, until thick.

3 Remove bowl from heat and, using an electric mixer, beat until mixture is cool. Gently fold whipped cream into egg mixture. Very gently fold berry mixture, to create a light rippled effect.

Pour mixture into a shallow dish. Cover with baking paper and freeze for 4 hours or overnight, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180c or 160c fan. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until pale and creamy. Add egg. Beat well until combined. Stir through remaining ingredients until a soft dough forms. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls. Place on trays, allowing room for spreading. Flatten slightly.

Bake cookies for 10-12 mins, until  golden. Cool on trays. To assemble sandwiches, place a scoop of berry semifreddo onto one cookie and sandwich together with another. Freeze while joining remaining cookies and half of semifreddo. Serve immediately.



Mum's Christmas Pud

PREP 15mins
COOK 6hrs


3/4 cup (120g) raisins
3/4 cup (120g) sultanas
100g glace cherries
60g currants
1/3 cup (55g) chopped mixed peel
finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
finely grated rind and juice of 2 oranges
1/2 cup (125ml) stout
1/2 cup (125ml) brandy
1 cup (125g) almond meal
120g suet mix (from supermarkets)
1 2/3 cups (120g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (110g) firmly packed brown sugar
80g plain flour
3/4 cup (120g) blanched almonds
1/2 cup (60g) chopped hazelnuts
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbsp butter Brandy Custard, to serve

 Tip: You can make this pudding up to four months ahead. Cool completely, cover with foil and store in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, steam for one hour. • This pud is also good with brandy butter. Using an electric mixer, beat 125g softened unsalted butter, 1/4 cup pure icing sugar and 1 tbsp brandy, until light and fluffy.

  Combine raisins, sultanas, cherries, currants, peel, and lemon and orange rind and juice in a bowl. Pour over stout and brandy. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hrs.

2 Add dry ingredients, nuts, spices, milk and egg to dried fruit mixture. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 days.

3 Melt butter and use to grease a 2L pudding basin. Line base with baking paper. Spoon mixture into prepared basin. Make a pleat in centre of a sheet of baking paper and a sheet of foil. Cover basin with paper, then foil and secure with kitchen string.

Place a trivet or upturned heatproof plate in base of a large saucepan. Place pudding basin on trivet. Pour enough boiling water into pan to come halfway up side of basin. Cover and steam on low heat, topping up water as needed, for 6-8 hrs, until pudding is firm and dark brown.

Remove from pan and stand for 5 mins. Turn out onto a plate and serve with brandy custard.


Gary’s secrets 
 •  For a darker pudding, add 60g treacle to the dried fruit mixture with the stout and brandy. If reheating before serving, steam for 2 hours instead of just one.

 •  Christmas pudding is always better when it’s made well in advance, as the flavours of the fruit, spice and alcohol come together and take it to another level. At my restaurant, Fenix, we make our puds at least six months ahead.


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