luscious chocolate


photo Marina Oliphant

Indulge yourself with a little chocolate. A few simple ingredients can be turned into something special with the addition of really good quality chocolate; even chocolate crackles. A friend recently gave us his version of this childhood treat made all grown up by using great chocolate and ditching the copha completely. They were an instant hit.

For another adult take on a simple recipe, classic chocolate mousse shows just how few ingredients you need to showcase wonderful chocolate. More indulgent than in your childhood memories, this rich mousse has a marshmallow-like texture without being overly sweet.

And finally, for a particularly wicked treat, there’s the chocolate tart.

No need to bake a separate crust, however, this delicate beauty does require a light touch. I have tested it several times (I know, but someone has to do it!) with different results, all equally delicious. Cook the tart for 35 minutes until just set and you will be rewarded with a soft mousse-like texture. Five minutes longer and the texture changes to slightly more dense, almost fudge like. Both need refrigerating to help set the tart and make it easier to unmould from the tin. Of course, all oven temperatures vary, so you may need to keep an eye on it, too.

My tip for melting chocolate is to use a bowl over a pot of boiling water. Turn off the heat once the water reaches the boil, so the chocolate doesn’t get too hot. If this happens, it will go hard and become unmanageable (the same reason you don’t want the bowl to come in contact with the hot water). This can also happen when you melt it for too long or on high power in the microwave.

In my opinion, you can never have too many chocolate recipes. I hope you cut these out and add them to your own collection.

Geoff’s Chocolate Crackles

photo Marina Oliphant

Geoff is renowned for his adult version of chocolate crackles. He has kindly shared his recipe with me (and you).

Makes about 16

200g Milk Chocolate – ~40% cocoa

100g Dark Chocolate – min 70% cocoa

3 cups Rice Bubbles (not home brand – they’re not as ‘inflated’ and don’t crunch when you eat them)

1 cup shredded or flaked coconut (McKenzies Moist Flakes are best)

Place all the chocolate in a large bowl over a saucepan of water and bring to the boil, then remove from heat. Make sure the bowl isn’t in contact with the water.

Stir occasionally to combine and prevent it from sticking.

In a separate bowl, combine the rice bubbles & coconut.

Next get a tray, rack or platter that will fit on a shelf of your fridge and lay out 16 patty pans – a baking tray with a lip is perfect to prevent them sliding off as you carry the tray! Place them so that they touch, as the mix has a tendency to drip and any excess will fall into the next patty pan.

Once the chocolate is completely melted & uniform in colour, remove from the heat, and add in the dry ingredients. Using a heat proof spatula or flat metal serving spoon, combine the mixture by repeatedly sliding the spoon down the edge of the bowl under the mix, and then drawing towards the center, turning the bowl as you go. This sliding motion prevents you from crushing the rice bubbles, preserving the ‘crackle’!

Continue until all the dry ingredients are coated in chocolate.

Take two spoons to distribute the mix – a dessert & teaspoon, or two teaspoons, depending on the size of your patty pans. Scoop some mix onto the spoon in your favoured hand, and use the second (smaller) spoon to scrape it into the patty pan. You might also need to use the second spoon to occasionally scrape clean the base of the main spoon to avoid excess drips.

Fill the pans in two passes so that you get an even distribution.

It also allows the mix to settle into the pans, so you can fit more in!

Once all the pans are full – add more pans if you need to – place the tray into the fridge for about 30-60 mins, or until set – depending on your fridge. Remove from fridge about 5 mins before serving.

rich chocolate mousse

photo Marina Oliphant

This is a classic recipe that everyone should try. It is very rich. Even chocoholics will only need a little. Don’t stir the chocolate as it melts, to retain its sheen.

200g couverture chocolate

6 large free range organic eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

Place a glass bowl over a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Make sure the bowl isn’t in contact with the water. Add chocolate pieces and remove from heat. Allow the chocolate to melt, without stirring.

Place egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer and whisk for 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and creamy and doubled in volume. Combine with the chocolate.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently through the chocolate mixture in two batches.

Pour into individual glasses and cover with cling film. Refrigerate for 1 hour until set.

Serves 6.

chocolate tart

photo Marina Oliphant

This dense and fudgy chocolate tart has an intense flavour; definitely not for the fainthearted. An elegant dinner party dessert made simple without the need for a tart crust.

butter to grease the pan

1 tbs flour + 1 tbsp cocoa, mixed

200g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

300ml thickened cream

4 organic free range egg yolks

100g caster sugar

Preheat oven to 140C.

Butter an 11cm x 34cm rectangular tart tin with a removable base and lightly flour with a mix of flour and cocoa.

Place a glass bowl over a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Make sure the bowl isn’t in contact with the water. Remove from heat and add chocolate pieces. Allow the chocolate to melt, without stirring. Once melted, remove bowl from saucepan and stir in the cream. Allow to cool slightly.

Place egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer and whisk for 5 minutes until the mixture is pale and creamy and doubled in volume. Slowly pour the melted chocolate onto the whisked mixture, stirring gently.

Place the tart tin on a flat baking tray and pour in the chocolate mixture.

Bake in oven for 35 -40 minutes until lightly set.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool, then refrigerate for 1 hour.

To unmould, use a thin tipped sharp knife to loosen the edges from the tin, then gently remove. (I suggest serving still on the tart base, as it is really delicate).

Serves 8-10.


perfect pasta

Perfect pasta

photo Marina Oliphant

When you want perfect pasta, ask an Italian.

Early in my career, I was extremely fortunate to work in several restaurants with talented Italian cooks, who shaped my ideas about great pasta. Not all were qualified chefs, but masters of their craft nonetheless. Recently, I have met and worked with more of these talented Italian cooks, as they photograph, document and preserve their traditional family recipes. The two Nonnas –Rosa and Maria, have shared their traditional ragu recipe below. Traditionally, this would be served in two parts – the sauce would be served with pasta, followed by a second course with the meat accompanied by salad.  If you would like a rich, meaty ragu pasta sauce, then roughly shred the meat and fold through the sauce to enjoy all at once. I urge you to make it, as it is absolutely delicious. Which brings me to the gnocchi: in my opinion, the perfect accompaniment for this sauce. This is an easy recipe to try, and can be undertaken whilst the sauce is simmering away. The recipe comes from a great Italian food writer, Anna del Conte. The gnocchi require a light touch, so don’t knead the dough too much. Small hands make great gnocchi and my 12 year-old son helps me all the time. So get your kids into the kitchen to help with this one. I don’t deny that it’s messy, but there’s an extra pair of hands to help clean up afterwards. For fancy gnocchi, you can shape them with a fork, but I prefer a more rustic misshapen look, which happens to be much easier.

Lastly, try my version of the classic Penne Genovese from the Dog’s Bar, in St.Kilda. It still stands as my all time favourite pasta sauce. And it’s from yet another great Italian cook.

Rosa and Maria’s recipe for Ragu sauce

The ragu sauce is considered as the master of all sauces in the Italian household. The ingredients are not fancy, yet as the sauce simmers, the complex flavours build and develop into a deliciously rich sauce. For more of these authentic recipes, visit their website

¼ (quarter) cup Olive oil

1 large Onion, chopped finely

3 cloves Garlic, chopped finely

1 small Carrot, chopped finely

1 cup Parsley, chopped finely

3-4 pieces of Beef chuck steak on bone (about 1 kg)

2-3 Pork spare ribs

4 x 750ml bottles Tomato Passata

1 tbsp Tomato paste (if passata too watery)

¼ (quarter) tsp Nutmeg, grated (optional)

Small bunch fresh Basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil then add the onion, garlic and carrot and fry until the onion becomes translucent and carrot has softened, being careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the chopped parsley and cook this a little ensuring it is combined with the onion mixture.

The beef pieces and pork spare ribs are now added to the saucepan. Brown each piece on all sides, it is important that the meat has a nice colour as this will enhance the flavour of the final sauce.

If you are using the tomato paste you can add it at this point by pushing the meat to one side of the saucepan and frying off the tomato paste for a minute or two.

Now you can add your tomato passata, one bottle at a time ensuring it is well combined with the meats.

Season with salt, pepper and a little grated nutmeg and stir through.

Add your basil leaves by tearing them into the sauce, and again stir through.

Place the lid on the saucepan slightly askew allowing excess steam to escape and cook on a low heat for at least two hours.

makes enough for 8.

Potato gnocchi

photo Marina Oliphant

According to Italian food writer, Anna Del Conte, these gnocchi originated from the Veneto region. They are easy to make with the addition of egg to bind the dough. My tip; cook the potatoes with the skin on until properly tender, as they are easier to sieve.

1 kg floury potatoes, well scrubbed

1 tsp salt

300g (1 ½ cups) 00 flour

1 large free range egg, beaten

75g unsalted butter

Boil the potatoes in plenty of water until tender. Drain and peel whilst still hot.

Sieve the potatoes onto a clean workbench or large bowl, using a potato ricer or food mill.

Sprinkle the salt onto the flour in a separate bowl and mix well.

Add beaten egg and half the flour to the potatoes. Knead, gradually adding more flour, until the mixture is soft, smooth and slightly sticky.

(Depending on the potatoes, you might need a little more flour).

Divide dough in four then shape mixture into rolls about 2.5cm in diameter and then cut into 2 cm pieces.

Use a fork to make ridges in the gnocchi, if you like (optional).

Bring 5 litres of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Do not put salt in the water as this tends to make the gnocchi stick together.

Meanwhile, heat butter in a large flat ovenproof dish in a low oven.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water, about 20 at a time. After they rise to the surface you need to cook for a further 20 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the pot. Dry on kitchen paper then transfer to heated ovenproof dish and toss lightly in butter.

Repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked.

Serves 4.

Penne Genovese

photo Marina Oliphant

When the Dog’s Bar opened in St.Kilda in the early 1990’s, Aurelio, the cook, used to make this fantastic Penne Genovese. This is my own humble version of the classic.

500g pork rashers or pork belly

250g veal

180g end piece of prosciutto

2 tbsp olive oil

5 stalks celery

3 carrots

1 onion

3 cloves garlic

1 cup white wine

3 cups veal or chicken stock

half cup parsley leaves

1 tsp white pepper

500g penne pasta

freshly grated parmesan to serve

Chop pork and veal into large dice, about 2cm. Chop the prosciutto into 1 cm dice.

Heat oil in pan and fry meat for a few minutes until browned.

Remove from pan.

Roughly chop celery, carrots and onion into large dice. Finely chop garlic. Saute vegetables in pan for about 10 minutes until well cooked. Add meat, wine and stock, bring to the boil, reduce heat and cook for about 45 minutes or until meat is very tender.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Add parsley and pepper to sauce and stir well to combine.

Toss pasta with sauce and serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan.

Serves 4.