Kokis

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It’s coming up to Sri Lankan New Year and Mr C’s day care is holding a celebration. There are a few Sri Lankan kids and a Sri Lankan teacher so it’s a big deal this year. They’re making coconut rice onsite and dressing up in traditional garb.I was wracking my brain trying to think of an easy, uniquely traditional treat to make his friends….and then it came to me…kokis of course. Not only is it not too arduous to make, I thought there was a good chance that even the picky toddlers might enjoy them. It’s also gluten free, nut free and hopefully child-friendly.

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Kokis is a traditional Sri Lankan snack, often served at Sri Lankan New Year. A crispy, cookie-like treat, made of coconut milk and rice flour and deep-fried till crispy. Of the many Sri Lankan treats that grace the New Year table, this is by far one of the easiest. It does require a kokis mould, made of metal, and attached to a long handle, which may be a deterrent. But, they are available in Sri Lankan spice stores in many places outside of Sri Lanka. If not, ask your kindly relatives in Sri Lanka to send you one, the next time the ask “what can we send?” .

A new mould will take a little “breaking in” and you may find the batter will stick to the mould for a little while. Keep at it, it ill eventually come good.

When Ammi made kokis, she always turned the last bit of batter into “chilli” kokis by adding chilli powder. Much as she’d done for her dad growing up. Chilli kokis go especially well with a nice cool beer or ‘lion lager’.  See below for my take on “chilli kokis”.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup of rice flour
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt

For Chilli Kokis

  • I cup of kokis mixture
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. of garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Preparation

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In a bowl add salt to the flour and mix well.  Then add the egg and coconut milk into the flour and whisk until no lumps remain. The consistency should be similar to a thin pancake batter. Cover the bowl and keep it aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. When the oil is hot place the Kokis mould in the oil for about a minute.

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Carefully dip the mould in the batter, making sure that the mould is well covered on all sides, but not the top.

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Place the now batter covered mould in the hot oil and hold in place for about 30 seconds. At this point, slip the kokis out of the mould, shaking slightly if needed, to loosen. Use a cocktail stick or skewer to prise the kokis away if it needs extra help. Fry until the kokis is golden and evenly coloured.

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Pull out of the oil and drain well  before serving. Will keep in an air tight container for a few days.

I love to serve mine dusted with a generous sprinkling of icing sugar. It goes perfectly with a cup of tea.

Chilli Kokis

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To make the chilli kokis mix the batter with all the spices and half the cayenne. Make as above and sprinkle with the remaining cayenne before serving.

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Sri Lankan New Year

April 14 will mark Sri Lankan New Year this year. Sri Lankan New Year is an important time for all Sri Lankans. Full of rituals, and the signalling of a new beginning for all involved.

There are the rituals of cleaning the house and lighting the oil lamp adorned with a proud rooster. Traditionally the hearth stove would have been cleaned and only lit at an auspicious time to make Kiribath or milk rice. Traditional gifts of new clothes and given and received and visiting family begins in earnest. Villages have carnivals with traditional games and competitions and including a beauty pageant to select the most beautiful girl in the village.

In Australia we have tried to replicate this in our own way. There are smaller oil lamps, gas stoves scrubbed to shiny perfection and phone calls in lieu of visits. There are carnivals at Sunday schools with races and challenges and children are compelled to eat donuts hanging from strings as fast as they are able. Sweet meats and treats are often store bought and celebrations postponed to weekends when people are more available.

This year I’m collating some of my recipes that can fill your Avurudu table. Some are easy, other’s complex and time consuming me. My challenge is this, make one. Just one and let me know how it turns out.

Marshmallows

Easy vanilla marshmallows that can be made in advance. You’ll never be satisfied with store-bought again.

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Butter Cake

Sri Lanka’s favourite cake.

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Unduwel

Crispy, deep friend “swirls” of urid dal batter dipped in hot palm treacle.

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Milk Toffee

Sweet and slightly chewy condensed milk toffee

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Sri Lankan Pancakes

Uniquely Sri Lankan crepes filled with spiced, sweet, caramelised coconut.

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Subha Aluth Avurudak Vewa! 

 

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Filed under Short-Eats, Sri Lankan Food, Sri Lankan Sweets, Sweet Treats, Uncategorized

Green Mallum

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Mallum is Sri Lanka’s answer to a salad. A bevy of greens wilted, spiced and combined with shredded coconut amongst other wonderful spices. It’s often served as a condiment, an addendum to a meal. Something to add flavour, colour and vivid green health.

It’s a healthy alternative to lettuce and greens doused in dressing and I know for me it helps balance the colours in a meal. I struggle to eat without some green on my plate,

When I made this, I used silver beet and some outer leaves of cabbage from my parent’s garden. Green spinach, kale, collard greens are all easily used.

The trick to this is to slice the greens as finely as possible. It’s a skill I lack so, like me, do the best you can.

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Ingredients

  • 200g greens, washed and dried (5-6 leaves)
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. maldive fish
  • 2 dried chillies finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • salt to taste

Preparation

Finely slice the greens. I find rolling them tightly into a cigar shape and using a sharp knife is the easiest way to get a fine slice.

In a small frypan add the oil. When hot, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and onion. Fry until the onion is soft.

Add the chopped greens and cook until just wilted. Now add the coconut, mustard seeds, turmeric and salt, Mix well until just warmed through.

Serve warm with fluffy white rice.

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Filed under Snacks and Sides, Uncategorized, Vegetable Dishes, Vegetarian Curries

Quick Tomato Soup

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When I served this soup to my brother-in-law, Firehouse Junior, a couple of weeks ago he confessed something to me. I cooked the family a meal at some point, soon after his brother and I had first started dating. Walking into the kitchen he had discovered me chopping pumpkin and concluded that pumpkin soup was on the menu. He promptly walked away, secretly dismayed at the thought of eating pumpkin soup for dinner. It was not his favourite thing to eat. Being the polite young man he was, he dutifully waited for me to finish cooking, and ate the soup given to him…and enjoyed it. He tells me he has been a pumpkin soup fan ever since. Furthermore, he will now try the food I put in front of him with an open mind.

I don’t think he had any strong feelings towards tomato soup prior to my serving this, but suffice it to say, the man is now a fan. On describing the recipe, he was also convinced it was easy enough for him to make…and healthy enough for lunches. As Firehouse Junior faces the prospect of living solo later this year, I think these recipes will come in mighty handy.

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Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots chopped
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tin chopped tomato
  • 1 bottle passata
  • 5-6 piquillo/roasted peppers chopped
  • honey/salt/pepper to taste
  • fresh basil and cream to serve

Method

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and soften the onions and garlic. When softened, add the chopped carrots and celery and cook till softened. To the softened vegetables add the balsamic vinegar and oregano. Give the vegetables and herbs a good stir and add the tinned tomatoes, passata and peppers. Fill the passata bottle with water and add that to the pan as well.

Bring the pot to a low boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender (for a very smooth texture) or using a stick blender (a slightly thicker texture) and taste for seasoning. Adjust as necessary. Finally, place the soup back on the heat and add the honey to slightly sweeten the soup and balance the acidity of the tomatoes and vinegar.

Serve with some cream and garnish with basil to serve.

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Filed under Non-Sri Lankan Food, Soup, Soups, Vegetable Dishes

Easy Creme Brulee

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I’m a bit of a creme brûlée fanatic. I can’t resist ordering them off any menu. My sister is the same. So when she and I are out together our husbands have no choice but to comply.

While in Seattle, while my sister and her husband were visiting from New York, we decided to do a bit of wine tasting. After an hour or two of drinking we headed to a local fine-dining eatery. It was lovely. Amazing food, and amazing wine, as you’d expect. By the time the waiter asked if we wanted dessert, we were sufficiently lubricated such that all dessert prospects seemed amazing. My brother-in-law, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup fan, ordered a chocolate peanut butter treat. My sister and I ordered the creme brûlée du jour (of the day). Since we were celebrating her wedding anniversary I let her do the customary cracking of the caramel. She grabbed her teaspoon, smashed it with a satisfying clink and dug into the custard. So excited was she that she popped it straight into her mouth and I waited patiently for my turn. However, her face suddenly contorted and I saw the strain of trying not to spit out her food in a fancy dining establishment. She swallowed with great difficulty and mouthed “banana”.

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That’s all I needed to hear. I was horrified. Banana custard is the stuff my nightmares are made of. It’s my least favourite fruit, by far my least favourite flavour. Why would anyone put it in a creme brûlée?

Suffice it to say the dessert went largely untouched, even the boys tried it and passed. It was truly awful.

What it has taught me is to not jump at every brûlée on the menu. To ask the chef what the flavour is and to take that first bite with caution. I still love creme brûlées though.

I wanted to put this recipe together to convince you that creme brulee need not be on the “too hard” or “fancy restaurant” list. They are simple to make and the skill it takes is really the ability to watch an oven carefully. By cooking in a bain marie or water bath you cook gently and slowly to avoid the dreaded scrambled eggs. Don’t be afraid to open the oven door and check with a gentle wobble of the cup.

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Ingredients

Makes 2

  • 200ml pure cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp caster sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons of caster sugar for the brûlées

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 150C and put 2 small ovenproof ramekins (I used 2 tea cups*)  in a baking tin/dish.

Heat the cream and vanilla bean paste over a medium-low heat and heat until the milk is just coming to the boil. Take off the heat.

In the mean-time mix the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl and stir until just combined.

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When the cream begins to boil, pour the cream on to the yolk and sugar mix, stirring constantly to mix.

Divide the mixture between the ramekins through a strainer . Place the baking tin in the oven and pour cold water into the baking tin until it comes two-thirds of the way up the ramekins.

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Bake for about 40 minutes or until the custard is just set – it should only wobble faintly when shaken. Cool and then chill in the fridge until cold, at least 1 hour.

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To  brûlée

With a blowtorch

Remove custards in ramekins from the refrigerator. Dab the tops with a paper towel to remove any water or condensed liquid.

Scatter the tops of the cold brûlées with the remaining sugar, and use a blowtorch or hot grill to caramelise the tops.

Now the best trick I’ve learnt when blowtorching the brûlées is to do it in layers. I’ve allocated 1 tablespoon per ramekin, so scatter half this quantity and brûlée with the blowtorch. Cool slightly then scatter with more sugar and brûlée again. I find this creates a nice thick crispy brûlée top and stops the burning.

Without a blowtorch

Remove custards in ramekins from the refrigerator. Dab the tops with a paper towel to remove any water or condensed liquid.

Evenly sprinkle caster sugar over the top of each custard.

Heat up a large cooking spoon, being careful to protect your hand from a handle that could get hot.

Place the heated spoon over the sugared top of custard and listen for the sizzle, smell the caramel and watch burnt sugar being made.

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*Please check whether your mugs are oven-safe before you put them in the oven!

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Egg and Bacon Pastries

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You know the family recipes that you’ve been making for years but can’t really trace? This is one of those. Something my mothers has made for as long as I can remember, something I make all the time and something whose roots cannot be traced to anything except great foodie memories.

This is a recipe that often comes out on holiday road trips. Something my mother would bake of a morning before setting off, pack into tupperware to be enjoyed at a service station between home and 1000km away.

It doesn’t need sauce, can be eaten without such refineries as plates and cutlery and it’s simply a matter of dusting off the crumbs before jumping back into the car.

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 rashers of bacon (you’ll need about 24 pieces of bacon all up)
  • 4 eggs medium boiled
  • 3 sheets of puff pastry
  • 1/2 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 egg to brush on top

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220C/400F. Line a baking tray with paper
  2. Cut the bacon into 5 cm strips and set aside.
  3. Cut the egg into halves and then divide each half into 3. Doesn’t matter if the eggs break apart, just put them back together when assembling.
  4. Cut the pastry sheets in half and then each half into 4 so you have 8 rectangles.
  5. Grab a piece of pastry and place a strip of bacon in the middle and place a section of egg and a sprinkle of onion on top.

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  1. Brush egg along one edge and roll the pastry up to enclose.
  2. Brush top with eggs, cut a few slits for steam to escape.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and delicious.

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Chorizo Sausage Rolls

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I’ve recently made a new friend who lives in the same “neighbourhood community” that we’re in now. Her daughter and Mister C are at the same daycare and have become fast friends. We met before we had officially moved, before our new addition joined us and before the real madness of life set in.  In fact, she was one of the people I texted when I headed off to the hospital to have little Miss M as we’d planned to catch up on the day itself. She kindly offered to let me call her up and scream in her ear if I needed.

When she finally did manage to visit us she bought a gift that signalled kinship, a set of “Jamie Oliver spice bottles”. When Mr Firehouse saw it, his first question was “how did she know?”. If you know me, or if you’ve read this blog for a while you would know that Jamie and I go way back. He’s not just one of my cooking heroes, his merchandise is everywhere in my house. There’s an entire shelf on my cookbook shelf (yes, I have an entire book shelf just for cookbooks) dedicated to just his books. Then she told me a story that solidified our friendship further, apparently she adored Jamie too, ever since her mother had taken her to MEET HIM! How could I not be friends with someone who had met Jamie?

As with many of my friends, we talk often of food and food related things. The subject of chorizo came up recently and she talked of her chorizo fried rice and I spoke of the recipe below. Something that I’ve made ever since I discovered unsmoked sausages at our local butcher when we lived in the Inner-West. I’ve recently re-discovered it at our new local, a butchery that is apparently famous for it’s sausages.

I’ve made these with chorizo but you really can make these with whatever your favourite sausage may be; Italian, lamb, chicken….go nuts people.

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Ingredients

  • 500g unsmoked chorizo sausage
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry thawed
  • sesame seeds to sprinkle
  • I egg lightly beaten

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220C/400F. Line a baking tray with paper
  2. Take the skin off the sausage so you are just left with the meat. I find it easier to mash it a bit at this point so you can divide and portion easily.
  3. Cut the pastry sheets in half.
  4. Divide the sausage filling into 4 portions.
  5. Place eat portion on one long-side of each pastry sheet and form into a sausage shape. Brush the long side with a little egg and roll up to enclose.
  6. Cut each roll into about 4 and place on the baking trays. Seam side down.
  7. Brush top with eggs, cut a few slits for steam to escape and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and delicious.

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Gotu Kola Kenda

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It’s good to be back guys. Thanks for your patience. The last few months have seen us move from Seattle to Sydney, buy a house, unpack a 20ft container and welcome a new member to our family. Life is still hectic but the cooking must go on.

I’ve decided to make a recipe my mother has been making for years. Its a real comfort dish for me, something that’s so packed with goodness that I always feel great when I’ve had this for breakfast.

Kenda is somewhere between the ubiquitous Asian congee and a green smoothie. Packed with rice  and simple flavourings, it gets it green colour from the kola, which is Sinhalese for leaves. In Sri Lanka, it’s a real forager’s dish, made with whatever herbs and leaves can be gathered.

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Gotu Kola(centella asiatica) is a herb commonly found in Sri Lanka. It grows wild in many places and we use it in kenda, salads and deep fried till crisp in condiments.  It has many medicinal properties, often used in Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese herbal medicine alike. I’ve often heard it referred to as ‘arthritis herb’, which makes sense as it is known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties.

In the US, I came across gotu kola in the most unexpected place. I was walking with Mr Firehouse and Mister C through the university district farmer’s markets in Seattle and passed a tea stall. I never pass a tea stall without stopping,  I love tea! As I was perusing the teas I came across one that had gotu kola in it. I was excited! Gotu kola in Seattle? Could this be the start of fresh mallums and kenda on Saturday mornings? Sadly no. When I asked the proprietor she informed me that gotu kola is grown in Oregon, which is where she had sourced it. Alas, I never saw it in Seattle but there’s proof it is in the states. Jess from 13spices also did a post on her blog about gotu kola which she found in DC. In Australia it’s often seen in Sri Lankan spice markets or better yet in an Aunty of Uncle’s garden. In fact that’s where I source all of mine.

I’ve had a few requests for this recipe, so I hope you all enjoy it!

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Ingredients

  • 3-4 cups gotu kola, leaves only picked
  • 1/2 cup of rice ( I used a combination of red and white) rinsed
  • 3 cloves of garlic sliced
  • 1 tbsp. pepper corns
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • palm sugar to serve

Method

In a medium saucepan add the rice, garlic and peppercorns and 2 cups of water. Pop the lid on and cook until the rice is cooked, but not too soft, we’re going for al dente.

Meanwhile, blend the gotu kola with just enough water to make a lovely green puree. I ended up with just under a litre of liquid.

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Pass the gotu kola puree through a sieve into the cooked rice and spices and mix.

Add the coconut milk and season to taste. When the mixture is warmed through, take off the heat and serve hot with plenty of palm sugar or jaggery.

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Filed under "Something" Free Cooking, Sri Lankan Food

Spicy Sauteed Pineapple

 

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I’m a firm believer that when you’re going to do a Sri Lankan feast, like all good Asian food you need the bastions of sweet, sour, salty and spicy present. As we eat with our hands and mix rice with the curries, it’s important, not that all of these elements exist in a single dish, but that they exist on the table itself.

Pineapple curry often helps fill that little sweet spot, and a little on the sour notes too. Often made with coconut milk, this version is all about caramelised onion and pineapple. Its also simple enough and quick enough that it could make an appearance on a weeknight!

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of pineapple chunks in juice
  • 3-4 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. ghee/oil
  • 1/2 red onion sliced
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. maldive fish
  • curry leaves

Preparation 

In the medium frypan add the pineapple (with the juice), the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Cook over a medium heat until all the liquid has evaporated and the pineapple begins to caramelize.

To the frypan add the oil, and the remaining ingredients. Fry over a medium heat until the onions are golden brown and caramelized.
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Peach Friands

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I love the magic that is the stone-fruit of the Pacific North-West. As summer dawns upon us and the markets become laden with summer peaches I’m determined to use them in every way I can think of. Pudding, cakes, and even salads.

I bought a rather large quantity of almond meal from Costco some weeks ago and in an attempt to utilise both the peaches and the almond meal I settled on making friands for some friends that were dropped by for a lazy afternoon tea. On the day of, the temperatures in Bellevue was predicted to hit the 30s. After a late night, we rose at 8am to find sun streaming in and the temperature already rising. I was loathe to sit around separating eggs while the oven made the temperature inside climb even higher, so I went for a different version of these tasty treats, the whole egg version. It provides for a slightly different texture, but delicious nonetheless.

These are just as delicious with peaches, plums or berries. If you’re not feeling the fruit, a sprinkle of almonds and pistacio would work just as well.

Yield: 12 Friands (or 24 mini muffin size)

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Ingredients 

  • 195g (1 1/2 cups) pure icing sugar, sifted
  • 75g (1/2 cup) plain flour, sifted
  • 155g (1 1/2 cups) almond meal
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla paste or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 180g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • 1-2 peaches sliced
  • icing sugar to dust

Preparation

Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush 12 friand moulds or mini muffin tins with melted butter to grease. Dust with plain flour. Combine the sugar, flour and almond meal in a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Add egg and butter. Stir until well combined.

Divide among the prepared pans. Divide the peach slices and place on top of the friands.

Bake for 20-25 mins (for the friands) 15-20 mins (for the mini muffins) or until light golden. Set aside in the pans for 5 minutes to cool slightly before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Dust the friands with icing sugar to serve.

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