Easy as (pineapple) pie


Marie Sansom

Belinda Jeffrey's pineapple pie.

Belinda Jeffrey's pineapple pie.

BELINDA JEFFERY'S NEW cookbook, Desserts, shows you how to dress up cakes and transform them into fabulous desserts with minimum effort and an eye to the ingredients, textures and temperatures that harmonise with the Australian climate.

Jeffery, who has a long career in food as a chef, TV and radio presenter, and writer aims for simple, reliable recipes that taste amazing and use classic combinations such as lemon and blueberry, strawberry and mint, chocolate and coffee, and cardamom and citrus.

''I wanted to say, look, you can do these beautiful desserts and there are really lovely finishes that are incredibly simple: a scattering of pomegranate seeds or a beautiful piece of praline with gold leaf or chocolate waves that are really fun,'' Jeffery says.


She picks edible flowers from her garden for decoration and paints an apricot glaze or dredges icing sugar over cakes.


Pretty little lemon cakes are warmed and drizzled with lemon sauce and candied zest, and a rustic pear-and-pecan cake is topped with golden-syrup-glazed pears and served warm with cream.

Desserts is divided into sections by main ingredient: berries; dried fruit and spices; stone fruit; apples, pears and quinces; chocolate; honey, caramel and maple syrup; nuts; tea and coffee and citrus.

Tropical fruits have their own section and hot-climate desserts such as ice-cream, panna cotta and semifreddo feature alongside more traditional cakes and crumbles.

''We get a lot of cookbooks from overseas but tropical fruits are everyday things here,'' Jeffery says. ''It seemed logical to do something with pineapple, passionfruit, coconut, papaya and lemon myrtle - the things I grew up with. It's just the way I cook.''

Her style is warm and encouraging with lots of tips and anecdotes along the way. Jeffery says she loves the stories behind recipes.

''I have very strong links to the food I'm doing. I always like to think of it as a bit of a conversation, sharing not just the food but the things around it.

''People say, 'It's just like you're in the kitchen having a bit of a chat with me'.''

Recipes aren't set in stone, she says, but there are golden rules for baking: know your oven; use good-quality ingredients; measure accurately and don't alter the proportions of ingredients such as sugar, flour and baking agents.

Her 2007 award-winning book, Mix & Bake, has been her most successful to date and continues to sell well.

Jeffery says she gets more inquiries about baking than anything else.

''Baking is taking everything by storm. There are all these closet bakers. Quite a lot of people relax by baking and switch off from all the other things happening in their lives.''

Desserts, by Belinda Jeffery, Lantern, $49.99.