Monday, May 31, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: A couple of years ago, Becs gave me this lemon/lime squeezer as a birthday present. You place half the citrus, cut side down in the squeezer, then squeeze. The citrus is turned inside out, thus extracting every last bit of juice. There are wee slits in the bottom that don't allow any pips to creep through - genius!

Libby: Free rosemary! There's no need to grow your own rosemary in Wellington as it grows like a weed all over the place. It's particularly abundant just down the hill in Thorndon where I know of several spots I can pick a sprig or two from when I need it. This sprig was finely chopped along with a clove of garlic and lemon zest and sprinkled over a wintery beef and vegetable casserole. Yum!

Becs: At home we have a 'chocolate drawer' that is always full of packaged sweet treats, as well as chocolate for baking. You would think this drawer would be a constant temptation, however for some reason most of the time this doesn't seem to be the case, and often things remain in it for months or even years. However one recent addition to the chocolate drawer that I find impossible to resist is Whittakers Ghana Peppermint. I have always loved Whittaker's plain Ghana block for baking with, but this deliciously dark chocolate with the addition of a flowing peppermint centre it is seriously good. It is impossible to stop at one piece...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Thursday baking - banana bran muffins

As we bake our way through A Treasury of New Zealand Baking...

I wanted to bake something reasonably healthy to have for morning tea during the week so decided on bran muffins. A Treasury of New Zealand Baking has three bran muffin recipes to choose from and I settled on this one as I had all the ingredients handy including just enough walnuts for the topping.

The recipe has very little added sugar and fat and lots of fibre from the the bran. You could make these muffins without the topping if you wanted to cut down on sugar but I think the topping makes the muffins.

I halved the recipe as I didn't want to be eating them for two weeks and they worked just fine, though I added a couple of tablespoons of milk as the mixture was too dry but as I type this up I realise it's because I added too much flour!

Banana bran muffins - week nine (Fiona Smith)

1 1/2 cups bran
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (I used walnuts)
1/4 cup long thread coconut
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup natural yoghurt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup oil
2 bananas, mashed
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease a 12-hole muffin pan.

Mix the bran and boiling water together in a bowl and leave to cool.

In a seperate bowl, mix half the sugar with the nuts, cinnamon and coconut. Set aside.

Add the yoghurt, egg, oil and banana to the bran and water. Mix well. Sift the flour, remaining sugar and baking soda together and fold into the bran mixture. Spoon into the prepared muffin pan, then sprinkle with the sugar and nut mix.

Bake for 20 minutes. Loosen in the tin and cool, then rest on a wire rack for awhile.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

a warm pudding for a cold night

Ginger Parkin with rhubarb & spiced syrup

I hadn't heard of parkin until I came across this recipe on the Guardian website. Parkin is a gingerbread cake traditionally made with oats and molasses that originates in Northern England. The recipe I used didn't have molasses in it, just lots of brown sugar, golden syrup and a little bit of treacle. I didn't use treacle as I didn't want to buy a whole tin of the stuff for one recipe so just used extra golden syrup and a bit of dark muscovado sugar.

I was very tempted to buy an ice cream maker just so I could make the accompanying rhubarb ripple ice cream. But instead I served the parkin with vanilla ice cream and roasted rhubarb. Tart rhubarb is just what this dessert needs: with all that golden syrup it's very sweet. I'll try making the ice cream with Bec's deluxe ice cream maker when in Christchurch sometime.

I also improvised with the "hot spiced treacle" and melted a little bit of golden syrup and added a couple of pinches of mixed spice.

The parkin had an interesting texture - dense and quite chewy. It wasn't as moist as I expected but apparently it gets better with age. The recipe says for the best flavour, keep in an airtight container for three weeks so I will report back on its keeping qualities in a few weeks!

Monday, May 24, 2010

birthday lamingtons

It was Mum's birthday last week, so in lieu of a big cake I decided to make some treat sized lamingtons ('make' being assemble as the sponge came from New World, I love bought sponge, and let's face it, pink lamingtons aren't the most natural of food products!) I froze the sponge to make it easier to handle, then trimmed the edges off, cut it into little cubes and dipped them into a mixture of 1 pkt strawberry jelly, 1 c boiling water, 30g butter and 2 c icing sugar, that had been left to cool for an hour. I rolled them in shredded coconut, then they went back into the freezer to set, and then were cut in half and sandwiched together with a spoonful of strawberry and rhubarb jam and whipped cream. Yum!

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: A treat from the French Baker used to require a trip over the hill to Greytown but now he's selling his breads and pastries on Sunday mornings at the City Market making them much easier to get hold of... perhaps a little too easy! It's impossible to leave the market without stopping by the French Baker and picking up a wee treat to take home and share. I was tempted by the delicious brown sugar brioche I'd tried before but decided to try something new and went with this almond pain au chocolat... yum!

Becs: Something I love but don't often make is bread sauce. I was introduced to it in London ten years ago when I spent my Christmas holidays working as a private cook in a very traditional English household. It is perhaps the least photogenic of foods, but is utterly delicious with roast chicken which we ate on Saturday night. To make it you heat half a litre of milk with a peeled, halved onion 'studded' with about 6 cloves, a couple of peppercorns and a bay leaf. Once it comes to the boil take off the heat and leave to steep for as many hours/minutes as you have. Then strain it, adding a few large handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs to soak up the lovely infused milk and salt to taste. Crunchy roast potatoes are also perfect dipped into bread sauce...this starch with starch combination must be the pinnacle of comfort food.

Miriam: It must be a reflection of the colder weather of late that both Becs and I have chosen warm comfort food as our 'favourite thing' this week. Sunday was pretty cold and gloomy in Auckland so the girls and I decided that was justification enough to have pies for lunch. The Fridge in Kingsland is renowned for its pies and they didn't disappoint. I enjoyed this moroccan lamb pie with lovely flaky pastry and a delicious filling of apricots, carrots and big pieces of slow cooked lamb. I always appreciate when you can decipher what's in your pie!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thursday baking - rhubarb & ginger cake

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...

I decided to make this rhubarb & ginger cake as we had some home grown rhubarb in the fridge courtesy of Lois Lewis. Also, Becky, Anna & Daisy were coming round for morning tea, and this seemed like a morning tea kind of cake. And it was. The cake itself is quite nice and moist, but we all agreed it could have had a stronger ginger flavour. It was more of a loaf kind of a cake (if that makes sense), and Becky wisely suggested that it could be improved with a crumble type topping. All in all, not a bad cake but not outstanding, and certainly best enjoyed during the day with a cuppa. Here's the recipe;

Rhubarb & Ginger Cake - week eight (Margaret Brooker)

110g butter
110g dark brown sugar
110g golden syrup
225g standard flour
2 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, beaten
85ml milk
1 tsp baking soda
350g rhubarb, cut into 1cm lengths
1 tbsp caster sugar

icing sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line it with baking paper. Melt the butter, brown sugar and golden syrup over a low heat. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and cool. Sift the flour, salt and ginger into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and the melted butter mixture. Using a wooden spoon, gradually draw the flour into the egg mixture and mix until smooth. Warm the milk, dissolve the baking soda in it, then stir it into the flour mixture. Toss the rhubarb pieces in the caster sugar and stir them into the flour mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve. The cake will keep well in an airtight container for 3-4 days.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

for old times sake...

In my early cooking days as a young schoolgirl I used to love poring over Mum's vast collection of Australian Women's Weekly Cookbooks, seeking inspiration for potential creations. I was particularly fascinated with replicating 'bought' food at home, hence the lemon chicken and fried rice banquet from AWW Chinese Cooking in attempt to rival the local takeaway's version, the cream buns like they sold down the road at Geyserland Hot Bread Shop, the numerous attempts to bake a deep dish pan pizza as crispy bottomed as those that were all the rage at Pizza Hutt at the time, and the deepfried potato scallops just like the potato fritters from the local fish & chip shop. Perhaps it was a deprivation of takeaways in my early childhood that fueled the desire to make my own?!

At the other, more high-brow end of the culinary spectrum, I was precociously attracted to quite complex recipes with intriguing ingredient combinations and elaborate garnishing. Hence the appeal of the - exotic sounding at the time - Cheese Crusted Apple Tart. This recipe featured in an AWW book titled 'Easy Entertaining'.

Our lifestyles seem to have changed quite a lot since this book was printed in the 1980's, as these days making pastry, chilling, rolling and blind baking it, meanwhile peeling, chopping and cooking the apple filling, preparing the crumble topping, followed by more cooking of the assembled tart (not to mention whipping and piping the cream garnish) wouldn't really cut it in the easy entertaining stakes!

However, despite the labour intensive process this dessert became a family favourite. I decided to make it recently for nostalgic reasons - piped cream, sprinkled cinnamon and all - and we found it to be just as delicious as ever. The cheese pastry is really tasty, and a nice contrast to the sweet filling. it would also make a delicious, crispy pastry for savoury tart.

Cheese-crusted Apple Tart


1 c flour, 1/2 c self raising flour, 2 tbsp castor sugar, 125g butter, 1/2c grated tasty cheese
1/2 c water, approx


4 large granny smith apples ( I doubled this to give the filling more height)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp plain flour
1/3c sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon


1/3c brown sugar
1/3 c flour
1/2 c almonds
60g butter

For pastry, combine flours and sugar, rub in butter, add cheese and enough water to mix to a firm dough. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the filling, coarsely chop the apples and add to a saucepan with the lemon juice. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes until tender. Add the flour, sugar and cinnamon.

To prepare the topping combine sugar, flour and nuts in a bowl or food processor. Rub in butter until mixture is coarse and crumbly.

Roll pastry out and line a 23cm flan tin (preferably loose bottomed) Cover with a sheet of baking paper, fill with blind bake beans and bake at 190 for 7 minutes. Remove paper and blind bake, and another 7 minutes. Remove and cool.

Place filling into the cooked pastry case, and sprinkle with the topping. Bake at 190c for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180c for another 15 minutes.

If you are after the old school look, when cool pipe whipped cream swirls on top, dust with cinnamon and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Monday, May 17, 2010

a few of our favourite things...

Becs: Daisy and I were treated by Anna to a lovely weekend up in Auckland. It was a whistle stop tour of all things food and eating-out related, visiting both old favourites and new arrivals around town. One such newbie is 'Little and Friday' a kitchen with a tiny shopfront (in a very non descript part of Belmont on the North Shore) that sells the most delicious array of rustic looking pastries, cakes and other treats. We enjoyed a cheese straw, savoury brioche with feta, tomato and basil, a mushroom, caramelised onion and cheese tart, and a pear, honey and almond tart. Their intention was to open on Fridays only, hence the name, but their food is so popular they now open 5 days a week.

Miriam: Crisps, or chips as us kiwis tend to call them fall into the 'occasional' food consumption category. So if you're going to eat them, you might as well eat good ones like these Proper Crisps. Handmade with nothing but potatoes, sunflower oil and sea salt, they are deliciously crispy, fresh and oh so scrumptious. At around $5 a bag, they're a bit more expensive than other crisps but they're well worth it - I also appreciate that unlike more commercial products, the packet is full to the brim with crisps!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday baking - feijoa coconut bread

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...

Here's a good recipe to make while feijoas (my favourite fruit) are around. I really liked this loaf, it had a delicious tropical flavour, and the texture from the cooconut took away that grittiness that feijoas can give to cakes. I didn't have quite enough feijoas - with my source not being a free one they are less than abundant around here - so I made up the difference with mashed banana. Feijoas have such a strong flavour I don't think it would have made too much difference, and I think I will make this next time as banana bread. There is an option to ice it but it really doesn't need it, a little icing sugar does the trick.

The recipe makes 2 huge loaves, so enjoy one now and perhaps pop one in the freezer for winter when you are missing feijoas...

feijoa coconut bread - week seven (Susan Fleischl)

460g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
420g castor sugar
330ml vegetable oil (I used 300ml and this was fine)
2 tbsp vanilla extract
125ml buttermilk (none in the fridge, so I used warmed milk with a squeeze of lemon juice)
1 1/2 c feijoas, peeled and mashed (I used 1 c feijoas and 1/2 c banana)

Preheat the oven to 170c. Line 2 large loaf tins with baking paper.

Combine dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl combine the eggs, sugar, oil, vanilla and milk until smooth.

Gently combine the two mixtures, then fold in the feijoa and coconut.

Bake for 50 minutes (mine took an hour) or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

two great doughs

The 'no knead' bread concept has been taking the world by storm for the last couple of years. By letting the dough rest in the fridge, it allows time for the gluten to develop slowly, instead of requiring the usual kneading to do this job, making bread baking super easy. The book 'Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day' is where I have adapted these master recipes from, and if you google no knead bread you will be presented with loads of other recipe options. For a fabulous no knead ciabatta recipe check out Tina's blog for Karyn's recipe.

My favourite no knead recipe makes a great all purpose dough that can be stretched out and baked as a rustic ciabatta style loaf, rolled out and stuffed to make pinwheels, it is also fantastic used to make pizza, calzone or breadsticks. You can keep it in the fridge for up to two weeks, so it is really handy to have on hand to rustle up a last minute pizza or loaf of bread to accompany lunch or din ner.

I use Edmonds instant yeast, which comes in sachets of around 8g.

easy no knead dough

1 tbsp instant yeast
1 tbsp salt
3 c warm water
6 c flour

Combine water, yeast and salt. Add flour and mix well with a wooden spoon until the flour is combined, it will be quite sticky still. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 3-4 hours, until the dough rises up then collapses.

Place in the fridge and keep chilled at least overnight but for up to 14 days. The longer time the dough rests in the fridge the more the bread will develop delicious sourdough like flavours. It may go a little grey on top but that's ok, it's just the yeast doing its thing...

Shape as desired and bake in a hot oven (230c) or for stuffed flatbread like pinwheels or calzone 200c.

It is just as easy to make a sweet brioche-style dough, using a similar hands-off method. This dough keeps for up to 5 days, so you can make it on a weeknight to enjoy for a weekend breakfast.

no knead sweet dough

2 eggs
60g butter, melted
1/4 c honey
1 c warm water
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 c flour

In a large bowl combine the eggs, honey, butter, water, yeast and salt. Add the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

To make cinnamon rolls combine 100g soft butter, 75g white sugar, 75g brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. the ingredients for the cinnamon butter and beat well until combined. Roll out dough on a floured board, as thinly as possible, then use a spatula to cover with the cinnamon butter. Roll up tightly, then use a serrated knife to saw the log into 12 rounds. Place in muffin tins and bake at 170c for around 20 minutes.

To make glazed sticky buns with wanuts like the one in the picture above check out this link.

To make pain au raisin, make up some extra thick custard (cheats way = combine 2 tbsp custard powder and 2 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp milk and mix to a smooth paste, then add 2 c milk and simmer or microwave until thickened) Let custard cool overnight. Soak 1 c raisins in boiling water for twenty minutes until plump and juicy, drain. Spread rolled out dough with custard, scatter with raisins and bake as above.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: One of my favourite weekend lunches is halloumi cheese. I sliced up a small block of Zany Zeus halloumi, fried it for a minute on each side in a heavy pan and ate it with grilled baguette, greens and a squeeze of lemon. Deliciously salty and just a little squeaky!

Miriam: My Nana & Grandad lived in the small South Island town of Temuka. When Grandad was in his 60's he developed Alzheimer’s disease. As his memory began to fail him, Grandad would go for walks into town and would often decide to buy his dear wife something nice, such as a new necklace, handkerchief or some fake flowers. Grandad wouldn't remember that he'd already bought Nana a necklace/handkerchief/fake flowers the previous day/week/month/year. And so it was that Nana developed quite an extensive jewellery, handkerchief and fake flower collection. Both Nana & Grandad have since died, however, as one of four Granddaughters, I've inherited 1/4 of Nana's necklace collection. I love rummaging through this treasure trove of bling and can find jewels to suit any occasion. I'm sure both Nana & Grandad would be pleased with how much wear the necklaces get!

Becs: Daisy caught a cold last week, and the rest of the family were quick to I have been drinking a lot of hot lemon honeys lately in lieu of soy flat whites. When I was pregnant last winter in the midst of the swine flu outbreak I drank a hot lemon honey every morning and didn't once get sick. Might be time to start that little ritual up again...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Thursday baking - Apricot & Prune Cake

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...

Apricot & prune cake was popular with mum and her friends in the 90s and I remember quite liking it too! This is the first time I've made this cake myself and it tasted so deliciously familiar. Given how much I love dried fruit (especially prunes) this is definitely a cake I'll make again.

The recipe says to bake the cake in a ring tin but any cake tin would do. I used a bundt tin, partly because the weighty cast-aluminum tin helps my inadequate oven to evenly distribute heat, but also because mum always made this recipe in a bundt tin and it always worked well. I didn't sprinkle the second half of the cinnamon mix on top (because the top of a bundt cake becomes the bottom) - I saved it for my next apricot and prune cake.

It's worth thinking ahead and soaking the dried fruit in tea - without this step, the cake becomes quite dry after a day or so. Not that it lasted that long anyway... we had it for afternoon tea on a Sunday and then I took the rest into work for morning tea the following day.

Apricot & Prune Cake - week six (Annabelle White)

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup chopped pitted prunes
water or cold tea
170g butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups standard flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Cinnamon mix
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

To serve
Icing sugar

Cover the dried fruit with tea or cold water. Leave for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease a 25cm ring tin.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Follow with the dry ingredients and milk. Lastly drain the fruit and fold through gently.

Combine the ingredients for the cinnamon mix.

Place half the cake mixture in the greased tin and sprinkle with half the cinnamon mix. Place the remaining batter into the tin and sprinkle with the rest of the cinnamon mix (unless you're making a bundt cake like me!)

Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until a skewer in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes.

This cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container.

Delicious served with cream and a dusting of icing sugar.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Daisy has been enjoying munching on new season's apples with the help of her new 'Veggie Nibbler' - a very clever little invention that lets wee ones chew on fruit and veges safely tucked away in a net.

Miriam: After 4 months in storage, I finally have retrieved my belongings and moved into a lovely wee bungalow in Kingsland. Being reunited with my possessions felt like Christmas - I have rediscovered so many treasures. One of my favourite things is this painting given to my by my good friend, artist Bridget Spencer. It now takes pride of place above the fireplace.

Becs: I love anything pastry and/or custard-related, and these 'beestings' from one of the baking stalls at the Christchurch Farmers Market are a real favourite. The dough is similar to a doughnut, and it is baked with a crunchy, almondy frangipane-style topping, and filled with the most delicious creme patisserie. There is not too much dough, providing a perfect ratio to the custard filling. They are enormous, so a quarter is plenty but a half is also easily managed! The beestings appear at the market on a rather haphazard basis, which perhaps makes me like them even more...

Libby: There are lots of cheap Malaysian restaurants in Wellington but my favourite is Roti Chenai. I visit reasonably regularly but only ever order one of two things - chicken chilli masala or chicken dosai because they are what Roti Chenai does best. On my most recent visit I ordered the chicken dosai - a crispy rice flour pancake filled with spiced chicken and served with a side of curry (or dahl if you choose) and a couple of condiments (I've never figured out exactly what they are). I noticed they'd given the place a bit of a makeover with a new counter area studded with brightly coloured gemstones but you don't go to Roti Chenai for the decor (interesting as it is), you go for the food!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

scones with jam & cream

Lemonade scones must be one of the easiest baked goods to make; just 4 ingredients are required to produce these delicate light scones. I made these scones for Sunday morning tea which we enjoyed with jam & cream while sitting outside basking in the autumn sunshine. Well actually I enjoyed my scone with cream & jam, while everyone else had them with jam & cream, which sparked a bit of a debate, jam first or cream? My rationale (which I think came from mum) is that cream is like butter so should go on the bottom, Jane & Lewi think as jam is heavier it belongs on the bottom. Any thoughts?
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