Monday, November 29, 2010

Dinner date - ramen attempt no.1

This is my first attempt at recreating the ramen noodles we ate at a fanastic little ramen bar (Cocolo) in Berlin. It wasn't bad for a first go, but needs a few adjustments to get it closer to the real thing.

It's an easy, assembly type dinner that you can mix and match according to what you have available and what you like.

Ramen noodles (soba noodles would work well too)
Dumplings (I used bought ones but homemade would be a big improvement)
Corn kernals (freshly cut from a cob would be so much better)
Spring onions, finely sliced
Mung bean sprouts
Chicken breast, thinly sliced
Chicken stock
Miso soup (I just used a sachet)

For two servings, simmer one cup of miso soup and one cup of chicken stock. Add 8-10 dumplings and simmer for five minutes or so until they rise to the surface. Add one finely sliced chicken breast. Simmer for a further five minutes.

While you are cooking the dumpling and chicken, cook the ramen noodles according to the instructions. Drain and place noodles in bowls. Add dumplings and chicken to each bowl and ladle over some of the broth. Pile mung bean sprouts, spring onions, corn and any other additions on top.

For my next attempt I'll try a soya-based broth as the chicken/miso combination was a little on the bland side and top with some crispy shallots. I'm also going to make my own dumplings (using Plum Kitchen's recipe here) instead of being lazy and using the horrid frozen ones I picked up at New World. That turns it into less of a "quick-assembly" dinner but Plum Kitchen makes dumplings look so easy!

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: This bunch of peonies was an absolute steal at $6 for six stems. I've seen them for as much as $5 a stem - too expensive for something that lasts for a matter of days. I bought these gorgeous peonies from the Hill Street Farmers Market in Thorndon. The stall holder explained the recent warm weather had led to a Hill Street Farmers Market glut of peonies so they were selling them cheaply and they are super-sensitive to warmth: my bunch grew from tight wee buds to blooms the size of saucers overnight!

Becs: I have been enjoying the strawberry season. Prices in Christchurch have finally come down, so at $1.39 a punnet from the local fruit and vege shop they have been on the menu this week. My strawberry patches are gearing up production too. The latest Dish magazine has some delicious strawberry recipes in it. So far I have made the strawberry and hazelnut meringues with crushed strawberry cream, and the roasted strawberry and rhubarb compote, both were winners. Next up = strawberry and vanilla brioche.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thursday baking - superb chocolate cake

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

Today's Thursday baking is brought to us by Jessica

This recipe is a good standby when you need a quick chocolate cake. It doesn't require a lot of equipment of dishes which is a bonus too.

Superb Chocolate Cake - Robyn Martin (week 30)

125g butter
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs
1 Cup milk
2 Cups standard flour
1/4 Cup cocoa powder
4 tsp baking powder

Coffee Syrup
1/2 Cup strong black coffee
1/4 Cup sugar
25g butter

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line the base of a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper. Melt the butter in a saucepan large enough to mix all the ingredients. Mix in the sugar, then remove from the heat. Beat the eggs and milk together. Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder and add to the butter mixture with the egg-milk combination. Mix to combine. Pour into the prepared tin. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes while you prepare the coffee syrup.To make the coffee syrup, bring the coffee and sugar to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Mix in the butter until melted. Remove from the heat. Turn the cake out on to a wire rack, spoon coffee syrup over the cake and leave to cool. Store in an airtight container.

I would describe this cake as a good 'everyday' sort of a cake, rather than a 'special occasion' sort. It's not particularly rich or decadent due to the use of cocoa instead of chocolate. The coffee syrup adds sweetness and depth of flavour to the chocolate, rather than actually tasting that much like coffee. The taste intensified when left overnight, but didn't keep the cake as moist as I would have expected it to. This is probably because most of the syrup ran off the cake rather than being absorbed in. I would recommend serving it with a good dollop of whipped cream to add some moistness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

dinner date - fish + chips

We have fish every Tuesday for dinner, thanks to Homefresh Deliveries who drop off a surprise package to our doorstep each week. Last time it was gurnard, not a favourite, but I thought it would be perfect to try out this recipe for ginger beer battered fish from the book Ruth Pretty Entertains. This made a deliciously light and crispy batter, with a hint of sweetness from the ginger beer. We ate it with homemade chips made using a favourite Julie Biuso recipe - baking them in white wine results in the crunchiest chips ever, do try it!

basil's ginger beer battered fish

1 c flour
2 tbsp cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp flaky salt
1 1/4 c ginger beer (315ml)
2 egg whites, lightly whisked
3 tbsp finely chopped Italian parsley
1/2 c flour, seasoned with S+P
500g firm fish

Combine flours, bp and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the middle and pour in the ginger beer, whisk until smooth. Gently fold in egg whites till just combined.

Place parsley onto a plate, and the seasoned flour onto another. Dip fish into the parsley, then the flour, then the batter. Shallow fry in hot oil.

crunchy homemade chips (for 6)

2kg agria potatoes, peeled and cut into chips
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c dry white wine
1/2 tsp salt
pepper ground to taste
2 tbsp butter, cut into small cubes

Pat potato chips dry in a tea towel and lay out in a roasting tray. Pour over the oil and wine and sprinkle with s + p. Toss the potatoes in the mixture and then dot with the butter. Bake in a preheated oven at 200c for 1 to 1-1/2 hours, turning every now and then.

Monday, November 22, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Becs: I thought I was over cupcakes, they so often seem to be (over the top) style over substance that overpromise and then fail to deliver on taste. Then I tried one last week from Petal in Newmarket. A simple piped rosette of intensely flavoured icing - we tried the 'ripe strawberry' - tops a deliciously moist vanilla cake. The 'snifter' and 'black doris plum' sounded divine too, but shall have to wait for another visit. I also love the photo above from their facebook page, beautiful.

Miriam: There's a new cafe in town - The Rabbithole opened a few weeks ago on Jervois Road in Herne Bay. It's in a great wee spot, with a lovely outdoor area. We had lunch there last week, with good coffee and great food. Three of us shared cottage griddle hotcakes with apple and blackberry compote, mushrooms with garlic crumbs and a breakfast salad with chorizo. Delicious.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dinner date - go go gozleme

Okay, so this wasn't technically dinner. I didn't have anything prepared for dinner date this week, so I'm writing about flatbreads that my flatmate Lewi made as a lunchtime snack.

The recipe comes from Rachel Grisewood's "Manna from Heaven" and they are called Spinach, Cumin and Coriander Flatbreads. However, they are very similar to Turkish Gozleme, especially as Lewi adapts the mixture by adding feta. This batch was made with spinach and silverbeet from our vege garden. They're certainly a delicious snack, but Lewi warns that there's a bit of admin involved, what with rolling out the dough, sandwiching the filling, and then frying each flatbread. But they're not difficult to make, and if you have the time, they're worth making.

2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
1 cup water

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bunch of spinach, steamed and roughly chopped (squeeze out all the moisture)
sea salt, black pepper, coriander to garnish

Dipping sauce
Greek yoghurt
lemon juice

For the dough: Combine flour, oil, salt and water in food processor and whiz for 30 seconds. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

For the filling: heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and cook over medium heat until just brown. Add the garlic and spices and fry for 30 seconds. Mix in the spinach and add salt and pepper to taste. Also crumble in feta if you are using this.

Divide the dough into eight balls. Lightly flour a work surface and roll each ball of dough into a round approximately 20cm in diameter. Spread some of the spinach mixture on half the dough, then fold over the other half to enclose the filling. Run your rolling pin over the top a few times to flatten and seal the edges. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Layer the flatbreads on sheets of baking paper, so they don't stick together. To cook the flatbreads, heat a little oil in a heavy-based frying pan until very hot. Add one flatbread at a time and fry until golden brown on each side. Serve warm with a side with greek yoghurt mixed with lemon juice and garnish with fresh coriander.

Monday, November 15, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Miriam: When I lived in the UK a few years back I was introduced to Green & Blacks chocolate, which may in part be responsible for the 'Heathrow injection' I experienced (i.e. weight gain!). This chocolate is now stocked in most supermarkets in N.Z. which is wonderful, if eaten in moderation. My all time favourite flavour is their Mint Fondant, which isn't stocked here... perhaps that's a blessing!

Becs: Something we have been enjoying lately is aioli. So easy to make and so delicious. We ate it last night with salt and pepper squid, and tonight with cheesey polenta fries. I like to blanch the garlic first so it has a smoother, sweeter taste (similar to roasting but quicker and easier.) Just boil the separated cloves with skin on for 5 minutes or until soft. To make a generous cupful of aioli put 2 egg yolks in the food processor with 1/2 tsp dijon mustard, the juice of half a lemon, 1/2 tsp salt, freshly ground pepper and 3-4 cloves of the peeled, blanched garlic. Blitz it up, then slowly drizzle in 1 c of vegetable oil while the engine is running, add it slowly until it forms a lovely thick mayo. Nice with most things!

Libby: I've been enjoying the last of the seasons New Zealand navel oranges, they're now being overtaken in the supermarket by their Australian counterpart. Not nearly as delicious. Their thick skins mean the easiest way to eat them is sliced into quarters and eaten from the skin, I've also been peeling and slicing lots into a crunchy spring salad of blanched asparagus & broccoli, baby spinach and toasted almonds. YUM!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

thursday baking - date scones

I had a sudden urge to make date scones while home sick one day last week so used this scone recipe with the suggested addition of dates. They were so good I've made them again since. They keep really well in the freezer - perhaps the addition of an egg helps? - so I've been taking them to work one-at-a-time for morning tea.

I used a generous cup of dates because I love them and also added a sprinkle of demerara sugar on top before baking because it looks pretty and gives a lovely, sugary crunch.
As we bake our way through A Treasury of New Zealand Baking...

Scones - Lesley Christensen-Yule (week 29)

3 cups self-raising flour

1 tb icing sugar

1/4 tsp salt

50g cold butter, chopped

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/2 cup buttermilk or 1c yoghurt plus 1/2 c milk

3/4 cup dates

milk to brush

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius fanbake or 250 degrees Celsius regular bake.

Chop 3/4 cup of dates and soak in boiling water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Put sugar, flour and salt into processor, add butter and pulse until combined, tip into mixing bowl.

Drain dates and add to flour/butter mix.

Mix egg and buttermilk or yoghurt &milk, add to dry mix and mix to form a sticky dough.

Cut into 12-16 squares (depending on the size you're after) and place closely together on a baking tray.

Bake 10-20 mins, or until golden on the outside and cooked in the middle. My oven took nearly half an hour!

Chocolate pudding

Simply called "chocolate pudding, this recipe is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. You can find the recipe here. "Chocolate pudding" makes me think of the stodgy self-saucing variety that we used to love whipping up in the microwave. But this chocolate pudding is on a completely different level - its more of a dense chocolate mousse, deliciously rich, with a lovely smooth velvety texture.

The pudding only contains modest amounts of butter, sugar and chocolate and surprisingly, given the texture, no cream. The combination of milk and cornflour seem to give it the creamy texture. It's not all that nutritious though - I entered the recipe into the FSANZ Nutrition Panel calculator/generator and was bitterly disappointed!

The recipe requires lots of pouring mixtures between saucepans and the food processor so it pays to read the instructions all the way through to avoid making a wrong move. But in saying that, its not at all difficult to make. You just have to be prepared to wash a big pile of dishes once you're done!

We enjoyed the pudding with some less-than-perfect early season strawberries and a spoonful of softly whipped cream. But it's even better with some beautifully ripe raspberries and a little Cyclops sour cream.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

dinner date - burmese chicken curry

I spotted this delicious recipe for Burmese Chicken Curry a few weeks ago over at the blog pod and three peas (which is a great source of dinner inspiration, it's where I frequently get mine!) The curry recipe is from Australian cook Belinda Jeffery's book 100 Favourite Recipes. I love her book Mix & Bake, and have been trying to track this other one down in NZ but so far to no avail...Belinda Jeffery is sadly underrated this side of the Tasman.

This curry involves a fair amount of chopping at the start, but is well worth it, as once your prep is done it goes into the oven for an hour and a half to cook quietly until the meat nearly falls off the bone. If you use a stovetop to oven pan you can get away with very few dishes, just a chopping board, knife, wooden spoon and your pan. It's a great dish to make a day ahead, and can be happily reheated in a slow oven. Last time I made it, I doubled the recipe (apart from the chicken) and froze half the sauce to use next time so I will have a headstart.

It really is a delicious dinner, especially accompanied with some of the fabulous Kawan roti. Often I find homemade curry lacks the depth of flavour of those eaten out, but this one tastes really authentic, or so I imagine having never been to Burma....although Christchurch does boast NZ's only Burmese restaurant - The Bodhi Tree - which is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in town.

For the recipe, see here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Libby: I didn't think I liked boysenberry ice cream and then I tried it on a stick, covered with chocolate and found its really rather delicious. These Kapiti ice creams are sold separately or in boxes of about six at the supermarket, in a slightly smaller size. It can't be easy being up against the Magnums and Memphis Meltdowns in the ice cream freezer but I hope these do well so they're around until at least the end of the summer.

Miriam: My brother gave me this sauce by I Love Pies as he really rates it. We had a party in the weekend. This sauce was too precious to go with the sausage rolls served at midnight but it was much appreciated the following day.

Becs: Potted meat is something I have grown up with, and if I hadn't I doubt I would be so appreciative of it - beef topside steak is simmered for an hour or two in a preserving jar along with butter, salt and anchovy sauce, then pureed, pressed into pots and sealed with a layer of butter - rather an acquired taste. Not so far removed from pate or rilettes if you think about it?! Nanny used to make it, and Mum makes it from time to time, but now one of the stalls at the Christchurch Farmers Market has added it to their range (they sell traditional pork pies). So potted meat on toast can be enjoyed regularly!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

thursday baking - courgette slice

As we bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking

I have been meaning to try this recipe for ages, in fact had photocopied it from the Zarbo Cookbook where it first appeared years ago. It is similar to the Hello Rosie slice baked a few weeks ago, but instead of condensed milk uses a rather huge amount of brown sugar and eggs.

I am still undecided on this slice. As predicted it is VERY sweet, and cloyingly so for my taste. I was tempted to reduce the sugar but stuck to the recipe. I used half a block of Whittakers dark chocolate (50% cocoa) as made with milk chocolate this would be incredibly sweet. The filling is crunchy on top and slightly gooey inside, even more so on the middle of the tray, as the outer edges were a bit more crispy. I will try it again tomorrow when I have a coffee to see what I think of it then!

It makes a huge trayful, so I suggest making it for a crowd, as with the courgette in it I don't think it will be a great keeper.

Courgette Slice - Mark McDonough - Week 28
125g butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 egg (!... I just used a few tbsp of milk)
200g flour


5 eggs
3 c brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
3 tbsp flour
100g sliced almonds
2 1/4 c long thread coconut
1 c chocolate chips
2 1/4 c grated courgette (grate just prior to mixing)

Preheat oven to 180c. Line a 20x30cm slice tin with baking paper.

To make the base beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add the egg, then the flour, stirring to combine. Press into prepared tin in a thin layer. Bake for approx 15 mins until golden brown.

To make the topping combine eggs, brown sugar, vanilla and salt and mix well. Mix in the flour, coconut and chocolate. Grate the courgette and mix this in too. Spread topping over the prepared base and bake at 180c for approx 30-40 minutes. The cooking time will vary according to the amount of moisture in the courgettes. The slice should be firm to touch but soft on the inside.

Cool then cut into slices.

afternoon tea for Daisy

It was Daisy's first birthday recently, a very special occasion, so we celebrated with afternoon tea. The menu was...

Asparagus rolls with fresh mint and citrus butter

Chicken, almond and rocket sandwiches

Club sammies with egg, ham and herb mayo

Lemon meringue tarts

Mum's famous date and caramello slice

Miriam's lovely wee melting moments

Little chocolate eclairs

Thanks to everyone for making it such a special day for us xx


Happy Birthday Daisy x

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

dinner date - buckwheat, eggplant and tomato salad

A few weeks ago I went to a cooking demonstration by Julie Le Clerc, promoting her new book Made By Hand. Unfortunately two of the three dishes she made contained ingredients that weren't to my liking (a salmon terrine and berry & coconut cakes). I was feeling a little anti her book after this, but now that I've had a chance to look through it, there are many other recipies that are to my liking! The other recipe she demonstrated was buckwheat, eggplant and tomato salad. There is nothing technically complicated about this salad that required a demonstration, but the fact that I'd seen it made before did prompt me to make it one night when I was just cooking dinner for myself.

I've never used buckwheat before, but I will be using it again. It has a lovely slightly nutty flavour and a great texture. I think it will become a bit of a staple for my summer salads - this would be a great salad to take to work for lunch.

I modified the recipe slightly, leaving out the garlic as I always find raw garlic a bit overpowering. I also omitted the feta as I didn't have any, but I would certainly put this in the salad if you can. I added some grilled asparagus also, which went nicely with all the flavours.

Buckwheat, eggplant and tomato salad
1 large eggplant, cut into large cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper
8 small vine-ripened tomatoes
1 cup wholegrain buckwheat
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
juice of 2 lemons
100g feta or goat's cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 200C. Roast eggplant tossed with olive oil and salt & pepper in oven until golden brown. Drizzle tomatoes with olive oil, season with salt & pepper and roast for around 10-15mins until the look good. Remove eggplant and tomatoes from oven and cool.

At the same time, cook the buckwheat in boiling water for 6 minutes or until tender to bite. Drain well and set aside.

Place eggplant, buckwheat, garlic, basil and parsley in a bowl. Add lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Serve topped with baked tomatoes and crumbled feta or goat's cheese.

Monday, November 1, 2010

a few of our favourite things...

Becs: When Miriam was in town last week we took a drive out to the Little River Cafe and Store for coffee and a sweet treat. They make the most divine cheesecake brownie, and this time we also sampled their delicious tan square. The attached gallery stocks a great range of NZ art, and the rather old fashioned craft station next door is always good for a browse too; this time I picked up a cute pair of pink polka dot hairties for Daisy and a dozen homegrown tomato seedlings.

Libby: I spent a couple of days in Canberra this week for work. It's not the most vibrant of cities and I'm yet to meet anyone who's been there for anything other than a meeting or a conference but it does have one thing going for it: an excellent bakery. Silo bakery is tucked away in a suburban shopping centre in the residential area of Kingston. I stopped in for a delicious breakfast of raisin toast and fruit salad (so much better than a hotel buffet breakfast) and picked a wee treat for later. Silo make the loveliest tarts and with combinations like banana & caramel, passionfruit & mascarpone and date & ginger it was a tough choice... until I spotted a tart containing my most favourite of dried fruits... prunes!

Miriam: It was my birthday on Wednesday. I was most excited when a courier box arrived at work. Protected by layers of bubble wrap and surrounded in ice packs, were these delicious custard squares from Third Place Cafe in Rotorua. Mum had iced (using her own strawberry icing) and packaged these to deliver her birthday wishes. Such a lovely treat!

Along with custard squares for morning tea, my workmates presented me with this berry cheesecake.
I consider "The Intern" a term of endearment, reflective of the importance of my role, perhaps in a similar league to The Queen, or The President!
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