Thursday, December 23, 2010

thursday baking - vanna's chocolate cake

Vanna's chocolate cake - Kate Fraser, Week 34

I made this chocolate cake for dessert and was expecting great things given how involved the method was but I have to say I was disappointed. It wasn't chocolately enough - the recipe calls for 150g of dark chocolate but no cocoa, and even though I added a couple of tablespoons but it still wasn't enough.

I made a couple of other changes to the recipe. I didn't add the 1 tablespoon of marmalade as specified, mainly because I didn't have any but also because I can't imagine how a tablespoon of marmalade would add anything other than annoying chunks of citrus peel. Yuk. I also iced the cake with chocolate ganache (150g chopped dark chocolate stirred into 150mls of hot cream) rather than the icing in the recipe. This was a good idea. The ganache and the raspberries were the best part of this cake.

Although the recipe says it's suitable for both good cooks and novice bakers I have to disagree. Unless you wanted to include every possible technique in one recipe - melting chocolate, creaming butter and sugar, whipping egg whites, folding etc... it also creates enough dishes to dishearten even the most experienced of kitchenhands. The recipe also claimed this cake was quite sticky and keeps well but I didn't agree with this either - I found the texture more "chalky" that moist. Perhaps I over cooked it? But I'm not willing to try again - there are better chocolate cake recipes out there.

So now that I've completely rubbished this recipe I'm not going to bother writing it up but will instead leave you with some pictures. This was one of those cakes that looked better than it tasted:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

christmas nut pies

Most Christmases, I make these nut pies, as gifts and to fill the baking tins. They're a bit like baby pecan pies and are perfect little mouth fulls of nutty, caramel goodness. They are pretty simple to make (it's a Jo Segar recipe), and you can use any mixture of nuts. I filled these ones with cashews, brazil nuts, almonds and macadamias.

I don't normally serve these with a sprig of mint - but decided the festive red plate needed some green garnishing to complete the look!

Christmas Nut Pies

125g butter
1 cup flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 cup roughly chopped nuts
60g melted butter
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence

Place butter, flour and icing sugar in the food processor and run until the pastry clumps in a ball. Divide into 16 balls (although I can stretch this to 24) and press into mini muffin tins. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

Divide nuts between chilled pastry cases. Mix melted butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla together till smooth. Pour over nuts. Bake 180C for 20 minutes until golden.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

dinner date - roast chicken with saffron, hazelnuts & honey

I made this chicken from the Ottolenghi cookbook after hearing how good it was from Chloe and Weston. They were right: it is AMAZING! It's so simple but so delicious and so fragrant. The recipe calls for you to cut a whole organic chicken into pieces - too much hassle when have no butchery skills so I just used bone-in chicken thighs. Boneless would work fine too.

I bought saffron especially for this recipe but I'm unsure whether you'd actually notice if you left it out with so many other flavours in there... it sure is expensive and although I knew that when to Moore Wilson to get the ingredients I still gasped when I saw the tiny wee tuft of strands I got for $9!

We ate the chicken with plain couscous and a green salad. It's a great meal if you're having people over on a week night as you can do all the prep the night before and throw it in the oven when you get home. Try it!

6-8 chicken pieces (I used bone-in, skinless thighs)
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a big pinch of saffron
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp cold water
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
100g unskinned hazelnuts
70g honey
2 tbsp rosewater
2 spring onions, roughly chopped (I forgot about these but they're only for garnishing)

Mix the chicken with the onion, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper. Leave it to marinate for at least an hour (or overnight in the fridge).

Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Spread the hazelnuts out in a baking tray and roast for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Keep a close eye on them as they can go from browned to burnt very quickly. The recipe says to chop and set aside but I placed them in a clean teatowel first and rubbed the skins off.

Place the chicken and marinade into a large roasting tray, with the chicken skin-side up (if your chicken has skin). Put in the oven for about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the chopped hazelnuts with the honey and rosewater to make a rough paste. Remove the chicken from the oven and spoon a generous amount of the nut paste onto each piece, pressing it on to the top of each piece. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, making sure that the chicken is thoroughly cooked and the nuts are golden brown.

Monday, December 20, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Becs: My favourite 'fancy' salt is Pacific Flaky Sea Salt, made right here in Marlborough, NZ. I prefer it to the imported Maldon salt, the Pacific salt flakes are perfect just as they are to use as a finishing salt. Best of all you can find it in most supermarkets for around the $5 mark. I buy the iodised variant.

Miriam: Despite my birthday being two months ago, this week I got two presents. One was this beautiful ring that my friends Lewi, Jane, Nat & Kate all contributed to. It's made in rose gold and has a sapphire in the middle. The other was a pair of glasses, spectacles in fact. A present from Dad, who proceeded to inform me that boys seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses! Humph!

Libby: I was contemplating boning a chicken but wasn't sure I'd still want to eat chicken afterwards so called the Wadestown Gourmet Butchery to see about getting a professional to do the job. I dropped off my stuffing and a short while later I picked up my boned, stuffed, free-range, corn-fed chicken that had been neatly "bazooka-ed" into netting! All for their everyday price for a chicken. Such service!

Friday, December 17, 2010

a sweet and salty treat

Please make these! Salty Salada crackers, sweet crunchy butter caramel, dark semi-bitter chocolate. The texture and flavour combination is amazing. Adaptations of this recipe seems to be doing the rounds of late, and for good reason. It is very quick to make, and very easy to eat. The sweet/salty combination makes it especially moreish. I know the crackers sound a bit odd, but it really works, with their crunch and salty flavour. As it cooks in the oven the caramel coats the crackers so they end up in the middle of the slice.

For pictures of the process check out Nessie's blog, in the meantime here's my version of the recipe....

salted butter caramel crunch

250g salted butter
1 c brown sugar
1 pkt Salada crackers (they come with 2 pkts per box)
1 kingsize block (250g) Whittakers dark ghana chocolate, roughly chopped
Flaky seasalt to sprinkle - I used Pacific Flaky

Preheat oven to 180c. Line a swiss roll tin with baking paper. Lay out the Salada crackers over the tray to evenly cover the base, a few cracks here and there won't matter. Melt butter and brown sugar together, bring to the boil, and boil hard for 3 minutes. Pour over the crackers, and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from oven, scatter the chopped chocolate over, and leave to sit for a minute. Use a heatproof spatula to evenly spread the melting chocolate over the caramel. Sprinkle with salt, crushing larger flakes between your fingers. Leave overnight to set then use your hands to snap into pieces, like peanut brittle. Store in an airtight container somewhere cool.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

thursday baking - date and orange muffins

This week's post comes courtesy of Jessica...

I quite like the trick of using whole oranges in baking. Some recipes call for the oranges to be boiled first, but here, two oranges are thrown straight into the food processor and blended up with the other ingredients.
These muffins have quite a different texture from what I usually associate with muffins. They were very moist and cakey, almost like friands. I think the inclusion of the orange skin made the muffins slightly bitter, but in a good way, so they really needed the dates as little bursts of sweetness. My husband, on the other hand, thought they could have done with more sugar, but then he has a very sweet tooth! This recipe also makes A LOT of muffins (or maybe I just made mine quite small). The recipe says it makes 24, but I got 28, and as I only have one muffin tin, this meant the whole baking process took a while as I waited for the muffins to cool before removing them and putting the next batch in the oven. It's lucky that they do freeze well!
Date & Orange Muffins - Annabelle White
2 oranges
2 large eggs
200g butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 Cup pitted dates, roughly chopped
400g natural yoghurt
a little lemon juice
3/4 Cup sugar
3 Cups standard flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Grease two 12-hole muffin pans.

Blend the whole oranges in the food processor--skin, seeds, everything! Add the eggs and melted butter. Whirl the mixture around, but do not over-process. Place it in a large bowl with the dates.

Mix the yoghurt, lemon juice and sugar together in a bowl. Sift the dry ingredients into another bowl. Add the yoghurt mixture and the dry ingredients to the orange mixture, alternating small amounts of each.
Just blend with the lightest movement--do not over-mix. Place 2 tablespoons of batter in each hole of the prepared muffin pans.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the muffins comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack. The muffins keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container. These muffins also freeze well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

banana bread

I have been thrashing this banana bread recipe lately, and seem to be making it once every other week. It is so, so easy to put together, only using one bowl, and as a bonus it makes 2 loaves, so you can fill a tin and the freezer...I sliced up one of the loaves above to freeze for lunches. The recipe is adapted from the feijoa and coconut bread recipe in The NZ Treasury of Baking. While delicious warm from the oven, I prefer the texture of this banana bread the next day, when it becomes damper and slightly sticky. Yum.

One bowl banana bread

3 eggs
400g sugar
300ml rice bran oil
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c yoghurt
1 1/2 c mashed banana (about 4 large bananas)

Combine the above ingredients in a large bowl (I use the Kenwood mixer). Add the ingredients below, and mix until just combined.

1 c desiccated coconut
460g flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Divide mix between 2 loaf tins that have been lined with baking paper. Bake at 170c for 40 minutes or so. They smell so good cooking in the oven!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

dinner date - corn fritters

Corn fritters are something I rarely order in cafes, for fear of the stodgy, super-thick versions so often served up. This recipe is based on one of Richard Till's that featured a while ago in the Sunday paper. These fritters are chock-full of corn, and held together by a minimum of flour, so they crisp up nicely and taste like corn rather than batter. The cheese is a delicious addition too.

We ate the fritters with sour cream, some chunky guacamole and a dollop of tomato chilli jam. I picked up a cheap box of sauce tomatoes the other day at the local vege shop, so our chilli jam stocks have happily been replenished. I make Ruth Pretty's recipe (which was originally Peter Gordon's) and love it. It is lovely with anything you would serve sweet chilli sauce with, but has fish sauce, ginger and garlic in it so has more depth of's addictive.

corn fritters

3 cobs corn (or about 3c corn kernals, tinned or frozen)
3 eggs
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 c grated cheese
1/4c chopped herbs - parsley, basil, chives etc
1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
ground pepper to taste
oil for frying

Strip off the corn kernals, and put 1/2 of the corn into the food processor and the rest into a bowl. Into the bowl add the pepper, herbs and cheese. Into the food processor add the eggs, salt and pepper, and blend well with the corn. Add the flour and baking powder and whizz some more. Pour the contents of the food processor into the bowl, and fold together. Fry in a little oil in a heavy pan.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: This banana salsa is one of our family's classic recipes. Mum used to go off for a ladies day at a cook school every now and then and this is one of the recipes she picked up. The original recipe calls for pawpaw and lists banana as a substitute but we've never made it with pawpaw. (I think pawpaw smells like vomit anyway.) To make the salsa mix a handful of chopped dates, a diced red capsicum, a handful of chopped mint (and sometimes parsley too), a little fresh chilli, some olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and a sliced banana (add the banana at the last minute). It may sound a strange combination but it's the perfect accompaniment to a butterflied leg of lamb cooked on the barbeque - try it this summer!

Becs: I just love these little stools. I bought a trio of them a while ago on Trade Me, went shopping for some pretty oilcloth at Femme de Brocante, and sent them off to the upholsterer to be beautified. They were returned last week, looking as cute as can be. They are proving very useful too, currently being used as a bedside table, Daisy-feeding perch, and doorstop...

Miriam: In keeping with the silly season, Sunday was re-named 'Snakebite Sunday' and the afternoon was spent sitting in the sun with a group of friends drinking snakebites. For those unfamiliar with this delicacy (I'm not sure if this is the correct word?), snakebites are a mixture of beer, cider and raspberry cordial. Purists may scoff at this combination, but it is surprisingly refreshing and social too - there was a strong sense of comradery among fellow snakebite drinkers!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Trifle: the perfect pudding breakfast

This easy strawberry and Cointreau trifle is a perfect "make-ahead" dessert as it improves enormously with a day or so in the fridge... and the leftovers are the perfect "pudding breakfast".

I made it for a mid-week potluck Christmas dinner so prepared it the night before, then came home from work, covered it with whipped cream, sprinkled it with a crushed flake and headed out the door with it. I used bought custard, (which I am strangely fond of), but it you have the time and forethought you could make your own.... But that would mean getting started a couple of nights before to give the custard time to chill. Same with the sponge cake.

The dinner was over-catered, as potluck dinners invariably are, so I returned home with half a trifle to get through... I took some to work the following day for an mid-afternoon pick-me-up... and pick me up it did! I may have been a little heavy handed with the Cointreau as it felt like I was drinking on the job! If anyone had come too close I'm sure they would've smelled the alcohol on my breath.

I used Cointreau but any favourite liqueur would do. Or perhaps orange juice if you're not into boozy trifle... orange juice would also make this trifle more acceptable as a "pudding breakfast"... unless, of course, you see nothing wrong with drinking before 9am!

Strawberry and Cointreau Trifle
1 packet of sponge fingers or your best home-made sponge cake
600ml custard - bought or home-made
Cointreau or other liqueur (or orange juice) as required!
2 punnets of strawberries, hulled and sliced
300ml cream, softly whipped
1 chocolate flake bar

Dip the sponge fingers into Cointreau and line the bottom of a 20-ish centimetre square dish with them. Cover with sliced strawberries, custard and another layer of Cointreau-dipped sponge fingers. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight if possible.

An hour or two before serving, cover the trifle with whipped cream and sprinkle over crumbled chocolate. Chill until ready to serve in generous slices with extra fresh berries.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

thursday baking - blueberry and yoghurt scones

Morning tea today was one of these delicious scones, warm from the oven. The yoghurt in them makes them beautifully light, and the sugar on top forms a lovely crunchy crust. I stocked up on frozen blueberries yesterday, Countdown sell the -18 below brand of frozen blueberries which were on sale for just $7.99 for a kilo bag, a great price. Lois Daish has long been one of my favourite NZ food writers, her departure from NZ Listener being sadly lamented. The recipe makes 9 scones, just the right amount to eat while they are still fresh. I will definitely be making these scones again.

Blueberry and Yoghurt Scones - Lois Daish - Week 32

2 c flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp castor sugar
80g butter
1/4 c natural yoghurt
3/4 c milk (may need a little more)
milk/sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 200c. Combine the flour, bp and sugar. Rub in butter with fingertips. Add combined yoghurt and milk, pouring into a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Mix lightly with a knife until just combined. Gently pat into a square 2-3 cm thick, and cut into 9 scones. Brush tops of scones with the milk and sprinkle with extra sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and crunchy on top and bottom.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dinner date - chorizo tray bake salad

This is not so much a recipe as ingredient assembly. Inspiration for this quick but very tasty dinner comes courtesy of Chloe. Simply fill a roasting tray with chunks of potato, garlic cloves (skin on), chopped up good quality sausages, handfuls of stale bread, and chunky pieces of any other veges that take your fancy. Drizzle with olive oil and season with chopped rosemary, salt and pepper, and roast at 200c for 30 minutes or so until everything is well cooked.

I used my favourite chorizo, and roasted it alongside potato and garlic, red pepper, courgette and ciabatta. (I added the bread nearer the end of cooking so it didn't cook to a complete crisp...) After letting everything cool slightly I tossed through handfuls of salad greens, and we ate it as a warm salad. Such an easy dinner and really delicious.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: I do love the silly season! We've just decorated our Christmas tree, which we purchased using a voucher off Grabone - a website that has a new special each day. It's oh so hard to resist Grabone's bargains, especially as the website remembers your credit card details so at the click of a button you can grab the daily bargain. The top of our tree is decorated with a 'Pavlova Fairy' which my friend Maureen gave me for Christmas last year. It adds a lovely kiwi flavour!

Libby: I finally visited Maranui cafe for the first time since they reopened post-fire. I enjoyed this delicious berry smoothie in the sunshine with friends. I used to make something similar when I worked in a cafe - it's just frozen berries blended with some banana and juice but it tastes so so good!

Daisy has been enjoying the fine weather lately, and pushing her trolley around outside on the grass.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday baking - melting moments

As we bake our way through a treasury of New Zealand Baking

For Daisy's first birthday I was delegated the task of making mini melting moments. I used the recipe from ATONZB, which I've made several times before with good success. Halfway through making these, I realised we were low on cornflour, so I made the difference up with custard powder, which worked well. These melting moments were melt-in-your mouth, and perfect in miniature, as otherwise all that butter can make one feel rather ill.

Here's the recipe (adapted to the way I made it)

Melting Moments - Alyson Gofton


275g butter, softened

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

1 1/2 cups standard flour

1/4 cup cornflour

1/4 cup custard powder

Lemon butter icing

100g butter

1 1/2 cups icing sugar

few drops of vanilla essence

1-2 tbsp milk

grated zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat the oven to 160C. To make biscuits beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla together until light and creamy. Sift dry ingredients and mix into beaten ingredients. Do not over-mix. Roll small spoonfuls into balls and place on a lined baking tray. Dip a fork into four and flatten the dough balls gently. Bake for 18-20 mins until the biscuits are firm and beginning to brown a little around the edges.

To make the lemon butter icing, beat the butter until it is pale and fluffy. Sift the icing sugar and beat into the creamed butter with the vanilla and sufficient milk until you have a fluffy, light mixture. Add the lemon zest and juice to the butter icing and beat them in well. Once the biscuits are cold, join them with icing. Store in an airtight container.

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

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