Wednesday, February 24, 2010

waste not, want not

A little while ago I received the gift below that came beautifully wrapped in fabric and ribbon. (A copy of 'The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding'  thank you Alison and Raewyn!)

I kept the wrapping as it seemed like something that could come in handy later on. Sure enough - in a gesture rather remniscent of Fraulein Maria outfitting the von Trapp brood in playclothes fashioned out of old drapes ("Is it possible - or could I have just imagined it - have my children by any chance been climbing trees today?") - Granny came to the party and whipped up a wee pair of rompers for Daisy.

As you can see, Daisy is pretty happy with them!

Monday, February 22, 2010

a few of our favourite things...

Becs: Something I have been enjoying lately (on the odd day that Christchurch has had hot weather...) has been a Fruju Fruit Whip. They come in two flavours, tropical and berry, and are a little like a smoothie on a stick, not too sweet and very refreshing. I am not one to endorse calorie counting but they are also pretty healthy as far as frozen treats go. Not so cheap at $3.20 a pop but then the days of 25c popsicles are well and truly gone!

Libby: One of my favourite baking ingredients is Equagold premium dutch cocoa. Once you start using it in your afghans, peanut brownies and chocolate cakes you'll never be able to use anything else. I used to buy it in 400g jars for about $12 but I recently discovered it in 1kg bags at Moore Wilson for the bargain price of $15.

Miriam: Last week I was a bit too enthusiastic at the gym and ended up hurting my back (diagnosis: herniated disc in my lumbar spine). Gripped with fear that I would be an invalid for several weeks, I went to the Dr, who gave me drugs and promptly sent me off to see a physio. And there I was fitted with this corset like back brace. It's tighter than anything you could ever hope to buy at an underwear shop and generally restricts most movement. The back brace was my saviour over the following few days and now I'm almost healed. So the back brace can be retired - or at least only worn on occasions where I need to create a nipped in waist!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

salad for the indecisive

I was in one of those moods where I just didn’t know what I felt like for dinner. In search of inspiration I went to Farro Fresh (as an aside, it’s perfectly acceptable to search for ‘inspiration’ at gourmet food shops when you’re an income earner, however as a student I must learn to find inspiration at pak’n’save).

Perhaps I had that ‘lost soul’ look about me, as on two separate occasions I was approached by the very eager staff asking if I needed assistance. I politely declined, and continued my laps of the shop, not quite knowing what I was looking for. And then, it found me. Well, I guess I found it, in the form of a tear off recipe for Quinoa, Sweet Corn and Edamame Bean Salad with Honey, Lime and Basil Dressing. Serendipitously, in an attempt to fake some purpose, I had already popped some sweet corn and spring onions into my basket. So, with two ingredients down, it was like it was meant to be! I continued my rounds of the shop, this time with a genuine sense of purpose, as I gathered together the rest of the ingredients.

For a salad that basically involves assembling a lot of different ingredients, it seemed to create a lot of dishes – food processer, pot for the quinoa, pot for the edamame, pan for the corn, dish for the quinoa to cool etc. And although it was all very tasty, I'm just not quite sure if it was worth all the admin. This was the first time I've had edamame in this kind of recipe - normally I eat them as a snack with lots of salt. I was surprised as to how similar to podded broad beans they taste. The dressing was delicious – I only added ½ a clove of garlic when the recipe suggested 2 cloves, but actually I would leave it out altogether, as the salad has enough sharp flavours with the garlic that's already in it plus the spring onions and radishes. I found it to be quite a carb heavy salad, if I made it again, I think I’d leave out the chickpeas (I’m not a big fan of chickpeas at the best of times). Although I didn't quite make the quantity suggested in the recipe, there was still loads of salad, so I'm sure I'll enjoy the fruits of my admin for a few days to come.

Quinoa, Sweet Corn and Edamame Bean Salad with Honey, Lime and Basil Dressing (Tear off recipe from Farro Fresh - but as featured in Dish Magazine)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups cold water or chicken stock
3 cobs sweetcorn
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 x 400 gram bag of frozen edamame beans, blanched and podded (I managed to find pre podded ones at tai ping!)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 spring onions, thinly slices
3 radishes, thinly slices

1/3 cup olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice 1 large line
2 cloves garlic, crushed (I’d leave these out in future)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
Handful of basil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Dressing: Put all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Season

Cook the quinoa in water and stock. Spread out on a tray, season and leave to cool. Cut the kernels off the sweetcorn and discard the cobs. Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the corn, garlic and salt over a high heat until lightly coloured. Tip into a large bowl. Add the quinoa, edamame beans, chickpeas, spring onions and radishes. Pour over the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with extra basil to serve.

pudding in a flash

On Friday night we had a girl’s dinner. I was instructed to bring something for dessert to go with yoghurt. None of the fruit at the supermarket looked nice, so in a hurry I grabbed some frozen berries, a packet of marshmallows and a flake.

We already had cream, so we whipped it, folded through the yoghurt, marshmallows and partially thawed berries, and crumbled the flake on top. Voila – Ambrosia! Such a deliciously simple no-fuss pudding, and just as delicious the next day when I snuck a few spoonfuls as a naughty mid-morning snack!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

coffee and a sweet treat

Here is a sweet something I made the other day. The recipe featured in the 'A Taste of Marsden' cookbook from the Wellington school of the same name. It is rather fancy...fundraising cookbooks seem to have come a long way in recent years. Like most books of this kind the best recipes seem to be found in the baking section. This slice stood out immediately, the melted hazelnut chocolate layer on top looked so delicious.

It is super easy to make, with a no-bake melt and mix fudge cake base. These sort of recipes are perfect for when you need to make something fast without thinking too hard. (Although not such a good choice if you are a contestant on NZ's Hottest Baker and are required to exhibit your technical baking skills!)

It is very sweet, so best cut into wee squares. The original recipe also had a couple of tablespoons of golden syrup which it didn't seem to need so I would leave that out next time. Best enjoyed with a strong one of these...

chocolate hazelnut fudge

1 pkt wine biscuits
100g butter, melted
1/2 tin condensed milk
1 kingsize block Whittakers hazelnut chocolate, melted

Crush biscuits in the food processor. Add the butter and condensed milk and combine well. Press into a lined tray, this is enogh for an 18cm square tin. Pour over melted chocolate and refrigerate. And that's all there is to it.

It is best to cut this slice when the chocolate is 'just' set rather than waiting until it is rock solid and therefore liable to crack. Best kept in the fridge.

Monday, February 15, 2010

roses are rare, lamb is too

Special guest appearance written by the lovely Lewi

Yesterday morning, my brand new flatmate Chantelle and I opened our front door expecting a sea of red roses on our doorstep – but alas the doorstep was bare. Consoling ourselves that all the florists in Wellington must be on strike, we headed down Mt Vic to the Sunday market by Te Papa. We bought a lovely small leg of lamb from the Wai-ora Farms stall to cook for an anti-Valentine's Day feast - not that we were bitter or anything!

Later in the day I set about stuffing the lamb with a recipe from Rachel Grisewood's lovely bright cookbook; Manna from Heaven. Rachel Grisewood owns a cafe of the same name in Melbourne and all the recipes I've tried from her book have been super tasty.

The stuffing was really quick to make especially with the live basil (as opposed to my dead basil) that our flat has inherited along with the lovely Chantelle. I'm not really into anchovies so I left them out. I'm glad I did as the olives and bacon provided enough saltiness. I didn't use the full amount of oil to cook the garlic and bacon as I didn't want to undo our respective visits to Les Mills that day. I guess if you use the full amount of oil it might bind the stuffing together a bit more though. But in saying that, I liked it how the stuffing broke up when you carved the lamb as it meant that you had tasty morsels of bacon, olives and pine nuts in every mouthful.
By the time the lamb was cooked I was a little bit light-headed as the recipe encourages you to drink wine while the lamb cooks - and we did have a few sorrows to drown what with the florist strike and all. So in my hungry state it meant that the lamb didn't rest for the recommended 20 minutes but it was plenty flavoursome anyway. Chantelle prepared roast baby potatoes and a green salad to go with the lamb. We decided that it would be a perfect dinner party recipe or perhaps one to cook for my future lover next Valentines Day!

Stuffed leg of lamb with pine nuts and olives (serves 6)

1.5kg leg of lamb, butterflied
100ml olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
6 streaky bacon rashers, diced
50g anchovy fillets (I didn't use these)
100g fresh breadcrumbs
50g pine nuts
50g kalamata olives
1 handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
1 handful of flat leaf (Italian) parsley leaves, roughly chopped
sea salt and cracked black pepper
6 rosemary sprigs
1 1/2 750ml bottles of light red wine (Beaujolais or Cote du Rhone-Villages)

Set the oven to 160C. Lay out the lamb, skin side down, on a chopping board and make small incisions in the thicker parts to create an even thickness for cooking. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the garlic until just golden. Add the bacon and cook until crisp and brown. Tip the garlic and bacon into a large bowl and add the anchovies (if you chose to use them), breadcrumbs, pine nuts, olives, basil and parsley. Season with salt and pepper and give the mixture a big stir. Spread the stuffing in a sausage shape along the middle of the lamb. Fold up the sides of the lamb to enclose the stuffing and form a rough cylinder shape; it will not look glamorous. Tie at regular intervals with a butcher’s string to hold the shape and keep the stuffing in place.

Transfer the lamb to a large roasting tin, scatter on the rosemary and pour half a bottle of wine over the top. Roast for 3-4 hours, pouring more wine over the lamb now and then until all the wine has been added or the lamb is very tender. Rest the lamb for about 20 minutes to allow the meat to relax and the flavours to mingle.

a few of our favourite things...

We've decided to do a feature every Monday, where we each post one of our favourite things from the week...

Miriam: I adore this spinach and feta gozleme purchased from the french style market in Parnell. For $6 we got to take home a very generous sized gozleme - a couple of minutes on each side in the fry pan made for a perfect low fuss pre-dinner nibble.

Libby: I was first introduced to de Brood Bakkers half-baked baguettes by Miriam a few years ago and have been buying them ever since. It keeps in the fridge for a least a week or the freezer for a few months and only takes 15 minutes to bake into a delicious warm loaf. We had some on Saturday for lunch but ate it before taking a photo!

Becs: On Saturday Anna, Daisy and I went blueberry picking at Broadfields Berryfruits just out of Christchurch. A bargain at just $10 a kilo (a 2L ice cream container full), there were loads of different varieties, all spray-free. The picking was easy and the blueberries were delicious on the bircher muesli for breakfast, and mixed through yoghurt eaten with rhubarb and apple crumble for pudding. Best of all there are still plenty left in the fridge...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Home-made hummus

Thorndon now has a farmer's market so I went along on Saturday to have a look. It'd been well publicised so they'd pulled a big crowd. There was a good turnout from stallholders too though there weren't many I'd buy from regularly - several sold things like juices/cordials, jams, olive oil etc - stuff you might buy once but not every week. There were a few good vegetable stalls so I picked up some bits and pieces for dinner that night, along with a loaf of one of my favourite breads - Simply Paris walnut loaf. Simply Paris seemed to be having a good morning - they'd completely sold out of pastries by 10am and were one of the few stalls with a queue.

I made some roasted garlic hummus to have with the walnut bread. It's a pretty rough recipe - you really just start with chickpeas and add everything else to taste. It doesn't have any tahini in it because I never have any in the fridge! But if you had some you could add a tablespoon or two. You could also use a clove or two of garlic instead of half a roasted head but I like the milder flavour of roasted garlic - sometimes raw garlic tastes a bit too sharp.

Roasted garlic hummus

1 can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1/2 head of roasted garlic
juice of one small lemon
olive oil

Wrap the head of garlic in foil and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes to an hour. Cool and cut the top off and squeeze out the garlic. Use about half and keep the rest in the fridge in an airtight container covered with a layer of oil.

Put the chickpeas into the food processor with the garlic, pulse for a few seconds. Add the lemon juice and enough oil in a slow stream until the hummus is the consistency you like.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fish, eggs & rice

Kedgeree is not a dish that appeals to everyone but its a favourite of mine. When we were little we knew it as "fish, eggs and rice". Mum would make it as a treat for dinner when Dad was away as he wasn't a fan. Mum's version was simply cooked rice, canned smoked fish and topped with a soft-boiled egg. This version is based on Lois Daish's recipe from A Good Year - one of my favourite cook books. It has a few more ingredients than Mum's but is just a delicious.

Miriam - I was debating whether to post this or not as Kedgeree is possibly your idea of a nightmare on a plate as it contains two of your least favourite foods: smoked fish and soft-boiled eggs. The only thing that could make this dish any worse for you was if it was sprinkled with coconut. But its an easy recipe to adapt - it would be lovely made with unsmoked white fish and the eggs can be cooked as soft or firm as you like, or left out altogether. Kedgeree sometimes appears on cafe menus as a brunch-type dish but I think its great at any time of day.

Kedgeree (about 4 servings)

Start by cooking 2 cups of long grain rice (I use a rice cooker). While its cooking caramelise the onions. Lois' recipe calls for crispy fried onions but I make mine more like caramelised onions as when I try to make the crispy ones they end up burnt.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil and cooked the onions over a moderate heat for about 40 minutes, stirring often, until caramelised. Add a teaspoon of brown sugar towards the end if it needs it.

Softly boil 4 eggs and set aside.

Now start putting it all together. Soften a finely diced onion in a little oil, add two cloves of crushed garlic and a chunk of finely chopped fresh ginger and cook until garlic starts to brown. Melt in two tablespoons of butter, add two teaspoons of curry powder and cook for another two minutes. Add the cooked rice and stir to combine. Add ¼ cup of cream, the juice of a lemon and about 400g of flaked smoked fish (I used hot-smoked salmon this time but any smoked fish is good). Sprinkle in chopped fresh parsley if you have some. Gently stir to combine.

Peel the soft-boiled eggs and carefully slice in half. Serve the rice in shallow bowls, topped with onions and an egg with a lemon wedge for squeezing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

just like in Nam

I just discovered that I’m staying down the road from Tai Ping Asian supermarket… home of all things Asian, except limes. I couldn’t seem to find them anywhere and asking the staff didn’t yield much success as I was just given puzzled looks. I didn’t let the lack of limes hold me back from getting some bargains though – a 49 cent iceberg lettuce, more bean sprouts than one could possibly need and an assortment of sauces and dried goods that, now, due to the language barrier I’m not exactly sure what they are! The car park at Tai Ping was chaos with drivers ignoring the road markings and direction arrows. It reminded me of Vietnam, minus the rickshaws and conical hats. And so I was inspired to make some Vietnamese fresh spring rolls.

I free-styled the spring rolls, using a mixture of my Tai Ping goods and ingredients from the fridge. I used the following instructions to roll my rolls, filling each one with vermicelli noodles, shredded iceberg lettuce, bean sprouts, slices of red pepper, grated carrots, some chopped fresh chilli, and a mixture of Vietnamese mint, coriander and mint from the garden. I also free-styled a dipping sauce, by combining chopped chilli, chopped peanuts, fish sauce, white wine vinegar, a dash of sugar, a squeeze of lime juice and some water till it looked and tasted right. It's quite time counsuming making all the individuals rolls, but it's worth it. (Although Kate described them as looking like vegetables in condoms, I think they looked beautiful.) They tasted lovely and fresh, and oh so healthy too! They're great with chicken or prawns in them also and next time I'll put crushed peanuts inside the rolls rather than in the dipping sauce.
In keeping with my Vietnamese theme I also decided to make Vietnamese pork balls with fresh herb salad from Julie Biuso’s Never Ending Summer

Pork Balls
500g minced free-range pork
¼ cup panko crumbs (I just used bread crumbs)
6 kaffir lime leaves, center ribs removed, finely shredded
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp peeled and grated ginger
1 fresh hot red chilli, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 spring onions, trimmed and chopped

Herb salad
1 cup very fresh bean sprouts, trimmed
½ telegraph cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup coriander leaves
½ cup mint leaves
2 cups micro cress or torn cos or iceberg lettuce leaves
4 Tbsp white vinegar
1 fresh hot red chilli, finely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped shallots

Olive oil for hot plate
Steamed rice for serving
Toasted coconut flakes for garnishing
Sliced fresh red chilli for garnishing

To make the pork balls, put all the ingredients in a bowl and squelch together. Shape into 30 small balls putting them on a tray as they are done. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. Bring pork balls to room temperature before cooking. Cook pork balls, either on BBQ hot plate. Or in a little oil in a non stick frying pan. To make the salad, put the bean sprouts, cucumber, herbs and micro cress or lettuce leaves in a bowl and toss lightly. Mix the vinegar, fresh chilli and shallots together in a small dish and add to the salad. Toss lightly. Serve pork balls on steamed rice garnished with coconut (I hate coconut so didn’t do this) and fresh chilli. Serve the herb salad separately.

The pork balls were nice, but I felt that they needed a sauce to go with the rice. I couldn't work out what sauce to have with them though - suggestions are most welcome.

Many thanks to Kate, for being my personal food photographer!

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