Tuesday, March 30, 2010

farmers market - Rotorua style

Rotorua has a Saturday morning farmers market. It's quite different from the French Market I frequent in Parnell - but there's a certain charm having stalls amongst the geysers and mud pools of Kuirau Park.

Becs and I both happened to be in Rotorua on a Saturday morning so we visited the market, with my brother David acting as our local guide. There was an abundance of fresh produce as well as plenty of hot food stalls and other stalls selling brick-a-brac.

David raves about the somosas at the Indian stall and brought 6 for $5 for us to try. They didn't disappoint. The pastry was perfect and the filling inside was fresh and tasty. Becs liked them so much she bought some frozen samosas to take back to Christchurch.

You can certainly see Rotorua's Maori influence coming through in the market, with several stalls selling more traditional Maori cuisine, like this rewena bread.

We were quite taken with the linguistic originality of this stall selling 'prawnitzo' kebabs - prawn and chorizo (!) We were a bit too full of samosas to try them - but perhaps something to look forward to on our next visit.

Monday, March 29, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Becs: I spent the weekend in Hanmer and while there I bought some of my favourite marshmallows from the little sweet shop there. I always pop in as they often have interesting wee bits to put on top of cupcakes. The marshmallows are made by Kapiti Candies and are lovely light-as-air puffs that taste like they have been homemade. I like them on their own, melting into a luxury hot chocolate, toasted over the embers of a fire, or best of all in a s'more, with the toasted marshmallow sandwiched between two dark chocolate wheaten biscuits...

Daisy's most favourite thing lately has been her toes. She has just discovered them and was very pleased with what she found. Last week she finally, and satisfyingly, managed to get her toes into her mouth for the first time. Since then there's been no stopping her...

Miriam: I first had edamame about 5 years ago at Wagamamas in Bristol. I was very surprised that these delicious little beans are actually immature soybeans. Ever since then I’ve always ordered them when at Japanese / Asian restaurants. And more recently I’ve discovered you can buy them in the frozen section of your local supermarket… so not quite that exotic, but still just as tasty and with lots of salt they are a very morish snack.

Libby: I love pain aux raisin and I must have tried one from all the French bakeries in the greater Wellington region by now! I think Simply Paris make the best and they now have a stall at the Hill Street Farmers Market in Thorndon on Saturday mornings. I stopped by the market hoping to get one but was too late... I bought this delicious chocolate and pistachio pastry instead and it was almost as good.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

An ever-so-easy pudding

I made this pudding when Black Doris plums were at their peak a few weeks ago. It's based on Belinda Jeffery's "Ever-so-easy pear (or plum) and hazelnut cake" recipe from one of our favourite baking books - Mix & Bake - but adapted to make it even easier!

I did intend to use hazelnuts (as the recipe called for) but I just couldn't get the skins off them despite roasting them for ages and then rubbing them in a teatowel. In the end I just used the ground almonds I always have a bag of in the freezer (bought in bulk from Moore Wilson at a bargain price).

The original recipe uses pears (but suggests plums as an alternative) so I may make it with pears sometime during winter.

Here's the recipe as I made it:

180g ground almonds
1/2 cup castor sugar plus two teaspoons
1/3 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
80g butter, melted and cooled
8 plums, halved & stoned
20g cold butter cut into small chunks
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Lightly butter a 25cm cerman dish.

Sift flour into almonds and mix with salt and baking powder in a large bowl - whisk for 30 seconds with a balloon whisk.

Beat eggs until just frothy, whisk in milk, vanilla and cooled melted butter. Mix the egg mixture into the nut/flour mixture and stir until well combined. Pour into prepared dish and sit plums in batter, skin side up. Sprinkle with extra sugar and dot with butter. (I did this but not really necessary if using plums but would be good if using pears).

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the batter is puffed and golden. Cool to lukewarm then dust with cicing sugar. Serve directly from the dish, in slices or just scoop from the dish.

Also very good eaten cold the next day!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

homemade hot cross buns

I am a firm believer that the best hot cross buns are homemade. Store bought buns (that seem to appear in the supermarkets before the Christmas tree has even come down!) are so often doughy with such a sparce scattering of fruit.

This recipe is originally from the 'Ten o'clock Cookie Bakery' in Masterton who won an award for them several years ago and kindly shared their recipe with the nation. I have tried lots of hot cross bun recipes over the years, and this is by far the best one yet. Libby first stumbled across the recipe and is now quite the pro at making them. Although last year she overdid it a bit and was well and truly sick of them by Easter as I remember! Last Friday I felt it was appropriately near to Easter to bake a batch...

The method is similar to that for brioche dough, with the soft butter being kneaded in once the dough has been formed - so it is much easier to mix using a free standing mixer with a dough hook. It is worth making the paste for the crosses so your buns look 'authentic' and they actually taste ok too unlike some of the shoelace-textured ones on some buns. And the glaze is a must too, it makes them look so pretty. The recipe can be found here. It makes 2 dozen, which makes it well worth the effort as you can eat some fresh from the oven and freeze the rest.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

pizzas on the weber

On Friday night I went to Lisa and Neil's for pizzas on the BBQ.

The pizzas weren't cooked on any old BBQ, but on a charcoal weber. I've always thought of charcoal BBQs as a lot of hassle - when I was in the UK we had many a BBQ where there'd be lots of smoke and the meat would be burnt on the outside but raw in the middle. However Neil says it just takes experience to perfect the art of cooking with charcoal, but once you do the outcome is worth it. And I'm convinced - there's nothing quite like the smokey flavour it produces.

These were undoubtedly the best homemade pizzas I've ever had. The method involved throwing some pizza dough straight onto the grill, brushing with olive oil and leaving for 4-5 minutes. The base was then flipped, topped with a range of delicious ingredients and the lid was popped on the webber for about 10-15 minutes. The results were outstanding. Smokey, crunchy pizza base, succulent melted topping.

We had 3 different pizza flavours;

  • Tomato prosciutto and mozzarella
  • Field mushroom and Italian sausage
  • Coriander pesto and prawn (this got munched up before I could photograph)

Monday, March 22, 2010

a few of our favourite things...

Becs: March 20th was Macaron Day, as celebrated in France, and now also in Christchurch at J'aime les macarons, where Amanda makes the most perfect macaroons. (The French sort, made from egg whites and ground almonds and filled with ganache, not the coconut biscuits.) In honour of the occasion, the macaroons at their lovely wee shop were all 'on sale' for just $1 each. Anna, Sarah and I lined up to purchase our quota of 12 each. My selection was - blackcurrant, coffee, lemon, mint, pistachio, coconut and the new olive oil and vanilla macaron.

Miriam: After a few drinks celebrating St Patrick’s day at the Claddagh, we were in need of food. We probably should have gone for some traditional Irish cuisine (perhaps corn beef and potatoes), but Hansan Vietnamese Restaurant was nearby so we dined there instead. I had this gigantic pork & prawn pancake, maybe one of the biggest meals you could ever get for $15! As the Vietnamese do, I cut up the pancake, added the accompanying carrot, cucumber and dipping sauce and wrapped it in lettuce leaves. Yum!

I spent the last few days in Queenstown and visited Patagonia Chocolates while I was there. Not for the chocolate but for the ice cream! It was amazing. I tried the Patagonia dark chocolate (once) and the banana split (twice) and couldn't decide which I liked best. Patagonia also make their own delicious waffle cones which I tried on my first visit - very good but almost a bit too much especially as the end of the cones are filled with chocolate!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Coco's Pikelets

My most treasured Christmas present is a Dick Frizzell print called 'Hot Buttered II'. It was given to me by my late husband Mike. We had seen it in a gallery in Auckland while there on our honeymoon, and I loved it immediately. However it seemed a little frivolous to buy immediately after the wedding and following some ummming and ahhhing it remained unpurchased. So I was delighted (and surprised) to discover it under the Christmas tree a couple of months later. It has hung on the wall for a year now, and finally intrigue got the better of me and I decided it was time to make a batch of Coco's pikelets.
Pikelets are one of the first things I remember baking, being so quick to mix and cook, they are perfect for when you require a baked good that offers relatively instant gratification. I am looking forward to when Daisy is big enough to help make them - she already has her very own pikelet flipper in the shape of a ladybird that I couldn't resist buying. (I wonder if other babies already possess their own kitchenware?!)

I doubled the recipe above, factoring in that the first few pikelets rarely cook evenly and inevitably end up getting thrown out while you fiddle with the temperature of the element to get it just right. Of course this time they cooked perfectly from the start, and I ended up making more pikelets that we could possibly eat for afternoon tea. Nevermind, they are in the freezer to eat for breakfast sometime.

Coco's pikelets were delicious, especially topped with a spoonful of homemade strawberry and rhubarb jam and a little softly whipped cream. I think Mike would have liked them.

Monday, March 15, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Libby: One of the best things about Autumn is feijoas. When I saw them at the supermarket on Friday I had to buy some... just two as they were $12.99 a kilo! This is the most expensive I've ever seen them but they're the first of the season and I was at Thorndon New World. Growing up we were so fortunate to have a free supply of feijoas from Grandma who would send boxes of them over from Tauranga. Feijoas are one of my favourite fruits (possibly number one) and no matter how many I eat I never get sick of them. But while they're $12.99/kg I won't be eating many!

Becs: I was introduced to Traiteur's chocolate and raspberry brownies perhaps ten years ago now, by the Horgan family. They are my idea of brownie perfection...barely set chocolate goo, studded with chunks of white chocolate and raspberries to cut the sweetness. I always ask for a middle piece which are extra gooey. As you can see in the picture it oozes like a perfectly ripe cheese. Traiteur sell the brownie in quite large slabs, I usually cut mine into quarters to enjoy over a few days, it is that rich. They recently put the price up from $2.95 to $3.50, such value for money!
Miriam: Every Wednesday at work someone is responsible for providing the team with morning tea. Whether brought or home made, from what I've tasted so far it's worthwhile being at work on a Wednesday. Last week Tipu brought in this very elaborate orange and almond cake, courtesy of Meadowbank Bakery. It was delicious. I have a good recipe for orange and almond cake, but have only made it once before. I must make it again and perhaps try dolling it up with candied oranges as per this one!

Friday, March 12, 2010

a quick dinner

I make courgette pasta for dinner when "I don't know what I feel like". It's so quick to make and you don't have to think too much. But be warned - it's also easy to get sick of courgette pasta if those nights come around too often.

It's based on a Donna Hay recipe that Natalie sent to Miriam who then sent it to me. I've added a couple of extras - garlic and feta and I cook the courgettes rather than let the heat of the pasta warm them through. It's very quick to make as the courgettes only need a flash in the pan - any longer and they'll go soggy and lose their lovely deep green colour.

I use an oxo julienne peeler to shred the courgette but you can grate them with a cheese grater if you don't have one of these handy little tools.

I never worry too much about quantities, apart from courgette - you always seem to need more than you think so allow about 2 courgettes per person. Here's the list of ingredients, just adapt to suit numbers.

Spaghettini (the skinnier, the better)
Olive oil
Garlic cloves (crushed)
Courgettes shredded (about two per serving)
Chopped fresh mint
Lemon juice
Salt & pepper

Cook the pasta, when its neary cooked heat a pan and add a little olive oil. Toss in the courgettes and garlic, cook for 1 minute then add the drained pasta, lemon juice and more olive oil. Stir over the heat for another minutes then toss in the mint, feta and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with more mint, freshly grated parmesan and sprinkle with chilli flakes.

cream puffs

A few weeks ago, I went to some drinks to mark the official start of my health psychology internship. The drinks were at 7:30pm and we were asked to bring a plate. I couldn't decide between sweet or savory but eventually settled on cream puffs. I used the same recipe as when I made the circle of choux. Each puff was filled with blueberries and cream and dusted with icing sugar. The cream puffs were a success - as is the internship (so far at least)!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

blast from the past

As a youngster, I used to love making russian fudge. I went through a phase where I’d make a batch every few weeks – I seemed to crave that intense sweetness far more than I do now.

Its been years since I’ve made fudge, but when I saw some condensed milk in the fridge that needed using, I thought I’d resurrect my fudge making skills and whip up some russian fudge. I used the same recipe I always had – the one from the Edmonds cook book. Although we were out of golden syrup I instead added a teaspoon of brown sugar (figuring it would help give the fudge that golden look). The fudge turned out perfectly with melt in the mouth sweetness. Unlike in the 80’s/90’s I can now only cope with about one piece of fudge before I start to feel ill. I think this is probably a very good thing!

Russian Fudge - from Edmonds cookbook
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
125g butter
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of golden syrup

Gently heat sugar and milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Add sweetened condensed milk, butter, pinch of salt, and golden syrup. Stir until the butter has melted then bring to the boil, stiring often. Once the fudge reachs the soft ball stage take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Beat it until it thickens. Pour into a buttered tin and mark into squares. Enjoy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Libby - Wellington's weather was uncharacteristically good this weekend - perfect for a gelato in the sun. Sarah was here for the weekend and I met her and her friends at Kaffe Eis at the waterfront. I usually choose one of the milk-based flavours - gingerbread is especially good but on Saturday I had mixed berry. It's my new favourite - it tasted a little bit like the jelly in jelly-tip ice creams but made from real fruit (rather than fake raspberry flavouring). It was so good I had another one on Sunday night at the Courtenay Place store. The second one wasn't quite as berry-ish as the one I enjoyed the day before but still pretty good. It's VERY hard to walk past a Kaffe Eis without stopping for gelato.

Becs - As late summer (sadly) approaches the garden has been full of produce to enjoy, including an abundance of scarlet runner beans. Scarlet runners can be quite large and rather tough, so I think the nicest way to prepare them is to slice them super thin, briefly boil in heavily salted water, and toss through a knob of butter to serve. The challenge is slicing the beans finely enough, and I find the best way is to use an old fashioned bean slicer, like the one above that has been kindly passed on to me by my Grandma. It makes quick work of slicing beans, and guarantees each will be cut into perfect slivers, all the same thickness, so they cook evenly. When my sisters and I were little we used to love taking turns to slice the beans for dinner with this wee gadget. I haven't seen any like this in the shops but they seem to pop up on Trademe now and then.

Miriam - On Saturday, my friends Bridget, Sally and I had an impromptu picnic lunch. We went to Sabato to pick up some supplies and came across Aroha sparkling elderflower & rhubarb. I have been a fan of the Aroha elderflower drinks for quite some time, but had never tried the rhubarb flavour. We each got a bottle and were in agreement that it was lovely and refreshing. I couldn't really taste the rhubarb, but loved the rose colour it gave the drink and as Bridget pointed out, it did have a subtle rhubarb fragrance. At $4.50 for a 330ml bottle it's quite pricey but definitely a lovely wee treat on a hot day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

dinner at the bach

On our recent visit to the West Coast, Miriam, Daisy and I stayed at a delightful little bach called 'Penguin's Retreat', which is on the beachfront just north of Hokitika.

Arriving after spending a lovely afternoon at Heidi's first birthday party, and enjoying delicious treats including the best ever wontons (made with homemade pork mince from homegrown pigs), a smorgasboard of pizza (Heidi's favourite food) and birthday cake (a snow capped mountain replete with "We knocked the bastard off!' flag), we were feeling like something on the light side for dinner.

Miriam was dispatched to the local supermarket to gather the makings of just that. Her shopping list was -

1 pkt pita bread
1/2 a hot chicken
1 pkt baby spinach leaves
1 red pepper
1 tin mangoes
1 small pottle natural yoghurt
Something nice for pudding

Our hastily assembled dinner looked like this...

The 'recipe' goes something like this. Chop pepper and mango and combine. Chop some fresh mint found in garden and mix into the yoghurt. Shred the chicken. Stuff all into toasted pita pockets with the baby spinach leaves.

PS. Pudding was a bowl of the divinely cocoa-y and chocka with plenty of 'bits' Killinchy Gold Chocolate Brownie ice cream.

Monday, March 1, 2010

a few of our favourite things...

Becs - Something I enjoyed was the outdoor bath at the bach Miriam, Daisy and I stayed at for our weekend visit to Hokitika, Daisy's first to the West Coast. What a treat, extra long and deep, with a stunning view of pebbles, flax, sand dunes and sea.

Daisy (who loves her baths) nonchalantly acted like she bathed outdoors everyday. It was also lovely to once again watch the sun set over the Tasman Sea. It has been a while.

Miriam - While in Hokitika this weekend we stopped off at Sweet Alice's Fudge Kitchen. A cute wee shop where they handmake a selection of fudges. I went for a traditional flavour and purchased a slab of chocolate fudge. It was lovely and creamy with a delectable gooey centre. I intended to take it back to Auckland to share with Jane but Becky & I found it so irrestible we nibbled away on it during the journey back to Christchurch.

Libby - Anna was in town for a whirlwind Wellington weekend with friend Lana so I picked them up for breakfast on Sunday. We decided to go to Capitol as its a usual stop on Anna's eating itinerary but we'd only ever been there for dinner. Capitol is one of the few places in Wellington that has an interesting brunch menu. No eggs benedict or pancakes with bacon and banana served up here. I decided within moments to have the French toast with roasted stone-fruit (plums) and creme fraiche (or maybe it was mascarpone?) Anna's almond porridge and Lana's grilled fontina and proscuitto on ciabatta were good but the French toast was definitely the favourite.
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