Friday, July 30, 2010

baking swap

I used the can of duche de leche I made in the slow cooker to make chocolate caramel brownie. I used the recipe for "caramello brownie" from Enjoy! by Sophie Gray but instead of making caramel using condensed milk, butter and golden syrup I used the pre-caramelised condensed milk.

The recipe said to pour some of the brownie into the tin and then alternately pour in the caramel then use a skewer to swirl. In hindsight, it would have worked better if I'd poured in the brownie then poured the caramel over before swirling together. Doing it as the recipe said resulted in patches of caramel on the bottom of the tin that didn't set and it all merged together creating a dense, chewy, chocolately mess. I was hoping it would turn out like the Floridita's chocolate caramel brownie you buy in slabs from Moore Wilson but it wasn't to be. You couldn't distinguish the caramel from the brownie in my version.

As luck would have it, Dad was in Wellington for a meeting on Wednesday so the brownie was shared between Wellington and Christchurch. I packed up a little box of brownie and left it at the hotel reception for him to collect after his meeting. Waiting for me was another little box containing some of Becs deliciously yeasty crumpets and the best muffins I've ever eaten made by Sarah. Thanks to Dad for providing the same-day courier service.

Baking swaps a such a good idea. You only have to bake one thing but get to try several! Becs attended a baking swap afternoon tea a couple of Christmases ago where everyone took along a tin full of something and the recipe, and went home with a tin full of everyone else's baking. Something organise for later in the year perhaps!

All boxed up and ready for its journey South...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thursday baking - crunchy lemon muffins

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

Alison Holst says she's often told these are the most frequently made muffins in her several muffin books. Becs and Libby both remember having these muffins in the 90's, however I think my family missed that craze as I don't recall ever eating or making them before. As we have a bowl full of lemons, I thought I'd give these a go and see what I've been missing out on.

The muffins are easy to make. They were delicious when still warm out of the oven, but I found that even an hour or so later they were a bit tougher (perhaps I over-mixed the mixture - mine didn't look nearly as delicate as the ones in the picture in ATONZB). The recipe recommends serving the muffins warm or reheated with tea and coffee, and I agree this is the best way to have them. The lemon and sugar mixture definitely lifts these muffins, and I think they'd also be delicious with a dollop of cream cheese in the centre - I might try that next time!

crunchy lemon muffins (Alison Holst) - week 19
2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup sugar
75g butter
1 cup milk
1 egg
grated zest of 1 large or 2 medium-sized lemons
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C. Coat a 12-hole muffin pan with baking spray.
Stir the flour and place it into a fairly large bowl. Add the first measure of sugar, and using a fork, toss to mix. Melt the butter in the microwave. Add the milk, egg and lemon zest, then whisk together with a fork until combined. Tip this mixture into the dry ingredients.

Mix gently, using a flat-bladed stirrer, until the dry ingredients are dampened, but the mixture still looks rough. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pans, try to put only one rounded spoonful into each hole (I forgot to do this when I was spooning in my mixture!)
Bake for about 10 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are lightly browned and the surface of a muffin springs back when lightly pressed. While the muffins bake put the juice and the second measure of sugar into a small bowl. Without stirring to dissolve the sugar, use a pastry brush to apply the sugar and lemon mixture to the hot, freshly cooked muffins in their pan. Repeat until all the lemon mixture is used. While the muffins are still fairly hot, lift them carefully from the pan onto a wire rack to cool. Serve them warm or reheated with tea or coffee, add to packed lunches or enjoy on any other occasion.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I made crumpets today.

Here they are in the pan (slowly!) doing their thing

Toasted, and slathered in honey...yum!

Crumpets (adapted from The NZ Bread Book by Simon and Alison Holst)

1 1/2 c hot water
1 c milk
1 tbsp granulated yeast (I used instant)
1 tsp sugar
2 c flour
1 tsp salt

Whisk together all ingredients (in the order given) until well combined, stir vigourously for a few minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to stand in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly and doubled in size, this will take about 30 minutes or so. Don't stir once it has risen or it will knock the air bubbles out.

Heat a pan on a very low heat, and spray the base, also the insides of a few egg rings (or I have successfully used smoked fish tins with both ends taken off). Cook very slowly until bubbles form and pop, and the top of the crumpet dries out, this takes ages, about 4 minutes, then flip over and cook the other side for a minute or two until golden brown. Toast and enjoy. Makes loads, think I made about 16.

dinner date - vege nachos

Dinner comes courtesy of Sarah this week...
When looking for a snack in the fridge recently, Becs found some leftover Mexican spiced tomato soup in the fridge. Having thickened up, the soup made a delicious dip for corn chips. Next time we had nachos I decided to use this as the base for my vegetarian version. I used the soup recipe but reduced the amount of stock and added in a can of chilli beans that I mashed up a little. It ended up being quite similar to the refried bean mix I normally make, but the lentils were a nice addition.

With nachos I often make "chips" by cutting tortillas into triangles and grilling them. Sometimes I mix these chips with some from the shop. My favourites are the Signature Range sea salt ones. Served with salad and guacamole, it makes for a healthy and tasty version of nachos which are often a little on the greasy side...

Monday, July 26, 2010

a few of our favourite things...

Becs: I love this Italian pewter butter dish. It was a wedding gift, and at first it seemed too precious to use so was saved for special occasions. Then I realised how practical it was, and how handy it is to always have perfectly spreadable butter. Since then it has sat on the bench in constant use; beautiful and useful.

Libby: After reading a few blog posts on using a slow cooker to make dulche de leche (caramelised sweetened condensed milk) I decided to give it a go myself. This blog here said to immerse the cans in water and "cook" on low for eight hours. The first time I used cold water and when I opened the can it was only semi-caramelised. I tried again the next night using hot water and it caramelised to perfect pouring consistency. A couple of hours extra time would give a firmer result. Now I have opened the can I'm unsure what to do with it... ice cream...banoffee pie...chocolate caramel brownie... Very delicious for something you can make in your sleep! If you decide to try this yourself... the label on the can does warn against heating in the can so I take no responsibility for any condensed milk explosions!

Miriam: One of my favourite things are these giant scrabble letters that Lewi made (with the help of her Dad) - they sit on the window ledge just above our dining room table, which is very appropriate, given that Kai is the the Maori word for food. It's also Maori Language Week at the moment, perhaps Libby or Becs will cook a hangi!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

fungi al fresco

The sun is shining in Auckland today so it seemed a perfect opportunity to whip out the gingham table cloth and have brunch outside. I rustled up these mushrooms on ciabatta toast for Jane, Lewi & I. The mushrooms were cooked with garlic in a generous knob of butter, a dash of white wine, cream, salt, pepper and fresh herbs from the garden (plus some rosemary I acquired on a walk around the neighbourhood). I garnished the mushrooms with some shaved parmesan. Delicious!

Friday, July 23, 2010

a lovely homemade loaf

I have been making this no knead brown bread a bit lately, after reading about it here on Our Wee Farm. It is very easy to make, with very little hands-on time, and makes the most beautiful toast. I sometimes top my loaves with a mixture of polenta, poppy and sesame seeds and linseeds, or scatter the same mixture inside the loaf tin after I have oiled it, so they bake into the crust.

easy homemade bread

3 c warm water
1/3 c brown sugar
1 tbsp yeast (I used dried instant)
1 c rolled oats

Combine the above ingredients in a big bowl and leave for 15 minutes for the yeast to start bubbling.

Using a sturdy wooden spoon, add -

1 egg
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp oil

Finally stir in -

4 c white flour
2 1/2 c wholemeal flour

Cover bowl with gladwrap and leave in a warm place to double in size. Knock dough down and place into 2 oiled loaf tins. Leave the loaves to rise again, then bake for 45 minutes - the first 10 minutes at 200C and then turn the oven down to 160c.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thursday baking - bran biscuits

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

Something savoury this week....I love a good oat biscuit with cheese, so thought I would try these bran biscuits to see how they stacked up. They are quick to make, and so much nicer than crackers you can buy. The mixture was really dry, there didn't seem to be nearly enough liquid to dry ingredients, so I added at least 1/4 c milk to make a dough.

They were quite nice, great for a filling (fibre rich!) mid morning or afternoon snack topped with some aged cheddar and quince paste. I think I prefer the texture of oat biscuits to the bran ones though, and will post my favourite recipe for these next time I make a batch.

bran biscuits (Amanda Laird) - week 18

100g butter, softened
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c bran
1/2 c wholemeal flour
1 c self raising flour
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180c

Cream the butter and sugar until pale, add the egg and beat well. Stir in the combined dry ingredients, then tip onto a floured surface and knead lightly. (I had to add milk at this stage).

Roll out and cut into rounds, 5mm thick. Bake on a greased or lined tray for about 20 minutes. (I turned the biscuits over half way through so they browned evenly).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

a favourite way with pumpkin

Lois Daish's "Afghan sweet poached pumpkin" from the May 2009 Cuisine magazine is one of my favourite ways of cooking pumpkin. It's one of those fabulous recipes that turns a few very ordinary ingredients into something delicious - something Lois Daish does so well.

The pumpkin simmers gently in a little butter, onion, water, and sugar until tender and the water almost absorbed. (If the pumpkin is cooked before the liquid is absorbed I like to remove the pumpkin, add an extra knob of butter and reduce what's left of the liquid so you're left with a sweet, buttery sauce.) While it's cooking you mix a clove of crushed garlic and a little salt into some plain yoghurt for drizzling on top.

Although delicious as is, on this occasion I sprinkled on some fresh coriander. Toasted walnuts or pumpkin seeds would be an equally delicious addition.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

dinner date - creamy chicken potatoes dijon

Dinner last night came courtesy of the Sumner School fundraising cookbook*, 'Sumner Cooks'. It's quite a modest wee book, but is packed full of delicious sounding recipes. We just bought it last week, so this is the first recipe tried from it, and it was delicious. This is tarted up scalloped potatoes really - two layers of sliced potato sandwiching a creamy mixture of chicken with mustard, sauteed onion, garlic and cream, and topped with a layer of cheese. Yum! I subbed half the cream for milk, and deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine after cooking the chicken. We ate it with a green salad with mandarin, which cut through the richness nicely. Next time I might add some sauteed mushrooms to the chicken mix.

*Cookbooks are $20 from Sumner School Office, email

creamy chicken potatoes dijon

6 large potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
8 chicken thighs,
1 tbsp parsley
25g butter (I left this out)
1 c cream (I used half milk, half cream)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
s + p
1/2 c grated cheese

Preheat oven to 200c.

Boil potatoes for 8 minutes in salted water, drain well and set aside.

Saute onion in olive oil, once soft add garlic, then chicken and stirfry until cooked. Add all other ingredients except for cheese and potatoes and season with salt and pepper.

Line a large gratin dish with half the potato slices, then pour over the chicken mix, before covering with the rest of the potatoes and then the grated cheese,

Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: Somehow this week, I hadn't given any thought to what my 'favourite thing' would be... so with the deadline fast approaching, I found inspiration in my handbag, in the form of an envirosax. The nifty bags are sturdy (but light), comfortable to carry and fold into a compact wee package perfect for popping in your handbag - I seem to find a use for mine on an almost daily basis. They also make great gifts!

Libby: I love walnuts in all their sweet and savoury applications - lightly toasted and sprinkled on salads, tossed through pasta, in cakes, stuffed inside fresh dates and atop afghans... After making the mistake of buying imported walnuts and finding them bitter and rancid I stick to NZ grown walnuts. These KerNelZ nuts from A Cracker of a Nut are consistently good. I store them in the freezer to keep them fresh and "toast" a small handful directly from frozen in the microwave (two minutes on medium power) as needed.

Becs: I love this Bay of Plenty Asparagus and Spinach Soup with fresh cream from the Naked Locals range. Usually I get bored eating a whole bowl of pureed soup, preferring those with more texture, but this soup is lovely. Restaurant quality I reckon, and perfectly seasoned, unlike most bought soups that are heavily salted. Sarah (the nutritionist) was horrified at the fat content, but then we discovered that the nutrition panel strangely states one pack to be a serving...hmmm I don't think I could put away half a litre of soup!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tarte-Gateau Poire Chocolat

In preparation for my visit to Paris next month (!) I have been reading "Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris", a delightful guide to where to eat in Paris written by Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini. I haven't organised a meal-by-meal itinerary, (and don't think my travelling companion will appreciated it if I do) but have noted a few places that would be nice to visit.

Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris has a few recipes sprinkled throughout so as a "warm-up" to prepare ourselves for what awaits us in the patisseries of Paris I made a "Tarte-Gateau Poire Chocolat" (pear and chocolate cake-tart ), a recreation of a similar sweet treat from La Boulangerie par Veronique Mauclerc.

This recipe has great potential and I look forward to making it again with a few adaptations: I found the pastry too buttery and flaky, so next time will make a biscuit-y sweet short crust; I will use vanilla instead of rum in the poaching syrup as I couldn't taste the rum (which is good as I don't like rum anyway); and I will make sure my pears are properly ripe.

I served the cake-tart with a spoonful of sour cream (the delicious Cyclops sour cream) and whipped cream mixed with a little brown sugar. Of course, it did nothing to cut through the richness of the tart and my travelling companion could barely cope with it all, struggling his way to the last mouthful! I don't know how he will fare in Paris!

Here's the recipe as I made it:
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon ice-cold water
25g sugar
2 cups flour
125g butter

Poached pears:
25g sugar
45ml dark rum (I will use a teaspoon of vanilla paste next time)
2 ripe but firm pears (I used beurre bosc)

Chocolate filling:
25g flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
125g bittersweet dark
75g butter
100g sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk (saved from pastry)

Beat egg yolk, water and sugar and set aside. Combine flour and butter in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add the egg yolk mixture and process until the dough just comes together. Add a little more water if you need to. Turn out onto a floured surface and bring together into a ball, flatten and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Now poach the pears: Combine water, sugar and rum and bring to a simmer. Peel, halve & core pears. Cut each half into 3 pieces. Ad pears to the saucepan and similar until tender (recipe says 4 minutes, mine were in for 10 and were still rock-hard). Remove from syrup and drain until needed.

Remove dough from fridge and roll to fit your tin (I used a long rectangular tin). Chill for 30 minutes before baking blind for 10 minutes (I should have left it in for longer).

Prepare chocolate filling: Combine flour & baking powder and set aside. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler, add the sugar and mix well. Mix in the egg and egg white, stirring between each addition. Add the flour mixture and stir again.

Pour the chocolate filling into the prepared tart shell and press the pears into the filling. Return to oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the filling is just set.

Leave to cool before serving.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thursday baking - pear and ginger upside down cake

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

Our sister Sarah is on holiday at the moment so she's helping us out with the Treasury baking this week, here's what she thought of the pear and ginger cake...

I'm a big fan of pears and ginger together and this cake caught my eye when flicking through the book. It looked like the perfect dessert for a cold winters night. Friends coming for dinner provided an opportunity to test it out.

Instead of the fresh pears suggested in the recipe, I used some that Becs had poached in red wine. Served with custard, the cake was delicious. It had a nice texture and the poached pears worked really well. I was worried that uncooked pears may have remained a little crunchy. I was, however, a little disappointed with the lack of ginger flavour. I had suspected this may be the case when I saw only 2 tsp of ground ginger in the recipe. If feeling like more of a ginger kick, next time I would probably use the tried and true Ruth Pretty gingerbread recipe as the base. Nevertheless, it was very simple to prepare and still very tasty.

Upside- down Pear Cake (Helen Jackson) - week 17

150g butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
11/2 cups self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
50g butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 pears peeled and sliced into eighths

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line 20cm springform tin with baking paper.
Cream first measures of butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder and ginger and stir into egg mixture.

Melt second measures of butter and brown sugar together and pour over baking paper. Cover with sliced pears. Spoon cake mix over the pears. Bake for 4o minutes. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before inverting on to a serving plate. Serve with whipped cream, custard or caramel sauce.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

potato scones

I used to be a little skeptical about carb with carb combinations, but since discovering these potato scones (and potato pizza...and bread sauce and roast potatoes...) I am a convert. The scone recipe hails from Jafa cafe in Auckland, and was published in the Sunday Star Times a few years ago. The scone dough is more like a pastry really, with a higher ratio of fat to flour, and is rolled thinly to encase the cheesy filling that oozes out a little while they bake.

Use the filling recipe as a guide, these scones are a perfect vehicle for using up leftover bits and piece, I have even added leftover broccoli cheese to the potato filling with great success. The batch above Sarah made to have with soup for lunch, they are potato scones for purists, the filling just being potato, spring onion and cheese. They are happily frozen and I often used to take one to work for lunch - a sandwich press reheats them perfectly, crisping up the pastry again beautifully.

potato scones

200g flour
75g butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
100ml milk

300g potato, cooked, mashed and cooled (I often freeze leftover mash to use)
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 c cheese, grated
extras as desired - chopped ham or cooked bacon, spinach, rocket, smoked salmon...
a little milk

a beaten egg to glaze, and seeds of choice

To make the filling just combine all ingredients, adding enough milk to bind the mix. I add enough to make it quite wet as I like the filling to ooze out.

To make the dough rub butter into flour until fine, add the remaining dry stuff, then enough milk to make a dough, and roll out thinly into a large rectangle (I roll it on the baking tray, and use plenty of flour). Spread the filling over half the dough. Cut dough down the middle and carefully pick up the uncovered bit of dough, and lay it over the filling. It doesn't matter if they look a bit straggly round the edges, this adds to their rustic charm!

Paint with the egg wash, sprinkle over seeds, and bake at 200c for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy warm from the oven!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

dinner date - pumpkin, feta and brown rice tart

The other week it was just my sister Sarah and I for dinner (who is vegetarian) so I made this tart for our dinner. This is an old favourite of ours, the original recipe featured in the Healthy Food Guide many years ago, and we adapt it according to what veges we have on hand. This time we filled it with broccoli.

The crust is made by mixing cooked brown rice with mashed pumpkin and crumbled feta, so tastes similar to a risotto cake. The exact quantities are not really important, so use more or less of the crust ingredients depending on what you have available (just not too much pumpkin or the crust will be a bit wet.) I like to make the crust quite thick and substantial. Likewise for the filling, just use whatever veg takes your fancy...

To cut down on prep time I tend to cook extra rice when we are eating it for another meal, and freeze it and do the same when I am cooking pumpkin. This makes it faster to whip up on a weekday and you use hardly any dishes. It is really delicious. Topped with a spoonful of tomato chilli jam and served with a crunchy green salad it made a very tasty dinner and lunch the next day.

Pumpkin, brown rice and feta tart


4 c cooked brown rice
2 c cooked pumpkin - roasted/steamed/boiled and roughly mashed
1 pkt feta
1 egg


4-6 eggs, beaten with salt and pepper to taste
1 head of broccoli, chopped and cooked
(or use about 2 c of any other cooked veg that takes your fancy)

Preheat oven to 180c.

To make the crust, combine all ingredients and press mixture into a 25cm loose bottom cake tin that has been lined with baking paper. Or a quiche dish would be fine too.

Bake for 30 minutes until the crust dries out a little. Fill with the cooked veges and pour in the beaten eggs. Grate Parmesan over and bake at 180c for another 45mins or until set.

Cool slightly and enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 12, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Becs: One upside to winter is comfort food, and I am enjoying the veges the cold weather brings with it. Last week we roasted some red and yellow yams, parsnips and baby carrots with rosemary, black sesame seeds and olive oil, tossing through a little runny honey at the end. Another favourite is jerusalem artichokes, which are lovely peeled, sliced and baked in a gratin with sauteed leeks and cream.

Libby: This Kenwood Chef cake mixer belonged to my Nanny and is currently in my care. Judging by the orange and brown colour scheme (which complements my brown veneer kitchen perfectly), Nanny bought it in 1970s, which makes it 30+ years old! But it's a very solid machine and has plenty of life left in it. I wonder if today's Kenwood mixers will still be going strong in thirty years time?

Miriam: A couple of years ago, Anne Ball and I went halves in a box (of 500) of these bags from Detpak. They are so handy for filling with wee treats and at about 42 cents each, it's quite economical. I didn't think I'd ever get through my share of 250, but I've made quite a dent in them and am now down to my last 50.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

spice crisp cookies

My lovely friend Rosie brought these cookies to class last week as a wee treat. They remind me of soft cake-like gingernuts or the biscuit part of ginger kisses. They were the perfect snack to accompany a cuppa. I'm going to try making some this afternoon. Here's the recipe as written by Rosie;

Spice crisp cookies

180g butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
1/4 cup treacle/golden syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp ground ginger
2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt white sugar (extra) for rolling

Cream the butter and sugar for about 10 minutes, until really really pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla, egg and treacle. Beat lightly until mixture is even. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until a smooth dough is formed (it may look as though there is too much flour at first, but it quickly comes together).

Roll into small balls, 1 inch in diameter. And yes, I do expect you to get out your ruler, lady; they. must. be. exact! Roll these balls in sugar, and place into a greased tray allowing plenty of room for spreading. Bake at 190C for 8-10 minutes - don't let them get too dark. Remove from tray as soon as possible, and cool on a rack. Alternatively, eat all the dough in a mad feeding frenzy without ever getting them near the oven - your pick.

Friday, July 9, 2010

posh porridge

I started a new venture at our local farmers market recently, it's called Posh Porridge. Hot organic porridge ready to eat on cold winter mornings at the market, with lovely fruit toppings (think pudding, but on top of porridge!) After weeks of porridge cooking and eating trials I found a local supplier of sweet, nutty kibbled oats, which when slow cooked become deliciously creamy but still retain a bite, a little like a good risotto. Business is building up slowly but steadily, and last week Posh Porridge had sold out by 11am which was exciting.
The top photo is the newest addition to the menu...porridge with roasted rhubarb and vanilla bean custard. I have been eating it for breakfast this week and it is sensational, perhaps my favourite so far.

Posh Porridge is available at the Christchurch Farmers Market which is held in the grounds of Riccarton House every Saturday morning, rain or shine, from 9am-12pm. Most weeks I make a few take-home and reheat puddings too, sticky date with toffee sauce and rhubarb and apple crumbles being the favourites. Nothing cutting edge but comfort food at its best!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday baking - ginger crunch

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

I'm not sure if A Treasury of New Zealand Baking has a lot of recipes for brown coloured food or if I am just attracted to the recipes for brown coloured food but I feel like almost everything I've made from the book has been brown! And with two shades of brown this ginger crunch is no exception!

This Jo Seager recipe from the book is for wholemeal ginger crunch but I didn't have any wholemeal flour so used plain flour, making this slice almost identical to the Takaka Oaty Ginger Crunch that we often make. I also left out the crystallised ginger because I didn't have any (because I don't like it)... and I didn't drizzle with melted chocolate as stated in the recipe as prefer it plain. So as it turns out I really just made Takaka Oaty Ginger Crunch!

I left the base in the oven too long so it was overcooked and hard on the teeth (even for ginger crunch). I had planned to take this to work for morning tea but wasn't going to out of fear of breaking my colleagues teeth (and ruining my reputation as a baker). When I popped home at lunchtime it had softened up a little so I took it in for an afternoon treat.

Week 16 - (Wholemeal) ginger crunch (Jo Seager)

150 g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coconut
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Melt butter, golden syrup and brown sugar over a low heat. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and pour in melted ingredients. Mix well and press into a lined 20 x 30cm slice tin.

Bake for 20 minutes.

4 tablespoons butter
8 tablespoons icing sugar
4 teaspoons golden syrup
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Melt butter and golden syrup, beat in ginger and icing sugar. Pour over still-warm base.

Slice into small squares when cold. (I wait until the next day if possible).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

pretty pink macarons

Forget big brash cupcakes, macarons, the super sweet and oh-so-elegant French treat are the current darling of the baking world. Here in Christchurch I love to buy them from J'aime les macarons, who have well and truly perfected the art of the macaron, but last week I thought it would be fun to try making some myself. Macarons are notoriously tricky to make, the base recipe containing just egg whites, ground almonds and sugar, so I was prepared for a less than perfect result.

And so be it, my first attempt at macarons flopped. I used a Ruth Pretty recipe for chocolate macarons that had been in my 'to-try' folder of newspaper clippings and website printoffs for few years. The mix was very wet, and I think in hindsight I over mixed it too - the amount of folds the batter is given being a critical success factor for perfect macarons; too much air in the mix and they will peak when baking, but too little air makes a flat macaron. Oddly, the recipe instructed to bake the macarons at 200c, which was much hotter than most other recipes I had seen. I baked one tray as per Ruth's instructions and another at 150c, but both produced macarons that were determinedly flat and cracked on the top. When I went to the Ruth Pretty website to check the oven temperature I noticed a photo had been added since I had printed the recipe off, and it didn't bode well, they were very skinny which is never a good look for a macaron. I think this was the first time a Ruth Pretty recipe has failed me, but I should undoubtedly shoulder some of the blame myself too...

My next attempt was the recipe on Mrs Cake's blog. If you are interested in a run down on the more technical but highly interesting aspects of macaron making you should check out her macaron post via the link above. (I being too lazy to go into the detail required, and why reinvent the wheel...) This batch worked well and I was rather pleased with myself. They had lovely smooth shiny tops and the requisite wee 'foot' on the base. Sandwiched together with a bitter chocolate ganache they are tucked in the fridge for when sweet cravings strike. One thing I would suggest is leaving the filled macarons in the fridge for a day or two before eating, before that the shell shatters upon biting and the texture is a bit amiss.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

dinner date

This is my version of a cassoulet, a French slow-cooked stew with beans and meat - most often confit duck and pork sausages. Using canned beans and chicken thighs (instead of confit duck!) speeds things up and makes it more of an everyday meal. We ate the cassoulet with mashed potato which was completely unnecessary (as beans make the cassoulet quite substantial), but delicious all the same.

4 chicken thighs
4 good quality pork sausages
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup tomato passata
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans (drained and well-rinsed)
Bay leaves & fresh herbs (rosemary, parsley, thyme)

Heat a heavy based lidded pan over a medium heat. Add a little oil and brown chicken and sausages. Remove chicken thighs and sausages from pan and slice each into 3-4 pieces.

Turn down the heat and add onion to pan. Cover with lid and cook until soft. Add garlic, carrot and celery and cook for a few minutes until carrot and celery starts to soften.

Turn heat up to medium, add white wine and leave it simmer for a minute or two before adding passata, tomatoes, bay leaves and any fresh herbs you have handy. Put the meat back into pan and cover with lid. Leave to simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes. Add the beans and simmer for a further 15 minutes. Season with salt & pepper

Serves 4 hungry people.

We followed the cassoulet with a colourful winter salad of salad leaves, shredded red cabbage, finely sliced apple and toasted walnuts dressed with a mix of apple cider vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard and brown sugar. Yum!

Monday, July 5, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: My favourite place in Wellington for coffee at the moment is Memphis Belle on Dixon Street. The guys that own and run this place know how to make good coffee and I don't think they'd send a coffee out if it was less than perfect. The decor is an eclectic mix of the 60s and 70s (you can just make out the Crown Lynn "Pioneer" saucer the cup is sitting on) and with floor to ceiling windows on two sides, its an interesting place to sit and people-watch. That's if you can get a seat, there are only a few tables and they're usually full!

Miriam: A couple of years ago, Becs started a pudding making business, Cream. It's was so successful, Sunday magazine (that comes with the Sunday Star-Times) featured Cream Handmade Puddings in their 'going up' section. Cream took a break, but recently has been resurrected, and the sticky date puddings are as delicious as ever! When I was in Christchurch a few weeks ago, Becs packed a pudding in my bag to take back to Auckland. It was very popular in my household, quotes from the lucky recipients included "I loved that pudding" and "that was one of the nicest desserts I've eveeeeeeeer had!!" If you're lucky enough to live in Christchurch go buy one of Becs' puddings at the Christchurch Famers Market.
Becs: I had always been a little underwhelmed by chorizo, until I tried the fresh version from Christchurch based Mariano's. Theirs have a meaty texture and a lovely sweet, smoky flavour. I like to split the skins and squeeze the meat out, panfrying it with some red peppers before adding a few spoonfuls of romesco (or red pepper pesto) and a pour of cream or lite evaporated milk, before tossing through hot spaghetti with a handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley and some toasted pumpkin seeds. A little goes a long way, so a pack of 4 chorizo served this way will easily serve 4.
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