Thursday, September 30, 2010

thursday baking - want to help?

We are now a quarter of the way through our challenge to bake our way through A Treasury of NZ Baking...and are looking for a new recruit to join us! If you are keen to take part - baking one Treasury recipe a month to feature on Lovely Wee Days - please leave us a comment under this post. We have a brand new copy of the Treasury sitting here to send to the winner, who will be announced next Thursday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

dinner date - hello asparagus!

New season's asparagus has just arrived in NZ, so has been gracing our table this past week. (Although we did enjoy a sneak preview while in Noosa...) Dinner on Friday was a simple affair, in attempt to do justice to what is possibly my favourite vegetable. Toasted Vogels bread topped with a perfectly poached free-range egg and a handful of steamed asparagus, all covered generously with some freshly grated parmesan. (Well Grana Padano to be precise...cheaper than Reggiano but with miles more flavour than the soapy NZ stuff...) Simple and so delicious.

Monday, September 27, 2010

a few of our favourite things

Becs: It was a lovely surprise to find a box of delicious Denheath custard squares on the doorstep last week, thoughtfully arranged by my dear friend Anna. A kind gesture that added some sweetness to a difficult week.

Miriam: I am quite a fan of cider, especially now as the days become longer and the weather warmer. A friend works at Lion Breweries, so I was lucky enough to get a preview of the new Mac's pear cider, which is now available in bars and supermarkets. We had a taste test, comparing the apple and pear ciders, I like them both. Bring on summer!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Becs and I (along with family & friends) recently returned from a holiday in Noosa, on Australia's Sunshine Coast. Here are some of the culinary highlights from our travels;

Lamington is a lovely wee design store in the main street of Noosa, that also happens to sell lamingtons. They are packaged up so beautifully, and although I didn't eat them (due to the coconut) everyone reported that they were delicious.

We were treated to lunch at Bistro C, which has become a family favourite restaurant. Right on the beach, it must be one of the best located restaurants around, and we watched porpoise's frolicking in the sea as we enjoyed our food. We all loved this desert of poached pear with caramel risotto. Poor Dad was under the illusion that he'd ordered this for himself, and was rather taken aback when 4 other spoons started attacking it!

The Eumundi market, held every Wednesday and Saturday is a foodie highlight. I am a big fan of the ginger beer stall, it is such a refreshing drink on a hot day!

We also loved Claude's Food which sold delicious fresh salads and treats. Becs and Daisy both loved the rice pudding they shared, and we all enjoyed Claude's chickpea & pumpkin salad.

Bulk macadamia nuts from Nutworks. A 1KG bag of Macadamias was about $23 (Australian). Much better than the $50+ we can pay per kg here in NZ. Needless to say, we stocked up on lots of nuts.

We stayed across the road from Noosaville Fish Market, that claimed to have the best fish and chips in Noosa. And they were worth writing home about. The calamari was a particular highlight.

Although not always able to partake in eating the delicious food, wee Daisy found that there was generally a pair of sunglasses on someones face just wanting to be grabbed off and chewed on!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thursday baking - coffee, walnut & date cake

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

It was the picture in ATNZB, showing a cake with glorious looking icing, piled high in soft meringue-like peaks and the description of a 'superb cake, moist and rich', that stimulated me to give this recipe a go.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, and although pleasant enough, I found the cake just rather boring. It wasn't dry, but moist is certainly an overstatement and I wouldn't describe it as rich either. For me, this cake served as a surface to spread the always delicious cream cheese icing on; it certainly lifted the cake up several notches - without it I don't think the cake would be worth eating. Despite following the recipe, my icing looked nothing like that pictured in the book, which appeared to be of a much stiffer consistency and had perhaps been piped onto the cake.

I don't think I'll make this cake again, as I'd prefer to stick to carrot or lemon cake as the medium for holding cream cheese icing!

Coffee, Walnut & Date Cake - Julie Biuso - week 26

160g dates, chopped
185ml unsweetened hot espresso or strong filter coffee
120g butter, softened
150g light brown sugar
2 eggs room temperature, lightly beaten
250 g standard flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
50g fresh NZ walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp hot water

30g butter, softened
90g cream cheese, softened
1 tsp lemon zest
210g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 150C & line a 20cm deep cake tin with baking paper. Put dates in bowl and pour over hot coffee, leave to cool.
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs a little at a time, as well as 2 tablespoons of the flour. Sift remaining flour, salt and baking powder together on to a piece of paper, then add half of it to the creamed mixture in the bowl. Mix in then add dates, coffee and vanilla. Fold in the rest of the flour mixture, then add the walnuts. Lastly, dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and mix in. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin.
Bake for 55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
For the icing: combine butter and cream cheese in a bowl and beat until smooth. Add lemon zest and enough icing sugar to make the icing stiff but spreadable. Spread icing over the top of the completely cooled cake.
This cake keeps well for up to 3 days, iced and stored in a cake tin or airtight container in the pantry.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dinner date - moroccan chicken

Moroccan chicken is another recipe in my repertoire that comes via the Manley family. Although not the most photogenic of dishes, it really is worth a try as it tastes much better than it looks here. Below is the recipe, as written by Libby (from her memory) in an email to me about 3 years ago;

Toast about a cup of blanched almonds (can do this in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes). Chop roughly in the food processor (you can reserve a few whole ones to scatter on top if you like).

Brown chicken (about 500g or however much you want) and a finely chopped onion. Add 1 tsp each of turmeric, cinnamon and cumin. Cook for a minute or two. Add 1-2 cups of liquid (it is nice to use about half and half orange juice and water), ground almonds, 1 tsp of salt, 1 tsp of honey (you don't need much if you have used orange juice) and the zest of one lemon if you have one. And then add the best part.... Prunes! As many as you like, about 1/2-1 cup. Simmer for about 20 minutes, adding more liquid if necessary.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds and whole toasted almonds if you have them but is just as delicious without. Serve with quinoa or couscous and salad.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Elkins: The Culinary Master

The 20th September is forever etched in our minds, as on this day last year, Bec's husband Mike tragically died while running a half marathon. Mike was a much loved and respected teacher (and former chef) and in the days that followed his death, students from his school wrote their thoughts, poems and stories. Becs had this poem by SJ printed onto cards, knowing it's how Mike would like to be remembered.

Kia kaha Becs & Daisy xx.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday baking - 'Hello Rosie' slice

As we bake our way through A Treasury of New Zealand Baking
This is a special guest post, brought to us by Rosie!

When I was round at Miriam’s for a lovely dinner a couple of weeks back I was flicking through A Treasury of New Zealand Baking when I came across Hello Rosie Slice. When the girls suggested I should try and bake it for the blog, although hesitant to test my amateur baking skills, I agreed thinking that the short list of ingredients, and short instructions, meant it was a safe bet.

As Miriam is not a huge fan of coconut, and this ended up being the main ingredient, I made up the topping mixture without the coconut and put aside some before adding the coconut for the rest of the slice.

I must say it was better with the coconut although Miriam may disagree. This slice is very sweet so cutting it into small pieces is ideal, although I found this difficult to do due to its sticky and chunky consistency. The slice was enjoyed over a cup of tea at Miriam’s on Sunday and the remaining by my colleagues on Monday morning. Overall Hello Rosie proved to be a success, even for an amateur baker.

I would bake this again but with the addition of other dried fruit or nuts (whatever you have handy). To save time I would probably not bother toasting the walnuts first as this didn’t seem to noticeably change the outcome.

'Hello Rosie' Slice - Mark McDonough - Week 25

100g butter
250g malt biscuits, crushed

2 cups walnut pieces, roughly chopped and lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate buttons, chopped
1 cup sultanas
2 cups long-thread coconut
500g sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a 20x30 cm slice tin and line with baking paper. Mix the butter and biscuit crumbs together and press into the prepared tin. Mix the topping ingredients together and roughly press them over the base. Bake for 30 mins, or until browned. Do not overcook. If the slice starts to brown too quickly during the cooking time, cover with baking paper until the time is up. The finished product should be slightly moist and sticky. Cool in the tin and cut into pieces when cold.

This slice can be kept in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: I have a new favourite cafe, Kokako in Parnell. They have excellent organic coffee, a good range of cabinet food as well as a yummy looking brunch menu. I enjoyed this vegetarian lasagna topped with toasted almonds, along with roast beetroot quinoa salad for $11. Yum!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thursday baking - rhubarb and strawberry shortcake

The other week I had a random selection of toppings left over from my porridge stall at the farmers market, roasted rhubarb, raspberry coulis, apple and blackcurrant compote and some blueberry compote. I wanted to make something for pudding, and crumble was the obvious choice, but I have crumble fatigue at the moment, having made so many to sell at the market. So it was the perfect opportunity to try Lois Daish's shortcake recipe, using my mishmash of leftover fruit. I didn't measure the fruit at all, and probably used quite a bit more than the recipe called for.

This was a lovely pudding, but we also enjoyed it the next day, cut into wedges and served cold from the fridge. Next time instead of making it in a round cake tin as advised I might use a square one and then cut it into squares to serve as a slice. Either way, it worked. In summer I will try it with strawberries, as they are such a perfect partner to rhubarb, but we loved the flavour of the mixed berryfruit with the tart rhubarb and granny smiths.

My adapted recipe below is in extreme shorthand, apologies but my earthquake-obsessed-sleep-deprived brain just doesn't have the energy or desire to quote Lois word for word (fellow food bloggers is there anything more tedious than transcribing other people's recipes verbatim onto said blogs?!) Thankfully Daisy and I are about to depart to more stable and sunny climes, and Miriam will be joining us shortly, so LWD may be a little quiet for the next wee while...

rhubarb and strawberry shortcake - Lois Daish (Week 24)

3-ish cups of cooked fruit

125g butter
125g sugar
1 egg
225g flour
25g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 180c. Line the bottom of a 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Cream soft butter and sugar, add egg, sift in dry ingredients. Spread 2/3 of this mix into the cake tin, pressing it evenly over base and up sides. Top with prepped fruit, and crumble the remaining shortcake over this. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and enjoy

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From Paris to Berlin...

And a little bit of Edinburgh and London... Here are a few food highlights from the past 2-3 weeks. I haven't taken nearly as many photos as I would have liked and many have had to be taken through windows as so many places don't allow photos to be taken indoors. Most annoying!

A visit to the Borough Markets on a Saturday morning...

...was a little too early in the day for a Pimm's but a lovely stall to admire.

Delicious Middle Easter food for lunch...

...and a stop in at Neal's Yard Dairy before heading off.


Vegetarians skip this section!

This poor little piggy was being carved into roast pork sandwiches.... we didn't try one but it made for an interesting and eyecatching window display and I couldn't resist taking a photo!

Another highlight was trying haggis - both this real thing and a vegetarian version - with neeps (swede) and tatties (potato). Much more oaty (as opposed to meaty) than I expected, quite a peppery, savoury flavour and really quite nice!

Fruit from the local market... was hard work acquiring this enormous fig with my limited knowledge of French and I was mocked by the stall holder for trying!

Warm-from-the-oven pastries for breakfast...

...decided one to share was enough after the first day!

Beautiful macarons from Pierre Hermes...

Too many lovely little cakes to choose from...

...almost too pretty to eat!

Berlin has totally surprised me - such a fantastic city! A real mix of food - lots of Turkish, Asia and the local specialty that I am yet to try... currywurst - a bratwurst sausage with mustard and a sprinkling of curry powder - it is everywhere!

Highlight so far - ramen noodles at Cocolo. A tiny place with a choice of six different ramen noodles plus a few sides like edamame and gyoza. We sat crammed around the bar looking into the kitchen/workspace watching the action. It's a popular wee joint - we were lucky to get seated within 20 minutes but lots of people were happy to wait outside for a space to come up. A really basic set-up with the open kitchen consisting of a couple of huge pots of burners, a couple of plug in elements, a few rice cookers and a sink to wash the dishes in but it works so well! I want a Cocolo ramen noodle bar in Wellington! I forgot my camera so no photos sadly but if you're ever in Berlin seek this place out!

Now for some real German food... meatballs and fried potatoes!

...And bratwurst in a bun with half a litre of heferweizen!

Beer is almost cheaper than bottled water in this city so it's not surprising that they drink it by the litre! You can buy beer everywhere - bakeries, cafes, corner shops... everywhere!

Yet to try that German favourite of pork knuckle with sauerkraut... I just can't bring myself to order it! But we're off to Munich tomorrow so there's still time...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dinner date - lamb with chickpeas, yoghurt and tray-roasted veg

When looking for dinner inspiration, I came across this recipe in Jamie Oliver's; jamie's dinners. I really rate jamie's dinners as a good book for inspiration, and every time I open it I find something new to try.

This lamb was a nice twist on a traditional roast lamb. It was quite unusual in that the butterflied lamb was cooked directly on the oven rack. The recipe said to cook the lamb for an hour (and even notes that it is to be served well cooked) but I think it would be nicer to have it a bit rarer, so next time I might cook it for 45 minutes. I roasted different veges to those suggested in the original recipe, but it really wouldn't matter what you use. I think the chickpeas make a great addition, and it's lovely to have the yoghurt based sauce to give moisture to the meal.

1 leg of lamb, butterflied and opened up like a book
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
a large bunch of fresh coriander
a large bunch of fresh mint
1 can of chickpeas, drained
salt & pepper
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1 x 500ml natural yoghurt
veges of your choice - I used carrot, kumara, pumpkin and eggplant - pealed and chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
olive oil

Score the lamb on both sides. Using either a pestle and mortar or a food processor, grind or whizz up the coriander seeds with the garlic, fresh coriander, mint and half the chickpeas to form a paste. Season with salt and pepper then add the lemon juice and yoghurt. Place half of this flavoured yoghurt in a large plastic bag and add the lamb. Put the other half in the fridge for later. Tie the bag up to seal and turn it around to allow the yoghurt to coat all the lamb. Leave to marinate for at least an hour but up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 200C. Place veges in a roasting tray with the remaining chickpeas, then sprinkle with cumin and drizzle with olive oil.

Remove the lamb from the marinade, the place the meat directly on the oven rack with the tray of veges on the shelf below. Cook for about 1 hour, tossing the veges halfway through. Serve the lamb well cooked with the veg and flavoured yoghurt on the side. I also served this with a salad of rocket, red pepper, orange and macadamia nuts. Delicious.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A few of our favourite things...

Daisy enjoyed opening a parcel Aunty Libby sent via Royal Mail from London last week, which included this super cute Emma Bridgewater 'Polka Dot' melamine tea set. Admittedly the tissue paper intrigued her more than the actual tea set, but I am sure it will cater for many a tea party in years to come.

Becs: Perhaps needless to say my favourite thing this week would be our solid oak dining table, under which a large proportion of early Saturday morning was spent huddling, after the terrifying 7.1 earthquake that struck Christchurch. Non-quake-related, I am going through a nostalgic phase of using our old school toasted sandwich maker in lieu of the sandwich press that is more fashionable these days for making posher grilled sandwiches. Although a tendency to overfill can make clean-up a bit messy to say the least, I think the hassle is worth it.

Miriam: When I moved up from Wellington earlier this year, I packed a box full of IRD info, bank statements, insurance policies and general stuff I couldn't face dealing with and labelled it 'admin'. The admin box stayed sealed and tucked out of sight until a few days ago, when I had to face the dreaded task of completing my overdue tax return. What a lovely surprise when in amongst the dreary statements I discovered my old moleskin notebooks from my OE a few years back. I have delighted in reminiscing of my wee adventures around Europe. I was also pleased that one of the notebooks has hardly been written in, so I shall pop it in my handbag ready to record little tid-bits.

Libby: I have had many many favourite things in Paris this week - fresh baguettes from the boulangerie on the corner, breakfast pastries from Ble Sucre, macarons from Pierre Hermes and salted butter caramel ice cream from Berthillon... but this little tarte citron from Angelina stands out. Angelina is a delightful little tea house on Rue de Rivoli. It would have been lovely to have been seated and enjoyed the moment a little more but were weren't quite ready for afternoon tea so decided to choose a wee treat to take home and enjoy later on.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

thursday baking - cappuccino date slice

Thursday baking this week was made by Mum, who has been making this yummy slice for years. It's like a coffee (flavoured) cake with dates in it, and being a melt and mix, one bowl recipe it is very quick and easy to put together. The dates tend to sink to the bottom; I'm not sure how to avoid this, as flouring the dates first tends to result in pesky bits of uncooked flour getting trapped in their crevices, not so nice! Maybe we could try chopping them a bit smaller. It's quite sweet so is nice cut into smallish pieces, Mum took it to a morning tea so this batch was bite size.

Cappuccino date slice - Jo Seagar - Week 23


2 eggs
1 c brown sugar
180g butter, melted
1/2 c milk
2 tbsp coffee and chicory essence (avail in the coffee section of supermarkets)
1 c dates, chopped
1 1/2 c flour
2 tsp baking powder

Coffee Icing

2 c icing sugar
1 tbsp coffee essence
25g butter, melted
boiling water

Preheat oven to 150c. Line a 20 x 30cm slice tray with baking paper.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl or cake mixer, add the other ingredients and mix well to combine. Spread into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until firm in the centre. Cool in the tin.

To make the icing beat all ingredients together with enough boiling water to form a smooth, glossy icing. When cold cut into 30 slices. This can also be frozen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

chocolate and orange

I love chocolate and orange together, and often make a delicious cake using these ingredients, but for some reason had never thought to combine them in a cookie. One of the girls brought a freshly baked batch of these cookies to playgroup recently, and we all loved them. Soft and cakey* with an intense orange flavour and huge chunks of dark chocolate. The first time I made them however they turned out totally different, and were crispy* and shortbready like the condensed milk style chocolate chippie recipe. Nice in their own way but not the result I was after. I quizzed Sarah and found out her secret...she uses olive oil spread in her baking instead of butter. The batch today was perfect.

*for a comprehensive analysis of the different cookie 'camps' have a look at this post on Nessie's blog! Depending on mood I fluctuate between all three cookie camps...crispy, cakey and chewy.

orange chocolate chunk cookies

200g olive oil spread - need at least 65% fat content so avoid the 'light' versions (or sub for butter if you prefer crispy cookies...)
1/2 c brown sugar
2 c self-raising flour
zest of 2 oranges, finely grated
juice of 1-2 oranges
200g dark chocolate, cut into chunks

Beat the olive oil spread and brown sugar till creamy. Mix in the flour and orange zest, and enough juice to make a soft dough, more or less won't hurt. Finally stir in the chocolate. Roll into balls and place on a lined baking tray, flatten slightly. They don't spread too much, puffing up more instead. Bake for 2o minutes or so at 180 c until golden.
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