Sunday, January 30, 2011

dinner date - spaghetti & prawns

I made this spaghetti as a quick dinner for two on Sunday night but it's one of my favourite "dinners for one". I don't see occasions when cooking for myself as a reason to just have toast for dinner, rather I see it as an opportunity to have special treat... like prawns!

If you don't like prawns you could add bacon instead, or go without either for a very simple meal.

Like many pasta "recipes" its more an assembly of ingredients than a recipe. I've given rough quantities for two servings, increase or decrease as necessary.

Olive oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
1 dozen raw prawns
A splash of white wine (optional)
1 can chopped tomatoes
A handful of chopped Italian parsley and/or basil
Salt & pepper

Get a large pot of salted water boiling for the spaghetti & heat a lidded pan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil to the pan and throw in the red onion. Cook for 10-15 minutes until soft but not browned. (Now add the spaghetti to the boiling water)

Add the garlic & chilli to the softened onion and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Turn up the heat and throw in the prawns along with a splash of white wine (if using). Stir for 2-3 minutes then add the chopped tomatoes. Cook over med-high heat for five minutes, reducing a little. Once the spaghetti is cooked, season the prawns/tomato sauce with salt and pepper and throw over the herbs.

Drain the spaghetti, then put it back into the pan and stir in a couple of spoonfuls of the sauce to cook. Distribute the spaghetti into bowls and top with prawns & tomato sauce.


Friday, January 28, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: I'd almost stopped buying garlic as it was all so old and shrivelled, full of bitter, sprouting green cores. But the new seasons garlic that started showing up in the last few weeks is all lovely and purply-skinned and sweet. I've been adding generous amounts of finely-chopped garlic to almost everything I've made for dinner in the last week!
Becs: Good St Deli in Rangiora is a great little cafe that puts many in town to shame. My bagel with salmon, cream cheese and capers was homemade down to the bagel and the house-smoked salmon, which is pretty special for a cafe-priced lunch. They bake a delicious section of little single serve cakes - the flourless chocolate and almond topped with a dollop of ganache is lovely, as is the lemon baked cheesecake topped with thick cream and blueberry compote. Service is swift and the coffee is well made. While I think Good St alone is well worth the drive out from Christchurch for lunch, we combined it with a stop at Femme de brocante, another Rangiora gem - who sell a gorgeous array of soft furnishing fabrics and upcycled furniture - where Daisy scored a sweet string of bunting.

Miriam: Whoops, I'm in Auckland Anniversary long weekend mode and forgot about favourite things this week! However, I have a few random favourite things; one is my resumed relationship with Les Mills. I do love a good run around at body attack or combat.
Another is Takapuna beach - it's the perfect length for a casual stroll & good people watching.
And lastly my other favourite thing of late is Sakata wholegrain rice crackers, they taste great and surely they must be healthier than standard rice crackers?!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

thursday baking - banana coconut cake

We've no longer baking just from A Treasury of Baking as we want to share some of our favourite recipes from different sources. To be honest, getting through the book was becoming a bit of a chore and baking should never be a chore!

So today's recipe comes from the the Ripe cookbook by Angela Redfern. A beautifully illustrated book full of contemporary cafe food.

I made this banana coconut cake for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. Once iced, it ended up as an enormous cake! As my sister Sarah was in Wellington for the weekend she was able to take some of the cake to Christchurch for the rest of the family to try. We all agreed the addition of coconut added texture to what would otherwise be an ordinary banana cake. The icing is the best cream cheese icing ever - the perfect consistency for spreading or piping. I'll never use any other recipe.

I couldn't find fresh passionfruit to sprinkle on top and didn't want to resort to passionfruit syrup so went without. It would have been a delicious addition so once they're in season I'll make this cake again.

Banana coconut cake

1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut
300mls milk (for soaking)
185g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
3 ripe bananas (mashed)
160mls milk
3 cups self-raising flour

Cream cheese icing
100g unsalted butter
600g icing sugar (sifted)
250g cream cheese (softened)
Juice of one lemon
1 cup long thread coconut (toasted) and passionfruit pulp for serving.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Soak the coconut in the first measure of milk while you get the rest of the cake underway.

Cream the butter and sugar together, add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl and beating well between each addition. Add the milky coconut mix and mashed banana. Mix together. Add the second measure of milk and flour, alternating between each. Mix well and pour into a prepared (greased/lined etc) tin. I used a classic bundt tin which worked well.

Bake for about an hour or until a skewer is inserted into the centre and comes out clean.

To make the icing, combine the butter and icing sugar in a cake mixers until fine crumbs form. Add the cream cheese and lemon juice and beat on high for five minutes until light and fluffy. Ice when the cake it cool and sprinkle with toasted coconut (and passionfruit if you can get it).

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

oh divine fudge

Our cousin got married recently, and I was responsible for the task of making some sweet treats to enjoy with coffee. I made little lemon meringue tarts like those served at Daisy's birthday party using the recipe from A Treasury Of NZ Baking. The pastry and curd recipe from Kathy Paterson are fabulous and work every time. I use the Edmonds meringue recipe (2 egg whites to 1/2 c caster sugar) pipe them onto trays and bake until dry, to pop onto the tarts once ready to be served. I love these tarts, and make them quite regularly for catering jobs. They are a bit fiddly to make, having the three components of pastry, lemon curd and meringues, but are perfectly easy to make in bulk, and look so sweet. Best of all, everything can be made a few days ahead and easily assembled at the last minute.

I also made a few batches of Cottle Fudge, having tasted it when our friend Chloe made it. The recipe can be found on the Ruth Pretty website, and it is divine. Libby and I think that taste and texture-wise it reminds us a lot of the Viennese/Classic/Country fudge in the Cadbury Rose's boxes. (These are a favourite, so we consider this a compliment!)

Ruth's instructions may seem a little pedantic about cooling times etc but do follow them to the letter if you want to be able to cut your fudge into perfect little squares without the chocolate cracking. I was unhappy with how messily one batch of mine sliced, after I lazily left it in the fridge overnight to set the chocolate on a humid night. But I chipped the chocolate topping off, melted the fudge down in the pan again and repoured it into the tin, melting some new chocolate to top it after the requisite cooling time had passed; luckily this worked perfectly as a remedial measure as by that stage I was a bit over making Cottle fudge!

Ruth says she gets 56 pieces out of a tray, I used a 20cm square pan and trimmed the edges (yum, offcuts) then cut the fudge slab into 8 x 8 rows, which yielded 64 smaller bite sized pieces. It is sweet, so I think a daintier piece is a little less intimidating than those in the picture above which I found on her website - the good fudge was whipped off to the wedding and ours at home was the '2nds' so was not worthy of photographing - but most definitely worthy of being devoured, did I mention this fudge is very moreish?!

It really is divine, the texture is melt-in-your mouth creamy without the sugary graininess homemade fudge often has, or the waxiness commercial fudge can suffer from. Easy to make too, as for something considered child's play making perfect fudge is actually rather tricky. The dark chocolate on top is essential, and it needs to be something really dark like Whittakers Ghana to cut through the sweet fudge. I think a sprinkle of flaky seasalt on top would also work well if you are on the sweet-salty bandwagon that is popular at the moment.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

dinner date - star anise chicken and noodle salad

This summery dinner was inspired by a couple of new cookbooks - the noodle salad is from Ripe Recipes, and the chicken is from Belinda Jefferey's 100 favourite recipes. The braised star anise chicken is apparently her most requested recipe. It is a similar recipe to a chicken nibble marinade, but the star anise makes the flavour more complex. It was a fairly easy dinner, the chicken takes a while to cook but there's no major prep involved. Perfect for hot weather!

This meal would make great picnic fare too, if you shredded the cooled chicken through the salad for easy eating, or cooked drumsticks or nibbles in the marinade. Reducing some of the marinade at the end to make a sticky glaze to brush over the chicken skin is an optional step but one that is well worth it in my opinion; the finished chicken with its high-gloss skin looks rather impressive, a bit like peking duck. (The photo above didn't exactly capture the chicken's best side...) It would actually be pretty good served Peking duck style, rolled up in pancakes with spring onions and hoisin.

The salad would be delicious with some toasted peanuts or cashews tossed through it, or crispy fried shallots. It would also be a great base for some stirfried chicken, beef or asian style marinated salmon. If you don't have the ingredients below it is an easy one to freestyle - just be sure to include something crunchy like the bean sprouts, or some shredded cabbage.

Belinda Jeffery's Star Anise Braised Chicken

1 c kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)
1 c soy sauce
1 c water
1/3 c brown sugar
2 whole star anise
2 tbsp sherry
2 cloves garlic, lightly crushed
2 chucks of ginger (the size of a 20c piece)
1 x 2kg chicken

Preheat oven to 180c. Put all ingredients except the chicken in a large flameproof dish (I used a scanpan wok) and bring to the boil. Place chicken breast side down into the liquid, cover with lid or foil, and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven, turn over (Belinda suggests using a wooden spoon handle shoved into the chicken...which worked well) and bake a further 45 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the poaching liquid for at least half an hour. Boil some of the liquid in a small saucepan until it forms a thick syrupy glaze and brush over the chicken. The cooking liquid can be recycled next time - keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks or freeze.

Rice Noodle Salad - adapted from Ripe Recipes

250g pkt rice noodles, cooked in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, and refreshed in cold water
200g green beans, blanched and refreshed
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, blanched and refreshed
1 red pepper, cut into fine strips
1 c fresh mung bean sprouts
1 c podded edamame beans (Asian stores often sell frozen packs of these), blanched etc
1 c fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 c fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

Combine all ingredients and toss with the dressing.


1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp sesame seeds, dry toasted
1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake until well combined.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: I love my new camelbak drink bottle. In this hot weather I have it with me at all times. It has a straw mechanism, so you can drink from the bottle without having to tip your head back - far more elegant than your standard drink bottle. I had another very similar plastic version, but Mum called into question whether it was BPA-free, so she bought me this stainless steel one just to be on the safe side!

Becs: I can't stand raw tomatoes in any form - I think it is mostly due to the squelchy seedy insides - but love the flavour of tomatoes once cooked. I think tinned Italian tomatoes are a critical pantry staple, and we buy them by the carton load to ensure they are always in stock at home! A tin of tomatoes reduced down over a low heat to a pulp with just a little salt, pepper, and sugar (to take away the acidity) is my go-to sauce for pasta and pizza. These tins are going into a pot of Mexican tomato and lentil soup; the weather has been decidedly chilly in Christchurch lately so soup and cornbread seems a fitting dinner.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


This recipe is based on one in the Dunsandel Store cookbook. There are a few steps prep-wise, but most of this is hands-off cooking and cooling time, so you just need to think ahead a little. I use the slowcooker to cook pork hocks, it's so much easier than keeping an eye on a simmering pot, which I am often inclined to forget about. These pasties are delicious, with the salty, smoky fork-tender pork and the sweet apple. We ate them with the brown rice salad which has been intensively consumed around here lately...but I think they would be nice next time with this red cabbage, apple and walnut slaw .

Smoked pork hock, apple and cider pasties - makes 8

2 large smoked pork hocks
4 cloves
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large onion, quartered
1 bayleaf
few sprigs rosemary and thyme
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
olive oil for frying
400g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tbsp flour
330ml cider (1 bottle)
2 c pork hock poaching liquid
2 large apples, peeled and diced
salt and pepper
puff pastry (We use Edmonds butter puff)
beaten egg for glazing

Place the pork hocks in a stockpot, or into a slowcooker bowl, along with the celery, quartered onion studded with the cloves, bayleaf and herbs. Add enough water to cover the hocks, and simmer for a couple of hours (or overnight on low in the slowcooker) until the meat falls off the bone. Cool slightly, then strip the meat off and shred up. Strain the liquid, reserving 2c for the sauce and freeze the rest to use as a stock for a pot of soup...

In a heavy based saucepan slowly cook the diced onion until soft but barely coloured. Add potatoes and flour and cook a few more minutes stirring. Add the cider and reserved pork stock, and cook for around 20 minutes or until the potato is tender. Add the apples and cook another 5 minutes. By this stage the liquid should have reduced and thickened up. Season with salt and pepper and cool - this is important to prevent soggy pastry!

Cut circles of pastry by using a bread and butter plate to trace round, from a pack of 5 pastry sheets you should get 8 circles with a bit of re-rolling. Divide cooled filling between the pastry rounds, and fold up the edges, crimping to seal up. Transfer to a lined oven tray and brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with poppy seeds if you like. Cook at 180c for 30 minutes or so until golden.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lolly cake cake

My friend Pete turned 30 the other day. He's off the alcohol at the moment, so although his birthday celebrations were at the pub, they consisted (for him at least) of raspberry & coke along with chips! Pete LOVES lolly cake, so I thought I'd make him a 30th lolly cake cake. Most recipes roll the lolly cake in coconut, but given my adversion to it, I choose to make this recipe, which didn't have coconut.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

dinner date - nutty rice salad

This week's post comes courtesy of Sarah.

This simple and tasty salad is based on a recipe given to us by good friend Mary Bollard. After all the rich food over the summer holidays, this salad was fresh and delicious. It can be served as a side salad but is also substantial enough to eat a bowl full on its own. I also thought it would be a good thing to take to a BBQ to keep the vegetarians happy.

Nutty Rice Salad
1 cup uncooked brown rice
¼ cup soy sauce
3 spring onions, chopped finely
1 red capsicum, diced
½ head broccoli, steamed
½ cup chopped dates
½ cup cashews, chopped coarsely
½ cup each of roasted sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds

¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsps lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp honey

Cook rice, mix the soy sauce through and leave to cool. Put ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake together. Add all remaining ingredients and the dressing to the rice and mix well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: This week I discovered the perfect cream cheese icing recipe - it comes courtesy of the Ripe cookbook which I also received for Christmas. For enough icing to cover a large cake, beat softened unsalted butter (100g) with lots of icing sugar (600g) until it resembles fine breadcrumbs in a cake mixer. Then you add cream cheese (250g) and beat for five minutes or so until light and fluffy. This icing is the just the right consistency for piping - it holds its shape perfectly atop these cute little lemon cupcakes I made in celebration of growing a year older. They're topped with another of my favourite things at the moment: fresh raspberries.
Becs: I received a couple of lovely cookbooks for Christmas, Ripe Recipes from the Auckland deli Ripe and A Year's Worth, Recipes from the Dunsandel Store, which is a general store cum cafe thirty minutes south of Christchurch. So far I have made Dunsandel's spiced apple chutney and their amazing smoked pork hock, apple and cider pasties (more on those soon to follow...) From Ripe the toasted muesli, banana and coconut cake, go-go chicken and nutty slaw were all delicious. Both books have lots of recipes for cafe staples of the tried and true variety, Ripe's being a little more cutting edge as you would expect given their urban clientele, the Dunsandel collection is more traditional but very charmingly compiled.

Miriam: This is a great dip that goes well with bread or corn chips. I'm not sure where this recipe originated, but I feel like it came from somewhere like food in a minute(!). It probably only takes a couple of minutes to make - just chop up tomatoes (I like to deseed them first), add parsley and coriander, salt, pepper and bind it all together with sweet chilli sauce. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the ultimate sandwich

Dinner date today comes courtesy of the venison sandwich stall at the Rotorua Night Market, to which we paid a visit last Thursday night while on holiday up North. Rewena bread (Maori bread that is leavened with a potato starter) stuffed with a venison burger, homemade beetroot relish, kawakawa aioli and salad.

The bread was delicious, a bit like a cross between a good ciabatta and turkish bread - light and spongy with a holey crumb and very moist. It had been fried before being oven baked to finish cooking and let the excess oil drain away, so had a lovely chewy crust.

I was so impressed with the attention to detail at this stall - the finishing touches like the homemade condiments, the little brown box the sandwich was served in and the the wee flax toothpick to hold the bread together. The sandwich was delicious, and at $8 value for money; Miriam and I went halves and that was ample after the late lunch we had enjoyed earlier. So if you get the chance to visit the market (every Thursday from 5-8pm) look out for the guy wearing the red chef's jacket!

Monday, January 10, 2011

a few of our favourite things

Libby and Becs: On Monday we enjoyed fish & chips at the wharf in Tauranga to celebrate Dad's birthday. This has to be one of the best fish & chip shops in New Zealand - the fish (we ordered snapper) was deliciously fresh and comes in light, crispy batter and the chips were perfectly cooked. But what really makes it is the location right on the water. There are plenty of picnic tables outside the shop overlooking the sea where you can enjoy dinner in the evening sunshine. We're told some locals even bring along their own table cloth and wine glasses! We advise coming early - on the evening we visited, the queue was well out the door by the time we left just after 6pm.

Miriam: for as long as I can remember, my parents have given my brother and me separate Christmas presents. I suspect this is because Mum would veto the novelty presents Dad suggested, so he was forced to go it alone. Last Christmas, just after my boyfriend and I had broken up, my Dad ever so thoughtfully(?!) presented me with 'The Blue Day Book' and a game entitled 'The Art of Conversation' - I guess he hoped it would help me meet someone else.
This Christmas, I was presented with Nelson Mandela's new book. At face value, it didn't seem in keeping with Dad's usual style, until I read the title; 'Conversations with Myself'. One can only postulate this was selected because I hadn't brought a suitor home for Christmas! Despite our groans at the Dad's presents, they are somewhat entertaining and have certainly provided us with a few laughs over the holidays.

Monday, January 3, 2011

caramel macadamia slice

Lovely Wee Days has been having a bit of a blogging break of late, as we've all been off enjoying the sunshine on our respective holidays. However yesterday we had a LWDs reunion, as Becs, Libby and their family stopped in to visit my family on their way to the beach.

Such an occasion called for a trial of a new recipe. My brother David does some volunteer work for Red Cross, and his Christmas present from them was the 'New Zealand Red Cross Cookbook'. The baking recipes in the book are mostly the standard fare - melting moments, shortbread, ginger crunch etc. But the Caramel Macadamia Slice took my fancy as it wasn't one I was familiar with.

The slice was easy to make (particularly as the caramel is made in the microwave) and was enjoyed by all. The caramel filling is similar to Russian fudge and with lots of macadamias it's hard to go wrong with this one. I think it will now become a firm favourite in the baking repertoire.

Caramel Macadamia Slice
150g butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cups flour, sifted
1 can (395g) sweetened condensed milk
75g butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
70g macadamias, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 18x 28cm baking tin with baking paper.
2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla, then fold in the flour until evenly combined (the mixture should be crumbly).
3. Press three-quarters of the mixture into the base of the prepared tin.
4. Place the condensed milk, butter, sugar and golden syrup in a microwave-proof bowl. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes until the butter has melted. Stir, then cook for 2-4 mins until thick. Poor the caramel over the base.
5. Mix the macadamias through the remaining flour mixture and sprinkle over the caramel. Bake for 20-25 mins until golden.
6. Cool in the tin before cutting into pieces.
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