Monday, May 30, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: It's the annual inorganic collection in my neighbourhood; where you put your inorganic waste out on the street for it to be magically taken away. The collection is organised by Auckland Council, but I'm not sure how much waste they end up collecting, as often the scavengers get in first. We put a broken clothes horse out only for it to be snapped up minutes later. And we're certainly not too proud to scavenge off our neighbours either; we have now expanded our outdoor furniture, acquiring a deck chair, two dining chairs and this park bench - we're all set for summer entertaining!

Becs: As the days have become colder my vege garden has been sadly neglected. In the weekend I finally summoned the motivation to tear out the last of the withered-up tomato plants, and had a big tidy-up. On a trip to the garden centre I procured a bale of pea straw, some seed garlic and winter green seedlings, as well as a few packets of spring flower bulbs to provide some pretty end-of-winter cheer.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Esther's gingerbread two ways

On Saturday I went to make a pear and ginger upside-down cake that I'd seen a delicious-looking recipe for in the last few weeks but I was unable to find the recipe. I trawled through blogs I might have seen it on and flicked through books and magazines I'd read recently in the hope of finding it... but it's still a mystery and I'm thinking I may have just dreamt about it.

Instead, I used "Ester's gingerbread" from Ruth Pretty with a few tweaks to create what I had in my mind. It really is THE BEST gingerbread. Lovely and moist and equally good with a chunk of creamy blue or in this case, pears, walnuts and a spoonful of softly whipped cream.

I made the full recipe (nearly half a block of butter...eeek) but distributed it into two loaf tins instead of one as per the recipe. In one (baking paper-lined) tin I spread a mixture of 25g butter and 50g brown sugar (melted gently together over a low heat), 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, and two finely-sliced, peeled and quartered buerre bosc pear.

Although the upside-down brown sugar bit went slightly toffee-ish, it made a delicious winter pudding with a little cream on the side. It was even better the next day reheated with a drizzle of golden syrup.

For the second loaf, I poured the remaining batter into the tin and dotted in a cup or so of diced pear. This made a good "tin-filler" and lasted several days as a treat to have with a cup of tea.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Becs: I recently had the pleasure of helping out with the Taste Farmers Market New Zealand Awards. Judges (pictured from L to R) Al Brown, Brett McGregor, Zo Zhou, Jonny Schwass, Suzanne Dale and Chris Fortune deliberated over more than 100 beautiful products from small NZ producers who sell at farmers markets around the country. It was a dream of a day; unpacking the courier parcels containing all the award entries was my idea of Christmas, as was tasting everything from buffalo yoghurt to homemade walnut baklava (in between jotting down the judges thoughts of course!) For a sneak peek at some of the highlights do have a look at Zo's blog, where she gives an excellent run-down.

Miriam: On Sunday Lewi and I went out to Huia in the Waitakeres. It was a beautiful sunny morning and after a couple of hours of walks, we stopped in for lunch at the Huia Beach Store & Cafe. We enjoyed an old school thick shake and a cheese & pineapple toasted sandwich. Although the thick shake was $7, and the toasted sandwich was so crunchy with butter it undid all the good of our walk, it was such a blast from the past and the perfect setting to enjoy these treats.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

dinner date - baked bacon, mushroom and spinach risotto

When I wrote my list here of things to look forward to about winter, I forgot to add risotto. Risotto must be one of the ultimates in comfort food - warm, creamy, carbs. I find the process of constantly stirring the rice until each cup of stock is absorbed somewhat therapeutic. However, sometimes it's nice to have risotto without all that admin. In this case, baked risotto is the answer. This risotto recipe by Donnah Hay (with the adaptation of wine and herbs) was published a couple of months ago in Canvas Magazine that comes with the Weekend Herald.

Spinach and mushroom baked risotto
40g butter
4 rashers bacon, rind removed and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300g brown mushrooms, halved
2 cups arborio rice
1.5 liters of chicken stock & white wine (use whatever proportions you like)
10g butter, extra
1 cup parmesan, finely grated
100g baby spinach leaves
fresh herbs
cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 200C. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon, onion and garlic and cook for 5 mins or until softened. Add the mushroom and cook for 5 mins or until golden. Add the rice and stock + wine, cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 40 mins or until rice is tender. Add the extra butter, parmesan and fresh herbs and stir to combine. Top with spinach leaves and pepper to serve.

Monday, May 16, 2011

a few of our favourite things

Libby: I like to have a jar of yoghurt in the fridge to have on cereal, to use in baking and for savoury cooking. My favourite "all-purpose" yoghurt is Easiyo low fat greek. It's the only yoghurt mix I've tried that comes out smooth and creamy. It's also really cheap at about $4 for a sachet that makes up a litre of yoghurt. I like to add a little less water to make it thicker so end up with about 800ml.

Becs: While calling into our local fruit and vege shop for some supplies to make this delicious spiced apple granola, I noticed a large box of bananas on 'sale' for $1.  Although I had to throw a few into the compost, there are now plenty of bags of sliced banana tucked in the freezer ready for banana bread, smoothies, or this beautiful banana ice cream. Love a bargain!

Miriam: This Old Mout Cider's pretty yum with lovely feijoa flavours. It kind of reminds me of the Phoneix sparkling feijoa, but with the addition of 5.8% alcohol.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday baking - lemon yoghurt cake with orange blossom

This weeks Thursday baking is brought to us by Jessica:

This cake didn't initially leap out at me from the book. I don't think 'Lemon Yoghurt Cake with Orange Blossom' as a title really does it justice when it is packed full of such interesting flavours and textures. If I was coming up with a name for it, I'd call it something more evocative like 'Middle Eastern syrup cake', because of the distinctive use of pistachios, semolina and orange blossom water in the flavouring. I was eventually drawn to it because Susan Fleischl described it as a 'great dinner party cake', which appealed when I was looking for something to make for my Book Club- a slightly special desert cake which would still be nice the next day or so. The lemon flavour really isn't that pronounced, so I'm glad I included some orange zest in both the cake and syrup. I might even include some more if I was making it again. The cake has a pleasantly 'grainy' texture, which doesn't really sound that pleasant, but you'll have to believe me that it is. It's very moist and crumbly and refrigerates well.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake with Orange Blossom Susan Fleischl

250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
zest of 1 lemon (I also used the zest of an orange)
150ml yoghurt
250g semolina
2 tsp baking powder
200g shelled raw pistachios, ground in a food processor

1 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
few drops of orange blossom water

To serve
mascarpone icing sugar (I stirred the icing sugar into the mascarpone rather than dusting the cake with it)

Preheat the oven to 165C. Grease a 22cm round cake tin and line it with baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, with the zest and yoghurt and slowly beat together. Sift the semolina with the baking powder and gently fold into the mixture with the pistachio nuts. Bake for 40-50 minutes (it took an hour for me for the cake to cook) Leave to cool in the tin.To make the syrup, boil the first three ingredients together for 1 minute. I also added some lemon and orange zest. Remove from the heat and stir in a few drops of orange blossom water to taste (be careful, it has a strong flavour and can end up tasting like soap if you use too much!).Remove the cake from the tin and place on a plate. Pour the hot syrup over the cool cake and leave it to soak in. Dust with icing sugar, if desired, and serve with mascarpone. This cake will keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container but is best eaten on the day it is made.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

coq au vin

I love autumn, when the cold weather is still a novelty rather than an uncomfortable annoyance, and comfort food reigns supreme. One of the wintery dinners we have enjoyed lately is Coq au Vin, such a classic but for good reason, it is so delicious. I based mine on Tina's recipe, but with drums instead of thighs; I like to cook this really slowly so the meat falls off the bone, and although I love thighs for most things, when slow cooked they can go a bit stringy. Drumsticks are often really cheap too, so are great to cook for a crowd.

If I make this in advance I will often pull the meat off the bone after the initial cook, which makes it easier eating after you reheat to serve. Making it in advance lets the fat settle on top too, so you can scoop it off easily, plus the flavours are so much better after some fridge time. Like anything with a rich wine-y sauce, this dish demands a lovely big pile of mashed potato or something similarly starchy to soak up all the beautiful sauce.

Coq au Vin

2 tbsp each of olive oil and butter
100g bacon, diced
pickling onions, peeled (12 or as you like..)
button mushrooms (12 or as you like...)
8 pieces chicken
seasoned with s and p
1.5 c red wine
1 c chicken stock
4 tbsp brandy
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary, parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
chopped Italian parsley to serve

Heat butter and oil and cook the bacon, onions and mushrooms, until the mushrooms brown and the onions start to go translucent. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside. Dust the chicken in the seasoned flour, then fry, you may need to add more oil and butter. Once browned, return the vegetables to the pan, and add the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook at 160c for 1.5- 2hours or until the meat falls off the bone. I like to leave it overnight, then skim off the fat and reheat, thickening the sauce at the last minute with a little arrowroot.

Monday, May 9, 2011

a few of our favourite things

Miriam & Becky: We had a LWD reunion in Papamoa this weekend. We loved the sushi which we enjoyed at a wee place "Sushi Takeaway" in Tauranga (109 Devonport Road, at the top end near Farmers). Despite the name they do have tables, some on the street. The sushi was all beautifully presented in huge glass cabinets, with lots of interesting combinations to choose from. We selected our own platter and shared a rice ball, tempura prawn, teriyaki chicken, roasted mushroom with sping onion and eggplant and toasted sesame. We were so taken with it we had to go back for more (pieces with calamari, roasted asparagus, chilli pork, yum!)

Another culinary highlight was a vist to the Good Food Trading Co which is a Nosh/Moore Wilson Fresh type store in the industrial area between Tauranga and the Mount. We had a lovely browse here, and picked up a delicious tiramisu for pudding among other things, and went back for a take away coffee and brioche the next day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday baking - fruit of passion

My parents have an abundance of passion fruit from their vine. While at home for Easter, I thought I'd turn some of them into curd. This lead to a lengthy debate re seeds in or out. I'm not adverse to passion fruit seeds when eating the fruit fresh, but sometimes I've noticed that in cooking, the seeds can separate from the juice sac that surrounds it, and rather than sliding down ones throat you often bite inot the seeds, which can be somewhat unpleasant.

However, I've strained the seeds before when making icing, and feel this has compromised the flavour. Following a discussion with Mum, a phone call to Becky and a google search, I decided on a method that would give me the best of both worlds.

I heated the passion fruit pulp in a pot (which helped to separated the seeds and juice sac), let it sit of 5 mins, then sieved the pulp to exclude the seeds. I then used this recipe to make the curd.

I divided the finished curd between several containers, and as a bit of an experiment, I added some extra fresh passionfruit (seeds and all to one batch). My conclusion is I prefer the seedless variety, as it still has a great passionfruit hit.

I used the curd on toast, mixed through cream and yoghurt and served with meringue as a desert, and as a centre for lemon yoghurt cupcakes. Delicious!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


It's feeling like winter, so bring on the root vegetables. These wedges are an Alison Holst standby our family has made for years. I think the key to getting crunchy wedges is to try and leave them alone if you can, give them at least half an hour before going near them with a fish slice, and maybe turn them once or twice after that. Then it gives the potatoes a chance to form a decent crust on the bottom. I'm not sure how Alison struck on the 'sinfully rich' title, as the ingredients list isn't too naughty. The inclusion of butter is definitely a good thing, and with the combo of spices I guess they are leaning a bit to the Mexican side of things - far superior to a Hot Bandito though (!) At any rate, SR wedges are really tasty, try them.

sinfully rich potato wedges - for 4

8-ish large potatoes

25g butter

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp chilli

Preheat the oven to 200c. Scrub the potatoes and cut into wedges. Melt the butter in the roasting tray, add the oil and spices to it and mix well to make a paste. Add the potato wedges and toss well to coat. Roast for an hour or so until crisp.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

busy people's bread

I started making kumara, carrot and ginger soup for lunch on Sunday, and then realised we didn't have any bread to go with it. Rather than go the the shop, I tried out Annabel Langbein's 'busy people's bread'. In not much more than an hour you can have a lovely wholesome loaf of bread. I must say, mine was a bit sunken in the middle, but it was still delicious and went perfectly with the soup. Next time I will try to put the pumpkin seeds on the bottom and up the side of the tin before adding the dough, so the whole loaf will be covered in them.

Busy people's bread - Annabel Langbein
Makes 2 loaves (I 1/2 the recipe)

2 cups boiling water
4 tsp honey
2 cups cold water
7 tsp dry yeast granules
2 3/4 cups high grade white flour
2 3/4 cups wholemeal flour
3 tsp salt
2 cups sunflower seeds
4 tbsp pumpkins seeds

Preheat oven to 80C and grease and line 2 25 x 10 cm loaf tins with baking paper. In a large bowl, mix the boiling water with the honey to dissolve. Add the cold water and yeast and put to one side for 10 minutes.

Whisk the yeast mixture and then add the white and wholemeal flour, salt and sunflower seeds and mix with a large spoon until evenly combined, it will be a loose, wet batter.

Divide the mixture between prepared loaf tins, spread evenly and flatten the top. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds over the top of each loaf and run a sharp knife through the top of each loaf in at least 3 or 4 places so that it rises evenly without splitting. Bake for 20 minutes at 80C and then turn the oven up to 210C and bake for a further 40 minutes. When cooked the loves will sound hollow when tapped. Turn out of the tins while still hot. Eat still warm from the oven, or leave to cool (as the instructions recommend), or use as toast for several days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Libby: I use cheapie olive or rice bran oil for roasting and frying but like to have some good olive oil in the cupboard for salads and pasta. My favourite is the Barnea extra virgin olive oil from The Village Press as its reasonably priced (for NZ EVO) and always lovely and fresh. I've been buying it in 500ml bottles for awhile but decided to invest in a two litre cask while on a shopping trip at Moore Wilson. It has a handy little tap to make transferring to a more sensible-sized bottle a breeze and the cask-style packaging protects the oil from its biggest enemy: light.

Miriam: I am a big fan of devils on horseback - prunes wrapped in bacon. We enjoyed these ones with bubbles watching the royal wedding on Friday night. We also had what I call angels on horseback - banana wrapped in bacon, which are also a great combination. Devils & angels on horseback are so moreish!

Becs: These beautifully ripe figs were purchased for 50c each from an enterprising wee girl who had set up shop outside her front gate. I really wish I'd had my camera at the time to capture her signage (mmmm figs, yummy! delicious!) in all its handmade glory. I love seeing kids doing things like this, and can remember from when I was a child how exciting it was when a (genuine, non-related) customer came along. We ate one box of them cut up into quarters and baked on a pizza with onion jam, blue cheese and hazelnuts; the others I think I will drizzle with honey and roast for pudding.

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