Thursday, June 30, 2011

thursday baking - scottish oatcakes

This is one of my all-time favourite recipes, and I think there is nothing nicer with cheese. I have tried various oatcake recipes but always come back to this one. It originally came from a cafe I used to cook at that served them on their platters.  Roll them out thinner for a crispy oatcake or a bit thicker if you like a denser crumbly texture, I like them both ways.

Scottish oatcakes - makes 2 full trays, about 30ish

1 1/2 c rolled oats
1 c flour
2 tbsp bran
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all of the above ingredients in a food processor.  Add 125g butter and mix until it forms fine crumbs.  Add 5-6 tbsp milk, or enough to bind the dough together when you pulse the machine.  Wrap in gladwrap and chill until firm enough to work with.  Roll out, cut into shapes and bake at 180c for 10-15  minutes, I flip them over halfway through baking so they brown evenly on top and bottom.

Monday, June 27, 2011

pumpkin & mascarpone ravioli with brown butter hazelnuts

This is a dinner to make on a rainy weekend when you're not in a hurry and as was a real marathon effort, starting the day before with the homemade mascarpone. You could speed things up by using bought mascapone or even cottage cheese or ricotta and using a pasta roller rather than a rolling pin (as I will next time...) But even if you cut a few corners it's still a dinner that requires lots of prep (or "admin" as Miriam would say) before it all comes together.

The filling was inspired by this recipe, found via a google search for "fresh pasta fillings". I made a few additions so my filling was rich mixture of mascarpone, roasted pumpkin, red onion, bacon and roasted garlic. For a lighter version, cottage cheese would make a good substitute for the mascarpone (which is really just solid cream) and leave out the bacon.

I used a Jamie Oliver recipe for the pasta dough - basically a ratio of 100g of 00 flour to every size 7 egg. You need to get this underway several hours in advance too as it need to rest before rolling.

Unfortunately when I went to roll the dough with the mechanical pasta roller it had seized up and stubbornly refused to work. So most of the dough was rolled using a rolling pin - about two hours of hard work! The pasta roller was fixed during this time with much cursing of shoddy Italian workmanship - it's now all ready to roll out the last of the dough into something simple like lasagna sheets or pappardelle.

The quantities below make enough pasta for six generous servings.

600g 00 flour
6 eggs

Half a pumpkin, peeled, and chopped into 2cm dice
4-6 cloves of garlic
A sprig or two of rosemary
1 red onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 rashers of bacon
250g mascarpone
Salt & pepper to taste

To finish
A generous knob of butter (as much as you are prepared to use!)
A large handful of toasted hazelnuts (or walnuts)
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Baby spinach (Becs' addition)

Roast the pumpkin with the whole, unpeeled garlic, rosemary sprigs and enough olive oil at 180 degrees Celsius until tender - about 20-30 minutes. Cool and transfer pumpkin to a large bowl (discard rosemary sprigs). Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from its skin into the bowl too.

Cook the onion in a little oil over a medium heat until very soft, add a splash of water now and again to keep from browning. Throw it in the bowl.

Fry the bacon, finely chop and add to the bowl with the pumpkin etc. Once all the bits and pieces for the filling have cooled add the mascarpone and season with salt and pepper. Mix it all up, squashing the pumpkin a little so it looks like this:

Now you can roll out the dough as per Jamie's instructions and make the little raviolis. Once you have nice thin sheets of pasta, cut circles with a round cutter, put a teaspoon of filling on each circle and top with another circle and pinch the edges together firmly.

Dust each little ravioli with a little extra flour. Keep going until you have used up all the mixture. You'll probably have some extra dough left for another night. I used about 3/4 of the dough and made this much:

To cook, boil a BIG pot of salty water and drop the pasta in and cook for 7 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling heat the butter and toasted hazelnuts in a frying pan over a medium heat until the butter is golden brown.

Carefully drain the pasta (if you tip them from a height they may explode!) and place on hot serving plates. Top with a spoonful of butter and nuts. If you want more of a sauce, you could top the pasta with a small teaspoonful of mascarpone and the roasted nuts (without cooking them in butter). Add some baby spinach leaves if you have them and some shavings of parmesan cheese.

The following day, a some of the ravioli made it's way from Wellington to Christchurch for Mum and Becs to enjoy for lunch. Becs added baby spinach for a nice bitter contrast to the richness of the creamy filling and buttery nuts!

A few of our favourite things...

Becs: A tucked away gem in Dunedin is the Highgate Bridge Bakery (known mostly as 'The Friday Shop'). A team of chefs cook up a storm all week - prepping pastries, pies, tarts, braises and other delicious take-home meals - and open the doors bright and early on Friday mornings only to sell out a few hours later. We love their family-sized chicken and mushroom pies, homemade down to the chicken stock in the sauce and the butter puff pastry. Big thanks to Caroline for delivering a couple while visiting this weekend!

Miriam: I had dinner at my friend Kate's new place last night. Despite having nibbles, main and dessert, Kate then pulled out this huge container of pick'n'mix. This is what $30 can get you in the bulk bins. They were for her work, but we managed to sneak a few pineapple lumps, jetplanes and jaffas before the lid was popped back on the container.

Libby: That big white blob is mascarpone! I had a go at making some myself over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised by how successful it was. I consulted the internet and went with the following method: heat 1 litre of cream to 85 degrees Celsius (in a double boiler), add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, keep at a constant 85 degrees C and stir for five minutes. Cool to room temperature then pour into a cheesecloth (or in my case chux cloth) lined sieve and leave to drain overnight or until firm. I ended up with 700g of mascarpone and used about about third in a filling for fresh ravioli... now what to do with the rest? Give it a go yourself... the only "special" equipment you need is a thermometer and a couple of unused chux cloths.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bourke Street Bakery's chocolate and prune brownie

Chocolate and prunes are one of my favourite flavour combinations and they work so well together in this chocolate and prune brownie from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. The prunes lend a delicious, chewy richness to the brownie, which is closer to the fudgey end (as opposed to the cakey end) of the brownie spectrum.

To make the prunes extra-delicious, you soak them in brandy for three days before using. I reduced the quantity of prunes to 250g of prunes, simply because the prunes I buy come in 250g bags. Adding more wouldn't hurt but 250g seemed enough, even to a prune-lover like me. I also halved the amount of soaking-brandy to 100ml as I don't like the alcoholic burning sensation that booze-soaked dried fruit can give. A little heat is pleasant but I don't like burning! Feel free to adjust the quantities to suit your tastes.

Don't do what I did and slice into the brownie within minutes of it leaving the oven. Try and be patient and leave it to cool. It'll be much easier to slice.

Next time I bake this I'll make it in a bigger tin. I used a 16 x 26cm (rather than the 20 x 30cm stated in the recipe) so my brownies were solid, square bricks rather than slim, elegant fingers.

If you're ever in Sydney, visit the Bourke Street Bakery (in three locations) or their "little sister" Central Baking Depot. It is one of the loveliest bakeries I have ever visited - one of those places where you need take at least one friend with you so you can try lots of different things between you... and take away a wee treat with you for later on! On one (brief) trip to Sydney I visited three times so I could work my way through as many of their delightful cakes and pastries as possible!

Chocolate & prune brownie
Adapted slightly from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook

250g pitted prunes
100ml brandy (or congnac or hot tea)
55g plain flour
40g unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
300g dark chocolate
80g butter
300g caster sugar
4 eggs
100g sour cream

Place the prunes in a bowl, pour over brandy (or other liquid of choice), cover and leave for three days.

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease and line a baking dish (20cm x 30cm).

Sift flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

Place chocolate, butter and sugar into a stainless steel bowl and sit over a saucepan of simmering water (bot touching base of bowl) and stir until melted.

Cool chocolate mixture then get your beaters ready and add the eggs, one-at-a-time, beating after each addition. Add flour and mix to combine, then add sour cream, chocolate melts (if using) and prunes with any remaining soaking liquid.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until just set. Cool completely in the tin before turning out and slicing with a hot knife. Store at room temperature... for as long as it lasts!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A pig in a day

I recently spent a day learning how to make delicious things from a pig - think bacon, prosciutto, salami, chorizo, sausages.  I had read an article about the Pig in a Day workshop in the June/July Dish magazine and loved the sound of it.  The workshop was held in the old schoolroom at Orton Bradley Park in Charteris Bay, about 30 minutes from Christchurch.  I had wrapped up warmly but was delighted to arrive to find the open fire had been cranked up and the room was lovely and cosy.   Pig in a day was most definitely a family affair, with Anna running things, ably assisted by her husband John and 3 charming (and most capable) children.

Here is a leg of pork destined for homemade prosciutto being thoroughly salted.  Next it will be put to bed in a box of salt for a few weeks to start the curing process.

Anna talking through how to make prosciutto, holding one she had prepared earlier (approximately 12 months earlier!) While the hands-on time to make your own prosciutto is fairly minimal, there is a bit of patience required, as after salting the pork needs to hang for  a year or so to air dry.  No such thing as instant gratification here....but the results we tasted below, along with the homemade salami definitely impressed.

A rustic lunch was then served by the children - a starter of bruschetta with mushrooms and chorizo, followed by a delicious soup starring chunks of homecured bacon, and a lemon tart to finish.

After lunch it was time to get stuck into sausage-making, something Mike and I had tried a few times. I am definitely feeling inspired to get my mincer out again, homemade sausages are the way to go.

Anna demonstrating salami making...

Little hands helping...

A table was laid for us all to have a go creating our own sausage recipe, I went for a bit of a chorizo theme, and we enjoyed them served up with homemade baked beans for Sunday night dinner. I have started a piece of pork loin curing today to make some bacon, so watch this space!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: While in Christchurch this weekend, I tried some mulled cider that Becs brought from the Dunsandel Store. I'm a big fan of cider, and of mulled wine, so naturally I loved this combo. It was quite sweet, so you only want a glass (or mug depending on your view of how mulled drinks should be served), but it was a great way to warm up on a cold day. I bought a bottle of it to take back to Auckland, but it would be easy to make too, here's a recipe by Jamie Oliver.

Becs: I love these cute as cute can be hair clips and ties from lyttel button, made here in Christchurch in Lyttelton. They are made using fabrics imported from Japan; my favourite are the sweet little bambi clips. If only Daisy would happily leave them in her hair rather than tugging them out immediately...they are $8 per set from lyttel button, their email is .

Libby: My new favourite thing is my new house, especially the kitchen! It's lovely and spacious - so much bench space to mess up - and the oven works like an oven should! It was a busy weekend in the kitchen and I've made lots of my favourite recipes: really good cheese scones with mexican tomato soup, pumpkin and raisin tea bread, busy people's bread, burmese chicken curry and an amazing chocolate and prune brownie from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. Recipe to follow...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

dinner date - roasted chicken, leek and pear salad

This tray-baked wintery salad has been doing the blog rounds, so I am sorry if it looks a little overly familiar...but I still wanted to share it as it is SO tasty, not to mention quick to throw together.  Chicken, pears and the much underrated leek make such good friends, especially accompanied by crunchy garlicky chunks of bread (they are too rustic to be called croutons!) and dollops of melting goats cheese.  A most satisfactory dinner, especially after a rather tiresome afternoon of yet more nasty earthquakes.

A little trick I have for the goats cheese - for cooking I love the flavour and texture of the soft, creamy french chevre de bellay logs, however these are pricey  - so I buy a NZ goat feta and blend it up in the food processor with some softened cream cheese.  It takes the harsh edge off the feta but still lets the fresh tang of the goats cheese shine through,  giving a result pretty similar to the french stuff. It is definitely easy on the wallet too so can be used with great(er) abandon. If you use a whole pack of both it will make loads, but it freezes beautifully. Lovely on pizza too...

Scoot over to Millie and Mel's blogs if you like for their versions of this salad (which originally appeared in Cuisine mag last year) but here's what we ate for dinner last night - 

roasted chicken, leek and pear salad with goats cheese (for 4)

6 x chicken thighs
1 tbsp yellow and black mustard seeds (or a dollop of grainy mustard)
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 leeks, diagonally sliced 1 cm thick
drizzle of olive oil
splash of red wine vinegar
s and p
chunks of old bread, ciabatta, focaccia etc
soft goats cheese, or feta
salad greens

Preheat oven to 200c. Place the chicken, mustard, herbs, garlic, leeks in a large roasting tray, drizzle over some olive oil and red wine vinegar, s and p, and toss well to combine, then cook for about 30 minutes or until chicken is done ( I used boneless thighs which cooked really quickly).  Once the chicken is nearly done scatter the bread over the other ingredients, drizzle with a little more oil and return to the oven for another 10 minutes so the bread crisps up.  Remove from oven,  throw over the goats cheese and let it melt a bit.  Serve warm in bowls with the salad greens tossed through.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A few of our favourite things...

Miriam: Tucked away in a rather unassuming location in Ellerslie, lies the hustle and bustle of the Mexican Specialties. This wee shop sells Mexican products and on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays you can also enjoy a 'truly home made Mexican lunch'. The place was packed when we went for lunch around 2pm on Saturday, but we managed to stalk out a table. The food was great and the staff were very helpful, even suggesting I buy coke from the dairy next door and drink it there as they were out of cold ones. I was intrigued by the array of interesting dishes coming from the kitchen, so will have to return again soon to sample more of the menu.

Becs: A visit to Hanmer over the long weekend involved a trip to the Woolshed Gallery, where some winter woolies were purchased. A snuggly pair of lambskin slippers for Daisy, a possum silk merino headband for me for winter walks (while Miss Daisy is snug as a bug in her pimped out buggy) and the best discovery of all perhaps - a pair of sheepskin bootliners to go inside my gumboots. I tried them out last weekend and they will definitely make Saturday mornings Posh Porridging at the market a lot cosier. They are just $12 a pair, a small price to pay for such luxury!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Posh Porridge news...

A wee plug for Posh Porridge....we have finally joined Facebook, I thought it would be a good way to keep Christchurch porridge lovers up to date with weekly flavours and my comings and occasional goings at the Christchurch Farmer's Market.  Once we have 100 likes one lucky person will receive free Posh Porridge for the rest of this winter!

It is very wet today in Christchurch, so here's hoping the weather improves tomorrow, in the meantime I had best start prepping, this week's special is sticky date and apple compote with walnut crumble, how's that for comfort food...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A few of our favourite things

Libby, Sarah & Becs: One of the things we loved about staying at our grandparent's house as children was Grandma's treat tray. Sometime after dinner and before our bedtime, Grandma would disappear off into the kitchen and reappear with a tray laden with treats. The lovely thing about the treat tray is that it's a family tradition that hasn't faded out as we've all grown up. We spent a couple of days in Tauranga last week farewelling Grandma and filled up the treat tray in her honour. You're welcome to adopt the "treat tray" as your own family tradition. All you need is a tray with compartments (retro, if possible) and fill it with everyone's favourite treats. Ours often include - dried apricots, dried pineapple, crystallised ginger, scorched almonds, cashew nuts, jet planes, licorice allsorts, and chocolate or candy mushrooms. It doesn't need to be an occasion like a birthday to enjoy a treat tray, that's another lovely thing about this tradition, you just have to enough of your friends and family around to share it. That is an occasion in itself.

Miriam: I've been in Rotorua for the long weekend and enjoyed a visit with my brother David to the Ciabatta Bakery (38 White Street) which is now open on Saturday. They have a lovely selection of breads, pastries and products. The owner Alex was so excited that David had brought me along for a visit (and he didn't even know about the blog), he insisted on sending us home with a complimentary garlic ciabatta. The shop also sells a selection of hot food, like this "teeny weeny" chorizo sausage served with mustard & bbq sauce. Delicious!
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