Monday, March 26, 2012

A few of our favourite things

Miriam: I am a picker and a licker in the kitchen. I think that's why Becs gave me this tea towel for my birthday back in October. I've just 'framed' it, using an embroidery ring. It now hangs proudly in our kitchen which I think sets the scene nicely.

Libby: My freezer is crammed with things I stash away with the best intentions but never get around to using: overripe bananas to turn into banana bread... leftover bread to blitz into breadcrumbs and half-used bags of frozen vegetables I've long since lost interest in. But in amongst all, carefully wrapped in newspaper I found a small bag of whitebait that I'd bought back in January! A very exciting Sunday evening discovery! The whitebait was turned into fritters with the help of a couple of eggs, a very small amount of flour and some salt and pepper. We ate them with a squeeze of lemon on an unseasonably warm and sunny Wellington evening. It felt like perhaps Summer wasn't quite over.

Becs: I have been on a preserving binge lately. Batches of tomato chilli jam, tomato sauce, pear and walnut chutney and spicy plum sauce have been brewed up, and bottled with the help of my ever faithful wide neck funnel. An essential tool to get sticky things into jars neatly and with a minimum of mess! The funnel was a present from Mum several years ago, and is one of my most used kitchen tools, as I use it weekly when bottling sauces and compotes for Posh Porridge.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lamb, aubergine and cardamom curry

A few months ago I visited the spice shops in Petone and picked up lots of whole spices, including cardamom pods. Cardamom seems to be enjoying a revival at the moment and I feel like I'm constantly coming across new recipes - both savoury and sweet - that call for a few of the little green pods. Or perhaps it's just because I now have them in the pantry.

This delicious curry has a few pods thrown in but if you don't have any you could use ground cardamom. Just a little though - a quarter teaspoon or so - as you want the cardamom flavour to be subtle. It's a difficult flavour to describe - I've heard it described as "medicinal" and "camphorus" which I think sounds awful but really it's not... it's aromatic and ever-so-slightly aniseed-y and together with the other spices in this curry it's just perfect.

The curry and accompanying bean recipes are based on a recipes from last August/September's Dish magazine. I've simplified the curry, added aubergine, and used diced lamb instead of chops. I've never been a chop fan. So much work for so little meat. The original recipe is also garnished with golden brown onions - something I've never been able to make without burning and I don't really like anyway so left them out. Enjoy!

The curry
400g diced lamb
2 small aubergine, diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 onions, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
3 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
1/2 cup cream

spice paste - blend in food processor to a smooth paste:
1/2 cup raw cashews
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons ginger, chopped
1 teaspoon each ground cumin, coriander, garam marsala, chilli & tumeric
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 can chopped tomatoes

to garnish...
fresh coriander
1/2 cup roasted cashews

Heat a large casserole over a medium heat and add the oil, onions and salt. Cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft. Add the spice paste and cook for another few minutes stirring frequently. Add the diced lamb to the pan and stir to coat in spices.

Add the cardamom, cinnamon stick, water and cream. Combine well, cover and simmer over a low heat for 1 hour. Stir from time-to-time. Uncover and add the diced aubergine. Cook for another 20-30 minutes, uncovered until the lamb and aubergine are both very tender and the sauce is nicely reduced.

Serve in bowls with rice, a scatter of fresh coriander and cashews and these colourful beans...

Green beans with coconut & chilli
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon yellow or black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon tumeric
1 red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
400g green beans, topped, tailed & diagonally sliced
1/4 cup long thread coconut

Heat the oil is a large sauté pan over a medium to low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft - about 10 minutes. Add the spices, chilli and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, stirring. Add the coconut, beans, water and salt. Toss everything together and cook until the water has evaporated (add extra water if needed) and the beans are tender but crisp.

Monday, March 12, 2012

a few of our favourite things

Miriam: Mike and I have just come back from a lovely weekend in Wellington, being very well looked after at Libby & Jabez' place. As well as the many culinary delights (special highlight was being treated to these hot cross buns for breakfast), I also enjoyed a green tea on our flight back to Auckland. Although not quite as good as a happy hour wine, it felt quite nice and cleansing after a great weekend of overindulgence.

Libby: Yes, it was a weekend of overindulgence with lots of Wellington food highlights... little garlicky rolls at Vivo and dosai at Roti Chenai on Friday night... bomboloni at Floriditas and haloumi at Nikau on Saturday... and a Sunday morning spend-up at Moore Wilson followed by Caffe L'affare mocha.

Becs: Coincidentally my favourite thing this week is beverage related too. These dutch stroopwafels are made in Waihi, and were recently recognised in the Cuisine Artisan Awards - according to their website "they're typically enjoyed as 'lids' for hot beverages - you place the biscuit atop a cup of hot tea or coffee, leave it for a few minutes to allow it warm through, then enjoy it in all its sweet and gooey deliciousness." They are lovely and not too sweet like the imported ones I've tried.

Monday, March 5, 2012

a few of our favourite things

Libby: It might officially be autumn but I've been enjoying the last of summer's sweet corn this week. I love it sliced so the kernels stay together and added to colourful salads like this one. The trick to getting the kernels to stay together (so it doesn't look like to tipped the corn out of a can) is to lie the cob on its side and using a large knife slice closely, but not too closely, to the cob. You want the "root" of the kernel to stay on the cob.

Miriam: On a trip to Sabato recently, I sampled these Pinoli pine nuts. Wow. So big, fresh and tasty, and none of that nasty papery end (I'm sure there's a name for it) that the supermarket pine nuts often have. I felt compelled to buy some. Sadly, at $10 for a 70g packet, these will not become an everyday item, but definitively worth it for a special meal.

Becs: Fresh figs are here! I bought a couple last week for $3 each, they were enormous, perfectly ripe and pinkly sweet inside. They went on top of a pita-based pizza with caramelised onions, blue cheese and a balsamic dressed salad with toasted walnuts.
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