08 December 2010

Happy Birthday baby, got you on my miii-iiind

It's been birthdays galore lately.  Alistairs, mine, Jan's, KB's, plus a handful of friends'.  Good time to trial a few new cakes.  Plenty of guinea pigs.  Mwa ha haaaa.  Anyway, I came across this recipe, for Rich Chocolate Cake, in my trusty Edmonds Cookery Book (46th ed.) and thought it sounded perfect for a chocolate-lover's birthday repast.  Moist, dense and, presumably, uber-chocolatey.  Unfortunately it wasn't all that chocolatey, or very rich.  It was very nice, and moist and all that, but when one makes a rich chocolate cake, one wants it to be bloody rich and chocolatey, doesn't one? 

However, I think I know what the problem may have been...  The original recipe said 150 g chocolate.  Bugger that - 200 g from now on.  And I used pretty cheap cooking chocolate.  Next time it'll be cadbury energy, or whittikers dark ghana, or something with some real chocolate kick.  So, lesson learned - don't skimp on the chocolate when making a chocolate cake.  You'd think I'd have figured that out by now, wouldn't you? 

Oh well, all's well that ends well - the cake was eaten and enjoyed, which is the main thing.  Great cake, but take note of where I went wrong.  :) 

175 g butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
6 eggs, separated
200 g dark chocolate, melted
140 g ground almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius. 
  2. Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks. 
  3. Melt chocolate slowly, by placing bowl over pot of simmering water.  Fold this and the almonds into the butter mixture. 
  4. In another bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Fold into cake mixture. 
  5. Pour into greased and lined 20cm springform tin.
  6. Bake for 20 mins then reduce heat to 150 degrees for further 35 minutes, or until form. 
  7. Allow cake to cool in tin before serving dusted with icing sugar and a dollop of yoghurt or whipped cream. 

18 November 2010

Snickerdoodles

About a week or so ago I was in the mood for filling the biscuit tin so turned to the guru of domestic cooking, Nigella Lawson, for inspiration.  This recipe, from How to be a Domestic Goddess, was chosen largely because of the name.  It just sounds so ridiculous, so the resulting food must be fabulous, right?  Well, the biscuits that resulted were plentiful and damned tasty, though not without some tweaking for next time (see note below).  I altered the recipe slightly (adding chocolate chips), to meet the tastes of the intended eaters, and suspect other variations would work equally well, perhaps a handful of crushed up pistachios or almonds would be nice, or coconut.  Anyhoo, without further talking on my part, here it is, snickerdoodles, the most fun-sounding cookie I've come across in ages! 

250 g flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (I used mixed spice)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
125 g butter
100 g caster sugar (plus 2 extra tbsp)
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)
dash milk
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Combine together flour, nutmeg, baking powder and salt.  Set aside momentarily.
  3. In large bowl cream butter and 100 g sugar together until light and pale, then beat in egg and vanilla.
  4. Stir in set-aside dry ingredients and chocolate chips until you have a smooth mixture.  I found mine was too dry and crumbled, so I added a dash of milk here, to help it bind together. 
  5. Roll out walnut-sized balls, roll in mixture of sugar and cinnamon, and place on lined or greased baking tray.  Don't squash down - they're more like little biscuity cakes than the typical flat biscuit.  
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden-brown.  Makes about 32 (I think I got 40 out of this batch).  
NB: These tasted really good, like little cinnamon doughnuts, but were very crumbly in texture.  Nice for dunking but possibly a bit dry for the majority of peoples' taste in biscuits.  I'm going to make these again, but next time will see how they turn out if flattened a little, to make them crisp, rather than crumbly.  We'll see... 

04 November 2010

Procrastibaking

There's just nothing like a bit of procrastibaking when studying for exams (or indeed when one ought to be doing almost anything that one would rather not be doing).  So you can imagine how pleased I was on Tuesday afternoon (with exam looming on Wednesday morning) to be able to convince myself that it really was imperative that I bake a cake for a friend's birthday.  Realistically I doubt she would've given a hoot had we turned up bearing cake or not, but the excuse worked for me. 

Last Sunday, when baking Alistair's pear and ginger birthday cake, our oven's element blew up, necessitating a trip down the street, to bake the cake in a friend's mum's oven (one of the innumerable handy things about small towns).  While I was there she gave me this recipe, for a very speedy chocolate cake/sponge (I guess it depends on how well you beat it).  Anyhoo, I gave it a shot on Tuesday, for Cath's birthday, and it turned out pretty well.  I'm not a massive chocolate cake fan and I liked it.  The others, who are chocolate cake fans, all appeared to like it to.  So here it is - super easy and pretty well foolproof.  I like the whole 'bung everything into a bowl' idea too - go the Waikato Ladies' Golf Association (from whose cookbook it came)! 

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp soft butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp cocoa
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.  Line/grease 20cm round cake tin (or equivilant).
  2. Beat all ingredients together for 3 minutes.
  3. Pour into tin and bake for 20-30 minutes. 
  4. Ice or dust with icing sugar.

Hungry and Frozen: sunshine is a friend of mine...

Hungry and Frozen: sunshine is a friend of mine...

01 November 2010

cast your votes!

In Ancient Greece votes were cast by scratching the initials of the candidates onto mussel shells.  Nowadays things are done a trifle differently, but that doesn't mean there ain't no use for the mussel...  

I'm allergic to shellfish, so it's pretty rare that I blog about anything shellfishy 'cause, to be honest, I just don't cook it.  But last night KB prepared a mussel appetiser for his parents which, I have to be honest, for the first time made me wish I could eat those little molluscs.  It looked so tasty!  Grilled mussels, in half-shell, with a fresh and light topping.  He smashed together a 2cm knob of ginger root with a handful of coriander leaves and the zest of a lemon (use a morter and pestle, or just chop it all up real fine).  This was sprinkled onto the mussels which, having been steamed open and one half of shell discarded, were sitting diligently on an oven tray.  Some parmasan cheese lightly grated on top, a drizzle of oil (really light) and grill for a couple of minutes (don't overdo or they'll be rubbery).  
I think the thing I liked most about this dish (limited, seeing as I couldn't taste it) was the way it looked.  The bright colours of the lemon zest and the coriander, against the pearly white of the mussel shell, and the darker green of the outer shell.  If you're a shellfish fiend I suggest you head to your local supy and get in the kitchen, 'cause this was a winner. 

the apple's grandaddy

I love it when someone sees a recipe they like and ask me to try it.  It means I get to try something new, and there's going to be someone waiting and wanting to eat it.  Bang up combo, that is.  Yesterday I made, with significant help from KB, a birthday cake for his dad.  Pear and ginger cake.  Not a cake I would've gravitated to, had it not been suggested, but one that I'm very glad I've made.  It was so yum.  Not too sweet, nice and tender, not too crumbly but not doughy either.  And easy to make, with no overly weird ingredients.  The only thing we had to buy specially was a couple of pears.  Will definitely be making this baby again, next time am going to try it with apple and rhubarb.  The pear was great, so will be interesting to see how apple/rhubarb is. 

185 g butter, softened                                      FOR SYRUP:
3/4 cup castor sugar                                                          50 g butter
2 eggs                                                                                   1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large pears (we used packham)                                    1 tsp ground ginger
2 cups self-raising flour                                                     1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground ginger (heaped!)                                          1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
juice of half a lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line 20 cm round cake tin with baking paper/grease sides.
  2. Mix together butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. Peel, core and slice pears. 
  4. Sift in flour and ginger.  Add milk, vanilla, pear and mix well. 
  5. Spoon into cake tin, bake for 1 hour, or until inserted skewer comes out clean. 
  6. Cool in tin for about 10 minutes, then remove to and cool on cake rack. 
  7. For syrup put all ingredients into saucepan, melt butter and bring to boil.  Boil briefly, remove from heat.  Serve warm drizzled over cake. 

18 October 2010

a few squid is all it takes

I love calamari (also referred to as 'squid'), so it's unusual that I've never once cooked with it before.  I mean, I get well excited if I see it on a restaurant menu (not including fake calamari rings you see on pub menus, though they too have their time and place).  So you can imagine my excitement when, over the weekend, whilst reading a recipe for 'squid and saffron rice salad' Emma offered to show me how to cut up, prepare and use a whole squid.  I'd never even looked at the squid in the supermarket, frozen or otherwise, having always assumed that it must be terribly difficult to prepare.  Well, Em imformed me, it ain't necessarily so...

With making the aforementioned salad in mind we traipsed about the Taupo supermarket in search of our animal.  Unfortunately they were entirely out of whole squid.  So plan B - some frozen squid tubes, to make salt and pepper friend squid, as an appetiser.  Learning to cut up and prepare a whole squid will have to wait for next time.  

Once the squid had thawed out (doesn't take long, especcially on a warm day) Emma cut the tube along one side, so she could open it out flat.  She then scored it all over one side and cut into pieces (see awesome diagram).  When scoring the flesh it's best to use a slightly serrated butter knife, rather than a sharp kitchen knife, as they tend to make a wider cut, without just cutting right through (which you don't want).  Together we coated it in a mixture of flour and cornflour, seasoned with salt and pepper (a little paprika, lemon-pepper, garlic salt etc would make nice additions/substitutions here).   

Dave, reputed Squid Cook King, stepped in at this point, to take over my position as Emma's culinary partner, one I was happy to relinquish, leaving me watching as the coated strips of calamari were shallow-fried in a combination of hot butter and oil.  Don't cook for too long, or they'll become rubbery - they curl a wee bit when ready.  Serve hot, sprinkled with a little sea salt (Maldon was the preferred type on this occasion) and a good grind of pepper.

Nb: Be careful also not to oversalt them before serving - better to use the salt sparingly and place a dish of salt on the table, so people can add more to taste.  

04 October 2010

skulking in the stews

I love trying new recipes.  This was one I found on mindfood.com when having a look through their latest lot.  A few days after finding it there were 5 for dinner and it was a cold night, so what better than a warming, tasty casserole?  Until relatively recently I'd always thought of casseroles and stews as that tasteless, old-fashioned, boring meaty soup-glop.  But, having tried a few damn good casseroles over the past couple of years, and trying some different combinations myself, I've realised how wrong I was.

Casseroles (and stews, for that matter) are only boring if you leave it as meat, water and veges.  Blah.  Throw in some herbs and spices (especcially spices), and pan cook a bit before the liquid gets added and badabing badaboom, you're onto a winner.  Served with rice, couscous, pearl barley, pasta, toast (buttery toast with a tasty casserole, yum, now I'm almost wishing winter were back again!).  I'll try and hunt out a good recipe I had for a cuban-inspired casserole too, 'cause that was awesome.  It had a homemade salsa verde, with heaps of coriander.  But, for now - hearty cajun lamb!! 

2 tbsp olive oil
1 kg lamb rump steak, cut into 3 cm pieces (give or take)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
3 stalks celery, finely chopped
good grinding of black pepper
1 tsp each salt, cajun, paprika and dried thyme
400 g tin tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock (or water)
rice, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Brown lamb in large pan.  Once browned add onion, garlic, capsicum and celery, cooking for further 5 minutes or so. 
  3. Add spices, stir through, add tomatoes and stock.  Bring to the boil. 
  4. Transfer to casserole dish (with a lid).  Cover and cook for about an hour and a quarter.  Serve with rice.
Nb: I cooked ours for about an hour an a half, and it was fine.  Also, it stayed warm in the oven, once oven turned off, for a good hald hour more, so no hurry.  Just be sure it's not drying out and you're fine. 


13 September 2010

an oldie, but a goodie

You can't really beat the good ol' chocolate cake.  It mightn't be your favourite, but it's almost universally popular and, when undecided on what to bake, this cake is an easy option, every time.  I love carrot cake, but like making chocolate because of how easy it is to do and the fact that it's like a blank canvas - you can decorate it, ice it, dust with sugar, whatever - it's good with almost anything.  

Ordinarily i'd stick with the more typical chocolate icing.  This time however I had Harry, who's six, helping me bake, so it was decided that we'd make three colours of lemon icing.  The cake, when finished, looks like something on acid, but it tastes GREAT!  Lemon icing and cake = surprisingly good!  

The cake itself comes from good ol' Edmonds (another oldie, but a goodie).  Can't beat it. 

175 g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs (I used 4, 'cause they were small)
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.  Grease 22cm round tin.
  2. Cream butter, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. 
  3. Sift together cocoa, flour and baking powder.  Fold into the creamed mixture, alternately with milk. 
  4. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 55 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into centre). 
  5. Leave on wire rack to cool, then ice. 
For the icing we mixed icing sugar (start with about a cup and see how you go - you may need more, depending on how much icing you want) and lemon juice together, adding the juice until the consistency was right (you could use water, orange juice, lime juice).  Then add colouring, if desired.  Ice and decorate. 

08 September 2010

from the deep deep depths of ceylon...

This isn't the first time I've come across a good recipe whilst perusing a Rick Stein cookbook.  This one came from Far Eastern Odyssey and is just brilliant, because it's so simple.  He's picked up a recipe for roti, from street vendors in Sri Lanka, and has passed it on to the reader in its most simple form.  Fantastic, good work, Ricky. 

This is a recipe for gothamba roti, typically used in a number of Sri Lankan dishes, made with gothamba flour.  I have just used ordinary white flour and it was fine.  Perhaps buckwheat flour would be a nice option though, if you have some.  The ingredients below are as listed in Rick's recipe, but I think next time I make them I'll add a smidge more salt (up to you) and a teaspoon of sugar, 'cause they could've use a little more je ne sais quoi.  See how you go - make 'em once, then alter as your taste buds direct.  I served them with a green thai beef curry, so lack of flavour wasn't really an issue. 

300 g flour
1 tsp oil (I used sesame)
3/4 tsp salt
250 ml warm water
extra flour for kneading
  1. Mix all ingredients (except the extra flour) together in bowl into a pliable dough.
  2. Turn onto floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, dusting with more flour as needed.
  3. Put into oiled bowl, cover with cling-film and leave somewhere warm (or at least no drafty) for 30-60 minutes.
  4. Divide into about 10 pieces.  Form into disks, cook in hot oiled pan (I formed the disks as they were needed for cooking *), about 2 minutes on first side, then 1 one other side. 
  5. Serve warm with curry.  YUM!! 
NB: * - I didn't actually form the disks - this job was taken over by KB, who has greater skill in dough-manipulation. 

06 September 2010

Ragin' cajun apple pie

About five years ago I was watching the Food Network (or Food TV, or Food Channel, or whatever it's called on Sky here in kiwiland), Emeril Lagasse Live - the ragin' cajun!  He made an apple pie with custard inside it.  It looked so good that I immediately trawled the sky guide to see when the show would be repeated.  The next time I was ready - pen and paper - that recipe was a keeper!  I made the pie soon afterwards and it was really good, and easy to make.  So it's strange that, after that one time, I never made it again.  Until last week (I came across the recipe in a serendipidous moment, whilst actually looking for something else.  Happy days). 

You're supposed to slice the apples thinly, but I can never be bothered.  I just cut them off the core in chunks.  It tastes the same, it just looks a little more rustic.  If you can't get all the custard in, don't worry.  Just pour in as much as you can without it overflowing - placing the pie dish on a baking tray is a wise move, just in case... 

I'm going to make this one again this afternoon, but will use half apples and half tinned peaches.  If you have other fruits (rhubarb, or berries in summer), use them too.  I'd probably leave at least half apples, but other than that, use what you like best!  Enjoy!!

2 x sheets sweet shortcrust pastry
2 tbsp butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
800 g apples, sliced (granny smith are good)
1 egg, for brushing
¼ cup sugar
½ cup cream (maybe a smidge more, see how you go)
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla essence
  1. Line pie dish with one sheet of pastry. 
  2. Melt butter in pan. Stir in brown sugar and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add cinnamon and apples. Sauté for 3 minutes.  Turn into pie base.
  4. Cut hole in second sheet, cover pie with this. Crimp edges, brush with egg yolk.
  5. Cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Whisk together sugar, cream, egg yolk and vanilla. Pour into hole in pie’s centre.
  7. Cook for further 30 minutes.
  8. Either cool completely and dust with icing sugar, or serve warm from the oven with icecream or cream.

30 August 2010

LAKSAAAAAA!!

Laksa is my favourite south-east asian dish.  The coconutiness mixed with a little bit of heat makes for a really amazing flavour.  There're innumerable malaysian restaurants in Wellington, each particularly good for a particular dish or two, but for laksa (for me anyway) it's Satay Kingdom, down the Leftbank Arcade (off Cuba Mall).  Their vege laksa with tofu is the best i've ever had, hands down. 

However, seeing as I now live in the Mighty Waikato, it's a trifle difficult to get my laksa-fix (the laksa-flavoured Trident 2-minute noodles are good, but...), so I decided it was time to take the proverbial bull by the horns and make this king of soups for myself.  I've used chicken, because I'm a bit of a retard with the deep-fried tofu, so thought i'd leave that for next time.  So, here we are - chicken and vege laksa, adapted from a recipe found on Mindfood.  Hope you love it!  As with most recipes on here you can add pretty much any vegetable you like, swap chicken for prawns, etc.  I've used some baby corns too and, next time, will roast some chunks of kumara in advance and have those in there too.  Shake it up, serves 4.  :) 

125 g rice noodles (I like quite fat ones)
2 zucchini, cut into slices (or 1 eggplant, thinly sliced and salted)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp red curry paste
1 medium onion (optional)
400 ml tin coconut milk
600 ml hot chicken stock
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
150 g beans/sugarsnap peas, cut in half
1 tsp brown sugar
zest and juice from 1 lime (or lemon)
handful fresh coriander/basil
  1. Put noodles in a wide bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain, refresh in cold water and set aside.
  2. Preheat grill to high. Put zucchini on baking tray, brush with oil and season with salt. Grill for 4-5 minutes each side until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
  3. Stir-fry curry paste in a large pan or wok over medium heat for 1 minute (with onion, if using). Stir in coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Add chicken and lemongrass, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until chicken is cooked. Lift out chicken with a slotted spoon and shred.
  4. Return chicken to pan with sugar snap peas and aubergine. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in noodles, sugar, lime zest and juice and most of the herbs and heat through. Ladle into bowls. Serve with lime wedges (extra) and remaining coriander or basil leaves.

23 August 2010

we need more neon foods


Well, maybe not neon like the zinc we used as sunblock when we were kids, but definitely bright.  Turmeric is the queen of spices for this - she'll make the most boring of foods suddenly exciting.  Take this soup recipe for example.  When somebody gave me this (and apologies, I can not remember from whence this came) I politely smiled and graciously accepted the recipe.  Of course, the whole time I'm thinking "cauliflower soup? no freakin' way, my friend". 

Well, talk about having to eat my proverbial hat.  I eventually made the soup and had to not only admit that it tasted amazingly good, but it also looked cool - it's BRIGHT yellow, as neon as food can legally get in NZ.  Seriously, this stuff is the shizzle.  I've made it a few times now, for various different people and it has been enjoyed every time.  Most people look a little skeptical before trying it, but it don't last.  So, do something more interesting with that cauliflower going soft in the bottom of your vege crisper than pair it with cheese sauce (no disrespect to the cheese sauce though!).  If you've time, make some naan's too, for dipping.  YUM!! 

4 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 med. head cauliflower
2 tsp curry powder
1-2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper
300 ml hot chicken stock
300 ml milk
extra hot water
100 g chedder, grated
  1. Heat 1/2 oil, cook onion and celery in large pan. Add remaining oil and cook cauliflower florets for 4-5 minutes, with spices and salt and pepper.
  2. Pour in stock. When simmering add milk - if liquid not covering veges, add a little more water.
  3. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until florets are cooked (but not overly mushy).
  4. Blend (I use my wand thingee) and, over low heat, stir in cheese. YUM!!

18 August 2010

sticky chook

I think most people have had chinese soy chicken before, with its lovely sticky glaze.  I came across this recipe when perusing some Rick Stein cookbooks at the Bates' house in Taupo.  My Mum always used to make a mean version of this, so I thought it was worth giving a try. 

Last night the ingredients were thrown together.  It was super easy and all the ingredients were in the cupboard or fridge, so no having to make a trip to the supy just to make dinner.  Happy days!  I've make a note of where I altered an ingredient, due to lack of the original, but I don't think Rick will mind. 

6 chicken drumsticks
1 small lemon
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or chilli)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
5 cm piece peeled fresh ginger, finely diced
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp HP sauce (I didn't have this)
3 tbsp red wine vinegar (I used balsamic)
1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tbsp tomato puree (I used paste)
4 tbsp soy sauce
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  1. Preheat oven to about 180 degrees celcius. 
  2. Place chicken in oven-proof dish.  Squeeze over the juice from the lemon, the oil, cayenne (just sprinkle this to taste) and salt.  Grate the lemon zest over top. 
  3. Put all other ingredients into a bowl and mix into a smooth sauce.  Brush over the chicken on both sides. 
  4. Cook for about 35-45 minutes, taking out periodically to brush with more sauce.  Once chicken is cooked through, serve with rice, mash, or couscous. 
NB: I served this with rice (add cumin seeds at the same time as the rice, that's REALLY good) and a green salad.  The jus from the chicken made for tasty goodness on the rice. 

Coca Cola, and a little bit of thievery...

This recipe comes to you for two reasons - firstly, because I read Laura Vincent's wonderful 'Hungry and Frozen' recipe blog, and secondly because I love Nigella Lawson's baking.  Yum yum yum.  When Laura blogged recently about making a Coca Cola Chocolate Cake, from Nigella's 'How To Be A Domestic Goddess' (which I am fortunate enough to have a copy of), I thought right, that's me this week.  Bake that. 

So Wednesday morning, rather than reading something for uni, I'm reading Nigella's baking bible and thinking how wrong it seems to be pouring coke into cake batter.  But strangely good, at the same time.  And from the smell coming from the oven, I reckon it was a good call.  So, without further ado, I present to you the recipe for what is likely to be the cake of all chocolate cakes... 

PS: I've used a link to Laura's blog of the recipe because it seems a waste to type it out a second time and because you should read her blog too.  Go Wellington, go!  The only difference between hers and mine is that I used 100 mls milk and 30 mls yoghurt, rather than half and half.  Enjoy! 

PPS: If you want some icing heat together 1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp coke, 1/2 tbsp cocoa and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Once butter all melted stir in about 150 g icing sugar.  Pour over once cake is removed from tin, but still warm. 

17 August 2010

Cuppa chai, love?

About a year or so ago I was staying with Millie at her old flat in Taupo (it was mean, right by the airport, runway playground!!) and, as happens in Taupo during winter, we were getting a trifle chilly.  Mil started making chai for everyone, creamy, fragrant spiced goodness.  And not from a lipton box or sugary syrup bottle either, she was making it from scratch.  It was the first time I had ever had a chai tea (or chai latte is, I suppose, more appropriate, given there's milk in here and it's got quite a creamy texture) and, having tasted imitations since, hands down the best.  She learnt the basics of what to do when travelling in India, and from there it's really a matter of taste.  If Millie reads this she may notice a couple of alternations from her usual modus operandi, as chances are I've forgotten/changed/added bits along the way.  So, get a pot, something to use as a strainer, and simmer your way to a piece of terrestrial heaven. 

2 tbsp fresh ginger, sliced
4 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods, bruised (basically smack 'em)
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 tbsp honey (use two, if you haven't any raw sugar)
1 black tea bag
1 cup milk
1 cup water
  1. Put everything in a pot, over medium heat on the stove.  Slowly heat through, allowing the tea bag to steep. 
  2. When the tea has a good colour remove the tea bag and the ginger pieces (this is to taste, I don't like mine too gingery).
  3. Strain from pot into a pourer, or directly into 4 cups - I pour mine from the pot into a coffee press (bodum etc) and use the strainer in that. 

11 August 2010

me gusta mañana, me gustas tu, me gusta enchilada, me gustas tu

One of my favourite types of food is mexican and (good) tex mex.  Quesadillas, fajitas, burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, empanadas...  The list is long, and the list is tasty.  When I was in Texas recently I ate some seriously good mexican and tex mex, at restaurants (if you're in Allen, near Dallas, check out La Finca Chiquita, it's awesome) and at home. 

A friend gave me her enchilada recipe which, having made since getting back to kiwiland I can confirm that it is muy MUY buen.  I've made a few annotations to the original recipe, to make it user-friendly across the great Pacific-divide, because some ingredients have to be altered slightly.  But that's okay, in fact, that's the best part - you can alter ingredients quite a lot with recipes like this one.  You don't like avocado?  Don't use it.  You want to use some mince?  Go ahead - just brown it with some onion and add it to the filling.  Can't find green taco sauce?  Use regular salsa.  Oh, and heads up - coriander = cilantro. 
So, without further ado, it's enchilada-time! 

3 cups cooked chicken, shredded
2 cups grated cheese (US - jack with peppers, NZ - tasty)
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 fresh chilis, chopped up (US - use 4.5 oz tin green chilis)
1/3 cup fresh coriander, chopped 
8 flour tortillas (8")
1 jar green taco sauce/salsa (about 1 cup)
toppings - diced tomatoes, diced avocado, more coriander, red onion...
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius (350 farenheit).
  2. Stir together the chicken, cheese and 1/2 cup of sour cream.   Spoon mixture over tortillas, roll up. 
  3. Place tortillas seam-side-down in lightly greased oven dish.  Brush lightly with olive oil and twist some cracked pepper. 
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden. 
  5. Stir together the remaining sour cream with the taco sauce.  Spoon over hot enchiladas, and top with toppings.  Serves 4. 
NB: What's with the title?  Manu Chao, baby!!

09 August 2010

Vegetastic goodness

Sunday night.  It's been a busy weekend up in Auckland.  Can't be bothered even THINKING about dinner.  But obviously, one must eat.  So...something simple, using what's in the fridge, preferably with lots of vitamins and minerals, to replace those lost by a weekend of wine, coffee and adrenilin.  Vege bake!!  KB introduced me to the wonder that is the vege bake a few months back.  I mean, I knew that people made them, but never had personally.  Here's what went into last night's creation - it was gooooooood - the garlic was the icing on the proverbial cake, methinks. 

1 beetroot, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 cup chopped pumpkin (cut into pieces about 1x2 cm)
1 cup yams
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (you might need a little more)
1.5 cups milk
1/2 cup cheese, grated
salt and pepper
1 cup cauliflower and broccoli

  1. Place beetroot, carrot, pumpkin, yams (or whatever combo of veges you have for roasting - capsicum, zucchini, potato, kumara etc), garlic in roasting pan (pour a little olive oil over them, swish around to coat). 
  2. Mix together the olive oil, soy sauce and honey.  Drizzle over the veges, in particular the yams. 
  3. Chuck the rosemary sprigs on top and put into the oven (about 180 degrees celcius) to roast for about an hour.  Pull them out periodically, to move them around. 
  4. Melt butter over low heat in small pot.
  5. Add flour and whisk to form roux (basically mix it until it's all combined).  Add milk slowly, whisking all the time.  Turn up heat to medium, bring to boil, then reduce back to low.  Add cheese.  When all melted in, remove from heat and allow to thicken.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  6. Place veges (roasted and the cauli/broc combo) into ovenproof dish.  Pour cheese sauce over and grate a little parmasan cheese on top, if you have some (some freshly-grated nutmeg would be yum too).  Pop into the oven until browned a little on top and eat.  YUM!!!! 

Bananarama

Banana-ripeness has a tendency to sneak up on me.  Sometimes I'll buy a bunch and chew through 'em no problems.  Other times I get distracted, go away for a couple of days and boom, they're soft and kind of gross (at least, for eating).  So it's baking time.  I'm not a big fan of muffins, but they're the easiest way to rid your fruitbowl of a couple of banana bandits.  I found this recipe on Kiwiwise.  I added chocolate chips.  :) 

2 mashed bananas
6 tbsp melted butter
8 tbsp sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 cups white flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 tbsp baking powder
chocolate chips, up to you...
  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celcius.
  2. Add egg and sugar to melted butter and beat.  Stir in banana and milk.
  3. Add dry ingredients and stir until free of lumps (except those that are mashed banana).
  4. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for about 10 minutes, or until skewer comes out clean when poked into muffin. 

26 July 2010

Annie, get your gun...

...and go bag yourself a chicken?  Nah, nobody needs to go shoot themselves a chook, not these day (just check out the deli and/or freezer section of the local supy).  Of course, if that's your cup of tea, then who am I to try to dissuade you (I mean heck, you've got a gun!). 

I spent the weekend visiting family which, as I've commented before, is always great - especcially from the food point of view.  Lots of new recipes to look through and new dishes to try.  This weekend continued the theme that seems to have settled in this winter - chicken.  To be precise, chicken, bacon and white wine.  Any complaints?  HELLZ no! 

This is sort of a chicken casserole, but with a sauce rather than a casseroley-liquid (by this I mean there's not as much liquid as one might expect from a trad casserole).  I'm going to be making this again later in the week (Annie cooked it this weekend, not me - I just observed carefully) and will add mushrooms to the mix.  Nom nom nom.  Right, here we go... 

4 chicken breasts
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped bacon (I've picked up a packet of bacon ends from the meat section)
1/2 mushrooms
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock (liquid stock tastes better here than powdered)
about 1 tbsp cornflour (maybe less)


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Coat chicken in flour, brown in pan, remove (to casserole dish).
  3. Cook onion, bacon, mushrooms in pan, remove (to casserole).
  4. Deglaze pan with wine, stir in stock and thicken with cornflour - sift cornflour in and whisk in small batches, so you don't end up with nasty lumps.  Pour sauce into casserole
    and bake in oven until ready (about an hour - hour and a half).  If the dish is ready before you are simply cover with foil and keep warm. 
  5. Serve with roasted/steamed veges and/or green salad with grated parmasan and balsamic. 

19 July 2010

chicken soup for the soul

There's something about soup in winter that is like a balm to our cold and irritable senses.  If you're feeling a bit under the weather, if you're in late from a busy day, if you're curling up on the couch with a book for a lazy day off, soup with some buttered slices of toast is a winner every time. 

Over the weekend I caught up with some friends.  Cruising by Emma's parents' house at around lunchtime turned out to be fortuitous timing - Mrs Bates had made chicken soup the day before and there was a bowlful left.  Score!  Reheated, with a piece of the aforementioned toast, it was delicious. 

So, a couple of days later and I'm back at home and feeling the effects of a busy weekend.  It's soup time.  Chicken soup time.  It's easy (deceptively easy - I've just finished making a pot and feel like there MUST be more to it) and a pot will feed several people, or last several days.  Move this recipe around, to suit what's in your cupboard, or what you like to eat.  This is just what I threw in the pot, today.  Tomorrow's another day. 

1 chicken (I used a size 16, or medium)
2 carrots
2 parsnips
2 stalks celery
2 onions
1 swede
1 packet soup mix - I used Sun Valley Foods as it had more barley than the others available
salt and pepper, to taste - you can always add more later
1 tsp each of chicken stock powder, cumin seeds, dried thyme, mustard seeds
spring fresh rosemary and parsley
  1. Fill stock pot a little over halfway with hot water, put on stove top to bring to boil. 
  2. Add chicken.  Chop veges and add, along with soup mix and any spices you choose to use. 
  3. Once boiling, reduce temprature and allow to simmer for about an hour or so (until the chicken is well and truly cooked - the legs/wings will be falling away from the body).
  4. Remove chicken to a plate and strip all the meat from the bones and removing the skin.  If you want to make stock from the bones, set them aside.  Add chicken meat back into soup. 
  5. Turn off heat and leave the soup sitting in the covered pot for a few hours, to let the flavours steep and strengthen.  Reheat when it's time to eat.  Serve with bread, or a side of rice. 
NB: Some addition you may like would be to add some pasta, or rice.  Some like to throw a tin of tomatoes in, or a little cream.  If you've curry paste in the fridge (green thai, for example) this would be a tasty addition, and a little coconut milk! 

14 July 2010

Project Pancake

Heidi Klum advertises Dannon Light & Fit yoghurt in the USA.  Smart marketers - most people like yoghurt anyway, Dannon tastes good, and add Heidi into the mix and sorry Yoplait, you are the weakest link. 

I buy Dannon whenever I'm in the US or Europe, 'cause it's so damn good.  Seriously, best yoghurt ever.  Anyway, the latest batch to make it to the home fridge had the following recipe for cornmeal (polenta) pancakes.  Sounded good, so I thought I'd give 'em a try. 

They are slightly odd in texture - a little granular, because of the polenta - but really light and fluffy.  They taste amazing, 'cause of the flavoured yoghurt and the recipe easily serves 5 people - it makes 12 pancakes.  I added a little milk to the batter, as was a bit too thick for pouring.  See how you go - I added less than 1/4 cup. 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup polenta (cornmeal)
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt
1/3 cup blueberries (optional)
1 1/2 cups light yoghurt (vanilla or strawberry are good!)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
  1. Sift dry ingredients into bowl.  Add other ingredients and whisk into smooth batter. 
  2. Heat pan over medium heat until hot, pour batter into pan to form coaster-sized cakes. 
  3. When wee bubbles appear on top it's tip to flip 'em over.  Cook second side for about 1 minute and serve with maple syrup.  YUM!!!

12 July 2010

♪ take me to the april sun in cuba ♪

Every week I get sent 5 recipes from mindfood.com, most of which I enjoy reading but know I'll likely never make.  However, from time to time a gem shines through that has me almost literally salivating at the computer. 

This morning was such a time.  I received this recipe, for Cuban-style slow-roasted pork which I will definitely be making, just as soon as I can.  The ingredients are pretty standard 'all-in-the-pantry' supplies, excepting perhaps saffron and orange liqueur.  Well, I'd suggest invest in a wee box of saffron, 'cause it lasts ages and most recipes only require a tiny amount, and the liqueur - if you like grand marnier or cointreau, grab some and use a little in this recipe.  If you don't, just leave it out - I will be - and use the juice of one more orange. 

2 oranges, juiced, rind finely grated
3 large limes, juiced, rind finely grated
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup orange-flavoured liqueur, optional
⅓ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp finely ground black pepper
⅓ cup olive oil
1.4 kg pork scotch fillet
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 green capsicum, deseeded, finely diced
1 tsp cumin seeds, extra
½ tsp saffron threads
1 cup long grain rice
2½ cups chicken stock
1 tbsp plain flour
  1. Combine ½ cup orange juice, orange rind, 
½ cup lime juice, lime rind, soy, liqueur, sugar, garlic, cumin, oregano, pepper and 2 tbsp olive oil in a large zip-lock bag. Add pork; seal bag and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 160˚C. Remove pork from marinade and place in a non-stick roasting pan. Reserve marinade. Roast pork for 2½ hours or until meat is very tender. Rest, covered, for 10 minutes before slicing.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, capsicum and extra cumin. Cook for 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in saffron and rice. Add stock and stir until combined. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 8 minutes or until craters form in the rice. Cover and remove from heat. Stand for 10 minutes or until rice is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Heat remaining oil in a saucepan 
over medium heat. Add flour and stir until combined. Slowly add reserved marinade, whisking constantly until combined. Stir until mixture comes to the boil. Reduce 
heat and simmer for 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Strain gravy through a fine sieve. Divide rice between serving plates. Place slices of pork over rice and spoon over sauce. Serve.

05 July 2010

Move over, Strawberrry Shortcake

Mum recently acquired a brand-new, heavy-duty, bright-red cake mixer.  Mightn't sound particularly exciting to some, but it was to me.  I knew that that mixer meant the end to trying (usually in vain) to cream butter and sugar with egg beaters.  Using a hand-held mixer (egg beaters) works, but it's laborious and frankly gives less than average results. 

Fired by the zeal of one in command of such an august piece of equipment, I (relatively) quickly whipped up louise cake, cup cakes and shortcake.  Shortcake was something completely new to me - I'd never tasted it, and certainly had never made it - and it has definitely gone to very near the top of my list, for tasty sweets that are stupidly easy to make.  The recipe was one from Alexa Johnston's 'Ladies, A Plate', and called for dried apricots to be used, as the fruit filling.  We had a large amount of fresh peaches to hand, so I used some of those.  I'm going to make another one, once this one's eaten, with fresh blueberries, so it's a pretty versitile recipe. 

One thing I'd recommend to avoid however - the use of jam.  I had a couple of dollops of raspberry jam leftover from the jar used in the louise cake, so (rather than let it waste away, lonely in the cupboard) spread that alongside the peaches.  Too much.  WAY too sweet.  Yikes.  If you like insanely sweet foods, then go for it.  Otherwise, use jams at your own risk.  Other than that - foolproof, go for it!!

115 g butter, softened
160 g cup sugar
1 egg
170 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
c. 1 cup fruit, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in eggs and mix well. 
  3. Add flour and baking powder, mixing into a smooth paste.
  4. Take half the soft dough and press evenly into greased 20cm round tin (recommended that you place baking paper in bottom, too). 
  5. Lay fruit (I used slices of peach, but apple would be really good too, or berries, or a combination - even dried apricots, as in the original recipe, provided they're soaked for a bit before use) in layer across dough base. 
  6. Arrange spoonfuls of remaining dough across top and press together with fingertips.  They'll spread a little in the oven, so don't be too concerned if they don't meet up perfectly. 
  7. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until risen and golden.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes befire removing from tin.  Sift with icing sugar and serve, warm or cold. 

23 June 2010

next stop, IHOPS

America knows how to do pancakes, doughnuts and waffles.  Other things too, but those are things which really are just best in the USA.  No matter where you are there are restaurants and stores which will cater to your every syrupy need - IHOPS, Waffle House, Krispy Kreme, not to mention the myriad of smaller, privately-owned establishments (if you're in Allen, Texas, may I suggest you try Max's, for a very tasty doughnut?). 

A friend of Mum's from Michigan kindly brought her a bottle of her nephew's hometapped and produced maple syrup last week.  Needless to say I needed to try it.  So tonight we had pancakes for dinner (this is something you can do when you're on holiday).  I had never made american-style pancakes (I make thin, French-style crepes usually) so I did what every self-respecting cook would do, consulted the internet.  Nigella Lawson had a nice and easy recipe to go by, so here it is... (this is a doubled amount, as there were five of us - it made 35 stackable pancakes)
450 g flour
pinch salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
600 ml milk
60 g butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs
  1. Mix all ingredients in food processor or blender (or by hand).  It's good if you've time to let the mixture sit for 20 minutes, but this isn't imperative. 
  2. Heat large, flat pan, spray with a little oil (you'll only need to do this once or twice throughout, if your pan is non-stick). 
  3. Cook the pancakes in batches, keeping the cooked ones warm in the warming drawer of your oven (or serve in batches) - you know it's time to turn them when they start to bubble.  Once turned they only need a minute to cook the second side. 
  4. Serve warm with syrup, or lemon and sugar, or whatever you fancy!! 

Jugosas Empanadas Criollas Argentinas

At Easter I stopped in at my friend's parents' house, because Kush had come home for the holiday.  Clara, her Mum (of avocado + argentina = muy gustoso fame), had made argentinian empanadas.  I had only ever come across Mexican-style empanadas, which are a completely different kettle of proverbial fish.  Argentinian empanadas resemble a half-moon pastie, or pie, and have the most amazing flavour!  When asked for the recipe I was lucky, as Clara was only too happy to share - she even wrote some tips alongside, to assist the kiwi cook (traditionally there are some minor differences, such as using diced veal rather than mince, and a sort of clarified butter). 

Clara's empanadas were larger then mine, but I was making these for my Mum and Larry's wedding party BBQ, so bite-size was de rigeur.  I was so happy with these little beasts and can't WAIT to make them again.  I only bought 4 sheets of pastry and the recipe makes enough meat filling for at least double that.  I've frozen the excess, ready to make more to take camping in a couple of weeks.  Enjoy, these are so far my favourite Claration. 

savoury short pastry - I use the ready rolled sheets from the supermarket
1 kg beef mince
3 onions, diced finely
2 tbsp smoked paprika (normal is also fine)
1 tbsp dried crushed red pepper (chilli flakes)
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups tinned tomatoes (or homemade, if you have it)
dash olive oil
pitted olives (optional)
  1. Prepare meat filling - heat oil to sauté onions until softened (but not browned).  Add mince and brown lightly.  Stir in spices amd tomatoes.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes, then take off heat and allow mixture to cool. 
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. 
  3. Cut circles of rolled-out pastry (I used a lid from a plastic container which was about 12cm in diameter). 
  4. Place about a teaspoon of mixture into centre of pastry circle (and an olive, if you're using them), fold over and press edges closed, with fork or pressing - it can help to brush a little water around the edge before pressing, to help it stick. 
  5. Place empanadas on buttered/greased baking tray and bake until golden brown.  I finished mine under the grill for a minute or two, to get some real colour (brushing the tops with butter or egg will get a good glaze, but it's more effort). 
  6. Serve warm - I didn't serve with sauces, but salsa, or a soy-based dipping sauce would work well.  The paprika flavour is pretty strong, so they're good alone, or perhaps with sour cream.  YUM!! 

15 June 2010

zuppa zuppa zuppa!!

Last summer we weere inundated with zucchini - the plants went crazy, producing so many vegetables that anything that could be made with zucchini was - lasagne, muffins, pasta, antipasto - you name it.  After a couple of courgette-intensive months however, the plants slowed down and the season was over (at the time I was thinking, thank goodness, but now I'm kinda looking forward to the next lot...).

Upon arriving in Texas last week I discovered that my prayers had been answered - it's summer here, so zucchini (courgettes, squash, whatever you want to call them) are in season.  Larry has a friend who keeps them in constant supply of zucchini - when I arrived there were easily 18 of the things in the fridge - and a good portion of them were pretty big, more the size of a marrow.  So, what to do with waaaayyyy more zucchini than 3 people can eat?  Lasagne - that took care of about 3 of them.  So then soup.  Zucchini soup (I made a double batch, so as to use up more zuccs, but have listed the original single quantity here, for serving about 4 people) - it's really tasty, dead easy to make and, because it's meat-free, keeps really well for a good week or more.  If it lasts that long. 

onion, finely chopped (I used red)
30 g butter
4 zucchini, grated
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 L vegetable stock (I used chicken, 'cause ran out of vege)
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Heat butter in pan over medium heat and gently fry onion until softened.  Add zucchini and garlic, stir-fry for about 2-3 minutes. 
  2. Add stock, bring to boil, reduce heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. 
  3. Stir in feta, season and serve.