28 April 2010

Tea for two (or five...)

I've cooked tonight for two locations.  One kitchen, two dining rooms.  Sound complicated?  It could have been, but it wasn't.  Basically it came down to finding something that could be (a) cooked ahead of time and then warmed back up when people were ready to eat it, and (b) transported.  Jim, Ros and Fiora will be eating late, due to sporting commitments, so need something that can be eaten once they get in and I'm taking some with me, to eat with friends.

So, drumroll please..... braised chicken with pinenut couscous, the recipe courtesy of Gourmet Traveller magazine.  Basically it's a chicken casserole, with a slightly middle-eastern flavour.  Yum!!  The couscous can be prepared in advance, but to be honest I've left it, for each party to prepare when it comes time to eat, as couscous is so quick.  To round the meal off we have individual chocolate mud cakes, which can be eaten cold with some yoghurt (or reheated in microwave, but I think that tends to make them go a bit dry or rubbery, neither of which is really what you want). 

1.8 kg chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tbsp hot water
3 coriander roots with stems, finely chopped
2 1/2 tbsp ras el hanout
2 1/2 cups hot chicken stock
200 g fresh dates, pitted and halved
chopped coriander leaves and harissa, to serve

400 g instant couscous
20 g butter
2 cups boiling chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
80 g (1/2 cup) pinenuts, lightly toasted
  1. Sprinkle chicken pieces with 1 tsp ground cumin.  Heat oil in large flameproof casserole and brown pieces, in batches, over medium heat.  Remove and set aside. 
  2. Add onion, garlic, saffron and coriander roots to same pan and cook until soft.  Add remaining cumin and ras el hanout and cook for further minute.  Return chicken to pan, stir to coat in spice mixture. 
  3. Add hot chicken stock, bring to simmer and cook, covered, over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, or until chicken is tender.  Stir in dates and cook for further 5 minutes.  At this point, serve (sprinkled with coriander leaves and harissa) or set aside, to be warmed through later. 
  4. For couscous - place couscous and butter in bowl, add boiling stock, stir well and cover for 10 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork, stir in coriander and pinenuts, season and serve.  Serves 4. 
110 g flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp cocoa, plus extra, for dusting
125 g butter, chopped
75 g dark chocolate, chopped
220 g caster sugar
2 tbsp Tia Maria (or similar)
1/2 cup hot water
1 egg, lightly beaten
yoghurt or cream, to serve
  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius. 
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa into large bowl. 
  3. Combine butter, chocolate, sugar, liqueur and hot water in small saucepan.  Stir over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is well combined.  Cool for 5 minutes. 
  4. Stir chocolate mixture into flour mixture, with egg, until smooth.  Divide evenly among 6 150 ml capacity ovenproof dishes (can use greased muffin tins, if needs be). 
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until cakes are firm to touch.  Stand cakes for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.  Serve dusted with cocoa, and yoghurt or cream on the side (and maybe some berries, if they're in season!!). 
NB: I doubled the chicken recipe, as was cooking for 6 people, but was still really easy to make.  Just used 2 casseroles.  :) 

For ras el hanout - you can either buy it, or make your own, as the blend of spices is by no means set in concrete - check out what wikipedia has to say about it. 

27 April 2010


One of the five mother sauces, hollandaise sits alongside esteemed company in the French Haute Cuisine repetoire (the others being bĂ©chamel, espagnole, veloutĂ© and allemande).  Much as I love cooking, and have the utmost respect for the illustrious history that backs up the claims to greatness put forth by these sauces, I just don't like hollandaise.  It's too rich for me.  Or so I thought.  See, I'd always experienced hollandaise with eggs benedict.  The heavy richness of the sauce, combined with the richness of the eggs...yikes.  Too much for my under-developed palate.  However, after being stared at, as though I had grown a second head, by numerous people when they discovered my aversion to the most popular of the mother sauces, I decided that perhaps it behooved me to give it another try.

So I went to the hollandaise guru.  I knew that if anyone was going to give me a recipe for hollandaise which would win my tastebuds over, it would be Susan.  She's modest, but even she will admit quite freely that she makes a killer hollandaise.  And her partner, Amand, will happily back that up.  She sent me two recipes - "one using butter and one using extra light olive oil - depending on what you have to hand and how you feel about your arteries".  I've tried them both.  The olive oil one is wicked, though obviously missing that little bit of je ne sais quoi that the sauce gets from being made with butter.  The butter one was as rich as I'd feared, but I found a way to make it work for me - drizzled over grilled (or BBQed) zucchini.  It's changed the way I look at vegetables, especcially coming into winter when they don't have quite as much flavour, and when, let's be honest, we want sauces to keep us warm.  I'm looking forward to trying it with green beans and, when the season starts again, asparagus. 

So, here they are - Susan's smashing sauces (the olive oil one comes, so she tells me, from a Mr Ramsay, I presume she means Gordon):

Butter Hollandaise

225gm of slowly melted butter (if you melt it too quickly, it doesn't work as good - trust me on this)
3 large egg yolks
2 tbsp hot water
1 tbsp lemon juice (though I often use more and will grate the rind in too - depends on how you like your lemon).
pinch of salt
  1. In a double boiler (or in a bowl resting over some slowly simmer water, making sure the simmering water does not reach the base of the bowl - you don't want to accidently make lemon flavoured scrambled eggs), whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice/zest, water and salt.
  2. Once that is all incorporated VERY slowly add the melted butter. You need to do this slowly at first so that the emulsion takes - if you do it too quickly you add too much fat for the yolks to deal with, and the sauce won't work. After you've added about a third of the butter slowly you add the rest with more speed, but starting off slowly is key. Whisk whisk whisk! It will end up all yummy and unctious and thick. Happiness with hollandaise is never far away!
  3. Taste at this point and see if you need to add anything - I do like a puncy lemon flavour, and I am known to add in chopped parsley/coriander/dill here if I have these things in my fridge or garden. Some people like adding a pinch of cayenne pepper - it really is your call. Then, you're done.
  4. Also, if you're leaving the sauce (and this applies for the olive oil recipe to follow too) and it starts to thicken or forms a bit of a skin, add in another tablespoon or so of warm water. This happens because the water content is evaporating out, so this is easily fixed by adding a smidge of water back in and whisking well.
Olive Oil Hollandaise (courtesy of one Mr Ramsay)

3 egg yolks
grated zest and juice of a lemon
8 coriander seeds, crushed (optional - I wouldn't go out and buy them especially)
150mls light olive oil (trust me, you don't want to use regular olive oil)
salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Put the egg yolks, zest/juice, coriander and 1 tbsp of warm water into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until the mixture is pale, creamy and falls in a slow ribbon (this can be a touch tricky, but takes near on about 4-5 mins).
  2. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a further 3 minutes until the mixture has cooled slightly. Whisk in 1 tbsp olive oil, then gradually whisk in the rest in a thin steady stream until it is all incorporated and the sauce is a good coating consistency. Season with salt and pepper to tase and add a little extra lemon if you think it needs it. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little warm water.
Nb: Susan says - "if you have leftover sauce, it refridgerates nicely and turns into hollandaise butter. Which you can then use as a spread on toast or in a sandwhich. Amand thinks this is almost better than the sauce itself. Almost."  Thanks Sus!!!! 

23 April 2010

Louise Attaque

This weekend I'm heading to Waihi Beach.  So again I figured it'd be a good idea to take something in the way of sustanence, in case we get hungry and can't make it to the dairy.  Having woken this morning at 5:30 am, I started to flick through some of my recipes, to see what I would make.  It had to be relatively quick and easy, 'cause I had a class at 10 am, and also something portable.  I had been thinking muffins but when I stumbled upon a recipe for louise cake that was it.  I love louise cake.  I love the coconut and raspberry.  Hopefully the others like it too, otherwise I'll be feeling well ill by Sunday (louise cake overdose, there's something you don't hear of every day).  Anyway, this recipe is great - I had NEVER made this before and managed to whip it up before class.  And it tastes good, looks like it should, happy days.  Normally my baking tastes good but looks retarded.  Not this time!!  Definitely highly recommended, especcially if you're planning to show your baking in public.  ;) 

70 g butter
55 g sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
140 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
5 tbsp raspberry jam
2 egg whites
115 g caster sugar
55 g coconut (plus a little more, for sprinkling on top)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius, line 20x30cm baking tray with paper (or grease with butter).
  2. Cream butter and sugar until pale.  Add yolks and beat in.  Mix in lemon juice.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder into mixture, mixing into a firm dough. 
  4. Press dough onto prepared baking sheet.
  5. Spread jam over dough.
  6. Beat egg whites until stiff.  Gently fold in caster sugar and coconut.  Spread even layer across top of jam.  Sprinkle with extra coconut.
  7. Bake for anout 25 minutes (less if your oven is fan-forced) until golden on top.
  8. Remove from oven, cut into pieces while still warm.  When cooled remove from tray and keep in airtight container. 
NB: The title today comes to you from France - it's a very nifty band - check 'em out on http://www.youtube.com/

21 April 2010

Meine kleine fish

Since my fishing adventure a couple of weekends ago, I have been in the mood for seafood.  Epeccially fish and prawns.  Prawns I'm pretty boring with, and rarely do I venture away from cooking them with good ol' garlic and butter (be it on the BBQ or in a pan), but with fish I like to shake things up a bit.  This evening I decided would be a fish night, and one with a new way of cooking it... 

What, I ask you, is one to do when one has some lovely fresh fillets of fish, but doesn't fancy merely pan-frying them (though this can be the best way, sometimes, especcially with very very very fresh fish)?  Flick through some magazines until inspiration strikes.  After passing over numerous recipes for fish curry (just hate to overpower the poor delicate creature) I eventually settled on what looked like a winner - fish basquaise.  Fish basquaise is, as the name suggests, a dish whose origins lie somewhere in the Basque Country (a portion of northern Spain and southern France), and draws on the ingredients commonly found in the area - tomatoes, olives, capers.  Sounds good, doesn't it?  I though so too, until I flicked through ONE more magazine, and found this... 

Gremolata-crumbed fish with warm baked potato salad

So, the fish basquaise was shelved, for another day, in favour of a slightly lighter fish dish, one which really showcases the fish's delicate flavour and, for other caper-lovers, lets you taste those tasty morsels properly. 

1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped (flat leaf, if possible)
zest from 1 lemon, grated
3 cups day-old breadcrumbs, dried in oven until crisp
2 tsp capers, drained and chopped
enough fish for 4 people
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp water
oil, for shallow frying
lemon wedges, to serve
  1. Combine parsley, zest, breadcrumbs and capers in shallow bowl, season to taste with a little salt and ground pepper. 
  2. Dust fish with flour, shaking off excess, dip in egg, then coat with breadcrumb mixture (gremolata), pressing onto fish, to coat evenly - make sure you coat both sides!!
  3. Shallow-fry fillets for about 2 minutes on each side, until golden. 
For baked potato salad, cut enough potatoes for 4 into chunks, place in 200 degree celcius oven, tossed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  After 20 minutes add a red onion, thinly sliced, and cook for further 10-15 minutes, or until cooked.  Whilest cooking whisk together 2 tbsp sour cream, 2 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp mustard (dijon is good, but best is wholegrain baby!!) and 1 tbsp water.  Remove from oven and combine with dressing.  Stir through 3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (parsley, sage, coriander, chives, mixture of whatever is in the garden...).  

I served this with some rocket leaves on the side too, and some end-of-season tomatoes from the garden, but any greens on the side will do, hot or cold.  Enjoy!!   

16 April 2010


Goattastic isn't, to my knowledge, a word.  But it should be, because it says everything one needs to say, when one is talking about goat, in 10 letters.  What am I talking about, you may wonder?  Goat curry.  Wow.  This isn't a new recipe, I'm sorry to say, but rather an adaptation of an earlier one. 

Last night Bates and I cooked malaysian goat curry for ourselves, Dave and KB, and it was incredible.  We used the same recipe as the malaysian chicken curry from last week.  Only change was the type of meat, and we threw in half a red capsicum, two chillis (one red, one green) and used fresh coriander this time.  I'm definitely making that curry with goat or lamb from hereonin because, frankly, it kicked the chook's proverbial.  

So, if you're keen on the chicken curry, may I suggest you try it with lamb or, if you know a hunter, tasty young wild goat.  Goattastic.   Maaaaaaaa. 

14 April 2010

Asian chicken, noodles & peppers

I've broken the charger for my iPod shuffle.  Not the end of the world, but not really the way to start the day, either.  In an effort to distract myself I thought I'd have a run through of a tasty asian-inspired chicken and noodle salady-type dish I came across in Hawera last week. It sounded tasty, so best way to find out, try it. And I can tell you, it was good. Really good. The fat udon noodles made it, for me, but you could use rice noodles, or those flat ones (can't remember what they're called, but you can buy packs of them, dried and rolled up). 

Salads are great, 'cause nowadays salad can often really mean 'salad'.  Long gone are the days of the poor wilted piece of iceberg, sitting lonely on a plate, completely starkers, lucky if a rogue slice of tomato, cumcumber or grated carrot stopped by (no disrespect to the iceberg, it was, and remains, my favourite lettuce, for it's crunchy goodness).  Today green salads are exciting, either due to their varied ingredients, or tasty dressings (see bottom of this post for a chilli citrus gem).  And 'salad' can mean with meat, vegetarian, hot, cold, the possibilities of salad creation are endless. So, here you go, an noodle salad from the new-age world of non-lettuce-based hot salads. I loved it, so hopefully you do too!!

2 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken breastes / 6 boneless thighs
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sweet thai chilli
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
c. 1/2 cup water
400 g cooked noodles (udon)
2 red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 tbsp sesame sauce
2 chopped spring onions
2 tbsp sesame seeds
  1. Heat oil in pan.  Brown chook.  Add sauces, ginger and water. 
  2. Cover and cook over low heat for 6 minutes each side. 
  3. Cook noodles. 
  4. Fry peppers in sesame oil.  Slice cooked chook.  Toss together with noodles, cooking liquid, peppers and onions.  Sprinkle with seeds.  YUM!! 
If you think a little salad on the side might be the ticket, then try a basic green salad (so as not to overpower the flavours in the noodle dish).  If you want to dress it up a bit, I'd recommend this Annabel Langbein creation, possibly the most versitile dressing ever - it works with salads, on meats, as a marinade, a dipping sauce (a thin one)...  Yum.  Just whisk/stir all ingredients together. 

juice of 1 orange
juice of 2 limes/lemons
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp hot chilli sauce (mild, if you prefer)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tbsp each finely chopped/minced mint and coriander

13 April 2010

casalinga dreaming

Sometimes you're just in the mood for something warming, tasty and just a little bit creamy.  That's sort of how I felt yesterday, when I got back from zumba (which, by the way, is so fun, you should try it!!).  This pasta fills the ticket perfectly!  The mascarpone makes it creamy, but not heavy as it would be, were it made with cream.  The other bits and pieces give it a lift, and stop it tasting the same as a standard carbonara-style sauce.  Great to warm you up, fill you up and make your house smell amazing.  The quantities listed makes enough for four people, so great to whip for for friends, enjoy with a glass of the ol' vino rosso.  Buon appetito!! 

Bacon and mascarpone pasta (serves 4)

olive oil
4 rashers bacon, sliced into 1 cm pieces
1 cup olives (pitted or not, up to you, though pitted may be preferable)
400 g short pasta (penne, spirali, rigatoni etc)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
200 g mascarpone cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley
zest of 1 lemon
parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Put pasta on to cook.
  2. Toast pumpkin seeds in dry pan, set aside. 
  3. Fry bacon and olives together until bacon is crispy. 
  4. Stir everything together, including cooked pasta.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan.
Thanks to Serena Cameirano, who took the lovely photo which I've purloined, when she was back in Albisola Superiore recently.  Dai, Savona, dai!!  xx

09 April 2010

Whitianga High-Test

I'm off to Whitianga for a weekend of fun with Bates, Dave and Kyle.  Fishing, mojitos, festival of speed...  Final blast at the beach before the depths of winter descend upon us.  Okay, maybe that's a trifle dramatic, but you get the idea. 
Anyway, in true kiwi style, I'm getting a few bits and pieces prepared to take with, so that once up the peninsula the most complicated thing I'll be expected to do is prepare a salad, while I sip my gin and tonic.  (Mental note, pack gin, tonic and lemons...)
A bacon and egg pie is always a good place to start.  My recipe (which I've tried myself for the first time today) is one from Mum.  She's been making it for years and it's ALWAYS been a winner.  Just don't use reduced fat pastry.  I recommended Mum try that once.  It was horrible. 
Next up, Annabel Langbein's spiced apple tastiness.  Favourite thing about this cake, other than the tastiness?  No creaming of anything.  Melt butter.  Mix everything together.  Badabing, badaboom.  Oh, by the way - I didn't peel my apples before cooking them, as am a bit lazy like that.  If you don't want the skins in there (though you really don't notice them, once in the cake), peel 'em.  I recommend the lazy way, however.  :) 
Finally (though you'll likely want to eat them before the cake), pumpkin, feta and spinach fritters.  Kiwis love fritters, and these are a nice change from corn.  The spices make them a little bit exotic, but they're still true blue.  I don't even know what that means - anyone know the origins of 'true blue'?  Hmmm. 
So, enjoy these, I know I will (as will the others at the beach, I hope).  Hasta luego!! 

Mutti's bacon and egg pie

1 pack bacon (middle or shoulder)
1 doz. eggs
2 packets flaky crust pastry (or about 4 pre-rolled sheets)
1 cup peas (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 200°C
  1. Roll out pastry and use one packet to line bottom of a greased baking dish.
  2. Break eggs into dish, using a fork to break up yolks a little. Cover with bacon and sprinkle with peas, if using.
  3. Cover with more pastry. Prick lid with a fork.
  4. Bake until golden.
Spiced apple cake

125 g butter
1 cup cooked apple (c. 3 apples)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each nutmeg, allspice, salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup sultanas

Preheat oven to 150°C
  1. Melt butter.  Combine with apple, sugar and egg. 
  2. Sift dry ingredients into apple mixture.  Add sultanas.
  3. Cook in 20cm greased tin for 50 minutes. 
  4. When cooled, sprinkle with icing sugar.  YUM!!! 
Pumpkin, feta and spinach fritters

250 g peeled and cubed pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
couple good handfuls spinach, chopped
125 g feta, crumbled
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
  1. Cook pumpkin (eg: 4-5 minutes in microwave), mash roughly.
  2. Stir together with eggs, milk, feta and spinach. Sprinkle in the flour, salt and spices, gently folding together.
  3. Heat oil in frying pan, drop spoonfuls of batter in, cook until golden brown. Turn, cook other side, serve.
Nb: If curious about the title of this post - alteration of Old Crow Medicine Show's 'Alabama High-Test'

06 April 2010

Apologies to the village chicken

Hands up, who likes Malaysian food?  I love it.  Peanut satay, nyonya chicken (a kind of Malay-Chinese mixed style), vege laksa with deep-fried tofu pieces, Malay-Indian curries.  They're all good. 

Reading a Simon Holst recipe book yesterday (I know he's not maybe as cool and current as some other celeb cooks, but seriously - good recipes and easy to follow, without too many random ingredients, so give him and his Ma a second glance).  After noting a couple of recipes which had been recommended I perchanced along a recipe for 'Malay-style chicken curry'.  Well, waste NO more time on introductions - I'm there!! 

So, after spending Easter Monday sitting in the 26 degree sunshine (goooooo indian summer!) at Pukekura Park watching my nephew play cricket, came home and gave it a shot.  As promised by Simon, it was really easy to throw together.  The star anise and cinnamon sticks were the only things we didn't have in the cupboard already, so not too bank-breaking either.  I'll be making this one again, and again, and again.  It was GOOD!!  It should have a decent bit of sauce on it, so make sure you've plenty of rice (I was a bit skimpy on the ol' rice, so speak from experience).  Nom nom nom. 

Malay-style chicken curry

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cm piece ginger
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
500 g boneless, skinless chicken
3-4 tsps curry powder
6 cm cinnamon stick
1 whole star anise
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp each sugar and salt
3-4 tbsp chopped coriander
  1. Roughly chop garlic, onion, ginger. Blend in food processor with water, to make paste.
  2. Heat oil in pan. Cook chicken pieces (cut into manageable-sized pieces) for about 2 minutes per side, or until lightly browned (they needn't be cooked through, at this stage). Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add onion paste to pan, cooking for 3 minutes, add curry powder, cinnamon and star anise, stirring continuously, for about one more minute. Add all remaining ingredients, except coriander, bring to boil and then simmer for about 10-12 minutes (or until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickened a little). Stir in most of coriander.
  4. Serve over rice, sprinkled with remaining coriander, accompanied by steamed vegetables.
Nb: When I made it we were out of fresh coriander. So... I used a couple of tsp dried coriander, to stir through the curry, then sprinkled chopped fresh parsley on top. Absolutely fine. Also, if you can't be bothered steaming veges, just stir some beans, or broccoli etc through the curry too. It will make it less saucy though, which is a bit of a drawback. Up to you. I'm a steamer.