16 June 2011

gary the banana

It must be a week for people to realise that they have bananas over-ripening in their fruitbowls.  I did a couple of nights ago and so decided to make some muffins to deal with that.  And Laura, of Hungry and Frozen fame must have too, given her latest offering (that combined with lack of sleep and a very active culinary imagination). 

I'm not a big muffin-maker, if I'm honest, 'cause they just don't generally do a lot for me.  But banana muffins (and blueberry) can be different.  The key to wickedly good muffins, in my humble opinion, is increasing the amount of fruit, compared to the recommended amount.  I mean, a recommendation is like a yellow light right?  A suggestion, yes?  The bulk of this recipe is from the Chelsea Sugar site, but with a few important variations - the banana quotient was increased, as were the chocolate chips.  A light dusting of sugar and mixed spice will lift any baking, and for some reason (maybe the extra banana, or the size of my muffin tins) I ended up with 18 muffins, rather than the 12 which I was expecting.  Score! 

Apologies for the lack of photographic evidence of these muffins - all 18 are gone.  They went like hotcakes, so to speak.  But surely that's evidential proof of their tastiness?  And I'm sure you can imagine what a banana-choc-chip muffin looks like.  Anyhoo, in the absence of a photographic hommage, I have Gary the Banana, a Paul Rangiwahia original.  Kia kaha in the kitchen guys! 

2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup oil (I used rice bran)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
c. 1 cup chocolate chips
white sugar and mixed spice, for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius and grease/spray muffin tins. 
  2. In large bowl mix the eggs, bananas, oil, milk and brown sugar together.
  3. Mix in flour, baking powder and chocolate chips.  Don't over-stir it, just combine. 
  4. Spoon into tins and bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden and a skewer comes out clean (in saying this, mine were still a little gooey in the middle, but that's just because of the amount of banana in there). 
  5. Remove from oven, let rest in tins for a couple of minutes, then turn onto cooling racks.  They're really good warm, so make sure you eat one straight away! 

14 June 2011

stuff you

Until last night I'd never made stuffing.  Roasted chicken, sure.  But stuffing?  No.  Stuffless chook.  Which is nuts, 'cause stuffing is the yorkshire pudding of roasted poultry.  And casseroles...  That's right, a totally different use for the tasty, doughy goodness.  We had a chicken casserole, which was topped with a layer of stuffing, then slices of cooked potato and finally grated cheese.  A winning combination.  And it was easy (as I'm sure many of you have realised years ago).  So stuff you, get in the kitchen! 

6 slices frozen bread
1 onion, finely diced
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp dried mixed herbs
salt and pepper
  1. Chop the bread into little pieces, to make into breadcrumbs (a food processor will make this job easier, but then you do have an extra dish to clean.  Up to you). 
  2. Mix in the onion.  With your hands work through all the other ingredients. 
  3. Add a little water, to make the mixture into a doughy texture. 
  4. Shove on top of a casserole (sausage, chicken, stew), or into a to-be-roasted chook. 

13 June 2011

raving about ravioli!

I think ravioli is something most people really enjoy - pasta is a crowd-pleaser anyway, and add to the equation tasty fillings and you're on to a winner.  A couple of weekends ago KB and I had a wicked meal with family at Rain Bar at Papamoa Beach.  We both had terakihi on ravioli, with dill butter drizzled over the top.  It was fanbloodytastic.  One of those meals where you are completely silent for the whole meal, 'cause you've been so sucked in by the flavour that you haven't the brain capacity left to engage in conversation.  One of those meals. 
Anyhoo, it got us to thinking - why haven't we been making ravioli at home?  We have a garden full of herbs, we both love trying new combinations of flavours - surely these little parcels of taste would be the perfect foodject?  Yep, they were.  
Saturday evening we hit the kitchen, armed with flour, eggs, filling potentials and red wine (for us, not the ravs).  I got onto the pasta, while KB prepared two very moreish fillings.  I'll start with the fillings, 'cause you really want them to be sorted and ready to go either before you start the pasta, or be doing them at the same time, 'cause once the pasta's ready to go, you don't want it to dry out, you want to get the filling in and press the edges down while it's still malleable. 
Filling #1...
  1. Finely (really fine) chop an onion, a knob of ginger, a cup of mushrooms - saute in some butter.  Throw in some fresh coriander and mint (shredded) and combine.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir through sour cream - enough to get a consistency which will be stay together, but not be too runny.  Don't forget to add a couple of good grinds of salt and pepper too. 
Filling #2...
  1. Finely chop pak choi (or bok choi) leaves.  Combine in a bowl with some capers and sweet thai chilli sauce (to get the mixture to stick together a bit).  Chop pieces of blue cheese - about 1 cm, they need to fit in the ravioli.  Salt and pepper. 
Pasta etc...
  1. Put 2 cups flour onto a clean, dry surface (I use a large marble chopping board, 'cause it doesn't stick, but benchtop will be fine too, and probably easier for rolling - just make sure you've extra flour, in case you need to add a little more to the surface later on).  Make a deep well in the centre. 
  2. Separate two eggs.  Keep the yolks, do what you like with the whites (maybe save them to add into an omelette the next day?).  Get another two eggs and beat them lightly with the two yolks (so, all in all, you have 2 eggs + 2 extra yolks). 
  3. Pour the eggs into the well of the flour.  Pour slowly, you may have to pull some flour in to prevent the egg running everywhere, and then start pouring again.  Once all the egg is on the flour, pull the flour in from the sides, combining and kneading to form a nice smooth, elasticcy lump. 
  4. Roll the pasta out as thin as you possibly can.  We got ours pretty thin, cut the circles out for the raviolis, then re-rolled and re-cut, to get them paper thin.  That's what you want, paper thin.  It takes time, and some serious arm power - I'd recommend doing this as a duo, so you've got some arm power-backup. 
  5. Cut the sheets with circular cutters (we used a cookie cutter, about 10 cm diameter).  Reserve the scraps, to roll out again. 
  6. Place teaspoons of filling in centre of half the circles and brush the edges with water.  Top with another circle and press the edges down with a fork, to prevent escapee-filling.  Place on a flour-dusted plate and set aside (make sure you dust the tops of the raviolis with flour, if you're going to double-layer them on the plate, 'cause otherwise they'll stick). 
  7. Repeat process until you have used all your scraps and filling - we got about 20 raviolis, and they were pretty large ones. 
  8. Boil a pot of water - not boiling too fast though, the agitation of the water might cause your ravs to break open.  I set it over a medium hob.  Put the pasta in the water and cook for about 3 minutes.  Take a bite of an edge, to check they're cooked enough for you. 
Nb:  If you're going to use meat in the filling, it is important to cook it first, 'cause the ravioli cook so quick that they're not in the water long enough to cook the fillings too. 

09 June 2011


When I was in Italy (Albisola Superiore) a few years back I went with a friend to her grandparents' house for a family dinner. After a few hours of chatting, in what I'm sure was absolutely flawless Italian (ha, yeah right!), everyone had settled in for the evening. Suddenly there's my friend's 6-year old niece jumping up and down in front of me, chanting something. It took me a while to figure out what that was, as children's voices are pretty high-pitched and therefore often difficult to decipher when heard at speed. I figured it out and (proudly) informed her mother that the little girl wanted some dessert. She was chanting 'tiramisu! tiramisu!'. Fair conclusion eh? Now imagine a living room full of Italians laughing heartily as only they seem to know how. Turns out 'tiramisu' means 'pick me up', which is what the little girl wanted. She wanted to see my (erstwhile) nose piercing. Of course. 
In NZ however you're pretty safe with assuming demands of 'tiramisu, tiramisu!' relate to hunger and a desire for dessert. Until last weekend I'd not whipped out one of these delectably indulgent treats for several years, which I now know was a foolish waste of good eating time. It is the most satisfyingly creamy, rich, but not sickly delight I think you'll come across this side of whatever the other side is. Yum yum, seriously it's so good. The marscapone can be pretty pricey, but it makes enough to feed about 6-8 people. And who knows - there might even be some left over to eat for breakfast?
From personal experience - make sure your coffee is good and strong, stronger than you'd likely drink it. If you have a coffee maker, great - short short black. The amount of sponge cake used was about 20 cm squared, standard size you might buy at the supermarket - it's best if it's a little stale, maybe a couple of days old, so it doesn't go soggy. Any container can be used, but if you have one half the size of your sponge, but twice as high, perfect (I had some sponge and cream left over, so used a couple of little ramekins as well).

250 g marscapone cheese
2-3 eggs, separated
50 g sugar
sponge cake
30 ml strong coffee
cocoa, to dust
  1. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in large bowl until pale. Beat in the cheese until creamy and smooth.
  2. In separate bowl beat egg whites until fluffy and peaks can form.
  3. Gently fold whites into marscapone mixture. This is now marscapone cream.
  4. Cover the base of your dish with sponge. Drizzle with coffee (not too much, as you want moistened, but not saturated). Cover with marscapone cream. Repeat.
  5. Dust with cocoa and chill in fridge for at least an hour.
  6. Serve by itself, or with some fresh berries alongside.

Nb: If you want the taste of berries (which go really well), but it's winter, grab some frozen or tinned ones and add a layer of berries between the sponge and cream. Make sure they're well drained, or omit the coffee and use a little berry juice instead.