28 December 2012

over turkey, time for a gin and tonic?

These biscuits are delicious.  Thanks to Jamie Oliver for putting me onto them.  Quick to make too.  And the perfect treat for that post-Christmas lull.  His version has orange zest, but I prefer to use lime.  Lime reminds me of summer holidays, and cranberries of Christmas, so its the perfect combination.  Chocolate?  Reminds me that I want another one, please.  I think these would be pretty tasty with some slivered or broken up almonds in them too, perhaps reduce the cranberries and choc chips by a quarter each, and make up the weight in nuts?  Pistachios?  Go for gold, see what works! 
75 g butter
100 g castor sugar
1 egg
zest of one lime
160 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
50 g dried cranberries
100 g dark chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius. 
  2. Cream butter and sugar, then mix in the egg and zest.  Add dry ingredients and mix, before finally adding in the cranberries and chocolate and mixing through. 
  3. Place coin-sized dollops onto baking tray (I line mine with baking paper, but you could grease them with cooking oil or butter if you prefer), flatten and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. 
  4. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cooling racks before eating with a gin and tonic (or a hot chocolate, if you're Christmasing in cooler climes). 

07 December 2012

Jamie's cobbler

A few weeks ago I borrowed the 2010/2011 Jamie Oliver Recipe Yearbook from Bates.  I think I've mentioned before that I've a bit of a weekness for flicking through recipe books, and particularly enjoy those from Jamie, Nigella and Rick Stein.  They're so full of colourful pictures, and useful tips, that even if you don't end up actually following any recipes they're well worth the peruse. 
Anyhoo, whilst perusing the 2010/2011 annual I came across a cherry cobbler recipe.  I'd never made a cobbler before (we don't really eat a lot of desserts), but it was so straitforward that I had to try it.  It is basically a crumble, but with sconey topping.  I made an apple cobbler, as those were in the fridge.  Apparantly the name 'cobbler' comes from the fact that the overall effect looks a bit like a cobbled street.  Hmmm.  Streetfood.  Yummy! 
500 g apple (either sliced up fresh, or stewed, or a tin from the supy)
squeeze of lemon/lime juice
225 g caster sugar
110 g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
40 g butter, chilled and diced
1 egg yolk
50 ml buttermilk (you can make a substitute using normal milk with lemon juice)
handful flaked almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. 
  2. Mix fruit, lime juice, and 175 g sugar together in the base of a pie dish (mine was about 24 cm). 
  3. Beat egg yolk and buttermilk together.  In another bowl mix together flour, baking powder and remaining sugar.  Rub in the butter until resembles breadcrumbs. 
  4. Pour egg mixture into flour and mix until you have a sticky dough. 
  5. Drop walnut-sized pieces on top of fruit, leaving some gaps for the scones to expand into.  Sprinkle with almonds.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and bubbling. 
  6. Serve warm with ice cream or cream. 
NB: The photo is not of my cobbler, as we devoured it before I thought about taking a picture.  But it gives an idea :)  Furthermore, I think this dessert would go well with a nice glass of single malt alongside - perhaps Talisker or Lagavulin? 

23 November 2012

summer lovin'

Summer - berries, bacon and egg pie, fresh salsa and BBQ.  Plus asparagus, salads, lots of herbs and a whole raft of other gastronomic treats.  I love summer - there's so much colour and variety in food.  We're pretty lucky these days, as you can still access most foods in the deep, dark depths of winter, but they're often imported, hideously expensive and, frankly, pretty tasteless.  Nothing can compare to the summer foods we grow in our gardens or  pick up from the berry farm down the road. 
I had a virtually full carton of buttermilk in the fridge, left over from making an apple cobbler, so decided to make some muffins using a hoard of boysenberries I'd acquired.  Buttermilk is fantastic for baking (muffins, pancakes, scones etc) as it seems to make the end result just that much lighter.  We like to have some muffins or biscuits in the cupboard, for lunches, so this was a good way to use up the rest of the carton (you can also make a buttermilk substitute, by mixing lemon juice into normal milk and basically curdling it). 
Any berries will do for this, and throw in other bits and pieces as you have them - chocolate chips, almonds, pistachios...
2 cups berries
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil  
1 egg
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 and 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius and grease 12 muffin tins (or line with cupcake cases). 
  2. Mix egg, buttermilk, oil and zest together in large bowl, whisking to combine. 
  3. Add dry ingredients and fold to combine - don't overmix, as this can result in tough muffins. 
  4. Fold through berries. 
  5. Spoon into muffin tins and bake for 25 minutes, or until inserted skewer comes out clean. 
  6. Leave in tins for 5 minutes before removing onto wire rack to cool. 

06 November 2012

Remember - always blow on the pie

We ate out at Fahrenheit on Sunday, for my birthday (happy birthday to meeeeee!).  One of their dinner specials was a fish pie, done with gurnard and salmon and a parmasan crust.  Sounds good eh?  We were all too busy chowing down on their tasty tapas to be ordering fish pie at the time, but it did make quite a few of us around the table go 'hmmm, yep, THAT's on the menu this week!'. 
So last night KB and I broke our proverbial fish pie cherries.  Having never made one before we didn't really have any preconceptions on how it should be done, which sometimes is a good thing.  We both knew, having eaten many a fish pie, that you bound the whole thing together with a white sauce, and topped it off with mash spud, but that was about it. 
We took a leaf from Fahrenheit's book and used salmon, but with a tin of smoked fish rather than gurnard, 'cause fish pie really tastes amazing when it's got that smokey flavour.  Freshly smoked kahawai would've been wicked, but we'll have to get out on the boat for some of that.  We threw in some dill and parsley, 'cause they always go well with fish, and also some capers, to give the creaminess a lift.  A little grated cheese in with the mash and finished off with a grating of parmasan and boom - mean fish pie.  I can't wait to have it again at lunchtime.  And with summer coming, and thus the kahawai-catching, there'll be many more on our plates! 
5 potatoes
3 cloves garlic
350 g piece salmon (relatively small fillet is all you need), chopped into small pieces 
300 g tin smoked fish
1 onion, diced
handful mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tsp capers
good handfuls dill and parsley, finely chopped  
salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
milk and butter, for mashing potato
handful grated cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius. 
  2. Boil potatoes.  Mash with butter and milk, stir through grated cheese and set aside. 
  3. Fry onions in pot, set aside in casserole dish (the one you'll use for the pie) - don't rinse the pot out, 'cause you'll use it to make the white sauce.  Add mushrooms, capers, herbs and salmon to dish as well. 
  4. Make white sauce - melt butter in pot, stir in flour to make roux (paste-type stuff).  Slowly pour in milk, stirring constantly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in smoked fish (plus all the juices from the tin). 
  5. Pour sauce into casserole dish and stir all together.  Top with mash and grate parmasan on top. 
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned on top.  Serve with some steamed greens for an easy meal that'll have you going back for seconds. 
NB: Forgot to take a photo of the pie, but looked as you would imagine a casserole dish topped with browned cheesy mash to look.   

17 October 2012

Super-sumptuous soy sauce brownie

That's right people - soy sauce.  Not as quick as my 5-minute microwave brownie, but significantly more fudgey.  YUM!  

I had come across the recipe a while ago, on the website for kikkoman soy sauces (quite what I was doing perusing a soy sauce website, I can't answer you, but there you go!) and had been meaning to try it for a while.  Finally got around to it this week, with it being a friend's birthday (Happy Birthday Emma!). 

It made a fairly big brownie (about the size of a dinner plate), so plenty to go around.  Give this one a whirl, next time you're after filling up the pantry coffers...

250 g butter
200 g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups (tightly packed) brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp soy sauce
1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius (160 if oven is fan-forced).
  2. Melt butter and chocolate together in small saucepan, over low hear, until melted and smooth.
  3. Combine sugar, eggs and soy in large bowl.  Add melted chocolate and mix to combine. 
  4. Add other ingredients and mix into silky chocolatey mixture. 
  5. Pour into greased 23 cm cake tin and bake for about 35 minutes, or until set (you want it slightly fudgey in the centre, not overcooked). 
  6. Serve warm with cream, or yoghurt and berries, or slice when cold for a tasty lunchbox treat. 

24 September 2012

*oink oink, œuf œuf*

A bacon and egg pie - staple food of the summer picnic.  And, by extension, going out on the boat, or as a convenient dish to take with for a weekend away, when you think you'll be arriving too late to faff about with making dinner.  Throw a salad together, reheat pie (or not), and voilà, Bob's your proverbial uncle. 

Friday past was such a day.  We were headed to Whitianga for the weekend and there was a good possibility we'd not be leaving until 6 pm or so (and thus arriving at 9 pm or so), and would need something to (a) peck on along the way (and other than a pie at Turua it's pretty slim pickings) or (b) eat upon arrival.  So a bacon and egg pie came to mind.  I'd not actually made one before, believe it or not (I promise I am a true kiwi - I eat marmite, watch rugby and have dossed on a friend's floor in London), but having watched Mum and KB's mum whip 'em up knew that wouldn't be a prob. 

So, next time you're in one of the above situations, or just have a mass of eggs that need eating and you're scratching your head wondering what the hell to do with 'em, just remember, to always blow on the pie. 

12 eggs (or thereabouts)
6 rashers bacon, chopped into large pieces
dash milk 
2 onions, chopped up
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped 
few tsp capers 
3 tbsp wholegrain mustard 
cup frozen peas 
1/2 capsicum, chopped up (had that in the fridge, so used it, could also use 'shrooms)
grated cheese, I used almost a cup
salt and pepper 
fresh herbs, if you have some
  1. Spray oven dish with oil, or rub with some butter.  Turn oven on to about 180 celcius.
  2. Break eggs into large bowl, stir to break up a bit.  Throw all other ingredients in and mix. 
  3. Pour into dish and bake until all cooked through and golden on top.  I had to cover mine with foil for the last 15 or so minutes.  Think it took about 45 minutes all up.    
  4. Serve hot or cold, with salad.  Or just throw into the hamper and enjoy! 

10 September 2012

worth peanuts?

I am used to finding recipes and meal ideas in odd places.  But a biscuit recipe in an issue of a mountain biking magazine?  Wow, that one surprised even me.  I suppose though that biscuits would be convenient refueling for a busy biker. 
The recipe was for peanut brownies, which I made half with peanuts and the other half with chocolate chips, so there's something for everyone.  The recipe itself called for Chelsea's low GI sugar, but I just used raw sugar (or white, whatever you have in the pantry).  Suddenly the lunchboxes look far more interesting!   
125 g butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp cocoa
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup raw peanuts/choc chips
  1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
  2. Cream butter and sugar then add egg and beat to combine.
  3. Fold through dry ingredients and peanuts/choc (I split the mixture into two here, to keep the peanuts and chocolate apart). 
  4. Roll into balls and press flat on trays with fork.  Bake for 12 minutes.  

03 September 2012

Ota 'ika

Raw fish.  Initial thoughts that spring to mind is of old-school farce, slapping someone across the face with a fish, rather than of delicacies from the deep.  But, when you give it a second thought, you realise just how prevalent raw fish is in the diet of many cultures, and increasingly in our own - cerviche, sashimi, some sushi, an veritable plethora of dishes using raw salmon. 

We've recently returned from holidaying in Tonga, swimming with humpback whales around the Vava'u Islands, where we were seriously spoilt for choice of good restaurants and cafes - thanks Tropicana, Ovava, Aquarium, Mango and Marina (and there are many more, but there's only so much eating one can do before one (a) runs out of holiday and/or (b) risks being mistaken for the whales we were swimming with)!  One of the local dishes we stumbled upon was ota 'ika.  Ota 'ika (literally 'raw fish') is basically diced fish that been marinated in lemon or lime juice until the surface becomes opaque, then mixed with coconut milk (much like cerviche).  From there seemed to be many alterations, depending on availability of produce and the whim of the person making it.  Most of the ota 'ika I saw used a lot of dill, but I'd be inclined to go for coriander and mint myself.  It's quite rich, so as an entree is perfect. 

Small portion per person fish, diced - snapper, gurnard, tuna etc - or mahi mahi if you're in the islands!
coconut milk (about 1 tin per 2 fillets)
lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper
fresh herbs, roughly chopped
veges - capsicum, tomato, spring onion, maybe a little cucumber

NB: There are no exact measurements because, frankly, how much of everything you put in will depend on personal taste, the look you are going for (chunky and full of bits and pieces, or more simple with just herbs and fish) and the type of fish you're using.  Trial and error - it'll taste fab no matter what!  Furthermore, don't feel that you have to just use fish - if you have mussels, scallops, pipis, squid or crab use those.  Yum!!

12 August 2012

vanilla sky

We had some white choc left over from making Mum's birthday cake, so decided it was cupcake time.  I'm not a fan of white chocolate, but somehow vanilla and berries turn it into a completely different kettle of proverbial fish.  Yum! 

65 g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 eggs
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
c. 1/2 cup each chocolate + berries


50 g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp milk
  1. Heat oven to 160 degrees fanbake (or a little higher if your oven doesn't have fanbake).  Line 12 muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Beat butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time. 
  3. Add flours and milk and beat to combine.  Stir through chocolate and berries - I used macadamia white chocolate. 
  4. Spoon mixture into cases and bake for 20 - 25 minutes. 
  5. Cool on a wire rack. 
  6. Whip icing ingredients together and ice cooled cupcakes.  Decorate as desired. 

10 August 2012

Sing us a song, you're the piano man ♪♪

It was Mum's birthday a few weeks ago and she had a dinner party with family and friends to celebrate.  I decided to make her a birthday cake, 'cause lets face it - who wouldn't love a fancy birthday cake eh?  Kids get 'em every year, but in the realm of adults' birthday parties they're pretty scarce.  Which may be because as adults we have more sophisticated tastes and can therefore appreciate a party-cake alternative, such as creme brulée, or tiramisu.  

Or maybe it's just because, as teens, we stopped wanting those kiddy type cakes (sooooo lame), and that was the end of an era.  Anyhoo, colourful cakes are definitely in vogue again, and it's time we all got out some lollies, food colouring and had a bit of fun.  And next time it's your Mum or Dad's birthday - make them a cake - I don't know a single Dad who wouldn't secretly LOVE a racing car cake, even if he's 80. 

My Mum is a fabulous pianist, so when I decided to make her a piano-shaped cake (which I had actually made once before, so knew that whilst it looked quite involved, it was in reality simplicity incarnate), fresh from the pages of the Australian Women's Weekly Kids Birthday Cakes book, inherited from Mum herself (there's a duck cake in there which crops up in photos from my 1st birthday).  You can use any type of cake really, provided it's a relatively firm one - banana cake etc not a good idea.  So chocolate, vanilla, a good ol' butter cake.  For the piano it needs '2 packets of cake mix' worth of cake.  The first time I made it I just double the recipe for a standard butter cake, but this time I chose the line of least resistance and got 2 packets of Edmonds Angelic Vanilla Cake.  And it was really yum, so win-win. 

I baked the double-lot of cake mix in a 23 cm (or thereabouts) tin, for approximately 60 minutes - about 45 minutes in I needed to cover it with tin foil, so the top didn't get any more brown.  The key with decorated cakes is - make it a day in advance.  You want it a 'day stale', so to speak, as then the cake doesn't crumb when you're spreading icing on it. 

When ready to decorate I cut the cake about 3/4 of the way through, so I had one large rectangle (for the upright part of the piano) and one long skinnier rectangle, to sit in front for the keys.  Cover the whole beast with chocolate vienna cream icing (see below) and decorate using white chocolate and liquorice (or something else white and black).  I like to make a wee music stand and what not, to give it some personality - ideally the piano would've had a candelabra set on top, but I could only find a mini wine bottle.  But hey - it was for an adult after all eh? 

125 g butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar  
2 tbsp milk
  1. Beat butter and half of sugar together until pale. 
  2. Gradually add milk, then beat in the rest of the sugar. 
  3. If wanting chocolate or coloured cream, add a couple of tbsp cocoa, or food colouring. 
NB: Make the vienna cream on the day you want to use it.  Once the cake is decorated, keep it somewhere cool, but do no refridgerate, as the butter in the cream may harden and start to separate. 

23 July 2012

What'd you do when life hands you lemons?

There are many good answers to that question - get a bottle of gin or tequila, make lemonade, polish the furniture.  I'm normally partial to the gin suggestion, but as it's only just past 10 am, I'll refrain for the moment. 

I came across this recipe the other day, channel surfing.  One of those TV cooking demos was making what looked to be really easy, and using lemons.  We had a large bowlful of those citrussy little gems which, if not dealt with promptly, were going to be wasted, which I hate.  So, off to the supy to buy some frozen berries (them being out of season at the moment) and voila!  We enjoyed it at the beach over the weekend, and now the remnants are enlivening our lunches.  I forgot to take any pictures of it once cooked, but I'm sure you can imagine what a lemon-berry loaf looks like.  Make some lemon icing if you fancy, I didn't bother and frankly it didn't need it. 

125 g butter
3/4 cup sugar
zest from 2 lemons
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted 
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup berries (I used mixed)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.  Spray/line 23 cm loaf tin.
  2. Cream butter and sugar.  Add zest and beat in eggs one at a time.
  3. Add flour and lemon juice and fold until just combined. 
  4. Fold in berries and spoon into tin.
  5. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to rest in tin for 10 minutes before turning onto wire rack. 

25 June 2012

corn, three ways

Okay, for any of you who read that header and thought of gritty French films, get your minds out of the proverbial gutter.  I'm taking the piss out of what seems to be de rigeur in restaurants at the moment - having *xyz*, three ways is the cool thing to do.  Kyle and I have seen it so many times that its become a bit of a personal joke, to try and figure out just how the three ways might be, and why they bother.  For example, duck, three ways - so you get a bit of leg, a bit of breast, and some duck confit.  The first two are cooked the same way, and the third, well I didn't actually know what that was until I looked in wikipedia (the waitress not being sure, and the chef far too busy and important to explain to her).  Don't get me wrong, I love trying out new flavours, and different cooking methods, but sometimes it just seems to be done for the sake of presenting a range, at the expense of the food. 
But anyway, moving on.  To corn, three ways.  This is actually about muffins.  Corn, bacon etc muffins.  And the muffins have three types of corn - polenta, kernels and creamed.  And they're yum.  We tried them fresh out of the oven (perfect Sunday afternoon treat), and I've got one lined up for my morning tea, heated, with a little butter.  Do you ever go to a cafe and just seeing all the food in the cabinets makes you want to go home any bake?  Most of the time I resist the urge, but not yesterday.  They had some arancini (panko-crumbed risotto balls), which looked tasty.  That got me thinking about savoury yum foods.  Then the guy started bringing out the blueberry muffins for the day and my afternoon's fate was sealed.  But, not having blueberries, and fancying doing something with bacon, these muffins arrived in our oven... 

1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup milk
3 (or more...) bacon rashers, rind removed, chopped into cm pieces
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 chilli, chopped
1 1/2 cups SR flour
1 tbsp castor sugar
400 g tin corn kernels, drained
50 g creamed corn
100 g butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
24 cubes cheese (1 cm cubes)
grated cheese, for top
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius (180 if you're using fan bake).  Spray 12 muffin tins.
  2. Mix polenta and milk in a small bowl, cover, and set aside to stand for 20 minutes.
  3. Saute bacon, onion and chilli until bacon cooked and veges softened.  Remove from heat.
  4. Sift flour and sugar into a large bowl.  Stir in corn kernels, creamed corn and bacon mixture.  Add melted butter, eggs, salt and pepper and polenta mixture and mix until just combined.  You may need to add a dash more milk, if batter not battery enough.  But remember to add only a small bit extra at a time, 'cause you can't take it back out! 
  5. Place a cube of cheese in bottom of each muffin tin.  Spoon batter into tins.  Press second cheese cube into centre of each muffin and sprinkle with grated cheese. 
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until muffins are golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. 

22 June 2012

Hot shots, part deux

It's pie time again, but this time of the individual variety.  Over the weekend I made the chicken pie for my Mum, who'd come to stay for a couple of nights.  Wasn't too sure how Harry would take to it, not being a big fan of sauces/gravies etc.  But as we all know, kids will never cease to surprise you, and he loved it.  And asked if I could make it again the next night.  We compromised, left it a few nights, and changed chicken for mince, but the result - winner!  This time the pies were made in wee ramekins, rather than a large pie dish (partly because I only had 2 sheets of pastry left, rather than the 3 required for a large pie), and to be honest I think I preferred them that way.  Remember to spray the ramekins and prick the bottom of the pastry, to ensure even cooking.  I've been informed that we're having the mini-pies again soon, with the chicken filling.  Always happy to serve! 

For the mince filling I just did a kid-friendly bolognese (so no tandoori paste or harissa or anything).  This time I used:

500 g mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 tbsp sugar
couple handfuls mushrooms, very finely chopped (to disguise them...)
salt and pepper
splash of red wine
1 tbsp worchester sauce
dollop sweet chilli sauce
1 tin tomatoes
  1. Fry onions, garlic, salt and pepper in a little oil.  Add mince and brown (you may need a little more oil). 
  2. Sprinkle over a little sugar, stir into mince. 
  3. Add 'shrooms, wine and sauces.  Stir to coat mince. 
  4. Add tomatoes, combine, and leave on low to simmer away for a while (ideally an hour), stirring occasionally. 
  5. Spoon into pastry, top with pastry, brush with egg and bake for 20 minutes or so (until pies golden. 
You will have a good amount of mince left over so either make lots of pies (I only made 4), or use it for a spag bol the following night.  You can also freeze the bolognese, for next time you want to make pies. 

12 June 2012

time for a barbee, Gobi-style

I lived in Wellington for 8 years, more than half of that time in a student flat (2-5-4!!).  What's the single most-important thing to students?  (I can hear parents screaming 'good grades', and you're all wrong)  Food.  And drinks to wash said food down with (or as a stand-alone food-replacement).  Problem is, students typically don't have much money.  Which means that once the essentials are bought - beer, wine, hooch and toilet paper - there ain't much left over for fancy dining.  Enter Genghis Khan - Lord of Four Colours and Five Tongues, Supreme Khan of the Mongols, and Saviour of Wellingtonians' appetites.     

There was (and still is) a Mongolian BBQ restaurant, Genghis Khan's, on Marjoribanks St in Mt Vic, where from $15 you could get a mean feed of fresh, tasty Mongolian BBQ, cooked on the massive hotplates in front of you.  Add that it's BYO, carn- and herbivore-friendly and they give you free unlevened Mongol bread, and you can imagine the haven it was in our student days.  I remember many a birthday celebrated around their big round tables, with Sophie, Millie, Kush, Anna, Louise, Rose, Andy, Rosie, Vinnes Dusty and Tom, to name but a few.  Raise your glasses Wellington! 

Anyhoo, moving on to the point I am (albeit slowly) getting to.  Yesterday morning I got an email from Mindfood, with a few recipes suggestions on it.  One was for a Mongolian-style lamb stirfry.  Hello, I thought, Gengys...  We didn't have any lamb in the freezer, but did have plenty of beef, celery in the garden and (randomly) some Chinese five-spice in the pantry.  So, Mongolian beef stirfry it was.  And it was AMAZING.  I mean, we knew it'd be yum, 'cause you can't really go wrong with stirfry - fresh veges, marinade, herbs and spice.  But this was beyond good, and it was the beef that changed it up.  The beef was marinated for an hour or so in the fridge, but the marinade had (in addition to soy sauce etc) an egg, some cornflour and a little baking soda in it.  So when I fried the beef (in batches - very important, don't overload your pan, or they'll just end up boiling in too much juice, without space to brown), the marinade sort of puffed up and went a bit foamy.  The result with beef fried in and lovely marinade coat.  About a quarter of our meat didn't make it into the stirfry, 'cause we kept eating it off the plate...

So, give this a whirl - it was one of the quickest meals I've made in a long time, other than marinating the meat for an hour or so (but it's not like you have to watch it or anything).  And I reckon I'll be doing the beef again, just as a nibble when friends are around, or as something to put in burritos, pitas...  Yum.  Cheers Genghis! 

500 g beef (I sliced up a large piece of rump nice and thin - try to go against the grain)
1 egg, whisked
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cm ginger, finely grated
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp black bean sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1 red chilli, chopped
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 onion, diced
veges - we used carrot sticks, mushrooms, broccoli florets, a couple of celery sticks and half a capsicum
fresh herbs - we used mint and thyme
coriander, to serve
oil, for frying
rice or egg noodles
  1. Slice up meat (place in freezer for 15 minutes, as this wil make it a bit firmer, and easier to cut).  Combine egg, garlic, ginger, soy, brown sugar, cornflour and baking soda in a bowl.  Add slices of beef, toss to combine well, cover and refridgerate for an hour (or until you're ready for it). 
  2. Combine black bean sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, chilli and five-spice in a jug with 2 tbsp water.  Set aside - this will be your stir-fry sauce.  If you have some hoi sin sauce, you can use this instead of fish sauce and chilli.  Probably use 1 tbsp of hoi sin. 
  3. Heat a little oil in wok, and start stir-frying your veges.  Once veges are on their way, heat oil in another pan and fry beef in batches.  Transfer to a plate until ready to add to veges (pretty much at the last minute, 'cause you don't want it overcooked). 
  4. Cook noodles, or rice. 
  5. Fold beef and herbs (not coriander) through veges and heat through.  If using noodles, fold these through too, or serve on rice.  Plate up and top with some fresh coriander.     

11 June 2012

Ab Fab dahl-ing

It's been a while.  I've been pretty unadventurous lately, cooking-wise.  Old favourites have been making beloved reappearences, which whilst gastronomically satisfying hardly make for good blog-fodder.  I mean, who want to read a blog entry that says "I remade xyz.  It was good.  I used yellow capsicum in place of green, to give it some colour."  Woop.  So, now you know why it's been so quiet on the bloggery front.  Not because nothing's been a-happening nella mia cucina, but because I've been visiting with old friends. 

However, perusing an Indian cookbook I received for Christmas a couple of years back, I was reminded of the fact that I really like lentils.  I never cook lentils, which smacked me in the face as patently ridiculous.  So, lentils were added to our Friday night menu, in the guise of parippu. 

Parippu is a dhal (lentil curry, also spelled dal, daal and dahl) from south-India, flavoured with coconut and a tarka (seasoning) of fried onion and spices.  The one I made used masoor dhal, which are red lentils.  Because they are split they cook faster than other lentils and don't usually require any pre-soaking (other lentils do, so always check your recipe/packet). 

We took the prepared dhal to KB's mum and dad's for dinner, along with rice and garlic roti, and it was tasty.  I think next time I'll add in a little more salt, and perhaps a teaspoon of sugar, but other than that, it was fabulous dahling!!   

225 g masoor dhal
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tomato, roughly chopped
400 ml coconut milk
2 green chillies, chopped
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander (I used garam masala, as ran out of ground cori)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (I used yellow)
1 onion, finely chopped
fresh coriander leaves
rice + roti, to serve
  1. Put lentils into heavy-based saucepan with 500 ml water.  Add roughly-chopped onion, tomato, coconut, chillies and ground spices. 
  2. Bring to the boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are cooked to soft mush (these lentils don't hold their shape when cooked).  This takes about 30 minutes.  If all the liquid has evaporated before your lentils are sufficiently cooked, add boiling water. 
  3. For the tarka, heat oil in small saucepan over low heat.  Add the seeds, cover and allow the seeds to pop.  Add finely-chopped onion and fry over low heat until golden brown. 
  4. Pour seasoned onions into simmering lentils, season with salt (and maybe stir through a little sugar) and cook for further 5 minutes. 
  5. Serve with rice and roti. 

01 May 2012

♪ it's pie time, kia ora talofa, it's pie time, a special time of day ♪

You know that feeling when you have a hankering for something, and until you have it no other food will suffice?  Friday morning, sitting at the computer, when I'm struck by a gastronomic lightning bolt from the sky, telling me that it's chicken pie or bust. 

I'd never bothered to make a chicken pie before.  Mince, yep.  Shepherd's (which, let's be honest, it's really just mince), yep.  Bacon and egg, oh yes.  But chicken?  Never.  Which is weird, 'cause chicken pie is always my pick if we're getting pies from the bakery on weekends.  Not having a clue what was required, but knowing what kind of consistency I wanted the filling to have, was helpful.  Just sort of tinkered with it, letting it bubble away, until it seemed right.  And, luck of the irish, it was bang on.  This one will be making an appearance on our table again soon! 

3 sheets flaky puff pastry (I bought pre-rolled, gold)
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 rashers bacon, chopped up
1 onion, diced
couple handfuls mushrooms, chopped into smallish chunks
1 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped
cumin seeds, or other herb/spice as preferred
1 cup white wine (I used more like 2)
200 ml cream
flour, as needed to thicken (I used approx. 5 tbsp)
1 egg, to brush pastry
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (200 if not fan bake) and spray pie dish with a little oil.
  2. Brown chicken and bacon in pan.  Remove when cooked and set aside.
  3. Saute onion, 'shrooms, chilli and herbs/spices until onion becomes translucent.  Pour in wine and allow to simmer until liquid is reduced. 
  4. Pour in cream, stir and allow to heat through before adding flour, and stirring and allowing to thicken.  You may need a little more flour, or less, add bit by bit and see how you go.
  5. Arrange pastry in dish so that dish is covered and excess lays over the sides (this will become the pie's top).  Pour filling in and cover with pastry.  If you've some excess you could make something to decorate the top.  Cheesy, but quite satisfying, I assure you.  
  6. Brush with egg and bake for about half an hour.   

raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens...

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.  Yep, they were a few of Maria von Trapp's favourite things.  I was reminded of that song the other day, having made a swag of mini pikelets, served with jam and cream.  Pikelets with jam and cream - it had been so long since I'd had that, I had almost forgotten just how soothing it is to eat something so simple, that hasn't changed one iota since we were kids.  Edmonds pikelet recipe.  Berry jam.  Cream.  Sorted. 

We were headed to the 1st Birthday party of friends' daughter, and naturally were taking a plate of nibbles.  I decided mini pikelets would be quick, easy-to-transport and, very likely, equally popular with adults and kids alike.  I mean, who doesn't like pikelets?  So, bring back the humble pikelet - full-sizded, or mini - and enjoy the simplicity.  Happy Birthday, Ara. 

1 cup plain flour
1 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
  1. I think the recipe book says to beat the egg and sugar separately, then add with milk to dry ingredients.  I didn't bother, largely 'cause I wasn't reading the recipe very carefully.  So all ingredients got whacked in together, and I didn't have any problems.  So there you go - bung it all in and mix. 
  2. Heat pan, sprayed with a little cooking spray (if pan not non-stick enough).  Cook until bubbles form, turn, cook other side and remove. 
  3. Serve warm, or allow to cool on wire racks before piling with toppings. 
NB: Whilst about half of the pikelets were spread with a little butter, jam and a dollop of cream, I also did some with butter and 100s & 1000s (FAIRY BREAD!!), and some with cream cheese and jam, something a little more sophisticated for the discerning palate ;)

19 April 2012


Ness, my sister-in-law, posted a link to this recipe - banana choc chip muffins.  You can't go wrong - fruit and chocolate all wrapped up in a neat little muffiny package.  Perfect timing too, thanks Ness, 'cause we had some bananas that were in serious need of use.  I doubled the mixture, figuring to take some to a friend's house this evening, and the rest for the weekend.  If they last that long... 

So, thanks to Ness and to Chelsea sugar, we have lift-off! 

2 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (duh, as if you'd leave the skins on)
2 eggs
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
1 cup chocolate chips (or a little more...)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Spray muffin tray with non stick spray.
  2. Beat eggs, bananas, oil, milk and brown  sugar together – just lightly. Mix in flour, baking powder and chocolate chips. Don’t over mix – ingredients should be just gently stirred together to combine.
  3. Spoon into prepared tins and bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until puffed and golden brown and inserted skewer comes out clean.
  4. Cool for 2 minutes in tins, then gently twist and ease onto wire rack
NB: Above ingredients is for one batch.  Ness brushed hers with a little maple syrup before cooking, for an extra glaze. 

17 April 2012

home James, and don't spare the horseradish!

I was fossicking in the pantry the other day, looking for a particular biscuit recipe, and got sidetracked by the recipe books that lurk in the back.  We've got a fair few recipe books, most of them lovely glossy things which really deserve to be on display but who, in reality, are left to skulk about at the back with those bits of couscous and polenta that inevitably escape their boxes.  On impulse I pulled a couple out which I'd not seen before and discovered one of the golden oldie greats of cookery - an Australian Women's Weekly compendium.  We've since surmised that it must have been given to KB, 'cause he didn't recognise it either, but having flicked through it we both had to admit that, whilst not as cool perhaps as some of the current TV celeb chefs, the Aussie WW knows its stuff when it comes to straight-forward, pleasing to the eye, non-tricky good food. 

There was one dish in particular that caught the eye as one to throw together before the book got put away again (as, sad to say, it now has, until next time I'm looking for inspiration or a biscuit recipe).  Creamy horseradish chicken with garlic sauteed spinach.  Sounds good, right?  It was!  And as we were getting this ready, KB decided some roasted pumpkin, beetroot and spinach couscous (based on a recipe found later in the same book) was in order, as a side.  So, without further ado, dinner... 

For the chicken
4 thin chicken breasts (or cut two fatties in half)
1 tbsp oil
1 spring onion, sliced thin
dash white wine
160 ml cream
2 tbsp prepared horseradish
good squeeze lemon juice
1/2 tsp dijon or wholegrain mustard
finely chopped dill
20 g butter
2 cloves crushed garlic
spinach, coarsely chopped, for 4
  1. Heat hald oil in pan and cook chicken until cooked through.  Remove from pan.
  2. Heat remaining oil in same pan.  Cook onion until soft.  Add wine and cream, bring to the boil, then simmer for a couple of minutes.  Add horseradish, lemon, mustard and dill and stir through.  Return chicken to pan and remove from heat. 
  3. Melt butter in second frying pan, add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add spinach, cook over low heat until wilted (about 2 minutes). 
  4. Serve chicken on spinach, drizzled with horseradish sauce, alongside couscous. 
NB: We didn't have any white wine in the house, so left that out. 

For couscous
500 g piece pumpkin, chopped coarsely
1 tbsp oil
4 beetroot, peeled and chopped
1 tsp chicken stock
2 cups boiling water
2 cups couscous
150 g trimmed spinach, shredded coarsely
handful cashews, or other nut
equal parts lemon juice and olive oil
1 tsp honey
ground cumin and cayenne pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 22o degrees celcius and roast pumpkin and beetroot with a little oil for about 30 minutes (turn halfway through).
  2. Place couscous in bowl.  Stir through stock powder.  Pour boiling water over, until level of water just a little higher than couscous.  Stir, cover with plate or lid, and leave for 5 minutes or so.  Once cooked, fluff (stir through a little butter, if you like), stir through spinach and set aside.  
  3. Combine dressing ingredients (this really is to taste, so sorry for the lack of firm guidance). 
  4. Combine roasted ingredients with couscous in serving bowl.  Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with nuts. 

16 April 2012

Fahrenheit capers

There's a local restaurant in town, Fahrenheit, who do a tapas menu.  Tasty tasty plates of food, designed for sharing, but equally perfect as an appetiser or light lunch.  I'm usually lured in by the calamari, or breads and dips, before my eyes even get a chance to peruse the rest of the menu, but recently when there a word caught my eye...dill. 

I love dill.  It's quite a strong-flavoured herb, so needs to be used sparingly when coupled with more delicate flavours, but adds depth to dishes with its hint of aniseed.  KB and I recently used some dill in a horseradish and cream sauce (recipe to come, watch this space), but it's the super-simple, super-satisfying tapas that I'm waxing lyrical about at the moment. 

Basically, it was salmon bruschetta, with a creme fraiche base, rather than salsa.  Awesome.  And how did they stop the salmon-creme fraiche combo being too rich - dill and capers baby!  A winning combo, if ever I saw one.  I mean - you could use that for so much - creme fraiche, dill and caper as a sauce for pasta, as a base on pizza, a dollop on top of a steak... But, if you're wanting something nice and easy, but really really smart and tasty for the next time you're doing nibbles, try this...

loaf ciabatta (or sourdough, turkish etc)
olive oil
smoked salmon, sliced thinly
creme fraiche
fresh dill
  1. Slice bread quite thinly and brush with oil.  Grill to lightly toast.  I would cut the pieces to bite size. 
  2. Mix capers into creme fraiche (I like quite a few, but that's to taste).  You could chop up and stir some dill through here too, if you want a stronger dill flavour. 
  3. Lay strips of salmon on crostini (the fancy name for your wee toasts).  Add a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprig of dill.  Voila, c'est tout. 
NB: the photo obviously doesn't match - spoons in place of bread - but I'm sure you can fill in the gaps. 

15 March 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr President...

It's our dog's 1st birthday today, so I made him a cake.  I realise that might sound crazy, and I could try and convince you I did it purely for Harry's benefit (7 years old, so you know, doing it for the kids), but I don't think anyone would buy that.  But hey, why not - it's his birthday, so oughtn't he have a cake?  So, if you've a pet and want to raise the eyebrows of those around you (make sure they don't have men in white coats on speed dial), here's a way to wish 'em Happy Birthday! 

1/2 dog roll (I'm sure it'd be fine for cats too)
strips of rawhide
rawhide stick
dog chocolates
peanut butter
  1. Cut the dogroll in half, then halve that again.  Place the flat-top and -bottom piece on a plate. 
  2. Spread some peanut butter on the rawhide straps (broken into pieces no higher than the bottom half of the cake) and stick onto piece of dog roll on plate.  They don't stick that well, but will stay put long enough for you to finish cake.  The peanut butter is good for dog's coat, but better check if making for a feline. 
  3. Place some globs of peanut butter on flat-top of dog roll, just for that extra goodness!
  4. Place rounded half of dog roll on top of peanut butter.  Put candle (rawhide stick) into top.  Press dog chocs into top half of cake - they have a tendancy to pop out, so press 'em in hard, and don't worry about covering the whole thing. 
  5. Voila - joyeux anniversaire chien!