27 November 2010

Supper Club #6

Very, very late in getting this one up, it is almost time for the next one.  Supper Club # 6 and the venue Ms Teresa's new pad, and lovely it all was too.

To get things started a vibrant Pea Pesto, such a beautiful colour and the sweetness of the peas against the crunch of the bread and the tartness of the cherry tomatoes a great combination.
Pea Pesto

Ingredients

½ pack of frozen baby peas (thawed)          
1 cup Parmesan, grated
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped                     
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil (extra to brush bread)          
Cherry tomatoes (halved)
French bread stick (sliced 2cm thickness)

In a food processor, blend the peas, Parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle in the oil while the food processor is running.  Check seasoning, adjust as required.

Slice the  bread into 2cm thick slices and brush each side with olive oil and toast under the grill for a moment or 2 until golden and crispy. For extra zing you could rub each slice with a halved garlic clove.  Spread pesto on the toasted bread and top with cherry tomatoes. Season with a little salt and pepper.


For our entree pork dumplings.  These were so good, just so tasty and terribly moreish.  If you do make them ahead make sure to keep them all separate from each other, as otherwise they can quite quickly stick together.  Still just as delicious though.

Pork Dumplings

Ingredients
Makes 60, so you could easily half the quantities for  smaller batch, but what a great way to feed a crowd.

60 square wonton or round dumpling wrappers
900g pork mince                        
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger                    
4 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chilli flakes                    
4 tbsp dark soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, minced                    
½ Chinese cabbage, shredded
Bunch chives, finely chopped                    
1 tsp ground star anise

In large bowl, combine all ingredients together.  Place a heaped teaspoon of pork filling onto each wonton wrapper. Moisten edges, fold over and pinch the sides together.
Steam dumplings in a covered bamboo or metal steamer for 15-20 minutes, until the pork is cooked through.  For a variation with cooked dumplings, once cooled, fry them in some peanut oil for some pot stickers. This works best with the denser round dumpling wrappers than the delicate wonton wrappers.

Serve the little dimplings with some dipping sauces, these really bring the dish together whether the tart chilli lime that has the whole sweet and sour going on or the peanut and sesame for sweet nutty flavour.  These are super easy to whip together.

Chilli and Lime Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

Juice of 4 Limes                        
1 tbsp palm or brown sugar
1 tsp fish sauce                        
1 tbsp sherry or rice wine
2 fresh chillies sliced (keep seeds)                
1 tbsp lemongrass, bashed and finely chopped   
Mix all the ingredients together.

Peanut and Sesame Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

½ cup peanut butter                       
¼ cup light soy sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar                    
¼ cup sesame oil
1 tbsp palm or brown sugar

Blend all the ingredients together or shake vigorously in a jar.

Serve in little dipping bowls with the pork dumplings.

On to the main event and we continued with the Asian theme.  A beautiful beef with oyster sauce and a light, full of flavour Asian salad with a fresh lemongrass dressing.

Beef with Oyster Sauce

Ingredients

400g beef fillet
5 tbsp peanut oil                       
30g ginger, peeled and finely chopped           
1 garlic clove, finely chopped              
2 spring onion, sliced in to 5cm lengths          
1 tbsp spring onion, finely chopped to garnish               
1 cup mixed mushrooms, sliced                   
227g can sliced water chestnuts (sliced again)        

For the marinade
2 tsp ginger sauce*
1 tbsp rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp light soy sauce
½ tsp sugar
½ egg white, lightly beaten
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour   
For The Sauce:
2 tbsp oyster sauce       
1 tsp light soy sauce       
2 tsp cornflour
150mls chicken stock or water, and little more as required to thin

Directions

Cut the beef across the grain into very thin slices, about 5cm long and 2mm thick.
Place beef in a bowl and mix together with the marinade ingredients.  Leave to marinate for 20 minutes. While marinating, mix all the sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Heat a wok or frying pan over high heat and add 3 tablespoons of peanut oil. When almost smoking, add the beef and fry in 2 batches – 30 seconds per batch or till well seared. Remove with a perforated spoon and drain well.

Rinse the wok or fry pan and dry. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil and when just smoking, add ginger, garlic, mushrooms and spring onion stalks. Fry for 10 seconds then pour the well-stirred sauce to the centre of the wok. As soon as it bubbles, return beef and stir fry for 20 seconds, add water chestnuts last.

Garnish with spring onion and serve with some steamed rice and the Asian Salad...recipe below.


Asian Salad

Ingredients

½ bowl mixed spring salad greens                
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tbsp mint chopped                       
2 tbsp coriander chopped
1 cup sliced snow peas
In large bowl, mix all the ingredients together.

Lemongrass Dressing

Juice of 2 Limes                        
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp palm or dark brown Sugar                
1 tbsp pickled ginger shredded
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce       
5cm stalk lemongrass, very finely shredded
       
Place the lime juice into a jug, mix in the fish sauce and palm sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Then add in the pickled ginger, sweet chilli and lemongrass.  Just before serving the salad, toss the dressing through the salad.

And for dessert the most delicious moist, fragrant orange and almond cake drizzled with a Grand Marnier syrup. A sublime dessert.

Orange and Almond Cake

Ingredients

2 large oranges                        
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 ½ cups ground almonds                    
1 ½ tsp baking powder   
6 large eggs beaten                       
1 tsp vanilla essence
Crème fraiche to serve    

Directions

Wash the whole unpeeled oranges. Place in saucepan, cover with water and boil for 1 hour (or 30 minutes minimum). Drain and cool.
Preheat oven to 190C. Lightly grease and flour a 20cm round cake tin. Cut the oranges into quarters, remove seeds and whizz in a food processor until just smooth.  Add vanilla essence and set aside.

Mix the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder in a bowl.  Add the orange and mix in gently.
Fold in well beaten eggs and place in prepared cake tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool in tin.

For the Grand Marnier Syrup

Ingredients
1 cup castor sugar                        
zest and juice of 2 oranges
6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed                
zest and juice of 2 lemons
150ml water                            
¼ cup Grand Marnier (or more!)

Place all the ingredients except the Grand Marnier in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, making sure the sugar is dissolved, then simmer for 5 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve and add the Grand Marnier.

To serve the cake, drizzle with the Grand Marnier syrup and serve with some crème fraiche on the side, or just simply dust with icing sugar. I highly recommend the syrup, would be a very good cake without it but a great cake with it.

Tip: Keep the water you boiled the oranges in, as this is a rich with nutrients and makes a nice drink just add a little honey and ginger.



Another fantastic Supper Club.
The gorgeous Peaches

26 November 2010

Roast Pork, Golden Crispy Roast Potatoes and Herb Crusted Pumpkin Wedges

Sunday rolled around and in the mood for a roast.  Had a lovely piece of pork from Freedom Farms who are all about naturally farmed foods and bringing back quality, a Kiwi challenge to what's been going on in farming around the world with demands for cheaper food and more intensive farming.  More and more people care about the quality of their food and about where their food comes from.  People want to know that their farm animals are being raised more naturally and humanely and what they are being fed, and they want to support farmers that operate sustainably.  So if you want some delicious pork that you can also feel good about, look out for Freedom Farms pork.

And no roast is a real roast without roast potatoes.  Lucky me had picked up a little pot of duck fat at Taste Auckland from Saveur Duck.  On the side pumpkin courtesy of Yotam Ottolenghi and some steamed broccoli fresh in from Epicurean Supplies.

For the roast pork I simply salted it, as aiming for crispy crackling, and went with Delia's timing.  Score the skin and sprinkle generously with salt.  Do not put any fat, butter, oil or anything near the crackling!  Cook for 20 minutes at 245C and then lower the heat to 190C and cook for 35 minutes per pound for leg or loin of pork.  Perfect timing, the pork was just cooked and tender and juicy.  Crackling not quite as crackling as I would have liked but easily remedied.  Just take of the crackling and place it under the grill for a few minutes to really crisp it up.

For the roast potatoes I used Agria, you want floury potato for these rather than a waxy one, so if in the UK King Edward or in the USA Russet. Peel and then cut in to similar sized chunks.  I like somewhat triangular shapes as always aiming for as much surface as possible to deliver the maximum amount of crispy deliciousness.  

Par boil in salted water for about 10 minutes.  Drain in a sieve and give them a good shake to rough them up a bit, again to maximize the crispiness.  Return to the pot and toss with a tablespoon or 2 of either semolina or polenta.  Trust me, this trick comes from Nigella and she knows her roast potatoes.  It gives just that little extra costing which I promise you guarantees golden crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside i.e. the perfect roast potato.  Heat the oil in a baking tray in the oven (same temp as the pork), if no duck fat I would recommend Rice Bran oil as it has a really high smoking point and you can get it good and hot.  But I would highly recommend the duck fat...seriously worth every calorie.  Toss the potatoes in the hot oil, season with salt, and cook for 30 - 45 minutes or until golden and crispy.
On the side crusted pumpkin wedge.

Crusted Pumpkin Wedges from the wonderful Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients
Serves 4

700g pumpkin, skin on
50g Parmesan, grated, and yes use the good stuff it is just better!
20g dried white bread crumbs, I actually used some fresh brown breadcrumbs
6 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 1/2 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
Grated zest of 2 large lemons
2 garlic cloves, crushed
60 ml olive oil
120g sour cream
1 tbsp dill, chopped (Sadly couldn't find dill but work well just with the sour cream)
Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 190C.  Cut the pumpkin in to 1cm thick slices and lay them flat, cut side down, on a baking sheet that has been lined with greaseproof paper.
To make the crust, mix together in a small bowl the Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, half the lemon zest, the garlic, a tiny bit of salt (as the Parmesan is salty) and pepper.



Brush the pumpkin generously with olive oil and sprinkle with the crust mix, making sure the slices are covered with a few millimetres of coating.  Gently pat the mixture down a little.
Place the tray in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.  If the topping starts to darken too much just cover it loosely with a little foil.

Mix the sour cream with the dill and some salt and pepper.  Serve the wedges warm sprinkled with the remaining lemon zest, with the sour cream on the side.

This was one delicious roast dinner.  The pork was tender and so flavourful, well worth paying that little bit extra.  Topped off the port with a little plum and ginger sauce.  A great one to make ahead that can then be frozen.  The roast potatoes....heavenly.  There certainly weren't going to be any of them left over.  Crispy, golden little gems golden and roasted on the outside and warm fluffy potato on the inside.  Serious potato heaven.  And what a great way with pumpkin, crisp golden herby tasting crust, soft tender pumpkin all fragrant and delicious with that last hit of lemon zest.  They also look fabulous which is always a plus and I think far superior to the usual roasted pumpkin, so give it a go the next time you are having a roast or they would be lovely with some simply grilled fish and a little salad.




All finished off with a little Raspado de Sandia y Frambuesa (Watermelon-Raspberry Ice). Great to have on hand in the freezer and a breeze to whip it up.
Enjoy!

22 November 2010

Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad

Simple and delicious...

Another beautiful box of vegetables from Epicurean Supplies and a fair few zucchini.  So I thought I would get in early with some zucchini inspiration as even if you only have 1 or 2 plants a gluts of zucchinis cannot be too far away. So I checked out Yotam Ottolenghi, my new favourite destination for vegetable inspiration, and came across this lovely little treasure.  So here is zucchini inspiration #1. My zucchini have a wee way to go but before I know it I will likely be out the door with zucchini so if you have any zucchini inspiration send it my way!

Zucchini: best cooked quickly, so steaming, sauteeing, stir frying or grilling work really well.  The are also good raw, thinly sliced or grated.

Zucchini likes: butter, olive oil, garlic, onion, lemon, cheese (feta, Parmesan, Pecorino), anchovies, vinegar, pine nuts, almonds, currant, basil, mint, oregano, thyme and parsley.

This made an elegant little appetiser pre roast dinner on Sunday.  Yotam used cobnuts, native to Kent, England with a very short season from mid-August to October so a little hard to come by here in Auckland!  His recommended alternative was hazelnuts which I love.

Zucchini & Hazelnut Salad, from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi with minimal tweaking.

Ingredients
Serves 4

50g shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts
7 small zucchini (880g in total)I used 4 fairly large ones
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
30g mixed green and purple basil leaves, I only had green to hand but the purple would make it even prettier.
80g top quality Parmesan, broken up or very thinly sliced
2 tsp hazelnut oil
Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 100C.  Scatter the nuts over a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until just nicely browned.  Let them cool down before chopping roughly or just crushing lightly with the side of a large knife.

Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave it there until it is almost red hot - at least 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, top and tail the zucchini and cut them on an angle in to 1cm slices.  Place them in a bowl and toss with half of the olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Place the slices on the hot grill pan and char grill for about 2 minutes on each side, turn them over using tongs.  You want to get distinct char marks without cooking the zucchini through.  Transfer to a mixing bowl, pour over the balsamic vinegar, toss together and set aside.
Once the zucchini have cooled down, add the remaining olive oil, basil and nut.  Mix lightly, then taste ans adjust the seasoning accordingly.  Transfer the salad to a flat plate, incorporating the Parmesan, ans drizzle over a little hazelnut oil.

I plated up individually and used some really olive oil, which worked wonderfully, though I am sure a drizzle of hazelnut oil would take it to the next level or next time I might be tempted to try a wee drizzle of white truffle oil as I seem to like that on pretty much anything at the moment.

It was fresh and light, the fragrant basil and Parmesan working wonderfully well with the zucchini and then the toasty crunch of the hazelnuts.  Elegant simplicity at its best.  The perfect prelude to Sunday roast....details to come soon. However I can tell you that potatoes roasted in duck fat are sublime!

Enjoy!

21 November 2010

The Coolest Little Capital in the World

According to Lonely Planet the coolest capital in the whole world is right here in New Zealand!
Move over London, Rome and Paris – Wellington is the world's coolest little capital city.
No only that Lonely Planet has named Wellington the fourth best city to travel to in the whole world, behind only New York, Tangier and Tel Aviv. Go Wellington and that is exactly where I went on the weekend.

Arrived Thursday night and headed out for a late bite.  Cruised along the waterfront and happened upon Foxglove.  The new bar on Wellington's waterfront.  It has several spaces within the one building.  There are 3 bars within Foxglove each different from the other.  All  a little decadent  with a little vintage glam.

There is a lovely dining room with great views of the harbour and plus a separate banquet table under a 2 story living wall - the largest example in New Zealand and quite spectacular.
It was a lovely evening so we were able to sit outside as we were only after a few small plates and a little vino.  We opted for Flat bread with cedar smoked snapper, Slow roasted duck terrine with apple gelee and toasted brioche,  Crispy prawns with soy and truffle aioli,  Goats cheese and mozzarella balls with palm sugar and manuka honey drizzle.  For me the stars were the cedar smoked snapper which was light and fragrant and I can never go past goats cheese balls!  If you are also a fan and in Auckland you should head along to Didas or La Zeppa.

First morning in Wellington and for us nowhere else to go but Floriditas, or Flo's as the locals call.  My favourite cafe in the whole world so it gets a whole blog to itself! Read all about how wonderful Flo's is here.

For lunch I was lucky enough to finally get to Martin Bosley's.  It was the Supreme Winner of Cuisine Restaurant of the Year in 2007 and was again a finalist this year.  Their philosophy on food:  
Eat what’s in season, what’s local, and what’s fresh. We also believe food should please the eye as well as the palate.
It is a beautiful venue right on the waterfront and one of those dining rooms that has that wonderful air of elegance with crisp white linen and sparkling glassware.  The service throughout was impeccable, really some of the best service I have had...friendly, unobtrusive and everyone just made you feel so welcome.

To start things off homemade bread and for an entree I just couldn't go past the Black Pudding Ravioli, Young Carrots, Black Olive Powder, Red Wine-Cassis Sauce, Orange Peel Puree, Sage.  It was the black pudding that hooked me, though I was tempted by the 65/65 Egg Yolk, Almonds, Radish, Charred Cucumber, Freeze Dried Asparagus, Buffalo Mozarella, Truffle.  It is an egg yolk cooked at 65C for 65 minutes and it sounded and looked amazing.  However I was not in the least disappointed with my choice, the black pudding ravioli was sublime, combined with the orange peel puree it was one of those mouthfuls that is just completely heavenly.  Beautiful ravioli and then the spiciness of the black pudding and the sweetness of the orange peel pure and the perfect little carrots.
For main course Canterbury Duck Breast, Caesar Salad, White Anchovy, Fennel Puree, Pomme Dauphine, Ginger Gelee.  The duck perfectly pink with crispy skin, a beautiful combination with the fennel puree.  The pomme dauphine crispy on the outside and creamy potato on the inside...I could eat a whole bowlful of them.  The Caesar salad deconstructed and lovely delicate flavours with the white anchovy. 


And for dessert a tasting plate...oh my! A little creme brulee, a little cheese cake, a little chocolate, a little caramel ice cream and a little warm apple cake.  You get the picture...right here.  Tasted as divine as it looks.


An exceptional lunch and up there with my all time best meals.  

For dinner back to out favourite haunt Floriditas which you can read about here.

Head out Saturday morning for a spot of breakfast to find Cuba Street in darkness.  Hit by a power cut.  So we re-routed to check out Moore Wilson.  It is where the cafes, caterers and restaurants of Wellington shop for fresh produce and also sorts of small appliances, kitchen utensils, glasses, crockery and what not . A fantastic range of fresh produce and a wonderful deli selection.


Thanks to the power cut we came upon Cafe L'Affare which was doing a roaring trade, just across the road for a little breakfast. 
Founded in 1990, Caffe L’affare (pronounced la-far-ray) is a little bit of a Wellington icon as far as coffee goes.  It was certainly bustling but service quick and friendly and most importantly great coffee.  Mum finally found the somewhere where they serve the perfect Americano.


After breakfast a brisk walk around the water front to check out the St Kitts Underground Market, underground as in in the underground carpark just on Jervois Quay, at the lagoon end of Frank Kitts Park.  A very sensible idea given Wellingtons windy and unpredictable weather!  A real showcase of the grass roots Wellington fashion and jewellery scene plus makers, bakers and crafters. Really a lot of lovely things on offer.  Picked up a gorgeous necklace from Helen Underwood Jewellery if you can't make it to the market you can check Helen out here.

Then on to Kircaldie & Stains as had to check out the Christmas store....makes you feel all festive.



A slightly blustery afternoon, well it is Wellington, and we took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens, a good time to go with rhododendrons in full bloom. 
Saturday night a very special treat: dinner at Logan Brown.  World famous in NZ!  Set up by by Kiwi chefs Al Brown and Steve Logan who wanted to take the standard of fine dining in New Zealand to a new level. They have certainly succeeded there and in 2009 they were the Supreme winner at the Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards.  The restaurant is set in a 1920s revamped bank chamber on the bustling Cuba Street.  Their focus is on the best seasonal ingredients  from local producers and also organic, fair trade and sustainability.

A little blogging confession: Mental note to self, either take a copy of the menu or write up blog posts sooner!  Apologies, but they have changed the menus so I can't quite remember all the lovely little accouterments that went with my meal! However trust me this place is amazing, the food delectable and the service impeccable.

A little aperitif to start the evening off.  When in Rome...so we went for the VIP, 
Logan Brown’s most famous cocktail. Passion fruit and citrus with Plymouth gin, Dolin Dry & Pimms....yum! On to the main event and for me  paua ravioli with a lime beurre blanc, another Logan Brown classic, and I thought what better place to try paua for the first time.  It was delicious, rich and a little sweet wrapped up in perfectly cooked ravioli.

For my main course duck breast, as you'd expect perfectly cooked with crispy skin, served with confit pork and sauteed greens.  And being such a special evening had to have dessert.  So we had warm apple cake with salted caramel ice cream and cheesecake with strawberry jelly tip and 100s and 1000s. Both were amazing but the highlight was the salted caramel ice cream.  Our lovely waiter was kind enough to offer us a couple of extra scoops...would have been rude to refuse!



A really wonderful evening all round.

Sunday and off to Te Papa as an exhibition of the  European Masters.  Great exhibition with Monet, Degas, Renoir, Picasso to name but a few on display.  We also popped in to see the Brian Brake exhibition, one of New Zealand's most renowned photographers. Probably New Zealand’s best known photographer from the 1960s to the 1980s. He first made his name as an international photojournalist, photographing for picture magazines such as Life, National Geographic and Paris Match.  His most famous work was on the monsoon rains in India in 1960. This series is famous for Monsoon girl, an image of a young woman feeling with pleasure the first rains on her face. When you see this at the exhibition you find out that it is probably the only photo that was actually staged. So many amazing images, I highly recommend that anyone in Wellington check it out.

Only one way to finish things off and that was back to Flo's.  Thank you Wellington for a fantastic weekend.