30 April 2011

Quince Tart

I adore quinces, their perfume is so fragrant and I like how something inedible can be transformed in to something so beautiful and delicious. I was lucky enough to get a few in my veggie box from the wonderful people at Epicurean Supplies.

I kept them in the fruit bowl for a few days just so I could enjoy their perfume and pondered what to do with them.  In the past I have made quince jelly, amber hued and perfect on toast with a cuppa.  Also quince paste, or membrillo as they say in Spain, that pairs so well with cheese, especially manchego, a sharp cheddar or a creamy blue.  I may just have to head out west to one of the orchards to see if I can catch the tail end of the season to preserve some quince until next year.

I was having friends over for an Easter Sunday lunch and headed towards dessert for my little quinces.  So a little poaching and a little puff pastry came to mind to make a simple, light tart with a little orange blossom ice cream on the side.  The ice cream complemented the mellowed vanilla and honey infused quince.

Poached Quince Tart


625ml water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 honey
1 lemon, halved
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 quince
1 sheet puff pastry


Place the water, sugar, honey, lemon and vanilla bean in a medium saucepan and turn on to a medium heat.

While the poaching liquid is heating, peel, quarter and core the quince.  Be sure to remove all of the core any tough fibrous material. Place each quarter quince in the poaching liquid.  Simmer for at least an hour, or until the quince are cooked through.  Just check with a sharp knife.

Roll out the pastry in to an even rectangle and score a smaller rectangle, leaving an inch or 2 at the edges.  Remove the quince from the saucepan reserving the poaching liquid.  Slice the quince and place them in the inside rectangle, slightly over lapping each other.

Bring the reserved poaching liquid to a boil and let it bubble away for 10 minutes or until it has reduced by half.

Brush the glaze over the quince and the pastry.  Place in a 180C / 350F oven for 25 - 30 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow the tart to cool slightly.

Slice and serve with a little ice cream or whipped cream.  I had some orange blossom ice cream in the freezer which worked a treat. It is worth making this just to have the aroma of the poaching quinces waft around the kitchen, it is heavenly...quince scented mingled with lemon and vanilla.


29 April 2011

Almond, Cranberry, Peach and Coconut Granola

Back home and post Easter I was in need of some healthier living.  Healthy but tasty.  I find the key for me is organisation there can't be any fridge or pantry gazing, aimlessly wondering what I will rustle up as that seems to inevitably lead me down a less healthy, ultimately less satisfying route.

For me it also means I need go to snacks at work to avoid the jar of biscuits in the kitchen.  It does require a little forward planning but worth it in the end.  Plus with the shorter days overwhelming cravings for comfort and carb laden food become more frequent and for me one of my weaknesses is always the lure of a packet of potato chips, salty, crispy fried deliciousness.
So to stave off these indulgences for my afternoon snack I like a little fruit and yoghurt, on its own healthy and virtuous and not enough to quell my desire for potato chips, but topped with a little homemade granola it tides me over until dinner.  Crunchy, fruity and a little sweet with some berries and a dollop of creamy Greek yoghurt you certainly don't feel like you are being over virtuous, which I find with food can often equate to unsatisfied and then a dip in to that bag of potato chips.

For my granola I took inspiration from In Jennie's Kitchen, a great blog which you should check out if you haven't.  What I liked about it was replacing the butter with olive oil and honey. Healthier, yes but sacrifices no flavour.

You can mix it up with whatever fruit, nuts and spices that you like or have on hand in the pantry.

Almond, Cranberry, Peach and Coconut Granola


5-6 cups

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup  pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tbsp flax seeds
Pinch salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp honey
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried peaches


Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F

Place the oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, coconut, salt and cinnamon in to bowl and stir to mix everything together.  Pour in the honey and olive oil, and stir everything together, it will clump together a little bit, but just keep mixing until it is all evenly coated. 

Spread the granola in a thin layer onto a baking tray and bake for 35-40 minutes. Give it a bit of a stir half way through baking.  Remove the granola from the oven once it is toasty and golden. Add in the dried fruit and mix it through. Let the granola cool completely and then it can be stored in a tightly sealed jar for up to one week.


25 April 2011

Greens & Kikorangi Tart

In the fridge a bag of beautiful mixed greens...swiss chard, cavelo nero, silver beet and kale.  What to do?  With Autumn here and Winter around the corner it is time to get some green inspiration going as I know from here on in they will be making a regular appearance in my veggie box.  I happened to be over here and it gave me the necessary inspiration to rustle up a little tart of my own for the weekend. 

I do like the idea of this particular tart - it provides balance and we could all use a little of that, right? Richness from the eggs and the cream, a little indulgence from the blue cheese and then you can feel all virtuous and healthy as well, due to the abundance of greens.  I would call that one well balanced meal delivering a little of what we love and a little of what we need, all coming together in one tasty bite.

Kikorangi - Supreme Winner
You can use whatever selection of greens you like...all of them would work well here; spinach, chard, silver beet, kale.  The same goes for the cheese.  Any blue or mature cheddar would work especially well.  I like the sharpness the blue delivers, especially Kikorangi, Kapiti's Supreme Award Winner at this year's Cheese Awards. It is rich and buttery, spliced with a piquant hit from the little rivers of blue.

Greens and Kikorangi Tart


Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chilli flakes, optional, I just like a little heat
2 cups chopped mixed greens, any mixture of chard, silver beet, spinach, cavalo nero, kale. Discard any tough stalks.  Tender stalks can be finely chopped and added to the mix.
4 eggs
250ml cream
1/4 cup chopped Kikorangi, or cheese of choice.
Salt and pepper
1 sheet store bought savoury shortcrust pastry, or of course feel free to make your own crust.


Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350F

On a floured surface roll out the pastry and then place in to a greased 25cm (9") pie dish.  Press right in to the edges and pierce the bottom with a fork. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a frying pan heat the olive oil over a medium.  Add the onion and garlic and season with a pinch of salt. Saute until translucent.  Add the chilli flakes and the greens.  Saute for another 5-7 minutes until the greens are almost cooked, but still retain a little crunch and their vibrant green hue.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs and add the cream.  Mix well and season with salt and pepper.  Add the cooled greens and the crumbled Kikorangi.  Gently fold everything together and pour in to the pie crust.

Pop in 190C / 372F over for 25-35 minutes until the tart is cooked through but still has a little wobble factor.  Allow it to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Serve with a fresh salad for a light but satisfying lunch.  It is rich and creamy, the Kikorangi adds extra little pockets of creamy with a little piquancy from those little rivulets of blue.  The greens add a texture and that tasty yet virtuous flavour that only a pile of greens can.  All in all a little luxe and a little healthy all at the same time...balanced.  Even better it will keep well for a few days to provide a speedy lunch or supper. 

This is part of Cooksister's Topless Tart Monthly Mingle and check out the Official Monthly Mingle here.

    22 April 2011

    Smoked Mackerel Pate, Grilled Mackerel & a Fennel & Apple Salad

    While home in the mother country I spotted these terribly fresh, not to mention cute little fish...mackerel to be exact.  These wee fish don't swim in our Pacific waters and they really are quite under rated.  Freshly caught and simply cooked they taste a little like salmon, just a little less rich.  My Grandpa even preferred them to salmon. 

    I thought they would be perfect for a little more hot smoking and then made in to some pate.  Hot smoking is as simple as piling some wood chips, I used mesquite,  half wet and half dry piled on top of some  tinfoil. Then wrap it all up in a loose parcel and pierce it with a good few holes to allow the smoke to work its magic.

    I again used the "intuitive" method of hot smoking and again it worked a treat.  It works well with salmon and would be great with trout. I think I will definitely be trying it out with some of our Pacific snapper or terakihi to make the most of the last BBQing weather hear in NZ.

    Place the tinfoil package over direct heat on the BBQ and give it a good 5 -10 minutes to get the smoke going.  Once the tinfoil parcel is delivering its fragrant smoke place the fish in the BBQ but not over direct heat, you just want the smoke to do the cooking.

    With these little fish 10-15 minutes is all the time it takes for the smoking to works its magic.  For larger fish you will need to add some time and as I use the "intuitive" I can't really give you exact times.  But, please give hot smoking a go as it delivers moist, buttery, subtly smoked fish that is simply delicious and so different to anything you will buy ready made.

    Smoked Mackerel Pate

    Makes one small bowl, approx. 2 cups, perfect as a light appetiser.
    Hot smoked mackerel, I used the flesh from 2 fish
    1/4 cup creme fraiche, really just enough to combine.
    1/2 tsp horseradish
    Zest and juice of half a lemon
    1/2 tsp chopped dill
    Salt and pepper


    Carefully remove the flesh from the mackerel so that you have flakes of fish and place in a small bowl and set aside.

    In a separate small bowl mix together the creme fraiche, horseradish, zest and lemon juice, dill and salt and pepper to season.  Feel free to play around with seasonings but I do suggest not going overboard with the horseradish or dill as you don't want to over power the delicate flavours of the fish.

    Gently fold in the hot smoked mackerel flakes as you want to have a little texture and flakes of fish as opposed to mush.

    Spoon the pate in to a serving bowl and serve with fresh brown bread and a little butter.  If not using the pate straight away cover it with cling and pop it in the fridge.

    Grilled Mackerel with Fennel and Apple Salad

    I fish per person will make for a light supper.

    Score the mackerel with a sharp knife.  To grill, drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and  place on a BBQ or under a grill for 5-7 minutes each side or until the fish is just cooked through and the skin is crisp.  You don't want to over cook it and dry it out, we are looking for moist and flaky here.

    Fennel and Apple Salad


    1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
    1 apple, crisp and crunchy is what you are looking for.  Cored, quartered and thinly sliced
    Mixed leaves, I had a lovely mix of rocket and baby chard leaves.
    Salt and pepper
    Lemon Vinaigrette, simply mix together the zest and juice of 1 lemon with a little extra virgin olive oil.  I prefer my dressings a little tarter so I like a little more lemon juice versus the olive oil.  So mix it together as you like it.


    Toss together the fennel, apple and leaves.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Add just enough dressing to lightly coat all the leaves.  Serve immediately with the grilled mackerel.

    The mackerel was fresh and tasted of the sea.  The fennel provided that wonderful fresh aniseed taste and the apple, sweet yet tart and crisp.  All which cut through the buttery, flaky mackerel.  So if you are lucky enough to spot these little fish don't ignore them  simply grill them or hot smoke ad whip up a little pate.


    18 April 2011

    Happy Travels, Lemon Mousse and Ginger Snaps

    Sunday lunch and another family catch up.  It has all been so much fun catching up with everyone and I just cannot believe that my 5 week sojourn is over and that it was back to work today.  What a fantastic 5 weeks and far too many highlights...I hardly even know where to begin.

    London...a whole week with great friends, a week of curries, Ottolenghi, St John Restaurant, Jamie's Italian, a shamrocking St Partick's day, Borough Market, a little retail therapy and lots of catching up with very dear friends.  Rich, Stacey, Danny, Malin, Alison, Roz, Gillian and all my rocker friends on St Paddy's - it was so much fun!

    En route to Scotland via Surrey and more catch ups with old university friends, Becky and Kirsten.  We met freshers week at university and now wonder how 20 years can have flown by so quickly! A little bubbly, a too short long lunch, my gorgeous god daughter, Amber and her sister, Robyn swearing her oath in to the Brownies.  Next stop Chorley, up North and I fell a little in love with  Lancashire!  Friendly people, rolling hills and Suzannah...more precious time with a dear friend, sadly it all passes in a flash and over all too quickly.

    Pretend bubbly in hand as pre noon!
    And finally bonnie Scotland and it has been bonnie indeed, certainly interspersed with some spectacular spring days, daffodils blooming everywhere.  More good times with Mum and Dad, Aunts, Uncles, cousins, school friends and uni friends.  Marvelous eats at Monachyle Mohr, The Royal Hotel and Cromlix House and far too many scones.

    One of those family gatherings was Sunday lunch, roast leg of lamb, Nigella's roast potatoes in goose fat, boiled baby new Jersey Royals, maple glazed carrots, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.  Yes Brussels sprouts....roasted and topped with walnuts and a balsamic dressing.  Quite delicious and you can get the recipe over here at Scandi Food.

    I was on dessert and felt it only right to share these ginger snaps, they are light and snappy full of ginger and spices with a crunchy sugar crust.  All credit for the recipe goes to Alice Waters and The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution.  The first time I baked this recipe they turned out perfectly and the same again...this is one very good recipe.

    So good I felt they deserved to feature with dessert and I like the ginger with the lemon so enter a little lemon mousse.

    Lemon Mousse


    4 lemons, zest and juice
    4 eggs, separated
    125g (4oz) caster sugar
    15g (1/2 oz) gelatine
    300ml double cream


    Add the zest of the lemons to a medium sized bowl with the egg yolks and whisk until well combined.  Slowly add the sugar, whisking all the time.  Continue to whisk until the mixture is thick and pale.  It will a good few minutes.

    Add the lemon juice to the mixture and whisk well.  Dissolve the gelatine in a spoonful or 2 of warm water until it is completely dissolved and then add it to the yolk mixture.  Stir it in thoroughly to make sure it is well combined.

    Leave the lemon mixture to cool and thicken, it should coat the back of a wooden spoon.  Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold it in to the lemon mixture.

    Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks and fold them in to the lemon cream with a metal spoon, gently.  Pour the souffle in to one large bowl or individual serving dishes.  Place in the fridge to set and remove an hour or so before serving to come to room temperature.

    Ginger Snaps

    Makes 40-50 cookies, but the dough can be halved and one lot popped in to the freezer for another day.

    They are perfect as they are but you can play around with the spices, perhaps cloves, nutmeg or  little allspice.  Just a 1/4 - 1/2 a teaspoon would suffice.


    280g flour
    1 1/2 tsp baking soda1.
    1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp ground black pepper
    150g butter, salted or unsalted, at room temperature
    130g sugar
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 cup mild-flavored molasses, or I used 1 part treacle one part golden syrup as that is what Mum had in the pantry.
    1 large egg, at room temperature


    In a medium bowl stir together all the dry ingredients and set aside.  With an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to beat until smooth, scrape down the sides to ensure that everything is incorporated.

    Add the vanilla, molasses and egg and mix to combine.  Next mix in the dry ingredients gradually until you have a smooth dough.  Divide the dough in half and roll each on a lightly-floured surface until each is about 5cm around.  Wrap each cookie log in plastic wrap then roll them lightly on the counter to smooth them out.  Pop them in the fridge or freezer until they are firm.

    To bake, preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

    You can slice the cookie dough in to rounds but it annoyed me that I couldn't achieve the perfect circle, so I found it easier to take a small piece of dough, a teaspoon or less, roll it in to a ball and to lightly press until you have a perfect circle.  It worked for me and delivered perfectly round little ginger snaps.

    Sprinkle the sugar on to a saucer and press one side of the ginger snap in to and then place sugar side up on the the baking sheet.  Leave 4-5 cm between each cookie as they will spread a little.  Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until they are golden.  Nearer to 15 minutes and you will have more snap. 
    Allow the ginger snaps to cool for a couple of moments and then remove them to a cooling rack.

    First batch not quite the perfect circles
    The dough can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.  After baking they will keep in an air tight container for a day or 2, but are best the day baked.  A good excuse to eat more I reckon.

    I served the lemon mousse in little cups that used to belong to my Gran, a little kitsch but I just like to be able to keep using some of the beautiful plates and crockery rather than have them gather dust at the back of a cupboard.  The mousse was light and bursting with lemon.  The ginger snaps provide crunch and sweet warmth to mellow out the citrus.


    16 April 2011

    Hot Smoking...

    Another month of charcutepalooza and this month we were all up for a little bit of hot smoking.  I was travelling back to the mother country so Charcuterie came packed in the suitcase with me for this month's challenge.

    No smoker so I thought of the stove stop wok method or even Jamie's biscuit tin come smoker method.  What was closer to hand, and outside, was Dad's BBQ so that option won out in the end.  We even had a sunny day with temps in double digits so a good excuse to give the BBQ its first run of the season.  My chosen method, the 'intuitive' technique for hot smoking.  Roughly translated give it a go and see what happens.

    Outside was just as well as a little more fire rather than smoke with one batch of wood chips.  I got a little impatient for smoke and piled half wet and half dry chips straight on the the BBQ frying pan to get things going.  Well, get going they did and a we had a wee fire and one slightly burnt thumb.  So a little patience is required and good things do indeed come to those who wait.

    I was spoilt for choice for wood chips...hickory, apple wood, cherry wood.  I picked mesquite as it recommended them for fish.   The method I used is so simple and worked an absolute treat.  One sheet of tinfoil and a pile of wood chips, half soaked and half dry.  Wrap up your little parcel and spike it with a a good few holes to allow the smoke to do its thing.  Place on the BBQ over direct heat and just wait, 10 minutes or so and you will have fragrant smoke.  
    I was using a quite small BBQ with a little rack built in so I just popped the salmon fillets on a tray and on the rack.  Alternatively place them on the opposite side to the wood chips over very little or no direct heat.  After only 10 - 15 minutes I had the most beautiful looking bronze burnished hot smoked salmon.

    Let the salmon cool, as I found this allowed the flavours to develop a little more.  I of course couldn't resist trying it straight away.  So wonderfully moist, buttery and a subtle smokey flavour that develops with letting it cool.

    See, it is that simple and now that I am back in NZ I think I will be heading out to find some wood chips to hot smoke a little more salmon and make the most of the these warm Autumnal days by firing up the BBQ for a little smoking before it is relegated to hibernation over winter.  Like the with the bacon making the flavours of hot smoking your own are revelationary.  The flavours more subtle than any bought hot smoked salmon.  But the texture....unbelievably moist and a melt in the mouth texture that is just wonderful.  I don't think we will be buying hot smoked for quite some time.

    First up we had a few canapes, simply served on a few mini oatcakes or these cute little spoon type canapes that Mum had lurking with intent in the pantry.  Just topped with a little lemon, dill and horseradish creme fraiche.

    Lemon and Horseradish Creme Fraiche

    2 tbsp creme fraiche
    1/2 tsp horseradish, you just want a little so as not to overpower the salmon
    1 tsp lemon zest
    1/2 tsp chopped dill
    1-2 tsp lemon juice, just to get to consistency of cream
    Salt and pepper to taste

    And the following night the hot smoked salmon fillets with a little Spring asparagus (finally found some British asparagus among all the imports from Peru and Mexico!) and Jersey Royals, topped with a little hollondaise...the perfect Spring supper.

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