29 May 2011

Celeriac & Lentils with Hazelnut & Mint

I love celeriac, that unassuming, some might say ugly, winter vegetable.  I get quite excited when those gnarly knobbly roots begin to make an appearance. Winter has to have some benefits and celeriac, for me, is most definitely one of them. Its gnarly exterior belies the more elegant celery come nutty flavour inside.  It is a versatile root offering quite an array of culinary options.  It is great raw in a remoulade, or sliced and layered and baked in a gratin, mashed with some potato, and it also makes a great soup, that was especially good when drizzled with a little white truffle oil. So if you haven't tried celeriac, please don't neglect these not so pretty roots with their wild tangle of roots the next time you spy one. 

This warm winter salad caught my eye in Plenty, yes Ottolenghi again.  But who can resist when presented with new and such delicious sounding combinations?  

Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint,
courtesy of Ottolenghi's Plenty

I only had green lentils but they worked out just fine.  Sadly among all my various oils no hazelnut, which I am sure would be an amazing final flourish to this dish.  However, without the hazelnut oil it is still delicious.

Serves 4


60g (2oz) hazelnuts, skin on
200g puy lentils
700ml water
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
1 small celeriac, about 650g (1.5lbs), peeled and cut in to 1cm cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp hazelnut oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp mint, chopped
Salt and pepper


Pre heat the oven to 140C (275F).  Scatter the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Careful not to burn them, I am sure we have all been there.  Remove from the oven and let them cool before roughly chopping.

Place the lentils, water, bay leaves and thyme in to a small saucepan and bring to the boil.  Let them simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in another saucepan cook the celeriac in boiling well salted water for 8-12 minutes.  You want it to be just tender.  Drain and set aside.

Place the hot lentils in a large bowl, you want them still hot so that they can absorb all the flavours of the dressing.  Mix them together with the olive oil, 2 tbsp of hazelnut oil, the vinegar, salt and pepper.  Add the celeriac and toss it all gently together.  

If serving immediately stir in half the mint and half the hazelnuts.  Serve on a platter or bowl and drizzle with the rest of the hazelnut oil, or if you don't have hazelnut oil some good olive oil.  Scatter over the remaining hazelnuts and min and there you have it. Perfect on its own as a light vegetarian supper or as a side dish if meat is the main event.

Alternatively it can be served cold.  Just wait for the lentils and celeriac to cool down and then add he hazelnut oil, hazelnuts and mint.

 Camera or iPhone?

The lentils provide my requisite winter comfort, filling and satisfying, complemented by the nutty, almost sweet celeriac.  A crunch delivered by the hazelnuts and a flash of freshness from the mint all melded together by the oils and red wine vinegar.


And for the first time...this week I do believe the camera trumps the iPhone.


25 May 2011

Radicchio 2 Ways

More lighter vegetarian fare post last week's meat adventures and the Autumn Vegetarian Cooking Class at Cook The Books.  Plus the added delight at finding somewhere where I can get radicchio! Truly, quite excited.  If you are in Auckland check out The Art of Produce in Ponsonby, a great selection of seasonal veg.  I have long been a fan of bitter greens and they make for the perfect winter salad to lighten the mood, while being a little more robust than their summer counterparts.  These would be good friends to a pork fillet or even a roast chicken.

Both of these salads come by way of Mario Batali, in true Mario style a few simple, fresh ingredients come together to make something so much great than the sum of their parts and the natural flavours and textures shine through.

Tri Colore salad with Parmigiano Reggiano and Marmalade Vinaigrette

The original recipe calls for witlof which I sadly couldn't find.  I substituted with some crunchy cos and think tri colore still applies with the red of the radicchio, the green of the rocket and cos and the white of the Parmesan.

You can easily adjust the quantities if not feeding a crowd and if you especially love rocket or radicchio feel free to play around with quantities of each.  It is your salad after all.  Same goes for the dressing, I prefer mine a little sharper so added a little more marmalade and lemon juice against the olive oil, the recipe below though are Mr Batali's quantities.

Serves 6 


3 bunches, 500g (1lb) of rocket
1 large head radicchio, cored and coarsely chopped
1 large cos or 2 small cos, coarsely chopped
6 tbsp marmalade vinaigrette (recipe below)
Salt and pepper
100g (4oz) piece of Parmesan

Marmalade Vinaigrette

Makes 3/4 cup


1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp marmalade (or a generous pinch of lemon zest)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


Whisk together the lemon juice, marmalade and olive oil.  The vinaigrette will keep for a few days in an airtight container and stored in the fridge.

To make the salad;

Combine all the lettuce in a large bowl and drizzle with half the vinaigrette, shave over the Parmesan and serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.


I am so happy to have discovered marmalade vinaigrette - amazingly delicious, sorry no other words will do.  I was also lucky enough to have some of Floriditas Seville Orange Marmalade in the pantry which delivers a unique orange tartness.  The  combination of the bitter radicchio, the peppery rocket and the crunchy cos doused in a little of the marmalade vinaigrette and topped with shavings of crumbly lemony Parmigiano Reggiano is one tasty salad. Rustic with bitter, sweet, tart, peppery, lemony notes and that vinaigrette. The marmalade vinaigrette is what really lifts this salad, fruity, sweet and tart all at the same time.  I will definitely be back at the Art of Produce to stock up on radicchio and be keeping an eye open for some witlof.

A little more camera v iPhone...any preference?

Radicchio Ginger and Pear Salad

This one is inspired by Mario's Radicchio and ginger salad.  I added pear as pear and ginger I have always been fond of them together and I like the idea of a little sweet crunch to play off against the bitter radicchio and the warmth from the ginger. Again you can adjust the quantities down.

Serves 6


50g (20z) ginger peeled
750g (1.5lb) radicchio, cored and cut in to wedges
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup lemon olive oil, or  extra virgin olive oil with a good pinch of lemon zest
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced


Thinly slice the ginger, really thinly.  We are aiming for paper thin here.  A mandolin would be useful here, but I don't have one so a very sharp knife will suffice, just mind your fingers.  Place the radicchio and ginger in a large bowl and toss them gently together.

Whisk together the vinegar and sugar in a small bowl.  Continue to whisk and add the oils and salt and pepper to taste.

Core and thinly slice the pear and add to the radicchio and ginger.   Toss the salad with half of the vinaigrette and serve immediately with the remaining vinaigrette on the side.


Another winner on the salad front.  Bitter from the radicchio, sweet crunch from the pear and tangy hit of warmth from the ginger.  I am  thinking that alongside some prosciutto wrapped pork fillet it would an elegant and tasty little supper.


22 May 2011

Winter Vegetable & Kikorangi Crumble

What a lovely evening last Thursday was.  Post work vino at my new favourite bar with a good friend - the bar; Golden Dawn, Ponsonby Road, Auckland if you live in this neck of the woods.  And very un-Ponsonby it was too...that may well be part of it's appeal!  It is understated, so understated I almost couldn't find the door! When I did find my way in it is dark and a little rustic.  I was won over almost immediately by the knowledgeable bar man who whisked away the wine list and asked how I like my wine...red or white...crisp, buttery, fruity, toasty.  Oddly enough in the mood for white and I do like buttery so I was prescribed a requisitely buttery, though subtly and sophisticatedly so, French chardonnay.

That was just the aperitif to an Autumn vegetarian cooking class across the road at Cook The Books.  If you like cook books this could be a dangerous shop.  Out the back is a kitchen and dining room, and on Thursday 8 of us were there for some vegetarian inspiration.  Highly appropriate after last weekend's sausage adventures and huge simmering pot of beef bourguignon.  If you want to see what we cooked up you can check out the photos here.

Winter Vegetable Crumble

This was inspired by a squash crumble from Martha Stewart. 

You can use whatever winter vegetables you have on hand that will roast well.  Here I used a mixture of pumpkin, parsnip, celeriac, carrot, golden kumura and Maori potatoes, which are a quite spectacular purple colour. If you can get your hands on Maori potatoes roast them separately to avoid everything turning a purple hue.

You can just roast the vegetables and top with the crumble mixture or even some rustic breadcrumbs mixed with some chopped time and knobs of butter for the last bit of cooking time.  The bread crumbs provide a little more crunch than the recipe below...I like both.  The bread crumbs are a little lighter but and the crumble mixture a little more comforting.

Sauteing the vegetables first with the onion, garlic and chilli adds a level of sweetness that simple roasting didn't deliver. Essential is that little bit of chicken stock, keeping the vegetables moist and avoids them drying out.


Serves 4

Butter to grease individual or one large baking dish
1kg (2lbs) mixture of winter vegetables, peeled and chopped in to bite size pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Pinch chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp parsley, coarsely chopped
60ml chicken stock, low sodium if possible
3/4 cups (95g) flour
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp thyme, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
85g unsalted butter, cold and cut into 1/4″ pieces
1 egg
1-2 tbsp iced water
100g Kikorangi or other blue cheese, you could also use feta, crumbled.  This is optional but really does make a difference.

Preheat oven to 190C / 375F

Butter the individual or one large baking dish and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, chillis and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add the vegetables and saute for a few minutes more.  Do this in batches if need be. 

Place all the vegetables in a large bowl and add the parsley and stock.  Mix everything together and then place in to the prepared dish or individual dishes.  Cover with foil and place in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the crumble. Place the flour, sugar, thyme in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add the butter and rub until you have a coarse looking mixture, there will still be the odd lump of butter.  In a small bowl whisk together the egg and water.  Add this to the flour mixture and mix until just combined, no need to over work it.  If it is too dry just another tablespoon of ice water.  Set the crumble mixture in the fridge until the vegetables are roasted.

Remove the vegetables from the oven ans gently stir through the cheese.  Scatter over the crumble topping ans pop back in to the oven for another 30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Serve immediately. It is great as a side or as a meal on its own and it also reheats well, so quite a versatile little dish.

The vegetables are sweet with a little heat from the chilli and both pair nicely with the tangy Kikorangi, which cuts through the sweetness.  Then the comfort of the almost scone like topping is perfect for fending off all my winter carb urges.

Lunch today was the bread crumb topping version with a little winter salad drizzled with my new favourite dressing...that to come soon. It think it may well be the holy grail of livening up winter salads. In the meantime, the sun was shining today, so lots of lovely natural light and time for a little more iPhone v camera.  And I have to say today I am torn, I may even like the 'camera' better - now that is a first.



18 May 2011

Beef Bourguignon

With Winter on the way I always have the urge to stock the freezers with soups and casseroles and all manner of comfort foods.  One of my favourites is beef bourguingon.  Tender beef, button mushrooms, baby onions slowly simmered in red wine.  The beef meltingly tender, meaty earthiness from the mushrooms, sweetness from the onions and the rich red wine sauce make for one soul warming bowl of comfort food.  And it ain't too unhealthy either and helps me combat the overwhelming urge for giant piles of mashed potato or bowls of pasta in rich sauces as the nights close in earlier and the temperatures cool.

Though we really can't complain at all this year, the evenings may have cooled and the mornings may be dark, but we are still lucky enough to basking in sunny days more often than not.  My hibiscus and hydrangea are testament to that.

This dish first started out by way of Delia Smith's Cookery Course decades ago.  When I was growing up Delia was one of the few chefs on TV, hard to believe now that there are whole TV networks devoted to all things food, but back in the day it was all Delia and her Cookery Course.

I have made it almost every winter over the years and now just make it, but it all goes back to Delia.

Beef Bourguignon


Serves 6-8

4 tbsp olive oil
1kg / 2lbs chuck steak, diced
4 tbsp seasoned flour, just a little flour seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper 
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme
4 bay leaves
750ml red wine
2 tbsp olive oil
200g streaky bacon- I used my own homemade bacon, thanks Charcutepalooza
24 small button mushrooms
16 baby onions, usually I would just use regular onions, but all they had were the cutest little red ones, which turned out beautifully sweet.
Salt and pepper


Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy based saucepan.  Dredge the steak in the seasoned flour and then brown well in the olive oil.  You want a good brown colour on all sides, so just take your time, don't overcrowd the pan and brown the meat in batches.  Once all the meat is browned set it aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the same saucepan and heat it over a medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot and celery, season with salt and saute until softened and translucent, 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Return the meat to the saucepan and add the thyme and bay leaves.  Pour in the red wine and give it a little mix with a wooden spatula to scraping the bottom off the pan to make sure you get all the caramelised and tasty bits. Season with a salt and pepper.

Bring the it all to a simmer and let it simmer away, uncovered, on a low heat for 60 minutes. I go as low as my antiquated stove top will allow.  Give it a gentle stir every now and then.

Meanwhile in a frying add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and warm it over medium heat.  Add the bacon and fry until it is crispy.  Set the bacon aside and in the same frying pan saute the baby onions and mushrooms for a few minutes.

Add the bacon, onions and mushrooms to the casserole and simmer for a further 30 minutes.  Taste and if need be add salt and pepper.

I like it served with a little plain rice, but it is also quite a treat with large dollop of mash.  Ah yes back to those winter carb cravings.

The sauce cooks down a little and becomes rich and sumptuous packed with chunks of tender meat, sweet onions and earthy mushrooms. It is meaty, rich and satisfying bowl of food perfect to nourish and nurture you on a cold winter evening.  Even better with a good glass of red...a big full bodied shiraz or an big cab sav.


15 May 2011

Merguez & a little Cardo Verde (Portuguese Soup)

Another month and another Charcutepalooza challenge.  Last month's hot smoking seems an age ago as I was on holiday in the mother country and Europe enjoying a few weeks being a lady of leisure.  A few weeks back in the real world and it seems like it was so long ago.  It doesn't take too long to get back in to the rhythm of day to day life and for holidays to become an ever more distant memory.  I feel ready for another holiday, which sadly will have to wait for quite some time short of winning lotto or some other such fantastical windfall! In the mean time on to this month's Charcutepalooza challenge...

This month was sausages and who doesn't love a good sausage.  And I mean a good sausage, not Cheerios New Zealand! A bizarre little sausage that is so popular here in NZ.  I just can't understand the appeal of them.  I think maybe you have to be born here to appreciate them and that it is some how inbuilt in to your DNA!  Cheerios for the non Kiwis are often to be found at childrens' parties and are little sausages covered in some sort of bright red coating, and I mean bright red.  According to their website they are "finely minced pork and beef, lightly seasoned and naturally woodsmoked for a quality flavour and taste.  Filled into a distinctive red casing" I haven't been brave enough yet to give one a go! 
But back to the good ones; the aroma of sausages frying and then popped in a fresh roll, with maybe a few fried onions, a little ketchup and you have one of life's very satisfying little pleasures.  Juicy and literally bursting with flavour, that pop when you bite in to them to release their meaty goodness.

And there are so many options a spicy chorizo, sweet fennel, Bratwurst, Toulouse, Italian, Cumberland, Lincolnshire. An infinite number of combinations.  I was tempted to try the chorizo, and that will be next up, but decided on merguez.  Not a sausage I am overly familiar with but the combination of lamb, roasted red peppers, paprika, a little garlic and a good pinch of chilli flakes to give a little heat was just so appealing.

A little time required, yes, but not difficult and they are most definitely worth the effort and giving you that feeling of satisfaction you get from making something from scratch. It also allowed my to give the meat grinder for my new baby Kitchen Aid a run.  I foresee many more sausages and burgers in the future.  Barbecuing next Summer is going to be a whole new adventure.  For all things sausage and Charcutepalooza you should check out Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie.  

These sausages were so full of flavour and so succulent.  Though there really never was any risk of them drying out given the amount of pork back fat in there, but my goodness it makes for one amazing sausage and hey it's all natural. You can really taste the lamb which is sweetened by the roasted red peppers and then a layer of sweet spice from the paprika and then just a smidgen of heat from the chilli flakes. Like the bacon, the brining and the hot smoking doing it yourself is quite revelationary producing food that is just simply superlative to just about anything you could buy.

What to concoct with my sausages?  I came across a recipe for Portuguese Soup, Caldo Verde, on a recent Cuisine newsletter and this is slightly adapted from there.  I used some of my merguez mix and rolled them in to little meatballs.

Caldo Verde - Portuguese Soup with Potato, Merguez and Greens

Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium - large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic,  finely chopped
3 spicy sausages sliced, or  180g spicy sausage meat rolled in to small balls.
6 small potatoes, large dice.  I used waxy little Perlas
1 litre chicken stock, homemade or if bought use low sodium so that you can season to taste yourself.
3-4 cups chopped greens, I used kale, cavalo nero, spinach and swiss chard
Salt and pepper to taste 

A little more iPhone v camera.


In a large heavy based saucepan heat the olive oil over a medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, season with a little salt, and saute for a few minutes until they are translucent, 5-10 minutes.  Add the sausage or meat balls and cook until they are browned.

Add the potatoes and the stock and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are almost cooked through.  Add the greens and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Camera: Amazing what a little softening of the shadows can do!

A simple, rustic Autumnal lunch perfect with a some crusty bread to dunk and soak up all the soup.  The broth is meaty and nourishing from the meat balls, comforting potato and the goodness of all those greens, a whole meal in a bowl.


09 May 2011

Chocolate Brownies & iPhone v Camera

And another weekend comes to an end and already it is Monday. This weekend I attended a food photography course, well Plum Kitchen and I eventually attended a food photography course.  We are both missing the sense of direction gene completely. We made it out to Muriwai, West Auckland and somehow ended up right at the beach, and somewhat off piste as it were, despite having been to Gourmet Gannet, our venue for the day, before and having the help of Google Maps on the ever handy iPhone.  Intrepid explorers we are not.

Tip #1 inventive ways to soften the light

It was kindly organised by Alli over at Gourmet Gannet who arranged for Sean Shadbolt to come and share some of his wisdom with a group of us, a fair few of whom, I think it is fair to say, are nearer the amateur end of the scale when it comes to food photography.

It was a morning well spent and most useful for me was getting more familiar with my camera on the manual setting.  I have become way too lazy reliant on the auto settings, and then there is my iPhone.  With a few clever little apps I can take a picture and with a few taps I have a pretty picture.  Easy and almost instantaneous.

Tip #2 - inventive way to check colour tones.

However, I do like to learn and I am hoping to see some improvements in the photo taking department over the coming weeks as with a little perseverance and practice I should be able to get a little better to grips with my Canon EOS and hopefully produce some photos that I actually like.

Being a class full of food bloggers we weren't short on food.  I rustled up some brownies.  These ones are from Nigella, so you can trust that they will be suitably chocolatey.  A few moments mixing everything together, 25 minutes in the oven and you have a tray of chocolatey goodness.  

Their only flaw; I should maybe have gone for more colourful food for my first attempt at photography post class.  Brown food really is not a best friend to photographs.  With my "real" camera I still don't think I have anywhere near the photo I want despite having taken around 60 photos on the manual setting on my camera, various shutter speeds, aperture settings and what not.  Yet on my iPhone, I may not love, but certainly have a few photos that I like.  You can decide for yourself...

Chocolate Brownies, courtesy of the domestic goddess herself, Nigella


1 1/4 stick unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 160g (6oz) milk chocolate, chopped into small chunks (or 1 cup chips) - I used Whittaker's Milk Chocolate.
Icing sugar (confectioners' sugar) to dust, optional

Foil-lined baking pan or foil pan, about 13 x 9 x 2 inches.


Preheat the oven to 190C (375F).

Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Once melted add the sugar and stir with  a wooden spoon until it is blended with the melted butter.

In a bowl whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda and salt and then stir it all in to the pan with the butter and sugar mixture.  The mixture be very dry at this stage, but that is OK.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs with the vanilla extract in a small bowl than mix it in to the brownie mixture.  Stir in the chopped chocolate and quickly pour it all in to the foil-lined baking tine or disposable foil pan.   Spread the mixture evenly and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  It should, will look set and dry on top but touch the surface and it will feel still a little softer underneath.  You are aiming for a slightly gooey centre, so if you are using a cake tester it should come out with a little chocolatey and not perfectly clean.

Place on a cooling rack for a few minute before cutting in to 16 pieces and dust with some icing sugar (confectioners' sugar). 

These chocolate morsels can be made 3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container.  They can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Just layer with baking paper to avoid them sticking together and thaw overnight before eating.

They are light and full of chocolate flavour, even better every other bite there is a little nugget of pure chocolate.

I will taking half in to work to work to help everyone get through Monday and the rest popped in the freezer to have little chocolate treats on hand.

So what's the verdict on the photos...camera or iPhone??
Personally with these photos I prefer the iPhone results, however I think that may mean I just have a fair bit of practicing and learning to do.  Plus I do like a fair bit of mucking around with my photos as I like to use different effects rather than a straight photo and the iPhone makes it so easy! They say practice makes perfect, although with photos, as with art, I do believe that it is all in the eye of the beholder. Saying that I am looking forward to digesting all I learned on the weekend and becoming better acquainted with my camera.


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