29 June 2011

Celeriac, Jerusalem Artichoke and Orange Soup

I love any opportunity for culinary inspiration, especially if it also allows for tasting and perhaps just a wee vino alongside.  In Auckland we are lucky enough to have a book shop totally for cook books...Cook the Books on Ponsonby Road.  A dangerous place indeed, wall to wall inspiration from around the globe.  And as if that weren't enough inspiration they also run cooking classes; Cook at Cook the Books.  The first class I attended was Autumn Vegetarian. 
Ottolenghi Yoghurt Flat Breads

A wonderful evening with wonderful food.  To start Ottolenghi inspired Yoghurt Flat Breads with Beetroot and Horseradish Hummus and Mahamudra, a rich mixture of peppers, walnuts, almonds and pomegranate molasses.  So good, these will most definitely be shared at some point soon.

Onion Tart Tatin
Also on the menu winter salad, a mushroom ragout and an onion tart tatin and then to finish a vegan chocolate cake.  all were delicious, but one dish that stood out for me was the Celeriac, Jerusalem Artichoke and Orange Soup.

It was inspired.  It looks and sounds so simple yet the flavours meld together to something so much greater than the sum of its parts.  This soup is rich and silken despite having absolutely no cream or milk at all.  She is an elegant, classy soup with layers and depth of flavour topped with a bright citrus gremolata to liven it all up.  Plus I get to use my favourite winter veg celeriac and another knobbly winter veg Jerusalem Artichokes.   I love how a couple of knobbly, bumpy somewhat unattractive vegetables can be transformed into something so classy and elegant.

So don't be afraid to use some of these somewhat ugly sisters as they can, indeed, turn in to the belle of the ball.

Celeriac, Jerusalem Artichoke and Orange Soup

This is pretty much as was at Cook the Books though I did add a little garlic to the soup and used my own version of gremolata. 

Serves 4


2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 celeriac (about 750g), peeled and cut into dice
500g Jerusalem artichokes
1.5 litre vegetable stock
½ tsp saffron strands, soaked in a couple of tablespoons of warm water
1 tbsp honey
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Salt and black pepper


1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp coarse sea salt
Handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Zest of one orange, finely chopped
1/2 tsp horseradish


In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the onion and a pinch of salt, and saute for a few moments until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a moment more.  Add the celeriac, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil & simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.  Place everything in a blender or use a stick blender to blend to a smooth puree.  I wouldn't normally, but as we are looking for silken, I also passed the soup through a sieve for extra smoothness.  I reckon well worth it in this case.

For the gremolata mix together the garlic, salt, parsley and zest.  Add the horseradish and mix to combine.  Set aside until ready to serve.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a little of the gremolata.

Winter and you can't help but want a comforting bowl of soup to warm the soul and this one provided all that and a something just a little different.  This soup is rich and silken and it is hard to believe that there is no milk or cream.  You can taste the celeriac and the nutty Jerusalem Artichoke and then you get a sweet, tart yet honey mellowed orange note coming through, that is such a pleasant surprise.  Then the gremolata to lift the whole dish.  A bright herbiness from the parsley, sharp, hot garlic and horseradish and a little orange citrus hit from the zest, it really makes this dish.

iPhone winning for me with this one


25 June 2011

Benne Wafers

I seem to be on a wee bit of a sweet phase this past week.  These have been on the must make list for quite some time.  Who could resist after reading about them here at the Wednesday Chef...in a nutshell "delicate and taste like caramel" "insanely good" so yes they had to be made.  I only wish I had made them sooner as they are incredibly quick and easy and they are very, very good.

Benne Wafers, courtesy of The Wednesday Chef

Make 3-4 dozen,,,depending on the size of your cookies.


1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup sesame seeds


Preheat oven to 175C / 350F

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream until they are well combined.  You can do this by hand or for me it was an excuse to use my KitchenAid.  The KitchenAid also makes it all very easy if butter not quite at room temperature and you have no patience.

Next add the egg and beat until combined.  Add the flour, salt, vanilla extract, and sesame seeds and mix everything together.

Drop small spoons of dough on to a parchment lined baking sheet.  I used roughly teaspoon sized little dollops.  Flatten the wafers with a knife dipped in to ice water and leave an inch or 2 between the wafers as they will spread.

Bake for 6-7 minutes until the wafers are golden with slightly deeper golden edges.  Take the parchment paper of the baking tray and place on a cooling rack.  After 5-8 minutes gently pull the cooled wafers off the parchment.  The parchment can be reused for the next batch.

Camera or iPhone?

Cool the wafers completely and they can be stored for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. Cool completely and store in a tin for up to 2 weeks.

These really are delectable little wafers.  Golden, slightly chewy,  caramel flavoured with crunch and texture from the sesame seeds.  Thinking I may go with Luisa's suggestion and have them with some ice cream.


20 June 2011

Pineapple & Toasted Coconut Muffins

A sudden urge for baking and I recalled reading about these muffins...Brown Butter Pear and Myer Lemon Muffins over at Jennie's Kitchen, one of my favourite food blogs.  It really had me at brown butter.  There is something so unbelievably appealing about butter that is melted until it turns golden and releases its slightly nutty like aroma. 

And I will make these muffins one day, they are just too appealing not to.  However as I was walking around Huckleberry Farms I spotted some coconut and some pineapple and had the sudden notion for a tropical twist on some muffins.  Perhaps a little toasted coconut and pineapple chunks lightly sauteed in a little butter with a little brown sugar would do the trick.

I confess all the baking is relatively new for me so this recipe does come by way of the above.  What appealed was the mixture of flours and the use of buttermilk*.  You could just use all purpose flour but the addition of the whole wheat flour appealed and allowed me to convince myself that these were a little more virtuous than they really are.  I am also just enjoying experimenting with the veritable plethora of different flours that are now available.

*Just a note on the buttermilk, here in NZ it is cultured buttermilk which has a more yoghurt like consistency.  Here, I just thinned it a little with regular milk.  Below I have included options for both Kiwi and non Kiwi buttermilk.

Pineapple and Toasted Coconut Muffins, inspired by Jennifer Perillo

Makes 12 regular or 24 mini muffins

1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup pineapple, diced - you can use fresh or canned, I used Ceres Organic
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 cup (125g / 4.5oz) unbleached all purpose flour
¾ cup (100g / 3.5oz) whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp coarse salt
⅓ cup (70g / 2.5oz) sugar
100g / 3.5oz very cold butter, cut in to small pieces
200ml buttermilk - that would be NZ buttermilk which is thicker than her US counterpart, if in the US you could just use 300ml of buttermilk and leave out the milk.
100ml whole milk 


Pre heat the oven to 190C / 375F
Line your regular or mini muffin tray with paper cases.

Place the coconut in a frying pan and toast for a few moments over a medium heat.  Like with most toasting keep a close eye as the transition from golden and toasted to charred and burnt can be quick!  Once the coconut is toasted place in a bowl and set aside.

In a frying pan melt the 1 tablespoon of butter and add the pineapple and the brown sugar.  Saute for a few moments to allow the sugar to melt and the pineapple to slightly caramelise.  Allow the pineapple mixture to cool.

To prepare the batter mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.  Add the butter and rub between your fingers until you have a coarse crumbly looking mixture.  Add the buttermilk and milk and mix with a wooden spoon, just until it all comes together and the flour is all combined.  Add the pineapple and 3/4 of the coconut and gently mix it all together.

Spoon the mixture in to the paper cases and top with the remaining toasted coconut.  Place in the over for 20-25 minutes until the muffins are golden and a skewer comes out clean.  Remove the muffins and place on a cooling rack to cool completely before serving...if you can wait that long.  Personally I have never been that patient when it comes to baking fresh out of the oven.

For me I like the mixture of the flours as it gives the muffins a little more depth and texture, though they are still light and airy.  The coconut is toasty and then the sweet, but not too sweet pineapple keep these little morsels moist and a little fruity.  The toasty coconut topping a tops it all of with a pleasant little tropical crunch. I reckon they would also be great with the addition of a few dark chocolate chips.  However as they are, they went down a treat at the office and brightened things up on a wet and grey Auckland Monday morning.

iPhone only today...not yet proficient enough with the camera on a very grey Sunday  


18 June 2011

Pesto Pesto

I love pesto and I love pasta even more.  Such a simple meal,  but at the same time so comforting and satisfying, and comfort food is what the shorter days make me crave.  I feel if I combine the pasta with a presto full of green goodness I have achieved some sort of balance.  Plus the bright green pesto provides a welcome spring like infusion in the midst of winter.

You can hardly call these recipes as they are really about what you have to hand and quantities really should depend on your own preferences.  So look at these as a guide, a template if you like, and feel free to mix things up or add a little of what you fancy to the mix.  Pecorino would be good instead of Parmesan.  Maybe replace the pine nuts with some toasted walnuts or almonds.  Add some fresh herbs, perhaps a little parsley or mint.

Rocket Pesto...or Arugula Pesto for my American friends.

Makes 1-2 cups


2 cups rocket
1 garlic clove
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch Chilli Flakes 
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Place everything except the olive oil in a food processor and blend.  Drizzle in the olive oil and blend until you have a coarse puree, I like a little texture. Taste and if need be adjust the seasoning.

And yes folks, that is it. Perfect as a dip or even better tossed through some pasta and sprinkled with a little more Parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper.

iPhone v camera...?

iPhone the clear winner for me here, camera dull and flat.  Though of course my lack of photography skills to blame rather than the camera!

Also in this week's vege box some broccoli.  Still craving carbs...so how to combine the broccoli with pasta?  Well that would be with a little broccoli pesto to liven things up and provide some requisite green stuff.

Broccoli and Rocket Pesto

Makes 2 cups


2-3 heads broccoli, broken in to florets
2 cups rocket
1 garlic clove
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch Chilli Flakes 
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Boil the broccoli for a few minutes in boiling salted water. Drain and place in the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients except the olive oil and blend. Drizzle in the olive oil and blend until you have a coarse puree. Taste and if need be adjust the seasoning.

Stir through pasta and top with some freshly grated Parmesan and a little drizzle of olive oil. And voila you have comforting and good for you all at the same time.  If you don't feel like pasta grill a little salmon and top with a good dollop of the pesto.



14 June 2011

Super Natural Everyday - Spinach Strata

I have been looking forward to getting my hands on Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday and it finally made it all the way to New Zealand this week.  It is a beautiful book packed full of nutritious vegetarian recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  Heidi's recipes are good for you but more importantly though they taste amazing and they are everyday so dinner or a snack can be whipped up quickly.  Even on a first quick scan this book will clearly join my favourite and go to cook books with simple, fresh, seasonal ingredients coming together to make tasty fare.

And even if you are not vegetarian these recipes cannot fail to inspire you to try a little meat free fare. There are so many recipes I want to make...Lemon Zested Bulgher Wheat,  Black Bean Salad with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Almonds, Lemon Zest and Feta, Chanterelle Tacos, Black Sesame Otsu and Turnip Chips...yes turnip chips, they had me at smoked paprika and lime juice.

And there are drinks!  Rose Geranium Proseco, Sparkling Panakam with ginger, cardamom, lime juice and sparkling water.  And treats too...Muscovada Sunflower Kernels, Tutti Frutti Crumble.

It was hard to know where to start but that was solved by this week's vege box and some bunches of spinach so Spinach Strata it was to be.  This does need preparation the night before but that will take only minutes and then it is ready to pop in the oven and you have a breakfast or brunch good to go.

Spinach Strata, courtesy of Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Everyday

I only had regular versus baby spinach and that worked fine.  I also had a whole packet of feta needing used so I just added the whole lot.  I love feta so not a problem there.

Serves 6


Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tbsp Dijon style mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp pepper
500ml milk
6 eggs
3 cups day old 1cm whole wheat bread cubes
2 cups finely chopped baby spinach
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 tsp fresh oregano, chopped


Rub a little olive oil in a 23cm square baking dish, or similar.  Sprinkle over the lemon zest and set aside.  In a medium bowl whisk the olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper with a splash of milk.  Whisk in the rest of the milk and the eggs.

Place the bread in the baking dish and top with the spinach and half the feta.  Gently mix everything together with your hands.  Make sure everything is fairly level in the baking dish and slowly drizzle over the egg and milk mixture.  Crumble the remaining feta over the top, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The next morning pre heat the oven to 175C / 350F.  Bake the strata, uncovered for 45-55 minutes until the egg is set in the middle and the top is golden brown.  Heidi suggest you cut a little bit in to it to be sure it is cooked through and err on the side of well done rather than under done.  For an even crispier top you can pop it under the grill for a few moments.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and the oregano.



This is a hearty brunch dish.  The lemon zest comes through and adds a light, bright and citrusy hit.  The bread is soft underneath and on the top it is toasty and crunchy.  And then those two best friends spinach and feta...yes one quite delightful brunch dish.


12 June 2011

Auckland Eats - Kokako Cafe

I have been to Kokako Cafe a few times now as it is one of my favourite places for brunch.  Despite now being officially Winter in NZ we are still getting sunny 20C days, I am loving this winter, with the exception of pesky mosquitoes.  Their voracious appetite for me the price I have to pay for a milder winter.

Kokako is a locally owned fair trade organic coffee roaster and they have a cafe in Parnell serving lots of delicious, mainly organic locally sourced vegetarian fare. Very retro 1960s design books hold the menu and a nice touch is the home made organic ketchup along with the usual condiments on each table.

The coffee is great, I put it up there with my favourite coffee tipple All Press.  Rich and dark, with a nice crema and served with water on the side as it should.  It also comes in very cute looking retro green cup.

I love the menu, which changes every now and then.  It is most definitely one of the more interesting menus.  On offer last weekend a Tofu Salad - grilled tofu with oven dried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, crushed olives Spanish onion, roasted cauliflower, pine nuts and rocket or Herb and Lentil Cakes - roasted baby beets, herb lentil cakes, yoghurt and mint dressing and watercress with preserved lemon.

I was torn between the Haloumi Salad and the Potato Blini.  The Haloumi Salad with warm chilli haloumi polenta salad with courgettes, cherry tomatoes, roasted onion, grilled aubergine and an avocado oil dressing sounded quite divine, it was however the Potato Blini that won out in the end.  A light puffy potato pancake with oven dried tomatoes, chunky avocado and a Clevedon Valley Buffalo Mozarella and rocket salad.

The potato pancake was light and fluffy, the oven dried tomatoes sweet and rich against the creamy avocado.  And to top it all off the wonderful milky, creamy Clevedon Valley Buffalo Mozarella with the peppery rocket.

And as a little treat one of their berry smoothies,  These are made with organic bush honey yoghurt and organic milk and are delicious.  They are full of berry flavour with a hint of the honey and served in a jam jar, another lovely touch.

So if you happen to be wanting somewhere for brunch that is a little different from the usual fare and most importantly delicious check out Kokako.

492 Parnell Road,


07 June 2011

Roasted Pears with Almonds and Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Our last long weekend until October! And a whole winter to get through before then. The long weekend, rain pouring, wind blowing the perfect day for a late, long lazy lunch with friends.

To kick things off a little anti pasti and then it may have been Saturday but it felt like a Sunday so a simply roasted eye fillet with roast potatoes, Nigella's of course, for the main event.  On the side some Ottolenghi pumpkin, braised leeks and a little broccoli for some nutritious green stuff.

And no long lazy lunch would be complete without dessert. Kiddies in tow with the grown ups so homemade vanilla ice cream is a sure fire winner.  To go with the ice cream some roasted pears and toasty almonds. 

Roasted Pears with Almonds, courtesy of Annabel Langbein, Eat Fresh

This is a an easy, simple dessert making the most of the pears. The pears can be poached ahead of time and then popped in the oven to roast just before serving.  You could also go sans butter and just scatter the almonds over the pears before you roast them.  However, the buttery toasty almonds are worth it.

Serves 6


1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
2-4 whole cloves
2-3 strips lemon peel
3 pears, ripe but firm, I used Bosc and they held their shape well
2 tbsp melted butter
1/2 cup almond slices


Preheat oven to 220C / 425F

You want a pot large enough to hold the pears in single layer, or you could do a couple of batches.  In the pan heat the sugar, water, cloves and lemon peel.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a simmer.  Add the pear halves, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the pears from the syrup and place them in a shallow baking dish, cut side up.  Pour over the syrup and bake for 30 minutes or until the start to caramelise.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan and cook the almonds until they are golden, stirring frequently.  Scatter the almonds and butter over the pears and serve with some homemade vanilla ice cream...

Vanilla Ice Cream

Makes 1 litre


1 3/4 cups cream
Vanilla seeds from 2 vanilla pods
1 cup milk, full fat no discussion.
3/4 cup sugar, divided
Pinch of salt
5 egg yolks


Place the cream, vanilla seeds and pods in a small saucepan. Bring to just a simmer, you will see little bubbles start to form around the edge. Remove from the heat and let the flavours infuse for 20-30 minutes.

In a medium saucepan place the milk, 1/2 cup of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Warm through to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile in a good sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Add the hot milk mixture to the eggs slowly, in a steady stream, whisking all the time. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon.   It is ready when the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to let it boil.  

To be on the safe side you can have a basin full of ice cold water ready to go.  If it looks like the custard is about to curdle place the pot in the ice bath and whisk vigorously!

Allow the custard to cool. Remove the vanilla pods from the cream. Strain the mixture in to the custard. Apply a little pressure to ensure that you get every last little bit of flavour out of the vanilla seeds, besides I like my ice cream flecked with little speckles of vanilla.

Cool the custard thoroughly, in an ice bath or over night in the fridge. Churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Place in a container and pop in the freezer for about an hour.



The vanilla ice cream was rich and creamy, flecked with vanilla seeds and so full of vanilla flavour, the perfect foil for the sweetly roasted pears and buttery toasty almonds.


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