31 August 2011

Hello Spring & Navarin of Lamb

It is officially Spring tomorrow here in NZ!  Only a matter of a little time before asparagus season...which always means spring has well and truly arrived.  In the meantime to celebrate the onset of spring - navarin of lamb, that classic French Spring dish.  Yes it is another of Dorie's from Around My French Table.  The perfect one pot dish for a weekend lunch to welcome the coming of spring.

Hello Spring & some outdoor lounging :)

And it has certainly felt like Spring this past weekend, even some outside drinks on the deck basking in some rays.  So far removed from the cold snap and snow flurries of only a couple of weeks ago.  Though before any proper outdoor entertaining is done some serious work required in the garden...it is indeed a jungle out there.

In the meantime a bowlful of Spring. Traditionally the vegetables would be freshly dug, however with the state of my garden they were courtesy of Epicurean Supplies, Huckleberry Farms and the freezer for some frozen peas.  Yes frozen peas, apparently even the French use these! 

Navarin of Lamb, from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table

Serves 6


2-3 tbsp olive oil
1.5kg / 3lbs boneless shoulder of lamb, excess fat removed, cut in to 3cm / 1.5 inch cubes, and patted dry
3 tbsp all purpose flour
Salt and pepper
4 cups / 1 lt beef stock
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 medium garlic cloves, split and germ removed
2 parsley sprigs
1 tsp thyme, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
12 baby onions, not peeled
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced on the diagonal in 1cm / 1/2 inch slices
1 medium turnip, peeled and cut in to 1cm / 1/2 inch thick wedges, and wedges cut crosswise in half
1 tbsp sugar
250g / 1/2 lb small potatoes, quartered
1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas


Heat a heavy based saucepan or dutch oven over a medium high heat and add the olive oil.  Add the lamb pieces in a single layer.  Don't over crowd the pan as we want nicely browned rather than stewed.  Brown the lamb, in batches if need be, on all sides and then transfer to a plate.

Once all the lamb has been browned pour out any remaining oil and return the lamb to the pot.  Sprinkle the meat with the flour and season generously with salt and pepper.  Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes to coat all the lamb with the flour.  Add the stock, tomato paste, garlic, parsley, thyme and bay leaf.  Give everything a good mix and bring to a boil.  Once boiling reduce the heat, cover, and allow the navarin to simmer gently for 45 minutes.

While the navarin is simmering bring a pot of water to the boil and drop in the onions for a minute.  Drain, slice of the ends and remove the skin and set aside.

Heat the butter in a large frying pan over a high heat and add the onions, carrots and turnip.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then sprinkle with the sugar.  Stir for another moment and then reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are browned.  We want colour but not too soft.  Set the vegetables aside.

The navarin can be finished in the oven, just pre heat it to 200C / 400F or as stove top as I did as my pot has non oven proof handles.  If doing stove top just stir occasionally to ensure no sticking to the bottom of the pot.

When the lamb has simmered for 45 minutes add the vegetables and potatoes and simmer, still covered, for another 15 minutes.  Place the pot in the oven or leave stove top as above and braise for 30-40 minutes, or until the lamb is meltingly tender.

Once cooked removed the parsley and bay leaf and stir in the peas.  For fresh cook for 3-4 minutes and for frozen just a couple of  minutes.  The sauce will be rich and thick.  If looking a little too thick just add a little stock.  Ladle in to bowls and serve.

This was seriously good.  The sauce; rich with a little sweetness and depth of flavour from the tomato paste. The lamb so tender almost falling apart.  A little sweetness from the baby onions, and a bright freshness from the peas. The carrot, turnip and potato making it really feel like a nourishing bowl of comfort.

So hello Spring!  So happy you are arriving tomorrow.

If you like this you might like this; Braised Lamb Shanks
One year ago -
Island Time Part Deux


29 August 2011

Vegetable Soup

Just before Spring arrives, officially on Thursday, a little more soup.  Though from the weather this weekend spring may have arrived a few days early.  I had friends round for lunch and we had a pre lunch drinks on the deck...outside...basking in some beautiful sunshine.   Here's hoping it continues.  Snuggling has moved out doors for a little sun lounging...

But until then some soup and this is pretty good soup.  The inspiration comes from our most recent Supper Club via Graham Kerr.  A blast from the past and aka the Galloping Gourmet and one of the first TV celebrity chefs kicking things off in the 1960s!

I was knocked over with a cold earlier in the week and this soup along with lots of tea, orange juice and a few hot toddy's, on my Mum's recommendation, did the trick in kicking it in to touch.  The kumara (sweet potato ) and parsnip add a lovely sweetness and the addition of a little cream or creme fraiche adds a little richness.  For some reason the original recipe calls for the vegetables and there peelings to be chilled in the fridge over night...I didn't and you still get a delicious bowl of soup. Would love to know if anyone out there knows what chilling all the veg and their peelings does.

Vegetable Soup, inspired by Jessica and Graham Kerr


Serves 4

3 tbsp butter
1 onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 medium kumara (sweet potato), peeled and diced
2 medium, or 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves*
4 parsley stalks*
4 thyme sprigs*
Salt and pepper
Optional - 1 dollop of cream or creme fraiche, you can add up to 100ml...but a good dollop will deliver the richness with a little less calories.  Just be as decadent, or not,  as you wish.

*Leaving the herbs on stalks allows then to be easily removed once they have done there thing.


Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and add the onion, celery and carrot.  Season with a little pinch of salt and saute for a few moments.  Add the garlic and saute until everything is soft and translucent.  

Add the rest of the vegetables and fry for a few more minutes.  Next add the stock and the herbs along with a good seasoning of salt and pepper.  Bring to the boil and let it all simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the herbs, add the cream or creme fraiche and blend to a smooth puree with a stick blender.  For extra smooth soup you can also push it through a sieve.

You can serve topped with a  swirl of creme fraiche or just a little parsley and maybe a wee pinch of chilli flakes.  What I love about this soup is the sweetness from the kumara and the parsnip.  The parsnips really deliver, being sweet in their own unique way, with more depth of flavour than their cousin the carrot. For me the chilli is the perfect addition adding a little heat to the sweet.

If you like this you might like this; Celeriac, Jerusalem Artichoke and Orange Soup
One year ago - Sunday Kitchen


25 August 2011

Spinach, Pumpkin & Feta Filo Parcels

Another weekend and a pile of spinach & a growing population of the cutest little pumpkins from those lovely people at Epicurean Supplies.  Spanikopita is a favourite, especially this one, but I wanted something a little different. I was thinking mushrooms, which I still think I may try at some point but a good friend suggested pumpkin, which also solved the problem of the ever growing population of the, albeit very cute, little pumpkins.  The also add a nice roasty sweetness to the parcels.  Good friend and her hubby also sent me home with a bag full of beautiful thyme, parsley, coriander and silver beet.  Their garden faring a little better than my poor completely neglected one!  Poor garden continues to take a back seat to cooking and blogging.

These little parcels will also keep in the fridge for a few days so they make for a quick tasty lunch with a little salad on the side, providing a welcome change from winter soups. Yes salad, I succumbed and bought tomatoes and cucumber.  I just couldn't wait any longer for some fresh salad.  The tomatoes, though not as sweet as their summer counterparts, were at least vine ripened and tasty enough to satisfy my salad cravings.

Spinach, Pumpkin and Feta Filo Parcels

Makes 10-12 parcels


6 tbsp olive oil
2 cups pumpkin, diced in to 1cm cubes
2 pinch chilli flakes
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
500g spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1 packet, 250g feta, diced in to 1cm cubes
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
zest of 1 lemon
100g butter melted
9 sheets filo pastry
1/4 cup thyme, chopped
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper


Pre heat the oven to 190C / 375F

Place the pumpkin in a baking tray and coat with half the olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a few chilli flakes. Pop in to the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until nice and roasted. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and season with a little salt.  Saute for a few minutes until soft and translucent.  Add the spinach and season with salt and pepper.  Add the nutmeg and chilli and saute until the spinach is wilted. Set the spinach aside to cool in a colander and squeeze out any excess water. It is important to let the spinach cool to avoid soggy filo...which would be most unpleasant.

In a medium bowl mix together the spinach, pumpkin, feta, coriander seeds and lemon zest.

Pre heat the oven to 190C / 375F

Unroll the filo and keep the filo you are not working with covered with a damp tea towel to avoid it drying out and crumbling. Take the first filo sheet and brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with a little thyme and parsley and lay another layer on top and repeat until you have 3 layers of filo.  Cut the filo in half length ways.

Place a 3 good tablespoons of filling at one end near one corner, fold one corner over and keep folding over until you have a neat triangular parcel.  If there are any ragged ends just trim them off.  

Place the parcel on a baking tray and repeat until all the filling has been used up. Brush all the parcels with butter and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden and crisp.  Check after 15 minutes as it will depend on your oven, mine as you may know is ancient with a somewhat broken seal!  The parcels can be served warm or cold.

These parcels do make a quick, light but satisfying lunch.  The filo, golden and crispy and flecked with the green of the herbs. The sweetness of the pumpkin playing nicely against the minerally green spinach and the salty feta.  All piqued with a little zesty freshness of the lemon zest and a little heat from the chilli.

If you like this you'll like this Zucchini Feta and Filo Tart


22 August 2011

My Darling Clementine

I was very excited to come across some clementines the other weekend.  I have watched Nigella's Christmas special a million times and it always makes me want to put on feast after feast over the festive season.  She always has bowls of clementines and it always makes me want to have some too, such a festive little fruit and of course not one that we see here in NZ in high summer.  So when I spotted them on the weekend I couldn't resist even though I really had no idea what I would do with them.

So where to turn with my clementines but the domestic goddess herself.  I couldn't go past this clementine cake one because it used the clementines, the whole clementines,  and secondly Nigella said it was easy, and she is one for making things in the kitchen as easy as possible.  Also it is one of those flourless cakes so not so much pressure on making a light and airy cake which appealed.

This is my new favourite cake.  As it uses the whole clementine it is positively bursting with clementine flavour, the fruity and the  more intense flavour of the zest.  It is also incredibly moist, almost as if it had been doused in syrup.

Clementine Cake, from Nigella's How to Eat

4-5 (375g / 13oz) clementines, second time round I used a mixture of clementines and tangelos and it was just as delicious.
6 eggs
225g / 8oz sugar
250g 9oz ground almonds
1 heaped tsp baking powder


Place the clementines in a pan with some cold water, cover, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours.  After 2 hours drain and allow the clementines to cool.  Once cool cut the clementines in half and remove the pips.  Place everything, skins, pith, fruit, the whole lot in to a food processor and whizz to a pulp.

Pre heat the oven to 190C / 375F

Butter and line a 21cm springform tin.  Beat the eggs and add the sugar, almonds and baking powder.  Add the clementine pulp and mix well.  Pour the batter in to the prepared tin and bake for about an hour.  Check after 45 minutes...if a skewer comes out clean it is done. If not cover with foil to avoid the top burning and continue to cook until done.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool on a rack in the tin.  Once cool you can take it out of the tin.  Nigella reckons it is better the next day, however warm out of the oven was very, very good!

You could also use oranges or even lemons.  With the lemons just increase the sugar to 250g / 9oz.  You can also add a quick glaze if you wish.  Just mix icing sugar and a little lemon or orange juice and water to make it in to a paste.

This cake is a breeze to make and it is just a burst of clementine flavour.  Loving this cake so much that it has made two appearances this week.  It's versatile too.  Perfect with a cup of tea or as dessert with a dollop of creme fraiche.  I have used it for both, afternoon tea for some of the neighbours and colleagues at work and then it made an appearance as dessert at a weekend dinner party.

If you like this you might like this Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake
A year ago - Jetting off in to the Sunset


19 August 2011

Auckland Eats - Shaky Isles & Teed Street Larder

Every Friday is breakfast day.  Since we moved offices, a friend and I pick a different place each week, or you may get a return visit if it is extra special.  Before we moved offices back in May it was the same place each Friday, which was great, but trying a new place each week is so much more fun.  We have been discovering some wonderful places for brunch and it the best way to get ready for the weekend.

The Shaky Isles

A few weeks ago it was the turn of The Shaky Isles in Kingsland.  Cafe L'Affare coffee, so that was always going to be good.  And it was a very good long black a nice crema, rich and dark and perfect to get Friday morning started.

A great  menu with all the full monty Isles have it all,  plus a variety of pikelets and crumpets. Pikelets with banana mascarpone and maple bacon or roasted strawberries and goats cheese cheesecake.  Crumpets with dates, poached pear and orange ricotta for a more savoury option kransky sausage, poached eggs and hollandaise.

If you don't like anything as is on the menu you can pick and mix from all the sides on offer...including streak bacon, ham off the bone, hot smoked salmon, avocado, tomato, rocket and mushrooms.

We opted for the bruschetta.  Grilled haloumi, avocado, fresh tomato, lime, coriander and black pepper for my breakfast buddy and for me with scrambled eggs, feta, spinach and basil pesto.

Both were delicious and great to see something different than the usual fare on a breakfast menu.  The scrambled eggs nicely offset with the feta & pesto.  And breakfast buddy loved the haloumi, avocado and tomato, bright and fresh and a real wake up call with the fresh hit of lime and spicy black pepper. So thumbs up to the Shaky Isles and their good coffee and refreshingly different menu....we will be back.

Last week we ventured to Newmarket and the Teed Street Larder.  A favourite of mine since I found it in the Metro Top 50 Cafes.  I have had many return visits and it has always been great, food and the service is always top notch. Friday didn't disappoint.

Great coffee, which is a must.  Millers, another favourite of mine and up there with AllPress. Strong, dark and with a little hot water on the side. There is a huge array of home baking on offer depending on what has just appeared out of the oven. On the black board it has all the delights on offer an the time they came out of the oven...a nice touch.

On the menu the usual suspects plus some new takes on breakfast, fresh papaya with raw honey comb, lime and buffalo yoghurt or bubble and squeak, with avocado, prosciutto, goats curd and poached eggs or roasted toulouse sausage with borlotti beans, fennel and garlic cream.  We were feeling a little indulgent so eggs benedict with crispy bacon for breakfast buddy and with black pudding for me.

Actually when looking over Metro's top 50 cafes it was the black pudding on the menu that edged it to the top of the list to try.  I guess one of those things you love or hate.  I used to be on the hate side of the fence until I actually tried and now I love it, rich, savoury and a little peppery....delicious.

These were perfectly poached eggs.  Beautifully runny golden yokes melding with the rich hollandaise, all balanced with the savoury black pudding or in breakfast buddy's case the crispy bacon.  Yes, very, very good eggs benedict.

A return visit definitely in order but while we are on a roll who knows where we may end up next week.  Watch this space.

The Shaky Isles
492 New North Road, Kingsland
Phone: 09 815 3951

Teed Street Larder
7 Teed Street, Newmarket
Phone: 09 524 8406

16 August 2011

Do what you love & a little Charcutepalooza

This photo has been making the rounds on Facebook and really they are such wonderful words, positive words, words to live by, words to take a moment and think.

This is your life, DO WHAT YOU LOVE and do it often. If you don't like something change it. If you don't like your job, quit.  If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, STOP. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analysing, all emotions are beautiful. LIFE IS SIMPLE.  When you eat, appreciate every last biteOpen your mind, arms and heart to new things. And people, we are united in our differences.  Ask the next person you see what their passion is.  And share your inspiring dream with them. TRAVEL OFTEN, getting lost will help you find yourself.  Some opportunities only come once, seize them.  Life is about the people you meet,and the things you create with them. So go out and start creating.


My first mousseline!
I love the positivity.  Of all the things I don't like, negativity would have to be top of the list.  I always recall what my mother used to say.  "If you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all".  More wise words, but then Mum's are often full of wisdom.  I hear a lot of negativity around social media and twitter.  Mainly from people that haven't ventured forth in to the twittersphere.  Why would we want to know what people are eating for breakfast?  Well if you are a food blogger or a on obsessed foodie you actually do!  

And I think that's where many people miss the point.  If you can connect with a like minded people it opens up a whole new community and new friendships, on and off line.  18 months ago I knew hardly any NZ food bloggers.  Now we have our small, but growing community, even our own association and our inaugural NZ Food Bloggers conference to look forward to, where we will most definitely be focusing on the the social of social media.

I have made friends around the globe, we chat regularly, we know what is going on in each others lives, the ups, the downs and I find they are often there with a kind word or a positive thought that can make me smile or even make my day. I have found so many people with a way with words, they can make you laugh, make you cry, make you think or inspire you.  The power of the online community, in no small part thanks to twitter, can be very powerful indeed. It has certainly been evident this week when sadly a food blogger I follow suddenly lost her husband.  I didn't know her personally but have chatted and tweeted over the last 12 months or so and I know that she is warm, funny and generous of heart.  The offers of support and well wishes from the online food blogging community have been quite incredible.  This past weekend there were creamy peanut butter pies being baked all over the place by way of a gesture of support and goodwill. These are most certainly the kind of people I would want around in a crisis and I am certainly thankful and glad to have met so many lovely people and to be part of this community.

Another online community I have become a part of this year is Charcutepalooza...again I have met some great people and learned how to make bacon, hot smoke, brine, make sausages and now I can also make a mousseline!  It has been a busy couple of months so sausage making took a back seat to life.  This month I felt it was time to get back on track with charcutepalooza, and in the spirit of doing what I love that is exactly what I did this weekend.

This month's challenge was mousseline.  To me mousseline sounds very old worldly, a throw back to the grand dining days of Victorian times with all sorts of weird and wonderful towering aspic jellies, terrines and mousselines.  Mousselines are similar to pate but use egg whites or gelatine to bind and stabilise.

This particular mousseline is salmon wrapped in a mousseline of shrimp, spinach and mushroom.  Full of the flavour of the sea and what could be one very pretty and elegant entree.  Sorry folks no recipe, but if you want to learn about all things mousseline, smoking, brining, curing and sausage making please check out Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie and come join our Charcutepalooza community.


If you like this you'll like this - Salmon and Dill Tart 
Last year - Sunday Roast

14 August 2011


One good thing about winter is citrus and this year one of my lemon trees is almost buckling under the abundance of lemons.  I am not sure what variety as the tree was here when I moved in, however they are some of the juiciest, sweetest lemons I have ever had.  So much more appealing than the almost under ripe and hard little lemons available in most supermarkets, plus I am safe in the knowledge that they have not come across any chemicals, so are essentially organic.

I love lemons.  A little zest can lift and brighten just about anything and that is especially welcome in winter.  Not that we can complain, except for a few weeks of just above zero degrees it has been pretty mild.  Though I am told that we are in for a severe cold snap tomorrow and that looks likely to be true with snow falling in the South Island.....brrrrr!

And to have a jarful of lemons on hand throughout the year I always have a big jar of preserved lemons on hand.  These are especially good with any Moroccan or North African dishes or stirred through couscous.  They add a lovely fragrant, intensely lemony flavour.  They are also incredibly simple to make so go and grab some lemons now while they are in season and cheap and get preserving.

Preserved Lemons

Makes one large jar


10-12 unwaxed lemons
10-12 tbsp sea salt
Freshly squeezed juice of 4-5 lemons
2 bay leaves
Olive oil, to top up

Plus one large sterilised jar


Wash and dry the lemons.  Stand each lemon on one end and cut as if you were cutting it in to quarters, but keep the base intact and don't cut all the way through.  Gentle splay the quarters and stuff each lemon with a tablespoon of salt and then squeeze back together.

Place the lemons in to the large jar, seal and leave them in a cool place for 3 to 4 days to soften the skins.  Over the 3 to 4 days the lemons will also start to release some of their juice.  After this push down the lemons so that they are tightly packed and add the lemon juice and bay leaves.  The lemons should be completely covered.  So either add more lemon juice or top with olive oil to ensure that they are.  Seal the jar and store in a cool place for at least a month.

Before using the preserved lemons wash of all the salt and remove the flesh.  It is the fragrant skins that you will be using.

Post making these delicious cookies I was left with some egg yolks.  With lemon and egg yolks to hand there is only one option...lemon curd.  Who doesn't love lemon curd?  Especially homemade lemon curd on a hot buttered crumpet!  Homemade in this instance just so much superior to anything you can buy which I usually find nowhere near lemony enough and almost always too sweet.  For this I returned to the Glasgow Cookery Book and was relieved to find that butter replaced the margarine!  I also reduced the sugar to 100g as I like a tart lemon curd that allows the lemon to burst through.

Lemon Curd


50g butter
2 lemons, zest and juice
150g sugar
4 egg yolks


Melt the butter in a double boiler and add the lemon zest.  Next add the lemon juice and egg yolks.  Stir over the heat until the curd thickens.  Once thickened place in sterilised jars.  Toast some crumpets, slather in butter and top with a generous helping of lemon curd.

On a toasted crumpet, the edges well toasted and crunch, melted butter oozing through all the little air bubbles, tangy lemon curd.  A perfect morning tea as I await the cold snap...which those windy southerlies are blowing our way.

If you like this you'll like this - Lemon Meringue Pie
Last Year - Road trip North

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