30 October 2011

Grilled Vegetables with Lemon Cumin Yoghurt & Dukkah

Last week I went along to Cook at Cook the Books for some outdoor grilling inspiration.  A lovely evening for it. It still cools fairly quickly once the sun goes down but balmy Summer nights are definitely almost upon us.  You can't really beat the longer, warmer evenings and cranking up the BBQ.  Gather a few friends together, grill a little meat, quickly toss together some salad, cut some fresh bread and pop open a little vino and you have a perfect summer evening.

And it needn't just be meat you are grilling, these grilled vegetables would suffice as a meal all by themselves.  At Cook the Books they were marinated in a herby balsamic vinaigrette and drizzled with a little lemon tahini dressing, which was delicious.  Today I kept it a little lighter with lemon zest and chilli and to dress a little yoghurt dressing with lemon, garlic and cumin all topped with some crunchy dukkah.  It needn't even just be grilling we smoked chicken too, but more on that later.

Grilled Vegetables with Lemon Cumin Yoghurt and Dukkah

This is not really a recipe...you can mix it up with what ever vegetables you like or have on hand. The same goes for the marinade, any mix of your favourite herbs will work, don't like chilli just leave it out, like coriander, bash some seeds in a mortar and pestle and through them in to the mix too.  I think feta or goat cheese crumbled over the top would be heavenly. Perhaps some grilled halloumi or olives or sun dried tomatoes.  The options really are endless, so I can see a myriad of variations making an appearance over Summer.  If you are feeding a crowd it can also be made ahead and dressed just before serving.


1 eggplant, cut in to 1/2 - 1cm slices
1 red pepper, sliced in to 1cm strips
1 yellow pepper, sliced in to 1cm strips
Bunch asparagus spears, cut in to 3cm lengths
1 fennel bulb, cut in to 1/2 cm thick slices
6 mushrooms, cut in to 1cm thick slices

Mint, Oregano, Thyme

2-3 sprigs thyme, leaves only
2-3 sprigs oregano, leaves only
Small bunch mint, roughly chopped
Small bunch basil, roughly chopped
Zest and juice 1 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp white wine vinegar, I used some Muscatel vinegar which has a wonderful sweetness.
1 red chilli, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Lemon Cumin Yoghurt
1 cup natural yoghurt
Zest 1 lemon
1/2 tsp cumin
1 small garlic clove, minced
Small pinch chilli flakes
Salt & pepper

Dukkah, homemade or store bought.  It is so easy to make...recipe here.

Place all vegetables in a zip lock bag.  In a small bowl add all the marinade ingredients and mix well to combine.  Add the marinade in to the zip lock bag and seal.  Give all the vegetables a good massage make sure that they are all coated in the herby lemony marinade.  Place in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Heat up a griddle pan or BBQ and grill the vegetables, no additional oil needed. Grill in batches if need be, you want all the vegetables to be able to lie flat on the grill to get those lovey grill marks that will deliver a lovely smokey flavour.  Grill until tender and then place all the vegetables on a serving platter.

For the dressing place the yoghurt, lemon zest, cumin and chilli flakes into a small bowl.  Mix well and season to taste.  Make the dressing half an hour or so before serving to allow the flavours to all come together.

Drizzle the dressing over the vegetables and a generous scattering of dukkah.  Perfect on it's own or for the carnivores add a little grilled chicken.

The vegetables are smokey and the dressing adds a little zesty creaminess all topped with a little nutty crunch from the dukkah. I see many appearances over the Summer months.


26 October 2011

Artichokes: Bruschetta and Grilled with Sea Salt, Mint & Chilli

Artichokes...such beautiful looking vegetables.  It looks like a big thistle but is actually an unopened flower bud and underneath all those hard outer leaves lies the tender and delicious heart. 

Apparently if you are a real artichoke aficionado you may hunt out artichokes with a little bronzing.  This is called winter bronzing and happens after a frost.  It is said that this improves the flavour. And apparently another way to know if they are fresh; rub the leaves together and they will make a squeaking noise.  I read about his after so I can't attest to the veracity of it, I will just live in hope that artichokes make another appearance in my veggie box this week.

I have always been a fan but my last attempt I under cooked and they were not at all good, chewy, coarse and basically yuck!  A little more successful this weekend.  Some would argue they are more bother than they are worth, but really it only took a moment to trim them.  So I would say well worth the effort.  On trimming an artichoke,,,

*Snap back the tough outer leaves and pull down, working your way around the layers. Stop when you get to the pale yellow, tender leaves.  Cut off the tops of the remaining leaves, leaving 2cm or so of leaf.  Use a paring knife to trim away the dark green areas along the base and trim off the base of the stem end.  Cut away any tough fibres around the stem, leaving just the light coloured tender bit.  For larger artichokes cut the artichoke in half lengthwise and using a paring knife carefully cut away the fuzzy choke.  Try to cut just at the point where the choke and heart meet.  Mine were baby artichokes so hadn't yet developed a choke so are fine left whole.  When trimming artichokes have a bowl of acidulated water on hand (just water with some lemon juice added) and rub the cut surfaces with half a lemon and place in their acidulated bath until you are ready to use them.

Grilled Artichokes with Sea Salt, Chilli and Mint, adapted from Mario Batali

Serves 2


4 medium artichokes
1 lemon halved
Bunch of mint, roughly chopped
Bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint, cut in to little slivers
3 garlic cloves sliced
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a little for drizzling
Water, you could add a little white wine too
1 red chilli, seeded and finely diced
Sea Salt


Fill a medium bowl with water and the juice of half the lemon, throw in the lemon too.  Trim the artichokes as above and place them in to their lemon water bath.  The lemon will stop the artichokes going brown.  I had small artichokes so left them whole. 

In a shallow pan add the chopped mint, parsley, garlic and olive oil.  Add the artichokes and just enough water to cover them.  Cover to keep them submerged, bring to a boil over a high heat ans then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the artichokes are tender.  Maybe a little longer for larger artichokes.  Drain and let them cool.

For the grilling fire up the BBQ or heat up a griddle pan.  Place the artichokes cut side down over high heat and leave them to grill for a couple of minutes to get some nice charring.  Turn over and cook the other side for a moment or two until browned.

Place the artichokes on a platter and sprinkle with the mint, chillies, a drizzle of good olive oil and a scattering of sea salt. Serve immediately.  These were lovely, so incredibly pretty flecked with bright red chilli and the fresh green mint.  Melt in your mouth artichokes, a little heat and a little freshness....a perfect and ever so pretty appetiser for Summer.

Bruschetta with Artichokes or Bruschetta al Pesto di Carciofi, adapted, ever so slightly, from Viana La Place's Verdura, a favourite vegetable book of mine.

Serves 4


4 medium artichokes, trimmed*
1 lemon, cut in half
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley chopped
2 tbsp capers
10 black olives, I used kalamata as that was what was in the pantry
1 tomato, finely diced
A few sprigs of fresh mint

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon in to a medium bowl of water and add the artichokes.  You just need a bowl large enough to hold the artichokes.

Meanwhile in a medium frying pan add the olive oil, garlic, parsley, pinch of salt and then add the artichokes.  Add enough water so that when covered the artichokes will be submerged.  Cover the pan and cook for 20-30 minutes until the artichokes are tender.  Timing will all depend on the size of your artichokes.

Scoop out the artichokes and place in a bowl.  Coarsely mash with a fork and then stir in the capers, olives and tomato.  We are going for rustic here so no need to be to fussy about it. Allow it sit for half an hour or so to allow all the flavours to meld together.

For the bread cut a baguette on the diagonal in to 2cm / 1 inch thick slices.  Cut a garlic clove in half and rub each slice of bread with the garlic, drizzle with olive oil and place on a baking tray.  Bake in a 180C / 350F for 5 -10 minutes, depending on the efficiency, or lack of, of your oven.  Keep an eye on it as it can quickly turn to incinerated rather than toasted.

Top the bread with the artichoke puree, a little mint and serve.

This was quite delicious. I love how all these simple ingredients come together. A rich herby, rustic topping for bruschetta with a lovely briny hit from the olives and capers and the addition of a little mint provide a bright freshness.  It would also be good spooned over grilled chicken or fish or even stirred through some pasta.

If you like this you might like this Crostini Misto


23 October 2011

Seville Orange Marmalade

This is the real deal.  I have never been lucky enough to get my hands on Seville oranges in NZ before.  And they do make the very best marmalade.  Sweet but with that wonderful underlying tartness that other oranges can't deliver.  I did have one jar of the real stuff in the pantry from my last visit to Wellington and several visits to my favourite cafe in the whole world, Floriditas.  There, stacked on the counter, dark amber hued jars of Seville Orange Marmalade.   They get their wonderfully bitter oranges from the Hawke's Bay and take the whole crop.

Since then I have been on a  bit of quest to get my mitts on some Seville oranges.  I get my weekly veggie box from the Hawke's Bay and despite several hints left with my weekly order that if by chance they were to come across any Seville orange it would be very much appreciated if just a handful were to appear in my veggie box.  It was to no avail. However as luck would have it Alli over at Pease Pudding post a link to here - Seville Oranges in New Zealand!  And just on the other side of Auckland, well I could hardly contain my excitement, I may even have squealed out loud.  Finally I might be able to come close to replicating my Mum's Marmalade.  Better than that contact details to secure my own supply of the elusive Seville oranges.  So an email later and a box of Seville oranges delivered to my door.

Originally they are from Seville in Spain where they line the streets.  With their bitter skin they are too sour to eat, that however makes for the best marmalade, with a wonderfully bitter taste underlying all the sweetness.

Seville Orange Marmalade

For some reason this did take quite a while to set, so just be patient.  It is well worth the wait.


7 Seville oranges, scrubbed
2 oranges, scrubbed
1 large lemon, scrubbed
1.35kg / 3lbs white sugar


Place all the fruit and 1.7l litres of water in a large heavy based saucepan, cover and bring to a simmer.  Let the fruit simmer away for about an hour until it is all very soft.  Remove from the heat and lift out all the fruit. Set is aside to cool.

In the meantime measure out the liquid left in the pan.  You want 1.4 litres of liquid.  If need be top up with some water.  Return the liquid to the pan and stir in the sugar.

Back to the fruit.  Once they are cool enough to handle halve the fruit and squeeze out all the pips.  Tie up all the pips in a square of muslin.  Mince or chop the rest of the fruit and add it all back in to the pan with the pips.  Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar.

Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Usually it should take 10-15 minutes to reach a setting point.  I say usually as for reasons unbeknown to me it took nearer an hour!  To test for setting point have a couple of saucers chilling n the fridge.  After 10-15 minutes place a small teaspoon of marmalade on the saucer and leave it for a moment.  Then give it a little nudge with your finger.  If it wrinkles it is ready, if not it is back to more boiling until you reach the setting point.

Once it has reached setting point, remove the bag of pips and pour it in to hot sterilised jars* Allow to cool a little, pop the kettle on, toast some toast, butter and top with a generous helping of marmalade for a quintessentially and quite delicious British breakfast.

*To sterilize the jars, wash thoroughly in hot soapy water and then pop in the over for 20 minutes at 100C / 200F

On toast with a cup of tea, one of life's simple pleasures.  The rich, dark orange colour and that delightful underlying bitter sweet flavour, makes this the Queen of marmalades.  So if you can get your hands on some of these Seville Oranges, grab them with both hands and have a go at some marmalade making.

This would also elevate the Marmalade Vinaigrette to a whole other level....that could well be on the cards in some incarnation for lunch today.

If you like this you might like this: Marmalade


18 October 2011

Spicy Chicken Tikka Kebabs

I came across this recipe by Soma over at e curry. If you are looking for Indian inspired dishes you should head over there and check it out.  Beautiful pictures and wonderfully fragrant and full of flavour recipes.  And when one is trying to be healthy the perfect place to check out more interesting ways with chicken!

Straight away the photo drew me in and then reading through all the wonderful spices it was a done deal.  It does take a little time, being best to let all those wonderful flavours marinade the chicken over night.  However, once that is done all that is required is a few minutes grilling or baking and you have tender, aromatic little morsels of chicken or you could serve them as little kebabs.  These would be a great way to feed a crowd at a Summer BBQ.

The real Indian name would be Murgh Tikka, the murgh meaning chicken and tikka meaning little bites.  This dish originates from the northern region of India and is strongly influenced by the Persian Mughals.  The land they once ruled is now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan however their influence can still be seen today through their architecture, think the Taj Mahal and their food, the flavours of chicken tikka.

It is quite a list of spices but any Indian spice shop should be able to help you.  I headed to Mahadeos on Virginia Ave in Auckland.  A veritable treasure trove of herb, spices and any Indian condiment or ingredient you can possibly imagine.  Mr Mahadeo was very helpful and as I was his first customer of the day he made me up a batch of his own special garam masala.  Just buy what you need rather than large quantities which may just end up lurking at the back of the pantry.

Murgh Tikka – Spicy Chicken Tikka Kebabs, from e-curry

Traditionally they would be cooked in a tandoor but an oven will do.


1kg / 2.5lbs. skinless boneless chicken breasts or chicken thighs, cut in to bite sized pieces

For the marinades

First marinade
1.5 tbsp lime juice
½ tbsp red chili powder (use Kashmiri Red Chili powder or paprika for less heat)
½ tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp grated onion
¼ tbsp garlic paste

Second marinade
1 tsp ajwain/carom seeds + 1 tsp ajwain/carom seeds, crushed with a rolling pin/mortar pestle
½ tbsp oil
¼ scant cup chickpea flour/besan
5 tbsp thick, drained plain yogurt
1.5 tbsp ginger paste
1 garlic clove, minced
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp black pepper
Pinch of saffron + 1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp virgin pure mustard oil
1 tsp garam masala (homemade or store bought)
1 tsp kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
Red or orange food color (optional)

Oil to baste
Red onions, thinly sliced and lime wedges to serve
Chaat Masala (Indian Spice mix to sprinkle on salads, starters etc – available in Indian groceries) - Optional


If using bamboo skewers soak them in water for 20-30 minutes before grilling.

Place all the ingredients for the first marinade in to a bowl, mix to combine and add the chicken pieces.  Massage the marinade in to the chicken pieces, place in the fridge and leave to marinate for an hour.

For the second marinade warm the tablespoon of milk and add the saffron to it.  Give it a little stir and allow the saffron to infuse the milk.  Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan.  You want it hot but not smoking hot.  Crush 1 teaspoon of the ajwain seeds by gently rubbing them with your finger in the palm of your hand and then add them to the oil.  Over a low heat, add the chick pea flour and constantly stir it with a wooden spoon until it turns just a shade darker and it releases a nutty like aroma. It may look like the flour is lumping up a little, but don't worry it is okay,  just keep stirring.

Place the yoghurt in a medium bowl and give it a whisk. Add the ginger paste, garlic, garam masala, 1 teaspoon crushed ajwain/carom seeds, kasuri methi, turmeric, black pepper,  red chili powder, salt and the food colouring if you are using. Next add the saffron milk and add the toasted chickpea flour . Whisk everything together until you have a smooth lump free mixture.

Spoon the marinade over the chicken and stir really well so that every piece of chicken is coated in the marinade. Place in the fridge and let it marinade for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Just before cooking the chicken rub the skewers with some of the marinade so they kind of coat the skewers. Skewer the chicken cubes on to the skewers, 6-8 for large skewers or 2-3 for appetiser size.  Or for an even easier method just place them all on a baking tray.

If baking pre heat the over to 200C - 215C / 400F - 420F.  As we all know each oven is different.  Even with my antiquated, slightly broken seal oven 200C was right.  Place the chicken on a baking tray, skewered or not, and bake for 10-15 minutes.  We are looking for cooked through, but still tender and juicy.  While cooking baste a couple of times with ghee pr oil and turn them over at least twice.  For a little char you can pop them under the grill for just a moment.

For grilling, cooked covered for about 5-8 minutes. Uncover and cook until almost done. Again baste generously with ghee or oil, turn them over and cook until done. For stove top lightly grease a skillet or a cast iron grill pan. Place the chicken in the skillet or grill pan and cook for about 5-8 minutes at a medium heat. Turn them over and baste them generously with ghee/oil  a couple of times and cook all sides for another 5 minutes or until the meat is cooked through and tender. If you want it charred and brown bits, increase the heat at the end of the cooking and cook at high heat turning them around for a few more minutes. Again be careful not to overcook it as tough and dried out is not good.

Serve the chicken immediately.  Drizzle with a good squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve with some sliced red onions and more lime wedges. You can also sprinkle them with Chat Masala if you are using. And on the side whip up a little Mint Cilantro Chutney. 

Mint and Coriander Chutney- Green Chutney, from e-curry

This would be great with any grilled meat, fish or even vegetables and wonderful fresh and vibrant dip with some toasted pita or poppadoms on the side. It is bright and fresh with a good hit of heat from the chilli.


Makes about 1.5 cups
2.5 cups fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ small onion, coarsely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic
½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 hot green chilli peppers, or to taste
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 tbsp water
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 tbsp fresh grated coconut (optional)


Remove the tough stalks of the fresh herbs and place everything in a blender or food processor.  Blend to a smooth consistency. Serve as condiment, dip or spread. I used my mini blender so it wasn't quite smooth but it still tasted wonderful and I like a little texture.

The chicken is full of flavour, fragrant and aromatic, lots of layers and nothing too overpowering.  The lime provided a bright fresh acidity and the chaat masala lifts it all.  It is a little sweet and a little sour. Usually it includes dried mango powder, cumin, coriander, ginger, salt, black pepper and chilli among other things.  I can see myself sprinkling all sorts with the chaat masala.  The mint and coriander chutney is fresh, with a little heat and then mellowed by the sweetness of the coconut.

Good things do indeed take time.

If you like this you might like this Tandoori-ish Chicken
One Year Ago Tabbouleh


15 October 2011

Greens & Roast Pumpkin Salad with Kikorangi & Candied Chilli Pecans

Who says salads have to be rabbit food?  This one is a meal all by itself. This salad bridges the gap from autumn in to spring and I found some baby pumpkins lurking in the fridge that were begging to be used. Those and some beautiful chard in the veggie box this week were the inspiration for this salad.  I wanted something filling and satisfying, healthy but with just a sprinkle or 2 of indulgence... what I call balanced. For all of you in the USA this would also make for some a little lighter fare on the side for Thanksgiving.

Greens and Roast Pumpkin Salad with Kikorangi and Candied Chilli Pecans

Any mixture of any leafy greens would work here, kale, cavalo nero or even spinach.  If using spinach I would go with baby spinach and have the leaves raw, it would be a lighter version but just as good. Other nuts would also work equally well, maybe some walnuts or cashews. I do love a little heat so chilli flakes added to every layer.  For a little less heat just leave a little of the chilli out.

This is a rustic salad to the quantities are really just a guide, mix it up as you wish. Though I certainly wouldn't go to easy on the Kikorangi or the candied pecans as they really make this a great salad.  For you non Kiwis Kikorangi is the most fabulous blue cheese, golden and creamy and just a little piquant.  So if you are not lucky enough to be able to get your hands on some Kikorangi use your own favourite blue cheese.


Serves 4

Olive Oil
2 baby pumpkins or half a regular pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed and cut in to bite sized pieces
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 large bunch/bag leaf greens - kale, chard, cavalo nero
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of Chilli flakes
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of chilli flakes
Kikorangi, or your blue cheese of choice.  If you are not a fan of the blue you could try feta.


Preheat the oven to 180C/375F

Place the pumpkin on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, season with a little salt and sprinkle over a pinch of chilli flakes.  Pop in the oven and roast for 20-30 minutes or until well roasted.  I like my pumpkin well fired, but if you like yours not so done just take it out a little earlier.

Wash and drain the greens and take the leaves off the hard stem.  Roughly chop, and I do mean a rough chop as this is after all a rustic salad.  Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and toss in the greens.  Sprinkle with a little salt, a pinch of chilli flakes and a little nutmeg.  Saute until the greens are softened, 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile toast the pecans.  Just place in a small frying pan and dry fry for a few moments just until toasted.  As with all nuts there's a fine line between toasted and cremated so keep an eye on them.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the greens are sauteing place the water and sugar in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Increase heat to high and cook, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush if sugar crystals form, until mixture is golden, about 10-15 minutes.  Just before it is done scatter over a few chilli flakes.  Have a sheet of baking paper laid out.  Like with toasting nuts a fine line between golden and burnt....so a close eye is required here too. Quickly toss in the pecans and stir to coat with the caramel, you need to work quickly here before it hardens. Place the pecans on the baking paper to cool and harden.  Once a little cool you will be able to separate then with your fingers.

Toss the greens with the pumpkin and top with the crumbled Kikorangi and some candied pecans. Serve straight away.

The earthy leafy greens stand up to the sweet roasted pumpkin and the cheese every so slightly melts, wonderfully creamy and salty all the same time.  A little heat from the chilli through all the layers and textures and then all topped it all off with the pecans...toasty, nutty and a wonderful sweet crunch.

If you like this you might like this Greens & Kikorangi Tart
One Year Ago Frontera Grill's Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars


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