28 February 2012

Walnut, Honey and Orange Blossom Cake

I do like cake, who doesn't?  However I am not a fan of overly sweet.    I do like a carrot cake but if slathered in inch thick cream cheese icing not so much, for me it is just too much.  Chocolate cake I can more often than not take it or leave it.  They never seem to be quite chocolaty enough and often a little on the sweet side.  For me the darker and more bitter the chocolate the better, Whittaker's Dark Ghana is a long time favourite and I want that wonderful bitter sweetness in my chocolate cake too.

I have also been trying to be a little healthier but then for me it does all comes down to balance and life is not worth living without a little of what you like and that should involve a little cake I think.  I came across this cake in Jillian Michael's Master Your Metabolism Cookbook.  It is full of tasty, satisfying and healthy recipes.  It's not rocket science, it pretty much advocates exercise, eating a balanced diet and cutting out all the processed rubbish that our bodies were never designed to consume.  

Unlike the ridiculous study just out of Otago University and it's list of 49 "needn't foods" that it deems unhealthy.  The list includes honey, butter, whole milk and ice cream.  It is not even the "needn't" foods that irked me most, it was some of the replacement foods; diet soda, sugar free cordial, lite instead of full fat, margarine instead of butter, artificial sweetener instead of sugar that really got my hackles up.  Yes great idea let's replace whole foods that our bodies can process with artificial toxic replacements ....genius!

Enough of my ranting...balance, moderation sprinkled with a little indulgence works for me and I say let us all eat a little cake.

Walnut, Honey and Orange Blossom Cake, adapted from a Jillian Michael's recipe.

Serves 10-12


1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
Zest of 2 oranges
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup honey, I used a mixture of clover and J Friend's Beechwood Honey*
1/2 tsp orange blossom water, it is optional but it does lend a wonderfully exotic flavour to the cake
2 eggs

*the Beechwood Honey adds a lovely depth of flavour but use whatever honey that you like.

You'll also need a 9" springform cake tin and a little olive oil and flour to grease it.


Pre heat your oven to 180C / 350F

Take a 9" springform cake tin and spray it with a little oil and dust it lightly with a little flour.  Just give it a gentle shake to coat the the base and sides and set it aside.

Place the toasted walnuts in a food processor and pulse until they are coarsely ground.  Place the ground walnuts in a large bowl and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the orange zest.    Mix everything together.

In another medium sized bowl place the orange juice, olive oil, honey and orange blossom water.  Give the liquid ingredients a good whisk to combine well.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently fold everything together with a metal spoon until just combined, don't over mix the batter which will be quite loose.

Pour the batter in the prepared springform pan and pop in the oven for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let the cake cool completely. Remove the cake from the cake tin and place on a serving plate.  Dust lightly with icing sugar and a little sprinkle of orange zest.

On the side you can serve some yoghurt or cream mixed with a dollop of honey, some orange zest and just a drop of orange blossom water.

I love this cake, moist  and light, toasty walnuts and bright orange zest bursting through.  The honey adds a lovely deep rich, not overly sweet note making this more of a grown up cake and the orange blossom adds a little of the exotic. With a dollop of honey and orange infused yoghurt it is quite a treat.

This is my entry in to this month's Sweet New Zealand being hosted, this month by the lovely Shirleen over at Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice....thanks for hosting!

If you like this you might like this Plum and Lemon Cake
One Year Ago Roasted Beet Salad and Spicy Kumara Fries


26 February 2012

Kale and Gruyere Tart

A lovely bunch of the above arrived in the vege box, that and memories of Jo's amazing asparagus and Gruyere tart at Christmas supper club and a new tart tin to try out led to this concoction. The asparagus and Gruyere tart was all completely polished off....despite the veritable feast there was not one little morsel left over.  The Gruyere is baked in to the pastry and make it rich and crumbly, topped with a thin layer of asparagus and red pepper and just enough Mascarpone and egg to cover the base it was sublime.  Crumbly cheese pastry, bright fresh asparagus and a little creamy decadence provided by the Mascarpone filling.

Well asparagus season is sadly over, heck Summer officially ends next week, but here is my kale and Gruyere tart. This was also, believe it or not my first foray in to pastry making.  I seem to have had some sort of phobia or mental block toward pastry making in the past, for some reason it seemed quite difficult and something only for the expert bakers.  Given the overwhelming success of this first attempt I think we are ready to move forward for some pastry making adventures.

Kale and Gruyere Tart


For the pastry
200g white spelt flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
100g chilled butter, diced
50g Gruyere cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp cold water

For the filling
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 red pepper roughly chopped
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated plus a little extra for topping


For the pastry

Place the flour, salt, butter and Gruyere in to a food processor.  Pulse until you have coarse crumbs.  Add 1 egg and the water and pulse until the dough just comes together.  Tip the dough out on to a floured surface and knead gently just until you have a smooth dough.  Roll in to a ball, cover in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes until the dough is firm.

Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F

Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a floured surface or even easier and less mess to clean up, roll out the pastry between two sheets of baking paper.  Roll out until quite thin, just half a centimeter and place it snugly in a greased 30 cm tart tin or equivalent.  Pop in the fridge for 20-30 minutes to firm up.  Remove from the fridge and pierce the dough with a fork.  Blind bake* for 10-15 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

*Blind bake: Blind baking is baking a pastry base partially before adding the ingredients. This firms up the pastry base so that it is a little crustier and stronger and can hold moist ingredients without going soggy during the cooking. It is also useful when the filling needs very little cooking and would be ruined sitting around waiting for the pastry to coo the pastry with baking parchment and top Place dried beans, dry rice, dry lentils or pie weights over the surface of the covering. This prevents the pastry base from rising through air bubbles, which would leave it uneven and weakened.

For the filling

While the pastry case is cooking make the filling.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium frying pan over a media heat and add the onion and garlic and sprinkle with a little sea salt to bring out their natural sweetness. Saute for a few moments until translucent and then add the kale, red pepper and cayenne.  Saute for a a few minutes until softened.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a medium sized bowl beat the eggs and cream together.  Season with salt and pepper and add the Parmesan cheese, leaving a little to sprinkle over the top.  Add the cooled kale and pepper mixture to the eggs and gently mix everything together until well combined.  Pour the mixture in to the pastry case, sprinkle with a little Parmesan and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the filling is just cooked through, but soft and creamy on the inside.

Remove from the oven and let the tart cool a little and if you are a cheese lover feel free to sprinkle with yet more Parmesan.  The tart can be served warm or at room temperature.

The pastry was wonderfully short and full of flavour, the slightly nutty, almost sweetness of the Gruyere the perfect foil for the greens and sweet red peppers all enveloped in cream and eggs.   A basil and tomato salad on the side added a little bright and green to cut through the richness of the tart and left overs made for tasty lunch the next day.  This tart didn't last any longer than that as I was even happy to scoff it straight from the fridge.

If you like this you might like this Chard & Kale Falafel with a Lemon Tahini & Sumac Sauce
One Year Ago The Wonderful World of Brining & Some Delicious Pork...


23 February 2012

Home Baked Vege Chips

One of my weakness is salty and crunchy, I could easily polish off a whole bag of kettle chips in one sitting.  However February for me is alcohol and junk food free so I needed an alternative.
Nothing will quite every beat the salty crunch of a kettle chip but these are enough to put the craving to bed for at least the month of February.

Use these variations as a guide line as all sorts of concoctions would work.

Home Baked Vege Chips

Makes 1 bowl


1 medium Agria potato
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
1 kumara (sweet potato)
Pinch chilli flakes
1 carrot
1 tsp thyme leaves
1 parsnip
1 medium (or 3 small) re beetroot
3 small golden beetroot
Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper
Rice Bran / vegetable oil spray


Pre heat the oven to 200C/375F

You'll need several baking trays line with baking parchment.

Thinly slice all the vegetables, either by hand, on a mandolin or on the thinnest slicing setting on a food processor.  Keep all the vegetables in separate piles and leave the red beetroot to last to save on washing up in between as the red ones will bleed their wonderful magenta hue.

Work on a bit of a rotation so while a couple of trays are baking you can prepare the next couple of trays.

Layer the potatoes on line baking tray and scatter over the rosemary and season with a good sprinkle of salt. Spray with a little of the oil and pop in the over for 10-20 minutes* or until crisp and golden.  For the kumara places the slices on another baking tray, sprinkle with a little chilli and salt, spray with a little oil and pop in to the oven with the potatoes.  Again 10-20 minutes* until crisp. Remove form the oven and let them cool a little to make sure they stay crisp before placing them in a bowl

Next up parsnips and carrot.  Thinly slice and place on to 2 baking trays.  You can place the slices really close together as they will shrink to half their size.  Scatter a little thyme over the carrots.  Season with a little salt and spray both trays of vegetables with a little oil and pop them in the oven for 15-20 minutes* until well roasted.  Remove form the oven and allow to cool before adding to the potato and kumara chips.

Lastly lay the beetroot on a line baking sheet and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle with salt, spray with a little oil and place in the oven, again for 15-20 minutes until crispy.  Remove from the oven, cool a little and add the the bowl of vege chips.

*10-20 minutes is a general indication. How long will depend on your oven, if you read my blog often you will know mine is almost an antique! My thoughts would be that an efficient, younger fan type model would be significantly quicker than my old lady! So keep an eye on them, especially for the last few minutes of cooking as crisp and golden can quickly turn to blackened.  Sadly lost half of my sweet potato chips.

Needless to say the rosemary potato chips were my favourite, bearing the most resemblance to the classic kettle chip.  Crispy, salty and a little herby from the rosemary. The sweet potatoes, well the ones that weren't burnt also worked out a treat.  Good and crispy and the chilli adding  just a little heat to the sweetness. Parsnips, again lovely and crispy and their sweetness coming through.  Both the beetroot and carrot chips were great too.  The beetroot chips earthy and sweet, the carrots sweet with a herby note from the them.  They lacked the crispness of the other vege chips but place them all in a bowl with all the other vege chips and you have a vibrant, flavourful alternative to their deep fried relatives that will keep me on the straight and narrow for the next few weeks.

If you like this yo might like this Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
One Year Ago A Lovely Lunch, Jellies and Jam


19 February 2012

Beetroot, Apple and Toasted Almond Salad

Lots of beetroot in the vege box this week, which coincided with a craving for salad and basking in some very welcome, and overdue summer sunshine.  I also picked up some early new season apples at Art of Produce and found some chive flowers at a local Asian supermarket.  I have never come across chive flowers before so couldn't resist experimenting with a new ingredient.  Like chives they have a sweet oniony taste, in case you were wondering, so a welcome addition to most salads.  Regular chives would of course work just as well.

So with all of this loot a salad started to take shape...

Beetroot, Apple and Toasted Almond Salad

Serves 4-6 as a side dish


1 medium or 2 small beetroot, grated
1 red apple grated
Pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Chives or chive flowers*
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 handfuls rocket

*I found chive flowers at the local Asian supper market and couldn't resist grabbing a bunch never having come across them before, garlic tops would work here too.


Place the beetroot, apple, chilli flakes in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Drizzle one the cider vinegar and olive oil and mix well through the salad.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.

Scatter the rocket on a platter and top with the beetroot and apple salad.  Sprinkle over the the toasted almonds and chives, drizzle with just a splash of olive oil and serve immediately.

The sweetness of the fresh, crisp apple pairs well with the sweet earthy beetroot and the apple cider vinegar adds a little tartness.  Bright clean onions and crunch toasty almonds round out the flavors and textures.

This is my entry in to the February Monthly Mingle being hosted over at Hila's Add to Taste where the theme is Hearth Healthy.

If you like this you might like this Beetroot Salad with Pistachio Sauce
One Year Ago Manuka Bacon, Apple & Goat's Cheese Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing


15 February 2012

Huevos con Chile or Mexican Scramble

I love breakfast, can't go without it.  My favourite breakfast would be Friday. A friend and I take turns at picking somewhere new each week for breakfast. It is the perfect end to the week and the perfect start to the impending weekend and what's not to love about trying all sorts of different cafes all over town? There's certainly more on offer than fruit and cereal or bacon and eggs. The bar on breakfast has most certainly been raised.

Some of my favourites...and just to note good coffee, a good long black, goes without saying, it is a non negotiable prerequisite for a good breakfast.

Queenies Lunchroom: the Turkish eggs remain my favourite breakfast....ever.

24a Spring Street, Freemans Bay, 

Richmond Road Cafe: interesting and varied menu and I love their avocado herb crush.  Other temptations Richmond Rd crumpets with  whipped blackberry butter and beech wood honey or kumara rosti, warm spinach salad, black truffle oil and free range poached egg. And not to mention a beautiful array of home baking.

Richmond Road Cafe
318 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland

Takapuna Beach Cafe: such an extensive menu and right by the beach, but get there early to secure a spot. On the menu Moroccan eggs with spiced tomato & du puy lentil braise and sourdough or how about roast portobello mushrooms, Grana Pandano cream bechamel gratin, black truffle oil and sourdough or the one I couldn't go past Agria potato rosti, buttered spinach, carrot Jam and a free range poached egg?

22 The Promenade, Takapuna

The Shaky Isles, Kingsland a quirky menu and great coffee.

The Shaky Isles
492 New North Road, Kingsland

And if you are in Wellington...Floriditas...my favourite cafe anywhere, and yes I have waxed lyrical about it here. Love that place. It is all great.

161 Cuba Street

What are your favourite breakfast haunts?

I certainly fall on the savoury side for breakfast.  Love it European style with cold meats and cheese or eggs, any which way.  I am a big fan of eggs and rarely a day would go by without an egg.  My standard breakfast, at work post the gym would be egg on toast.  Quick and easy if you always have a stash of boiled eggs  waiting in the fridge.  I like mine just cooked through, so that the yolk is still a little viscous.  Something very satisfying to cut open a boiled egg and it is perfect, the yolk just ever so slightly oozing out all over hot buttered toast.

Huevos con Chile / Mexican Scramble

Serves 2


2 tbsp butter
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 red chilli, finely diced (de-seed for less heat)
4 eggs
2 tbsp cream or milk
1/4 cup coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Hot buttered toast for serving


Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat and add the onion.  Season with a little pinch of salt and saute the onion for a couple of minutes until translucent.  Add the chilli and the tomato and saute for another moment or two until just cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile beat the eggs with the cream or milk and season with salt and pepper until mixed well.  Keep the frying pan on a low heat and add the egg mixture.  Stir gently until the eggs are cooked through.  It will take just a few minutes.  Just before the eggs are cooked through gently stir through the coriander.

Serve immediately with some hot buttered toast and a pot of freshly brewed coffee for quick, but satisfying weekend breakfast.

The onions and tomatoes add a little sweetness that is offset by the heat of the chilli and then their is a fresh aromatic burst from the coriander.  This could well be my new favourite take on breakfast.

If you like this you might like this Greens and Kikorangi Tart
One Year Ago  Twice Baked Zucchini and Gruyere Souffle

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