30 April 2012

Cracked Wheat, Roast Pumpkin & Feta Salad

Pumpkin soup is big here in NZ, I guess on a similar scale to pumpkin pie stateside. I am not a huge fan of either.  I think it a texture thing of me and it is a little too reminiscent of baby food. However, roast pumpkin, for me that is a whole different story. All that wonderful sweetness that I love paired with just a little chilli and salty creamy feta.

So from there we get to this satisfying salad, a meal in itself. Cracked wheat fills it out along with the sweetest cherry tomatoes and parsley and coriander delivering a fragrant green punch.

Cracked Wheat, Roast Pumpkin and Feta Salad

Serves 4

This is a salad so take the quantities as a guide and adjust to what you have on hand or what you like. If you are not a coriander lover try mint which would also delivery a burst of herby freshness.

500g / 2lbs pumpkin, diced in to 1cm / 1/2inch cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
Pinch chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon 
1 cup cracked wheat (bulghar)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 stalks celery diced
1 cup feta, crumbled
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup coriander, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Salt and pepper


Pre heat the oven to 190C/380F

Place the pumpkin on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.  In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, chilli, cinnamon and a little salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture over the pumpkin and toss to coat the pumpkin.  Roast in the over for 20-25 minutes until the pumpkin is just cooked through and golden as we still want a little texture fro the salad.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the pumpkin is cooking rinse the cracked wheat and place it in a large sized bowl.  Pour over enough boiling water just to cover and leave it to it for 15-20 minutes or until all or almost the liquid has been absorbed. Sieve off any excess water and return the cracked wheat to the bowl and fluff it with a fork.

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the coriander and cumin seeds.  Toast for a few minutes until they start to release their aromas.  Remove from the heat and pound in pestle and mortar.  Add a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and set aside.

Add the pumpkin, celery, feta, parsley and coriander to the cracked wheat and season with a little salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the coriander, cumin and olive oil and stir everything gently together.  Set aside for half an hour or so to allow all the flavours to meld and develop.  Top with a few toasted almonds and serve on its own or on a bed of baby spinach.

This salad is a satisfying meal in itself the cracked wheat and pumpkin giving it a robustness that will not leave you wanting.  The cumin and coriander enhance the nutty like flavour of the cracked wheat that is interspersed with an aromatic herb note from the parsley and coriander.  Sweetness from the pumpkin and cherry tomatoes, celery adding a little crunch and to round it all out creamy, salty feta. Not to forget a delightfully toasty crunch from the almonds.

If you like this you might like this Beetroot Apple and Toasted Almond Salad
One Year Ago Quince Tart


25 April 2012

Roast Pumpkin, Sage and Brown Butter Risotto

Brown butter....see how it grabs your attention and just the thought of it tantalizes your taste buds? Toasty, nutty, buttery.  And it is so versatile....great with sweet treats and here it is mouth wateringly good drizzled over a little risotto. This risotto would be good without it, creamy, sweet pumpkin, crispy sage all coming together in a tasty comforting supper, but really, just that little drizzle is what makes me love this dish all the more.  It adds that little indulgence that I do so love, everything in balance including a little indulgence.

Don't be scared of risotto.  It just takes a little time and a little stirring and really is quite difficult to get it wrong.  From the base of this risotto you really can add anything you like. The basic soffrito of onion, garlic and celery gives the foundations and depth for all sorts of flavours.  Mushroom risotto is always good and chicken or shrimp would also be wonderful. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere and heading in to spring asparagus and lemon would be my pick.

Roast Pumpkin, Crispy Sage and Brown Butter Risotto


Serves 6

2 cups roasted pumpkin
Pinch chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp olive oil
1.5 lt chicken stock (vegetable stock would of course also work)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely diced*
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sticks celery, finely diced*
400g arborio rice
1 cup white wine
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp butter
Handful sage leaves

*For a delicate risotto take some time to really finely dice the onion and celery.


Pre heat the oven to 190C/380F

You want to end up with 2-3 cups of roasted pumpkin.  I use half a large pumpkin and used the extra in a salad.  Dice the pumpkin in to 1cm cubes. In a small bowl add the chilli flakes, cinnamon, olive oil and pinch each of salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine and pour over the pumpkin and gently toss to evenly coat.  Place the pumpkin in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes until just cooked and golden.

Heat the stock over a low heat and leave it on a low heat to keep it warm.  Place 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of butter in to a medium sized frying pan over a medium heat.  Once the butter has melted add the onion, garlic, celery and a pinch of salt and cook over a medium low heat for 10-15 minutes.  We are looking for soft and translucent rather than fried here as we want to build up all the delicate layers of flavour.  Add the rice and turn up the heat to medium high, jeep stirring and fry it for a few moments.  The rice will become a little translucent and then add the wine, all the while stirring.

Keep stirring until all the wine has cooked in to the rice and then add a ladle of the warm stock.  Turn down the heat to medium low and keep adding ladlefuls of stock, one at a time until each has almost all been absorbed by the rice.  It will take about 15-20 minutes so just enjoy and take your time.  After 15 minutes taste the rice to see if it is cooked, you want cooked but with just a little bite.  Add more stock and keep cooking if it is not quite ready.  Season with a little salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning if need be.  Season a little at a time....as we all know easy enough to add more but not so easy to remove.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan.  Stir well to combine and then gently stir through the roasted pumpkin.  Allow the risotto to sit for a few moments so the rice can absorb all that buttery and Parmesan goodness.  While the risotto is resting melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small frying pan and add the sage.  Allow it to fry until it crisps up and then remove it and pop it on come kitchen towel.  Keep the heat on the butter and cook it until it becomes a little brown and releases that toasty nutty aroma that only brown butter can.

Plate up the risotto, top with a handful of crispy sages leaves and drizzle with brown butter.  Serve immediately.  Creamy and comforting, a little sweetness from the pumpkin, heightened by the cinnamon , wonderfully savoury crispy sage all drizzled with nutty brown butter makes it perfect for an Autumn supper.

If you like this you might like this Multi Vegetable Paella
One Year Ago Almond Peach Cranberry and Coconut Granola


24 April 2012

Lemony Mustard Chicken

As we move in to Autumn I look at my last few posts and I have most definitely started moving in to comfort food territory whether it be cakes, curries, soups, bread or my new favourite comfort food; mujadarra.  My cravings for comfort food, the heartier and carbier (carbier! - I am sure that is not actually a word, but you get my drift) the better, are only going to increase as Winter approaches and the days draw shorter. I will have the overwhelming urge to hunker down with hearty bowls of stew or hot bowls of soup, most likely accompanied by a cheeky little red.  

So while we are enjoying a little Indian Summer here in New Zealand I thought I would return to some lighter fare before the comfort carvings become to much to resist.

This is simple, fresh and full of flavour with just a little warmth delivered by the Dijon and the chilli. I baked the chicken in the oven but I am thinking it would work wonders on the BBQ too.  So if you are in the Northern Hemisphere and heading in to Spring and warmer days dust off the BBQ and fire her up.

Lemony Mustard Chicken
2 tbsp dijon mustard
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp chives, finely chopped
Pinch of chilli flakes
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken thighs
2 lemons, cut in half

Place the mustard, zest and juice of one lemon, thyme leaves, chives, chilli flakes in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust seasoning if need be.
Add the chicken to the marinade, cover and place in the fridge.  Marinate the chicken for at  least a couple of hours or overnight.

Pre heat the oven to 190C/375F
Remove the chicken from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature while the oven is heating.  Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess.  Place the chicken in a baking dish and pop it n the over for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear.
Leave the chicken to rest for a few minutes.  Serve with some salad or as I did with some stir fried lemony brussels sprouts.  Just melt some butter in a frying pan, add some thinly slice brussels sprouts and sauté for a few moments.  Season with salt and pepper, add the zest and juice of a lemon, toss gently to combine everything and serve.  These really could be another way to convert the brussels sprouts haters.

I have come to love this chicken.  Tender, juicy, full of fresh herby flavours, the lemony thyme really shining through. Then a little bite from the mustard all freshened with lemony citrus hit. 

If you like this you might like this Chicken with Sumac, Zaatar and Pine Nuts
One Year Ago Greens and Kikorangi Tart


22 April 2012

Brown Buttered Apple and Rosemary Cake

I was lucky to get some apples straight off  friend's orchard.  Their fragrance so unbelievably apple.  What all apples should smell like, that is if we could all get them straight off the tree!

What do with my bounty?  Well I was in the mood for cake and I seem to have an on going craving for anything with brown butter at the moment.  There's something about just the mention of brown butter, with savoury or sweet that I just can't resist.  And to cut through the sweetness with a little fresh herbal note a little rosemary.

Brown Buttered Apple and Rosemary Cake


2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp demerara sugar plus extra to scatter over the top of the cake
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
2-3 apples cut in to thin slices
1 1/2 cups (225g / 8 oz) self raising flour, sifted
3/4 cup (165g / 6 oz) caster sugar
125g / 4 1/2 oz butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup (125ml) milk


Pre heat the oven to 160C/325F

Melt the butter in a sauté pan until it starts to brown.  It will start to give off a wonderfully sweet nutty aroma. Add the sugar and rosemary and cook just until the sugar is melted.  Add the apples and toss gently to coat.  Cook for just a couple of minutes to allow the apples to soak up all the flavours.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place the flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs and milk in the bowl of a mixer and beat until just combined as you don't want to over mix it. We want a light cake.  Spoon the mixture in to a 22cm (9 inch) cake tin greased and lined with baking paper.  Top with the slices of apple and make sure to get all that rosemary infused brown butter too. Sprinkle over a tablespoon or 2 of demerara sugar over the top.

Pop in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the cake is cooked through.  Test with a skewer and when the cake is cooked a skewer will come out clean.  Allow the cake to cool, slice and eat.

The cake bakes up and envelopes the buttery apples. The rosemary adds an almost piney freshness that contrasts with the sweetness of the cake and the apples.  And I do love the sweet crunch the demerara sugar topping delivers. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon and a little couch therapy along with a good book and a pot of coffee.  Oh I do wish there were more days in the week like this.  Then again maybe we appreciate them more because there are never enough of them.

If you like this you might like this Walnut, Honey and Orange Blossom Cake
One Year Ago Smoked Mackerel Pate, Grilled Mackerel & a Fennel & 
Apple Salad


18 April 2012

Mujaddara with Spiced Yoghurt

This is another recipe that has been lurking on the "things I want to cook" list for some time.  It was the award winning lentil recipe over at Food 52.  I just couldn’t resist all the wonderful flavours and textures.  And lentils are such a comfort food for me whether a little dhal or my ultimate comfort food, a bowl of Mum's lentil soup. Mujaddra or megadarra or mejdra. It may not take the prettiest picture but it is bursting with flavour.  Crisp, sweet caramelised onion, fluffy jasmine rice, comforting lentils all topped off with a spiced and minted yoghurt. The simplest of ingredients come together in this Middle Eastern dish to make something that is both exotic and fragrant.  It is like a hearty, satisfying pilaf and was perfect for an Autumn Sunday evening.

Mujaddara with Spiced Yoghurt, adapted from Rivka’s lentil winning recipe over at Food 52
Serves 4
3/4 cup brown lentils
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 red pepper
1 tbsp rice bran or other neutral oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp olive oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
For the yoghurt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds 
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
3 tbsp fresh mint
1 lemon, juice and zest

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
Place the lentils, a pinch of salt and 4 cups of water in large saucepan  and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  You want the lentils to be soft but not mush!  Drain the lentils and set them aside.
Everyone has their own views on how to cook rice and this is my go to way for perfect rice (Thanks to Chef Grace).  Add the red pepper, salt and oil and 2 cups of water to a medium size saucepan and bring it to the boil.  Once it is boiling quickly add the rice, no need to even rinse, stir only once and then leave it well alone. Let it come to a boil and then simmer on a low heat until done, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the heat et voila perfectly cooked rice.

While the rice and lentils are cooking add the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large saute or frying pan. Heat over a medium low heat until the butter had almost melted and add the onions and a small pinch of salt.  Cook for a 3-5 minutes, stirring to coat the onion in the butter and oil, until they are translucent.  Turn the heat up to medium and cook for a further 10-12 minutes until the onions are well browned and caramelised. You want the onions well cooked, even a little charred. If the pan gets a little dry or the onions start to stick add a little water, just a tablespoon at a time.  Towards the end of cooking do not stir so that the bottom layer of onions create a layer full of flavour browned and crispy crust. You can’t really over cook the onions here, in fact a little over cooking come charring could be a good thing.  Remove from the heat.
Add the rice, lentils and onions to a large serving bowl or platter and let them sit for at least 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld and develop. 

For the yoghurt, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and add the cumin and coriander seeds.  Toast just for a moment or 2 until they start to release their aromas and then grind them in a mortar and pestle. Add the ground spices, the cinnamon, chilli flakes, fresh mint, lemon juice and zest and a pinch of salt and pepper to the yoghurt and mix well.  Let the yoghurt sit for a 15 minutes to all the flavours to develop.

Serve the mujaddara warm with a dollop of the spiced yoghurt and if you feel in the need for a little green serve a simple green salad on this side.

What makes this dish is the onions, so take your time caramelizing them and developing that wonderful crispy layer that will deliver so much flavour. It is one big bowl of comfort food, the sweet onions, earthy lentils and fluffy rice all lightened and enlivened with the spiced yoghurt.

If you like this you might like this Sriracha Chicken with Green Rice
One Year Ago Happy Travels, Lemon Mousse and Ginger Snaps


15 April 2012

Curried Beef Stew

I am a list person. List for everything, shopping, books to read, movies to see, an ever growing list of must have cook books, new places to try for Friday breakfasts, to do lists....you name it I probably have a list for it and now all easily accessible on my iPhone, certainly easier than numerous post its and little notebooks lurking in the darkened corners of my handbag.

Another list is recipes I want to try, there is so much inspiration out there; from books to magazines, and of course food blogs, a list was most definitely required. So Friday afternoon at work, after a long week I was thinking an early night and maybe get the weekly supermarket shop out of the way on the way home leaving Saturday with one less chore.  However it had been such a busy week I hadn't even had a chance to think what culinary creations I wanted to make on the weekend let alone a shopping list.  You see that's where the "things I want to cook" list comes in to its own.  A quick glance and this curried beef stew from Bon Appetit just jumped out at me.  I had seen it a month or so ago and all the spices and aromatic flavours; guajillo chilli, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime, made me want to just dive in to a bowl full of it.

Add to that there is something especially comforting about a curry that has been made from scratch, from the pounding of all the herbs and spices to a paste to a fragrant pot simmering away on the stove. This one didn't disappoint, in fact it may well be my new favourite curry.

Curried Beef Stew, adapted from Bon Appetit


Curry paste

1 dried ancho chilli, stemmed, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 lemongrass stalk, sliced
1 tbsp galangal*, roughly chopped (if you can't find galangal use ginger)
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 tsp Thai shrimp paste


500g/1lb beef chuck, cut into 1.5cm cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 pinch chilli flakes...a little more or less depending on your own heat preference
8-10 curry leaves
1 lt beef stock
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced in to rounds

4 kaffir lime leaves

To garnish

Fresh red chillies

To serve

Jasmine rice
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 red pepper
1 tbsp rice bran oil or other neutral oil
1/2 tbsp sat

*Galangal is related to cardamom, ginger and turmeric.  It is a rhizome from the ginger family an it does indeed look quite like ginger.  However, it is more fibrous and dense and has a pine like scent. 

Curry Paste

Place some warm water in a small bowl and add the dried chilli for a few minutes to rehydrate it. Drain and place it in a mortar along with the salt and pound it with a pestle until you have a rough paste. It will take a few minutes of vigorous pounding. Then add the other one by one give them a good pounding before adding the next one. Cover and chill.  The paste can be made up to a week ahead and kept covered in the fridge.


Place the beef in a medium sized bowl and add the curry paste, soy sauce,the chilli flakes and curry leaves.  Give it a good mix to make sure all the beef is coated in the curry paste.

Add just a teaspoon of rice bran oil (or other neutral flavored oil) and heat over a medium heat to a dutch oven or heavy based saucepan.  Add the beef and turn up the heat to high to sear both the beef and the paste.  After a moment turn the heat back down to medium and cook for a few moments more, stirring occasionally. Add the beef stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours until the beef is tender.

Stir in shallots, carrots, and lime leaves. Simmer until vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes. If broth is too salty, add water a few tablespoonfuls at a time.

Jasmine rice

Everyone has their own views on how to cook rice and this is my go to way for perfect rice (Thanks to Chef Grace).  Add the red pepper, salt and oil and 2 cups of water to a medium size saucepan and bring it to the boil.  Once it is boiling quickly add the rice, no need to even rinse, stir only once and then leave it well alone. Let it come to a boil and then simmer on a low heat until done, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from the heat et voila perfectly cooked rice.

Pile the rice in to bowls, top with the beef curry and scatter over some coriander, basil and slices of fresh chilli for a little freshness. So full of flavour, so rich and deep.  This one has that wonderful savoury unami in spades.  The beef is tender and fragrant from all the spices, meanwhile a little fresh chilli heat along with aromatic coriander and basil adds a welcome freshness.

If you like this you might like this Spicy Chicken Tikka Kebabs
One Year Ago Hot Smoking


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