31 May 2012


Goodness I can't seen get away from soup.  But it is so perfect for this time of year and having a batch or two in the fridge means dinner in jiffy which on cold dark nights is plus.

This is one from Cook the Books All About Soup cooking class the other week and it is just too good not to share.  This is definitely a meal in itself and is indeed almost more of a stew, the name puchero actually means "stewpot" in Spanish.  It is a meaty fragrant broth full of slowed cooked beef, pork and chicken.  Traditionally it would also have cassava but kumura or sweet potato make for a great substitute.  Topped with a little avocado and rice and corn bread, or even better some pandebono, on the side it is a hearty satisfying meal.  Pandebono are delightfully cheesy little rolls.  Though I need to practice that one a little before posting!  First attempt were a little flat though still wonderfully cheese and moreish.  Thanks to some tips from the wonderful world of social media it shouldn't be too long before I can share.

So without further ado here is the recipe, adapted only slightly from Cook the Books.  It is soup after all so feel free to tweak to suit your own taste as really that's what cooking should be about.

Puchero (Beef, Pork and Chicken Soup)

Serves 10-12 dependant on appetite


2 tbsp olive oil
8 spring onions, 6 finely sliced, 2 left whole
1 400g can of peeled chopped tomatoes
3 1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Pinch saffron
3 cloves garlic, 2 crushed and 1 chopped
1 bunch coriander, stems and leaves finely chopped
500g pork shoulder, fat removed and cubed
500g beef flank, fat removed and cubed
4 chicken legs
2 chillies, halved
500g golden kumura, peeled and cubed
500g baby potatoes
1 bunch winter greens, shredded (silver beet, cavolo nero, kale, chard)
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
Cooked white rice (for perfect cooked rice head here)
Additional coriander leaves
Red chilli, sliced (optional)


Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced spring onions, can of tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, pepper, cumin, saffron and 2 cloves of crushed garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft, stirring often.  Next add 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander stems, reduce the heat to low and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally,  until very soft.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Place the remaining 3 teaspoons of salt, chopped garlic clove, whole spring onion and the remaining coriander in a large heavy based saucepan or dutch oven.  Layer over the pork shoulder, beef flank and chicken legs and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.  Discard the whole spring onions and then add the kumura and baby potatoes.  Allow the kumura and baby potatoes to simmer for 20 minutes or until tender and cooked through.  Meanwhile shred the meat and remove and discard the chicken skin and bones.  After 20 minutes add the meat back to the pot along with the winter greens and and the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and pepper, ladle in to bowls and top with a few coriander leaves and fresh red chilli slices.  Serve immediately with avocado, chilli, rice and cornbread or pandebono...or even both.

This soup is hearty at its best.  Rich and meaty all enveloped in a fragrant broth.  The coriander and chilli add a freshness and there is a welcome sweetness from the kumura. The baby potatoes rounding it all out as a meal in one.

If you like this you might like this Cauliflower Soup
One year ago Celeriac and Lentils with Hazelnut and Mint


25 May 2012

{Just Photos} All About Soup at Cook the Books

"Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?" 

Judith Martin - Miss Manners

Another cooking class at Cook the Books and tis the season for soup so last week it was All About Soup.  Soup, it can comfort and warm the soul on a cold wet night. Wisps of steam can tantalise the taste buds and then a bowl of soup can make the worries and stresses of the day disappear.

First up was Avgolemono or “egg lemon”.  A classic Greek Lemon Chicken Soup. This is a simple peasant soup made with just chicken broth, eggs, lemon juice and either orzo or rice.  It sounds like a slightly odd combination but it was bright and light and satisfying all at the same time, really bursting with lemon flavour.

Next up Zucchini, White Bean and Leek Soup.  Green and fresh it would be a tasty bowl of soup just as it is but sometimes it is the little additions that can really make something shine.  Once the soup is blended red wine vinegar and smoked paprika are added providing a little welcome sharpness and a smokey note. And to top it off sautéed zucchini ribbons, a little mint oil and a scattering of Parmesan. A little crusty bread and butter on the side and you have fresh and comforting.

To finish Puchero a Colombian Pork, Beef and Chicken soup.  This was my favourite of the night, it was wonderfully hearty and savoury, and that is before we even get to the corn bread and pandebono on the side, more of those in a moment.  Back to the soup, pork, beef and chicken are slow cooked just in water with some spring onion, the meet is removed and shredded while potatoes and kumura are added to the broth and along with a rich fragrant past and silver beet.  It is the paste that makes this soup, slowly cooked tomato, spring onion, cumin, saffron, garlic and coriander that gives this soup its wonderful savoury depth. It is then served with avocado, rice and cornbread on the side.

We were lucky enough to also have some pandebono. Pandebono are delightfully cheesy little Colombian breads.  Packed full of feta, ricotta and cheddar they were always only going to be delicious and terribly moreish. They’ll definitely be making an appearance over the weekend so I’ll be sure to share that one soon, as to keep it all to myself would just not be fair.

"Beautiful soup, so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup! 
Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish
Game, or any other dish? 
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth of beautiful soup?"
Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland

For more culinary inspiration...

Cook The Books

139 Richmond Road (corner Norfolk St)
Grey Lynn,
New Zealand
Monday to Friday – 10am to 6pm
Saturday and Sunday – 10am to 4pm

If you like soup you might like these:
Spiced Roast Carrot and Lentil Soup with Toasted Dukkah Flat Breads


20 May 2012

Carrot, Spinach and Dill Soup

Soup, the epitome of comfort food.  Nourishing, heart warming it can soothe the sole and make all seem well in the world or at the very least a little better. This one is filling, yet light and bright and most definitely checks the good for you box.  The broth is infused with garlic, chilli and turmeric, so it is full of flavour with a little heat from the chilli and an earthy depth, not to mention a wonderful golden hue, from the turmeric.

Turmeric, sometimes known as Indian saffron, is actually a rhizome from the ginger family. Once the root is pulled from the ground it is boiled in slightly alkaline water to help stabilise the colour and it is then dried.  It becomes rock hard once dried and very difficult to grind so mostly we buy it already ground.  If you do want to try fresh turmeric you may be able to find it at local Asian grocers. It will deliver a more pungent flavour than the ground turmeric, just be sure to wear gloves to avoid bright yellow fingers.

The chives and dill add a welcome herbal infusion that make this not only a satisfying, but aromatic bowl of soup.

Carrot, Spinach and Dill Soup, adapted from Whole Living

Serves 4-6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 pinch chilli flakes
1 tsp turmeric
6 carrots, diced
Salt and pepper
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
2 cups green beans, chopped
Salt and pepper
For each serving
1 cup baby spinach
2 tbsp dill, 
2 tbsp chives, chopped

To garnish
Lemon zest
Lemon juice
Sliced red chilli

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based saucepan over a medium low heat and then add the onion, season with a little pinch of salt, and sauté for a few minutes before adding the garlic and chilli.  Sauté for another 5 minutes and then add the turmeric.  Give everything a good stir and sauté for another moment.  Add the carrot and stir everything together.

Add the chicken stock and water, season with salt and pepper and simmer over a medium low heat for 30 minutes.  Add the green beans and simmer for a moment or 2 more just until the beans are cooked through but still have a little crunch.

To serve fill each bowl with spinach and sprinkle over the dill and chives.  Ladle the soup over the top, scatter a few red chilli slices and lemon zest over the top and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve immediately. 

You can keep batches of the this soup in the fridge and then when late home from work with neither the time nor really the inclination to cook, a bowl of this soup is both soothing and nourishing.  Even better it can be whipped up in a few minutes, the addition of fresh herbs deliver a wonderful green freshness that just makes you feel good.  The golden broth is light and savoury with just a little warmth from the chilli flakes and then the spinach provides the requisite does of green goodness.  There is a subtle aniseed note from the dill and a zesty sharpness from the lemon juice that add more layers of flavour making this a whole meal in a bowl. Light, bright and good for the soul, it is the perfect antidote to a long day.

If you like this you might like this Vegetable Soup
One year ago Beef Bourguignon


15 May 2012

Auckland Eats - Villa Maria

A spectacular day and what better way to enjoy a little Autumn sunshine than among the vines at Villa Maria.  Villa Maria was founded way back in 1961 and since then it has become New Zealand's most awarded winery and the do make several lovely drops.  With the vines turning russet and red it put me in the mood for a little Pinot.  We opted for the Private Bin Marlborough Pinot, fruity and bursting with ripe cherry and raspberry ending with a little spice, just perfect for an Autumn afternoon among the vines.

It was also the perfect accompaniment for our entree of wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil. They pretty much had me at truffle oil, they actually had all of us.  This was sublime...creamy, earthy wild mushrooms and that wonderfully decadent hint of truffle oil.  I could have eaten this over and over and over again, seriously the best risotto I have ever eaten.

For the main event a little crisp skinned pork belly with kumura puree, apple cider jus and beetroot and braeburn jelly. The pork belly was full of flavour, the puree silky smooth, and the jelly a little fruity, however I would have like a little crispier more crackling like skin as for me that is the real treat with pork belly.

I find desserts don't always live up to expectations, sometimes they can seem somewhat of an after thought.  Well not here, we were spoilt for choice with 3 classics on offer; individual tart tatins, creme brûlée and warm chocolate pudding.  Now usually creme brûlée would be the winner for me, being a long time favourite but for some reason the tart tatin was calling my name.  And I am very glad that I followed my instincts.  How can I describe it?  The pastry was light & golden, caramelized a little around the edges from the caramel like apples and to top it all off a little vanilla ice cream, just beginning to melt atop the warm tart tatin, and a little drizzle of creme anglaise.  One heavenly dessert and it would be worth the trip alone.

So if you are up for an afternoon among the vines and are in Auckland, a trip out to Villa Maria would be an afternoon well spent. Bookings are highly recommended and it was packed to the rafters the afternoon we were there so I would definitely take their recommendation to book ahead.

Villa Maria Auckland Winery
118 Montgomerie Rd

Ph 09 255 1777


12 May 2012

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Tarts

Autumn is a wonderful season in New Zealand, the mornings and evenings may be a little cooler but the days are still quite spectacular.  It was my turn for Supper Club and the theme of the menu went from tapas to Italian to Mexican, all which could have had a seasonal twist but I  finally ended up with what can only be described as Autumnal.  Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Tarts followed by slow cooked porchetta with braised red cabbage, buttery lemony Brussels sprouts and honey thyme carrots, and then for dessert spiced poached pears with a blackberry syrup and a dollop of clotted cream.

For me the star performer of the evening was the Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Tart.  It was always going to be a front runner being from Ottolenghi and it is only fair to share it.

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Tarts, adapted only slightly from Ottolenghi

Serves 6


1 large sweet potato
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
6 tbsp sour cream
2-3 red chillies, diced50g soft goat cheese
3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper


Pre heat the oven to 200C/400F

Bake the sweet potato in its skin for about 45 minutes until almost cooked through but still firm in the centre. Test with a skewer.  Cool and then peel and thinly slice.

While the sweet potato is baking roll out the puff pastry between 2 sheets of grease proof paper and cut in to 6 rectangles.  Lightly score a 1cm border on each pastry.  Place on baking tray, a centimetre or 2 between each one, lined with grease proof paper and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and brush with the beaten egg.  Spread a layer of sour cream on each pastry within the scored border and then top with the slices of sweet potato, slightly overlapping.  Season with salt and pepper and then sprinkle each with a little chilli, goat cheese and pumpkin seeds.  Bake in the oven at 190C/375F for 25 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and golden.

While the tarts are cooking mix together the olive oil, garlic and parsley and set aside. Remove the tarts from the oven and brush them with the olive oil mixture and serve immediately with a little rocket salad on the side.

Despite being tarts topped with potato these are incredibly light.  The sweetness of the potato pairing wonderfully well with the fiery chilli and the creamy goat cheese and not to forget a welcome crunch from the pumpkin seeds.  However what sets these tarts apart is the garlic and parsley infused olive oil. It adds such a brightness and that sharp hit of fresh garlic just explodes in your mouth. These little tarts will most definitely be making a few encore appearance.

If you like this you might like this Greens & Roast Pumpkin Salad with Kikorangi & Candied Chilli Pecans
One year ago Merguez & a little Cardo Verde (Portuguese Soup)


08 May 2012

Fennel Sausage and Chard Spaghetti

I think out Indian Summer may well be over.  Today it has been a little more of the wet and wild we be expecting at this time of year.  However, the weekend was a completely different story, clear blue skies and sunshine.  Given we are nearing the end of Autumn we most certainly can't complain.  There is something about bright sunshiny days that we appreciate so much more than during Summer when we have a daily expectation that every day should be just so.  At this time of year each warm sunny day is both a lovely bonus and a welcome surprise to be savoured before we head in to the depths of Winter*  Savour and enjoy it we did, outside basking in the afternoon rays, among the vines at Villa Maria enjoying some fantastic food, a lovely Pinot and great company.

*That may be a slight exaggeration and probably more accurate in the deep south rather than Auckland. How on earth I survived Scottish Winters in student flats with the central heating severely rationed I do not know.

That being said, the nights are cooler and perfect for a warming bowl of pasta in a rich tomato sauce, spiked with a little chilli and sweet fennel sausage.  Even the cooler climes have their perks and a hearty pasta is most definitely one of them.

Fennel Sausage and Chard Spaghetti

Serves 2


2 tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
Pinch chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
2 fennel sausages, skin removed and broken in to small pieces*
Bunch chard, roughly chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes, or 1 jar Sabato cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Wholewheat spaghetti for 2

* I used Salumeria Fontana Sweet Fennel Sausages but it would also work with their Spicy Fennel Sausages or your won favourite sausage.  The fennel does add a lovely aniseed note so if you can get some sort of fennel sausage I highly recommend it.

**Well spotted no Parmesan in the photos.  A batch of poppy seed crackers, more on those at a later date, used almost all I had and then the very last morsel went on the bowl I had for dinner the previous night.


Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, rosemary, chilli and cumin.  Sauté for a couple of minutes to all the garlic and spices to release their aromas and infuse the oil. Add the fennel sausages and sauté until they are browned.  Add the chard and cook for 5 minutes until wilted.  Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cover, turn down the heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water until el dente, with just a little bite.  I usually cook for a few minutes less than on any packet instructions.

Drain the pasta and and add it to the sauce.  Stir to combine everything together, pile on plates and and grate some fresh Parmesan over the top.

This pasta is perfect for an dark and windy Autumn evening, savoury, rustic and heartwarming.  The pasta delivering its welcome enveloping comfort all wrapped up in a rich sweet tomato sauce with just a hint of heat from the chilli flakes.  The greens provide the requisite veg but the star of the show are those sweet fennel sausages, with just the right note of sweetness shining through.  The only thing that can make this pasta better is a glass of something red!

If you like this you might like this What To Do With an Abundance of Greens
One year ago Chocolate Brownies

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