30 July 2012

Favourite Bites and Bobs - July 2012

And another month comes to close and we are now only a matter of weeks away from Spring and asparagus!!  Here are some favourite bites and bobs from July.
The food at Golden Dawn.  This is bar food taken to a whole new level.  Must tries include  the smoked garlic butter and bread and the St Agur blue cheese and pears with real McVities Digestives biscuits (yes the real deal no cheap imitations here!).  No one does digestives like McVities.  Other than that is one of my favourite bars, it may be on the Ponsonby strip but it is quite un-Ponsonby.  Relaxed and a little alternative with a great outdoor area, it is a hidden funky little gem.
Golden Dawn, Crossroads of Ponsonby and Richmond Road, Auckland. The entrance an unobtrusive green door just around the corner on Richmond Road.

Energiser Breakfast at Catroux....the pumpernickel rye was incredible....rich, treacly topped with pickled beetroot, smoked salmon, rocket, cottage cheese and avocado.  Along with a good strong long black the perfect start to the day.
Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate with Almonds....now all we need is a dark version of the berry biscuit....
The wonders of Scottish food... great food in Glasgow...including all the Scottish classics. 
Grown up Ice Cream from Dash and Bella Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Caramel Swirl Ice Cream, and that would be salted caramel....need I say more?  This goes to the top of the ever growing list of ice creams that must be made.

Nigella’s Salted Caramel Sauce - decadence in 5 minutes so what is not to love? The easiest caramel sauce to make and beyond delicious....warmed and drizzled over ice cream, heavenly or topping off a little apple tarte tatin.  I warn you though that is quite addictive.
My heavily laden lemon tree.

Monthly Mingle....you’ve still got time, this month is bright and yellow as a tribute to Barbara Harris, a lovely food blogger who sadly passed away after along battler with cancer. I didn’t know her well, but she always had a kind word  & reading all the tribute posts that’s just how she was, a wonderful warm woman.

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative.  
                                                                                                             Woody Allen
Wise & inspiring words from Rosa, please read. 

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen....for a welcome does of British humour, not to mention a little Ewan McGregor.  It will uplift your spirits and you’ll leave the theatre smiling.
NZ Film Festival....so far so good with no Tree of Life experiences! NZFF has to be one of the best things about Winter and there's still a week to go if you haven't managed to get along to any movies already.
  • Bernadette - Notes on a Political Journey, a fascinating documentary on Bernadette Devlin, a feisty Irish woman and the youngest female MP in Parliament back in 1969.
  • The Angels' Share, hilarious and heartwarming Scottish comedy with a wee dram thrown in for good measure.
  • Marley - amazing and full of so many interesting and funny characters. So very sad that this life was cut so short, when so much good could have come from him being around a just a little bit longer.
  • Last Days Here, in a word insane! An aging rocker from the 70's battling decades of drug addiction to get his life back and stage a comeback. 
  • Killer Joe, also a little insane.  A violent, very violent, at times hilarious, darkly black hilarious, roller coaster of a movie with Matthew McConoaughey playing a laconic menacing, cop with a side line in murder for hire. Not for the faint hearted.

Italian issue of Taste...bursting with Italian inspiration. Some pasta making is imminent.

The latest addition to the bookshelf: The Vintage Tea Party Book...it has inspired me in to action and a pot luck afternoon tea party is on the calendar in a couple of weeks with some fellow food bloggers.  My Gran’s Wedgwood will finally get an outing!

28 July 2012

Apple, Orange & Thyme Tart

Pastry....one of my kitchen nemesis.  It has always seemed the realm of my mum, my gran or the expert baker. I may be getting better but an expert baker I am not! My first foray was this gruyere pastry which turned out a treat, it is rich, short and cheesy and perfect for all sorts of creamy fillings. 

To take my nemesis head on I jumped at the chance at a pastry making class at Cook at Cook the Books.  I highly recommend it if you are like me a little pastry shy. We covered off shortcrust pastry with lard (yes lard!), Italian chocolate pastry and this cream cheese pastry.  It is so easy!! 3 ingredients and the result is a short, crumbly delightfully light little buttery pastry.  If I can make it anyone can and it really does taste better than the bought stuff.  There will be no more of that for me. Added to that versatility as it is perfect for savoury or sweet.  Sweet prevailed today with a simple apple tart.
Apple, Orange and Thyme Tart
Serves 4-6
Cream Cheese Pastry
115g / 4oz / 1 stick butter
85g / 3oz cream cheese
125g flour / 4.5oz
Apple filling
3-4 apples
1 tbsp butter
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp vanilla essence
Zest of 1 Orange
Juice of half an orange
1 tsp thyme leaves plus extra to garnish
2-3 tsp raw brown sugar
A round or rectangular tart tin buttered or sprayed with a little oil.

For the pastry
Bring the butter and cream cheese to room temperature and place in a food processor.  Blend together and then add the flour and mix until combined. Turn the pastry out on to a floured surface and gently knead until it comes together.  Wrap in cling film and refrigerate overnight or chill in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
When ready to use roll out the pastry on a floured surface until a about 3mm thick and then place in your prepared tart tin and trim the edges.  Chill the pastry again for 20-30 minutes before baking.
While the pastry is resting and chilling pre heat your oven to 190C / 375F and prepare the apples.
Peel, quarter and slice the apples and place in a large saucepan with the butter, sugar, honey, vanilla essence, zest and juice.  Warm over a low heat for  10 minutes.  Add the thyme leaves for the last 5 minutes.  Set aside and allow to cool.
Remove the pastry from the fridge and carefully layer the apple slices, reserving the syrup.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and cooked through.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, sprinkle with a few thyme leaves, before slicing and serving.

The pastry is light and wonderfully short and buttery, it just melts in the mouth.  The apples are sweet, with a hint of orange and the thyme provides a lovely herbal note that just takes the edge off the sweetness. Perfect with a cuppa on a lazy afternoon or as dessert with with a dollop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of the syrup.

This is my entry for Sweet New Zealand being hosted Bridget by over at After Taste.

If you like this you might like this Chocolate Caramel Tart
One year ago Salmon and Dill Tart
Two years ago Supper Club

24 July 2012

Chicken Curry

This was meant to be somewhat different, but it all came down to what was in the pantry and fridge, rather then what I thought was in there.  It was going to be an authentic Lahori Chicken Curry that I found on Leite’s Culinaria.  It appealed as it made think me of Hilda.  Hilda was the receptionist at the local surgery, where Dad was  a GP, when I was born.  So yes we are going back quite a few years.  Hilda was like an extra Grandmother, all the more exotic having been born in Lahore.  Her father I think was in the Black Watch and she was full of stories.  I used to visit on the way home from school or we would sometimes go out to lunch to the Stirling Arms, one of the local hotels in Dunblane.  It felt most grown up to have lunch in a hotel.

This is a dish for a lazy weekend to simmer all those wonderful spices and let their exotic aromas waft through this house.  It looks like a long list of ingredients, well actually it is a long list of ingredients, but none of them are too hard to find, you may be like me and even have them all on hand in the pantry.  With chicken and potatoes it makes for hearty dinner that won’t leave you wanting.
Chicken Curry
Serves 4
800g chicken thighs
4 medium agria potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 tsp turmeric
Pinch chilli flakes
Pinch salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
8 green cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
2 whole dried red chiles
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds 
1 tbsp garam masala
1 onions, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 fresh red chilli, cut in half
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp turmeric
Pinch chilli flakes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon


Place the chicken, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of the turmeric, pinch of chilli flakes  and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Mix well to coat the chicken and potatoes with the spices. Set aside while you make the sauce.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, black peppercorns, red chillies, coriander, and cumin seeds. Cook over a medium high heat just for a moment or two to allow the seeds and spices to release their aromas.
Add the garam masala, onion, garlic, ginger and the red chilli.  Season with salt and fry for about 5 minutes over a medium heat until everything begins to brown.  If it is all browning a little too quickly turn down the heat.
Remove the cinnamon stick and red chilli.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine with the vegetables and fry for a minute.  Add the can of tomatoes, turmeric, chilli flakes and season with a little pinch of salt.  Stir well and then add the coconut milk.  Stir again and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for a few moments, remove from the heat and then blend with a stick mixer.
Meanwhile heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan and add the chicken and potatoes.  Brown over a medium high heat for 3-5 minutes.  Add the chicken and potatoes to the sauce and return to the heat.  Simmer on low for 30-40 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through and the sauce has thickened.  Just before serving stir in the lemon juice and coriander.  Serve with steamed rice*
*For perfect rice head over here
Rich, aromatic and just a little spicy.  I would like to try it the original way with yoghurt, however coconut cream does add a wonderful richness.

If you like this you might like this Curried Beef Stew

21 July 2012

Bookshelf: Ottolenghi's Plenty & a Sweet Winter Slaw

I have a few cookboooks, well more than a few.  Amongst them are a handful, quite a large handful, that I return to again and again.  They are like good friends; inspiring, comforting, nourishing, satisfying always on hand to brighten ones day.
Plenty by Ottolenghi is one of those books.  He is an alchemist with flavours and seems able to continuously come up with new flavour combinations that never cease to amaze and tantalise the taste buds. I have yet to come across an Ottolenghi recipe that doesn’t delight. Plenty is bursting with innovative, flavourful vegetarian recipes from each and every season.

This sweet winter slaw is the perfect antidote to a cold, grey winter’s day, not to mention the excess of sausage rolls and chocolate consumed this week.  Vibrant colours, bright flavours; it can only brighten your day and wake up your taste buds.  You could leave  out the macadamias, but that would be bordering on sacrilegious.  They are crunchy, sweet, spicy, quite delectable and terribly moreish.  My recommendation would be to make a double batch of these and have them on hand as a snack to munch on.  I promise you wont be disappointed.
Sweet Winter Slaw, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty
Serves six.
For the dressing
100ml lime juice
1 lemon grass, chopped into small pieces
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp chilli flakes
4 tbsp light olive oil
For the salad
150g macadamia nuts
10g butter
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli flakes
7 inner leaves Savoy cabbage (170g), shredded
½ red cabbage (270g), shredded
1 mango, peeled, stoned and cut into thin strips
1 papaya, peeled, deseeded and cut into strips
1 red chilli, deseeded and cut into thin slices
15g fresh mint leaves
20g fresh coriander leaves

For the dressing: place all the ingredients except the olive oil into a small saucepan over a medium low heat.  Cook and reduce for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dressing is thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. When cooled strain in to a bowl.  Add the olive oil and stir to combine.
For the macadamias: heat a frying pan over medium high heat and add the macadamias.  Dry roast for just a few moments, moving around the pan until lightly coloured on all sides.  Keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t catch.  Add the butter allow it to melt before adding the sugar, salt and chilli. With a wooden spoon stir constantly, to keep the nuts coated in the sugar as it caramelises. It will just take a moment or 2.  Again be careful as they will burn easily.  Remove the nuts from the pan to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Allow them to cool and then roughly chop them.
For the salad: place the shredded cabbage in to a large mixing bowl and add the rest of the salad ingredients. Drizzle with the dressing and toss it all together to coat the salad.  Taste and season to taste.  Serve immediately.
Love!  As is pretty much standard for anything Ottolenghi. He make it very hard not to wax lyrical.  The dressing is the perfect mix of spicy, sweet and sour and the salad bright and full of crunch with a burst of fruity sweetness from the mango and papaya.  The herbs add a freshness and the chillies a little heat.  And then there are those macadamias.  Sweet, toasty, crunchy and spiked with chilli they make this quite a special salad and on their own an addictive snack.

If you like this you might like this Herb Soup

16 July 2012

Walnut, Lemon and Cardamom Cake

For this Month’s Monthly Mingle it is a taste of yellow tribute to Barbara from Foodies & Winos, who sadly passed away losing a long battle with cancer.  I didn’t know Barbara well but when whenever we did chat she only ever had kind words and a warm heart.  All the wonderful posts and tributes of the last few weeks are testament to what a lovely woman she was.
So given my heavily laden lemon tree it had to be something with lemon.  I have a few cookbooks so some do end up at the back of the shelf gathering dust rarely seeing the light of day.  That is until I came across Eat Your Books.  My very own virtual cookbook shelf.  So I cam just pop in “lemon cake”, hit search and all the lemon cake recipes in all my cookbooks appear. 60 in all, so yes maybe I have more than a few cookbooks.  However, until I have as many as Nigella, I have convinced myself I don’t have too many! Eat Your Books is a great way to lead you to dust off some of those cookbooks gathering a little too much dust.

I had the pick of frosty lemon cakes, golden lemon coconut cakes, lemon meringue cake, lemon poppy seed cake, lemon verbena cake just to name a few.  However I couldn’t help but stop at walnut, lemon and cardamom cake from Moro The Cookbook. This time Eat Your Books had lead me back to one of my favourite books that rarely gets a chance to gather dust, but on other occasions it has lead me to discover some hidden gems lurking at the back of the bookshelves.
Who could go past this flavour combination?  I love lemon and I love cardamom so  there was no contest.  It is also gluten free if you are ever looking for a lovely dessert sans gluten.
Walnut Lemon & Cardamom Cake

230g / 8oz butter
230g / 8oz sugar
175g / 6oz walnuts, chopped, some very fine and some rough
175g / 6oz blanched almonds, chopped, some very fine and some rough
3 eggs
160g polenta
1 level tsp baking powder
Zest of 1.5-2 lemons
Juice of 2 large lemons
3-4 (or more) tsp of ground cardamom


Preheat oven to 160C / 325F. 
Spray a 25cm / 10inch spring-form pan with a little oil and line with baking paper and place on a baking sheet.

Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mix and beat together until they are light 
and very pale.  Stir in the walnuts and almonds and then add the eggs one at a time.  Add the polenta, baking powder, lemon zest and juice and cardamom to taste.  So add a little cardamom at a time. You are looking for a balance between the cardamom and lemon, but it does all come down to personal taste.* 

Spoon the mixture in to the prepared tin and place in the oven for about 90 minutes.  When ready the cake will be golden on top and just firm in the middle.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack before removing from the tin.
*Cardamom is a quite an intense flavour. It is very aromatic and one that I love so I added about 4 teaspoons.  For less intensity just add a little less, however a good hit of cardamon does add a wonderfully exotic note to this cake.
Perfect on its own or served with a dollop of yoghurt.  It is a crumbly cake so don’t fret if you don’t have the perfect slice, it really is all about the flavour and with this cake the texture too.  Every bite is a happy party of tastes and textures.  The flavours are wonderful, the fragrant cardamom and the brightness of all that lemon are a perfect match. And then there is all that nutty goodness that make this one quite exceptional cake, the polenta adding another layer of texture to boot.

This is my entry for the Monthly Mingle set up by Meeta over at What’s for Lunch Honey? and this month hosted by Jeanne over at Cook Sister.

If you like this you might like this Walnut, Honey and Orange Blossom Cake


12 July 2012

Auckland Eats - Catroux

We had ventured to Catroux not long after it opened and we were impressed with the coffee and the eggs first time round, so last Friday it was time for a revisit.  It really is a lovely spot. Simple elegance prevails with whitewashed walls and floor to ceiling windows making it bright and light on a chilly but sunny Auckland winter morning.  I love the simplicity and it certainly allows the giant bowls of salads and pretty cakes to shine.  They are certainly tempting and will mean another visit is definitely in order for some lunchtime treats, but for now we were here for our Friday breakfast.  

Even at 7:45 on a Friday morning it was busy but we secured our table and ordered coffee which hit the spot, hot and strong.  The breakfast menu is a little different, fresh and seasonal with their own twist.  I was tempted by the omelette, yes I seem to be an omelette convert and now I can’t seem to get enough of them.  This particular variation was haloumi, basil, prosciutto and caramelised onion, see what I mean?  Very very tempting.  However I could not go past the energiser.  I thought it might deliver the final blow to a lingering lurgy that I just can’t seem to shift.  For breakfast buddy the ham off the bone with soft gruyere scramble and slow roasted tomatoes.

The energiser was also a little different to the usual breakfast fare on offer. Smoked salmon, cottage cheese, rocket, avocado and pickled beetroot all piled atop toasted pumpernickel bread.  Bright fresh flavours, the pickled beetroot delivering a welcome sharpness alongside the creamy avocado and cottage cheese and cutting through the richness of the salmon.  The real star though is the pumpernickel bread, just so wonderfully rich and dark , with a little treacly sweetness the perfect companion to all the other light and bright flavours on the plate.  For future visits it will be hard to go past this one.

As for the eggs....well I think the words “divine” and “heavenly” featured.  A wee taste and I understand why, the gruyere takes them to a quite ambrosial level of scramble.  Rich and creamy doesn’t really begin to cover it.  The ham and the slow roasted tomato add the perfect amount of salt and acid to make this another quite wonderful breakfast dish.

The staff are friendly and full of smiles and that combined with fresh, seasonal delicious food makes it one of Auckland’s perfect spots for breakfast or brunch. So me thinks there could well be quite a few return visits.
129 Westend Road, Westmere 1022
Mon - Fri 6.45am - 4pm
Sat 7.30am - 4pm
Sun 8am - 4pm

09 July 2012

In Season: Pasta with Kale and Cashew Pesto

I do love my winter greens. They just look so wonderfully nourishing, almost shouting “I am so good for you” in all their dark green glory. So robust, paying  no heed to the cold that other  vegetables just cannot survive. Some nourishing seriously required of late as some particularly lingering lurgy going around this season.  I don’t know many people not knocked around by the current Winter bug doing the rounds, everyone has a tale to tell of its virulence and longevity.  Thankfully  2 weeks in and I think I am almost at the end of it.  Lots of tea, gallons of honey, lemon and ginger, the odd hot toddy* and a few doses of Winter greens have all helped  see me through to the other side. This is a great way to whizz up some greens retaining all there green goodness. The mildness of the cashews works well with the more intensely flavoured greens.

*Nigel Slater’s hot toddy work a treat and was quite delicious and you can find it here.
Pasta with Kale and Cashew Pesto
Makes about 1 cup
½ cup cashews, toasted
1 small garlic clove, minced
3-4 packed cups kale, roughly chopped
¼ cup Parmesan, grated
Zest of half a lemon
½ – 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the cashews. Toast for just a couple of minutes until they are just turning golden and then set them aside to cool.
Add the cashews, garlic, kale, Parmesan and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you have rough paste.  With the motor running drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream until you get the consistency that you like.  I used about 3/4 of a cup.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  
Stir through pasta with just a splash of the pasta water and sprinkle with a little Parmesan for a speedy weeknight dinner.

If you have a batch of this in the fridge you can have dinner on the table in minutes.  For me the pasta provides the comfort and the greens the requisite goodness. The pesto coasts the pasta in its vibrant green hue, the cashews mellowing the slight bitterness of the kale to make for a very satisfying bowl of comfort food to nourish and revitalise both body and soul.  
If you like this you might like this Cavolo Nero and Ricotta Bruschetta

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