28 September 2012

Bookshelf: Asparagus Mimosa, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

If you have read this you will know that asparagus has arrived.  I just cannot get enough of it.  I anticipate it’s arrival, become almost giddy when it does get here and enjoy it as much as I can until it leaves us for another year.  It just wouldn’t be the same if we were able to get our mitts on it all year round.  It would lose its allure, there would be no anticipation of those first delectable green spears, no excitement at their first appearance heralding lighter, sunnier days, BBQs, chilled glasses of rose.  It is one of the joys of working with mother nature and the seasons. Mother does after all always know best.

I had spied this take on asparagus in Plenty last year and didn’t quite get around to it.  Just a quick browse and again so inspired....so many other recipes that I want to try and that’s before we even get to his new book just hitting the shelves, Jerusalem.  I can attest that Jerusalem doesn’t disappoint. So there is likely a little of an Ottolenghi phase heading this way very soon. If you are looking for inspiring cooking I cannot recommend any Ottolenghi book enough, he really is just a genius when it comes to flavours, new or complex or incredibly simple like this asparagus Mimosa, best made with the tender spears that are first to make an appearance.

Asparagus Mimosa, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty


Serves 4 as a starter

2 eggs
2 bunches asparagus
2 tbsp olive oil, I used Moon Over Martinborough
2 tsp capers, drained
1 tsp sea salt
Black pepper


Place the the eggs in a pot of boiling water and simmer for 9 minutes.  After 9 minutes remove the eggs from the pot and place them in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes to stop them cooking.  Remove from the water and allow them to cool completely.  Once cool peel the eggs and grate them on a coarse grater.

To prepare the asparagus gently bend the stems until the woodier bottom breaks off.  Being clever little spears they will break at exactly the right place.  Pop the asparagus in to a pot of salted boiling water and and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.  Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the spears.

Drain the asparagus and divide between 4 bowls.  Drizzle with olive oil, scatter over the capers and season with salt and pepper.  Lastly top with the grated egg,  leaving the glistening green tips visible.


This is simplicity at its best.  Tender green asparagus, perfectly hard boiled egg and a sharp briny tang from the capers.  For me the perfect Spring breakfast, brunch or lunch.

If you like this you might like First Spring Asparagus


25 September 2012

Favourite Bites & Bobs September 2012


Very moreish flat bread doused on za'atar olive oil & fresh herbs

After A Taste of Persia at Cook the Books and getting my mitts on Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem things have taken a turn for the exotic at Casa Cardwell.

The colour of this Za’atar Spiced Beet Dip from Smith Bites...the vibrant magenta hue along side chilli, maple, spring onions and za’atar make for one exotic and flavourful dip.

Grilled Saffron Beef Kebabs from Aidia Mollenkamp. Beef is marinated in saffron, garlic, onion and lime, then grilled and wrapped in lavash with grilled tomatoes, onion, yoghurt and coriander.  Perfect for these warmer sunnier evenings. 

District Dining, Britomart, Auckland - for something a little different.  Sharing plates of crispy pigs ears with Szechuan salt, mussel fritters with preserved lemon mayonnaise, veal tongue, sweetbreads, mushrooms and smoked aioli and steak tartare with aioli, french fries and toast.

Crispy Pigs Ears with Szechuan Salt

Veal Tongue, Sweetbreads, Mushrooms & Smoked Aioli 

I would imagine you would find a bottle of Lea & Perrins in most British pantries.  Wonderfully savoury and perfect drizzled over grilled cheese.  I have never made my own but will be giving this one a whirl from Hannah over at Blue Kale Road.

Asparagus has arrived so more than likely there will be many encore performances, I just can’t get enough of these fresh green spears.


Bobs has become a little wordy this month....for some great notes on blogging and writing check out these.

The Write Stuff for Bloggers from Lucy over at The Kitchen Maid
And if you want more head on over to Will Write for Food.
And if you want to know why writing about food is important read this.

And here are some people that do it really well, wonderful wordsmiths. All unique, all authentic and all a real pleasure to read.

Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem - a must, must have purchase and so far, just as inspiring as Ottolenghi The Cook Book and Plenty.  So far I have tried the Chicken with Caramelised Onion and Cardamom Rice and the Lamb Shawarma.  Both have been, well delicious.  The chicken fragrant and comforting enveloped in the cardamom spiked rice, brightened by a large handful of fresh herbs.  The lamb shawarma, spiced lamb topped with a fresh salad of tomato, cucumber and lemon encased in pita will be the perfect way to feed a crowd this Summer.

And for a does of common sense Ruhlman on what is good for you. "Snake Oil Pills Proven to Prolong Life & Ensure You're Ready Whenever the Moment's Right" !!

Despite being terribly overgrown my garden can still look ever so pretty in the morning light.

20 September 2012

{Just Photos} A Taste Of Persia at Cook the Books

I would appear to be a glutton, not for punishment but for really good food.  Post a weekend in Wellington for Wellington on a Plate and our second annual NZ Food Bloggers Conference I found myself back in Auckland and at Cook the Books for a cooking class - A Taste of Persia.

I couldn’t miss this one as it has been a long time coming, a case of the third time is indeed a charm.  I was curious, as I’m not familiar with the cuisine and flavours of Persia, but a feeling that it could only be fragrant and exotic and it was with saffron, dried limes, cinnamon, dried rose buds and fresh herbs.

Iranian or Persian cuisine is one of the world’s oldest and shares history and ingredients with its neighbours the Mediterranean and Iraq leading to fragrant, aromatic dishes that meld sweet and savoury in some wonderfully flavourful and exotic dishes.

First up za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice blend made with toasted sesame seeds, dried herbs, sumac and salt.  The blend of herbs and proportions  vary from region to region so flavours can range from nutty to tangy to more herbal to salty, so blend to suit your own taste.  Whip up a batch in no time and it will keep for up to 6 months.



1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp dried marjoram
2 tbsp dried oregano 
2 tbsp dried thyme
1/4 cup sumac


Place the sesame seeds in mortar and pestle along with the salt which will help get the grinding going.  Grind and then add all the other ingredients and mix well to combine.  Store in an air tight container in a cool dark place for up to 6 months.

In Iran za’atar it is often mixed with olive oil and spread on flat bread for breakfast or used as a dipping spice for bread.  It is also used to spice up meat and vegetables or sprinkled on labneh or even scattered over fried eggs.  So most definitely a versatile little spice blend to have on hand.  I am also thinking za’atar roasted potatoes would go down a treat alongside the Sunday roast.

I can also attest that it is terribly moreish mixed with olive oil and mint and spread over flatbreads. They will most definitely be a regular for the upcoming BBQ season.

Another tasty morsel was the smokey aubergine with tomato, a rustic spread with roasted aubergine, tomato, coriander, cayenne, garlic and olive oil.  This would also be good with the aforementioned flatbreads.

Next up Persian Potato Pancakes or Kookoo.  Potato and pancakes, for me that can only be a good thing and these were indeed good, well more than good.  They are like an exotic potato scone.  Yes, in Scotland we can even make scones from potato.  It was a regular from my Dad on a Sunday afternoon.  Left over potatoes, mashed, add a little butter and roll out before frying and then slathering in more butter....need I say more??

For this more exotic variation potatoes are boiled, shredded and mixed with coriander, turmeric, saffron and garlic before being shaped in to patties and fried until golden brown. Served with a cucumber yogurt sauce sprinkled with rose buds for an exotic note, these were almost as moreish as the flat breads.  A love of potatoes is inbuilt in to my Celtic genes so I don’t think there was ever any doubt that I could scoff quite a lot of these.

But there’s more, of course there’s more! One never, ever goes hungry at Cook the Books. And pre the finale as it were a Persian Zucchini Frittata or Kuku Kadoo.  This is no ordinary frittata, turmeric and ginger make it something quite special and elevate the zucchini to something a little exotic, so one to bookmark for the Summer zucchini glut.  A  perfect lunch served alongside a Shirazi Salad.  A bright, fresh mix of cucumber, red onion, parsley and tomatoes dressed with olive oil and lemon juice.

And for the grand finale Albaloo Polo, loving all these names.  What is albaloo polo, well that would be Sour Cherry Rice which is not only a stunning and vibrant centre piece but oh so flavourful.  Rice is cooked (perfectly) with saffron to deliver an vibrant yellow hue and an earthy depth, that is then layered with sour cherries and toasted almonds.

Alongside the rice Fesenjoon which is one of the oldest recipes, its history dating back to the time of the Persian Empire.  Duck or chicken is cooked in a rich and potent pomegranate and walnut sauce.  Turmeric, cardamom, dried limes, saffron, allspice and cinnamon add layers and layers of flavour..  Certainly fit for an exotic feast!

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

18 September 2012

In Season: Asparagus & Herb Frittata

Hello asparagus! Oh how excited I get about the appearance of these delicate green spears.  Their is something magical about their arrival,  marking the changing of the season, they really do mean Winter is passed and Spring has well and truly arrived with sunshine on the way. They will no doubt be making regular appearances here as they are want to do each and every Spring. We get to enjoy these delicate green spears until early Summer in any number of ways...dunked in a soft boiled egg, shaved in to a salad, in a fresh lemony pasta, pasta, grilled, alongside a dollop of hollandaise, wrapped in a little prosciutto...the list could go on and on.

My new assistant (Sorry Lucy I couldn't help myself!)

Back in the day if Roman Emperor Augustus wanted something done quickly he would command it be done "citius quam asparagi coquintur"  That would be "quicker than you can cook asparagus". This is good advice, so whichever way you choose to cook asparagus do it quickly.  A few minutes is all that is needed.  At the beginning of the season you can even bypass cooking all together as raw it is perfectly crisp and sweet and a welcome addition to any salad.

Marcel Proust, I think, perfectly sums up the magical (and not so magical!) qualities of asparagus...
“... asparagus, tinged with ultramarine and rosy pink which ran from their heads, finely stippled in mauve and azure, through a series of imperceptible changes to their white feet, still stained a little by the soil of their garden-bed: a rainbow-loveliness that was not of this world. I felt that these celestial hues indicated the presence of exquisite creatures who had been pleased to assume vegetable form, who, through the disguise which covered their firm and edible flesh, allowed me to discern in this radiance of earliest dawn, these hinted rainbows, these blue evening shades, that precious quality which I should recognise again when, all night long after a dinner at which I had partaken of them, they played (lyrical and coarse in their jesting as the fairies in Shakespeare’s Dream) at transforming my humble chamberpot into a bower of aromatic perfume.”   
Marcel Proust

Asparagus & Herb Frittata

Serves 4


1 knob butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
8 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp creme fraiche
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated
1/4 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 bunch asparagus*

*As this was fresh, thin first season asparagus there was no need to blanch. If later in the season, or thicker asparagus, Blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling salted water and then plunge in to iced water to stop them cooking and to keep them that lovely bright Spring green before laying in to the egg mixture.

Lots of herbs


Pre heat oven to 170C / 335F

Heat the butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Add the shallot, season with a pinch of salt, and cook over a medium low heat for a few minutes until it is translucent, add the garlic and sauté for a few moments more.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche, Parmesan and season with salt and pepper.  When the onions and garlic are cool add the egg mixture and the chopped herbs and mix well together.

Heat a small non-stick, ovenproof frying pan or skillet over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Swirl it around in the pan to coat the bottom and sides.  Add the egg mixture and lower the heat.  Lay the asparagus spears like the spokes of a wheel.  Cook the frittata stove top for 10 minutes before transferring to the oven for 5-10 minutes until just cooked through.

Let the frittata cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before turning it out.  Place a plate over the top of the pan and invert the frittata on to it.  Allow the frittata to cool. Serve at room temperature.

This will be my lunch for the next couple of days along with some salad.  Spring is in the air and it is time for more salad with Summer around the corner and potential visits to the beach!  This is light and airy, the asparagus sweet and still a little crunchy and a bright fresh herbal note from the parsley and basil, it really is Spring on a plate.

Gorgeous salad leaves from Huckleberry

If you like this you might like this Salmon and Asparagus Salad with a Lime Agave Vinaigrette
Two years ago Supper Club #3


15 September 2012

Peanut and Lime Chicken Noodle Salad

Ever since I saw this chicken noodle salad over at Smitten Kitchen I have had a hankering for it and with the arrival of Spring and post Wellington on Plate, our NZ Food Blogger Conference, a Persian cooking class, and a few too many lunches, a few too many vinos and my body was starting to rebel and I was most definitely in a salad frame of mind.  However not the run of the mill lettuce, tomato and cucumber that only leaves you wanting, and virtuous for only a while before an inevitable trip to the vending machine or dairy for a mid afternoon snack of the salty or chocolate variety.  So it needed to be something light but bursting with flavour and with chilli, lime, ginger and soy this salad was always going to hit the spot.  There are quite a few ingredients and a couple of sauces to make, but it doesn’t take long, and I can assure you that you will not be disappointed by all these clean, bright, flavours.

Peanut and Lime Chicken Noodle Salad, adapted, only slightly, from the Smitten Kitchen


Serves 4

Dipping sauce
6 tbsp Asian fish sauce
6 tbsp brown sugar
12 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red chilli, diced

Peanut dressing
3 tbsp Asian fish sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
9 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 one-and-a-half inch chunk ginger, peeled and sliced
6 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Pinch of cayenne

Chicken and noodle salad
4 boneless skinless chicken thighs
8 ounces dried rice noodles
1 small cucumbers, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
4 spring onion, julienned
Small handful mint, roughly chopped (you could also use coriander & basil)
1/4 cup crushed or chopped roasted peanuts
Lime wedges (to serve)


First up make the dipping sauce. Place all the ingredients in to a small bowl and whisk well together until the sugar is dissolved.  Set aside to allow the flavours to meld and develop.
For the peanut dressing place all the ingredients in to a blender or food processor and puree until you have a smooth sauce. Pour in to a serving bowl and set aside.

For the marinade stir together half the dipping sauce and one third of the peanut sauce in a baking dish.  Add the chicken and toss to coat with the marinade.  Leave the chicken to marinate for at least 15 minutes.  Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.

For the chicken stir together 1/2 the dipping sauce and 1/3 the peanut dressing (you can eyeball this) in the bottom of a low-sided bowl or dish. Add the chicken to the mixture and toss to coat. Let marinate at least 15 minutes.
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and then cool under running water.  Place in a colander and allow them drain.

Grill the chicken on a BBQ* or griddle pan until browned and cooked through.  It will take 3-4 minutes each side.  Leave the chicken to cool for a few minutes  before slicing in to bite sized pieces.
To assemble the salad pile the chicken,vegetables and lime wedges on on a large serving platter with bowls filled with the dressing and dipping sauce.  Scatter over some roasted peanuts and serve alongside bowls filled with the noodles so that everyone can help themselves.

To make up your salad pile some vegetables atop the noodles and give them a good drizzle of the dipping sauce.  Don’t be stingy as it is terribly moreish.  Top with the chicken, mint, some of the peanut dressing and some toasted peanuts.

*It may be officially spring but somewhat arctic climes have hit Auckland, we even had hail! So, sadly we have not quite hit BBQ weather just yet.

So much flavour!  That perfect sweet, sour, hot, spicy that wakens your taste buds and makes your mouth tingle.  The dipping sauce, the perfect balance of sweet and sour with a good fiery hit of chilli. The peanut sauce is savoury with a little zesty tartness from the lime and a little warmth from the ginger. The chicken, golden and tender with just a little charring alongside fresh crunchy vegetables doused in the dipping sauce makes this salad the polar opposite to run of the mill.

If you lie this you might like this Asian Slaw


10 September 2012

{Just Photos} NZ Food Bloggers Conference 2012

A couple of weeks ago I was in sunny, yes gloriously sunny, Wellington, for our second annual NZ Food Bloggers Conference and what a weekend it was.  You can read about all the food consumed all over town over here.  However that was just the tip of the iceberg on what was an inspiring, fun and food filled weekend with like with 40 or so other like minded, read somewhat food obsessed or passionate foodies. Roll on 2013... 

What better way to start, than with chocolate,  as guests of the NZ Chocolate Festival.  I discovered it is remarkably easy, not to mention enjoyable, to eat quite a lot of chocolate at 8:30 in the morning. Before the tasting a masterclass in chocolate tapas from Juan Balsani from Kermedec. My favourite chocolate is still the Bohemein Sea Salt Caramels...divine! 

Juan's chocolate tapas

Bohemein Sea Salt Caramels

On a chocolate high we headed over to Le Cordon Bleu, our home away from home for the weekend.  What a venue, I am certainly envious of the first students that started their classes there just the other week. State of the art and gleaming, it would be an inspiring place to begin some culinary adventures.

First speaker of the day Jared Gulian from Moon over Martinborough and an  inspiring tale of moving to the countryside to live among the olive groves and how a blog led to making some wonderful olive oil. That was followed by Alison Brook from Harper Collins NZ and tips on how to get a cookbook deal, a a unique point of view and authenticity are key....she was brave enough to leave her card in a room full of food bloggers.

Post lunch at The Tasting Room, back to Le Cordon Bleu, and it was Lucy Corry on “Is it blogging or writing?”  Open and forthright, as Lucy always is, and some great tips. Advice taken on board, though I may still post the odd pet photo and some work required on exclamations marks, an area I am pretty sure I am a little too liberal with!  (But see,  I only used one so I am learning, or at least editing, which was one of the key tips.) Most definitely food for thought and if you’d like to read more head over to The Kitchen Maid where Lucy has kindly posted a round up.

Before afternoon tea, yes more food, Sarah Meikle the GM of Marketing at Positively Wellington spoke to us about digital marketing and social media.  Both have been key in making Wellington the coolest little capital in the world so she knows what she is talking about.  We received some great insights on how to utlise social media and the likes, of Facebook to their full potential.

Lucy...Is it Blogging or Writing?

After more food, it was time to “meet” Emma from My Darling Lemon Thyme.   We have been online friends for a while, but it was great to almost properly meet via Skype, as Emma is over the ditch in Perth, WA. Hopefully one day we will meet in person.  Emma is a down to earth straight talking kiwi and it was great to get such honest and open feedback on what you can do to make your blog successful.  Like anything it is all about what you are willing to put in to it, like most good things they take hard work and a concerted effort.  Emma has also kindly posted a wrap up so if you want some great advice on making your blog better then head on over to My Darling Lemon Thyme.

My next breakout session was with Kaye Reardon from Grow from Here. Kaye turned to organics when her daughter developed a number of allergies and now it is a way of life. Kaye was on hand to offer organic gardening experience and advice, she is a fountain of knowledge and has inspired me to get back in to my garden.  It was pretty much neglected all of last year as cooking and blogging took over but one weekend very soon we will be out there clearing the jungle it has become to get some fresh herbs and veggies in. So the seeds from Love Plant Life will find a home and receive some TLC.

There was only one way to finish the day and that was with a little aperitif pre dinner from Ben Barton and Pop Dining who put on quite a spread. To start the evening a little Dark and Stormy from Justin McKenzie at Liquid Winks.  A delightful little tipple to start the evening off before plate after plate of tasty food.  For photos, I would suggest heading over to Lydia Bakes, my iPhone couldn’t quite cope with the night light but Lydia’s has captured the evening beautifully.

Day two and a welcome theme developing, more chocolate at 8:30 in the morning. I could get used to that, but this time Jo Coffey from L’Affaire Au Chocolat with a chocolate masterclass helping us appreciate different chocolates from around the world.  I most definitely veer towards the bitter end of the spectrum however I was won over by the chocolate coated cocoa bean.

From chocolate to fish (and not the chocolate variety...yes in NZ they have chocolate fish!) and Rachel Taulelei from Yellow Brick Road who spoke to us about sustainable fishing and seafood.  Yellow Brick Road’s commitment is to responsible, sustainable fishing. In a nutshell it is all about respect and responsibility and Rachel’s passion and enthusiasm can only help in spreading the word.  If you are in Wellington you can find Rachel at the City Market.

The best cheese scones....ever!
Morning tea on day 2 needs an honourable mention as Le Cordon Blue made the best cheese scones ever, no really that would be pretty much a unanimous decision from everyone who had 1 or 2 or 3....they deserve multiple exclamation marks, but on good advice I am editing. So light, so cheesy and yes even better than my Mum’s and that is saying something...what I would do for that recipe.

Post morning tea and little light refreshment from Joseph Taylor and the Six Barrel Soda Co .  Beautiful, naturally flavoured syrups for us to taste; ginger, kola and grapefruit and hops, a new limited edition syrup just hitting the shelves. Topped with soda they are delicate, subtle and quite delightful.  So delightful that Gourmet Gannet and I had to stop by the cafe to sample some more flavours; raspberry and lemon and cherry and pomegranate, oh and a slider too.

Cherry & Pomegranate Six Barrel Soda

More refreshment followed with Chris Archer from Archer McRae who introduced us "Bottled Happiness" and a talk on the state of the vines.  Bottled happiness is a cheeky little bottle of Ritzling which is a sparkly little Riesling.  With a squeeze of lime it will be the perfect summer tipple...it finally converted me to riesling not something I have ever been a fan of but I can say I am well and truly a convert.  Aromatic, citrusy and a little sparkle it one happy little tipple.

Pre lunch, and another mini masterclass this time with Little Penang.  This I was excited about as some of our Wellington food bloggers are regulars and tease us Aucklanders with photos and posts about this little gem. What a passionate team of people, sourcing authentic ingredients and making traditional Malaysian food that is spicy, fragrant and full of flavour.  Even better they put on lunch so we got to sample some of their wonderful dishes. A must visit next time in Wellington.

Back in to the kitchen after lunch, this time dumpling making from the Dumpling Queen,  Vicky Ha from the Dumpling House.  A little like pasta making and another reason to dust off the pasta machine as I can eat buckets of these steamed little morsels. This was so much and we all got to make our own little dumplings.  I think you’ll agree that for a first attempt not too shabby.

My first dumpling
Next up in to another of the gleaming kitchens at Le Cordon Bleu for Scare the Be-Cheeses Out of me with Alli the Gourmet Gannet.  This was a must do for me as, not one but 2 Mad Millie Cheese Kits, gathering dust at home.  Like pastry, cheese has been a bit of a nemesis for me.  Like pastry, cheese is a little scientific, and science has never been a strong suit for me. So it was time to face my fears with Alli’s class on making mozzarella.  And what a revelation, in under an hour we had fresh mozzarella, just like that.  So thanks Alli and watch this space for some adventures in cheese making.

All those lessons do take it out of you so time for a cuppa and fortunately for us John van Gorp on hand from tLeafT alongside the most gorgeous lemon macarons, again from the talented people at Le Cordon Bleu.  I am already a fan of tleafT and drink some of their green tea almost everyday and wee detour via their store allowed me to stock up.  A new favourite is the Genmaicha Japan, it mixes popped rice with delicate green tea and has a wonderful toasty flavour.

There was only one way to finish and that was with chocolate, a lot of chocolate, a bag filled with chocolate from the lovely people at the NZ Chocolate Festival.

For more round ups..., VivieneAlessandra, Sue Part One & Part Two, Lydia part 2 & 3, Celia day 1 & 2, Lesley, Carmella Day 1 and Day 2 and Emma

Special thanks to Alli and Shirleen who did such an amazing job pulling it all together and making it such an amazing and memorable weekend.

And a special thank you to all the very generous sponsors who helped make it all possible and who totally spoiled us...



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