29 October 2012

Salted Maple Caramel Popcorn with Spiced Salt

“I think if human beings had genuine courage, they'd wear their costumes every day of the year, not just on Halloween. Wouldn't life be more interesting that way? And now that I think about it, why the heck don't they? Who made the rule that everybody has to dress like sheep 364 days of the year? Think of all the people you'd meet if they were in costume every day. People would be so much easier to talk to - like talking to dogs. ” 

Douglas Coupland, The Gum Thief

I think I know quite a few people that would be happy with dress up every day.  For me, I enjoy it on occasion and with Halloween and a Halloween party to attend it was certainly one of those occasions.  For my American neighbours this is a huge event, a highlight on the annual calendar of celebrations.  Preparations and decorations starting weeks before the event.  

Everyone in costume certainly makes for a great party and easy conversation, meeting new people and barely recognising those you do know, everyone just chats to everyone.  There were some amazing costumes, the whole cast of the Wizard of Oz, a few decked out in full on Day of the Dead make up (thinking a Cinco de Mayo party on the cards just as an excuse to dress up like that!), a couple of pukekos, Lady Gaga, Mrs Brown,  Wonder Woman, Gomez and Mortica Addams, Alice in Wonderland and lots more. An eclectic group to say the least, and quite a sight all walking down the road en masse down to the local bar for a few Halloween cocktails.  On the menu Sangriaaaaah...a fruity bubbling and smoking concoction.  

A fun filled night and for me a renewed love of a little dressing up.

Celebrating Halloween with my American friends meant that it had to be something candy like that I brought along.  Not much is more American than popcorn so popcorn it was, though not just any old popcorn, Salted Maple Caramel with Spiced Salt to deliver both a sweet an a salty hit.  This does come with a "sugar high is imminent warning"!

Salted Maple Caramel Popcorn with Spiced Salt, adapted only slightly from Gourmet Traveller.


Makes 1 large bowl

For the popcorn
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100g popping corn
60ml water
310g caster sugar
125ml cup maple syrup
90g salted butter, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt

For the spiced salt
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp caster sugar
3 tsp sea salt


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium high heat.  To check if the oil is hot enough drop in a couple of corn kernels and if they spin a little the oil is hot enough.  Add the corn and cover with a tight fitting lid and cook for 4-5 minutes, shaking occasionally, until all the corn is popped. Remove from the heat and set aside.

For the spiced salt dry roast the paprika and cinnamon for just a minute. Place in a small bowl, add the sugar and salt and mix well.  

To make the syrup add the water and sugar to a large saucepan over a medium high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring to the boil and add the maple syrup.  Cook until you have a dark caramel, about 5 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it as it can turn quickly.  Remove from the heat and add the salt and butter.  Stir until combined and then pour over the popcorn. Quickly, as the caramel will start t set, stir well with a lightly oiled metal spoon.  

Spread on a baking tray line with lightly buttered baking paper and leave it to cool completely.  Once cooled break in to rough bite sized cluster and sprinkle over the spiced salt.

Crunchy, oh so sweet, a little salty and just a little hint of warmth and smokiness from the spices.  I am surprised any of this actually made to the party as every time I passed the tray, my hand would reach out to pinch a few clusters of these caramel coated, spicy salt sprinkled treats.  

If you like this you might like this Sweet New Zealand November 2011 Round Up
Two years ago Creamy Lemony Asparagus Pasta

This is also my entry for this month’s Sweet New Zealand, created by Alessandra Zecchini and this month hosted by the lovely Sue, over at Couscous & Consciousness.


23 October 2012

Chorizo & Tomato Pasta

I seem to be in the midst of a chorizo phase.  This spicy smoked paprika spiked Spanish sausage can liven up just about any dish or you can just eat it on its own if your in the mood for spicy savoury hit.  Pronounced “chor-eeetho”, if you are feeling in Spanish frame of mind.  If you are a fan of that deep pungent smokiness that smoked paprika delivers throw a few slices in to pasta or stews for an added layer of flavour that is warm and comforting and one that will waken up your taste buds.

This is a bright fresh way to work chorizo in to pasta, almost more of a pasta salad and that may well be what it becomes for tomorrow’s lunch. Chorizo is flash fried and then tossed with  a salad of red onion, cherry tomatoes, olive and parsley before being folded through warm pasta.  A simple dressing of olive oil and sherry vinegar brings it all together.

Chorizo & Tomato Pasta


Serves 2

150g wholewheat spaghetti
1/2 red onion thinly slices
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1cup black olives
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chorizo, diced


Place the spaghetti in a large saucepan of salted boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions.

While the spaghetti is cooking place the red onion, cherry tomatoes, olives and parsley in a medium bowl.  Add the the olive oil, sherry vinegar and just a small pinch of salt.    Mix well to combine and set aside for a 10-15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld.

Heat the half tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the chorizo.  Sauté for a couple of minutes and then add to the other vegetables and mix well together.

Once the pasta is cooked drain and add to the vegetables. Toss everything together and allow it to sit for a moment or to before serving.

Bright fresh flavours abound.  The smokey, spice chorizo, briny olives, a sharp bite from the onions and a fresh green herbal burst from the parsley.  The perfect pasta for a quick spring supper.

If you like this you might like this Haloumi & Chorizo Salad


22 October 2012

{Just Photos} - Cuisine Masterclass

A couple of weeks a go lunch was a bit of a treat.  We headed to the Langham for a Cuisine Masterclass with Michael Meredith.  Michael has cooked at many restaurants including Vinnies, Antoine’s and The Grove before opening his own restaurant Meredith’s in 2007.  If you like being surprised and delighted by every plateful and you haven't been then you really should head along and treat yourself. 

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon, a bubbly on arrival, watching our dishes be prepared before tasting along side some wonderful wines.  For entree it was an original take on a panzanella salad, this time with cheese ravioli.  A smear of eggplant puree topped with croutons, tomatoes, grilled red pepper, zucchini, grilled red onion, black olives, basil, crispy capers and a drizzle of balsamic. A beautiful salad with so many flavours and textures that all work together.  The star was the the cheese ravioli.  No ordinary ravioli as the ravioli itself made purely from melted provolone cheese and then wrapped around some herb goat cheese.

Cheese Ravioli with Panzanella Salad

Our main course was Canterbury red deer with salmon roe and seaweed.  It was a tartare, the venison mixed with shallots, capers and horseradish and topped with a little seaweed, salmon roe and tomato jelly. The most tender, flavourful venison brightened by tomato jelly.  On the side a glass of Wither Hills Benmorven Pinot Noir which may well be my new favourite pinot.

“Dense, dark, silken and fruit-cake rich, with the fragrance of Doris plum, wild berries and Morello cherries, dusted with cinnamon and spice”

Canterbury Red Deer, Salmon Roe & Seaweed

For dessert rhubarb, raspberry, yoghurt and pink grapefruit.  That would be a yoghurt cream, surrounded by rhubarb and raspberry juice with a splash of mint oil, a little candied zest, grapefruit, fresh and freeze dried raspberries.  Pretty as a picture and tasted as good as it looked.  The creamy yogurt, the burst of fruit and that bright freshness from the mint oil the perfect way to finish lunch.  I cannot wait for next year’s Masterclass!

Rhubarb, Raspberry, Yoghurt & Pink Grapefruit

16 October 2012

Spring Pasta

“Is the spring coming?" he said. "What is it like?"...
"It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine...” 
Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Well the rain bit is certainly true at the moment! However, I still love Spring, it is so appreciated after the seemingly long dark winter months. Everything seems brighter, lighter especially when getting up for the gym before 6am.  I just feel more energised, like waking up after a hibernation....though it would be much appreciated if the wind and rain would relent and just accept the fact that it is Spring and that they shouldn’t be making an appearance until sometime next year.

It has been full on few weeks settling in to a new job.  3 weeks in and every day it all makes a little more sense, something else clicks in to place each day or I can answer a client brief all on my own! Though one still feels a little like the new girl, it is just a little, well a lot different to having been somewhere for over 5 years and knowing the quickest and most expeditious route to getting something down within, or sometimes just a little off piste so to speak, if that would be quicker!  Just about have new routine down pat, just need to find a little yoga or pilates that fits in to the new life and we will be set.

In the meantime all that learning can leave one a little tired come the end of the day, but in line with new season and Summer approaching we are back to trying to eat well. So whipping up a quick, fresh dinner is the order of the day.  This pasta can be on the table in minutes, really just as long as it takes the pasta to cook.  It is a bright, fresh and tasty Spring supper.

Spring Pasta

Serves 2


150g tagliatelle
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup endamame
1 cup prawns
Zest juice of 1 lemon
Bunch mint, chopped
1 small bunch asparagus, chopped on the diagonal
Salt and pepper


Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Heat another saucepan of water over a high heat and add a little salt, the peas and endamame.  Cook for just a couple of minutes until warmed through.  We want fresh, bright spring greens with a little crunch. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat the of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the prawns and season with a little salt.  Sauté for a minute or 2 each side until pink and cooked through.  Just before the end of cooking toss in the asparagus* and the lemon zest and juice. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Once everything is ready to assemble return the large frying pan to the heat and add the peas, endamame, mint and pasta.  Toss to together and season with a little black pepper.

Pile on to plates and serve immediately.

*I had tender thin new season asparagus so barely any cooking required at all.  If thicker add them to the pan a little earlier and just cook for a little longer.

Pasta for a little comfort, sweet prawns, plenty of Spring greens to deliver some of the 5+ a day, a fresh burst of mint and just a little burst of lemony zest to liven things up.  It checks all the boxes.  Fast, fresh, nourishing and satisfying.

Two years ago Tabbouleh


13 October 2012

Haloumi and Chorizo Salad

At our last supper club we had some wonderful Spanish chorizo.  The real mccoy.  Really quite different in texture and flavour from any interlopers.  We do have some wonderful local chorizo but this was quite sublime.  It has a meatier texture and the most wonderfully savoury paprika spiked flavour.  For supper club it was simply sautéed and tossed with some green olives.  If you like salty, savoury then this is a pre dinner snack for you. I am thinking a sunny evening on the deck with nice G&T.

So when I spotted some of the aforementioned chorizo I couldn’t resist.  I could happily have eaten it all by itself but decided to liven up a salad alongside some haloumi for one very flavourful salad.

Haloumi and Chorizo Salad

Serves 2 


For the salad

2 tsbp olive oil
100g haloumi sliced
1/2 cup chorizo, sliced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 cups mixed greens
A few mint and basil leaves

For the dressing*

Bunch mint leaves
Bunch basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

*Any left over dressing would be great on grilled chicken or fish


Heat a couple of frying pans over a medium heat and place the haloumi in one and the chorizo in another. Fry both for a couple of moments each side.

For the dressing place all the ingredients, except the salt and pepper in a food processor or blender and whizz together.  Season with salt and pepper and adjust to taste.

To assemble pile the greens on plates along with some basil and mint leaves.  Scatter of the cherry tomatoes and then top with the haloumi and chorizo.  Drizzle with a little of the dressing and tuck in.

The spicy, smokey paprika flavour of the chorizo beside the salty haloumi is perfect if you veer to the salt savoury side of the fence.  Just bursting with flavour. The cherry tomatoes add a burst of sweetness and the fresh herbs a bright green note.  The dressing delivering a herby zesty freshness.

If you like this you might like this Baby Spinach Salad with Dates & Almonds
Two years ago Lovely Lasagne

08 October 2012

Twelve Loaves: Sunflower & Sesame Flat Bread

This flat bread is a little crumbly and a little crisp.  Perfect with  a little cheese or a little smoked salmon, creme fraiche and capers for a little snackette. It is packed full of sunflower, sesame and chia seeds so it is even good for you!   Packed full of omega 3s Chia seeds were eaten by the Aztecs.  They called it "running food" because one teaspoon would apparently give them enough energy to march for 24 hours. This flat bread may not help you march for 24 hours but it is tasty earthy take on bread that will nourish and make you feel a little virtuous and see you through an afternoon until dinner time.  Even better they can be whipped up in a matter of minutes.

Feel free to add whatever takes your fancy.  I am thinking maybe walnuts and olives next time around or perhaps throw in a few pumpkin seeds in to the mix.

Sunflower and Sesame Flat Bread, inspired by Sun Dried Tomato and Pistachio Bread from  here


Makes 1 flat bread

1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp chia seeds
1 egg and 1 egg white


Preheat your oven to 180C/ 350F and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place both the flours in to a large bowl and add the sugar, salt, baking powder, cayenne pepper and the seeds.  Stir together and then add the egg and egg white.  Stir well to combine and then turn out the dough on to a floured surface. It will be quite a stiff dough.

Knead the dough got a moment or two and then roll it out in to a circle. Roll it out until it is about half a centimetre thick. Cut the circle in to 8 wedges and place them on the lined baking tray.

Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the flatbreads over and bake for another 10 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool.

A tasty and healthy flat bread so what’s not to love?  The chickpea flour adds a lovely  savouriness and the seeds a welcome crunch.  Crunchy, crisp and full of flavour...yum!

This is my contribution to this month's Twelve Loaves as Cake Duchess, Life's a Feast & Creative Culinary takes us on a bit of bread baking journey.

If you like this you might like this Annabel's Busy Peoples Bread
Two years ago Pasta Fairly Pronto


06 October 2012

Bookshelf:Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

I am with Oscar when it comes to temptation.

The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it... I can resist everything but temptation.  
Oscar Wilde

And when I was at Cook the Books for a cooking class and spotted the new Ottolenghi book Jerusalem I could only yield to temptation. I couldn’t wait to open it and see what delights would present themselves. And it doesn’t disappoint, you will salivate over the stunning photography and then there are the recipes.  Inspiring combinations of flavours are again on display.

The book is actually by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  Yotam from the Jewish west and Sami for the Muslin east didn’t meet until they they were both in the UK.  It was here that they melded there native tastes and flavours and added their unique spin to create all those many amazing dishes that they are so well known for, a little exotic and wonderfully original.  Like Plenty; inspiring, colourful and tantalising vegetarian dishes abound (temptation that I will most definitely be yielding to!).  There are also tasty options for carnivores and fish and seafood lovers.  So far I can attest that the Lamb Shawarma and Chicken with Caramelised Onions with Cardamon Rice are fragrant, bursting with flavour and more than likely to be making several encore appearances.

For me I also love the anecdotes and stories about their different Jerusalems, as it is a totally different perspective than what we would usually be exposed to via media and newspapers. The book is peppered with notes on culture and history alongside a story of the food of Jerusalem and their childhood there; a melting pot of cuisines, cultures and religions it is varied and exotic. It is a totally new perspective for me and it makes me want to go there and eat!

I was picking up spices on the weekend, actually to make the Lamb Shawarma, and I saw some wonderful dates.  I bought them with no idea what I was going to do with them, they just looked so fresh and sweet they had to be purchased. Browsing through Jerusalem I came across this salad, Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds. I was sold and it was the perfect way to use those dates.  

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem


Serves 4

1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
100g pitted fresh dates, quartered lengthways
30g unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large pita, roughly torn in to bite sized peices
75g whole almonds, roughly chopped
2 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
150g baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper


Place the vinegar in a bowl alongside the red onion and dates.  Add a pinch of salt and mix well together and then leave to marinate for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes drain and discard any remaining liquid.

Place the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan over a medium heat and add the pita and almonds.  Fry until golden and crisp, stirring all the time.  Remove from the heat and place in a bowl. Add the sumac, chilli flakes, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside to cool.

Once cool toss the the baby spinach leaves with the pita and almonds in a large bowl.  Add the dates and red onion along with the rest of the olive oil and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

What can I say?  It is a beautiful salad, the green spinach flecked with the pink of the onions, golden crispy pita, succulent dates and crunchy almonds.  And then the flavours a little fresh and sharp, a little sweet, a little toasty, a little nutty.  I don’t think I need say anymore. You should probably just yield to temptation and get your mitts on a copy of Jerusalem quick smart, it will brighten your salads and enliven your tastebuds and that is before we even touch on meat, fish or desserts!

If you like this you might like this Green Herby Omelette with Spinach & Feta Salad
One year ago Asian Slaw


01 October 2012

Chilli Cashew Beef with Broccolini & Green Beans

Sometimes you arrive home, it’s been a long and stressful day, your energy evaporated sometime mid afternoon and you would just like dinner to miraculously appear as if by magic, but it doesn’t.   I find then that it is easy to resort to something on toast.  Cheese, scrambled eggs or peanut butter (it has to be crunchy); all are comfort food for me and I think for the most part better than takeaway or some carb, salt and sugar laden ready meal.  What are your go to comfort foods?

The last few months have seen more than a few of these days; looking for a new job, finding one that you really, really want and then the interview process, the thinking you are almost there but not wanting to count your chickens or jinx it so to speak.  I really am terribly superstitious, no matter how irrational it is,  I can’t seem to convince myself otherwise. My mind always wants to prepare for the worst case scenario, as that will somehow stop it from actually happening. Then you finally get the call that you have indeed got it! The joy, the relief, a huge weight off your shoulders.  However, then there’s the handing in the resignation and trying to stay focused, while each day you feel a little more disconnected, and really all you want to do is sprint to the finish line and begin the next chapter.  It is true good things come to those who wait and this week we start that new chapter.

Well, this dinner takes only the 15 minutes it takes for the rice to cook, so not something you will have to wait too long for.  The most effort required is chopping a few vegetables, a task that I find oddly relaxing and satisfying. Your body and mind will thank you for it.  Fresh, bright, fragrant and a little spicy it will nourish body and mind, perfect post a long day.

Chilli Cashew Beef with Broccolini and Green Beans


Serves 2

3 tbsp rice bran or vegetable oil
2-3 red chillies, sliced (de-seed depending on your desire, or lack of, for heat)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
Bunch green beans, trimmed and sliced length ways
Bunch broccolini, trimmed and sliced length ways
300g eye fillet, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup, cashews, toasted
A few basil leaves to garnish
Perfect rice, to serve


Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a medium frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic and chilli.  Cook for a couple of minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the green beans and broccolini and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.  

Meanwhile in another frying pan add 1 tablespoon of oil and heat over a high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper and flash fry for a minute.  Don’t overcrowd the frying pan as we want seared rather than stewed. If need be flash fry the beef in a couple of batches.

Quickly toss the beef with the vegetables and toasted cashews and top with some basil leaves.

Serve immediately with perfect rice.  Jasmine would be perfect.  Bright and fresh this will waken up your taste buds.

If you like this you might like this Curried Beef Search
One year ago Seedy Oaty Bread

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