28 December 2012

A Couple of Salads




Christmas has come & gone once again & now we can look forward to a New Year.  I still seem to find it hard to believe we are heading in to 2013.  It seems only a moment ago I was on only my second or third visit to New Zealand & we were heading to Raglan to bring in the new millennium.  Back then it was Y2K that was going to bring everything to a stand still, or some sort of apocalyptic ending to life as we know it, rather than the end of a 1000s of year old Mayan calendar.  Yet we are all still here & about to enter another year. So I wish you & yours a happy, healthy, prosperous, fun & laughter filled 2013.



Alongside the festive feasts we had a couple of salads. Vibrant colours will entice you in to some healthier fare over the holiday season. Both of these serve a crowd as part of a feast & provide a little bright & light relief not to mention a fair chunk of your 5 plus a day.

First up a platter of greens; broccolini, green beans, asparagus, mange tout & peas tossed with a honey soy & chilli dressing.  Broccolini is a friend of salty so the soy makes the perfect companion.  Chilli adds a little heat & the sesame seeds & oil a toasty nuttiness.

Sesame Soy Greens

Ingredients

Bunch broccolini
Bunch green beans
Bunch Asparagus
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
Sesame oil to drizzle

For the dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp caster sugar
Pinch of chilli, a little less of a little more depending on your preference on heat.
2-3 tbsp cider vinegar, again add to taste.  I prefer tarter so tend a little heavier with the vinegar.



Directions

Place all the greens in a large saucepan of salted water & bring the boil.  Cook for just a few moments until just cooked & still a little el dente.  While the are cooking prepare an ice bath.  (I.e. throw some ice cubes in a large bowl or basin) Remove from the heat & place in the ice bath to stop them cooking & to keep there vibrant green colour.

For the dressing whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl, adjusting to suit your own taste.

Remove the greens from their icy bath & place in a large bowl.  Pour over the dressing & toss gently together.  Drizzle with a little sesame oil & sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds.



Alongside the greens a beetroot, walnut & goat’s cheese salad salad. The sweet earthy beetroot the perfect foil for the salty goat’s cheese.  The toasted walnuts add a welcome earthy crunch, also perfect with the goat’s cheese.  For a little freshness it all sits atop a bed of peppery watercress.

Beetroot walnut & Feta

Ingredients

500g baby beets
1 tbsp thyme leaves
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup walnuts, toasted
250g goat’s cheese
1 bunch watercress




Directions

Pre heat oven to 190C /375F

Peel the beets (or cheat & use a can!), halve them & place them in a roasting tin.  Sprinkle over the thyme leaves.  Whisk together the balsamic vinegar & olive oil and drizzle it over the beets.  Season with salt & pepper & place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes if using fresh beets or 15 t0 20 minutes if using canned.

Remove from the oven & allow to cool to room temperature.  To assemble the salad scatter the watercress on a platter & top with the beets, goat’s cheese & walnuts.



If you like this you might like this Fresh Beets with Coriander Seeds
One year ago Salmon Rillettes
Two years ago Crostini Misto

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” 
Brad Paisley

And if I am not back here before 2013 have a Happy New Year Everyone!



19 December 2012

Farro Salad



A Christmas trip to Sabato.  Now any trip to Sabtao is a good one.  They make you a coffee & you can taste olive oils, vinegars, olives, cheese, cured meats, chocolate treats & all sorts of delectable treats.  But Christmas....Christmas is a whole other level.  So many wonderful chocolates, nougats, panettones, mince pies, panforte.  The shelves are positively bursting with festive goodies, sparkling & festive it is like being lured into Foodie Santa’s grotto.  I would have taken photos but my hands otherwise engaged sampling & sipping on my coffee.  The Mini Cudie Catanies are a favourite.  Fragments of caramelised Marcona almonds covered in nut praline & dusted with cocoa.  Another favourite from yesterday was the Venchi chocolate covered rum nougat...rich chocolaty & just a nice we kick of rum.

Post all the chocolate I moved on to cheeses & salami & olive oils & then I spotted some farro.  I have never cooked with farro before, but it looked interesting & ancient & good for you.  So I thought perhaps the perfect antidote to all the chocolate tasting?  I wasn’t wrong.  It is a chewy wheat like grain similar to barley & packed full of vitamins B & E along with magnesium.  So I give you my take on the farro salad.  




Feel free to add or omit as you like.  I think some roasted red peppers would be a welcome additions or perhaps olives instead of the capers? And of course any mix of green herbage you have to hand wouldn’t hurt either.  I like parsley & I am loving dill at the moment, so please, mix it up & experiment.

Farro Salad

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

For the salad
3/4 cup farro
2 bay leaves
1 Lt water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 cup capers
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if they’re large
1/2 small red onion, peeled and diced
1/4 cup feta crumbled

For the dressing
2 tablespoons chardonnay or other white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Zest & juice of one lemon
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper


Place the farro in a large saucepan and cover with the water.  Add the bay leaves & bring to a gentle boil. Cook the farro according to the packet instructions. Stir occasionally to make sure the farro doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

While the farro is cooking heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat and add the mushrooms.  Saute for a few moments & then add the thyme & garlic.  Season with salt & pepper & saute for another couple of moments.  Remove from the heat & set aside.


Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat and add the asparagus & grill for a few minutes each side until a little charred, remove the asparagus & allow to cool before cutting in to 2cm pieces.  Place the asparagus in a large bowl.

Add the capers, herbs, cherry tomatoes & red onion to the asparagus and add the farro & mushrooms.

For the dressing whisk all the ingredients together & season to taste.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad & mix gently together.  Plate on a platter & sprinkle with feta. Serve at room temperature.

Filling & satisfying this was perfect for lunch the next day.  The farro is quite like barley, & I am a fan of barley.  Something quintessentially comforting about it, though usually it would be in a pot of Scotch broth.  So finding a variation that works for Summer is a find for me.  All the vegetables mean every bite is different & the herbs provide a bright freshness.  And feta, well feta makes most things taste better with it’s slightly salty sharpness.


If you like this you might like this Cracked Wheat Roast Pumpkin & Feta Salad
Two years ago Christmas Muffins

Enjoy!

17 December 2012

Favourite Bites & Bobs December 2012


“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” 
Laura Ingalls Wilder

I can hardly believe that Christmas is almost upon us once again.  As ever there is a myriad of festive inspiration out there. Here are my favourite bites & bobs for December & maybe just a few things I would quite like to find in my Christmas stocking.

Chocolate Chestnut Fondant from Jamie at Life's A Feast.


Rosemary Tangerine Biscotti from Smith Bites

And it being Summer here this is the perfect sorbet from Emma over at My Darling Lemon Thyme.

The Smitten Kitchen can even make cauliflower festive...Cauliflower Feta Fritters with Pomegranate.  I reckon I could scoff a whole plate myself.

A totally new way with squash...sweet sour & quite delicious. 

"One can never have enough socks," said Dumbledore. "Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn't get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” 

JK Rowling Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone








Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In the hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains fro a long winter's nap.

Clement Clarke Moore, 1823



And Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a glass or 2 of this 
Falcon Enamelware Bake Set.  Love the old fashioned feel. 
The most beautiful cheese knives. 
I covet this clutch
My favourite smellies...Montego Bay Coconut & Lime from Glasshouse...the essence of a tropical Summer holiday.
Perfect for New Year go on make a wish!
And Summer... I love Summer & hydrangeas & have the prettiest white one blooming in the garden.



I hope Santa is good to you all! Have a very merry Christmas & happy & safe 
holidays!



15 December 2012

Christmas is coming....treats & a little dukkah



Christmas is almost upon us & that means Christmas Supper Club.  Again we are all making edible gifts.  I don’t seem to have had as much time as normal for preserving, pickling or jam & jelly making.  I usually have some sort of preserving phase & end up out the door with jars of jams, jellies & chutneys. This post from Hannah caught my eye.  I love Worcestershire Sauce & I always have a bottle of Lea & Perrins to hand to add a little depth to stews or casseroles or drizzled over grilled cheese, which is a personal favourite.  I am with Hannah, usually the homemade incarnations are far superior to any of the bought variety so I thought for something different, & of course wonderfully tasty this would be my edible gift for Christmas Supper Club along with a little dukkah.

Sweet treats from Christmas Supper Club

Dukkah is an Egyptian staple, traditionally a mixture of crushed nuts, sesame seeds & spices.  There are a myriad of variations so mix things up as you please.  Eat it with  bread dipped in olive oil, sprinkle it over salad for a toasty crunch or use it as a crunchy coating for chicken or fish. And even better it is a snip to make.

Dukkah

Makes 2 cups 

Ingredients

3/4 cup white sesame seeds
4 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup hazelnuts

Directions

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat & add the sesame, coriander & cumin seeds.  Fry for a few moments just until they are lightly toasted & fragrant.  Remove from the heat & allow them to cool a little.  Place the toasted seeds & all the other ingredients in a food processor & pulse a little, not too much as you want to leave some texture.  Store in a air tight jar & it will keep for a month or so....if it last that long.


I'll be using Steph's dukkah from Christmas Supper Club for a BBQ this weekend sprinkled over hummus & drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil.


For edible gifts....here some inspiration from blogs of Toast past... 

For the sweet tooth

Raspberry Curd


Chocolate Truffles


Benne Wafers


Membrillo

For the savoury inclined


Herbed Olives


Port & Chicken Liver Pate



Happy Holidays everyone!

11 December 2012

Wanderings: Matakana, Brick Bay, Ascension & the Matakana Village Pub




Post a morning of eating, shopping & a little wine tasting we decided to experience a little art.  Art in the form of the Brick Bay Sculpture Trail.  The modern Glass House on the edge of the water lily fringed lake is the start of the trail which meanders around the vines & through native bush showcasing some of the best of contemporary New Zealand sculptures. 45 or so works can be found around the 2km trail that meanders fairly gently around the grounds returning you to the Glass House & in our case a little glass of rose.  As they say when in Rome....





Next stop a lazy late lunch at The Larder at Ascension Vineyard.  At the larder you can make your own platter & pick from all sorts of salamis, cheeses, olives, pickles & deli treats to pile large wooden boards, however in our very relaxed  state of mind the choice all seemed a little overwhelming, so we opted for the platter for 2.  It also came on a large wooden board, all very rustic.



Much as I like a chilled glass of rose I am a red girl at heart so with lunch I went for The Benediction, Ascension’s premium reserve Merlot (Yes a f****** Merlot! That line from Sideways, an all time favourite movie of mine, cracks me up every time.).  It was treat with the meaty salamis & rustic pate on the platter.  Rich, leathery, full bodied & a little dry a result of time well spent in hand-hewn 70 year old wooden vats.

It was a wonderful array of tasty morsels with a little more thought than your average platter.  I have to say the various pickles really were the shining stars, brightening the flavours of the salamis, cheese & fish terrine.  Another standout was the rare roast beef with a horseradish cream, also perfect with my Merlot. 


After a lazy hour or 2 among the vines it was back to the village & a quick trip to the Matakana Village Pub, it was just too tempting on what was a gloriously sunny day.  One of those days that just feels like summer holidays & you don’t have a care in the world, no appointments to kept, no deadlines to be met, no agenda.  You just go with the flow & the day takes care of itself, slowly & leisurely.



The pub was built in 1903 & is in the heart of Matakana Village.  In previous incarnations it has been a pub, a boarding house & allegedly a house of women of shall we say ill repute?  Today it has been renovated & is back to being a pub.  We managed to secure one of the cushioned booths outside to bask in comfort under the afternoon sunshine before heading back to our little bach for Yahtzee & the Best of the 70s CD* in the evening sun.

*The only CD we had in the car, but perfect for a little disco on the deck!

An idyllic weekend that felt like a real holiday & only an hour away from the big smoke.



Enjoy!




09 December 2012

Wanderings: Matakana Farmers Market & Matakana Market Kitchen



With all the Christmas crazy about to ensure a weekend away from it all was the plan.  So we left a little early on Friday to miss the car park that is what passes for Auckland traffic on a Friday afternoon.  An hour or so later we were in Matakana ensconced in our cute little bach, a platter of nibbles & a glass of rose in hand. Matakana may only be an hour by road away, but really it is a world away.  Slower, quieter & perfect for a little weekend getaway from  the city.


It is a bustling little village on a Saturday morning with the Matakana Farmers Market on from 8am - 1pm each weekend.  We were up & about early to miss the crowds & timed it perfectly arriving at the markets about 9am, coffee in hand for that requisite hit of caffeine to get us going from the Black Dog Cafe. Breakfast took a back seat as we wanted to try all that was on offer at the market. Lots of local growers with all sorts of delicious treats on offer from freshly picked fruit & veg, pickles & chutneys, mustards, cheeses, olive oils, chocolate, salamis, to local wine & beer.



Fragrant dukkah,  a fiery hot mustard, fresh baked bread, beetroot relish, smoked garlic, peppery salami, local olive oil, fresh labneh, creamy ricotta & just picked vegetables all made it in to my basket.  



After our stroll around the market we still had room for breakfast & popped in to the Matakana Market Kitchen, just by the markets overlooking the river.  The perfect spot on a sunny morning for a little sustenance before we carried on with our weekend adventure. The menu is seasonal with a focus on local produce & features all the usual brunch fare plus a few tasty sounding alternatives.  



The welsh rarebit with Puhoi cheddar, Leigh beer & piccalilli served with bacon, & an apple & Worcester dressing was very tempting as was the Parmesan scrambled eggs with prosciutto, toast & roasted tomatoes.  The breakfast salad was a popular choice & I have to say the crispy coated hens egg looked particularly delicious, crispy on the outside & wonderfully oozy yoke on the inside.  In the end the green eggs & ham won out for both of us so plate envy was avoided.  There were good eggs, lightly scrambled with fresh herbs & ham off the bone a pleasant change from bacon alongside some vine tomatoes for a little bright sweetness.

And after breakfast...well that would be a little more shopping.  There are several gorgeous little boutiques around the market square with all sorts of gifts and temptations on offer.  Tucked away in the corner is Red Letter Day.  If you like stationary then this would be your heaven.  It does make one yearn for paper & pen rather then key board & laptop. It really is a shop for anyone that loves writing.  Beautiful personal stationary, thank you cards, pens...everything you need to put pen to paper.  Just before that we were inexplicably drawn in to Heavenly Soles.  What is it with girls & shoes?  I couldn’t help but treat myself to these adorable wedges...perfect for Summer.


Our next stop was Morris & James, famous for their brightly coloured pottery. Anthony Morris & Sue James created Morris & James pottery. Their look is bold & vibrant with a uniquely Kiwi flair & minimum impact on the environment.  The main material is Matakana clay, harvested on site & then replanted with native bush.


We then just decided to follow the road to see what was at the end of it & we were lucky to come upon Hyperion winery.  It is a tiny boutique vineyard nestled in rolling slopes above Matakana.  The winery itself is a converted cowshed surrounded by rustic farm buildings. Hyperion was a mythological Greek sun God & that reflects the effect of sun & light on the vines to produce some tasty tipples.  It being almost midday it was a perfectly acceptable hour for tasting.  A little rose for later & bottle of Asteria Syrah* to take home.  A deep dark red wine with a hint of vanilla & a little rich plum fruitcake flavour that will be savoured some evening very soon

*Asteria was a daughter of the titans  & the goddess of nocturnal oracles and falling stars.


Next stop Brick Bay for a little art & wine.... Coming soon!

Enjoy!