28 February 2013

Bites & Bobs 28.2.13


The dessert of the Summer was most definitely this pavlova...the cherry on the top, so to speak, salted caramel sauce.

Cheese please & that would be homemade mascarpone.

There’s always something here I want to make & these little bay leaf pots de creme sound divine.  I love infusing herbal flavours in to sweet.

Amazing indeed...A.maize.ing

I baked these & they are quite delicious, chewy, oaty & terribly moreish cookies.

I love bread, all sorts of bread but I am especially loving anything dark & rye at the moment. I want to bake this rye bread  

More divine inspiration from Ottolenghi...fettucine with fresh seafood & a green harissa dressing.

And for a bright & fresh nibble & a healthier option to chips & dips...this tapenade & pesto from Tom Kitchin just explode with flavour.


Seeing: Who Shot Rock n Roll at Auckland Art Gallery...any excuse to visit this beautiful space. And you have a few days to catch it if you haven't already. On until 3 March. 

Watching: Argo....amazing movie.

Reading: Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants...laugh out loud funny & irreverent, it will brighten your day.

Reading: Isaac Likes....letting a little fashion in to my life all the way from NYC.  A Kiwi making good in the Big Apple.

Visiting: Clevedon Farmers Market & quite a haul of deliciousness. The highlight tomatillos alongside heirloom tomatoes, cherries, harissa, sesame brittle, flowers, empanadas & freshly dug spuds.

Making: A little herb garden

Want to go: To the Hobsonville Farmers Market to eat Gourmet Gannet's pork pies, pasties & sausage rolls!

See: My hibiscus.

26 February 2013

In Season:Tomatillos

I am in the midst of 6 weeks of healthier living. Not a detox or a diet, just 6 weeks of fewer over indulgences.  After the run up to Christmas, Christmas & fun filled Summer I just felt the need for a little less.  When I say not a detox or a diet, the programme I am on involves exercise, lots of water & no processed food & no one food group is excluded & that is why it works for me.  So I can still have my caffeine hit in the morning, fruit for snacks & pasta can still be on the menu for dinner  Not really too different to what I would normally do, just a little less food, oh & did I mention no alcohol.  Once a year I just like to know that I can do a little abstinence!

Each to their own, but this is the programme that works for me.  However, the last time I did it I wasn’t writing a food blog. I have a box of recipes to choose from & most of them are tasty, satisfying home cooked meals but not really what I blog about, not new delights I have discovered.  As with most recipes I always feel the need to experiment a little, or add a little more of one thing a little less of another to suit my own taste & I still wanted to be blogging about food that I really, really enjoy.

One of my go to snacks is crackers with a little guacamole, full of fresh bright flavours it can satisfy my taste buds & keep me going until lunch or dinner & down a the Clevedon Farmers Markets I spotted tomatillos & got quite excited.  I was just going to make salsa but a browsing through Rick Bayless Mexican Kitchen I came across this Tomatillo Guacamole & knew it would be just the ticket for an afternoon snack, tangy & spicy to waken up body & mind in the midst of an afternoon lull. In a nutshell a roasted tomatillo salsa is stirred through the guacamole to give it a little extra kick.

And to liven up a streak or fish try some Roasted Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa, fat free I can slather it on any of my meals to give them fresh, vibrant, smokey chipotle hit.  Perfect for healthy living! It would of course be quite delightful with a pile of tortilla chips, but those will have to wait for another day.

If you aren’t familiar with tomatillos, they look like pale green tomatoes (In Mexico they are called tomate verde just to add to the confusion) in a papery husk. They are a lot more tangy than tomatoes.

Roasted Tomatillo Guacamole from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen

Makes 2 cups


For 125 ml roasted tomatillo salsa
3 medium sized tomatillos husked & rinsed
1 red chilli
1 garlic clove, unpeeled

1/4 small onion, finely diced
2 tbsp coriander, chopped
2 ripe avocados


For the salsa

Place the tomatillos on a baking tray & place under a hot grill.  Grill them until blistered & a little blackened, turning to grill on all sides. It will take 10-15 minutes.  Remove fro the grill & allow to cool.

While the tomatillos are grilling roast the chilli & garlic.  Place them on an unoiled griddle pan or skillet over a medium heat, turning occasionally until a little blackened & soft.  The chilli will take 5-10 minutes & the garlic about 15.  Remove from the heat & cool.  Remove the stem from the chilli & peel the garlic.

Place the tomatillos, garlic & chilli in the bowl of a food processor & pulse to a coarse puree.  Place the puree in a small bowl.  Rinse the onion & add to the puree along with the coriander & stir to combine.

Cut the avocados in half & scoop out the flesh & place it in a medium sized bowl & roughly mash with the back of a fork.  Stir in the salsa, taste & season with salt.  Cover with cling & let it chill for an hour or so before serving.

Tip: the salsa can be made ahead of time, up to 2 days.  Just don’t add the onion & coriander until about to use.  The finished guacamole will keep, covered & chilled in the fridge for up to 5 hours.

This will be perfect as a snack for the next couple of days or perhaps a top a little steak for tonight’s dinner.

Roasted Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa from Rick Bayless’ Mexican Kitchen

Makes 300ml


2-4 dried chipotle chillies*
3 large garlic cloves
5-6 medium sized tomatillos, husked & rinsed
1/4 tsp sugar

*or 3-6 dried chipotle colorades or 3-6 canned chipotle chillies en adobe

Dried Chipotle

Place an un-oiled griddle pan or skillet over a medium heat.  If using the dried chillies break off the stems & then toast them for a few moments.  Lay them on the skillet & press down with a spatula until they crackle a little & you can smell their wonderful smokey aroma.  Turn them over & toast the other side & then place them in a small bowl & cover with hot water.  Leave them to rehydrate for 30 minutes.  Stir every now & then to ensure that they soak evenly & then remove from the water.  The water can be discarded.  If using the canned chillies no toasting required just remove them from the adobo.

Next toast the unpeeled garlic in the the griddle pan over a medium heat turning occasionally until blackened & softened, about 15 minutes. Cool & peel.

Place the tomatillos on a baking tray & place under a hot grill.  Grill them until blistered & a little blackened, turning to grill on all sides. It will take 10-15 minutes.  Remove fro the grill & allow to cool.

To make the salsa place the tomatillos, chillies & garlic in to a food processor & whizz until you have a smooth-ish paste.  Place in a serving bowl & stir in a little water, about 3-4 tablespoons just to make a spoonable consistency. Taste & season with salt & the sugar.

Tip: The finished salsa will keep for about 1 week in the fridge, but flavours will be brightest the first 24 hours.  

This spicy little salsa will be spicing up my meals this week.  Not only packing a little heat it is a little tangy & also has that wonderful smokiness from using chipotles & not to forget a little mellow nutty sweetness from the roasted garlic.

If you like this you might like this Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
One year ago Home Baked Vege Chips


23 February 2013

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Raspberries & Salted Caramel

Pavlova, the Kiwi* classic.  Crunchy on the outside, light & marshmallowy on the inside.  It was created in honor of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova when she was touring New Zealand in the 1920s.

*Straight from Wikipedia “The dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to New Zealand & Australia in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the source.” 

The combination of pavlova, whipped cream, tart raspberries & salted caramel is quite delicious. Crunchy, chewy, creamy, tart, sweet, salty....what more could one want?  For my pav I turned to Floriditas Morning Noon & Night, the cook book from my favourite cafe & where they just happen to make the most delectable brown sugar pavlovas.  They were even kind enough to send us on our way with one at last year’s NZ Food Bloggers Conference down in Wellington.

And for the salted caramel sauce?  Well, on all things sweet who better to trust than Nigella & this sauce is a cinch to whip up, no thermometers required here! In 5 minutes you will be in salted caramel heaven.  There is also the added bonus of tasting until you have just the right amount of a saltiness.

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Raspberries & Salted Caramel

Makes one large pavlova & 7 adults scoffed the lot!


6 egg whites at room temperature
380g brown sugar
4 tsp corn flour
2 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
750 ml cream, whipped to soft peaks
2 punnets of raspberries or 1-2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed

For the salted caramel sauce*

75 g / 3 oz unsalted butter
50 g / 2 oz soft light brown sugar
50 g / 2 oz caster sugar
50 gram 2 oz golden syrup
125 ml / 4.39 fl oz double cream
1 tsp good quality salt (not table salt)

*Severe Warning: This sauce is highly addictive after just one hit!


Pre heat your oven to 140C (no fan bake) / 275F & line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer & beat until you have stiff peaks & then gradually add the sugar.  Keep beating until the sugar is completely dissolved.  To check just rub a little meringue between your fingers.

Add the corn flour, vinegar & vanilla & beat on low until all incorporated in to the meringue.

Now this is a rustic pavlova so gently turn out the meringue on to the baking tray & make a rough rectangle with peaks & troughs.  Place in the oven & cook until a little golden & dry to the touch about 1 hour.*  Allow the meringue to cool completely before assembling & serving.

While the pavlova is cooking make the salted caramel sauce.  Place the butter, sugars, syrup & butter in a small saucepan over a medium low heat to melt.  Once melted simmer gently for 3 minutes, stirring now & again.

Add the cream & half a teaspoon of salt & stir again.  Taste, carefully as it will be hot! Add more salt if need be & cook gently for another minute.  Et voilà,  that is it.  In a matter of moments you have what may be the most addictive sauce known to man. I find if left on the stove top it is almost impossible not to just have a little taste every time I walk by.

*If like me you prefer a slightly “failed” pav with a little more crunch & chew & little less marshmallowy just cook for a little longer & you can also use a little less corn flour.

To assemble place the pavlova on a large platter or board, mound on top the whipped cream, scatter over the raspberries & drizzle generously with the salted caramel sauce.  Take to the table & let everyone dive in & help themselves.

This is the perfect dessert for summer, actually I could eat it any time.  It did go down a treat as the finale of a Summer BBQ with not a morsel left on the plate. All that crunchy, chewy, creamy, fruity, sweet & salty come together in one delectable mouthful. 

If you like this you might like this Lemon Lime Meringue Pie


19 February 2013

Bookshelf: Silvena Rowe’s Orient Express Spiced Pork & Cumin Sausages with Fennel & Preserved Lemon Salad

On the hunt for something a little exotic I often turn to my jar of preserved lemons & Silvena Rowe.  I first came across Silvena when browsing around the cookbooks on Amazon. A quick glimpse of this book & I was drawn right in.  Who could fail to be drawn to book called Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume?  It was all too exotic for words. It somehow sneaked on to the order & in to my  kitchen without a second glance.

It is a modern twist on the exotic flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean.  Honey, cinnamon, saffron, sumac, pomegranate, hibiscus, rose & orange blossom waters all make an appearance here & there in some mouth watering recipes alongside exquisite photography. So when I just happened to be browsing at Cook the Books & saw Silvena Rowe’s Orient Express, again I couldn’t resist temptation. As Oscar always said “I can resist everything but temptation.”

And again I fell in love, another treasure trove of recipes, with a hint of the exotic to liven things up & transport you for just a little while to another world.  This time round it is more small plates for sharing,  so it is perfect for a little Summer entertaining & a crowd to feed.

And then there are my preserved lemons. I always have a jar of these on hand made fro the last of the season’s lemons.  The bright zesty lemon becomes fragrant & perfume like.  They’ll lift a salad, couscous or tagine from run of the mill to a little exotic in a flash & I think a little of the exotic every now & then can only be a good thing.

On a first read through it was these pork & cumin sausages that caught my eye, or maybe it was the salad on the side.  Fennel with preserved lemons, olives & fresh coriander. Light, crunchy & just popping with flavour; fresh, fragrant, briny & a burst of aromatic coriander.  Yes please!

Spiced Pork & Cumin Sausages with Fennel & Preserved Lemon Salad , from Silvena Rowe's Orient Express


For the sausage
500g ground pork
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp paprika
100ml water
Salt & pepper

For the salad
2 small fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin
1 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind finely sliced
10 green olives, chopped
Small bunch coriander, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper

To serve
3-4 tbsp thick yoghurt
A few preserved green chillies
Flatbread or pita*

*If you are in Auckland for lovely thin, soft pita that are far superior to any at the supermarket head to La Cigale, the French Markets held every Saturday & Sunday morning.


To make the sausages  place all the pork, garlic, cumin, nutmeg, coriander, mint, oregano, chilli flakes & a little of the water in a medium sized bowl.  Mix it all together with your hand until it is moist but not too sticky.  Season with a little salt & pepper & shape in to 16 small sausages.  Place a medium sized frying pan with a little olive oil or griddle over a high heat & grill the sausages for 3-5 minutes each side until golden & cooked through.

For the salad mix together the fennel, preserved lemon, olives and coriander in a small bowl.  Season to taste & drizzle with the olive oil & lemon juice.

To serve arrange the sausages, flatbread or pita salad & chillies & let everyone help themselves.

A delicious little supper on a Summer evening. The sausages are savoury & juicy against the slightly bitter, bold & tangy salad all wrapped up in a little yoghurt, pita & if you like a little heat the pickled chillies.


14 February 2013

In Season: Damson Ice Cream

Summer means ice cream & I was lucky enough to get some damsons fresh from the lovely Arfi’s orchard, along with all sorts of plums. Damsons are such a wonderful fruit.  A deep dusky indigo come inky blue when picked & then they turn jewel like when cooked, golden flesh & an almost deep cerise juice.  A pleasant change from other fruits  & veg that when cooked lose their vibrant hues. They are best cooked as they can be somewhat tart straight from the tree.  However when cooked their plummy flavour intensifies, deep & sweet with just a hint of tart. They will make wonderful crumbles & crisps or great  jams & jellies to brighten the cooler months with a little reminder of late lazy sunny Summer afternoons.

Damson Ice Cream, from Nigel Slater’s Tender, a veritable plethora of the most delicious fruitiness.

500g damsons
4 tbsp water
4 egg yolks
200g caster sugar
250ml cream
250g natural yoghurt


Rinse the damsons & place them in a saucepan with the water & bring them to a boil.  Lower the heat & let them simmer for 10 minutes until the skins have burst & there is a fair amount of vibrant purple juice.  Remove from the heat & sieve the fruit through a fine sieve.  Use a wooden spoon to to press through all the fruit & juice until just the stones remain.  Set aside the puree & let it cool.

Place the egg yolks & sugar in the bowl of a food processor & mix until pale & creamy.  Place the cream in a small pot & heat until just before boiling point, remove from the heat & drizzle over the egg & sugar mixture with processor still running.  Have a basin filled with cold water to hand.  Place the custard in a clean saucepan & warm over a gentle heat, stirring all the time until the custard thickens & coats the back of a spoon.  Be careful here as if the mixture heats too much the custard can curdle.* Once the custard has thickened place the saucepan in the basin of cold water to stop it cooking further & to cool.

Once cooled mix the custard with the damson puree & the yoghurt.  Pour the mixture in to an ice cream maker & churn until almost frozen. Place in plastic container & freeze until ready to serve. Remove from the freezer 10-15 minutes before serving.

*If it does all is not lost.  Place the saucepan in basin of cold water & whisk like crazy & you should be able to save it!

This is beautifully pink & ever so fruity, positively bursting with that deep sweet flavour that only damsons can deliver. Perfect on a hot summer’s day. (Or on any day if like me you love ice cream come rain or shine, all year round.)

This is also my entry for Sweet New Zealand being hosted by Michelle over at Greedy Bread.

If you like this you might like this Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream
Two years ago Souffle


11 February 2013

Melon, Prosciutto & Lime Salad

Once a month we have Supper Club, there are 7 of us, well 6 at the moment while one is living in Singapore for a time, & each month one of us cooks.  We cook whatever takes our fancy, & increasingly it is chance to experiment & concoct new dishes which has allowed us all to try new dishes that otherwise we might not.

Some recent highlights chicken wrapped roast chicken, baked Alaska & Spanish rice with monkfish, saffron & red peppers. And if talking highlights I couldn’t not mention all the delicious goodies received at our Christmas Supper Club.  Among them dukkah, fudge, Pip’s Mum’s Special Christmas Sauce, spiced nuts & a jar of spiced plums.

We are currently in the midst of a quite spectacular Summer & our last Supper Club was most definitely light & Summery.  Polenta canapes topped with rocket & Parmesan as a tasty little pre dinner treat & for the main event Italian fish parcels, fish baked with olives, cherry tomatoes & capers so light & fresh.  To finish a strawberry cloud cake which was as lovely & pink as it sounds. In between the polenta & the fish was this salad, or very close to it.  That classic combination of melon & prosciutto with just a little twist or two.  

Melon, Prosciutto & Lime Salad, adapted only slightly from Teresa’s Supper Club & revisited at a weekend BBQ

Serves: 6-8 as a side salad


Baby cos leaves
½ honeydew melon peeled and thinly sliced
2 tbsp lime juice
Bunch mint leaves finely torn & a few extra for garnish
Juice of 1 lime
Another lime cut in to 8 wedges
10-12 slices prosciutto
1/2 cup toasted pistachios


Such as they are; place the cos leaves on a platter & top with the melon.  Drizzle with lime juice & scatter over the mint leaves & prosciutto. Sprinkle over the pistachios & garnish with a few sprigs of mint & serve immediately.

Pretty as a picture the flavours don’t disappoint.  The salty prosciutto such a good friend to the sweet melon.  The mint a burst of freshness alongside a little tang from the lime juice.  All topped with toasty nutty pistachios.

If you like this you might like this Haloumi & Chorizo Salad
One year ago Damsons


09 February 2013

Summer Vegetables with Pesto & Tapenade & a Little Haggis!

The 25th January is Burns Night, a celebration of the poetry of Robert Burns & a good excuse to get a few friends together.  I also love making people try & come to love haggis!  Like most things the good stuff is very good & the not so good stuff not so good.  Sadly one year a grumpy customs official confiscated the haggis from Mum & Dad at the airport on arrival in Auckland & we were forced to try a Kiwi version of haggis that year.  Bar the first mouthful it all ended up in the trash. Suffice to say inedible, though that really doesn’t begin to cover it however that is not a topic to explore on a food blog!

The first Burns’ Suppers were held in Ayrshire at the end of the 18th century  by Burns’ friends on the anniversary of his death, actually the 21st July.  Since then they have become a regular occurence on his birthday the 25th January.

And the traditional food, well that would be where the haggis comes in alongside mashed neeps* & tatties*.  It is the perfect fare for the middle of winter in Scotland, not so much for balmy summer evenings in Auckland.  So for out Kiwi Burns’ Supper we just have the haggis as a little entree to the main event & honour the tradition of addressing the haggis, spearing it with a knife & shot of whisky. The only thing missing would be the piper piping in the haggis.  What do have though is Dad & a recital of Tam O’Shanter, one of Burns best know poems.  Even more amazing we get the general gist without really understanding a word!!

*Neeps re turnips & tatties are potatoes

Pre the haggis for a little bright & fresh we had these summer vegetables with pesto & tapenade

You really want the freshest possible vegetables to make this dish sing.

Summer Vegetables with Pesto & Tapenade from Tom Kitchin's From Nature to Plate.

Serves 6 as an appetizer


Bunch baby carrots
1 cucumber
A few radishes
Bunch asparagus
A few baby fennel or one regular fennel

2 cloves garlic
2 tsp pine nuts
150ml olive oil
100g basil leaves
25g parmesan, grated

200g pitted black olives
50g anchovy fillets
50g capers
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper

Peel the carrots & cut them in to thin, long strips.  Cut the cucumber in to similar sized strips & cut the radishes in half.  If using baby fennel cut them in to long lengths or if using one regular sized fennel cut it in to slices.  Trim & peel the asparagus & then place all the vegetables on a plate & cover with a clean moist tea towel to keep them fresh.

For the pesto; place the garlic, pine nuts & 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a food processor & blitz together.  Add the basil & parmesan & with the processor running drizzle in the rest of the olive oil.  Chill until ready to serve.

For the tapenade; place all the ingredients in a blender & blitz until you have an almost smooth paste. Taste & season with salt & pepper & chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

To serve arrange the vegetables on a platter with a little bowl each of the pesto & tapenade.

And then, well just tuck in.  Perfect on a balmy summer evening with a little glass of something chilled.  The pesto is bright & fresh, the fragrant basil the essence of summer.  The tapenade is full of flavour thanks to the capers & anchovies. It is savoury & a little salty, the perfect companion for the fresh vegetables.


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