26 June 2013

Mejadra from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem & Toast's Birthday!

This week at Toast it is our third birthday.  Three years....who would have thought?  3 years of cooking, baking, eating, traveling & along the way lots of wonderful food filled adventures & new friendships forged over all sorts of deliciousness.

To begin an underground supper club over at Plum Kitchen.  
Then an underground afternoon tea party with Pease Pudding.  Followed not long after after by a food bloggers pot luck lunch down country with Arfi, & since then many treats of fresh fruit from her orchards. The start of my journey to love oysters at the Oyster Shack in Wellington with Alli.  Pop up dessert restaurants.

  Many a delicious dinner & more oysters at Depot with Alli & Kristina. Delectable desserts at Milse. Art & food coming together at the wonderfully creative Art Dego.  Cuisine Master Classes.  2 amazing NZ Food Blogger Conferences one in Auckland & one in the coolest little capital in the world, WellingtonMany many wonderful cooking classes at Cook the Books with Felicity, Grant & Grace, not to mention all the cook books purchased! Taste Auckland. Tasty pastries from Alli’s stall at the Hobsonville Markets.

And then of course there are all you lovely people out there & the one’s I have come to know virtually & who drop by & make all this worth while & make me smile & can light up my day with a kind comment, a thought or tweet... thank you & here’s to many more years of fun & food filled adventures.

Being just a tad Ottolenghi obsessed I think it only appropriate that he’s here to help me celebrate, well in spirit any way with a little mejadra.  Mejadra is a little exotic & a little comforting all at the same time.  

And this week over IHCC it just happens to be all about pulses so I give you mejadra, an old Levantine dish with crispy golden onions piled atop spiced up rice & lentils which was perfect for a comforting & satisfying Sunday supper.  It also makes for a tasty lunch alongside some salad the next day.

Mejadra, from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

Serves 4


4 tbsps rice bran oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp flour
250g puy lentils
2 tsp cumin seeds
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
200g basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp ground allspice
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
350ml water


Heat the rice bran oil in a medium-size heavy-based saucepan.  Toss the onions in  the flour, season with salt & when it is very hot, carefully add a third of the sliced onion. Fry for five to seven minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes golden-brown & crisp. Use the spoon to transfer the onion to some kitchen paper & sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the rest of the onion.

Meanwhile, place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil & cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain & set aside.

Wipe clean the saucepan where you fried the onion & drop in the cumin & coriander seeds. Reduce the heat to medium & toast the seeds for a minute or two, just until they release their fragrant aromas. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, half a teaspoon of salt & plenty of black pepper. 

Stir to coat the rice with oil & the spices, add the cooked lentils & water. Bring to a boil, cover & simmer on very low heat for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat, lift off the lid and cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid & set aside for 10 minutes. Finally, tip the rice & lentils into a large mixing bowl. Add half the fried onion and stir gently with a fork. Mound the mejadra on a platter and top with the rest of the onion.

Serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt.  This is comfort food.  Filling & satisfying.

If you like this you might like these...


25 June 2013

Chicken, Fennel & Orange Casserole

The cold snap has hit, along with the worst storms in decades. Hail, torrential rain, floods, landslides, snow, the loudest thunder I have ever heard & power cuts have battered most of the country this past week.  Yes mother nature & the old weather have made quite a week of it in New Zealand. We have actually got off quite lightly here in Auckland, so I am thankful for that & happy to be rugged up inside on a Sunday afternoon with power to power the heat pump!

Remarkably my hibiscus has survived unscathed & still has flowers!

I had a few friends over for a weekend dinner & bright & fresh was on the menu with this chicken, fennel & orange casserole to warm us all up.  I am a fennel fan, raw in salads, roasted, sauteed any which way I like it.  It’s aniseed notes are good friends with orange & tomato & is this little trio that makes this a fresh & zesty casserole.

Chicken, Fennel & Orange Casserole, adapted from Bill Granger


2 tbsp olive oil
8 chicken thighs, cut in to 3
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed & thinly sliced
1 red pepper, sliced 
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
Pinch chilli flakes
Pinch saffron threads, soaked in a little warm water
3 strips of orange rind 
Juice of 1 orange
1 can chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken stock
Salt & pepper


Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken & fry for a few minutes on each side until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. 

Add the onion & fennel to the pan, season with a little salt & reduce the heat to medium. Cook for a few minutes until they are softened & then add the garlic & smoked paprika.  Fry for a couple of minutes more & then add the fennel seeds, chilli flakes, saffron, orange rind & juice, tomatoes & stock.  Add the chicken & season with a good pinch of salt & pepper.  Let the casserole simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Taste &  season if need be.

Serve along side a pile of mashed potato to brighten & comfort your day.  It is bright & fresh, the zesty orange against the backdrop of the wonderfully smoky paprika & just a little welcome heat from those chilli flakes.

If you like this you might like these Braised Lamb Shanks


23 June 2013

Herb Pie, from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem - IHCC

It’s pot luck this week at IHCC & this pie jumped off the page, making the most of piles of herbs & greens it lured me in to more green deliciousness from Ottolenghi.  Really is their anyone else out there that makes greens so appealing? He makes them seem indulgent, a treat & not in the least little bit virtuous.

Ottolenghi says “I was going to say this serves six, but my partner and niece had a go at it while I was writing, so now I'll have to say it feeds four, or two greedy ones.” I am glad to hear this as when I have made half portions of these & these I have scoffed the lot, all under the pretense that they are full of good for you greens rather than the fact they are fritters or pancakes doused in chilli lime butter.

I would agree that this pie serves 4 not 6, it is just too good & you will want to go back for a little more. And again given all the greens & the filo I find it is a guilt free pie.

Herb Pie, from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem

Serves 4

You can use spinach instead of chard, but you'll need more because of its high water content. Or you could use silver beet or cavolo nero as I did.


70ml olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
500g Swiss chard, stems and leaves thinly shredded and kept separate (I used cavolo nero)
150g celery, thinly sliced
50g spring onion, chopped
50g rocket leaves
30g parsley, chopped
30g mint, chopped
20g dill, chopped
120g ricotta, crumbled
100g mature cheddar, grated
60g feta, crumbled
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 free-range eggs
⅓ tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Pinch chilli flakes
½ tsp caster sugar
100g melted butter
250g filo pastry


Pre heat the oven to 180C/350F

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a deep skillet &, on medium heat, sauté the onion for eight minutes without browning until it is soft & translucent. Add the chard stems & celery, cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the chard leaves, raise the heat & cook, stirring, for four minutes more, until wilted. Add the spring onion, rocket & herbs, cook for two minutes & transfer to a colander. Once cool, squeeze out as much liquid as you can, transfer to a bowl & mix in the cheeses, zest, eggs, salt, pepper, chilli flakes & sugar.

Lay out a sheet of filo & brush it with butter. Cover with another sheet & repeat until you have five layers of filo brushed with butter, covering an area large enough to line the sides & base of a 22cm pie dish, with a little extra overhanging the edges. Line the dish with the filo, top with the herb mix & roughly fold over the excess pastry over the filling. 

Scrunch up the rest of the filo pastry & place on top.  Brush with a little more butter & bake for 40 minutes, until the filo turns crisp & golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature with a little salad on the side.

Love!  What a surprise right?  There is something about cheese & spinach wrapped in filo that appeals.  Delivering all the comfort of a pie but in a slightly lighter, healthier way as I have done here & hereHere actually without fail is the most popular post on Toast week in week out; so it looks like I am not alone.  So if filo cheese & spinach is your thing give this one a go....you will not be disappointed.

If you like this you might like this Roast Vegetable Frittata


18 June 2013

{Just Photos} Asian Winter Greens at Cook The Books

Last week I popped along to Cook the Books for a little green inspiration by way of Alan Fong from The Fresh Grower.  I have long been a fan of there little baby cos lettuce, just beautifully fresh & crisp.  Alan also grows a number of Asian greens...Shanghai pak choi, baby white Guangzhou pak choi alongside snow peas, beans, sugar snap peas, spinach & my favourite bellaverde; sweet stem broccoli. Not to mention the most gorgeous coriander that no one wanted to buy!!!

Alan’s family have been growing vegetables down in Pukekohe for 3 generations. Allan’s mission is to bring fresh bright greens to our dinner tables that look & taste delicious. The evening was packed pull of fresh, bright, simple flavours that can we whipped up for a speedy weeknight supper.

To start sweet chilli chicken baby cos canapes.  Chicken is marinated in cayenne, garlic, soy & vodka, yes vodka just a little.  Then simply stir fry the chicken & pile in in to baby cos leaves topped with a few crispy noodles for crunch. Bright, fresh & terribly moreish.

Next up the belleverde, even the name is beautiful.  I love broccoli & I love these tender little stems even more.  The belleverde was quickly steamed & then plunged in to ice cold water to keep its vibrant green hue.  It was then stir fried with a little garlic & just a splash of gin or vodka, just to stop it sticking & topped with a little soy before being piled atop some sizzling steak.  This one has since made a couple of appearances on my dinner table as quick & light supper.

One of my favourite dishes of the evening, I think everyone’s actually as the platters had barely a morsel left on them was the stir fry pork mince with baby white pack choi & crispy noodles .  Quite an achievement actually, as you never ever go hungry at Cook the Books, the portions are generous, to say the least!

I am assuming you notice the word crispy noodles, who doesn’t love a crispy noodle?  Well these are quite a treat & they are quite the healthy crispy noodle too. Boiled & then tossed with just a little oil they are baked in the oven before being topped with the pork that has been mixed with garlic, ginger, soy & of course just a splash of vodka & the baby white pak choi.  This is one of those dishes that left in front of you, you just can’t help but go back for a little more & a little more....

As if all that wasn’t enough, like I said you never go hungry at Cook the Books, we finished off with some stir fried rice with kailaan, a Chinese broccoli.  This one too has made a few appearances for dinner & lunch. Quick to whip up & there is just something wonderfully comforting & satisfying about a bowl of egg fried rice.

For more cooking inspiration & lots of cook books check out Cook the Books.

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

15 June 2013

The Ultimate Winter Couscous, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty - IHCC

This week over at IHCC it is a little bit of sunshine & as we head for the shortest day of the year here in New Zealand the timing is perfect.  I am not a fan of the shorter days, I prefer a little more light & sunshine. The shorter days, even though nowhere near as short as Winter days in the UK, seem to be able to weigh me down. It surprises me every year that June here in NZ is the month of shorter, often wetter, windier, grayer days.  And boy can it rain!  Though in saying that we have had a few sunny days as well....always much appreciated & they really do put a little spring in everyone’s step.

Back in Scotland we would be basking in day light from 4am until the well after 10pm when the sun would slowly set, my perfect kind of day especially if the sun is indeed shining! Here at the bottom of the globe there’s no lazy twilight the sun sets & that’s it lights out.  

So this week’s theme is perfect to brighten up a Winter’s day.  On a positive only a matter of days until the shortest day & then we are back on the upward spiral to Spring!  I give you the Ultimate Winter Couscous packed full of sunshine.

There are quite a few, well quite a lot of ingredients. It is however couscous & vegetables to feel free to mix it up with what you like or what you have on hand. I had smoked paprika rather than hot, raisins rather than apricots & double the amount of chilli flakes.  Along with the sunshine I like a little heat!

The Ultimate Winter Couscous, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Serves 4, or even more


2 carrots, peeled & cut into large dice
2 parsnips, peeled & cut into large dice
8 shallots, peeled
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise
3 bay leaves
5 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
2 1/2 cups pumpkin or squash, peeled & cut in to cubes
1/2 cup raisins
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup couscous
Large pinch of saffron
1 cup boiling vegetable stock
3 tbsp butter, broken into pieces
2 tbsp harissa
1 oz preserved lemon, finely chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves
A few slices of red chilli


Preheat the oven to 190C/ 375F

Place the carrots, parsnips & shallots in a large roasting dish or baking tray along with the cinnamon sticks, star anise, bay leaves, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt & all the ground spices and mix well. Place in the oven & cook for 15 minutes. 

Add the pumpkin, stir & return to the oven. Continue cooking for about 35 minutes or until the vegetables have softened but keep a little bite. Add the raisins, chickpeas & water. Return to the oven & cook for a further 10 -15 minutes until hot. 

About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous in a large heatproof bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, saffron and a good pinch of salt. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap & leave for about 10 minutes. Add the butter & fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in. Cover again & leave somewhere to keep warm until the vegetables are ready.

To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl.  Stir in the harissa & preserved lemon to the vegetables; taste & add salt if needed. Spoon the vegetables onto the center of the couscous. Top with lots of cilantro leaves & a few slices of fresh red chilli if you like a little extra bite.

This will definitely brighten up your day. Full of flavour & sunshine it is the perfect antidote to a grey winters day.

This is for this week's IHCC a little bit of sunshine...head over here for a little more.

If you like this you might like these...
Swiss Chard Fritters
Green Couscous


08 June 2013

Almond & Orange Blossom Florentines from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem - IHCC

Top tip with florentines...don’t leave them out.  Not only will they lose their crispness, if they are especially thin & delicate, as they should be, & exposed to Auckland’s winter humidity they will lose everything & become a gooey mess.

Yes we did have a little bit of a florentine debacle the other weekend, from one giant florentine to a gooey mess.  At least the giant florentine was saved, smashed in to shards & straight in to a air tight container it may not have look pretty as picture but it did taste as it should, crispy, crunch, nutty & terribly moreish.

So this week on our Ottolenghi journey over at IHCC we are moving on to some sweet treats.  I came across these almond & orange florentines & thought I’d put my florentine nemesis to bed.

Almond & Orange Blossom Florentines, adapted minimally from Ottolenghi

That minimal adaptation half teaspoon of orange blossom water for a hint of the exotic.


Vegetable oil for brushing
2 egg whites
100g / 3.5oz icing sugar
260g / 9oz flaked almonds
Grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 tsp orange blossom water
100g dark chocolate (optional)


Pre heat oven to 150C / 300F

Line a baking tray with baking paper & brush it lightly with a little vegetable oil. Fill a small bowl with cold water.

Place the egg whites, icing sugar, almonds & orange zest in a bowl & gently mix it all together. Dip your hands in the cold water & pick up little portions to make little mounds on the lined baking tray & space them well apart, this is key to avoid the aforementioned giant florentine.

Dip a fork in the water & use it to flatten each biscuit.  Try to make them as thin as possible without too many gaps between the almonds.  About 8cm wide is what we are looking for.

Place the tray in the oven & cook 10-12 minutes until golden.  Allow to cool & then remove gently from the baking tray with a palette knife & place in an airtight container; this will avoid aforementioned gooey florentine debacle. They’ll keep for 4-5 days.

If you are in the mood for a little additional decadence melt some dark chocolate & drizzle it over the top.

They worked!! All those almonds & the egg white to bind just make the whole becoming one giant florentine not an issue & as they made their way in to an air tight container we also avoid gooey disintegration.  The only thing, they could be just a tad crispier.

But as they are, nutty, orangey & just a little floral they are quite lovely.

For more Ottolenghi inspiration check out I Heart Cooking Clubs over here.

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This is also my entry for Sweet New Zealand being hosted by the gorgeous Sue who cooks up all sorts of deliciousness over at Couscous & Consciousness.


05 June 2013

My Favourite Chicken Curry

Sometimes I just feel like curry, I want the warmth & the spices.  This is my go to & has been for quite some time. It’s adapted, & little differently each time depending on what is lurking in the pantry, from Jamie’s Favourite Curry Sauce from his Happy Days book. An oldie but a goodie.

I find something innately satisfying & comforting about grinding & toasting spices, slowly building the layers of flavour, fragrant aromas emanating from the stove top.  Perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon.

So this is what I ate over this recent long weekend.  Sadly the last one here for a while.  It also marks the start of winter, granted a milder Winter than most & certainly milder than anything I experienced in the UK, but Winter none the less. It makes me want to rug up & hunker down until Spring & the next long weekend! On a positive; bowls of stews, casseroles, soups, curries & the odd glass of red to keep me warm & snuggled.

My Favourite Chicken Curry, adapted from Jamie’s Favourite Curry Sauce

Serves 4


5 tbsp rice bran oil, or other neutral oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds, smashed
3 red chillies, thinly sliced, (to de seed or not to de seed, I’ll leave that up to you depending on how fiery you like your curry)
1 handful curry leaves*
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 large onion, diced
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp turmeric
6 chicken thighs, sliced
6 tomatoes, diced
1 can coconut milk
1/4 cup coriander leaves
A few more coriander leaves & chilli slices to garnish

*Tip: Buy curry leaves at your local Asian grocer & then freeze them.  They can then just be used straight from frozen.


Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat & when hot add the mustard seeds. Wait for them to pop & then add the fenugreek seeds, coriander seeds, chillies, curry leaves & ginger. Stir & fry for a few minutes. Add the onion, season with a pinch of salt, & cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion is softened & a little brown. Add the chilli flakes, cumin, turmeric & stir to combine. 

Fry for a minute & then add the chicken & another pinch of salt.  Cook for a a few minutes until the chicken is seared all over.  Add the tomatoes, cook for a couple of minutes & then add the coconut milk. Turn down the heat to medium low & simmer for about 15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste & adjust seasoning if need be.

This a versatile sauce...if you feel like fish or vegetables make the sauce the whole way through & add at the end, cooking for a few minutes until just cooked through.

Just before serving stir through the coriander leaves.  Serve topped with coriander leaves & sliced chillies with perfect rice.

This is comfort food, warming, aromatic, spicy, creamy.

If you like this you might like this Curried Beef Stew
One year ago Pork Rillettes
Two years ago Braised Lamb Shanks


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