31 August 2014

Ale & Marmalade Lamb Shanks

One last comfort dish before we hit Spring....tomorrow! It’s not that it’s been a bad Winter & I even missed a whole month of it enjoying long lazy Summer days in mother country it’s just that I get so excited for Spring. Longer, warmer days, sunshine & asparagus, though yet to spy some of those delectable green spears. However, they can’t be too far away.

“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

It actually felt like it had come early last weekend, but that was just a tease  as rain & wind has returned to remind us to be patient, that mother nature won't be rushed.

One of life’s comfort foods is lamb shanks, for me preferably atop a mound of fluffy buttery mashed potato. They should be tender, falling off the bone & melt in the mouth.  These ones comes with a rich sticky sauce with a hint of marmalade giving them a little sweetness alongside a little tart. A drizzle of bright fresh mint oil, a scattering of fresh mint leaves & a sprinkle of spring onions cut through the tender meat & treacly sauce to make this dish pop.

Ale & Marmalade Lamb Shanks, adapted from Jamie’s Guinness Lamb Shanks


2 red onions, peeled & finely chopped
Olive oil 
1 handfuls raisins 
3 tbsp Seville orange marmalade 
2 tbsp tomato ketchup 
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, plus extra for serving 
Good pinch chilli flakes
500ml dark ale...I used Harrington’s Pig & Whistle, a mild dark ale
4 quality lamb shanks, roughly 350g each 
4 sprigs fresh rosemary 
1 ltr chicken stock 
1 small bunch fresh mint leaves 
A few tbsp olive oil 
2 spring onions, trimmed & thinly sliced
Cider vinegar


Place the onions in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole dish with a few tablespoons of olive oil & a pinch of salt. Cook over a medium heat, stirring every now & then, until the onions caramelise.  Add the raisins, marmalade, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, chilli flakes & ale & give everything a good stir. Turn down the heat & let it simmer

Meanwhile heat a few more tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan & add the lamb shanks.  Don’t over crowd the pan & cook in batches if you need to.  Turn them every few moments to brown them all over.  Once coloured add the rosemary leaves & let them brown & get crispy but not burn.

Add the lamb shanks & rosemary to the saucepan with the sauce.  Add the stock, put the lid on, turn down the heat & leave them be for 2-3 hours* until the meat is falling off the bone.  Turn the shanks around ever hour or so to ensure they cook evenly.

*Cooking time will depend on the size of the lamb shanks, you’ll see them start to come away from the bone when ready.

When done, carefully & gently remove the lamb shanks & move them to a platter, keeping them intact.  With a hand blender blend the sauce until smooth. If need be let it cook a little longer to reduce & thicken.

Place most of the mint leaves in a pestle & mortar with a good pinch of salt & the olive oil & give it a good smashing until you have a vibrant green oil.  Spoon the sauce over the lamb shanks.  Drizzle the oil around the lamb, scatter over the remaining mint leaves & spring onions.  To finish drizzle over a little cider vinegar & serve with a pile of mash potatoes.


19 August 2014

SPCA Cupcake Day

So I wouldn’t normally do this, but it is for such a good cause so I am going to!


It’s the SPCA Cupcake Day soon & it’s all to help fight animal cruelty.  So you get to eat cupcakes & help some of our furry little friends too. To get involved visit www.spcacupcakeday.co.nz.

Fight animal cruelty on August 25, 2014!

By registering, baking and fundraising for Cupcake Day for the SPCA, you will be part of an exceptional group of supporters who want to make a difference.

The SPCA receives no government funding so fundraising initiatives like Cupcake Day are vital to their survival & their ability to prevent animal cruelty.

Your cupcakes could help give a surrendered puppy a home, rescue a neglected pony, provide emergency surgery to an injured kitten & save thousands of lives. So get baking!


How do you get involved?
To host a Cupcake Day party:

·         Register for free here.

·         Wait for your host kit to arrive in the mail or check out what you can download here.

·         Personalise your Cupcake Day supporter page and send it out to the world.

·         Bake cupcakes.

·         Hold a Cupcake Day party for the SPCA and collect donations.

·         Show off your creations to the world via Facebook and enter our competitions.

·         Return your SPCA Cupcake Day donations via your supporter page or click here.

And for some inspiration here are some Lemon and Ricotta Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.


Lemon and Ricotta Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
½ cup part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 lemon, zested &  juiced

3 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tbsp cream
4 oz. (112 gr) white chocolate, melted. I used Whittaker's.
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ounce (28 gr) white chocolate, shaved


Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder & salt. Set aside & in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer beat together the sugar & egg until light & fluffy, about 3 minutes. I even timed myself! With the motor or speed on medium-low add the ricotta, melted butter & buttermilk to the sugar mixture & begin adding the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in thirds, scraping the bowl down after each addition until fully incorporated. Gently fold in the lemon extract, zest & juice & stir gently together.

Line each cup with paper liners & fill each about 2/3 of the way with the batter, to allow them a little space to rise. Place cupcakes in the oven & bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown & a skewer comes out clean.

For the frosting, place the sugar & butter in the bowl of a stand mixer & beat on low speed until just combined. About 2 minutes. Add the cream & turn the speed to medium-high & continue beating the mixture, until smooth. Reduce the speed to medium & slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate & fold in the vanilla until fully incorporated.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, place the frosting into a piping bag with a star tip & pipe a small amount of frosting onto each cupcake or a lot! I put on what I would consider quite a lot & I still had some left over. Top each cupcake with a sprinkle of white chocolate shavings & serve.
They rose beautifully, even in my old & somewhat decrepit oven, so I would highly recommend this to any cupcake novices like myself. I love the texture, light but with an almost doughnut like texture. The lemon really comes through & plays off against the sweet & rich frosting. And the frosting, goodness I don't think decadent even begins to do it justice. I am looking forward to perfecting my frosting technique; there is something strangely satisfying about using a piping bag full of frosting.

These went down an absolute treat in the office, so if you haven't made cupcakes before, go on & give them a go. Everyone deserves a little cupcake of lemony, chocolaty decadence & you can help animals too!

And for some chocolate inspiration here’s Chelsea’s Dreamy Double Chocolate Cupcakes


225g butter, at room temperature, cubed
1 ½ cups caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla essence or paste
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup milk
125ml cream
200g Whittaker’s 72% cocoa block
125g butter, at room temperature, cubed
4 ½ - 5 cups icing sugar

Preheat oven to 180°c conventional bake. Line 2 x standard 12 pan muffin tins with cupcake liners (24 total – just do them in two batches if you only have one muffin tray).

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl, and stir with a whisk to combine evenly. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric beater or cake mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon lots of elbow grease – this will take some time!) for about 10 minutes until very pale and very light and fluffy. Scrape the sides half way through.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well after each addition and scraping down the sides with a spatula each time. Beat in the vanilla essence.
In three parts each, alternate adding thirds of the dry ingredients and the milk. With each addition, mix gently (don’t beat) until the ingredients are just incorporated – but at the end, the mixture should be smooth. Again, scrape down the sides as you go.

Use two spoons to scrape the batter into the cupcake liners, ¾ full, and bake in middle of the oven for about 16 minutes, or when no longer wobbly on top. Remove from the oven and repeat with the other half of the mixture.

Cool the cupcakes in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

For the icing place the broken up chocolate and cream in a heatproof (i.e. metal, Pyrex or ceramic) bowl that fits neatly over a saucepan with about an inch water in it (the bowl shouldn’t touch the water). Simmer until the chocolate melts, stirring gently at the end to combine. Cool until lukewarm (if it’s too warm it will melt the butter later).

Beat the butter and half the sifted icing sugar in a large bowl (or cake mixer) until light and fluffy. Add a spoonful of the chocolate mixture and beat to combine. Add the remaining chocolate mixture and beat again to combine. Sift in most of the remaining icing sugar and continue to beat until smooth. If you think it’s too wet, add a little more icing sugar until it’s a good piping consistency. Add cream to thin it out if need be.

Spoon into a piping bag and ice the cooled cupcakes. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a resealable Glad bag with a corner snipped off.

Photo & recipe courtesy of Chelsea Winter.

13 August 2014

Leek Fritters

A bunch of leeks appeared in the veggie box the other week.  I’d made leek & potato soup just the other week & turned to the master of greens; Ottolenghi, for some green inspiration.  And sure enough Plenty did not disappoint.  

I couldn’t resist sweet, soft leeks wrapped up in spicy fritters. They made for the perfect winter comfort food & you even get to feel a little good at the same time eating all those lovely leeks. And to top it off a zingy creamy sauce that is bursting with herbs & zest & has definite potential to be highly addictive.

Like with a lot of Ottolenghi recipes there is quite a list of ingredients, but nothing too out there so you’ll likely find them all in your pantry & they are what at the end of the day makes these fritters such tasty morsels.

Leek Fritters, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Serves four


For the sauce
100g Greek yogurt
100g sour cream
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
20g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
30g coriander leaves, finely chopped

For the fritters
3 leeks (450g trimmed weight)
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
140ml olive oil
1 red chilli, deseeded & sliced
25g parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 egg white
120g self-raising flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 egg
150ml milk
55g unsalted butter, melted


First of all make the sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into the bowl of a food processor & blitz together until a wonderful green. Set the sauce aside until ready to serve.

Cut the leeks into 2cm thick rounds, rinse & dry. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat & add 5 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the leeks & shallots & sauté until soft; it will take about 15 minutes.  Transfer the leeks & shallots to a bowl & add the chilli, parsley, spices, sugar & salt. Leave to cool.

Whisk the egg white to soft peaks & fold it into the vegetables. In another bowl, add the flour, baking powder, egg, milk & butter & stir well to form a batter. Gently mix this into the egg white & vegetable mixture.

Pour 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat & spoon the mixture into the pan to make 3 large fritters, & fry for two to three minutes each side, until golden & crisp. Transfer to kitchen towel & place in a low oven to keep warm.   Repeat, adding oil as needed, until the mixture is all used up. Serve warm with the sauce on the side or drizzled over.

Oh my! As with all Ottolenghi fritter like concoctions these do not disappoint.  They are light & fluffy with just a hint of sweetness perfectly off set by the bright, fresh zingy green sauce.  It is quite the addictive sauce & the leftovers have found their way on to salads & chicken.


03 August 2014

Apple & Raspberry Crumble

Sunday lunch on a Winter’s day & a sudden hankering for crumble.  What’s not to love about a fruity delight topped with crunchy, toasty, nutty crumble & sticky & sweet juices bubbling up & over? Warm, sweet & terribly comforting topped with a billowy dollop of whipped cream it is most definitely terribly moreish.  So when I say serves 4, perhaps that is 3 or even 2....

A fruity little crumble can be whipped up in no time at all really, with whatever fruit is in season or frozen.  I felt like a little raspberry to brighten up this crumble alongside the apple & being in the depths of winter here in New Zealand there are none so a packet of frozen raspberries was just the trick to allow us a little taste of Summer.

This crumble is not overly sweet as I’m not a fan on overly sweet & not so keen on overloading with sugar either for that matter.  So if you feel it is not quite sweet enough feel free to add a little more sugar.  Rather than just flour & sugar I love the extra texture & crunch the rolled oats & nuts deliver on top.  You could whiz the butter & flour in a food processor,  but then you would have to wash said food processor & it can make for a very fine crumble, a little too fine for me so I prefer to rub by hand.  For me crumble should be a little rustic with little toasty nuggets here & there giving that wonderfully crunchy toppingit's those crunchy bits that are the best bits! I'll always go for the toastiest most crumbly bit of crumble.

Apple & Raspberry Crumble

*this is a humble crumble so feel free to mix it up with whatever you have on hand.  A little vanilla would work with the fruit & crushed hazelnuts in the topping. This is for 3-4 depending on how hungry & how many you are feeding.  Just up the quantities if you’re feeding pudding lovers or a crowd.

Serves 4


Juice & zest of 1 lemon 
3 medium apples
2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup coconut sugar or soft brown sugar

For the crumble 
4 tbsp spelt flour, or plain white flour is fine too
50g butter, cold & cut in to cubes
Pinch salt
1/4 cup coconut sugar or soft brown sugar
4 tbsp rolled oats
4 tbsp flaked almonds


Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F

Zest & juice the lemon in to a medium sized bowl.  Doing this first means we can throw the apples in there & they won’t go brown.  Peel, core & chop the apple in to 1cm cubes & add to the bowl with the lemon zest & juice.  Add the raspberries, orange zest & sugar & mix it all gently together.  Place the fruit in a medium sized pie dish.

Place the flour & butter in a medium sized bowl & rub together between your fingers until you have a mixture resembling coarse crumbs.  Add the salt, sugar, rolled oats & almonds & give it a good stir to mix everything together. 

Sprinkle the crumble over the top of the fruit, piling it a little higher in the  middle leaving an all important little space for all those lovely juices to bubble up & through.

Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the juices are bubbling up & the crumble is golden & toasty.  Let it cool a little for a few moments.  Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream whichever takes your fancy.


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