24 February 2014

A Tomato Glut & Marinara Sauce

Growing your own tomatoes, one of Summer’s pleasures. It’s so good & satisfying just to be able to pick your own & they smell & taste so good....like they should, like real tomatoes.  Just picking them there is the smell of the vines that quintessentially summery ever so tomatoey aroma that you’ll never get from the ones bought in the supermarket.

When tomatoes first arrived in the new world they were treated with suspicion but slowly they won people over. It may have helped that the French thought they might an aphrodisiac & even called them pomme d’amour - love apple!

They are so versatile & unlike a zucchini glut I never tire of a tomato glut.  They can go in to salads & sandwiches be turned in to a sauce,  a chutney,  a paste, a soup.  They can be roasted, semi dried & are a perfect companion to pasta for a quick Summer supper. Even at the end of the season the green ones need not go to waste, they can go in to my Mum’s wonderful green tomato chutney.

Even just sliced, a drizzle of olive oil & a good sprinkle of salt & little black pepper they are bursting with flavour. Even better in a caprese salad with a little buffalo mozzarella & basil. Or in my current breakfast of choice; avocado & tomato on toast with a good sprinkle of salt & freshly cracked pepper.

They are very sociable, & are especially good friends with olive oil, butter, cream, salt, cheese, bacon & pasta....all the good things :) Not to forget basil, chives, oregano, parsley, garlic, peppers, eggplant & corn

They really are ever so easy to grow & it is so lovely to pop out to the garden on a balmy Summer evening to pick a few to pop in a salad.  And I do love a glut as it means you can preserve a little of Summer to brighten up the Winter months. Let’s be honest the supermarket tomatoes are more often than not really just a faint reminder of a what a tomato should because they are round & red, but sadly too often lacking in taste.

This weekend some have gone in to a spicy tomato chutney & a pile of them when in to this marinara sauce, well my take on a marinara sauce.  Perhaps not completely authentically Italian, but delicious nonetheless & a little Summer saved for later.

Marinara Sauce


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
2 cans of crushed tomatoes or about 800g of fresh tomatoes*
2 bay leaves
Pinch chilli flakes
Salt & pepper

*If using fresh tomatoes, make a little cross at the bottom of each tomato & place in a bowl of boiling water for 5 minutes. Peel the tomatoes place in a bowl & just mush it all together with your hands.


Place a large pot over medium heat & add the olive oil. Add the onions & the garlic & saute for 8-10 minutes until they are translucent but not browned.  Add the celery, carrots & a good pinch of salt & pepper.  Saute until all the vegetables are soft, another 10 minutes or so.  Add the tomatoes. bay leaves, chilli & simmer uncovered over a low heat until the sauce thickens.  This will take about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaves.  Taste & adjust seasoning if need be.  Give it a quick whizz with a stick blender, just to make it a little more saucy.  I like a little texture but if you like it super smooth just whizz a little more.

Make a big batch & then little bags can be kept in the freezer for a few months & you have a quick & speedy supper ready to go.

If you like this you might like this A Glut of Tomatoes


16 February 2014

Massaman Curry

Last weekend with an extra long weekend due to Waitangi Day & a day off I had time to spend in the kitchen & that coincided nicely with the overwhelming urge to make curry from scratch.  There is something so satisfying about chopping, toasting & pounding out your own curry paste. I find it relaxing. You can just smell all the aromas & flavours as they meld together to make that will pop with flavour.

This is another one from Ripe: A Fresh Batch. That along with Nadia Lim’s Good Food Cook Book have been my Summer go to cook books.  So many wonderful recipes, all bursting with flavour. Even better they are packed full of fresh produce so they are good for you too.  It’s a win win! They have certainly got me back in to the kitchen & loving being there again.

Back to that curry; this is a Thai curry is based on the curries made by Muslims or massamans of Southern Thailand. It uses aromatic spices & flavours from the surrounding areas of India, Malaysia & Indonesia so you know it’s going to be packed full of flavour.  If you do have some time make you’re own paste; it’s well worth the time & effort & a batch will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months letting you whip up a curry whenever you feel like it.

Massaman Curry Paste, from Ripe: A Fresh Batch


Makes 2 small jars

4 tbsp vegetable oil
10 whole dried chillies* or 6 fresh red chillies, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled & roughly chopped
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Seeds of 4 cardamom pods
1 tsp ground cloves
4 whole star anise 
3 tbsp Thai shrimp paste**
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 onion, peeled & finely diced
2 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
6 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 tbsp fresh turmeric, grated or 1 tbsp turmeric powder
8 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tsp salt

*If using dried chillies, soak them in a small bowl with a little hot water for 5 minutes or until softened.  Set aside the chillies & discard the water.
**It is important to use Thai shrimp paste, which you’ll get at most Asian supermarkets.  If you can’t find it then it is best leave it out altogether.


Place a medium sized frying pan over a low to medium heat.  Add the oil, chillies, garlic, dry spices, shrimp pastes & peppercorns.  Fry for a couple of minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat & put everything in to a mortar & pestle & grind to a paste.  Place the paste in a medium sized bowl & add all the other ingredients.  Use a stick blender & pulse until you have a smooth paste.

Place in clean sterilised jars & top with enough oil to cover.  Store in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Massaman Beef Curry


Serves 6-8

2 tbsp vegetable oil
800g beef rump or chuck steak, cut in to 3cm cubes
4 shallots, peeled & quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled & roughly chopped
4 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp turmeric powder
4 tbsp massaman curry paste
1 cup / 250ml thick coconut cream, reserve the remainder of the can for serving
2 tbsp peanut butter*
1 tbsp palm sugar or soft brown sugar
4 tbsp tamarind pulp
1x 425ml can coconut milk
2 cups / 500ml water
300g potatoes, peeled & cut in to 3cm pieces
4 / 400g Asian eggplants, sliced in to 4cm rounds**

*I use Pic’s the best peanut butter ever!!
**I left these out as I didn’t have any & also I confess not a fan of eggplant unless it is in Queenies smoky babaganoush with their Turkish eggs.

To Serve
Reserved thickened coconut cream
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves or Thai basil leaves
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts
2 limes cut in to wedges


Prepare the massman curry paste.

Pre heat oven to 160C/320F

Place a large frying pan over a high heat & add the oil.  When hot add beef, shallots, garlic, kaffir lime, turmeric & curry paste.  Cook for 5 minutes to brown the meat.

Add a quarter cup of coconut cream & lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 5 minutes until the cream becomes glossy & the oil & spices start to separate.  Add the remainder of the 1 cup of coconut cream & stir through.  Remove from the heat & transfer to a casserole dish with a fitted lid.  

In a small bowl mix together the peanut butter, sugar & tamarind with a little hot water.  Add this mix to the curry & place in the oven to cook for one & half hours.  Remove from the oven & add the potatoes, return to the oven & cook for a further 30-40 minutes until the beef is tender & the potatoes cooked through.

Serve with small bowls of the coconut cream, fresh coriander, roasted peanuts, lime wedges & rice.

So fragrant, so aromatic, a little sweet, a little sour, a little spice.  That perfect trio of Thai flavours. So go on; if you have a spare afternoon pound out some paste, make a curry, pop it in the oven, relax a little & enjoy the aromas wafting from the oven & then just enjoy all those wonderful flavours.  And hopefully there will be left overs as it will taste even better on day 2.

If you like this you might like this Curried Beef Stew
Two years ago Mexican Scramble


11 February 2014

Roasted Pumpkin & Chorizo Salad

A balmy summer evening & another BBQ & the need for a salad & the desire for something a little different.  I think the chillies & tomatillos ripening in the garden are sending me on a bit of Mexican phase!  So browsing through Thomasina Miers Mexican Food Made Simple I came across this hearty one.  Not a shy retiring type this one, more of a bold “hello I’m here...look at me!” type. Roasted pumpkin, spicy chorizo, sweet cherry tomatoes & roasted red onions drizzled in coriander oil, oh & just a few shavings of Pecorino.

Roasted Pumpkin & Chorizo Salad, adapted from Thomasina Miers Mexican Food Made Simple


Quarter of a medium pumpkin, cut in to 1cm thick wedges
A good pinch chilli flakes
1/4 cup oregano leaves
Olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
Bunch coriander leaves, chopped
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 chorizo, sliced on the diagonal*
2-3 handfuls baby spinach leaves
A few pecorino shavings to garnish
Salt & pepper

*I used Salash...the hot one...my favourite


Pre heat oven to 190C/375F

Place the pumpkin on a roasting dish & scatter over the chilli flakes, oregano & season with salt & pepper.  Drizzle over just enough olive oil to coat the pumpkin & toss gently to combine.  Pop in the oven roast for 15 minutes & then add the onion & turn to coat in the oil. After another 10 minutes add the cherry tomatoes & cook for another 10 -15 minutes until everything is nicely roasted.

While the veg are roasting place the coriander leaves & a pinch of salt in a pestle & mortar & pound to a  paste.  Add the olive oil, stir & set aside.

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat & fry the chorizo for a couple of minutes each side.  Drain on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil.

Place the roast vegetables in a large bowl & add a tablespoon of the coriander oil & gently mix them all together. Arrange the baby spinach leaves on a platter & top the roasted vegetables.  Top with a few shavings of pecorino & drizzle over the rest of the coriander oil.

This salad could almost be a meal on its own but also great as part of a BBQ. It’s got sweet, spicy, fresh & nice little hit of chilli.

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


06 February 2014

Wanderings: Waiheke Island

Waiheke....such a little gem, one of my favourite little gems anywhere, & only a 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland.  Just 40 minutes & you are away from the hustle & bustle of the big smoke. The minute you step off the ferry you just slow down.  I always want to come straight back, even just after one day. I just want to up sticks & move over there.  Maybe grow some olives or a little wine...see sounds idyllic right?  And in my head it most definitely is & I do love a little day dreaming.  Stunning views, white sandy beaches, cafes, restaurants & vineyards; lots of very, very good vineyards.

A day trip is great, but longer would always be better.  Though I do kind of like that I always want to come back as it’s always something to look forward to.  We caught the 8:15 ferry from downtown Auckland & just after 9 we were very happily ensconced at Wai Kitchen in the middle of Oneroa for some breakfast before a little exploring. Wai means water & as you sit in Wai KItchen you can just take in the the glorious view out over the Hauraki Gulf. The perfect spot to start a day on Waiheke.

Wai Kitchen is owned by the same team that owns, Teed Street Larder, Toru, Scullery & Scratch Bakery so they most definitely know what they are doing.  If like me you like white anchovies then you must visit Teed St Larder for some of them on toast.

But back to Wai Kitchen, where you can actually have white anchovies.   At Wai Kitchen they come with fried eggs, serrano jamon, olives & manchego & I may well have to try them on my next visit.  I was in the mood for eggs but felt more like scrambled & when I saw that they came with pancetta I was sold. Lighter, crispier & just so much more flavour than regular bacon I can rarely go past a little pancetta. These were great scrambled eggs; creamy & delicious the perfect foil for the salty, crispy pancetta. For the toast component it was home baked & I could have eaten a whole loaf slathered in butter. I almost forgot about the coffee; yes it was good too. 

My breakfast buddies had the eggs benedict with bacon & the poached eggs with colcannon, corned beef, avocado & sour cream & there was a happy silence as we all tucked in. We all left on our exploring very happily full & satisfied.

A little retail therapy in Oneroa & then we were off for a wee road trip around the island before a late lunch at The Shed at Te Motu.  First stop was Obsidian nestled in the Onetangi valley; one of my favourite little vineyards & a must visit for anyone who likes a good red. Relaxed & friendly they’ll happily take you through a tasting of all their wonderful wines. Sadly the rose & pinot gris are all sold out but I did come home with a beautiful syrah. The winemaker describes it better than I can

“Bright purple in the glass.  Lifted aromas of blackberry along with hints of ripe plums and spice.  This is a medium bodied wine showing an abundance of sweet fruit and ripe silky tannins.  The oak is well judged and contributes to the persistent finish. (Winemaker's Notes)”

Next on our little tour was Man O War, right down at the eastern more remote end of the island.  It’s worth heading down this way for the spectacular views & then when you get to Man O’War you can stop in for a little liquid refreshment & taste some more very good Waiheke wines.

After our little ticky tour it was time for a little late lunch & we headed to The Shed at Te Motu nestled among the vines in the afternoon sunshine.  To start some olives & a few small plates.  Chicken liver parfait with peach & ginger chutney & melba toast, a bright & fresh & ever so tender venison carpaccio with nam pla, palm sugar, shallots, coriander, lime & chilli. My favourite though was the panelle with parsley, olives, caper, lemon & Pecorino. Panelle is fried chick pea polenta...now you can see why this was so good.  Crisp & the parsley, olives & capers the perfect topping alongside the pecorino.

For mains the fish of the day for some, which they said was delicious & for me broad bean fritters, labne, roast carrot hummus, cucumber & flat bread.  The fritters were crisp & light & the hummus lovely & sweet.  On the side a kale slaw with toasted seeds & a pomegranate dressing….this may well be the best way I have ever eaten kale! And being at Te Motu we were able to savour some quite delicious reds. There was even just a little room left for dessert.  The star the dulce du leche ice cream, with macadamia brittle & caramelized banana…a heavenly dessert, crunchy, nutty, sweet & caramelly.

To finish off our island day a little beach time at Onereoa before catching the the ferry back to the big smoke.

Wai Kitchen
1/149 Ocean View Road

Te Makiri Road
Waiheke Island

Man O War
1 Man O'war Bay Rd, Waiheke Island,

The Shed at Te Motu
76 Onetangi Road, Onetangi 1971
Waiheke Island, Auckland
New Zealand

02 February 2014

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup

This one is fast, quick, bright & fresh. So it is perfect for a speedy weeknight dinner. There is a bit of chopping involved but I find that most relaxing after a long day.  There is something therapeutic about it as the working day eases in to evening & the crazy pace of the day becomes more of an evening stroll.  It’s just the quiet time I need, a few minutes of complete calm not really thinking about anything else, but chopping.  It clears the mind a little.

This bowl also delivers quite a wallop of flavours.  A spicy, fragrant, lemongrass scented broth topped with shredded chicken, fresh mint & aromatic coriander delivering a cooling herbal hit against the fiery red chillies & a welcome crunch from the carrots & bean sprouts.  It is one tasty supper.

Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup, adapted just a little from Nadia Lim’s Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup


Serves 2

For the soup
2 shallots sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, sliced
Thumbnail of ginger, sliced
2 star anise
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 red chilli
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
500ml chicken stock
4 chicken thighs
1 cup rice noodles, cooked according to packet instructions

To serve
1 small carrot, shredded
1 spring onion, sliced
Handful bean sprouts
Handful coriander leaves
Handful mint, chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
Handful crispy shallots
1 lime cut in to wedges


Place the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, star anise, coriander seeds, all spice, peppercorns, chilli, sugar, fish sauce & chicken in a large pot & cover with the chicken stock. Season with a pinch of salt.  Cover & bring to the boil & then turn off the heat & leave to stand, covered, for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the broth & shred with 2 forks.  Set aside.  Strain the soup & return to the pot & heat it through.  Taste & adjust seasoning with more salt, pepper or fish sauce.

Place the noodles in soup bowls & ladle over the broth. Place the shredded chicken, carrot, spring onion, bean sprouts, herbs, chilli & crispy shallots on a platter & let everyone help themselves. Top the soup with whatever you like! But don’t forget that squeeze of lime.  It just wakens this bowl right up & brings it all bursting to life, an explosion of bright fresh flavours.

Such a bright flavourful bowl.  Next time I think I’ll add some toasted peanuts for a little extra crunch.

If you like this you might like this Prawn & Feta Fattoush Salad
Three years ago A Jar of Summer


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