Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Super Easy Srawberry Ice-cream

              Strawberries are super cheap and sweet at the moment.   Early in the season I treat strawberries like royalty eating them raw and savoring there glorious flavour knowing that summer is on the way.  Now that summer is here with a glut of strawberries I start  thinking towards the cooler months and how I can prolong my strawberry season.  I make jam Strawberry and Black Pepper, Strawberry and rhubarb or I make a coulis in it's simplest form (punnets of hulled strawberries blended raw with sugar - 1 cup of sugar with 2 punnets of strawberries) and freeze it in ice trays.  This will be the base of my super easy strawberry ice-cream a taste of summer in the dark depths of winter.  If you have an ice-cream churner this just so, so simple it would be criminal not to give this recipe a whirl you will not be disappointed.  Minimum effort maximum flavour.  If not then you have a little bit of work to do but it is so worth the effort.

Super Easy Strawberry Ice-cream

2 punnets strawberries Hulled and halved
1 cup sugar
300mls cream
1 shot vodka ( this helps to keep your ice-cream soft but is not essential)

Blend strawberries, vodka and sugar together in a food processor until smooth.  If you don't like the seeds push through a sieve to remove.  Pour the strawberry coulis into the ice-cream churner following the manufacturers instructions.  Slowly add the cream leave to churn until very thick.  Freeze until firm or scoff as soft serve.

If you don't have a churner once the coulis has been made pour into a shallow tray and partially freeze.  Use the pulse setting on the food processor to quickly break down pour on cream and pulse until combined.  Partially refreeze.  Process again and refreeze. Repeat and pour into plastic container freeze and eat.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Orange and Rum Christmas Cake


             Since we here in New Zealand don't get to experience a white christmas I thought I'd bring a little of that white magic to my christmas cake.  So out came the snow-man I invested in some snowflake plunger cutters and raided my cake decorating kit for everything else.  He's awesome and the kids were utterly enthralled with the process of putting him together.

          This recipe is the one I turn to every year I try to make it well in advance but some years life is too hectic.  Now I've dabbled with other recipes and I've used more exotic dried fruits but to me this is what a christmas cake should be rich, dense with fruit and boozy.   I ice it with marzipan and fondant icing since most years I travel with it and as I have discovered royal icing, it's fluffy meringue cousin and rum butter-cream do not like long car trips.  As I type this I had a revelation fruitcake cupcakes swirled high with Rum butter-cream icing perhaps with a hint of coffee and now I wonder will I be able to fit them into my schedule.........gotta love Christmas!

Rum and Orange Christmas Cake

1.5 kg mixed dried Fruit
1 cup rum
2 oranges zest and juice
200grams soft brown sugar
250grams soft butter
4 eggs (at room temperature)
2 teaspoons vanilla
350grams self/raising flour
salt pinch
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1x 22cm cake tin lined twice with baking paper (bottom and sides)

Soak fruit in rum and orange juice overnight (or however long it takes you to get around to it).
Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and orange zest until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.  Sieve flour, spice and salt onto butter mix  and stir gently add the fruit and mix batter until combined.   Spoon mixture into prepared cake tin and bake for 3 hours in a slow oven.  Stick a skewer into cake to check if it is cooked skewer should come away clean.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Summer Dining

Rye and Wholemeal Flat-bread with avocado, snapper and a tomato herb salad

           As the warmer weather arrives I start thinking about light tasty food that can be eaten alfresco with friends and a glass of wine or ice cold beer.  There are all kinds of cheats that can be used for this dish but since I am in purist mode I'll let you figure those out for yourself.  These luscious morsels (ok somewhat bigger than a morsel)  were devoured by adults and children.  Even as I write this I think about all the variations that could be played out on these freshly baked breads, quite frankly I'm beginning to feel like there is not enough time to cook all the things I'd like too.  So prepare yourselves for recipes galore this time of year is glorious.

Rye and Wholegrain Flat-bread

2 teaspoons dried yeast
300g plain flour (high grade)
150g wholemeal flour
150g rye flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
50mls olive oil

Combine yeast with 300mls of warm (blood temperature) water and teaspoon of sugar, mix together and leave in a warm spot until the mix froths.  In a bowl combine flours and salt, make a well in the center and pour yeast mix and oil into it.  Using your hand incorporate the dry and wet ingredients until the dough comes together.  Tip onto a floured bench and kneed dough until shiny and elastic (approx 10 minutes) or use  dough hook and do it in a machine.  Cover dough with a clean damp teatowel and set aside for an hour to prove.  The dough should double in size.  Pre-heat oven to 200c.  Turn out dough and divide into eight.  Roll each segment of dough into 15cm long oval breads place on oven trays lined with paper (or pre-heated pizza stones with semolina) drizzle with olive oil sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 7 minutes until golden brown.

Avocado and Snapper Topping

2 large avocado mashed with the juice of one lemon and seasoned well
4 snapper fillets approx 200grms each baked in the oven with lemon zest, a drizzle of olive oil and seasoned well.
 100mls of aioli
4 spring onions finely sliced
1 cup picked washed coriander leaves
2 tomatoes pulp and seed removed finely diced.
juice of lemon and olive oil to drizzle (2 tbspns)
lemon wedges to serve

 To assemble (either do it your self or let your guests build their flat-bread to suit themselves.)
 Smear avocado along the flat bread, flake pieces of snapper over the top drizzle with aioli,  sprinkle salad over the top coriander, spring onion and tomato.  Dress with lemon and oil and season.


1 egg yolk
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove of garlic crushed finely
200mls olive oil
salt and pepper

Whisk yolk, lemon, dijon and garlic together very slowly pour the oil on to the yolk mixture whisking continuously until all the oil is incorporated.  Season.  If you prefer you can do this in a food processor following the same principles.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Smoked Kahawai

          Look at these beauties ok not the biggest fish ever caught but my six year old was pretty pleased with himself.   The kahawai is not considered a glamorous fish and is often used as bait.  It's fatty flesh lends itself to being smoked and that is exactly what I chose to do. 
So guts out and heads off don't worry about scaling the fish and leave the skin on.  Split the fish down the center and open out the kahawai.   For each fish I cured I used 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves and a good grind of black pepper.  The kahawai was covered and refrigerated overnight to cure.  Approximately 12 hours later the cure was rinsed off and the fish smoked.  In my hot-smoker I used 2 Tablespoons of oak shavings with a drizzle of whiskey and a couple of fresh bay leaves for a light herbal note.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My go-to meal.

Orechiette with broccoli, lemon and chilli

           We all have our own go-to meal.  It's crunch time.  Dinner looms ahead and it's been one of those days.  Take-aways you say to yourself but then you've got to get every-one in the car and out again only to have to repeat the performance again before you even walk through the door..........
           No way you pull out a few simple ingredients and before you know it dinner is in front of you.  It's a humble dish and we eat it more often then I care to admit.  It's a fuss free one pot meal that everyone will eat with no complaints.  Left overs sorry no.  You won't be sorry.

Orechiette with broccoli, lemon and chilli

pasta (your choice)
broccoli (or try cauliflower or zucchini.)
potato (waxy is best)
lemon zest and juice
chilli flakes

Cook your pasta in plenty of boiling salt water until it is almost al dente, add the cubed potato.  When the potato is cooked add florets of broccoli.  Continue to boil until broccoli is cooked how you like it.  Tip into a colander saving a small amount of cooking water.  Tip into serving bowl and toss through lemon, chilli and pesto.  Use the cooking water if you need to loosen up the pasta.  Season.  Top with plenty of shaved pecorino.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cumin and Pomegranate Molasses basted Chicken

         Sorry folks I'm still stuck in the middle east.  What can I say?  I'm loving the flavour combinations and this chicken rocks.  Even now as I write this I'm contemplating a trip to the butcher to grab a chicken I've ticked off the other ingredients earthy cumin check, fresh coriander check, spanish onion check and the key ingredient pomegranate molasses check.  You can find this in middle eastern food stores and some supermarkets also stock it.  It is a thick dark syrup made from pomegranates  and is gloriously sweet and sour.  Serve the chicken with hot buttered cous cous to soak up all the juices.

Cumin and Pomegranate Molasses basted Chicken
 (with coriander and pickled red onion salad)

1 whole chicken or your favourite chicken pieces
2 tablespoons ground cumin (roasted)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh coriander leaves
1 spanish (red) onion
1/2 teaspoon salt (extra)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon juice

Mix spice, salt, oil and molasses in a bowl.
Butterfly chicken ( remove backbone with a sharp knife or kitchen shears, remove wish-bone and flatten.)  Using your fingers lift up the skin around breasts and legs.  Rub the spice mixture over chicken using your fingers push marinade up into and under the skin.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes and roast in a pre heated oven (180c) with 1/2 cup water in bottom of tray for 50 -60 minutes if using a whole chicken or until juices run clear.  Pull chicken out of oven and spoon cooking juices back over chicken at least twice during the cooking time.

Thinly slice the onion and toss with the second measure of salt, sugar and lemon juice leave for 1 hour.  Toss together with coriander and garnish your chicken.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Thyme, Sumac and Sesame Bread

         There is nothing as satisfying as making your own bread.  In this day and age you can decide just how much of your time and energy you wish to use on making your bread.  Yes bread does take time to make there is no getting around it but it is not hands on time the steps to making bread are quick and can be done in a mixer with a dough hook or bread-making machine which will also prove your bread or by hand (it's a great upper body work-out) This recipe is for a crusty flat bread and you can flavour the oil to suit your own tastes ie Rosemary, Chile and Parmesan.  I've taken my flavours again from the middle east.  Sumac is a deep red purple spice which is the dried fruit of a bush most commonly known as Rhus.  The dried berry has a tart citric flavour.  It is often used in spice rubs, marinades and dressings; it has an affinity for chicken, fish and seafood, lamb, eggplant, chickpeas and lentils.  Sumac will keep in an airtight container for several months.

Thyme, Sumac and Sesame Bread

500g plain flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons yeast dried
1 1/2 cups warm water (blood temperature)  yeast needs warmth to activate however if it is hot                                                                               the yeast dies.
25mls olive oil.

Flavoured oil mix:-
    1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
    1 Tablespoon sumac
    1 Tablespoon fresh thyme or half if using dry.
     75mls oil
     1/2 teaspoon salt

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of your electric mixer (follow manufacturers instructions for bread maker using all the ingredients except flavoured oil)  or in a bowl if doing by hand.  In a small bowl mix the water, yeast, sugar and oil set aside in a warm place until it becomes frothy.  Now I could give you a time but it depends on the warmth of your kitchen.  Add yeast mix to the flour and either using a dough hook or your hands combine the ingredients.  Allow the dough hook to work the dough for at least 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy.  If you are using your hands tip the mix onto a clean working surface which has been floured and knead for 10 minutes.  To knead you will form the dough into a ball and then using the heel of your hand you will push the dough down and away from you  Turn the dough a little and repeat.  Use the weight of your body and find a rhythm.  Cover the dough with a clean damp cloth and place in a warm place to prove the dough will double in size and this will take approximately an hour.
For the spice oil combine all the ingredients.
Knock the dough back and roll out so that it forms a 20cm by 40cm rectangle.  Place on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Using a sharp knife cut the dough across into 12 pieces, Brush liberally with spiced oil and put aside for 10 minutes.  Bake in a hot 200c oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kiwi lamb meets the Middle East

        Lamb has become an expensive item so when it features in the menu it is a bit of a special treat and even then I try to make it go just that little bit further.  This dish does that nicely it is rich and satisfying especially with lots of freshly baked bread to mop up the sauce, oh and super easy too.  The eggs are cooked so that when you break the yolk it adds a certain gooey unctuousness to the whole dish.  Feel free to do this with just the eggs and tomato sauce, still quite heavenly and a super different brunch dish to try out on friends and family.  Add the meatballs, beans and a glass of Shiraz to make a fabulous dinner.


600grms lamb mince
1 onion finely diced
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chilli
salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
oil to fry

Combine all the ingredients well and with wet hands make golf ball size meatballs.  Brown the meatballs all over.

Spicy Tomato Sauce

 2 tablespoons oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 large 820grm tin chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chilli
salt and pepper
500mls stock or water
3 Tablespoons fresh thyme

Using the same fry-pan that was used for the meatballs add oil, onions and garlic and cook until translucent.  Add the spices and cook for one minute then add remaining ingredients and bring to the boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

To Finish Dish

600grams green beans
6 eggs

Add beans to sauce cook for five minutes the add meatballs, crack in six eggs ( I made little indentations in the mix first) cover pan with a lid and cook until egg whites are just set, or longer depending on how you like your eggs.  Serve with plenty of fresh bread (recipe to follow) or hot buttered couscous.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sunday Brunch

                  All I can say is if you're partial to the odd bit of french toast then you should try this gorgeous twist but be warned you may find that you eat more than the odd bit.  I did a quick bit of research and got lost amongst the many variations and there country of origin some made me salivate and others (savoury, gherkins onions mayonnaise and tomato sauce) left me for dead, but they all had one thing in common a quick and economical way to use up stale bread.     Here's a link if you're a little curious about "french toast".

Cream Cheese and jam stuffed French Toast

 4 eggs
1 cup milk
4 fat slices (2 -3cm) stale bread
4 tbspn cream cheese
4 tbspns jam (I used nectarine )
cinnamon and sugar

 Cut a pocket into one side of the bread cut almost all the way through.  Into each pocket smear 1 tablespoon each of cream cheese and jam.  Beat eggs and milk together pour into a flat dish that is big enough for  the four slices of bread.  Lay the bread flat into the milk and turn over after five minutes (remember that you want the bread to soak up all of the egg mixture)  Heat the oil in a large non-stick fry-pan add butter.   Sprinkle the bread with cinnamon and sugar and fry until golden on both sides 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Birthday Dinner

Pan-seared Roasted Eye Fillet

        I was recently asked what my favourite meal would be, I didn't have a ready answer.  What gets my taste buds going often depends on and what I've seen at the market or what "food porn" is currently resting on my bedside table.  All those tantalising glossy pages just begging for me to cook them sometimes you just can't say no!  And sometimes an idea just sits there firmly in the back of your mind until it becomes an obsession.  My birthday dinner was a bit like that I'd been thinking about that gorgeous piece of steak for weeks normally I'll go on and on about other steaks, steaks with fat, steaks where the muscles have done some work and have flavour.  Steaks that are cheaper. (Although I have to say a big thanks to Sam's, my local butcher for the incredibly well priced piece of eye fillet.)  It lived up to expectation tender and succulent.  I served it with two of my favourite foods Double Butter Mash Potato and Creamy Garlic Spinach, as well as a Red wine Beef Jus.  It was a seriously good birthday dinner. 

Pan-seared Roasted Eye Fillet

1 tablespoon oil
800g beef eye fillet in one piece, at room temperature
salt and pepper to season

Pre-heat the oven to 200c.  Rub the oil into the piece of fillet and season.  Heat a frying pan to very hot and cook the beef for two minutes on each side so that the fillet is evenly browned.  Transfer to a roasting pan  and roast for 20 minutes for medium -rare.  Cover meat and rest for 10 minutes in a warm place.  Carve.

Double Butter Potato Mash

1kg potatoes agria
200mls cream
150g butter
salt and pepper

Peel and wash potatoes.  Cut the potatoes into similar sizes and cook in well salted water until soft.  Drain dry and tip into a sieve.  In the pot bring the cream to the boil, push the potato through the sieve on to the cream ( make sure you potato is still hot otherwise the starches in the potato become sticky and glue like)  Beat in the butter, stirring until smooth.  Season to taste.

Garlic Cream Spinach

2 cloves garlic finely chopped
100mls cream
spinach (1 bag stems removed and washed well)

Reduce cream and garlic in a large pan toss through spinach until wilted season and serve.

Red Wine Jus

Ok so I cheated here and bought a sachet of Beef Jus from the chilled department at the supermarket.  I reduced down a wine glass of red wine with some fresh thyme, bayleaf and finely sliced shallot and added the sachet, oh and I did this in the pan I had browned the meat so that I could get all those yummy caramelised meaty bits.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Honey Soy Chicken with Sesame

             Tonight I wanted something quick and tasty.  Oh and I wanted sticky and unctuous, something lip smackingly good.  Something that the kids would just eat without fuss, ok so I served it with bok choy which I am sad to say is not a a fuss free vegetable in our house, but I wanted it so they got too!  I enjoyed mine and they ate theirs because they wanted ice-cream.  But the simple steamed rice with the sweet and salty chicken and all the gorgeous goey sauce studded with ginger and garlic that hit the spot. 

Honey Soy Chicken with Sesame

1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely grated
2 large cloves finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon flavourless oil
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons dark soy (of course if you've only got light use that)
3 tablespoons water
juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
8 -10 chicken drumsticks

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Sliced spring onion (optional)

Heat the flavourless oil and add the ginger and garlic to it, cook gently until soft.   Combine honey, soy, water, sesame oil, lemon juice and black pepper with the softened garlic and ginger.  Cool.  Toss through chicken pieces and leave to marinate for as long as your schedule allows ie overnight or 30 minutes or somewhere in between.  Bake in a pre heated oven at 180c for 40 minutes.  Turning as often.  I recommend cooking the chicken in a smaller sized roasting dish so that the chicken cooks in a puddle of the marinade.  Serve sprinkled with the toasted sesame seeds and finely sliced spring onion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011



       Many different nations lay claim to the baklava, it is a well known pastry that has evolved through-out the Central Asian Countries.  It is thought to have begun with the nomadic tribes of turkey, it has been claimed by the Greek, the Armenians introduced it to the spice route and the middle eastern nations embraced it and made it their own.  There are many variations on this glorious sweet pastry but the heart of it is layers of thin delicate filo or phylo pastry and butter with a filling of either almonds, walnuts or pistachios or a combination ( I would also consider using pecans or macadamias ) baked and then soaked in a sugar syrup.   Depending on the ethnic group preparing the baklava there is also a variation of spices, honey or the addition of rose water or orange blossom water.  Here is my version and it is absolutely gorgeous, there is so little effort in making this sweet for such a big reward.


125 grams each  almonds and walnuts
50 grams sugar
1 tspn cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamon
100 grams butter, melted
250 grams filo pastry

orange zest, jullienne
150 grams sugar
75 grams honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 tspn orange blossom water or rose water
150mls water

Grease a square cake tin with butter.  In a food processor pulse nuts with sugar and spices so that you have a mixture of course and fine nuts.  Cut the filo pastry to the size of your tin.  Cover with a damp tea towel so that the filo pastry does not dry out.  Layer one third of your pastry in the tin brushing each layer with butter as you go.  Cover pastry with half of the nut filling and repeat another layer of pastry, nuts and the final layer of pastry.  Refrigerate until firm and cut into portion size pieces.  Pre-heat the oven to 175c and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
For the syrup: using a peeler peel thin strips of orange skin and thin slice finely for jullienne.   Bring the sugar, honey, cinnamon, orange peel and water to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in blossom or rose water.  Pour hot syrup over the hot pastry and allow to soak in (over night if you can possibly wait that long)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


         Caviar is simply sieved and lightly salted sturgeon roe.  There are less than 30 species of sturgeon with three of these being the most popular Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga.  The eggs can be black, brown, dark green, grey or golden.  The best known caviar comes from the countries on the Black and Caspian seas, but the decline in sturgeon numbers there and else where led to the suspension of the international trade of all caviar from wild sturgeon.  Good quality sturgeon caviar is now farmed. 
         The Russians like to spread caviar onto blinis (small buckwheat pancakes) with sour cream and vodka so when presented with a tin I took a leaf out of their book.  I also smeared it extravagantly on hot buttered toast.


5 grams yeast
60mls warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
120mls milk
30grams butter, melted
60grams buckwheat flour
60grams white flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, seperated

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar put to one side until it begins to froth.  In a large bowl combine flours, salt, milk, egg yolks, melted butter and yeast mixture.   Leave batter in a warm place until it doubles in size.  Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form and fold through batter with the whisk.  Fry spoonfuls of batter in vegetable oil and butter over a moderate heat.

On top of the blinis place a spoonful of seasoned sour cream mixed with chives or dill, top with caviar and serve with shots of icy cold vodka!


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lean and Mean

Asian Beef Noodle Salad

          I joined a gym which consequently made me think about eating a little healthier or maybe just lighter.   Eating healthily is not difficult, but  leaving the chocolate out of my diet might be making me lean but it's also making me a little mean.   To compensate for the lack of fat in my diet (and yes I could have trimmed my meat a little better) I've resorted to food that really packs a flavour punch lots of chilli, lime, soy and fresh herbs to make it lip smackingly good.   The taste buds tingle with sweet, sour, salty and hot.   This little dish also has plenty of texture crunchy vegetables and peanuts, soft slippery noodles and the slight chewiness of medium-rare steak.

Asian Noodle Salad

500 grams  rump steak (or for leaner cheap option try topside steak, just make sure you don't  
         Marinade:  1 tbspn soy
                             1 clove garlic, cruched
                              1 tsp grated fresh ginger
         Marinate steak for at least 30 minutes if you have time
200 grams rice stick noodle (prepared to packets instructions)
125 grams mung beans
1 large carrot cut into matchsticks (or grate)
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup Vietnamese mint
2 red chillies de-seeded if you don't want too much heat, thinly sliced
1 cup peanuts roasted and roughly chopped
          Dressing:  2 limes zest and juice
                             1 stick lemongrass the white only finely chopped
                             1 tbspns fish sauce
                             2 tbspns soy sauce
                             1 clove garlic crushed
                             1 tbspn dark brown sugar
                             1 tsp sesame oil
            Simply combine dressing ingredients and set one side

Sear steak in a hot frypan that has a little oil in the bottom use a high heat and cook steak for 2 minutes each side.  Rest or cool and slice thinly across the grain.  Set aside.
In a large glass bowl toss all of the ingredients listed with the dressing, serve as soon as possible as the dressing will wilt the vegetables and herbs.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sticky Date Cake

           This recipe has stood the test of time it's a big recipe designed to feed crowds of people add the Bailey's Toffee Sauce  and fresh whipped cream and cake becomes a luxurious  dessert.    This is good for the soul not for the hips...enjoy!

Sticky Date Cake

375grms dates
375mls boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
175grms butter, softened
3 eggs (at room temperature)
3 cups sifted self/raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the syrup (cool syrup onto hot cake)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 tbspn butter
100mls brandy
2 tsp vanilla extract

Pour boiling water over dates  add baking soda and put to one side.  Line a  22 cm round cake pan with baking paper.  Pre-heat oven to 175c.  Cream together the sugar, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.  Stir through flour salt and date mixture pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until skewer comes out of cake clean.  Pour over cool syrup.

For the syrup bring all of the ingredients to the boil and boil for 5min.

Baileys Toffee Sauce

1 cup sugar
1 cup cream
1/2 cup baileys
1 tbspn butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Caramelise sugar you can do this either by heating the sugar slowly until it dissolves and becomes a nice golden brown. (this process can be sped up by warming the sugar in the microwave) or you can add 1/2 cup of water to the sugar and boil this until it caramelises.  once the sugar has dissolved do not stir if the sugar is catching on the side of the pan use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides.  Once the caramel has formed add the other ingredients
step well away as you do this because as soon as the cold ingredients hit the caramel it is going to splatter and caramel burns are nasty.  Bring back to the boil and its ready to go. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bringing the heat

Chile and Ginger Beef

         The beginning of winter has arrived and with it the cold and wet weather.  To warm us up I made this dish adapted from  My boys didn't enjoy the chilli heat but I found it to be lip smackingly good.  After I browned the meat and de-glazed the pan I put everything into the slow-cooker for almost 6 hours on the high setting I just walked away and left it be.  This is so simple and so tasty.
         If you have difficulty getting shin meat then try it with any of the casserole steaks chuck, gravy or blade.  After something leaner, then topside steak is a good option.  I bought  fresh rice noodles from my local asian grocer they have a luscious pillowy softness and absorbed the spicy broth beautifully.

Chile and Ginger Beef

1kg shin beef with the bone (naughty me loves the marrow)
2 fresh red chillis (cut in half and sliced, if you want to lessen the heat take out the seeds)
2 inches fresh ginger ( thinly sliced into 10cm rounds)
4 cloves garlic (sliced thinly)
500mls apple juice
150mls soy sauce
1 tbspn brown sugar
2 star anise (also found at local asian markets)
salt and pepper

Season the meat well with salt and pepper.  Brown until well caramelised on  a high heat on both sides put in slow-cooker.  Use the apple juice and soy sauce to lift off the sediment at the bottom of the pan and pour hot liquid over meat.  Add in garlic, ginger, chilli, brown sugar and star anise stir through and walk away!  Leave for 6 hours in slow cooker on high.  The meat will be soft and unctuous as all the connective tissues break down.  Serve in bowls with noodles or rice and a quick stir-fry of your favourite green.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Having your cake and eating it too!

Clowning Around
        I like birthday's and i really like being able to make that Birthday cake that little bit special.  My boy chose this cake, he was very specific about the smooth icing on top and that he wanted white and chocolate layers so I chose quick-mix butter cakes simple and easy these cakes are the ones that you go back to time after time and they can feature in as many variations as you can think of.  The layers of cake are sandwiched together with vanilla butter cream before being covered with sugar paste/fondant icing.  The clown figure was hand molded from sugar paste.

Vanilla and Chocolate Butter Cake          

Quick-mix Vanilla Butter Cake

125g butter
3/4 cup milk
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar 
1 1/2 cup flour

Grease and flour a 20cm round cake pan or line with paper.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy, beat in eggs one at a time until combined.
 Stir through sieved flour and milk.  Spread into prepared tin bake for 35 min in a moderate oven.

Changing it up try  2 tsp orange zest
                           or  2 tsp lemon zest
                           or  1/2 cup cocoa plus an extra 1/4 cup milk
                           or   3 tsp instant coffee

Vanilla Buttercream

125grms softened butter
250grms icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp boiling water

Beat all the ingredients together till light and fluffy.  Will keep for a week in the fridge or can freeze.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Sour Cream and Walnut Brownie

      I have begun the search for the best brownie recipe,  this weeks effort is light and cakey with a real punch of chocolate courtesy of the 70% cocoa solids chocolate that was used.  Chocolate is called the food of the gods and its botanical genus Theobrama means exactly that, apparently the scientist in charge of was an avid chocolate lover.  I know that there are legions of chocolate lovers out there that would heartily agree with him.  Anyway give this recipe ago compare it to your own favourite brownie recipe..............

Walnut Sour Cream Brownie

30grms butter
250grms 70% chocolate, chopped
80grms butter, extra
2 tspns vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup self/raising flour
70grms walnut pieces
1/3 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 180C.  Grease a 20cm by 27cm baking pan and line the base with baking paper.  Melt first measure of butter and the chocolate on a low heat (microwave is perfect for this job melt in 1 minute intervals and stir each time) until chocolate melts, cool for at least five minutes.
Cream the butter and sugar (beat until light and fluffy and a pale colour)  Beat in eggs one at a time.  Stir in sifted flours, then chocolate, nuts and sour cream.  Spread mixture into a prapared pan and bake for 30 minutes.  If you like a really moist brownie look for the ripples that form when given a shake and remove from oven before it has completely set.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Roasted pork Fillet with crispy sage potatoes and apple calvados sauce

Roasted Pork Fillet

      What can I say I wanted an indulgent meal.  I wanted to have the satisfaction of a perfectly cooked piece of meat caramelised on the outside, rosy pink and moist inside.  There is nothing outlandish in this dish just traditional flavours tied together and cooked well.  If your out to impress with this dish then a drizzle of tart apple syrup around the plate would not go astray.

Cured Roasted Pork Fillet

1/2 Tablespoon flaky sea salt
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 small bunch thyme
1 pork fillet,  600 - 700grams
1Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon butter

Trim sinew off pork fillet.
Blend the thyme, paprika, salt and sugar together.  Rub this mix into the pork fillet cover and cure for up to two hours.  Preheat the oven to 200c.   Rince the pork fillet to remove  the excess salt, dry thoroughly.  Heat oil in a hot fry-pan,  add butter brown pork fillet evenly 2-3 minutes each side and roast for a further 8 minutes, take out of the oven and rest for five minutes. 

(optional but highly recommended)
  Collect the meat juices from resting your pork, re-heat fry-pan and quickly deglaze the pan (lift up all the tasty brown bits left from searing the filet) with the meat juices add a splash of calvados or stock or white wine and then whisk in  10grams of cold butter.  This will thicken the jus and give it a rich finish.  This will only make a small amount of sauce but it should punch out some serious flavour.  Drizzle over pork.

Apple Calvados Sauce

250mls apple juice
1 apple granny smith
50 mls double cream
50grams butter
Calvados to taste

Dice the whole apple including skins and seeds.  Cook with apple juice until the apple is soft and pulpy.  Push the apple through the sieve.  Bring the apple pulp to the boil and add the cream.  Turn off the heat and whisk the butter into the sauce, add the calvados and serve.

Crispy Sage Potato

1kg peeled agria potatoes
1 bunch sage
oil to fry
salt / pepper to season

Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces and boil in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain in a colainder and place on a tray covered with clean teatowel or kitchen paper to ensure that they are dry.   In a large frypan heat 2-3cm of oil,  when the oil is hot fry the whole sage leaves until golden lift out of oil and drain.  (Now you have an oil gorgeously infused with sage.)  Fry potatoes in batches until golden brown.  Toss with crisp sage leaves and seasoning.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Goodies

         With easter just around the corner I thought a couple of treats were in order,  I foolishly thought that having my boys help with the Easter egg making would be fun and for them it was awesome sticky fluffy marshmallow, gooey  melted chocolate, brightly coloured hundreds and thousands and clouds of icing sugar,. heaven.  I'm still finding little sticky smudges days later..... but the satisfaction of biting into that gorgeous pillowy marsmellow, priceless.  You don't need any special equipment for this as the shape is formed by pressing an egg into a tray of packed flour.
        No Good Friday would be complete with-out toasted hot-cross buns.  Once a year I faithfully pull out a hand written recipe, it's a satisfying practice kneading the dough till it's smooth and elastic, patiently putting it aside till the volume doubles and is soft like a breast (not a silicone one), knocking it back, shaping, proving (letting it rise) and finally the sweet aroma of spice and bread wafting through the house.  Don't be disheartened by the lengthy process each step is simple, and in between each step your free to go about your day or a part of it can be done in your bread-maker.  Happy baking!

Marshmallow Easter Eggs

2Tbspns Gelatine
1/2cup cold water
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tspn vanilla extract (or other flavouring)  try orange blossom or rose water

1.5kg cornflour or cornflour Icing sugar mix (mould)
1 egg (shape)

melted chocolate, hundreds and thousands, icing sugar etc

Combine gelatine and first measure of water.  Leave to swell.  (The gelatine will absorb the water)  Heat the sugar and second measure of water, stirring until sugar is dissolved and bring to the boil.  Dissolve gelatin in the microwave,  or over hot water.  Add to the sugar syrup and boil for 15 minutes.   While gelatine mix is boiling tip flour into a tray press down firmly.  Take your egg and press indentations length wise of a half egg (the deeper the impression the bigger the eggs this mix will make 20 eggs so 40 indentations.   Cool until lukewarm.  Beat well until
very thick and white add your flavouring.  Pour into your moulds.  Refrigerate to set.  When set stick halves together.  Decorate or leave plain.  To do the chocolate coating dip in half length ways and allow to set before dipping the other.  To coat the marshmallow in sprinkles dampen the outside with a little water and roll with enthusiasm.   Eat.  Eat.  Eat.

Hot Cross Buns

!50mls boiling water
150mls cold milk
2 tspns sugar
1 tbspn yeast

Mix and stand 5-10 minutes in a warm place until frothy.

4 cups plain flour
1 tspn salt
3 tspns mixed spice
2 tbspns sugar
2 cups dried fruit
1 egg lightly beaten
2 Tbspns melted butter

Sieve the flour, salt and spice.  Stir through dried fruit and sugar.  Make a well in the centre and add yeast mix, butter and egg.  Mix well.  Knead mixture on a floured surface until smooth and elastic (5-10 minutes).  Leave in a warm spot covered with a damp towel until the dough has doubled in size.  (think breast)  Knead the dough lightly.  Divide into four equal parts, divide each of those into five.  Using the palm of you hand press and turn lightly rolling in the cup of your palm to form into balls.Arrange on a greased tray until the size doubles.  Pipe crosses on buns using a loose slurry of flour and water.Bake at 200c for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  To make buns glossy brush with a 50/50 water/sugar syrup.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Succulent Pear

Pear and Cardamom Friand

Pears when they are ripe are wonderfully juicy and soft.  There is nothing quite like that first bite of lush sweet flesh, sheer bliss and there is nothing as disappointing as a firm crisp almost flavourless pear.  Ripe pears yield to a slight pressure at the top do not despair if all you can find are hard green supermarket pears as pears ripen well off the tree and a couple of days on the bench will enhance your eating pleasure.  Select pears that are clean, unblemished and free of cuts and bruises. handle gently.  For this recipe I was lucky enough to find some small organic pears perfect for fitting in my texas muffin tin and the moment I laid eyes on these beauties I knew exactly what they were going to become.

Pear and Cardamom Friand

6 small pears, peeled and cored
150grms ground almonds
225grms sifted icing sugar
75grms s/raising flour
a pinch of salt
1tsp ground cardamom
2tbspn poppy seeds
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
150grms butter
6 egg whites

Poach whole pears in a light sugar syrup.  1/4 cup sugar to 1 cup of water how much you need will depend on the size of your pot.  Make sure your pears are completely submerged use a saucer or small plate to hold pears down in the liquid.  10 minutes at a gentle simmer should see your pears poached.

Butter and flour 6 texas muffin tin.  A small circle of paper at the bottom is useful as these are a little tricky to turn out.  Heat oven  to 180C

Beat egg whites with the sugar, flour, ground almonds, poppy seeds, cardamom, salt and lemon rind.  Melt butter in a saucepan leave on the heat until butter develops a light brown colour and nutty aroma, cool and stir through the cardamom batter.   Evenly divide the batter into tins and top with a well drained pear.  Cook for 25minutes.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Comfort Food

Potato Gnocchi in Ragu

For me this is soul deep satisfaction and the true beauty of it is that not only do I enjoy this meal (and the glass of pinot noir that accompanies it) but my two boys eat it with so much enthusiasm and enjoyment that the only dinner time hassle is is there more?  These little potato dumplings are Italian and are a nice alternative to pasta. 

Ragu - Sauce Bolognese

500grms prime beef mince
500grms pork mince
50grms butter
50grms oil
100grms pancetta   (or best bacon)
2tspns finely chopped garlic
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 stalks celery
250mls red wine
250mls beef stock
2 x 410gm tinned Italian tomatoes 
2 bayleaves
4 juniper
4 cloves
piece of cinnamon stick
large handful chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper

In a food processor blend roughly chopped carrot, celery, onion and pancetta until finely chopped or hand cut very finely (brunoise).  In a large pan heat oil and butter together when hot add the vegetables and cook until golden add meats and continue to brown remembering that colour is flavour and the deeper the colour the better the depth of flavour will be.  Be patient and stir often.  Deglaze the pan with red wine lifting all the sticky bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add stock tomatoes, spices and herbs.  Simmer on a low heat for an hour.  Season well.  I would recommend tripling this recipe and freezing quantities for use another day.

Potato Gnocchi 

1kg potatoes, scrubbed
220grms plain flour
1 egg lightly beaten
100grms grated parmesan
2tsp salt and plenty of pepper.

Bake potatoes until soft.  (oven or microwave) This is done so that the potato stays very dry.  While the potato is hot scoop out the flesh and push through a sieve into a bowl gently mix through other ingredients until just combined.  Divide dough into four, then working one piece at a time roll on a lightly floured surface to for a 2cm diameter cylinder.  Cut into 1.5cm lengths.  Place on a floured tray and continue on with the remainder of the dough.  Cook in batches in plenty of boiling salted water the dumplings are ready when they float to the top.  As they are ready add them to your meat sauce so that they can absorb the sauce. Or refresh in ice water to hold them until you are ready for them.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Saturday Night Dinner

Best Roast Chicken
Apple Tarte Tatin


 Autumn's Chill has hit and what better way to revel in the change than to step away from the BBQ and turn on the oven.  Fill the house with the aroma of roasting chicken basted with fragrant rosemary, lemon, garlic and chilli;  and the sweet smell of caramelised apple tart.  The wind and the rain had me house bound so turning my hand to making puff pastry seemed like a pleasant diversion.  Tarte Tatin is a french upside down apple tart.  The apple and caramel are absorbed by the buttery puff pastry making this one of my favourite desserts, I've been making a version of this since I was a teenager.  I used golden delicious apples as that's what's on my tree, but if i was to purchase them I would use granny smiths as they hold their shape better.

Best Roast Chicken

1.5 kg free-range chicken
100grms butter, softened
1tsp salt
1tsp smoked paprika
1tsp chilli flakes
2Tbsp fresh rosemary chopped
6 cloves garlic
juice and rind of one lemon

Combine the butter with salt, paprika, chilli, rosemary, garlic and the juice and rind of lemon.  Place the lemon husks in side the chicken cavity.  Lift the skin over the breasts and thighs and smear  butter under the skin so that the flavours are absorbed into the flesh, then dab the remainder over the chicken.  Fill a roasting dish 1cm high with water.  Roast at 200 C for 80 minutes.  Baste the chicken as often as you care to.   Test for doneness by piercing the thigh to see if the juices run clear.  Remove the chicken from the oven and rest on a plate, loosely cover with tin foil to retain heat.  Use a cup of water or wine to deglaze the roasting dish reduce and serve with chicken.

Quick Puff Pastry

!50grms butter, chilled
225grms plain flour
1/2tsp salt
150mls water

Cut the chilled butter into cubes.  Sift the flour and the salt.   Add the butter and water and combine ingredients breaking the butter down as little as possible.  Rest dough for 20 minutes.  Roll the dough out to a rectangle approximately 15cm x 30cm.  Fold in the right hand third and then fold over the left hand third so that there is three layers of pastry.  Refrigerate for 20 minutes.  Roll pastry with smooth side on the left hand fold pastry in thirds as above and rest.  Repeat this process again.  Roll to desired thickness and use.

Apple Tarte Tatin

 4 apples peeled, cored and Quartered
1/2 cup caster sugar
50grms butter
butter puff pastry (bought if you like)

I usually prepare and bake this dish in my 20cm  frypan as it is ovensafe.    The first step to this dish is to melt the sugar into a rich brown caramel.  On a low heat pour the sugar into pan, stir occasionally  while the sugar dissolves be patient and allow it to form a rich colour.  Take pan off heat, add butter and apples carefully being aware that the caramel will splatter a little and is very hot!  Return to heat and allow caramel to soften and apple to glaze.  Arrange apple nicely in the caramel remembering that the bottom is going to be inverted,  cover with a thin layer of pastry and bake for 20minutes at 200C.  Flip, cut and serve with vanilla bean ice-cream.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tomato love

                                               Slow roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

       When tomatoes are roasted at a low temperature for a long period of time it intensifies the sweetness and flavour, and garlic under goes a flavour transformation as well, the pungent spike of garlic mellows and softens so that it becomes almost creamy.   And this combination makes the most fantastical sauce to toss through pasta, smear over pizza bases, top bruschetta and can also make a vinaigrette bursting with summer flavour.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic

1.5 kg tomatoes
1 bulb garlic halved
100mls olive oil
2 tbspns fresh herbs finely chopped
Freshly ground pepper

Cut the core out and halve the tomatoes.  Place them on a roasting tray face up, along side the garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with the herbs and season well.  Bake for thirty minutes at 150 c turn off the oven and walk away.  Take the tomatoes out when the oven has cooled completely.  These tomatoes will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

To make pasta sauce

Blend the roasted tomatoes and garlic with 100mls olive oil
                                                                            250mls vegetable stock or water
                                                                            a generous handful of fresh basil or oregano
                                                                             a generous pinch of chile flakes

warm and toss through pasta of your choice, top with freshly shaved grana padano.

Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette

4 tomatoes slow roasted
90mls white wine vinegar
2 tbspns fresh herbs
1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Blend tomatoes in a food processor with vinegar and herbs.  Then slowly pour on oil while the motor is running to form the dressing.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sunshine and Passionfruit

Crepes with Passionfruit Curd

My passionfruit vine went wild this season and was covered in lots of gorgeous flowers followed by the fragrant wrinkled purple skinned fruit.  But rather than providing me with a steady stream of fruit it hit me all at once and in the space of a week the majority of the fruit had fallen off the vine.   What a shame I just had to whip out some recipes and cook up something delicious.  And the february heat is quenched with a cocktail of passionfruit cordial, mint, vodka with a splash of soda on ice.

Passionfruit Curd

1 cup passionfruit pulp (some of the seeds removed)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
125gms butter

Melt the sugar, butter and passionfruit together in a double boiler (bowl over boiling water, but not in boiling water so that there is better heat control) Add the beaten eggs to the passionfruit mixture and cook until mixture thickens stirring steadily.  Do not boil or mix will turn into scrambled eggs.  Pour into sterilised jars makes 2x 500ml jars.  Refrigerate until needed.


255 grams flour
400mls milk
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
4 whole eggs
2 tbsp melted butter

Sieve the dry ingredients into a bowl, make a well in the centre.  Mix the wet ingredients together and combine gradually incorporating the flour from the sides.  Mix till a smooth batter forms.  Add enough mixture to the bottom of a heated and greased pan to cover the bottom of the pan thinly.  Cook until a golden brown turn and cook on the other side.

Serve hot crepes with passionfruit curd and vanilla ice-cream.

Passionfruit Cordial

3 cups passionfruit pulp
1 cup lemon juice
3 cups water
4 cups sugar
1 tbsp tartaric acid

Bring to the boil strain off some of the seeds and pour into sterilised bottles.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Plums Glorius Plums

Plum and Vanilla Jam
The new year brought an abundance of plums glorious sweet and tart red plums.  So after we'd eaten our fill I was left plenty to make a couple of my favourite things Plum and Vanilla Jam and Plum Sauce.  I also had a go at Plum and Cardamom Financiers yummy!  The french sure know their way around pastry.  Now I know that I should wait to let the flavours develop in the plum sauce but I found I couldn't help my-self and drizzled it over crispy Sweet-corn Fritters for supper.

Plum Vanilla Jam

1 kg plums 
1 cup water
5 cups warm sugar
Vanilla Pods
(or vanilla extract)

Wash and halve plums add to pan with water and cook till soft.  Sieve the cooked plums and return to the pan.   Add sugar and vanilla bean with all the seeds scraped out to the plums.   Simmer gently until a small amount sets on a cold saucer.  Pour boiling jam into sterilised jars.  Makes approximately 5 small jars (250ml)
Plum Sauce

1kg plums
1 brown onion
10 cloves garlic
1 tbspn ginger
1 tbspn salt
8 cloves
8 allspice
8 peppercorns
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tspn chile 
500gms brown sugar
2 cups malt vinegar

Wash and halve the plums, leaving in the stones.  Put all of the ingredients into a large pan and slowly bring to the boil.  Boil for approximately 30 minutes.  Sieve and return to the pan and simmer until the sauce has reached the desired consistency.  Pour into sterilised bottles.  Makes approximately 2 bottles (500mls)

Sweet-corn Fritters 

1 can creamed corn (410g)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh at this time of the year otherwise use frozen)
1 egg
1 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup water
1 tspn salt
1/2 tspn pepper

Mix all the wet ingredients together and stir in the dry ingredients.  Fry in oil and butter until golden brown.  Makes 12 fritters.