Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bursting with goodness


 
One can feel virtuous just looking at this salad. Perhaps it’s the birdseed esq quinoa, or the vivid green silver beet, but it is hard to deny that fork full’s of this salad could only be good for you.

If quinoa isn’t your thing, you could just as easily substitute weensy green lentils, or cooked pearl barley, but I why wouldn’t you hop onboard the Bolivian super food bandwagon?  It’s super easy to cook and so danm healthy.

Much like rice, cooking quinoa involves a gentle steamy simmer with precisely the right amount of liquid to plump up each individual grain to a tender state.  Generally the ratio is 1.5 units of liquid to 1 unit quinoa and I can attest that too much liquid results in a wet mass that is difficult to resurrect. 

It adds a crunchy charm to any main meal and is surprisingly filling. With the added delight of nuts, sweet pops of currents and a zingy dressing, this salad is a keeper!

 

Quinoa and silver beet salad.

3/4 cup quinoa, (I used red for dramatic effect)
1 cup water
Juice and zest of one lemon

2 Tbs olive oil
1 teaspoon sumac
½ teaspoon salt and pepper
1 small bunch of silver beet leaves

A handful of: slivered almonds, currents, and feta cheese.

Make the quinoa by bringing water to the boil, add the quinoa then cover and simmer for 10 mins until tender and plump, leave to cool whilst you prep the colourful bits!

Make the dressing by combining the lemon juice, oil, sumac, salt and pepper.

Toss the dressing, silverbeet , nuts, currents and cheese through the cool quinoa to make a lovely speckled salad.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The case of the giant glad wrap rolls...


It is quite impossible not to be inspired by the temporary cathedral Christchurch has whipped up. Having lived here for a couple of months, I am somewhat qualified to say, that Cantabrians can be on the conservative side. Which is why something so whacky and irreverent as a paper house of worship pleases me to no end.
 
What I would give to have been a fly on the wall when the idea was first waivered. I am sure the bit where the clever architect explained that the walls would be made of giant glad wrap tubes would have been a highlight. You also simply have to adore the logic that in the event of more “rumbles” it would be one of the safest places to be. Add in the feel good factors of recycling, urban regeneration and you can see how this remarkable project gained momentum.
The contrast between the highly symbolic Neo Gothic ruins in the CBD and the cheeky optimistic pop up solution are stark. Perhaps it is the permission to be abit plucky and think outside the square that is the real blessing of a natural disaster.


I say Bravo to the Cardboard Cathedral and have noshed up a little something in it’s honour; I think you can see where I am heading with this one...
 
I have avoided the usual spinach and ricotta route, as this is meant to be a celebration of creative souls. Granted this isn’t hugely dissimilar, but it does have more playful flavours and textures going on. My kids happily chow into this, so variations are on regular rotation at our house.
Forgive my vague quantities, this is a quickly assembled up family dinner that doesn’t demand precision.
 Leek and Hazelnut cannelloni
First make the filling:
1 leek, afew garlic cloves, a nub of butter, thyme, oregano, loads of parsley, black pepper, salt, a handful of chopped hazelnuts, a handful of grated parmesan, a tub of ricotta.
In a large frypan slowly cook the leek and garlic in the butter until soft and tasty, cool slightly. Add in the herbs, nuts and parmesan mix well, and then stir through ricotta.
Into the constriction zone.
1 large jar of passata, 1 pack of fresh lasagne sheets, a pot of white sauce if you are feeling fancy and lashings of grated cheese.
Preheat oven to 180
Pour half the tomato passata into the base of a large baking dish. Add in ¼ or so of water and swish it about to make it ultra juicy.
Cut the lasagne sheets into same size rectangles, then working in a methodical fashion, dollop mixture along one side, then roll up to form a cheese filled log. Pop the log on the tomatoey base and get cracking with the rest of the batch.
Loosen the remaining half jar of tomato with ¼ cup more water then pour over the filled pasta tubes. If you are going down the path of a creamy white blanket – pour the sauce directly on to the tomato top. Either way dress the top of your dish with plenty of grated cheese.
Let it cook away and do its thing in the oven for 40- 45 mins or until pasta is beautifully soft and the top is irritably golden.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

MMMMMM Beef!!!


Ohh goody; here is another thing to add to the ever expanding list of favourite things to nosh up on a lazy weekend. This fragrant Asian inspired braise is rich and flavoursome. Using shin beef requires slow and patient cooking, but the results are stickily sweet and toothsome. Serve with mountains of fluffy white rice and a crunchy green side dish- and a cheeky crisp sav Blanc.  
 
Yes it is every bit as delicious as it looks, here is the lowdown:


Luscious Beef and Ginger Stew

1.7 beef shin

6 garlic cloves

2 thumb size pieces of ginger

6 cardamon pods

1 quill of cinnamon

2 star anise

1 teaspoon crack black pepper

4 slices of orange rind

Juice of 2 oranges (top up with water to make up 200ml liquid)

1 Tbs honey

2 Tbs vinegar (rice wine for preference)

125 ml soy sauce

In a frypan sear the beef in batches to get a bit of colour going on and add some texture, transfer to large cast iron pot. Deglaze the pan with the honey, soy and aromatics, and then pop in with the meat, add any remaining ingredients.

Cover with a tight fitting lid, or some advanced tin foil origami, then bung it in to a 180 oven then turn it down to 120 and let it simmer away for 3 hours or until meltingly tender.

For preference I like to make this a day or two in advance to give the flavours and chance to brew and ripen in the fridge. Reheat on stove top.

 
 



 

The Fickle World of Friendship Cakes



I think it was the mid 80’s that my Mum was bequeathed a “friendship cake” from one of her work colleagues. The premise was simple, for the next 10 days the yeasty brew would have bits lovingly added so that it blossomed into a voluminous mixture that was then divided and shared so that the inherent joyful cosmic energy could be passed onto another set of friends.

I can vividly picture the bubbling mass, that after a life of neglect, finally died in the back of the fridge. Shall we just say that my mother is perhaps too practical for recipes that are written as poetry?

It was some time last year, whilst enjoying a mid week cuppa with one of my besties, Bec, that I innocently offered her some cake paraphernalia.  Her face recoiled as she stared muttering something not having time for the likes of that.  Suffice to say it wasn’t a “bloody friendship cake”  It was actually some very fine samples I was kindly giving her, but is it did prove two points.

First; I have long suspected that Bec and I swapped mothers somewhere along the way and secondly not everyone likes to phaff about with recipes whose instructions span days. However jaunty and heartfelt the idea of dividing and sharing a cake batter let’s just say that one persons batter is another person’s bitter.  

So when at age 38 I was bequeathed my own batch of “friendship cake” I embraced the opportunity of following the 10 day ritual and was rewarded with a most splendid cake.


 
A cake so fine I would love to be able to replicate it without the rigmarole of dividing and sharing. I have done some experimenting and have come up with this no nonsense version.

Mum is popping on a plane next week, Bec is over in November and for both visits I’ll be sure to have a yeasty brew doing its funky thing on the bench. There will be eyeball rolling and general despair at the fact they collectively think I spend far too much time in fairy land. But that I guess is the essence of friendship, knowing each others quirks and celebrating the difference. One thing is certain both their visits will involve a good few hours of tea, cake and gossip, because that’s what we do best; I can’t wait.

 

Minimal Phaff friendship cake

Up to 2 hours before making the cake make the yeast base

In a large bowl mix;

·         2Tbs of flour

·         1 Tbs sugar

·         1 heaped teaspoon yeast

·         ¼ cup water

Let it bubble away and do its thing – remember you are condensing 10 days in to 2 hours – so be cool, 2 hours isn’t long.

Preheat oven to 180c, line and grease a deep sided 22cm cake pan.

Into the yeasty brew add

·         2 cups self raising flour

·         1 cup sugar

·         2/3 cup olive oil

·         2 eggs

·         2 tsp vanilla essence

·         2 cooking apples cut into chunks

·         ½ cup dried apricots finely sliced

·         ¼ cup chopped nuts

·         2 heaped teaspoons cinnamon

·         1 teaspoon ground cloves

 
Mix well then place into prepared tin, scatter with

·         ¼ cup crumbly brown sugar

·         dot with tiny blobs of butter

 
Bake for 45 mins. It should puff up magnificently and create a wonderful appley waft throughout the house. Cover with alfoil and cook for an additional 20 mins to ensure cake is thoroughly cooked.

Best served with and a cuppa and a gossip with your best friend.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 things you didnt know about Cauliflower



1. If you are being fancy you can refer to its botanical name - Brassica oleracea.  From the much maligned Brassica family which also includes its broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale.

2. The humble cauliflower is yet another veggie added to the list of treasures introduced to Europeans courtesy of the Spanish moors, via Arab traders. It has donned the tables of ancient Rome, Louis XIV and my childhood lamb roasts.

3. The ponky smell as it cooks can be attributed to the high levels of mustard oils. It’s that old double edge sword of flavour V’s sulphides.

4.The tightly clumped little trees that make up the head of the cauliflower are known as the “curd”. Presumably named for their milky whiteness and organic shape. The supportive green leaves around the outside are referred to as the collar.

5. I think this is quite possibly the first time I have disagreed with the marvellous Nigel Slater –

PassĂ© it may be, but there are few more suitable ends for a cauliflower to find itself boiled, drained and coated in a properly made cheese sauce. Resist the temptation to undercook. The raison d’ĂȘtre of a cauli is to end it’s days as a soft and gentle supper to soothe the frazzled and overworked.
- Nigel Slater, Appetite (2000)

No Nigel if I am tired and cranky I could think of nothing worse that phaffing about with a full on blanket of white sauce - even if you say so.
 For a quick yummy side dish this is the route I often take, its super quick and showcases the best aspects of soft vegetables offset by salty crunch.

 Quick Cauliflower – sans cheese
A nub of butter
3 slices of bread – crusts removed and cut into 1 cm squares
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
A handful of green herbs
Perhaps some lemon zest
Slivered almonds or something nutty (would be gorgeous with hazelnuts)

 1. Boil or steam the Cauliflower for about 8 minutes – drain very well
2. Melt the butter  in a large frypan, add the garlic then in about 30 seconde pop in the bread, nuts, herbs and zest (if using) and toss about until golden and crisp.
3. Scatter the hot pan fried goodness over the cooked cauliflower and enjoy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Laugh or Cry?

Now that I am officially getting my A in G (Arse into Gear) and embracing this blogging malarkey it becomes abundantly clear that being up to date with pop culture is part and parcel of life on the interwebs.

Apparently last week I should have been in floods of tears regarding the unfortunate demise of a particularly attractive TV doctor. Alas we have only just unpacked the telly and it seems NZ TV isn’t quite up to speed yet.

In response to a fierce swathe of tweets with heartfelt hash tags #ohno #RIP #tragedy I headed straight to the couch and briskly flicked through the remote to try and watch a crisis of apparent magnitude unfold.

I was surprised to be greeted with a repeat of the Two Ronnie’s. They were doing their “fork handles” sketch and were deftly able to prove that it is both a comfort and a frustration living in a time warp. So there we have it. Whilst Doctor Patrick Reid was making the women of Australia cry, Ronnie Corbett was making me laugh; It’s a funny old world isn’t it?
So to a recipe....
I think a banana cake is in order as I can’t think of a better cake that conveys both nostalgia and optimism. There is something inherently uplifting about turning sad limp fruit that is well past its prime into something joyous and wonderful.  Its’ the culinary equivalent of turning an old man into a young hottie. Perhaps an idea that might make for compelling TV viewing as at the crux of any great comedy or drama is the thrill of the unexpected.

Should the writers of Aussie TV need inspiration to make their grief stricken audience laugh once more; my suggestion is to reincarnate said sexy doctor as a frustrated cockney shop keeper.


Watch this and see if you laugh or cry?
 
Either way its a blessed relief to have a slab of banana cake on hand. And a bonus food styling tip - placing flowers near a cake in a photo always make it look like a funeral buffet.


Risen from the Dead Banana Cake
 
175 g self raising flour

125 g melted butter

150 g castor sugar

2 large eggs

3 over ripe mashed bananas

50 g chopped nuts of choice

100 g choc chips

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract



  1. Preheat oven to 170 c and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl make a wet mixture. Start with the melted butter, sugar, then the eggs, mashed banana and vanilla. Stir well.
  3. Add the flour a third at a time, stirring well after each addition, then fold through choc chips and nuts. Scrape into loaf tin.
  4. Bake for 1 hour or until cooked through. Leave in the tin on a rack to cool then eat in thick slabs in front of your favourite TV show.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Get Set For The Weekend



Porky goodness


Come Friday night all I want is a glass of wine and a little peace and quiet. “Easier said than done,” the mothers of the world cry in unison. Well surely a cheeky crisp white sav Blanc is easy enough to rustle up, and with a just a moments forethought the dinner can magically happen too.

Alarmingly the secret to being cool on a Friday night involves actually thinking about it on a Wednesday.  Yes that’s right it takes me two days preparation to be a fun mummy.

This is the route I took last weekend, and it worked spectacularly well.

Basically as I was doing some sort of mid week frenzied mad dash around the market I spied pork roasts for a good price. One ended up in the trolley, on arriving home it didn’t even make it to the fridge – I just popped it straight in the pan and left it to do its thing, whilst I bellowed and nagged my way through the joys of homework and lunchboxes.

Not that I am a booze hound or anything, but I did use alcoholic ginger beer as my braising liquid.   It perfectly set the tone for the laid back mood I was dreaming of and created a sweet succulence that was pretty damn fine. You could just as easily substitute cider, but for preference I would stick with something that has the moody dry sweetness that only a 375ml brown bottle can.
Pork in Ginger Beer
1 pork shoulder roast (mine was 1.8 kg)
1 leek
A couple of cloves of garlic
¾ bottle of “Ranga” alcoholic ginger beer (about 300ml)

1 bay leaf

2 whole cloves

a pinch of sage and thyme
1.       Preheat oven to 160c
2.      In a large cast iron skillet sear the pork to give a nice bit of colour to the two flat sides, add in the leek, garlic and herbs and sizzle till fragrant. Pour in ginger beer and season well with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper.
 
 
 
3.       Cover the dish with a tight fitting lid then cook for 3 hours or until the pork starts to fall apart when gently poked.
4.       Leave to rest and flavours to develop in the fridge for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, heat on a stove top, then take the pork out to trim off fatty bits and shred the pork into large chunks using a fork. Place the pork back in the cooking liquid and serve with crusty bread and leafy green – and a big glass of THANK GOD ITS FRIDAY WINE!!!

 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cupboard Love



Quite possibly the world does not need another brownie recipe – it is a genre compressively covered; however this one is a welcome addition. Able to be whipped up in a matter of minutes this cheery looking tray bake uses pantry staples to dramatic effect.

I happened to have frozen berries on hand, but they are mere window dressing to this dense and moreish treat. You can creatively dabble with requisite contrast in flavour and texture. Why not try substituting handful of raisins that have been plumped up in rum or an ethereal combination of figs and glace ginger to give a fragrant twist.
Either way it yields a divinely dark and moist slab of cakey goodness. Sugar, butter and cocoa are all heaped on the high side in this recipe to give a richness  that is quite difficult to resist.
 

 
Quick and Easy Brownie

200g butter

1 1/3 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup cocoa

1 cup plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup slivered almonds

½ cup frozen berries


  1. Preheat oven to 160 and line a shallow rectangular tin with baking paper.
  2. In a small saucepan melt butter and sugar, allow to cool slightly then add lightly whisked eggs and vanilla.
  3. In a large bowl combine flour, cocoa and nuts. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix well.
  4. Fold trough frozen fruit (reserving afew for the top)
  5. Pour into tin, smooth out to sides and then artfully place any extra berries and nuts.
  6. Bake for 40 mins or until crusty on top and a skewer inserted to the centre comes out clear.
  7. Allow to cool in tin, before cutting into delicate squares.

 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Surprise Package

 
It was only once my family had happily devoured this delicious dinner that I confessed to it containing parsnip! I am not sure why this handsome winter vegetable is the case of such prejudices?

Perhaps it’s just a case of a limed appeal in an unadorned state. Granted a pasty pale parsnip does not have the crunchy vibrancy of a carrot or the comforting starchy charm of potatoes, but it does have a unique nutty sweetness that endears it to rich wholesome fare.

 At their peak in the depths of winter, parsnips mature as their starches convert to sugar giving it the characteristic butter toffee like flavour. With the savoury addition of fennel, leek, garlic, rich pork mince and a golden blanket of pastry I felt quite confident that I was showcasing parsnip potential.

PORK AND PARSNIP PASTIE
A glug or two of olive oil
700 g pork mince
1 leek
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 parsnip
1 large potato
1 big fat granny smith apple
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon sage
½ teaspoon of cracked black pepper
A good pinch of salt
1 cup chicken stock
1 block of puff pastry
One egg (to be used as a pastry wash)

1. Fry the mince in batches to give lovely brown nubbly effect, whilst that’s all happening get on with peeling and chopping the vegies into small chunks. Set to one side prepped veg and mince.

2. In a drop of olive oil, soften the sliced leek and garlic, add in the chopped veg and let them begin to sizzle. Add fennel, sage and salt and pepper, and then return the browned mince to the pan. Pour in the chicken stock and allow it to boil briskly, reduce to a simmer and let it bubble away until the liquid is reduced by 75% and the vegetables are cooked – about 10 mins.

3. Allow the meat mixture to cool slightly while you roll the pastry and preheat the oven to 190c (fan forced)

4. On a well floured surface roll the pastry into a large rectangle; aim to make the pastry the same thickness as a gold coin.

5. With a light touch lift the pastry onto a baking paper lined tray, dab the perimeter generously with egg wash then place the cooled meat mixture along the long edge of the pastry.

6. Fold the remaining pastry over the mince, then squeeze and tuck the edges together to seal. Lightly brush with remaining egg wash and then make feint slits along the top to allow steam to escape as it cooks. Sprinkle with extra fennel and black pepper.

7. Cook for 30 mins or until gloriously puffed and irresistibly golden.

8. Serve it up with a knowing smile and only confess to it containing parsnip once the meal is in full swing!
 
With thanks to my helper
 
 
Who could resist?