Saturday 31 December 2005

duck liv·er pâ·té

How about a selection of open sandwiches for your New Year celebrations, perhaps sardines on toast, peppered mackerel, smoked salmon, tiny radish sandwiches and duck liver paté on brioche?

Duck liver pâté on brioche. So decadent and delicious.

I make duck liver
pâté like this :

450g duck livers, any sinewous bits removed
175g soft butter
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
brandy or cointreau or another liqueur or spirit
zest and juice of a lemon or orange

Fry the duck livers in some of the butter. Do this in batches so the pan is not overcrowded to allow the livers to brown nicely but not overcook, we want them cooked but pink in the middle. Put the livers in a food processor as they are cooked. Fry the zest, onions and garlic in more butter in the same pan until the onions are soft and just starting to colour. Deglaze the pan with the juice and alcohol and scrape everything into the food processor. Add the rest of the butter and some pepper. Puree the
pâté then scrape through a sieve to make it as smooth as possible.
Serve on thinly sliced brioche, decorated with an orange or lemon segment or some pink peppercorns as the fancy takes you.

Happy New Year!

Friday 30 December 2005

smoked salm·on

To complete the preserved fish hat trick I give you smoked salmon! Such an elegant accompaniment to celebratory drinks. My mother has included smoked salmon in the pre-dinner nibbles for many a celebration. Her favourite is to serve the salmon on lightly buttered pumpernickel rounds with a light grating of black pepper and a fillet of lemon on top.
I had recently made a multi-grain loaf and this seemed like a nice variation on the pumpernickel theme, thinly sliced. A herbed cream cheese made the salmon stick to the bread and quarters of peeled lemon completed the picture. Lovely!

Thursday 29 December 2005


Another favourite fish-on-bread snack is peppered mackerel on freshly sliced baguette. I was always hesitant about mackerel, but I can say that this is the fish that convinced me about fish! Mackerel is quite meaty in texture yet, to my taste, not that fishy.
The pepper covering the fillets means that you don't even need to season the sandwiches yourself - all too easy!

Wednesday 28 December 2005


Around this time of year a repertoire of small and simple dishes is a useful thing to have. A selection of open sandwiches is perfect with drinks ; a variety of toppings allows everyone to choose what they want and eat as much as they need. Perhaps best of all, they are quick and easy to make.
A favourite in our house is simply canned fish on bread. The trick is the type of canned fish and the type of bread.
On Christmas Eve we chose Sardines entières au piment d'Espelette which we lightly squashed onto lightly toasted baguette slices. Perfect with the bubbly!

Friday 23 December 2005

Wednesday 21 December 2005

choc·o·late stout cake

When Greig made chocolate stout homebrew and it was ready just before his birthday, we knew that a chocolate stout cake was the cake to make. We had had the Chocolate and Stout Loaf from Meat on Tory in Wellington. That was good. I had also just got Nigella Lawson's book Feast which includes a recipe for Chocolate Guinness Cake. It was perfect. I mean we had Chocolate Stout!
And what could be a more perfect opportunity to contribute to Slashfood's Spirited Cooking Here we go.
It is a really good chocolate cake - moist, chocolatley, but balanced by the bitterness from the hops in the chocolate stout. And the icing is great. I am not usually an icing fan, but cream cheese icing is fabulous. Probably the only reason I like carrot cake. But the winner for me is the imagery. We all know what a pint of Guinness looks like : a dark, almost black body with a glossy white head - so thick you can write your initials in it which will last to the bottom of the pint. Well I am sure you could do that with this cake.

The recipe for Nigella Lawson's Chocolate cake made our way is :

1 cup of chocolate stout homebrew
125g of butter
3/4 cup of cocoa
2 cups caster sugar
3/4 cup yoghurt
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
2 cups of plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
225g of cream cheese
1 1/4 cups of icing sugar
1/2 cup of cream

Heat the stout, butter, sugar and cocoa in a pan large enough to hold all the ingredients until the butter has melted. Whisk in the yoghurt, eggs, vanilla and then the flour and bicarb.
Pour the batter into a greased and lined 9" springform tin. Cook at 180°c for 50 minutes. Cool in the tin.
Make the icing by beating the cream cheese, icing sugar and cream together until smooth. Spread onto the cold cake keeping the image of a pint of Guinness at the forefront of your mind as you do so.

May I recommend a glass of Chocolate Stout to accompany a slice of this cake?!

Sunday 18 December 2005

choc·o·late stout

Beer! Great!

Whereas wine conjures up images of refined connoisseurs debating noble rots, beer is seen as its poor country cousin, with images of beer swilling oafs coming to mind. However, beer brewing and tasting is undergoing revitalization and there is a move away from the sterile fizzy-pop mass produced beers to the more traditional, yeasty, hop laden, flavourful ales. Beer ranges in colour from pale gold, through reds, browns to darkest black – with over 100 flavours.

Here in New Zealand, quite a few fine breweries have sprung up in recent years. The noteworthy ones being: Emersons, Limburg and Tuatara.

So, I decided to make a chocolate stout – since 1) I like beer and 2) I like chocolate.

Irish stout evolved from another beer style, English porter, in the early 19th Century. It is almost black; due to brewing with malted barley that has undergone a lengthy roasting process. It also tends to have a higher alcohol level than paler beers. The chocolate grain used in the batch below does not actually have chocolate in it – although Young’s do add it to theirs – rather, a special roasting method imbibes the grain with a dark chocolate flavour.

This is the recipe I used:

A kit of Muntons Irish Style Stout
New Zealand Styrian Golding Hops (Alpha Acid 4.1%) 15g
Dark Spraymalt 500g
Hopped Light Spraymalt 500g
Chocolate grain 200g
Roasted barley grain 200g
…and robust yeast

Boil the grain and the spraymalt for 15 minutes and add the hops in the last two minutes. Take it off the boil and let cool for a few minutes, then pour in the kit contents and give a good stir. Pour the whole lot into a fermentation tank, fill up to 23 litres with cold water and pitch in the yeast once the temperature is about 25 degrees centigrade.

Wait , wait and wait some more…my batch took three weeks to ferment.…check the gravity and then bottle the beer adding a little sugar to each one. Then wait again…I have being trying a bottle now and again since I bottled it almost a year ago and it has much improved with age – becoming more bitter and complex, with shades of chocolate and coffee.

Enjoy the beer with bars of good dark chocolate such as vintage Valrhona, Green & Black’s or Dagoba.

Saturday 17 December 2005


Crumpets go hand in hand with Muppets in my mind. When I was little, the Sunday evenings I remember most fondly used to consist of a bath, then crumpets with butter and honey eaten in the living room (a rare treat!) while watching the Muppet Show on the telly.

Crumpets are part of a large family of raised breads cooked on the stove top rather than in the oven. English Muffins, pikelets, griddle scones, pancakes are all variations on the theme. Crumpets and English muffins are yeasted, griddle scones, pikelets and pancakes use a chemical leavener.

Home made crumpets compare to bought ones, naturally enough, in the same way as home made bread compares to bought bread. They are more tasty, more satisfying, more substantial in some way.

One piece of equipment that you do need to make crumpets is a set of metal rings. I use egg rings because I had some, but apparently you can get crumpet rings which seem to be a bit deeper. I cook my crumpets in my cast iron pan, which I really think feels the right pan to use!

This dough is simple to mix up and seems to rise so much faster than you expect. This is all good - means we do not have to wait so long for that Sunday morning breakfast.

The recipe I use to make crumpets is this :

2 teaspoons of yeast
200g of plain flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Dissolve the yeast in a cup of warm water. Mix in the flour and the salt. Add more flour or water to produce a thick yet pourable batter. Cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in volume, probably about an hour.
Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan to medium, add a knob of butter to coat the bottom. Put the rings in the pan, and half fill them with the batter. Leave to cook for about 5 minutes or until the tops are dry. At this point you can either remove the rings and flip them over in the pan, but you will get a more squashed look, or put them in a warm oven to finish. It is quite handy to take the oven route because if you, like me, have only got 3 rings then you will need somewhere to keep the crumpets warm as you cook the rest!

Thursday 15 December 2005

pork and fen·nel sau·sage rotelle

Sometimes pasta needs a bit of a revamp. We make pasta, generally spaghetti, with a tomato sauce most weeks. But sometimes one wants something different. I often think a non-tomato based pasta dish would be good, and I have had success with a green vegetable and feta type concoction, but still I think there might be more to this. Bolognese is another and much more substantial option, but altogether heavier and not very suited to the summer we are almost having.
I know that sausage isn't generally thought of as being a light option, but when the BBQ comes to mind sausages do become a summer and therefore a not so heavy option.
A world of sausages is opening up to us in Wellington at the moment. We do have a strong British heritage, so why haven't our sausages been better until now? I have friends who make their own sausages, ordering the casings from the butcher and using their Kenwood Chef with the sausage attachment to fill the skins with their fabulous, and very tasty, mixtures. But why don't more of us do this? I do not have a sausage-skin-filling-machine, although it is on my wishlist, therefore filling the skins is so much harder. Filling a plastic wrap tube with minced meat is not the same. But luckily many butchers are making damn good sausages now.
This evening I made pasta with pork and fennel sausage like this :
Fry some chopped garlic and dried chilli in olive oil until soft. Add the sausage meat that has been squeezed out of the skins of some flavourful sausages (I used about 8 Italian style pork and fennel) and fry until golden. Add a can (400g) of chopped Italian tomatoes. Simmer while you cook the pasta. I used 500g of rotelle, which is the early-settler-wagon-wheel style. Drain the pasta, pouring a wee bit of the cooking water into the sausage-tomato sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, adding a bit of cream and some chopped parsley. Stir the drained pasta through the sauce and serve in large bowls with parmesan on top.

Wednesday 14 December 2005

chil·i gar·lic roast po·ta·toes

Roast potatoes are pretty much a staple in our house. If you are using the oven and you need a starch to go with your dinner, what is the easiest option? Roast potatoes. They can be decadent or trim. Simple or special. Peeled or not. New or old.
If you are having a traditional English Roast for lunch then traditional roast potatoes are order of the day. If you are having confit of duck then roast the potatoes in some of the duck fat. If you are feeling healthy then all you need is a light spray of olive oil. If you are having Thai style rack of lamb then make the roast potatoes with garlic and chilli.
There were gorgeous new Jersey Benne potatoes in the cupboard so there was no need to reach for the peeler ; leave them with the skins intact. The box of Bennes was a mixture of tiny and slightly larger than tiny. I love the tiny ones plain boiled with butter and salt, or cooled off in a vinaigrette bath. I chose the larger ones for the roast potatoes, scrubbing the dirt off and cutting them into quarters. It is so gratifying to take the dirt off vegetables yourself. I peeled some cloves of garlic, chopped a chilli roughly and tossed the potatoes, chilli and garlic in a spot of olive oil to coat and a sprinkling of salt. They roasted for half an hour at 190ºC with frequent tossing.

Tuesday 13 December 2005


Chips are a lovely thing to have. Perfect to complete a fish finger and beans meal. The perfect thing to accompany burgers if you indeed need, or want, something else. They make fish and chips well, fish and chips. And dead simple to make.
I have entertained the notion of buying a deep fat fryer. But there is something that holds me back. It is in part the smell that lingers having fried something in a deep fat bath. No matter how much of an extractor fan one has, or how many windows one opens, there seems to be a fatty smell that permeates for days after a deep frying session. However I understand that a deep fat fryer with a lid does minimise these issues. But there is also the quantities of fat there will be hanging around between frying sessions. I just don't think that I make enough prawn crackers or wontons to make a deep fat fryer a necessary part of my cullinary equipment.
The good news is that in order to make chips one is not necessarily required to deep fry the potatoes. The perfect cripsness and bite of a double fried chip is traded off for the convenience, and it must be said, safety, of a thoroughly delicious oven baked chip.
This is the way I do it :
Peel and slice some potatoes into chip shapes. I find floury ones make the best chips. Soak the chips in cold water for at least half an hour. Drain and dry the chips in a tea towel while you preheat a solid baking sheet in a 200°C oven. Either toss the dry chips in a little olive oil or spray with olive oil. Spread the chips out on the sheet and bake for half an hour, turning over and rearranging a couple of times. Sprinkle with salt and enjoy with your favourite ketchup or even just by themselves.

broad beans

Monday 12 December 2005

rack of lamb - thai style

What do you do when you are planning green chicken curry but the butcher doesn't have any chicken? Mass produced flabby pale flavourless chicken does not count. You are wanting something spicy, clean tasting and fragrant. Well, you improvise, don't you?
So you ask for a rack of lamb because it looks really good. Thinking that you could do something, maybe regular roast rack of lamb with a Thai style salad on the side, perhaps with noodles. Or maybe you could flavour the lamb some how. How about a rub made with chilli, lime leaves and lemongrass. Well, if you are going to do that why not just make it easy and use some green curry paste and rub that on the rack? So that is what I did.
A typical preparation of a rack of lamb is with a herb crust. The crust protects the delicate meat on top of the ribs during the roasting process, resulting in a more succulent mouthful than a naked rack, roasted. Usually the herbs and flavours involved are more European in nature - parsley, mint, rosemary, lemon and garlic. It is just that in this instance the herbs and flavours are further to the East - lemongrass, kaffir lime and fish sauce.
The crust was spicy, but the fat on the lamb protected the meat and ensured the flavour that penetrated the meat was just the right level of flavour and piquancy. The mild and sweet flavour of the lamb was not overwhelmed by the curry, but rather complimented.
This is what I did :
Rub a rack of lamb with enough green curry paste to give a good coating on all sides. Roast at 190ºC for 25 to 30 minutes or until it looks cooked to your liking. Rest for five minutes on a wooden board shrouded in foil. Slice into chops and enjoy!

Friday 9 December 2005

chil·li sher·ry

One of the most useful condiments one can have in the cupboard, in my opinion, is chilli sherry. A dash of chilli sherry makes an ordinary stir fry brilliant. Chilli sherry in a marinade gives a fantastic depth of flavour. Perhaps the best thing is that you get the sherry flavour and the chilli flavour in one hit - no chopping of chilli or feeling bad about using that fino from the fridge.

Chilli sherry is a breeze to make :

Buy a bottle of sherry ; dry or medium dry at a push, but definately not cream. I wouldn't recommend the completely undrinkable stuff on the bottom shelf at the supermarket. A decent bottle on sale is perfect.
Pour a wee bit out, into a glass if you have been lucky enough to buy a bargain.
Push some washed chilli's down the spout.
Leave for a month at the back of the pantry.
Use, but don't forget to prepare the next batch before this one runs out . . .

I have entered the photo at the top of the post in DMBLGIT 2006 #1 as hosted over at Spittoon Extra. Head on over and check out all the wonderful pictures.

Ooooo! Very exciting news - the photo at the top that I entered in DMBLGIT 2006 #1 was judged Winner Originality! In fine company indeed!

Wednesday 7 December 2005


Nachos are one of the best things to eat. Corn chips. Refried beans. Cheese. Salsa. Sour cream. All good things. This is pub food at its best. But I would never order meat nachos. I just can't imagine that much care has gone into the meat component. This theory holds for most public eating places, good restaurants excluded. Always the vegetarian pizza or the vegetarian kebab. I figure refried beans have either come from a can, therefore nice and safe, or have been made by some one who likes them themselves. Perhaps there is no rhyme nor reason to this, but there it is.
My ultimate nachos include plain corn chips, not cheese flavoured or anything like that. Blue corn chips if I am lucky.
Refried beans, of course, made as follows :
Soak pinto beans over night in water. Drain and simmer in fresh water until soft. Drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Fry some onion, garlic and cumin in olive oil until soft. Add the drained beans and mash with a fork or potato masher or wooden spoon, adding reserved cooking water to achieve the consistency you like. Add some more garlic, black pepper and salt to taste.
Cheese, whatever cheddar style is in the fridge.
Salsa. Either red : made with red tomatoes, red onion, and red chilli or green : tomatillos, white onion, and green chilli. Or actually, you could have both.
Sour cream, well actually we usually use yoghurt, strained overnight if possible.
And the method goes like this :
Spread the chips on a shallow oven proof dish, cover with refried beans, then the cheese. Grill until the cheese is bubbling and browning at the edges. Pour on some salsa, and a dollop of yoghurt. Eat with your hands.

Sunday 4 December 2005


grid·dled chick·en


Tabbouleh, Tabouli or Tabouleh is a salad of Lebanese origin made with Bulgar wheat, parsley, mint, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Other flavourings are added such as salt, pepper, chilli, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and whatever else you might fancy. Tabbouleh is a quick and nourishing salad, made into a complete meal with the addition of some feta or char-grilled lamb, tomatoes and perhaps some cucumber. Tabbouleh is a lovely accompaniment to a pita-felafel-etc feast. The traditional recipes seem to lean the proportions towards the herbs rather than the Bulgar, but it seems to me that this depends on the amount of herbs available to you in comparison to the amount of Bulgar that you have already soaked. Regular Bulgar is really lovely, but for something with more bite, substance or body try to find some coarse Bulgar.
I make a simple Bulgar salad like this :
Measure your Bulgar into a bowl, half a cup is a good amount for two people. Add the same amount of boiling water, stir with a fork, and cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Leave for a good 15 minutes and stir well again with fork. Leave until the water has been absorbed and the Bulgar is tender. Prepare a dressing with equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice, plenty of crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and whatever other flavours you feel like. Add the dressing to the still warm Bulgar and leave to absorb while you prepare the herbs. Chop, as finely as you like, lots of parsley, mint, dill or whatever leafy green herbs you fancy. Add the chopped herbs to the Bulgar when you are ready to serve and mix well. Add other ingredients as you like and serve to enjoy.

egg·y bread

There were some eggs that lived in a bowl.
I have so many eggs! What do I do?
I'll beat them and mix them and add them to bread.
And turn them into comforting eggy bread!

Eggy bread, ahhhhhh, eggy bread. It was exactly what I knew I had to make for End of Month Eggs on Toast Extravanganza, the Nursery Food edition, thanks to Cook Sister!

Eggy bread has many aliases : French toast, poor knights of Windsor, pain perdu to name a few. And also many variations : Croque Monsieur or mozzarella in carozza. But to me, to maximise the comfort level, I think this is a dish best kept simple. Eggy Bread is quick and easy to make, and is virtually impossible to ruin, even if your mind is elsewhere - is that not the benchmark for comfort food?

I make eggy bread like this :

Cut generous slices of bread from a good white loaf - sourdough is a particularly good choice, the less dense the bread the more it is likely to fall apart as it absorbs the egg.
Beat some eggs with a spot of milk and salt and pepper.
Heat a heavy pan to medium and add a bit of butter and a bit of olive oil.
Dip the bread slices in the egg mixture, allowing it to absorb a good amount.
Fry the now eggy bread until it looks lovely and golden.

I like to eat this plain, but apparently HP sauce goes well. If you want to make it a bit more of a meal, a bit of bacon and some maple syrup goes brilliantly!

Saturday 3 December 2005



Beetroot is a beautiful colour and absolutely delicious when not from a can. Although there is a time and place for canned beetroot.
Beetroot seems to be a very British, and therefore Colonial, thing. I have been fairly surprised to find it included in Middle Eastern, African and European cooking. Although that could all have come from the British . . .
Beetroot is ubiquitously pickled. Being a root it is a prime candidate for roasting. Beetroot is a good choice to include at a juice bar. But I would recommend roasting.

Friday 2 December 2005


Floyd - Feel like a curry for lunch?
Pualo - Roger roger, Over under.

This is generally how it goes at our office every friday. There is no beating the convenience of popping to an Indian restaurant for a work day lunch. You can be sure that you will get your meal and be back at your desk within the hour. Lamb vindaloo - nice and hot - rice and a garlic naan is my choice. The nice and hot is generally the catch though. When you first try a restaurant you have to take a gamble with how the waitress translates your request for nice and hot. Then there is the restatement of the order to the chef. All this is further complicated with the inevitable assessment by the restaurant staff as to whether you really can handle it. They do want you to enjoy your lunch. However there is a phrase is Wellington that comes in rather handy for the first visit order of one's vindaloo - Kiwi Hot - as in not quite Indian Hot but hotter than just hot!
The best way to be sure that the vindaloo you eat is exactly how hot you want it is to make the vindaloo yourself. Although I must say this plan is not fool proof. Evidence of this is in the photo above. The yoghurt is only there because the vindaloo was a bit too hot. Good though and just the thing!
Vindaloo is a speciality of Goa, introduced by the colonising Portugese. The word Vindaloo derives from the Portugese words for vinegar and garlic. The aloo in the word Vindaloo is often misinterpreted to mean potato (as in aloo gobi an Indian cauliflower and potato dish) and that is why potatoes are added to many a vindaloo. Authentic or not, I add potatoes because I like potatoes in curry.
My recipe for lamb vindaloo is this :
For the paste soak 8 stalk-less dry red chillis in a cup of vinegar until soft. Puree, or grind, the chillis with 6 cloves of garlic, a couple of inches of fresh ginger root, a tablespoon of garam masala and half a teaspoon of salt. Use this mixture to marinate cubed lamb for at least three hours or overnight.
Fry some onions until golden. Add the lamb, drained of the marinade, and fry briefly. Add the remaining marinade, 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate, 1 1/2 cups of water. Simmer gently for at least 2 hours, adding more water as required. It is good at this stage to cool then chill the curry overnight to improve the flavour. Reheat gently and add a tablespoon of brown sugar.
Serve with naan for mopping, poppadoms for dipping, and rice for everything else. Oh and yoghurt if the vindaloo turns out a wee bit too hot . . .

Monday 28 November 2005

green chick·en cur·ry

I wonder what proportion of tables of omnivores at a Thai restaurant include a green chicken curry in the order. I think the percentage would be fairly high. In fact I would hazard a guess that green chicken curry is the most ordered dish at Thai restaurants [outside Thailand]. Well, it is always included in my order!
I cannot profess to the authenticity of my method, and within my method I have degrees of authenticity to my own recipe. If I am in the mood, and craving the ritual, I will make a green curry paste from scratch with fresh ingredients ; if I am able to take advantage of a previous indulgence of the ritual, I will use some homemade paste from the freezer ; but if it is a Tuesday evening, after a hard days work, and I want something restorative, yet quick, yet tasty, I will use a packet of bought paste from the cupboard. All are good, all have their place, and their merits.
This is my recipe for a green chicken curry :
My basic proportions for 2 people are 1 chicken breast, 440mL of coconut milk ; the amount of paste used has to depend on the nature of the paste and your taste.
In a wok, fry some sliced onions in oil until golden and remove. Fry the curry paste in oil until fragrant. Add sliced or cubed chicken, frying until coated in the paste and starting to turn golden. Add the coconut milk, stir well and leave to cook gently for at least half an hour. When you are ready to eat, and the rice is almost ready, add the onions and some frozen peas, or other vegetables as you like (pea aubergines if you are lucky enough to have some), turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.
Serve on rice with a sprinkling of corriander leaves.

Friday 25 November 2005

cook·ie swap

Is My Blog Burning – Sugar High Friday Cookie-swap Party virtual cookie swap thanks to the Domestic Goddess and Alberto of Il Forno! Well this is something I have been looking forward to - taking part in a food blog event - hooray!

There are so many cookies, or biscuits that I love to make. There are chocolate-chip, almond, peanut butter, afghan, jammy dodger, muesli and ANZAC . . .
But for this occasion I think that I will choose two special biscuits or cookies. One that I believe is particular to New Zealand - the Afghan - and one that is shared between New Zealand and Australia - the ANZAC biscuit.
No-one seems to know why the Afghan biscuit is called an Afghan biscuit. Is it because of the walnut half pressed into the chocolate coating that is reminiscent of an afghani hat? Is it because these biscuits were invented by one of our Great-Grandmothers to send to her Beau posted to Afghanistan in the First or Second World Wars? Or was it that a handsom Afghani gentleman made his way to our far shores and made such an impression on baking day that a biscuit was created in his honour. I suppose we will never know. But the afghan lives on.
One can buy packets of mass-produced afghans, or one can spend a bit more and buy "home-made" afghans from a gourmet grocer, one can even refer to the Edmonds cookery book that we got when we first left home, or one can use the recipe that your mother gave you over the phone when you first felt homesick enough to make them in your flat. This is the recipe I use, albeit with a few modifications that I feel reflect the next generation of Afghan biscuit bakers.

This is my recipe for Afghan biscuits :

175g of butter
1/2 cup of caster sugar
3 tablespoons of cocoa
1 1/4 cups of flour
2 cups of cornflakes
Dark chocolate
Walnut halves

Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Stir in teh flour and cornflakes, mixing well. Form into biscuit shapes, pressing the mixture together as you go. Bake at 180° for 10 minutes or until they are set.
Melt the chocolate and spread on the biscuits and press a walnut half onto each one.

ANZAC means a soldier from New Zealand or Australia and stands for A(ustralian and) N(ew) Z(ealand) A(rmy) C(orps). When our great-grandfathers were away fighting in World War One our great-grandmothers would make these long lasting biscuits to send in care parcels to their men. This is a fabulous example of the ongoing influence of our Scottish ancestors - ANZAC biscuits are cheap to make, nutritious, keep for a long time and taste good. The best time of year to make these biscuits is in April in order to commemorate ANZAC day on the twenty-fifth. This is a recipe that my mother has always made and we always used to have in our lunch boxes for morning tea. Perhaps this is a perfect example of comfort food and nostalgic cooking?

My recipe for ANZAC biscuits is :

125g of butter
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water
1/2 cup of thread coconut
1/2 cup of caster sugar
1 cup of rolled oats
3/4 cup of flour

Melt the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan large enough to hold all the ingredients. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. Bake generous teaspoon sized rounds at 180° for 10 minutes or until golden.

Saturday 19 November 2005


Yes there are feet in that picture. We thought it was amusing . . .
Anyway, there are few things better than the perfect burger. But there is so much that has to be right for a burger to be the perfect burger.
There is the bread - perhaps first and foremost, but some would place that with the patty. And there is of course the patty. For me, the perfect burger is always a cheese burger and therefore there is the cheese to consider. Then there are the sauces and condiments. And for some, especially New Zealanders, there are what I shall file under other ingredients.
So, the bread : I personally think that the bread needs to be substantial, have something to it, complement rather than pander to the meat patty. I like homemade soft milk bread rolls with sesame seeds on top, occasionally poppy. There has to be resistance in the crust, but not so much that it causes the insides to fall out. The inside needs to be soft so that it melds into the contents. But having said all that, I do also on occasion like to have a bought plastic softer than soft six to a packet burger bun and a burger like that is all about the meat. And sometimes it has to be all about the meat.
The patty : I just like to squidge good mince from the butcher with some chilli, garlic, and pepper and sometimes an anchovy, with my hands until it comes together - no need for egg - and form into patties. The patties have to be griddled in very hot cast iron or cooked over charcoal - they need to be slightly charred.
The cheese : some form of cheddar, or gouda perhaps and the slice needs to be put on the first cooked side of the burger as the second is cooking.
Sauces and condiments : This is one of the three foods on which I like tomato sauce - the other two being hot dogs and cherrios! I also need a good schmear of hot English mustard on the lower half of the bun. The only other things needed are sliced gherkins and pickled jalapenos.
Other ingredients : New Zealanders are notorious for adding fried eggs, tomatoes, pickled beetroot and so on to their burgers. I, personally, would always have them on the side. The McDonald's Kiwiburger is a case in point . . . !
But a burger is a sandwich and as such is a highly personal thing.


I have always wanted to make something using vine leaves. Must be my classical [sic] education. Years of Latin, classics and the like. Vine leaves were what the ancient Greeks used to eat and therefore, I am sure, the Romans.
But here in New Zealand it was always very hard to find the pickled vine-leaves as specified in the recipe books. I kept reading and eventually had the epiphany that the leaf of the ubiquitous silverbeet would make an admirable substitute and as they say, we were away laughing.
Silverbeet is dime-a-dozen or perhaps as cheap-as-chips in New Zealand. When one orders a thirty dollar mixed vegetable and fruit box from the local organic fruit and veg shop silverbeet is always abundant. There is only so much steamed silverbeet one can endure before searching for alternatives.
Silverbeet is similar, but also not, to spinach. Silverbeet is a much coarser proposition. Make of that what you will. Silverbeet is known in the Continent as Swiss Chard. It is often suggested that silverbeet be substituted for spinach, but this to my mind results in a much different dish. Spinach can be creamed but I dare anyone to try that with silverbeet -
and enjoy it.
All that said there is one contest in which silverbeet beats spinach hands down and that is in terms of robust construction. Enter the dolmades.
A dolmade is a traditionally a vine leaf formed into a cigar shape with a savoury stuffing. I think that this is an exemplary vegetable dish, which of course could be perverted with meat as one chooses. I find that a spicy tomato sauce is a lovely accompaniment, albeit not essential.
This is my recipe for faux dolmades :
Soak Basmati rice in cold water for at least one hour. Fry chopped onion until golden. Mix the now drained soaked rice with the fried onion and what ever flavouring you might fancy. I suggest chopped tomato, mint, parsley, dill, caraway seed, or even cooked chopped meat, plus of course salt and pepper. Trim the white stalks from the silverbeet leaves and blanch briefly until soft. Refresh in cold water and lay out to receive the filling. Loosely fill each leaf with a tablespoon or so of filling and roll up into a cigar shape - remembering to allow room for the expansion of the rice as it cooks. Place each dolmade in a steamer seam down. Steam the dolmades for thirty minutes or so until a tested dolmade results in cooked rice. Serve with a tomato sauce and enjoy!

Friday 18 November 2005


I love pastry. Offer me chocolate cake or a sausage roll and I will take the sausage roll every time. Or the vol-au-vent. Or the pie with the flaky pastry on top.
I have read so many times that people are afraid of making their own pastry. Well perhaps not afraid, but more that they don't want to perhaps. The catalyst to my conversion was the first time I tasted the difference between a pastry made with butter and that made with margarine.
I think that pastry has been only available to buy as a commercial product fairly recently. My mother and her mother and her mother and so on had always had a "rough pastry" in their repertoire : Rub fat into flour and bind with a liquid. The ratio of fat to flour dictated the shortness of the resulting pasty. The addition of sugar made the pastry suitable for a dessert. The liquid could be egg for a rich pastry or water for a plain pastry or orange juice for a pastry suitable for Christmas mince pies. The possibilities were endless. All you had to remember was cold hands make good pastry - or something like that.
Pastry was originally used as a casing for a portable meal. A Cornish pasty is a famous example of this and a Bedforshire clanger another perhaps less known. The story of the Bedfordshire clanger is this : A pastry case was filled with one end a savoury meat mixture and the other a sweet fruit mixture. One end was marked for identification, both of the owner and the identity of that end's filling. The clanger was then dropped down the mine by the cook to her lucky husband at the dinner hour. I am not sure how well the clanger would have stood up to being dropped down a mine shaft - but that is the beauty of folk lore is it not?
My basic recipe for pastry is this :
Rub half the weight of fat into a quantity of flour with a pinch of salt until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Bind the mixture with the minimum amount of liquid required - add a bit at a time. Knead briefly until smooth. Do not handle or work the pastry too much to avoid strengthening the gluten in the flour which would make the pastry tough - we want tender. Wrap up and put it to rest in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out and use as required.

Wednesday 16 November 2005


If I am not sure what I want to have for dinner and perhaps I am feeling a little tender and need something restorative in a bowl to eat, I fairly regularly think of noodles. There are always noodles in the cupboard. Noodles are quick to cook. They are (generally) healthy. Everyone likes noodles. A noodle dish is a dish with so many possibilities.
I like to buy organic dried asian noodles, there are so many kinds : soba, ramen, green tea, egg. But at the moment I have a certain fondness for mung bean vermicelli. It could be that they are made from beans and I love beans and beans are good for you.
I once went to a lot of trouble to find a recipe to make my own noodles. Perhaps I am a little slow on the up-take but I was surprised that all the recipies for noodles - in the Asian sense - were the same as the recipies for pasta - in the Italian sense. I still have no idea why I thought they would be different. Isn't it amazing how the accompanying flavours - tomato, garlic and cheese vs. chilli corriander and fish sauce - can cause you to percieve something that is essentially the same as being completely different. Well I find it amazing!
I understand that it is believed that Marco Polo brought noodles back from china to Italy - so it all begins to make sense . . .
One of my favourite recipes for a whipped up store cupboard dinner is this :
Prepare a broth from chicken stock, tom yum paste from a jar (no MSG thank you!), bashed lemongrass stalks, corriander root and stalks, sliced chilli, kaffir lime leaves and what ever else you fancy. Bring to the boil and simmer briefly. Poach some chicken or seafood in the broth, or reheat some left-over cooked meat. Fish out the lemongrass, lime leaves, and corriander roots at this stage if you like. Add the noodles and when they are almost cooked add vegetables - quartered mushrooms, quartered tomatoes, asian greens - anything you have on hand, even frozen peas would do. Serve piping hot in large bowls with chopsticks and chinese spoons for slurping.

Monday 14 November 2005


I have been making yoghurt for a year or so now and I am always dissapointed when I haven't been organised enough to have made my own and have to buy a pot of commercial stuff. I cannot believe I used to buy low fat artificially sweetened "yoghurt". The last time I had this reconstituted-milk-powder gelatine-thickened nutrasweetened product was so long ago I can hardly remember the taste, so unremarkable it must have been, except that I was dissapointed.
My mother used to make yoghurt in an wee electrical device with 6 or 8 pottles (love that word!) which she would make in the evening and would be ready for breakfast the next morning. She used to make this from milk and a starter saved from the previous batch.
Yoghurt is so good for you. Proper, live, real yoghurt anyway. It is debatable that the regular commercial stuff is not actually bad for you - in my opinion.
Yoghurt is a dairy product made by the bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria concerned is most commonly a combination of Streptococcus salivarius and thermophilus, and a Lactobacillus such as acidophilus, bulgaricus or bifidus. If the yoghurt is not pasturised after fermentation and is therefore still a living organism it is considered live and carries the most health benefits. Because the lactose has been partially digested by the bacteria during fermentation, those people who have experienced lactose intollerance with other milk products may find that they have no such problems with yoghurt or for that matter cheese.
My recipe for making yoghurt is this :
Bring 1 Litre of full cream, non homogenised if possible, milk to the boil in a large pan since we all know how milk likes to boil over. Stir the bottom of the pan as it comes to the boil to prevent sticking. Once it has boiled you can stir it less often, but watch for it boiling over. Reduce this litre of milk by a third. I measure this by marking a wooden chopstick with the litre mark and again at the two-thirds mark. Once it has reduced, strain into a china bowl and add 75mL of cream and stir well. Leave to cool until you can hold your little finger in the milk to a count of ten. Stir in 75g or about 3 tablespoons of yoghurt from the previous batch. Cover tightly and leave in a warm place, perhaps wrapped in a towel for 8 hours - overnight is perfect. If this is your first batch then you will have to buy some yoghurt unless you can borrow some from a yoghurt-making friend. Just make sure you buy live yoghurt so those bacterium are still alive and kicking.