Monday, 27 November 2006


. . . and another new tradition for me . . . mincemeat!

Two kinds - one with meat, real meaty meat and one without, like we know it now-a-days. Looking at the picture above, the one with minced beef is on the right, I was surprised how light coloured it is, especially in comparison with the very dark non-meat mixture on the left. I am yet to find out how either tastes ; but I am dying to know if I can tell the difference and if the real-meat mincemeat is less sweet and sickly as Hugh promises. I will let you know! But if the meat mincemeat pies are not to our taste the mixture apparently make a wonderful stuffing for pork. Either way I win!

I haven't made very much because I only wanted a little, so multiply to your requirements.

Sterilise some jars before making these mincemeats by preheating the oven to 120°C and heating some clean jars and their lids for an hour. Once the jars are filled they will keep a while but can be used after a week or so. Turn the jars the other way up every so often to allow the liquid to permeate.

Real meat mincemeat
from The River Cottage Year by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, with a few changes
makes 550mL

125g finely minced good beef
60g beef suet, grated
60g each of currants and raisins
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
50g dark muscovado sugar
35g ground almonds
25g preserved ginger in syrup, chopped, plus 1T of the syrup
25g mixed peel
grated zest and juice of a lemon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice
60mL Cognac

Mix everything together thoroughly and store in the
sterilised jars for a week or so before using to make mince pies (or to stuff pork!).

from Tamasin's Kitchen Bible by Tamasin Day-Lewis
, with a few changes
makes 600mL

110g each of sultanas, raisins and currants
60g of blanched almonds, chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
135g dark muscavado sugar
65g mixed peel
grated zest and juice of an Orange
1/3 t freshly grated nutmeg
cloves, cinnamon and mace, ground to make 1/2t total
1/2t freshly grated ginger
55g beef suet, grated
1T dark rum
50mL Cognac

Mix everything together thoroughly and store in the sterilised jars for a week or so before using to make mince pies.

Check Morsels and Musings for other Festive Food Fair fare.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Christ·mas pud·ding

Today is what we could call Stir-up Sunday and is the time to make the Christmas pudding, mincemeat and Christmas cake. This is the first year that I have done this, but since I have been meaning to for years, and now that I have broken through the barrier that was stopping me before, a new tradition [for me] has been born!

My Mother-in-law gave me a brilliant spherical mold a couple of years ago, and it is the perfect shape for a Christmas pudding. It has made many a ball shaped birthday cake, a spherical haggis and the foundation for a skull Pavlova one Halloween - a spherical mold is a vital piece of kitchen equipment - but this Christmas pudding has been its crowing product!

I used Tamasin Day-Lewis's recipe for Extravagant Christmas Pudding from her book Tamasin's Kitchen Bible. This is my favourite kitchen handbook and I can't recommend it highly enough. I added some dried cranberries, because I had them and they seemed to be the right thing to add, and adjusted some of the ingredients to suit what I had. I also ended up cooking two puddings because I had so much mixture, I did intend only to make one, but they keep and for a lot of people on Christmas day you might just need two. I actually had enough to make five individual ones in ramekins too . . . !

Extravagant Christmas Pudding
made 2 1L puddings

130g plain flour
cinnamon bark, mace, cloves and
allspice, ground to make 3 teaspoons all together
1T grated ginger
130g each of sultanas, raisins, currants
75g dried cranberries
150g each of prunes, dried apricots and dates, chopped
300g dark muscavado sugar
75g each of Brazil nuts and almonds, chopped
130g brown breadcrumbs
2 apples, cored and grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
110g beef suet, minced or chopped
4 eggs
200mL Guinness or another stout
50mL Cognac
juice and grated zest of an orange

Grease the mold or basin.
Sift the flour into a very large bowl then add the rest of the ingredients in the order given, and mix thoroughly. Add a little milk if necessary to make a soft batter. Fill the mold or basin to three quarters full and cover, with the lid or with a piece of greaseproof paper and foil that you had pleated together in the middle to allow room or expansion. Tie a piece of kitchen string securely around the basin making a handle as you do so. Place in a large pot, with a deep steamer insert if you have one or a trivet or a folded piece of foil to lift the pudding from the bottom. Add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the pudding and simmer for 7 hours, topping up with water if necessary.
Remove from the pan and take off the lid. Leave to cool then unmold and rewrap with greaseproof paper and foil and leave in an airy place until the day.
Resteam for 3 hours to serve.

Check Morsels and Musings for other Festive Food Fair fare.

Friday, 24 November 2006

fen·nel and pea ri·sot·to

I felt like making a spring time risotto for Hay Hay Its Donna Day #8 hosted this round by Cenzina. Two vegetables that positively squeal spring to me are fennel and fresh peas bought in their pod, so what else could I do but make a fennel and pea risotto!

I am fairly new to risotto having been put off at a young age by bad gloopy porridge like stuff and instant rice risotto (remember that?!), but I am well and truly a convert now. I bought some wonderful Carnaroli rice not so long ago and the frequency of risotto making in the house has certainly increased. I highly recommend trying the different types ; Carnaroli makes a drier risotto and Vialone Nano rice makes a creamier, starchier, risotto and also makes a great rice pudding. The Arborio rice I used to buy from the supermarket was fine, but without any characteristics to make it different from any other short grain rice. Perhaps I need to search out a better brand of Arborio . . .

Fennel and Pea Risotto
serves 3 (or 2 for dinner and 1 with leftovers for lunch)

Chicken stock
A generous handful of peas in their pods, washed
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bulb of fennel, washed, fronds reserved, finely sliced
olive oil
200g Carnaroli rice

50mL white wine or vermouth
dash of Pernod
30g finely grated Parmesan cheese

Put the stock in a pot and bring to the simmer adding the trimmings from the fennel, but not the fronds. Pod the peas, putting the pods in the sock and reserving the peas.

Heat a large heavy pan with a knob of butter and some olive oil. When the butter has melted and the pan is hot add the onion and fennel and sauté until soft and starting to turn golden. Add the rice and turn in the onion and fennel until nicely coated with the butter and oil.
Add the wine or vermouth and the Pernod and stir until the liquid is all but absorbed. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring well all the time making sure each addition is absorbed, but not completely dry, before adding the next until all the stock has been used, or you judge the wetness is just right and the rice is cooked with a lovely creamy texture. Avoid adding the pea pods and fennel trimmings, perhaps straining the last amounts through a sieve.

Stir the peas through the risotto so they are warmed through but still retain their fresh crunch.
Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan and a bit more butter if you like.
Serve sprinkled with the reserved fennel fronds.

Check Cavoletto di Bruxelles for other wonderful risotto recipes that have been put together for Hay Hay Its Donna Day #8!

Friday, 17 November 2006

beetroot and brazil nut relish

Beetroot is a guaranteed way to add a bit of pink to a meal, shocking though it is! Beetroot can be happily included in many meals, contributing not just colour but also sweetness and vitamin C and antioxidents among other benefits.

I think the best way to cook a beetroot is to wash gently, taking care not to damage the skin, trimming only the leaves, then wrap loosely in foil and roast for an hour or two. Sometimes I add some salt, pepper and olive oil, but only if they are within reach. After cooling enough to handle the skin comes away easily and then the purple globe is ready to be introduced to many a recipe. A newly found favourite of mine is :

beetroot and brazil nut relish
flexible ingredients, flexible quantities, flexible servings

Purée the roasted beetroot with some garlic. Add some brazil nuts ; the more nuts the thicker and more substantial the relish will be. Season with redwine vinegar, salt and pepper. Leave for a few hours for the flavours to develop. Serve with bread and cheese, roasted meats, felafels and pita, anywhere some bright pink relish would be welcome.

Thursday, 16 November 2006


Mace is the lace like placenta that surrounds the nutmeg within the fruit. The lines and wrinkles on a nutmeg show where the mace was lying against the nut. Although indigenous to Indonesia, mace is now found in most spice growing areas. Both mace and nutmeg have the botanical name of Myristica fragrens, indicating the fragrant value of the volatile oils they contain. These oils are narcotic and poisonous in large quantities!

Mace may be bought as ground or whole blade mace, and more rarely, complete with the nutmeg it encloses. Unsurprisingly the flavour of mace is similar, but more pungent than that of nutmeg. The flavour of mace could also be described as slightly finer and fresher than nutmeg and is used in savoury dishes more than sweet.

Ways to use mace :

  • Ground and added to a spice mix for a cake.
  • Included in garam masala, or curry powder.
  • A whole blade included with peppercorns and a bay leaf to infuse milk for a white sauce.
  • Added to a poaching court-bullion for fish or seafood.
  • Include in the pickling liquor for onions or gherkins.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

New Zea·land blog·ging by post re·mind·er

Just a quick reminder! Everyone who has emailed me to join in with New Zealand Blogging by Post should now have received an email with the details of the lucky recipient of their parcel. If you did want to join in and have not received an email, please let me know as soon as possible.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

gold·en ras el han·out

There is a food and wine shop here in Wellington that I absolutely love to visit : Truffle. And luckily for those of you not in Wellington and unable to visit in person they now have a website complete with an online shop.

One of my favourite purchases of late has been a jar of Golden Ras el Hanout, a fabulous spice mix, which translates as 'House Blend'. This particular mix is listed as turmeric, chili powder, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and ground ginger. The label mentions that ras el hanout may contain rose buds and Spanish fly. Apparently it is the Spanish fly that makes this version golden, and apparently Spanish fly is not something you would list on the ingredients even if it did contain it - very exciting!

We have used a spoonful or two of Ras el Hanout in many a dish including a chicken and cauliflower stew and kitcheri, and rubbed it on several pieces of otherwise unadorned meat.

The lamb back strap in the photo above was rubbed with the Golden Ras el Hanout and roasted in the oven at 180°C for 12 minutes. We served it on some steamed silverbeet with roasted yams : a lovely, simple, delicious and interesting meal.

Truffle Food & Wine
1/22 Garrett Street
PO Box 11-770
Wellington 6011
New Zealand
Ph +64 4 385-2802
Fax +64 4 385-2801

Monday, 6 November 2006

flour tor·til·la

First of all, I would like to say, that the best way to cook these tortillas is with someone else. Someone with whom you can enjoy a glass of wine in the kitchen, working together while you chat. Then, they will be perfect.

Flour Tortilla
makes 12

2 cups strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 tablespoons lard or goose or duck fat
boiling water, about a cup

Mix the flour and the salt together then rub in the fat. While stirring with a wooden spoon, add enough boiling water to form a dough then knead briefly. Wrap in plasitc and rest for an hour. Heat a cast iron frying pan to hot.
Divide into 12 pieces and either using a tortilla/chappati press or a rolling pin form circles as thin as you can, cooking them for 30 seconds per side, or until then have golden patches and are puffy, then wrapping in a teatowel to keep warm and soft. This is where a kitchen partnership is so good ; one person rolls and the other cooks, all easy, no fussing (and no forgetting to turn that one which is now burning because you were busy rolling).