Monday 31 December 2007

So what is this all a·bout?

A new year and a new look seemed to warrant me thinking out loud upon what The Laughing Gastronome is all about :
  • I love food : I love to eat food, I love to cook food, I love to plan for food, I love to shop for food, I love to learn about food.
  • I want to be in aware of exactly what is within the food I eat and of what I give my family and friends to eat.
  • I need to know how make certain foods from scratch so should I wish to prepare them, or to judge a purchased version, I am able.
  • I want to know how to grow the foods I can with my limited resources.
  • I really care about reusing, recycling and reducing, and I am finding more and more ways to do these things.
  • I love cook books ; for inspiration, instruction and just to while away some time.
  • I love to eat seasonally ; there is nothing like the last feijoa or the first asparagus.
  • I love to learn a new technique, or to practice an old one. Sometimes the more difficult the better and sometimes the wonder is in the simplicity.
  • I value the right tool for the job, but have no space for the one time wonders.
  • I love finding a brilliant product or ingredient, new or old, that makes me wonder how I could live without it.
  • I love the preparation tips and food tricks that are shared among interested friends.
These are some of the areas that are to be explored on The Laughing Gastronome in 2008 - I hope you enjoy visiting.

Happy new year!

Thursday 1 November 2007

corn·ed corn chow·der

Hot and steamy, but nothing to focus on . . .

When I made corned beef and its delicious silky sauce there was a fair bit of cooking liquor left, and it was too good for this frugally amused gastronome to throw away. The liquor in which the modern corned beef has been cooked is not as overly salty as that your Mother or Grandmother would have known, thus opening rafts of possible future uses. On tasting the liquor before making the mustard sauce, I immediately saw visions of a damn tasty soup. At the time I thought lentil, but as it transpired, the soup was to be corn chowder. And isn't that so fitting, a corn chowder made with corned beef liquor?
Corned Corn Chowder
Serves 4

1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
6 cups of liquor from cooking corned beef, or chicken stock
500g frozen corn kernels
white pepper

Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Add the potato and stir to coat in the oily onion mixture. Add the stock and corn and simmer until the potato is soft, approximately 15 minutes. Puree with a hand held blender or similar and season with a little salt and white pepper. Reheat to serve piping hot.

Saturday 13 October 2007

fish fin·gers

Fingers of fish.

Fish fingers are a childhood memory. The sort of thing you were allowed on a friday night if your parents were going out and you had to have dinner and be ready for bed before the babysitter came. They were best served with baked beans, maybe peas and perhaps some oven chips. The perfect rectangles of reconstituted, or apparently not, fish. Yum!

Well, fish fingers are still a treat in our house, but luckily now we know how to make them ourselves :
Trim some fillets of a a firm white fish - groper is particularly good - into fish finger shapes. Save the off cuts for fish cakes, this is a time when freezing the fish is just fine.
Mix some flour and polenta, about 1/4 cup of each should do it (although I think that sometimes less flour and more polenta would be better), and season with salt and pepper.
Rinse and dry the fish.
Coat the fingers of fish in the polenta mixture. You could double dip the fish fingers if you like by dipping the first dipped finger in beaten egg and then again in the polenta, this will give a thicker coating.
Spray a lined baking sheet with oil, lay out the fish fingers and spray again.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 200°C or until they look really good.

Tuesday 9 October 2007


It is so good to go on holiday, and it really is so good to be home!

This was a holiday of family, friends - new and old - and also, plenty of gastronomic experiences! Not least being my first taste of lobster, chitterlings and tortoice shell jelly.

Monday 27 August 2007


Lorne, banger or Lop Cheung

I shall leave you with a picture of a most delicious local choritzo as we travel the globe for a month.

Scotland, England, China . . . but none so good as the sausage of home! But I wont mind trying!

Sunday 12 August 2007

Blogging by Mail

What a haul!

Thank you so much Dolores it is just so great to get a surprise parcel! And what a parcel :

Coco Délice Chocolates
Caramel Sin
Peach Conserve
Diablo Magazine
Sunset Magazine

The chocolates lasted 2 days, the jam is still going, the magazines were great fun to browse. But the caramel sin . . . this I had to used up once half of it had disappeared spoon, by spoon, some how.

But here is how to make a banana cake simply divine : make your favourite banana cake recipe and just before baking drop in spoonfuls of a wickedly brilliant caramel. Oh so good, we all know how wonderfully caramel goes with banana ; this cake will not last long.

Thank you Dolores for the great parcel, and thank you Stephanie for organising. Apologies to you both for the tardiness of my posting - I will mention computer problems and our 19 year old cat going missing (happily back now).

Sunday 29 July 2007

Corned Beef

Granddad would have been proud!

If you ask any British person if they would like corned beef for lunch, don't be surprised if they are not that eager. In this matter New Zealand and Britain prove they are poles apart. The corned beef of which I speak is no reconstituted canned nightmare, but proud and noble beefy goodness.

I was very happy to recently rediscover how much I like this homely and simple food. Let me tell you how Corned beef and I became reacquainted :
Master W., with whom I work, came back from the butcher with a large piece of meat.
"What have you got there?" I inquired.
"A piece of corned beef" he replied.
"Oh my goodness I have not had that in years, maybe not since granddad died," I cried in excitement, "tell me how you are going to cook it!?"
He explained how he was going to carefully put it in the crockpot with some vegetables and spices, cover it with water and cook it slowly for hours until it was tender and able to be sliced with a spoon.
"This," he continued, "will be perfect on Sunday after the Saturday night I have planned."
My mouth was watering and I knew then that I too would have to get a piece of corned beef for Sunday.
I called mum for her recipe, because I wanted to try my hand at reproducing the corned beef of my memory, and thank goodness I did! Mum asked me if I wanted the mustard sauce recipe too. This sauce is the best thing with corned beef, I wonder if in a way I wanted corned beef so I could have this sauce?
Mum's Corned Beef with Mustard Sauce

Corned Beef

Rinse the piece of corned beef and put it in a Crockpot or large pot with a couple of washed carrots cut in half, an onion cut in half and studded with cloves, a strip of orange peel, a few peppercorns and cover with water. Cook on low or high, according to your schedule, until the beef is cooked and threatening to fall apart, maybe 6 hours or so.

Leave any leftover beef to cool in the liquor, or indeed make this ahead of time, leaving to cool in the liquor and reheat gently when you are ready to eat it. Use some of the liquor for the mustard sauce, below, but do not throw away the rest of the liquor. This liquor makes a fantastic stock for soup. It seems that corned beef is not as salty as it once was, but you may not need to season the resulting soup.

Mustard Sauce

1 egg
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of mustard powder
1 cup of corned beef cooking liquor
1/4 cup vinegar
white pepper

Beat the egg with the sugar, then stir in the flour and mustard. Mix in the liquor and vinegar and cook, stirring well, over a medium to low heat until thickened, as you would a custard. Season with white pepper. Serve hot with the corned beef and cold spread in your corned beef sandwiches.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Za'atar Naan Chips

Want not waste not or third time a treat?

When I made the spelt bread and was so happy with the result I immediately decided to use spelt flour to make naan to go with our Friday night curry. Brilliant : soft, tasty and oh so good topped with a schmear of garlic butter.

I had made more dough than we needed for a couple of naan, so I popped it in the fridge so I could use it on Saturday to make some flat breads for nibbling on with a glass of wine. Delicious : Served with toasted za'atar mixed with olive oil for dipping, the spelt shined through once again. However we ended up with more flat breads than we needed.

So on Sunday I broke the flat breads up into pieces and mixed them with the left over za'atar and oil (do I throw anything away?!). Baked, spread out on a sheet at 180°c, for about 20 minutes until they were crispy and golden. Such a good snack, such a good way to use up that naan dough.

Once again a cracker!

Friday 20 July 2007

it is spelt b-r-e-a-d

and also made from spelt flour.

I love to try out new ingredients, and in the case of spelt flour, old ingredients that are new to me. I knew that spelt was the ancient form of wheat, was higher in protein and is more easily digested than regular wheat.

I was so happy to find that bread made with spelt was even better tasting and feeling than bread made with regular unbleached stoneground flour. It some how tastes breadier - I am sure that can't make sense! I was worried that it would be heavy and dense, but I was very plesantly surprised to find it was lighter than my usual loaf.

Obviously I need to try emmer wheat next . . .
Spelt bread
makes 1 loaf

2 teaspoons fresh yeast
1 teaspoon honey
~1.5 cups lukewarm water
~4 cups white spelt flour
1 heaped teaspoon salt

Dissolve the yeast and honey in half a cup of water and leave until it begins to froth. Add 3 and a half cups of flour, the rest of the water and the salt and knead to a dough. Leave to rest for 10 minutes then continue kneading, adding more flour or water as required to make a soft silky dough. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to double in size, approximately 1 hour. Punch down, form into a loaf and cover again with a damp tea towel and leave for half an hour. Preheat the oven with a baking stone to 230°c.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Wednesday 18 July 2007


Za'atar - a spice blend to get talked into trying!

Today, like many days, I went to Truffle, and as usual, managed to walk out with more than I had on my list, well actually not even what was on my list. My list was not that expansive, well it only included sumac which John encouraged me to change for Za'atar. If, like I was, you are not entirely sure of what Za'atar is then let me help you out.

Za'atar is an Arabic word that is used to describe both the herb thyme and a spice blend made from thyme, sesame, sumac and salt. Za'atar is commonly found on top of flat bread in a Middle Eastern restaurant, and now I know, I can remember times I have had it sprinkled on bread in mezze. Another way a friend described to use it is by dry frying it to release the aromas and flavours then mixing with olive oil to use as a dip for pita bread. I can be used to season many a bread, vegetable and meat.

If you are unable to find Za'atar common proportions are :

1 salt : 2 toasted sesame seeds : 4 sumac : 12 dried thyme

I used the Za'atar to coat some lamb backstraps and served them with tabbouleh, the last of my mother's tomatoes and roasted beetroot. I first rubbed the lamb with some garlic olive oil and generously coated with the Za'atar and left to rest and infuse for half an hour. I seared the lamb in a hot pan and popped it into a 200°c oven for 15 minutes then rested it for 5 minutes before slicing. Such a good, quick, easy dinner.

By the way, this was the dish and post that I cooked and blogged about when Emily, Zach and Max came to visit to film me for Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie. They were in New Zealand to do a segment on New Zealand and part of an episode about food blogging both of which are part of Season two which should start to air in America from January 2008 and I imagine a little later in New Zealand.
Thanks to John at Truffle, Ian at Meat, Commonsense Organics and Paul at Rumbles for letting us visit! Your products are amazing, but would I have calling you my favourite shops if I did not think that?!

Saturday 14 July 2007

am·a·ret·to and Christ·mas pud·ding

Amaretto and Christmas Pudding : very, very good.

When I made the Christmas Pudding last year I had more mixture than would fit in my mold so I steamed a couple of mini puddings in ramekins. These have been maturing nicely since last December and were perfect to pull out for our Mid-Winter Feast over at Nihowera.

I am not a particular fan of Christmas cake, but I love Christmas Pudding. Small slices of the rich pudding with a wee dram of Amaretto made a wonderful finish to a mid-winter meal. There are so many reasons to save the more traditional northern hemisphere Christmas dishes for a mid-winter feast and update our summer Christmas meal to reflect our summer weather.

Monday 9 July 2007

cas·hew nut brown sug·ar bis·cuits

Yin or yang? Yang I think.

Nuts are so good for you : did you know that nuts have been found lacking in the diets of sufferers of Parkinson's disease? They are good at regulating insulin and blood sugar, helping those who suffer from diabetes and glucose intolerance. Nuts have anticancer and heart-protective properties, rich in the antioxidant Vitamin E.

Isn't a nut biscuit a great way to take your medicine?
Cashew Nut Brown Sugar Biscuits
makes 12

100g butter, soft
1/2 cup dark muscovado sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup cashew nuts, chopped
24 whole cashew nuts

Preheat the oven to 180°c.
Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and the vanilla. Mix in the flour and baking powder and finally the chopped cashed nuts. Roll 12 balls of the dough and place on a baking sheet, with room to spread. Press two cashew nuts on to each ball in a pleasing pattern. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden at the edges.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

baked pump·kin ri·sot·to

A risotto to cook while you gossip.

I think we probably all know that a risotto should be cooked on the stove top with constant attention and constant stirring, but there is another way when you would rather be in the living room with friends you have not seen in a while : the oven baked risotto.

Of course there are times when it is lovely to stand and stir, I know, but the oven baked risotto is a wonderful option for after work entertaining. Cooking in a pot that can go straight to the table for everyone to help themselves, hardly disrupts the gossip, giving an easy and friendly way to have dinner.

This risotto with pumpkin looks so nice too, the orange and the green invite people to dive in. The chicken is optional, but it definately makes it a bit more substantial.
Baked Pumpkin Risotto with Chicken
Serves 4

2 chicken breasts, cut into large cubes
2 cups Carnaroli rice
A splash of white wine
5 Cups of Chicken Stock
500g pumpkin, cut into bite size cubes
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
A handful of Parsely, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 190°c.

Heat a pot with a lid suitable for the stove and oven, if you do not have this heat a frying pan and have an oven proof casserole handy. Brown the chicken in a little olive oil and remove to a plate, do this in batches if necessary. Tip the rice into the pot and turn in the chicken frying residual goodness. Add the wine and stir to dislodge the chicken fond from the bottom of the pan. Add the pumpkin and the stock and stir. Bake for 20 minutes, then stir in the chicken. There will still be quite a lot of liquid in the pot. Bake for another 15 minutes, then take from the oven and add the Parmesan, butter and salt and pepper. Stir for at least a minute or until the risotto is creamy, taste and serve sprinkled with parsely.

Thursday 28 June 2007

chil·li corn nib·bles

Corn and chilli, a perfect match.

A store cupboard snack, perfect for eating while relaxing. Perhaps when playing cards while enjoying a glass of wine. Or for some impromptu nibbles when cracking open a bottle of wine with some friends seem like a good idea. Or even if you aren't hungry enough for a proper meal but know you should have something to eat or regret it at about 1am when you wake up hungry.

Actually they would be pretty good for when you do wake up at 1am hungry . . .
Chilli Corn Nibbles
Enough for a good snack for a couple of hungry people

1 egg
a good glug of Tabasco
1 tablespoon olive oil
white pepper
2 heaped tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
splash of milk
1 cup frozen corn kernels
Olive oil for frying

Beat the egg with the Tabasco, oil and the salt and pepper. Mix in the flour and baking powder and enough milk to make a thick batter. Mix in the corn and leave to stand for about 30 minutes.
Heat a frying pan to medium hot with a good layer of olive oil and fry teaspoons of the mixture until golden and crispy. Keep the fritter warm in a low oven between batches and serve with a chilli sauce.

Sunday 24 June 2007

Brus·sels sprout soup

I can't change thyme, but thyme can change soup.

For not having a scrap of cream in it, this soup is surprisingly creamy and satisfying. And full of the good flavours of Brussels sprouts. It is the brief 10 minute cooking of the sprouts that has prevented the little beauties from turning into the grey and bitter slop of many a childhood nightmare. I think this could be the recipe that could turn a Brussels sprout hater into a Brussels sprout lover, providing you don't tell them what the soup is made from before they have complimented you on your kitchen skills. The onion sweetens the soup, and the thyme gives a lovely savoury note, but of course substitute another herb you have handy.

I don't think you necessarily need bread with this soup, but then again a piece of hot buttered toast never goes amiss.
Brussels Sprout Soup
serves 2 generously

1 large onion, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon of butter
250g Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half, or quarters if especially large
500mL chicken stock
2 good sprigs of thyme
Celery salt and white pepper

Melt the butter and cook the onion over a low heat with the lid on for about 30 minutes or until very soft and almost melting. Remove the lid, raise the heat to medium, and cook until the onions just start to colour. Add the Brussels sprouts, stock and thyme and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the sprouts are tender. Remove the thyme and puree the soup. Season with celery salt and pepper, reheat and serve.

Friday 22 June 2007

cream of to·ma·to soup

Takes on and beats the best of the cans.

We left it as late as possible to harvest the last of the tomatoes and pull out the plants, finally giving into the cold that was about to hit. When we did we had a huge pile of tomatoes ranging from all green to ripe and wonderful. I tried to ripen the green ones on the window sill, just wanting the hugest pile of ripe redness before I set to boiling them up to pop in the freezer. I did sneak a few from the pile to make my favourite soup - cream of tomato.

Cream of tomato soup is something else mass produced that I like to try to imitate. And I am always very happy when it doesn't match up

Hot and smeared with butter.
Cream of Tomato Soup
Scale to feed your crowd.

Fresh tomatoes
Parsley stalks, leaves reserved for garnish
Salt and Pepper

Cook the tomatoes with just a dash of water, the parsley stalks and the garlic until completely fallen apart into pulp. Puree then pass through a sieve into a clean pan. Add water and cream to reach the thickness you prefer and reheat without boiling. Season with a dash of Tabasco and salt and pepper.

Serve, of course, with hot buttered toast.

min·i ap·ple pies

Ernest Adams, Sara Lee or Laughing Gastronome?

I have this thing where I like to make things like those that are usually bought : digestive biscuits, custard creams and most recently, those individual snack size apple pies. They never turn out exactly how they are when bought, but that is a good thing, isn't it!

The apple pies I was hoping to mimic have a cubed apple filling in a thick, sticky sauce flavoured with cinnamon, short crust pastry - often quite cakey, which I didn't want to reproduce - and all sprinkled with sugar. You know the kind. I most often see them at office morning teas and they are always disappointing, making you wish you had stuck to the tim-tams.

These are perfect to take in your packed lunch, but if you want a full size pie, have a look here.
Snack Size Apple Pies
Makes 12 patty pan size

Shortcrust pastry
100g butter, chilled and cubed
200g flour
a good pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
cold water

1 tablespoon butter
3 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and cubed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour, slacked with a wee bit of water

Caster sugar for sprinkling

Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the flour with the salt, then forming a dough with almost all the egg, saving some for brushing the pies before baking, and enough cold water. Leave to rest in the fridge for an hour while you make the filling.

Melt the butter then add the apples, cinnamon and sugar, stirring together well. Cook on a gentle heat until the apple is tender, then thoroughly mix in the cornflour slurry and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°c and put a baking tray in to heat.

Roll out the pastry and using suitably sized cutters, cut 12 sets of tops and bottoms to fit a 12 hole patty pan. Line the holes with the larger circles, divide the filling among them, brush the edges with a little water then lay over the tops. Crimp the edges together with a fork then rest in the fridge for 10 minutes. Brush the tops with the reserved egg from the pastry and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 minutes.

Tuesday 19 June 2007


Hot, comforting food for a cold evening.

It is just starting to get really cold here in Wellington. We were ever so lucky in May with the warmest temperatures for the month on record. But June seems to have made up for that already.

It always pays to look on the bright side of life (are you whistling?!), and the bright side of winter is the food and the cooking : Stews, puddings, roasts. Things that are the antithesis of warm days and balmy nights ; save the cool, light dishes for summer. At this time of year I want something to comfort and to warm. Lasagne is just the thing.

Attractive? Maybe not. But very, very tasty.

I first made lasagne about two and a half years ago, I remember because it was what I took to my sister and her family when my youngest niece was born. That was my first lasagne because I flatted for years with a friend who made the best lasagne ever, so why would I make one, much better to talk her into it!
Simple Lasagne
serves 4

The meat
1 small onion, chopped finely
150g beef mince
2 cloves garlic, minced
bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried mushroom powder
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup tomato puree, not paste, or canned tomatoes
salt and pepper

Fry the onion gently in a little olive oil until starting to turn golden. Add the mince and fry until brown through out. Add the garlic, bay leaf, mushroom powder, wine, tomato puree and enough water to just reach the top of the mince. Simmer for 30 minutes, topping up with water as necessary, but the end result should not be too wet. Remove the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.

The Béchamel

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 cups milk
salt and pepper

Melt the butter and stir in the flour. Cook over a medium heat for a minute then gradually stir in the milk, mixing well to avoid lumps. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

The pasta
150g fresh pasta, made with 100g flour and 1 egg, rolled thin and cut into squares.

Cook the pasta squares in lots of rapidly boiling salted water for a minute, in batches, then lay on a damp tea towel.

To complete
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Butter a baking dish and lay a third of the pasta in the bottom. Spread the pasta layer with half the meat then a third of the béchamel and a third of the Parmesan. Repeat the layers, finishing with pasta, béchamel and cheese. Bake at 200°c for 30 minutes and serve piping hot.

Sunday 17 June 2007

what we are drink·ing this week

Served with plain roasted popadoms, followed by a mild chickpea curry, dahl and naan.

Served with smoked salmon, lemon, black pepper on lightly buttered bread.

Served with guacamole

Brus·sels sprout cole·slaw

These used to make the best Sindy cabbages!

The idea for using Brussels sprouts in a coleslaw was, like all good ideas, the result of mistake, a misunderstanding. I had just got back from the shop and excitedly told G that I had bought some Brussels sprouts, and because coleslaw was on the menu for dinner G asked if they were for the coleslaw. OK, so that isn't exactly a huge leap to another tangent, but a Brussels sprout coleslaw is a new dish in our kitchen.

I said I came home and excitedly announced the Brussels sprouts because I do love the little green bundles of joy. I think perhaps this love goes back to my days of using them as cabbages for my Sindy dolls. And these were our first Brussels sprouts of the season ; my mother has always told me to wait until the first frost to buy Brussels sprouts. Ah, the joys of winter!

I think Brussels sprouts are the perfect stir fry vegetable, outer leaves removed and cut into quarters, the stay together and cook quickly in the heat of the wok. Lightly steamed they make a love pile of miniature cabbages (see above) to enhance any meal. For a quick fix - throw them around the roast for the last 10 minutes or so. Finely sliced, they can be added raw to salads.

So I knew what I was going to enter for the fourth round of Heart of the Matter, which is all about vegetables. This is an event is brought to you by The Heart of the Matter, and is hosted this month by Joanna.
Brussels Sprout Coleslaw
serves 2, but scales well

6 Brussles sprouts, outer leaves removed and finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled or well scrubbed and finely sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced

2 tablespoons yoghurt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste
white pepper and celery salt

Mix the dressing ingredients together well, tasting for seasoning, then toss with the vegetables. This salad will stand well, so can be made a couple of hours ahead and kept in the fridge.

Saturday 16 June 2007


Och aye tha noo!

Greig is Scottish, and he of course makes the best porridge in the world. Ever. I am not biased this is simply a fact. He eats it rather differently to me however : I grew up having soft brown sugar and a bit of milk on the cooked porridge, and if I was lucky the top of the milk or some cream. My sister likes a wee dram of whiskey on her porridge, with the cream and sugar. But Greig, just adds a bit more salt, and maybe a spot of milk if he is feeling a bit naughty.

One of the best things with which to stir the porridge is a spurtle. A spurtle is a wooden stick like tool which is able to get right into the corners of the pot, but doesn't resist its path through the porridge like a wooden spoon can.

We use steel cut rolled oats, never any that are processed more than that - what is the point? We sometimes mix in a proportion of jumbo uncut oats, just for a wee change, ye ken?

It is so wet and rainy here in Wellington today, that porridge was the perfect breakfast.
serves 2

1 cup rolled oats
2 cups water
approximately 1 teaspoon salt
approximately 1 cup of milk

Mix the oats, water and salt in a pot and cook for a while, stirring frequently with your spurtle. Add the milk gradually to make the consistency you prefer. Taste and add more salt before serving with soft brown sugar, whiskey, cream and more salt.
It is so wet and rainy here in Wellington today, that porridge made the perfect breakfast.

Friday 15 June 2007


Meat, meat, meat.

Arfi asked for it, so I will give her meat. Cassoulet has more meat than you should probably eat in one sitting. But when it is for a good cause, what can you do?

Arfi is raising awareness for iron deficiency in women by encouraging the consumption of meat to help alleviate anemia. I am lucky in the respect, and perhaps rather unusual, I have iron levels that are at the top, and sometimes slightly over, the normal range. This is unusual for a woman of my age. I do think it is in part due to my enjoyment of meat, but we must also consider other ways to get iron from our diets.

There are two types of iron, haem and non-haem. Haem iron is only found in animal tissues, non-haem iron is found
in grains, fruits, vegetable, legumes, nuts and eggs. Haem iron is most readily absorbed by the body and also increases the uptake of non-haem iron. Yet another argument for a balanced and varied diet.

I think my secret weapon is cooking in cast iron pans, which apparently and debatably, contributes iron to the foods cooked. But I choose to believe it!

This is my simplified version of cassoulet, no claims to authenticity, but fairly easy and a great winter's meal. A couple of notes - I found I did not have enough beans when I came to prepare the cassoulet, so it turned out a bit more like cassoulet soup, which with some crusty bread was rather good! I made the Confit of goose, which I will write up in a later post. Confit of duck could be substituted.

to serve 4

1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight
250g pork belly, with skin removed but reserved
1 bay leaf
4 sausages, plain or spicy, cut into generous pieces
Confit goose breast, skin removed, cut into generous pieces
fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Chicken stock
1/2 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Drain the beans and put in a pot with the pork belly and bay leaf. Cover generously with water and simmer until the beans are tender. Drain, reserving the liquid and cut the pork belly into generous pieces, discard the bay leaf. Brown the sausages in a little fat.

In a suitably sized oven proof dish, lay the pork skin on the bottom then layer with 1/3 of the beans, 1/2 of the meats, a seasoning of pepper and thyme and repeat ending with a layer of beans. Pour in the chicken stock and enough of the bean cooking liquid to just cover the top layer of beans.

Cook in a 180°c oven for and hour then reduce the heat to 140°c and cook for another hour. Cool and chill until the next day.

Cook again at 180°c oven for and hour then reduce the heat to 140°c for another hour adding more of the bean cooking liquid as you think necessary. Turn the oven back to 180°c, top with the cheese and breadcrumbs and cook until a nice crust has formed. Serve immediately with a hearty red wine and no other plans for the evening.

Wednesday 13 June 2007


Finally - crunchy grissini!

I am quite proud of myself - I have finally achieved something I have been wanting to successfully do for years : crunchy grissini!

You know those bread sticks that come in little packets at certain Italian restaurants, that you can sometimes buy in bundles at specialty food shops? (The only time I ever see them is at the Kirks sale - and I can't walk past them.) I just love them. I have tried and tried to reproduce them at home, but mine have always been too soft. You would not think it was so hard to produce a dry bread, would you? None of the recipes I had found, in books or online, have resulted in the dry, crumbly sticks for which I hanker. I have tried changing the recipe and the preparation, but finally I have discovered that the answer lies in the baking.
makes 12 long ones

225g bread flour
15g fresh yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
Luke warm water

Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and mix in 50g flour to make a soft dough. Leave for 15 minutes to start to bubble. Mix in the salt and the rest of the flour, adding enough warm water to make a good dough. Knead well and leave to double in size for an hour.

Divide into 12 pieces and roll into thin sausage shapes as long as your baking tray. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave again in a warm place for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 250°c.

Put the grissini in the oven and turn the oven off. Keeping an eye on them, and test one after 20 minutes, turning the oven onto 100°c if you think it is necessary.
As pictured above, I served the crispy, crunchy grissini with prosciutto, mortadella, salami and mozzarella for a wonderful antipasto.

Monday 11 June 2007

ap·ple me·ringue

Is this nostalgia, or a meringue?

My Gran used to make this pudding, a pudding I thought I had forgotten, but yesterday as I was stirring the apples I was stewing I was presented with a vision, a memory. A vision of Gran serving a wonderfully golden and white pillow of sweet fluffy cloud sitting atop smooth apple.

My Gran was not a lady to waste a thing, and that is one of the best parts of this pudding. Usually when you make a meringue, the yolks from the eggs are set aside, intended for another use, but probably end up wasting away in the back of the fridge and then getting wasted. Gran, who may or may not have invented this technique, beat the yolks into the apple. This seems to make the apple more mousse like, more creamy, just better. And there is no waste - isn't that marvelous!

Apple Meringue
the proportions below serve 2, but the recipe scales beautifully

1 cup of stewed apple
1 egg, separated
50g vanilla sugar

Beat the egg yolk into the apple. Put the apple into a suitable oven proof serving dish and heat in a 200°c oven while you make the meringue.
Beat the egg white with a pinch of salt until thick then add the sugar gradually, beatign until a glossy marshmallowy texture is achieved.
Spread the meringue on top of the now hot apples making lots of swirls and ridges to catch the heat and caramelise in the oven.
Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until the meringue is golden.
Serve with lots of cream to pour over.

Saturday 9 June 2007


or how to cook popadoms at home without a microwave.

About four years ago our microwave caught caught fire. It was the second microwave I have blown up actually. The first time was at a flat I was sharing with a friend, I was cooking a kumara for lunch and the next think I knew there were flames and smoke pouring out the vents at the side.

We decided that I probably shouldn't have a microwave again, at least for a while.

I don't know how often you use a microwave, but we used to rely on it for cooking things as well as reheating and defrosting. We thought it would be hard to live without, but actually it was fine. There were a few times that I was a bit stumped as to how to do something without the microwave, but that was just because I had to do them differently.

The first time was when I was faced with cooking frozen peas. I honestly/sadly couldn't think how to do it without a microwave ; the peas were so much nicer being boiled in water on the stove.

Another time was when my sister's baby was just starting solids and she needed to heat Millie's food ; a pan of simmering water, with a bowl on top did the job, possibly better than the microwave.

Reheating leftovers was probably the biggest challenge. However we have found that soup gently heated on the stove doesn't get that crusty edge with the cold middle as it can in the microwave. Meat reheated in a foil package in the oven or in a pot with a wee bit of gravy or sauce tastes tastes much better without that rubbery texture and taste. Above all, a fresh cup of tea is miles better than your forgotten half cup reheated for the third time.

The most satisfying discovery of all was when we wanted popadoms with our curry. We had always cooked popadoms in the microwave. It is one of the most fun and exciting acts of microwave cookery. We could hardly think where to start with out the microwave. We now cook our popadoms in the oven and once you taste a roasted popadom next to a microwaved popadom I am sure you will only use the microwave to cook a popadom to entertain small children.

And with that final challenge overcome I can honestly say, I don't miss the microwave at all!

Home Roasted Popadoms

Popadoms, any size
Optional ingredients: oil and spices such as garam masala or ground cumin

Heat the grill in the oven to its maximum, with a shelf as close to the grill as possible.
If you want to spice up the papadoms spray or brush them lightly with oil and sprinkle with the spices.
Place the popadoms under the grill, either on a tray or directly on the shelf. I usually do no more than two full size ones at a time because they cook so quickly. Removing as soon as they are puffed and golden. I like a few singed areas, but if you do not, be extra vigilant. No need to turn them over if the grill is hot enough.
They can also be baked in a hot oven, but I think the grill gives the best result.

Thursday 7 June 2007

roast veg·e·ta·ble pas·ta


So, I got home, no idea what to have for dinner, wanting to use up the vegetables we have before we get our box delivered tomorrow, see some orzo in the pantry that I decide needs to be used up, pull a chicken breast out of the freezer, turn on the oven, peel the vegetables, cut the vegetables, oil the vegetables, season the vegetables, and cook the vegetables, boil the pasta, fry the chicken, deglaze the pan with lemon juice and a chicken stock cube, serve dinner, take a photo, eat the dinner.

Not a bad evening's work.

Roast Vegetable Pasta

Monday 4 June 2007

herb·y corn·bread

Cornbread can be whipped up in an instant for [almost] immediate satisfaction. Well I suppose that isn't actually true. It does take a wee while in the oven, but once you have mixed the ingredients and scraped them into a tin and into the oven, you can be relaxing on the couch until the timer finally rings and hot herby cornbread is ready for you.

If you can make muffins you can make corn bread, and anyone can make muffins, so it naturally follows that anyone can make cornbread. Like muffins, cornbread is chemically leavened and like muffins, cornbread appreciates a minimum of mixing.
Herby Cornbread
Makes 1 loaf, to serve 4

1/2 cup polenta
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg
1 can creamed corn, approximately 1 cup, if more reduce the yoghurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup yoghurt
A good handful mixed herbs, chopped, such as parsley, coriander, chervil

Preheat the oven to 180°c and grease and line a loaf pan.
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat the wet ingredients together in a jug. Mix the wet into the dry, but only enough to combine, then fold in the herbs.
Bake for 35 minutes or until turning golden.
Slice and enjoy!

Sunday 27 May 2007

fei·jo·a chut·ney

An easy nibble, to start a meal.

I just love feijoas, and like to eat as many as I can in their short season, a season which is rapidly coming to an end, filling my with a sense of urgency - I must make the most of this most delicious fruit.

My friend Mel gave me her mother's feijoa chutney recipe, which with her permission I pass on to you. I have cut the recipe down to quantities that suit me. A jar of chutney probably lasts me six months, so the amount below gives enough for me and some to give away - sharing the joy with home made preserves.
Mel's Mum's Feijoa Chutney
Makes about 4 small jars

250g of feijoas, washed, trimmed and sliced
125g onions, chopped
75g raisins
, chopped
125g pitted dates, chopped
125g brown sugar
1t ground ginger
1t cumin (curry powder was specified, but I had to improvise!)
4 cloves, ground in a mortar and pestle
A knife tip of cayenne pepper
1t salt

Put all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook gently for 1½ - 2hrs until the chutney is thick. Pour into steralized jars and seal.

Thanks Mel, and I hope you have a lovely time on your travels!

Thursday 24 May 2007

tu·a·ta·ra chil·li

Who would have thought there is reptile in here?

Bron is hosting a very clever event - Wild Food - Edible Reptile, in which one prepares reptile to eat. What a great idea, certainly sets you thinking. Maybe even makes you a little scared.

I decided to use tuatara. Tuatara is a lizard like, nocturnal reptile, native to New Zealand. There can be a fair amount of meat on a tuatara since they can grow up to 60 cm and weigh 1 kg in their 100 years. They are scaly, crested and have 3 eyes. Tuatara are fairly easily found in the Wellington region, especially in Karori.

I actually got mine from Moore Wilsons, conveniently portioned and packed.

Kidney and black beans soaking in Tuatara Pale Ale.

Of course, I mean Tuatara beer. As if I would eat an endangered species, even for Bron.

I had an idea to soak the dried beans for the chilli in the ale instead of water then cook them in the same liquid. I think it worked really well, adding a much greater depth of flavour.
Tuatara Chilli
serves at least 4

1 cup black beans
1 cup kidney beans
1 bottle of tuatara
1 dry chilli
1 onion
garlic, how ever much you want
1/2 cup black lentils
chicken stock
ground cumin
ground coriander
fennel seed
chilli powder
salt and pepper

Soak the beans in the beer overnight, topping up with water to cover generously.
Bring the beans to the boil in the soaking liquid, with the dried chilli, then simmer for an hour or until tender. The length of time can vary depending on the age of the beans.
Fry the onion and garlic until golden, then add to the beans with all the other ingredients, plus any others you fancy, more chilli for example.
Simmer for another couple of hours until the chilli is tasty, cooked and thick.
Serve with cornbread, rice or tortillas, guacamole, sour cream or yoghurt, feta and salsa.
As an aside, I was making cornbread to my usual recipe when I discovered that I had run out of flour, so I substituted chickpea flour with wonderful results - I think I might make that my usual recipe from now on!

You have until the end of May to enter Wild Food, so why not grab yourself a reptile and join in!

Sunday 20 May 2007

mush·room soup

A bowl of grey-brown goodness.

I love mushroom soup, and this is a particularly good one, and interesting too. It is thickened with wholemeal bread instead of a roux or other thickening agent. Apparently, using breadcrumbs to thicken soup is a technique which has been used since the Middle Ages. I think it is a much easier and reliable method as well, no fussing about really, just pop the crustless slice in the soup.

A thick soup is a great comforting and warming meal, just right for these Autumn days. Over at Nihowera we are featuring soup this week - have a look!
Mushroom Soup
from Tamasin's Kitchen Bible by Tamasin Day-Lewis Serves 4

340g brown mushrooms, sliced
55g unsalted butter
2T chopped parsley
2-3 sprigs of thyme
a glove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
nutmeg or mace
1 thick slice wholemeal bread, crusts removed
1L chicken stock
150mL cream

Stew the mushrooms in the butter, adding half the parsley, thyme, garlic and seasoning when the mushroom juices start to appear. Soak the bread in a little stock. Add the break and stock to the mushrooms. Simmer for 15 minuted. Puree, add the cream, then reheat and check the seasoning.

Serve with a trickle of cream and the rest of the parsley sprinkled on top.

I also added a dribble of truffle oil, because I love it!

Wednesday 16 May 2007


A new website all about New Zealand food, products and news.

I have great pleasure in introducing Nihowera - a website dedicated to exploring New Zealand foods : produce, seasonality, products and news.

Nihowera is a collaboration between myself and Bron of Bron Marshall fame, fabulous chef and photographer extraordinaire.

Nihowera is a Maori word meaning :
  1. [verb] be extravagant with food.
  2. [noun] generous host.
Bron and I hope you enjoy Nihowera - go on, dive in!

Sunday 13 May 2007


Yellow eggs, yellow butter.

Brioche is a rich bread, rich with butter and eggs. All those eggs and butter make the resulting bread a sunny golden yellow ; as is appropriate for Barbara's a Taste of Yellow event.


LIVESTRONG Day is the Lance Armstrong Foundation's (LAF) grassroots advocacy initiative to unify people affected by cancer and to raise awareness about cancer survivorship issues on a national level and in local communities across the country. LIVESTRONG Day 2007 will occur on Wednesday, May 16.

Brioche can be made with varying proportions of butter. The iconic petites brioches à tête are made with the most butter, but the loaf you see above has a more modest amount of butter - only half as much butter as flour. I find that this amount of butter gives the most versatile loaf, and is fairly easy to handle.

Some things to do with brioche :
  • slices lightly toasted and spread with marmalade for breakfast.
  • make rolls for the best hamburger buns.
  • baked with a vanilla scented custard to become bread and butter pudding.
makes 1 loaf, or 6 buns

1/4 cup unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup warm milk
2 teaspoon fresh yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the milk the mix in the flour. Leave in a warm place for an hour until it is frothy.

3 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g butter, soft, cut into 4 pieces

Beat almost all the egg into the sponge, reserving some for an egg wash before baking. I do this in my Kenwood Chef with the K beater. Then add the flour, sugar and salt beating until well mixed. Leave to rest for a few minutes. Beat in the butter, a piece at a time. Rest the dough in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
Shape into a loaf, or buns, and leave at room temperature to double in size.
Bake at 180°c for about 30 minutes for a loaf, 15 for buns, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to rest on a rack for at least an hour before eating.