Tuesday 27 March 2007

plum cake

What a fab way to use up plums!

When plum season begins and plums are all the fruit you want to buy, eating them from hand is just wonderful. But as time goes by and you are still buying all the types of plums in the same quantities, you need something else to do with them. Just to take a wee break, you know? I have the best answer to this most wonderful dilemma - plum cake.

I have tried making jam and chutney and stewed plums, but we don't eat that much jam or chutney and the same stewed fruit each morning is just, a little, well, boring. A slice of a wonderfully moist cake is a brilliant way to get your fruit quota, don't you think?

I just noticed that I said "wonderfully moist" in reference to the cake for which I am about to type the recipe, without realising that is exactly how Nigel Slater describes it in the title in The Kitchen Diaries - you must believe it is true now! Incidently, The Kitchen Diaries is one of my favourite books I bought last year.

Fresh Plum Cake
adapted from
The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
makes about 6 slices

75g of butter
75g of caster sugar
1 egg
35g of flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
90g almonds, ground in a processor to fine rubble
8 plums, stones removed and cut into pieces

Preheat the oven to 180°c. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Fold in the flour baking powder and almonds.
Pour the batter into the loaf tin and stick the plum pieces in to the batter, making sure to put some right to the edges.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into a batter area comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in the tin, then remove to a rack.

Saturday 24 March 2007

Thai spiced fish cakes

Easy Spicy Fish Cakes

A frequent friday evening supper in our house is spiced fish cakes. Of course, fish seems right on a friday; I like to suppose that the cultural traditions that make this so, also mean that the fishmonger has a good turnover at the end of the week - a good time to buy fish. Any white fish will do : I tend to choose tarakihi, because it is not as bad as other fish on offer. It is often fairly cheap, and since it is being ground up and highly flavoured the texture and flavour of more expensive fish would be wasted here.

Little fish cakes, piled on a communal platter is a lovely way to eat, and relax, after a hard week at work. They are quick and easy and undemanding in both their preparation and cooking - much easier than popping out for a takeaway, I really do think.

Thai spiced fish cakes
enough for 2

250g white fish fillets
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 egg
a handful of coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
a chilli, chopped
2 teaspoons Thai curry paste
1 spring onion, white and green, sliced

To serve
Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, or another herb
Lemon or lime wedges
Chilli or soy sauce

Process all the ingredients, except the spring onions, in a food processor until chopped and combined. Fold through the spring onions. Place in a bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Heat a heavy frying pan with a little peanut oil for frying. Fry spoonfuls of the mixture until golden on each side. Keep the cooked cakes warm in a low oven while the rest are cooking.
Serve sprinkled with herb leaves, lemon wedges for squeezing over and a sauce for dipping.

Friday 23 March 2007

car·a·way and black ses·a·me seed bis·cuits

Just right with a glass of wine on a sunny Sunday afternoon!

Last Sunday, Jules came round for a glass of wine in the last of the sun - it was so nice to finally meet him properly. He lives just up the road ; we knew we were neighbours and have bumped into each other a couple of times, but last Sunday was the first time we have sat down and started to get to know each other.

I made some little biscuits flavoured with one of my favourite things - caraway seeds. These biscuits are savoury and crisp, nice to nibble on with a pre-dinner drink. Caraway is such a soothing flavour, tasting like seed cake that Gran used to make and like Gripe water I remember having as a child! Black sesame seeds are just a bit nuttier than regular sesame seeds, and I think have a bit of an aesthetic advantage over the white ones in a biscuit like this. I made them in quite a rough elongated oval shape, but they could be cut out with a biscuit cutter if a tidier shape was wanted.

Caraway and black sesame seed biscuits
makes about 48

2 cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
60g chilled butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons of caraway seeds
2 tablespoons id black sesame seeds
1/2 cup chilled water

Mix the flour and baking powder in a food processor then add the butter, processing until crumbs form. Add the seeds and pulse briefly. Add the water a little at a time with the motor running until the dough just starts to come together. Turn out onto the bench and press into one mass, taking care not to knead the dough.
Divide into two logs, wrap in plastic and rest in the fridge for half an hour while the oven is preheating to
Cut slices from the logs then roll out as thinly as possible to an elongated oval shape, or roll the dough out
thinly and cut shapes with a biscuit cutter. place on a lines baking sheet and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden at the edges.
Cool on a rack.

It has been an exciting week in other ways too :

On Monday I met up with Bea as she passed through Wellington - it is so wonderful to meet someone who so nice and is turns out to be just like she comes across in her blog, La tartine gourmande!

Barbara emailed me to say that our blogs were mentioned in the latest NZ House & Garden - so hello to everyone who have found their way here from there!

Also, NZ Blogging by Post - the Easter Edition is under way - I am looking forward to putting together my parcel to send this week, and of course waiting excitedly for the mail the week after!

Sunday 18 March 2007

New Zea·land blog·ging by post

It seems like Easter is a great time have have another round of New Zealand blogging by post!

The last edition was at Christmas and we all got such wonderful parcels - so lets do it again! The details are the same :

Send me an email with the following details :
  • Your name and address.
  • Your blog's name and address.
  • Any allergies or things you would rather not receive.
I will then match everyone, in a random order, with their lucky participant. I will only pass your address on to the person from whom you will be receiving a box.

The Easter break starts on Friday the 6th April, so I suggest that Monday the 2nd April should be the latest date we post the parcels, which gives us two weeks to get organised.

If you could email me by Wednesday the 21st March. I will do the matching and email you the details of the person to whom you are to post a parcel on Friday 23rd March, which then gives us just over a week to get our parcels together.

And remember that because this is New Zealand Blogging by Post we can send anything we like - no customs and long delivery to worry about - this means home baking, cheese, honey - anything! Homemade or homegrown items are a wonderful thing to include if you are able to do so.

Let me know if you have any suggestions or queries - and please let anyone else out there you think might be interested know about New Zealand Blogging by post - the Easter Edition.

Wednesday 14 March 2007

fish pie for pi day

Today is pi day, March 14th, 14/3, 3.14!

Which made what to have for dinner an obvious decision - pie, fish pie in particular. Fish pie because it doesn't require pastry, and can be made from scratch within about an hour, with ingredients that are easy to find. All of which adds up to a great choice for a week day dinner.

Fish Pie
makes 2 generous individual portions

400g white fish fillets
2 bay leaves
6 white peppercorns
parsley stalks
1 cup of milk

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces
a knob of butter

1 dessert spoon of butter
1 dessert spoon of flour
leaves from the parsley stalks, chopped

grated cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°c.
Rinse the fish and place in a pan with the bay leaves, peppercorns and parsley stalks and pour over the milk. Cook gently over a medium heat until the fish is just cooked and flakes easily. Strain and reserve the milk, divide the fish between two individual pie dishes and leave aside.

Cook the potatoes until tender, then mash with half the reserved milk in which the fish was poached, a knob of butter and season with salt and pepper.

Melt the dessert spoon of butter over a medium heat then stir in the flour. Stir for at least a minute then add the rest of the milk a little at a time to make a smooth white sauce. Season with salt and white pepper and stir in the parsley.

Pour the sauce over the fish in the pie dishes, then top with the mashed potato. To easily cover the fairly liquid pie filling, put the potato around the edge of the pie dish in small amounts first then fill in the middle - this will stop the potato weighing down the filling and pushing the sauce over the side. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and bake, on a tray to catch the overflow, for 20 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the top is golden.

Best served with peas and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (you would be forgiven for thinking that is all I drink!). We chose French Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - another South Island purchase, this time from the Banks Peninsula, near Christchurch ; perhaps my favourite Sauvignon Blanc.

But if you missed the opportunity for pie today, you can always approximate on July 22nd . . . !

Tuesday 13 March 2007

a match made in heav·en . . .

. . . and New Zealand when summer finally comes is as close to heaven as we can get!

Our first tomatoes were ready and waiting for us when we got back from holiday ; beautiful and red and sweet.

We had bought some olive oil while we were away so a simple starter came to mind - just tomatoes, olive oil and some fresh herbs. I picked the tomatoes and some tarragon, sliced the tomatoes, dousing them well with olive oil and sprinkling with the tarragon leaves as I went. Then they were left to sit while we opened a bottle of Kaikoura Sauvignon Blanc . . . and we still had no idea of the treat ahead.
This was such a good food and wine match : a fresh, fruity, well rounded Sauvignon Blanc really echoed the succulent flavour of the tomatoes.

I must say I was feeling pretty happy with my lot!

Monday 12 March 2007

kou·ra for kai in kai·kou·ra

What a way to start a holiday!

Koura (Maori for crayfish) for kai (Maori for food) in Kaikoura (first stop after Blenheim on a South Island of New Zealand odyssey).

As you drive into Kaikoura you start to see sheds and stands selling freshly cooked crayfish, and I ask you - what can you do but stop and get one to eat on the roadside overlooking the Pacific Ocean? I only wish we had a bottle of delicious New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to complete the picture.

The crayfish are lined up screaming "pick me, pick me!". They look so wonderful : brightly coloured and obviously freshly caught and cooked. The only question is - do you want gravy? - as the koura is cut in half and placed on a plastic plate with some lemon and lots of serviettes.

As as we are back from our tour of the South, I can't wait to get back!