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.