Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Good things: August 2014

Last week I got an advertising-type email from a gym that reminded all recipients that 'summer bodies are made in winter'. Reader, I threw it in the rubbish.

I don't know about you, but I'm hoping kaftans and elasticated waistbands are going to be the height of fashion in summer 2015. Various things - birthdays, parties, stressful life events - are conspiring against my 'summer body'.

Homemade-Pasta-Atlas-Marcato-Machine

Firstly, I found this - a pasta machine at a charity shop for $20, still in its original box, with its original warranty and instructions. I've always, always wanted one to play with and although I've only used it once so far, I can see plenty of pasta in my future.

Eclairs-With-Coffee-Custard-Chocolate-Icing-And-Walnut-Praline
Eclair image thanks to my colleague and co-baker Lisa

I know DIY pasta has a difficult reputation but it was a cinch compared to some of the things I've been making lately. In a moment of weakness I joined the Wellington On a Plate Bake Club team at work, which has meant many a late Sunday night making pies, slices, cakes and eclairs.

The upshot of all of this is that I won our in-house contest against some seriously tough competition and now I have to join the winners of 80+ Bake Clubs this Sunday morning for the final Bake-Off. I normally go for a run on Sunday mornings - but if the gods have decided I need to be in a room full of cakes, I can only go along with their wishes.


Perhaps I'll take inspiration from these cute cupcakes - these are made by 15-year-old Emily, of three winners in the Better With BRITA contest. Emily, who made bespoke cupcakes for each of the judges - it takes a special kind of talent to make a miniature BRITA water jug out of icing - joins Alex, who made gluten-free brownies and Rekha, who made samosas, at The Big Feastival in London at the end of the month.

I'd love to join them, but my real goal for August is to make something out of My Paris Kitchen. If you haven't got a copy of this yet, you're missing out. My lovely sister-in-law gave it to me for my birthday and I think it's a strong contender for book of the year.

My-Paris-Kitchen-David-Lebovitz-Book-Of-The-Year!

How has August been for you?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ambrosia, food of the gods

If you grew up in New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, there's a good chance this pudding will be instantly recognisable. If not, it's high time you got acquainted.

Ambrosia-Recipe-Dessert

This is ambrosia, food of the gods. I remember it sweeping through parties and social occasions of my childhood like a tidal wave of cream, fruit and pineapple lumps. My mother never made it, which gave it extra cachet. To my 10-year-old self, ambrosia was just about the most glamorous pudding ever invented. 

Recipe-For-Ambrosia-Berry-Cream-Dessert

Thirty years later, I can vouch for many of its attributes. The mixture of cream and yoghurt is still tangy and rich, and it's great fun anticipating the surprise in each mouthful - will it be a marshmallow or a juicy berry? I doubt it's the food of the modern gods, given its extremely calorific ingredients, but it still makes a great pudding (or a very illicit breakfast).

Whipped-Cream-Berries-Marshmallows

Ambrosia
The great thing about ambrosia is that it doesn't require any fancy ingredients, can be made for an intimate dinner for two or a feeding frenzy for 20 and it appeals to just about everyone. Children adore it and adults, though they pretend they are too grown up to eat marshmallows, will dig into the bowl as soon as your back is turned. It's sort of an Antipodean Eton Mess, which makes it the perfect entry for this month's Sweet New Zealand blogging challenge. This month my lovely friends Michelle and Anna of Munch Cooking are playing host and they've given it a Wellington theme to celebrate Wellington On a Plate. It's also a fitting entry for the August edition of We Should Cocoa, in which guest host Rebecca of BakeNQuilt has chosen marshmallows as the special guest ingredient.

180ml (3/4 cup) cream
2 cups natural yoghurt (I particularly like The Collective's Straight Up yoghurt in this)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups frozen berries - blueberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries
2 cups mini marshmallows
100g chocolate, roughly chopped

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Stir through the yoghurt and vanilla, then fold through the berries, marshmallows and chocolate (reserve a little of the chocolate to sprinkle on top). Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. I think it's best the day it's made, unless you're eating it sneakily for breakfast the morning after. Serves 4-6.

Have a great week, everyone x

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What to do with a Buddha's hand

Ever shaken a Buddha's hand? I wouldn't recommend it; the 'skin' is pitted and lumpy and the fingers are disturbingly claw-like. But the scent makes you see past its horror-movie looks - it's light, floral and lemony, the sort of perfume you wish they'd bottle.

What-To-Do-With-A-Buddha's-Hand

The Buddha's Hand, also known as Fingered Citron, Buddha's Fingers or, by it's botanical name, citrus medica, is apparently one of the most ancient forms of citrus fruit still in existence. There's no juicy interior -slice into one and it's all bright white pith. But beyond using them as a conversation starter or a scary prop for tricks (imagine getting into bed and having one of these at your feet!), there are lots of ways to use one.

You can take follow David Lebovitz's advice and turn it into candied citron, you can come over all Martha Stewart and use it to scent a room (though a rather small room, unless you want the scent to be very faint). You can zest a little skin over fish, or use it to scent a butter cake or shortbread. But this is my favourite way to use it: Buddha's Hand Vodka.

How-To-Make-Buddha's-Hand-Vodka

Buddha's Hand Vodka
You can adapt this to suit whatever amount of vodka you have, just adjust to suit.
For 250ml vodka, pare off about a third of the Buddha's Hand rind, trying to avoid as much pith as possible. Put this in a screwtop jar, along with 1/3 cup of sugar. Add the vodka, apply the lid and shake well until the sugar has dissolved. Make sure the Buddha's Hand peel is below the surface of the vodka. Leave for at least three days (a week is better), shaking once a day. You can strain out the peel if you like, but it gives a suitably freakish appearance to the liquid and it will continue to flavour the liquid if you leave it in.

Do you have any interesting ways to use a Buddha's Hand?

Monday, August 11, 2014

A miso quinoa bowl for Graham Norton

One of my favourite all-time moments on The Graham Norton Show involved Graham teasing Gwyneth Paltrow about her love of quinoa. I know it's all scripted and much of that spontaneity has been manufactured by a team of writers, but watching GP squirm as Graham mocked her for including recipes for leftover quinoa ("who doesn't finish their quinoa? There's nothing left over, surely!') was a moment of TV brilliance.

Easy-Miso-Quinoa-Salad-Bowl

In some ways, I'm with Graham - there's not much call for recipes that use up leftover quinoa in our house either. When I cook it, I have a definite purpose in mind - either this superfood salad, which I used to eat so often that I could recreate it purely from taste memory, or this fast miso quinoa bowl, which I occasionally make myself for lunch as a treat.

Miso Quinoa Bowl
This makes a substantial lunch for one quinoa lover. If you have leftover quinoa, by all means use it!

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp white miso paste
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
a large handful of shredded spinach
1 egg

Rinse the quinoa well in running water then put in a small saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil, then let simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Let stand for five minutes. In the meantime, stir the miso, oil and vinegar or lemon juice together until well mixed. Stir this through the quinoa, along with the spinach. Remove to a bowl and keep warm while you poach the egg. Serve the egg on top of the quinoa-greens mixture, letting the yolk trickle through the grains. A squirt of sriracha sauce is not a bad idea, either. Serves one.

Are you a quinoa fan or do you agree with Graham's description of it as cross between couscous and cat litter?
Easy-Miso-Quinoa-Salad-Bowl-Recipe


Thursday, August 07, 2014

The ultimate chocolate beetroot cake

Do you love cake? Then I URGE you to stop whatever you're doing and make this cake.

Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-With-Caramel-Cream-Cheese-Frosting

The photo isn't the best - harsh work lighting - but hopefully you can get a sense of what a mighty cake this is. It's Nigel Slater's chocolate beetroot cake, taken from his beautiful book Tender (vol 1). It's quite an involved cake to make - pureed beetroot, melted chocolate, whisked egg whites - but the results are absolutely worth it.

Nigel-Slater-Chocolate-Beetroot-Cake-Twitter-Photo
Nigel was right (I can't believe I doubted him) - it's probably the world's best chocolate cake, full of dark, rich, complex flavours. He tops it with creme fraiche and poppy seeds, but because I was making it for our Bake Club I knew I needed to add a little more wow factor. I topped mine with caramel cream cheese frosting, then scattered over some shards of 72 per cent chocolate and some candied purple carrot. I used this recipe for candied carrot curls as a guide, but on my first attempt I ended up with a smoke-filled kitchen and a tray of burnt carrot strips. I'd recommend cooking the carrot in the syrup for a shorter time period and lowering the oven temperature.

The judges loved it enough - I knocked out the competition easily. Most importantly, I got to savour the very last piece. I might not ever experience it again, but I've finally tasted success.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Five fab vegetable cake recipes

The 2014 edition of Wellington On A Plate's Bake Club ('like a book club, but tastier') is underway and next week's challenge is to make a cake that includes vegetables as a star ingredient. I was shocked when one of my fellow bakers remarked she'd never heard of a vegetable cake before - if you're in the same boat, here are my own top five fab vegetable cake recipes. 

1. Chocolate Potato Cake: To be sure, this is not some kind of Irish joke, but a moist, dense cake slathered in a Baileys-laced cream cheese icing. It's addictive (and it doesn't use much Baileys so there's plenty for the cook to knock back afterwards).


2. Kumara and Cardamom Cake: For something a little more refined and subtle, with complex flavours and a great texture, this cake can't be beat. It's also gluten-free (but don't let that put you off if you're a gluten fan).


3. Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake: Does cheesecake count? I think so - and this one will convert the most reluctant pumpkin eater. My idea of a good night in is one of these cheesecakes, a sofa and a spoon.
 

4. The Ultimate Carrot Cake: I know carrot cake is a bit ubiquitous, but this is one of my all-time favourites, with lots of carrot, fruit and nuts in a dense, spicy batter.


    5. The Best-Ever Beetroot Cake: This is another winner, not least because the beetroot turns it pink. I'm not normally a fan of pink food, but somehow it works with cake. Anyway, this scores highly on the unusual-ness score (I'm sure that's one of the judging criteria).


Do you have a favourite vegetable-based cake? Let me know in the comments below - now that I've shared my favourite recipes I'm going to have to dig out something pretty special to win!

Have a great weekend everyone x

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Easy Japanese-y pork fillet

Disclaimer: I am not Japanese. I have never even been to Japan. In fact, the closest I've got is frequenting a number of Japanese restaurants and sushi bars and in New Zealand, most of them are run by Koreans so I'm not sure they even count.

So while this easy way to cook pork fillet might not be 100 per cent authentic, it does make use of some properly Japanese ingredients, it's very quick to make and it goes well with a pile of sushi rice and pickled ginger. I reckon that's Japanese enough for now, don't you?

Easy Pork Fillet Or Pork Tenderloin Recipe

Easy Japanese pork fillet
This is a really good after-work dinner. Make it even easier on yourself by marinating the pork before you leave the house in the morning (or give it at least an hour in the marinade, at room temperature) if you forget.

1 x free range pork fillet - about 450g
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp good soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp honey

Put the garlic, oil, soy, mirin and honey in a shallow bowl and mix well. Add the pork fillet and make sure it's well coated with the marinade, then cover and leave overnight in the fridge or leave in a cool place for an hour or two. If it's been in the fridge, let it sit out of the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
Heat the oven to 200C and line a small roasting dish with foil.
Heat a heavy frying pan over high heat and pour in a tablespoon of oil. When it's hot, take the pork fillet out of the marinade and sear it on all sides. Remove it to the roasting dish and put in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
Remove it from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let stand for 10 minutes, then carve and serve with sushi rice, pickled ginger and some steamed beans or broccoli.

Click here to print this recipe.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Treat me: Chocolate marmalade bars

I'm calling it now: I think marmalade is about to have a moment. I've reached this conclusion via a highly scientific process involving the fact that the Paddington Bear film (starring Colin Firth!) is out later this year and marmalade is sure to be a key marketing tool.

Paddington, in case you're not familiar with the tale, is passionate about marmalade and never goes anywhere without a marmalade sandwich about his person. If the thought of marmalade sandwiches leaves you cold, then I think one of these chocolate-studded, marmalade-filled bars might persuade you that the bear from Peru was onto a good thing.

Marmalade Chocolate Bars Easy Recipe Recipe/Photo: Lucy Corry

Chocolate Marmalade Bars
With rolled oats, butter and marmalade all key ingredients, you could just about get away with calling these sticky, chewy bars breakfast if it weren't for the nuggets of dark chocolate and crystallised ginger. This recipe is inspired by these jammy flapjacks, created by the ever-talented Choclette. The combination of thin-cut orange marmalade and chocolate makes these taste like a more wholesome Terry's Chocolate Orange. If you're a grapefruit marmalade fan, try some white chocolate chunks instead.

120g butter
400g thin-cut orange marmalade
220g rolled oats
50g dessicated coconut
150g crystallised ginger, cut into small dice
150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped into chunks

Heat the oven to 180C and line a brownie tin (measuring around 19cm x 27cm) with baking paper.
Put the butter and marmalade into a large saucepan and set over gentle heat,  stirring occasionally until the butter has melted. Set aside to cool for five minutes, then stir in the oats, coconut, ginger and half the chocolate until well mixed.
Press into the prepared tin, then scatter the remainder of the chocolate over the top.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Leave to cool completely before cutting. Makes about 20 small bars. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.


This easy recipe is exceptionally timely - not only does the Wellington On A Plate Bake Club kick off next week with a slice challenge, but Karen at Lavender and Lovage, along with Janie of The Hedgecombers, have put a call out for flapjack and traybake recipes for this month's edition of Tea Time Treats. Check out Janie's link for more great traybake recipes if you're needing some #BakeClub inspiration.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Random recipe: The Bees Knees

This time last year I was idling around Soho, hoping to have a drink with Mr Belleau Kitchen. Alas, our schedules did not allow it, but we're finally managing a kind of virtual cocktail hour through this month's Random Recipes challenge.

Cocktail Recipe For The Bees Knees

For July, Dom has asked us to delve deep into our drinks books and come up with a cocktail recipe. I didn't have to try very hard - when I lifted a notebook off the shelf in my office a tiny slip of paper with this recipe on it fluttered out. It's for a Bees Knees, a honey, lemon and gin cocktail that I last made for my father in a tiny flat in Hampstead in 2008. That flat has long gone from my life and, sadly, so has Dad, but shaking this up in a jam jar took me back there in an instant. If gin makes you maudlin - look, even writing about it makes me a bit blue - then rest assured you can make it with vodka too.

The Bees Knees
I remember cutting this recipe out of the Observer Food Monthly several weeks ahead of my parents' visit, chiefly because honey and gin were two of Dad's great loves. (Cigars, red wine, steak and chocolate were harder to fit in a cocktail glass.) I've rejigged the quantities a little and this amount is enough for two - or one very thirsty person. To me, this is the perfect cocktail; it's short, punchy and not too sweet.

50ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 Tbsp honey syrup - made by stirring together 1 Tbsp honey and 2 Tbsp water
100ml best quality gin (or vodka)
ice

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake to combine. Strain into two martini glasses and garnish with a strip of lemon rind. Serves two.

Are you a fan of the cocktail hour? What's your poison?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pasta with sausage, cream and tomato

You might think, gauging from recent blog posts, that we have been existing on chocolate smoothies, cake and biscuits. It's a bit like photo albums (remember them, fellow oldies?), where the main players are either on holiday or celebrating a major life event. Don't even start me on Instagram and its artfully displayed kale and kohlrabi smoothies. Either way, what you see is not necessarily what you get.

Easy Recipe For Pasta With Sausage And Tomato And Cream

Strangely, the reverse is also true. This pasta may not look anything to boast about, but it has been a much-appreciated addition to my after-work winter repertoire. It's quick, simple, sustaining and doesn't require any fancy ingredients so you don't have to disturb that exotic diorama you're composing for tomorrow's Instagram shot.

Pasta with sausage, cream and tomato
If you're cold and weary and really need the comfort that only a bowl of pasta can provide, this is the dinner for you. It makes a great weekend lunch too, but you'll to follow it up with a bracing walk in the great outdoors or an hour of sofa snoozing afterwards. Use the best sausages you can find. I've made the assumption that if you've got this far, you don't need me to tell you how to cook pasta.

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 good quality sausages
1 small onion, finely chopped
a clove of garlic, finely chopped
a tin of Italian whole peeled tomatoes
a good splash - 100ml or more - cream
enough pasta for four
Parmesan, to serve
salt and pepper

Put a medium-sized heavy pan over high heat and add the olive oil, followed by the onion and garlic. Turn the heat down, then squish the sausage meat out of the casing and into the pan so it forms tiny, rustic meatballs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the sausage is browned. Tip in the tomatoes and stir well, then let cook for 10 minutes over medium heat. Just before you're ready to serve, pour the cream into the sauce and let it come to just before boiling. Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary. Toss the pasta through the sauce, then serve at the table with lots of Parmesan. Serves four.

What's your current winter comfort food favourite?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The perfect chocolate smoothie

I don't want to jinx things, but we are having the best winter ever. There are tomatoes growing in my garden, despite heavy frosts and gusts of wind that feel like they've blown straight from Antarctica. A work colleague whose house is hooked up to solar panels says they have more battery power now than they did in mid-summer. It's not exactly t-shirt and jandals weather, but the sun is out and the days are crisp and clear.

The weather is so good that on Monday, to celebrate the start of the school holidays, we had chocolate smoothies for breakfast. On Friday, to celebrate the last day of term, we had chocolate porridge. I'm a strong contender for Mum Of The Year, don't you think?

Dairy Free Chocolate Smoothie No Refined Sugar

The perfect chocolate smoothie
The ingredients for these smoothies came from The Big Fair Bake, a Fairtrade initiative designed to showcase the many wonderful ways you can a) support Fairtrade and b) use Fairtrade ingredients. Supporting Fairtrade seems like a no-brainer to me - it's getting easier all the time to find fairly traded and produced things all the time and I like the idea that I am (in a tiny way, admittedly) helping other families while doing something nice for my own. While The Big Fair Bake is, as the name suggests, all about baking, this is a so-hot-right-now option that doesn't require you to turn on the oven or even the elements. Now that's what I call the perfect holiday breakfast.

400ml coconut milk (the Trade Aid one is delicious!)
3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1 Tbsp honey (or more to taste, if you like things really sweet)
3 very ripe bananas, peeled, cut into chunks and frozen

Put everything in a blender and blitz to form a smooth and frothy mixture. Divide between two tall glasses and serve. Pink straws optional, unless you live in my house.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Treat me: Brown bread icecream

"Unlike Justice, hospitality should not be seen to be done!"

Easy Brown Bread Ice Cream

So begins 'Dining In And Dining Out In New Zealand', an absolute treasure in my cookbook library. This book, gifted by a friend with a strong sense of the absurd, has survived many cookbook culls and house moves. Written in 1973, it has stayed a strong favourite. I'm unsure if the author, Patricia Harris, is still alive, but I'd love to meet her. I imagine her as one part Margot Leadbetter, one part Fanny Craddock and two parts Delia Smith. 

Like the title suggests, the book is part-dedicated to catering at home and part-dedicated to New Zealand's 1970s restaurant scene. While none of the restaurants she recommends are still in existence, many of her recipes remain in vogue. I'm not sure I agree with her dictum that vichyssoise (first take your homemade chicken stock) is the answer to the busy hostess's woes, but the intention is well meant.

My fondness for Mrs Harris' means her book has never been relegated to my office (the staging post for cookbooks that need new homes), so it's getting a moment in the sun this month for Belleau Kitchen's June Random Recipe challenge. We were supposed to pick the recipe on page 40, but since I couldn't see myself acquiring 'five dozen rock oysters or four dozen Stewart Island monsters' for the seafood starter, I went for page 41 instead. 

Easy Brown Bread Ice Cream Recipe

Brown Bread Icecream
This comes from the 'Dinner At Home' chapter, which is full of helpful suggestions. My favourite refers to the carving of the loin of lamb: "persuade your husband to carve it as neatly as possible (if your husband is one of those "joint wreckers" I advise you to invite an experienced surgeon among your guests)". Mrs Harris suggests serving this unusual, but delectable, icecream with caramel sauce and praline, but I reckon it's fine by itself or served between two very thin slices of toasted baguette in a kind of literal icecream sandwich. No husband or surgeon required.

170g brown sugar
60g butter
125ml water
4 egg yolks, beaten
60ml milk
700ml cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups wholemeal bread crumbs, lightly toasted

Put the egg yolks in a bowl that will fit over a medium saucepan in a double-boiler arrangement. Put a couple of cms of water in the saucepan and set over medium heat.
Put the sugar, butter and water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until it reaches boiling point.
Pour this syrup over the eggs and beat well, then add the milk. Set the egg mixture bowl over the water in the saucepan and stir well until it thickens (about five minutes).
Remove the bowl from the saucepan and put in the freezer to chill (about 20 minutes should do it).
When the egg mixture is cold, whip the cream and vanilla together until it is just before the soft peak stage. Fold in the egg mixture and the toasted breadcrumbs, then scrape into a plastic container. Cover and freeze for at least four hours. 
Let ripen at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Makes about 1.3 litres.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

French crumpets

Something strange is happening to my friends. It seems like it was only yesterday that we were going to each others' 21st birthday parties, bearing bottles of cheap wine, rimu CD towers and wrought-iron candelabras (it was the '90s). Now, without warning, they are suddenly all turning 40.

How To Cure A Hangover With French Crumpets

The parties, in many ways, are the same as they ever were. So are the faces at them, even if they are a little more lived in. But our lives are so different. Then, we acted like children. Now, we talk about our children and discuss after-school care and how to manage the holidays and coping with nits. On Saturday night the party raged on while the host's three-year-old twins slept solidly in their beds and their seven-year-old brother practiced passing canapes. And on Sunday morning, after three glasses of wine the night before and less than six hours' sleep, I felt that time had been very, very cruel.

Then I remembered I was an adult and that if I wanted things to change, I had to be the change. So I got out of bed, made a strong cup of tea and some French crumpets. And life didn't seem so bad after all.


French Crumpets
If you're feeling a little delicate the morning after the night before - and sometimes all it takes for that to happen is for me to think about having a glass of wine - then this is an excellent curative. It won't make you feel 21 again, but you should feel at least 35. If you feel particularly terrible, you could always top the crumpets with a fried egg or some fried tomatoes - or both.

For one serving:

1 egg
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
2-3 crumpets (the large, square ones made by Golden Crumpets are particularly good)
a decent knob of butter
Toppings - jam, honey, lemon juice and sugar

Put the egg, milk, salt and sugar into a shallow bowl and whisk well. Dip the crumpets in the mixture, letting them soak up as much of the liquid as possible.
Put a frying pan over medium heat and add the butter. When it foams, add the dipped crumpets. Cook for three or four minutes each side, until golden brown.
Slide onto a waiting plate, anoint with the toppings suggested above, and eat while drinking a very strong cup of tea and reading yesterday's newspaper (that's what old folks like us do).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Be my guest: 84th & 3rd

I stumbled upon JJ of 84th and 3rd just under a year ago. I was in Berlin, awake in the early hours of the morning, scrolling through Instagram (note: not recommended if you are trying to get to sleep) when I spotted her amazing photos. Then I discovered she ran the #eatfoodphotos photo challenge - and my life hasn't been the same since.
JJ of 84th and 3rd (Photo courtesy of 84th and 3rd)
But there's more to JJ than just Insta-fun - and she's kindly shared some of the secrets of her success below.

What's your blog about? 
Unprocessed, allergy-friendly recipes, daring adventures, and a touch of mad-science magic.

When did you start it? Why?
I started in December 2010 with little idea about what 84th and 3rd would become, I didn't even post a recipe until three months in! Then in October 2011 we completely changed the way we ate and my experimental approach to food really kicked in. I use the blog as a creative outlet to develop recipes, improve my photography, and write. I hope that it gives others ideas and perhaps a bit of inspiration to look at food differently.

Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
Other than growing up in an Italian family and spending most of my teens and twenties glued to Food TV, not a drop. I baked from a really young age and Mom is a 'dash of this and a dash of that' type of cook so I learned early that cooking isn't something to be afraid of. Now I do commercial recipe development among other things.

What's your day job? What else do you do?
Almost two years ago I left advertising agency-land to do my own thing… these days that includes commercial recipe development, some food photography and styling, a bit of writing and content creation, web design and build, social media consulting and business strategy. Pretty much all of it is in the food industry for chefs or producers.

Masterchef and TV food shows - hot or not?
I love TV food shows that are about recipes and food-related travel. Unfortunately most food shows on Aussie TV are more about drama these days, so you're more likely to find me watching design or renovation ones.

What's the last cookbook you bought?
I found a used copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day when I was in Adelaide recently and couldn't pass it up. On the wish list are all of Ottolenghi's books.


Tell us about the best meal you ever ate?
Lobster, cooked in a huge pot on the front lawn of a beach house outside of Boston where my entire extended family was staying. We ate it with our hands, dunking it in obscene amounts of butter and washing it down with gin and tonics. Perfection.

Who's your food hero?
I have a soft spot for Alton Brown from years of watching Good Eats. Anthony Bourdain is a fave too - both his shows and books (see previous answer re Food TV - ha!).

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
It's like choosing a favourite child! I have a thing for rainbows and creative distraction as evidence by these Food-Based Easter Egg Dyes and Rainbow Whole-Fruit Ice Pops. While I eat far more savoury foods than sweet it seems that desserts get posted more - one of my faves is a truly mad-science inspired twist on Lemon Custard Cheesecake Bars. The post that means the most to me is probably my Vegan Pumpkin Pie. Four is close enough to three, right?


Tell us about another blog you love.
To be truthful the only blog I read religiously is The Bloggess. There are so many blogs out there that I float through from time to time and wish I read more. I'm a fan of London Bakes, and Jane from A Shady Baker always makes me feel so calm when I read her posts about living in the country.

Who do you cook for?
RJ (my husband) is the usual suspect although any time you put me near a kitchen, even if it isn't mine, I'll find some way to cook or bake. I do have a habit of testing out new recipes on people I barely know, it usually works out for the best.


What's for dinner tonight?
What ever I can rummage from the fridge… probably eggs of some description with sautéed greens and avocado. We eat eggs fried, scrambled or baked about three times a week.

Thanks JJ! Now, who wants to Be My Guest next?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Treat me: Gluten-free chocolate cakes

Forget war, forget inequality, forget child poverty and the melting of the icecaps, the thing that really gets people riled up is whether or not gluten is evil. Trust me, I've spent a lot of time moderating comments on a big mainstream news site and the vitriol directed at the gluten-intolerant is intense.

If you believe that people who need to avoid gluten for the sake of their health are attention-seeking worrywarts, look away now. Because the June We Should Cocoa challenge is all about gluten-free chocolate treats, and I've got a cracker of a recipe to share. You don't have to be anti-gluten to like it, but if you are, I hope it becomes a regular part of your repertoire.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cakes With No Refined Sugar

Little chocolate cakes (gluten-free)
This is my adaptation of this recipe, which in turn is a redux of a recipe by Dr Libby. I found the original just a little bit dull and worthy, so have given it a bit of a makeover. This is the kind of chocolate cake you can put in your kids' lunchboxes and feel all smug about. It's also a good way to use up that sunflower seed butter I showed you how to make earlier this week. I think those holistic health types call that synergy.
If you want to make it even less worthy, put an extra square of good chocolate in the bottom of each muffin case before you add the mixture. Then you can call it pudding.

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup nut butter
2 Tbsp oil - coconut, olive, whatever you have
1/4 cup honey
3 1/2 Tbsp best quality cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp vinegar
50g best quality chocolate - I've used white in the photos, but any sort will do - roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C and put paper cases in a 12-hole muffin pan.
Put all the ingredients except the baking soda and vinegar into a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the baking soda and vinegar and whiz again. 
Pour into a jug, then pour this into the muffin cases until they are two-thirds full. Sprinkle each one with the chocolate and bake for 15-18 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Remove to a rack to cool slightly before eating. They will deflate slightly.
These can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for about five days. The flavour intensifies the day after they are made. Makes 12.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Gluten Free Chocolate Muffins

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to make sunflower seed butter

The advent of school lunches means that we're now going through our favourite peanut butter at an alarming rate. We already ate it a lot - anyone who tells you they don't eat it by the spoonful occasionally is either a person of no consequence or a liar - but now it's disappearing like there's no tomorrow.

We are lucky in that nuts are not a banned substance at 'our' school (dogs are also banned, but they're not as good in sandwiches so it's not such a big deal), but I do feel the need to diversify our reliance on the humble peanut. And so, while scrabbling around in the pantry last weekend I found a small sack of sunflower seeds and decided to have a bit of an experiment, based on my 2011 adventures in making my own tahini.
Half an hour later and I'd made two jars of fragrant sunflower seed butter for the princely sum of $2.50. Here's how you can make it too.

How To Make Sunflower Seed Butter At Home Image/Recipe: Lucy Corry/TheKitchenmaid

How to make your own sunflower seed butter
This is really easy - all you need is a bag of sunflower seeds, a splash of neutral-flavoured oil, a pinch of salt and a food processor or blender. A fancy high speed blender would do the trick in seconds, but a regular food processor does a pretty good job in about five minutes.

500g sunflower seeds
3-4 Tbsp neutral flavoured oil (sunflower oil, if you really want to be cute about it)
a good pinch of salt (optional)

Line a large oven tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180C. Scatter the seeds over the prepared tray in an even layer.
Toast them in the oven, watching carefully and stirring every 5-10 minutes, until they are turning golden. Don't wander off, they burn easily.
Remove them from the oven and let cool for five minutes, then tip into your food processor (carefully, so you don't lose the lot on the floor).
Add the salt, 2 Tbsp oil and whiz - it will be very noisy but will settle down and form a paste. Add the remaining oil until the paste slackens to a peanut butter-style consistency.
Scrape into jars and store in a cool, dark place. Makes about 500g.




Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What's in your kids' lunchboxes?

Less than two weeks in and I think I've cracked why parents get weepy about their child going to school. It's not the thought of their little darling growing up, it's the realisation that it signals the start of more than a decade of making school lunches.

As much as I know I should aspire to be the kind of 'perfect mother who turns her kid's lunchboxes into art', it's not going to happen. Especially because I am determined that lunchbox duty is a job to be shared by other members of this household who are old enough to handle a knife and go to the shops unaccompanied.

Here we have peanut butter, cream cheese and broccoli sprouts in a flatbread, some carrot sticks, a little parcel of Brazil nuts, a homemade chocolate muffin that's much more nutritious than it looks (recipe coming soon!) and an apple.
But, crumbs, it's hard to get my head around. I remember from my own childhood that all I wanted for a long period was luncheon sausage and tomato sauce in my sandwiches (the tomato sauce was Mum's homemade one, in my defence). I recall my mother inserting all manner of 'interesting' things in my lunchbox: a pork pie (unsuccessful), nut-flavoured yoghurt (a disappointment) and - very occasionally, those triangles of plastic cheese (then, my idea of heaven). Nearly 35 years later, I still remember the shame at finding two used teabags in my teal-coloured lunchbox. My little friends Bernie and Jean-Anne ran to the staffroom for help - where the kind Mrs Wilson pointed out that, in fact, they were dried figs. Such things were rare at Atiamuri Primary, where other kids got little packets of crisps and shop-bought biscuits, or sandwiches wrapped up in the blue and white paper that the Sunday bread came in. Some even went home for lunch, returning with slabs of freshly baked Maori bread slathered with butter. There were probably others who had little for lunch and even less for breakfast.

Of course, that's a far cry from what kids eat today - at least, if you believe everything you read. Pinterest is full of weird charts, which seem mostly designed for dieting adults ('this snack is only 100 calories' etc) and I feel thoroughly depressed at my culinary and parenting skills whenever I read Amanda Hesser's Food 52 blog on what she puts in her twins' school lunches.

Obviously I spend more time worrying about the contents of their lunches than I do about the weeds in my garden...
So I'm very grateful for Nicola Galloway's advice on healthy school lunches, which is just about the most useful thing I've come across in the last couple of weeks is (and there's a great cracker recipe in the post too). The basic message is not rocket science - kids need a balance of 'good' carbohydrates, protein and fibre to keep them sustained and alert, just like adults do.

I'm not sure what the magic ingredient is that makes them actually eat all their lunch at lunchtime ("I didn't eat it Mum, I was too busy") but it is getting eaten (and then some) for afternoon tea so I must be doing something right.

So tell me, please, what do you put in your kids' lunchboxes? There are only so many more peanut butter and sprout sandwiches I can make this week...

UPDATE: I've just created this Easy Tasty Lunchbox Ideas Pinterest board to collate some ideas. Check it out - and let me know if you'd like to contribute!

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Treat me: Easy coffee sorbet

Once upon a time I had a flatmate called Justin who ate, drank, lived and breathed coffee. He worked at a coffee roastery, he installed a state-of-the-art coffee machine in our house and he happily spent hours teaching everyone how to extract the perfect espresso. He was a coffee god.

Easy Recipe For Coffee Sorbet, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Easy Coffee Sorbet Recipe/Image: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Now, this would have been great, but coffee and I just don't get on. I love the smell of it, the science of it, the taste of it - but one sip and I generally don't feel so good.

In Wellington, where coffee is king, this is quite the social disability. Telling someone you'll meet them for a cup of herbal tea or a glass of water just doesn't have quite the same ring to it. But I'm happy to sit with them while they drink their coffee and share the nuggets of coffee know-how I picked up from Justin.

The thing I remember the most is about water quality. If your water isn't pure and fresh, then your coffee will taste dirty and stale. That's why it's important to clean out your coffee machine and always use filtered water when you make it. Using a water filter means you're reducing levels of chlorine and trace heavy metals, which can be detrimental to the taste.

How To Make Coffee Sorbet Without A Machine Recipe/Image: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Coffee Sorbet
If you can filter water and boil a kettle, you can make this simple sorbet. I've given instructions below for making it with plunger coffee grounds, but if you are a fan of instant (Justin would be appalled, but it was good enough for Elizabeth David, apparently), then by all means use it. If you're a fan of filtered water, don't forget to enter your recipe into the Better With BRITA competition - but hurry, entries close on June 30.
The best thing to do with this sorbet is to make it into a kind of reverse affogato - scoop the sorbet into little glasses or demi-tasse coffee cups, then pour over some cream. The cream starts to freeze in parts, making it seem very luxurious to eat.

6 Tbsp plunger grind coffee
750ml filtered water
250g raw sugar
2 egg whites

Put the coffee in a plunger. Bring the all the water to just before boiling in a kettle, then slowly pour 500ml of it over the coffee grounds. Stir briefly, then leave for four minutes to steep.
Put the sugar in a small saucepan and pour the remaining 250ml water over the top. Stir briskly to start dissolving the sugar, then put the pot over gentle heat and bring to a quiet simmer, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Plunge the coffee, then pour through a fine sieve into the sugar syrup (this makes sure the end sorbet isn't gritty). Let cool, then pour into a plastic container with a lid and freeze overnight (or for at least eight hours).
Let it defrost slightly, then blend it in a food processor with the egg whites. The mixture will increase in volume and turn a lighter colour.
Pour it back into the plastic container and freeze again for a couple of hours.
Serve in scoops as directed above, add to an iced coffee or eat straight from the freezer on a hot day.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

How To Make Coffee Sorbet Recipe/Image: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid


* This post was created with the assistance of BRITA, but all opinions (and the recipe) are my own. 


Friday, May 30, 2014

The ultimate chocolate cake

This month the We Should Cocoa challenge has been all about making a chocolate cake for less than £1 (NZ$1.97). I have to confess I didn't even try.

Instead, I can share with you the way to make your favourite chocolate cake taste - and look - like a million dollars. It's this - a cloud of chocolate meringue buttercream that will make people close their eyes in bliss as they eat it. It defies all current trends in that it is resolutely full of sugar, butter and eggs. And it is worth every single mouthful.


The ultimate chocolate meringue buttercream
If you find ordinary buttercream icing - the sort you make with icing sugar and butter - too sweet and somewhat gritty, then this is the icing for you. It's still sweet and quite rich, but incredibly light. It's stable enough to pipe, spreads like a dream and keeps well in the freezer if you don't use it all in one go. I have to leave the house to stop myself eating it straight from the bowl before it reaches the cake. It's THAT good.

320g caster sugar
170g water
4 egg yolks
2 eggs
350g butter, at room temperature, sliced into 2cm chunks
2 tsp pure vanilla
150g good quality dark chocolate, at least 60 per cent cocoa solids, melted and at room temperature

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Stir well, then boil until the temperature reaches 118C. While the syrup is boiling, put the egg yolks and eggs in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and whisk until they are light and fluffy. When the syrup has reached 118C, carefully drizzle it into the egg mixture (beating all the time). Beat on high until the mixture is thick and pale, and the sides of the bowl are cool to touch. At this point, switch from the whisk to the paddle attachment and start adding the butter, a piece at a time, until it is all mixed in. Don't fret if it starts to look a bit like mayonnaise, just keep beating it.
When the butter is all in, and the buttercream is very light and fluffy, add the vanilla and melted chocolate. Beat until well mixed in. You can use this straight away, or leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours (as long as it doesn't get too hot or cold). It also keeps in the fridge for a week, though you'll need to beat it again.

Best Chocolate Meringue Buttercream Cake Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

The Ultimate Chocolate Cake
If you want to make the ultimate chocolate cake, make two batches of this easy chocolate cake. When the cakes have completely cooled, chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Spread the surfaces of three of the cakes with good boysenberry jam, then a layer of chocolate meringue buttercream. Stack them on top of each other, then cover the lot with a thin 'crumb coat' of buttercream. Return to the fridge for 30 minutes to set, then cover in the remainder of the buttercream (you can go crazy here with a piping bag if you like). The cake can be left in the fridge overnight, but let it come to room temperature before serving.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Friday, May 23, 2014

Treat me: Banana granola

Has it ever occurred to you that bananas are like buses? There's never any when you want one (or at least, one in the right state of ripeness or heading to the right destination), then a whole bunch turn up (or turn from green to extra-ripe) at once.

I know that's a bit of a stretch, but come on, it's Friday. And while I am well aware of the joys of freezing overripe bananas, not least because they're great in smoothies like this apple crumble one, there's only so many containers of frozen bananas that our tiny freezer can take. And there's only so much banana cake a small family can eat in a week too (really, there is!)

How To Make Banana Granola Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

So it is with great pride I present to you my latest way to use up all the bananas that are no longer fit for eating in their natural state: banana granola. It's genius, even if I do say so myself.

Banana Granola
This makes the house smell like banana cake, but it's much more virtuous. The buckwheat gives it an extra crunch, but if you can't lay your hands on any try quinoa or another cup of seeds.

4 cups whole or jumbo oats
1 cup seeds - sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, linseed - or a mixture of all of them
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup buckwheat or quinoa
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp neutral, flavourless oil
2 Tbsp honey
3 very ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups dried fruit, optional

Heat the oven to 160C and line a large baking dish with baking paper. Put the oats, seeds, coconut, buckwheat or quinoa and cinnamon in a large bowl and stir well to mix.
In a separate bowl, mash the bananas to a smooth puree with the oil and honey. Stir this mixture through the dry ingredients - don't be afraid to use your hands to really mix it in.
Spread in an even layer on the prepared tray and bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. If it starts to look a little dark towards the end of the cooking time, just switch the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar, but leave the granola tray in the oven until it has cooled down. This will ensure it dries thoroughly.
Stir through some dried fruit if you like - I reckon sultanas and banana chips are a good combo - and store in an airtight container.

Have a great weekend, everyone x




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