Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin, prune and chocolate bars

I'm sure there's a Chinese proverb about disaster being the mother of invention, or danger being the signpost to opportunity, or something like that. I'm not sure that it's often successfully applied to baking, but there's a first time for everything.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon Nicola Galloway's recipe for chocolate chickpea cookies and pretty much decided I had to make them on the spot. We got through them really quickly and I figured I could whip up something quite similar, but with pumpkin instead of chickpeas, and prunes instead of dates. So this is the result - something inspired by, but completely different to, those cookies. And it's every bit as delicious.


Pumpkin, prune and chocolate bars
These soft, slightly chewy bars are very addictive - trust me, I've consumed several in the course of writing this post. The mix of ingredients means they're a perfect fit for October's We Should Cocoa challenge, this month hosted by Hannah at Honey and Dough. The slightly random nature of how this recipe came to be also means it's a strong contender for the October edition of Random Recipes - you can find out more about the criteria for this month here.
You do need to have some cooked pumpkin lying about for this recipe - do what I do and just throw a piece in the oven the next time it's on and let it bake away untended. Then scrape the soft flesh into a container and freeze it to make yourself feel super organised when recipes like this come along.

1 cup prunes
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup mashed pumpkin (or - if you must - canned pumpkin puree)
100g butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Tip the prunes into a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside while you get everything else ready.
Heat the oven to 180C and line a small brownie pan (measuring about 27 x 20 cm) with baking paper, leaving some overhang.
Put the rolled oats into a food processor and whiz until finely ground. Tip out into another bowl.
Drain the prunes, then tip them into the processor, along with the pumpkin, melted butter and egg. Whiz until smooth, then add the ground oats, cinnamon and baking soda and whiz again until well mixed. Add the chocolate and pulse until mixed.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, until set and slightly springy to touch. Let cool, then cut into bars. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Have a great week, everyone x

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homemade chocolate milk

It's the ultimate collab - two loved and respected food brands who each make fantastic quality products, joining them together in blended union. Organic milk + premium chocolate = a marriage made in heaven.

But there has been just one problem with Lewis Road Creamery's Chocolate Milk (featuring Whittaker's Creamy Milk Chocolate): it's been flying off shelves faster than they can make it. However, help is at hand. Using a little Kiwi ingenuity, you can make your own Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk. Here's how...

Homemade Chocolate Milk Recipe

Homemade Chocolate Milk
Let me be clear - I'm not being paid for this. But take it from me, a confirmed non-milk drinker AND as someone who can easily say no to most milk chocolate, that these two products are incredibly good, both separately and together. If you're struggling to get your hands on a bottle of their match-made-in-heaven chocolate milk, here's how to make your own at home.

125g Whittaker's Creamy Milk Chocolate, roughly chopped
750ml Lewis Rd Creamery Light Milk
a pinch of salt

Put the chocolate and half the milk in a small saucepan and set over low heat. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate has just melted. Set aside and cool to room temperature, then add the remaining milk. Stir well, then decant into a jug or bottle and put in the fridge to chill completely. The chocolate may solidify a little, but a good shake or stir will sort things out.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Double chocolate beetroot cakes

Delusion is a wonderful thing. It's why dress shops have flattering mirrors, why cosmetic counters have soft lighting and why a whole industry has sprung up around 'healthy' baking.

There are two ingredients required for 'healthy' baking - either fruit and vegetables (hello, carrot cake) or oats (to whit, the entire British flapjack industry). Now, few people will dispute the merits of vegetables or whole grains, but they're not enough to mitigate the ingredients needed to turn them into cakes or biscuits. Far better, I think, to concentrate on the deliciousness imparted by a couple of juicy beetroots to a trayful of chocolate-studded cakes than angst about whether they're good for you or not.

Double Chocolate Beetroot Cakes With Cream Cheese And Honey Frosting

Double chocolate and beetroot cakes
This is a good school holiday activity for idle hands - especially if you can get them involved in the dishes afterwards. This recipe makes around 18 cakes, which keep well in an airtight tin and can be frozen very successfully for lunchboxes or unexpected visitors.

It's also a fitting entry for October's Tea Time Treats, a blogging event run by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Jane of The Hedgecombers. This month, they're looking for recipes containing fruit and vegetables. If you subscribe to the theory that chocolate is derived from a fruit, then this fits the bill on both counts.

2 cups wholemeal flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
4Tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup coconut
3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup oil
1/4 cup yoghurt
3 cups finely grated raw beetroot (about 2 medium beetroots)

Heat the oven to 160C (fanbake) and line 18-muffin pans with cupcake liners (not essential, but makes for easier cleaning up and no anxiety when it comes to getting them out of the tin).
Sift the flour, cocoa, spices and baking soda into a bowl. Stir in the coconut and chopped chocolate and set aside.
Beat the eggs, sugar, yoghurt and oil together until thick and pale. Fold in the dry ingredients, then the beetroot. Divide between the prepared tins - each one should be about two-thirds full - and bake for 20-25 minutes.
I like these just as they are, but they're also very good with a simple cream cheese icing (beat together 1 cup soft cream cheese with 2 Tbsp honey and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla) and a scattering of chocolate. (That does make them less 'healthy' though!)

What's your favourite 'healthy' baking treat?

Easy Beetroot And Chocolate Cakes


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good Things: September 2014

Yesterday, someone asked me 'how do you fit everything in and still maintain your blog?' I realised, with a sinking feeling, that she obviously hadn't been reading along lately. 

The Kitchenmaid has been sadly neglected this month while I have been attending to lots of other things - including a super-secret special project that I haven't been able to talk about. 

Secret Photo Shoot
What is this man doing with a bunch of asparagus, a big camera and a white umbrella? All will be revealed, soon...
Quite aside from the secret project, I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen (having six different sets of houseguests in 24 days will do that to a person). And I've been eating a lot of asparagus, a sign that spring is truly here.

Fresh Asparagus Photo

And I've been reading this heartbreaking food memoir by Wellington writer and food blogger Anne Else. 

Food Memoir The Colour Of Food By Anne Else

The Colour Of Food is an eloquent look back at Anne's life through food - brace yourself for the last chapters, in which she writes movingly about adjusting to living - and eating - without her beloved partner, Harvey McQueen. It was first published as an e-book last year but did so well that it's now in print form. It might seem a bit early to get your Christmas stocking list sorted, but you'd do well to add this to it.

What have you been up to this month?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pappardelle with tuna and cream

If you read fashion magazines then you'll know all about the 'trans-seasonal piece'. This is an item of clothing that will, apparently, protect you from the vagaries of changing weather patterns while still managing to keep you in vogue (though not necessarily in Vogue, if you know what I mean).

A lot less is said about the equally important trans-seasonal meal, which should lift you out of the food rut you've been in all season and hint at the changes to come, while still respecting the needs of the moment.

Pappardelle Pasta With Lemon And Cream

Pappardelle with tuna and cream
Tinned tuna is very unfashionable these days but if you can find a sustainably caught brand I think it's possible to dish it up without a side of guilt. Cream is probably a bit passe too, in some circles, but I don't give a hoot. This is a great dinner for the middle seasons of spring and autumn, managing to be comforting and fresh in one go.

1 cup/250ml cream
1 packed cup of fresh parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
1 cup finely diced celery
a good pinch of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp good olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of a lemon
2 x 185g tins good quality tuna in oil
Pappardelle - enough for four

Put all ingredients, except the pasta, in a bowl and stir together gently. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper or lemon juice as needed.
Cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente, drain well, then toss half the sauce through it. Divide between pasta bowls and spoon the remaining sauce on top. Serves four.



Friday, September 12, 2014

The best ever chocolate coconut chia pudding

There's no question about it; chia seeds are miraculous. Not only do they contain all sorts of good things like omega 3 fatty acids, potassium and all the amino acids a girl could want (making them a complete protein), they also swell amazingly fast in liquid meaning you can have chocolate pudding for breakfast. That's what I call a miracle.


Chocolate coconut chia pudding
This is my current favourite breakfast - it's very portable, very fast and it keeps you going for ages. The only trouble is, it's very hard to stop eating it, especially when you discover that it goes extremely well with a scoop of fridge-cold coconut cream (or yoghurt, if you're virtuous). If you have fearful childhood memories of sago and tapioca pudding, the bobbly texture may not be for you. But that just means there's more for me...

400ml can coconut milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
3 Tbsp best quality cocoa
1 Tbsp golden syrup or runny honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Put everything in a bowl and stir vigorously, until well mixed. Set aside - in a cold kitchen or in the fridge - for 15 minutes. The chia seeds will swell like magic, thickening the liquid. If it seems a little too thick, add a little water or more coconut milk. Grate a little chocolate or grind some vanilla over the top. Serves 2-4 people, depending on greed.

Have a great weekend, everyone! x

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Five easy spring meals

It's spring! Proper spring - with balmy temperatures, early rising birds and new buds appearing in the garden. Well, it was like that a few days ago. Now we're back to tempestuous winds, lashing rain and that horrible greyness, but I've got high hopes.

Spring Daffodil Photo: Lucy Corry

It's too soon for asparagus and the little lambs arriving in paddocks near you are too small for the cooking pot, but there are lots of other spring-y things to eat. Here are five easy spring dinners to add to your repertoire...

1. Superfood Salad: It's got quinoa, broccoli and other spring-y, crunchy things to make you feel like frolicking in the sun. What more do you need?

Leon-Style Superfood Salad

2. Tray-baked Lamb and Potatoes: This is really good for those 'I can't think what to have for dinner' evenings, which occur in our house at least once a week. Everything goes in the oven in one dish and there's minimal cleaning up (even the non-cooks can make this one).

Easy Greek Lamb And Potatoes

3. Spring Cauliflower Soup: Cauliflower has had a bit of a renaissance of late, thanks to the craze for turning it into a pizza crust, but I think it's unbeatable in this simple and healthy cauliflower soup.

Detox Cauliflower Soup

4. Simple Smoked Fish And Rice: This is another one-pot wonder, handy when you've been out in the garden tackling six months' worth of weeding.

Easy Smoky Fish And Rice

5. Little lamb burgers: If you're blessed with a beautiful spring day, cook these outside on your (long-neglected) barbecue. If it's 'sit inside by the heater weather', they can be baked or pan-fried indoors.

Little Lamb Mince Burgers

What are your plans for this spring? 

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).
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