Friday, May 29, 2015

Miso-roasted pumpkin

It's funny the things that stick in your head. For example, the sole thing I remember from the Queen's last visit to New Zealand (don't ask me when it was, I'm not that much of a royalist) is that she requested pumpkin to be served at a dinner at Huka Lodge.

This always struck me as weird, a bit like when Kate Winslet was found shopping in Pagani in Masterton. Because as much as I love pumpkin, it's not particularly fancy. Maybe that's what Queenie likes about it - perhaps she tires of foie gras and roasted grouse and longs to eat roast pumpkin in front of Coronation St. (There's still no explanation for Kate and Pagani. None.)

In any case, with the long weekend in the Queen's honour approaching, here's a recipe for pumpkin that's fit for royals and commoners alike.

Miso-Roasted-Pumpkin The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Miso-Roasted Pumpkin
This is a very easy way to make pumpkin more exciting. If you don't like pumpkin, try stirring this miso butter through hot rice - instant comfort food.

1 kg crown pumpkin, cut into six wedges (leave the skin on)
50g unsalted butter
4 Tbsp white miso paste
cracked pepper

Heat the oven to 200C and line a small roasting dish with foil.
Put the pumpkin on the tray.
Beat the butter and miso together until soft and spreadable, then pat onto the pumpkin. Grind over lots of black pepper and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the pumpkin is cooked and the miso butter has browned.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Friday, May 22, 2015

Coconut, chocolate and vanilla cake

When I rule the world, I'm going to introduce a law banning vanilla-flavoured perfumes and all forms of fake vanilla extract.
Real vanilla has such a beautiful, delicate scent, but it's been ruined by the synthetic variants wafting through a home near you.
Vanilla soap, vanilla perfume, vanilla moisturiser, vanilla candles, they'll all be banned. Fake vanilla extracts will be outlawed, too. Instead, we'll feast on real vanilla-scented cakes, like this tropical number.


Coconut, chocolate and vanilla cake
This has a triple dose of vanilla, but it's not overpowering. Just make sure you use the real deal. The combination of chocolate and vanilla - a powerful duo - makes this just right for this month's We Should Cocoa, hosted by the ever-lovely Karen of Lavender and Lovage.

125g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 cups desiccated coconut
1 cup flour
'1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
3/4 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate

For the syrup:
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla

For the icing:
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp butter
2 tsp pure vanilla
2 tsp boiling water

Heat the oven to 170C and grease and line a 23cm ring tin (or similar).
Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating furiously. If it looks in danger of curdling, add a little of the desiccated coconut. When the eggs are all in, add the coconut and vanilla. Beat to combine, then fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Scraipe into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, until a skewer comes out cleanly. Leave in the tin for five minutes, then stab with a skewer (very satisfying!) and pour over the syrup (just stir together the boiling water, sugar and vanilla to make it).
When the cake has cooled, carefully remove from the tin and set on a plate.
Make the icing by beating together all the ingredients - you may need more boiling water to make it the right consistency - and drizzle it over the cake.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Old-fashioned vegetable soup

Did you know that in some places they're not making journalism interns learn shorthand any more? I know, I'm shocked too. Instead of giving them a good grounding in Teeline, they're giving them magic recording pens that download interviews straight to a computer.

I knew the world would pass me by one day but I didn't think it would happen so soon. I hate to think what Mary, my shorthand teacher, would think of this. Mary, a saintly sort, reckoned shorthand was crucial for getting you out of a tight spot. Mary warned against relying on dictaphones for fear they would break down and advised us to always carry a pencil because it would enable us to write in wet conditions. I hate to think what she'd make of a magic pen.

My shorthand isn't what it used to be (ahem, I could do 120 wpm in my heyday), but I still use it all the time. I have recipe notes full of part shorthand, part longhand scrawl and I can still write a shopping list in seconds. Bet fancy youngsters can't do that with magic pens.

To seal my reputation as a past-it hack of no use to anyone, here's a vegetable soup recipe so old-fashioned it's probably due a hipster revival.

Easy Old-Fashioned Vegetable Soup


Old-fashioned vegetable soup
This is so simple you don't need a magic pen or shorthand skills to memorise the recipe. It's very comforting, hearty and cheap to make. Be careful when buying soup mix as some are packed with unnecessary flavourings and salt. If you can't find a decent one (Wellingtonians: Moore Wilson has 500g bags of soup mix that are ideal), then just use a mix of split peas, red lentils and pearl barley.

1 cup (250g) soup mix
4 cups chopped vegetables - eg onion, carrot, celery, sweet potato, pumpkin
8 cups good quality vegetable or chicken stock
fresh herbs - parsley, chervil, coriander

Put the soup mix, vegetables and stock in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, skim off any scum and let cook, uncovered, for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until the vegetables are tender. Stir through some fresh herbs before serving. Makes about 10 cups and freezes well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to fake a wedding cake

This is the wedding cake that nearly wasn't.

Pandoro Black Doris Plum And Mediterranean Orange Wedding Cake

When one of my oldest and dearest friends announced she was getting married, I immediately offered to make the wedding cake. She accepted the offer and that was that.

When their wedding was delayed to May, I breathed a sigh of relief and put the cake on the back burner.

Then all of a sudden it was April, the bride was talking multiple layers, chocolate ganache, and the merits of chocolate mud versus chocolate and fig, I had a million other things on my mind and I was lying awake at night, panicking about The Cake.

It was then I remembered that I'd been in this situation before. Five years ago, with a small baby and ideas above my station, I offered to make the wedding cake for some dear friends who'd blown into New Zealand from London to get married.

"Oh yes please," they said. "Don't go to any trouble, but we'd like it to have three layers and have licorice allsorts exploding out the top."

Making the cakes - one chocolate and fig, one chocolate mud and one banana (the groom's favourite flavour) - was easy. Doing the decorating was not. Not for the first time, I recalled a school report in which my teacher said I was often frustrated when my grand plans for artworks didn't come to fruition. I handed the baby to my mother-in-law and spent 24 hours wrestling with kilos of white fondant icing, alternating between wanting to cry and wanting to cheer.

On the afternoon of the wedding, my beloved and I balanced the cake on our knees while my father-in-law drove as slowly as he could around corners. We screamed every time the cake lurched towards my silk dress, more for the sake of the cake than my outfit. By the time we got to the venue the cake had several dents in it and I needed a strong drink to settle my nerves.

It nearly killed me, but the lovely bride and groom were happy and lots of guests said nice things about the cake. Still, I swore that it was the last time I would ever do it.

With those memories flooding back, I rang the bride. "I can't do it," I told her. "I'm too afraid it will be a disaster and you'll be even more disappointed in me than you feel right now."

Like the good friend she is, she took this news on the chin. Instead of making the cake, I decided to redefine my role as chief cake wrangler. I set about getting cake quotes and set up a wedding cake Pinterest board to gather ideas. When they baulked at the quotes - a two or three tier wedding cake is in the region of $400-$500 - I came up with plan B.

Instead of requesting a wedding cake, I asked Pandoro Bakery to make us two large cakes - one a 14" Black Doris Plum Chocolate, the other a 10" Mediterranean Orange, which they present on gold foil cake boards. I got them to ice them identically with chocolate ganache, with the sides rolled in white chocolate shavings.

The day before the wedding, my fellow bridesmaid and I picked them up and took them on a two-hour car ride (mercifully, on very straight roads).

Later that night, the groom helped me engineer the two together, inserting dowel rods to keep the top layer from collapsing into the bottom. With no storage option, we carefully manoeuvred the cake into a beer fridge and prayed it would survive the night.

The next morning, I returned to the venue, rescued the cake from the fridge and plopped some white roses on top. Just like that, the job was done.

The cake looked beautiful, my 22-year friendship with the bride is still intact and my mental health is sound. I may never make a special occasion cake again.

Are you prone to making special occasion cake promises? Do you have any secret tips?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Peaches, pistachio and chocolate

This is the inverse of Three Ways With - instead of being three ways with one ingredient, it's one way with three. Confused? Don't be. This photo explains everything.

Peaches With Pistachio And Chocolate

Peaches with pistachio and chocolate
This is such a simple idea I'm reluctant to call it a recipe. But it's worth sharing - not least because the the April edition of We Should Cocoa is all about no-bake things to do with chocolate. If you've got these ingredients close at hand, this is a five-minute job.

12 dried peach halves (I use the Alison's Pantry ones)
150g dark chocolate (I use Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Lay the peach halves on a tray, cut side up.
Melt the chocolate - in a bowl over simmering water, or in a low oven - and spoon a little on top of each peach. Sprinkle each one with chopped pistachios and leave to set (about five minutes).
Serve immediately or store in an airtight tin.

Have a great week, everyone x

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Chocolate brioche buns

It has become very fashionable for recipes to appear in the post-Easter sugar haze exhorting ways to use up excess chocolate eggs. But because I usually give up chocolate before Easter - or at least try to - and I'm a bit fussy about the chocolate I eat, any nice Easter eggs are usually cracked and dispatched pretty quickly. This year, with a 5am wake-up call from the youngest member of our household, I spent the day eating any chocolate I could get my hands on in a bid to stay upright. By Easter Monday, I couldn't bear the sight of it.


I got fairly sick of hot cross buns this year too - spending a day making endless batches will do that to a person - and so by the time the weekend was over I wanted something light and non-fruity, but with a hint of real chocolate (not the Easter egg kind).

These fluffy brioche buns were the result. They're most excellent with a generous splodge of cream cheese and a dollop of marmalade - and with a long weekend coming up, you should think about adding them to your repertoire.


Chocolate Brioche Buns
The instructions below detail how to make these with a stand mixer - it can be done by hand, but it's a bit more labour intensive.  I've designed this recipe so the buns are ready for breakfastIf you don't want the buns for breakfast, the dough will rise in about an hour at room temperature.

275ml milk (I use Zany Zeus 'blue')
500g high grade flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
50g unsalted butter, soft but not melted, diced
80g good quality dark chocolate, melted (I use Whittaker's 60 per cent cacao)
100g good quality dark chocolate, smashed into little bits (I use Whittaker's 60 per cent cacao)

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp milk

Sugar glaze: 1/4 cup boiling water mixed with 1/4 cup brown sugar

Scald the milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm. Add the eggs and stir to mix.
Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the bowl of a freestanding mixer and stir until combined, then pour in the egg and milk mixture and mix well.
Using the dough hook, mix on low-medium speed (about 3 or 4) until the dough is shiny and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary (turn the mixer off first!).
Keeping the mixer on medium speed, drizzle in the melted chocolate. When it has all absorbed, start add the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all mixed in.
Cover the bowl with plastic and put in the fridge overnight, during which time it will double in size.
In the morning, tip the dough out on to a lightly floured worktop. knead in more choco
Cover with a cloth for 15 minutes, while you make a cup of tea and heat the oven to 180C.
Shape the dough into 10-12 balls and place on a lined baking tray. Brush each one with egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes, until risen and cooked through. Brush with the hot sugar glaze and remove to a rack to cool (though they will probably all be eaten before that happens).

The chocolate and egg component make this the perfect opportunity to link up with two of my favourite bloggers, Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Dom of Belleau Kitchen. This month both Karen's Tea Time Treats and Dom's latest invention, Simply Eggcellent, have a chocolate theme. Click the links to find more chocolatey, eggy goodness.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Five fab ways with beetroot

I have one plan for my winter vegetable garden. When - or if - the wind drops and the rain stops - I'm going to plan beetroot by the dozen. Their beautiful green and crimson leaves will look quite fetching on grey winter days and the roots will be protected from the wild weather, packed in cacao husks and zoo compost. At least, that's the plan. In the meantime, I've made a list of my five favourite ways with beetroot, including a truly addictive dip. If I don't get my own harvest sorted, I'll be doing my bit to support local beetroot growers.


1. Beetroot, Feta And Wasabi Dip
This dip is super easy to make if you use vacuum-packed ready-cooked beetroot (now finally widely available in New Zealand supermarkets - look for the LeaderBrand packs near the salad vegetables in your supermarket). I dollop it on crostini or crackers with a bit of cream cheese or strained Greek yoghurt, then sprinkle something green on top. The only other thing you have to do is not tip it down your front, especially when wearing anything white.

250g cooked beetroot
1 clove garlic, squashed to a paste with 1/4 tsp salt
100g feta, diced
2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp wasabi (or horseradish)
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until a smooth puree forms (stop to scrape down the sides of the processor as necessary). Taste for seasoning, then scrape into a bowl and serve. Makes about two cups - store any leftovers in the fridge for up to three days.

2. Shocking Pink Beetroot Bread
This is a true 'do not adjust your set' representation of what this Beetroot Bread looks like in real life - it really IS that pink. It doesn't have any discernable beet-y flavour, but the pinkness is pretty fun.


3. Raw Beetroot With Caraway, Fennel And Feta
One day I sent my beloved to the shops to buy caraway seeds - and he helpfully came back with a 500g bag. I've resisted the urge to make endless seed cakes, but I have found a use for them in this salad, which combines caraway with raw grated beetroot, fennel and feta.


4. Raw Beetroot Bliss Balls
These Raw Beetroot Bliss Balls are another pretty-in-pink flight of fancy - the colour is all-natural. Think of the anti-oxidants! If you're trying to get your children (or other friends and family) to eat more vegetables, this is a very easy way to do it.


5. Big Bold Beetroot Soup
Beetroot is a key ingredient in this hearty winter soup for people who don't like following recipes (particularly husbands, I have found). It's big, bold, red - and delicious.


What's your favourite thing to do with beetroot?

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Kombucha 101: Fermented drinks for beginners

Kombucha - a kind of slightly fizzy fermented tea - is having a moment. 

The drink, which is made from sugar, tea, bacteria and yeast, has been around for centuries, but a resurgence in all things fermented means it's especially hot right now. There are Facebook groups devoted to sharing 'scobies' (the culture needed to make the drink), commercially made versions that sell for up to NZ$20 for a 750ml bottle and loads of forums where devoteees discuss the best kinds of tea and sugar to use. A kombucha bar, with six different kinds of kombucha available on tap, even opened in the hip Sydney neighbourhood of Leichhardt last week. 

Devotees believe kombucha has all sorts of health benefits thanks to its probiotic properties. I'm not in a position to make any claims as to kombucha's efficacy - it hasn't cured me of anything or driven me to Instagram my abs on a daily basis - but I do think it's good for digestion. More importantly, I like the way it tastes, which is my main consideration.

Berry kombucha, brewed in November 2014
I've been making my own kombucha since late last year, after receiving a scoby from someone I met via the 'Fermenting Freaks Forever' Facebook group. I know it might sound strange to invite a perfect stranger to send you a gelatinous-looking yeast culture in the post, but it's worked out well. So far I've shared the scobies I've grown with lots of other strangers - as well as any advice I can give them about brewing the perfect batch. 

If you're in New Zealand and you'd like a scoby, don't buy one. Look on Freecycle or Facebook - there is bound to be someone in your community who has some to give away. If you're in Wellington, feel free to contact me - I have more than I know what to do with.

There's loads of information available online about how to get started, but a lot of people find it extremely confusing to navigate. Here's the advice I give to my kombucha recipients - and they've all been successful so far.

Continuous brew kombucha (that's the scoby floating in the tea). Image:Catherine Adam
Kombucha 101
As well as a scoby (which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), you'll need a large glass vessel. I recommend scouring your local op shop for a large jar - like a two-litre gherkin jar, or similar - to see if you like it, before rushing off to invest in a big vessel with a spigot. The latter can be found in most homewares stores - the one in the picture came from The Warehouse. Make sure the spigot is plastic (most of them are). You'll also need a supply of glass bottles with lids in which to bottle the brew. I use clean screwtop wine bottles - for some reason we always have plenty of those to hand.

This is how you make what they call 'continuous brew' kombucha - because it's always on the go. If you want to have a rest from it at any stage, then put it in the fridge and bring it back to life on your return.

What you need:

13 cups boiling water
2/3 cup sugar
8 plain black or green teabags (or 2 Tbsp looseleaf tea)
1 scoby and 1 cup kombucha (this is often referred to as 'starter tea' - anyone who gives you a scoby will give you some starter tea as well)

What you need to do:

1. Put the boiling water and sugar in a large pot and stir well. Let cool for a bit, then add the teabags and let them steep for 10-15 minutes. Carefully pull them out and let the hot tea cool to room temperature.

2. Carefully pour the cooled tea into your nice, clean glass vessel (strain it through a fine sieve if you have used teabags). Gently pour in the kombucha liquid and scoby. 

3. Cover the top of the glass vessel with a piece of muslin or fabric and secure with a rubber band or piece of string. This allows the kombucha to breathe, but keeps out flies and other bugs. Leave in an open spot, out of direct sunlight. 

4. After a week, taste the kombucha - it should be 'dry', but not too vinegar-y, with that distinctive flavour. If you think it's ready, then drain it into bottles and add flavouring to them, eg fruit, ginger, lemon or orange zest and 1 tsp sugar. The kombucha will eat up all the sugar, so don't worry about adding it. 

5. Seal the bottles tightly and set aside until you are ready to drink them. They will keep fermenting - if you want to stop the process, put them in the fridge. 

Important things to remember:

1. Make sure you leave at least one cup of kombucha with your scoby at all times or it will find it hard to make more. As it grows, it will form new layers in your jar. This is perfectly normal and a good sign. If, however, it looks like it is growing furry mould, then this is NOT good and you may have to start again. 

2. Make sure you keep everything super clean - clean the bottles and lids with hot soapy water and rinse well with boiling water.

3. Plain white sugar is best - do NOT use honey as it can affect how the scoby grows. Avoid brown sugar too - it makes the kombucha quite yeasty and seems quite sweet.

4. Save any flavouring to the 'second ferment' eg when the kombucha is bottled. The scoby doesn't like any flavoured or herbal teas - just ordinary gumboot tea is perfectly fine. It's like a tradesman - it likes hot, sweet, ordinary tea and regular praise!

5. However, if you want to be fancy, green tea or white tea is also good. You can use decaffeinated black tea, but I'd advise throwing in a normal teabag or two for flavour reasons. Decaff' tea by itself is a bit tasteless. White tea gives the kombucha a delicate, floral flavour.

6. When it comes to flavouring the second ferment, anything goes. I most often use frozen berries (say, six frozen blueberries and a teaspoon of sugar to 750ml kombucha), or slices of fresh ginger. Elderflower and ginger is another gorgeous combination. My all-time favourite is using my sister's homemade crystallised orange peel and a few slices of fresh ginger for a kind of Cointreau-ish kombucha.

7. The kombucha will ferment a lot faster in warmer weather - you may need to check it earlier. If you have left it too long for it to be pleasant to drink, you can always bottle it as vinegar. I've successfully made fridge pickles using kombucha vinegar and my sister-in-law has made raspberry kombucha vinegar. 

Are you a kombucha fan?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pretend hot cross buns

Long-time readers will know that I'm a traditionalist when it comes to Easter - no hot cross buns before Good Friday; no Easter eggs before Easter Sunday. That's not to say that it doesn't get extremely hard to resist these things sometimes, especially when a packet of hot cross buns turns up in  your kitchen at breakfast time on a Saturday morning.
My resolve to give up chocolate for Lent has wobbled a bit in recent weeks - chocolate icecream doesn't really count, does it? - but I'm staying strong on the HCBs. Mainly that's because I've invented some you can eat at any time, guilt-free. Here's how.



'Pretend' Hot Cross Buns
These lookalike 'buns' - really bliss balls with the flavours of hot cross buns and white chocolate crosses - have many things going for them. My favourite, though, is that you can eat them while you're waiting for the real ones to cook (or toast). What are you waiting for?

1 cup sultanas
1 cup ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 Tbsp honey
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup roughly chopped white chocolate

Put all ingredients except the chocolate into a food processor and whiz until you can pinch together small amounts. Take dessertspoon-sized heaps of the mixture and form into square-ish 'buns' and place on a tray lined with baking paper.
Gently melt the white chocolate - put it in a small bowl, then set this over a bowl of freshly boiled water from the kettle - and put into a small ziplock bag or piping bag. Pipe crosses over the buns and leave to set. Store in the fridge - makes about 18 'buns'.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baby octopus with lemon and herbs

Whenever visitors to Wellington ask about Te Papa, there's only ever one thing we tell them to see - the colossal squid. This creature of the deep has become such a feature in our lives that I fear the day that it disintegrates altogether and we are allowed to look at other exhibits. But it has also engendered a great interest in squid of all sizes - including the ones you can eat.
To capitalise on a sudden resurgence in interest (prompted by some recent sea adventures), I came up with this almost-instant tapas-style octopus, which takes five minutes and looks a lot more complicated than it is. It's certainly a lot less complex than catching a colossal squid - but you'll have to go to Te Papa to see how they did that.


Baby octopus with lemon and herbs
It might seem a bit of a fiddly task, but I recommend cutting off the hood (which contains what is known in our household as 'the poo-ey bit') of the octopus before you start. It'll only take a minute and makes them much more pleasant to eat.

500g baby octopus, hoods removed and discarded
100ml freshly squeezed lemon juice (about two lemons' worth)
zest of two lemons
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
a handful of fresh herbs - coriander, dill, parsley, chervil

Fill a small bowl with cold water and ice cubes, and set aside.
Bring a pot of water to the boil. When it's boiling, add a good pinch of salt and the baby octopi. They will curl up and blanch pretty much immediately - as soon as they do, remove them with tongs and drop them into the iced water.
Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl and add the drained octopi. Stir well and season with salt and pepper, then serve. Serves four as a tapas-style appetiser.

Do you have a favourite food-related exhibit at your local museum?

Monday, March 09, 2015

Five great bakes for Good Bitches Baking

Are you a Good Bitch? I am. In fact, I'm one of many.

I'm not telling you this to show off, but to get you to join us in a kind of sweet revolutionary movement. Good Bitches Baking is an attempt to make the world a better place via the medium of cake and biscuits. It's been set up by two amazing women, Marie Fitzpatrick and Nicole Murray, who recognised the value of the little things (and cake) in tough times.


Since September, they've harnessed a miniature army of around 80 keen cooks in Wellington alone who bake for people in times of strife. Recipients here so far include hospices, refuges, City Missions, a soup kitchen, boarding houses and the Neo-Natal Trust.

If you're not a Good Bitch but you'd like to help, then you can find out more about Good Bitches Baking or visit the Good Bitches Baking GiveALittle page.

If you are a Good Bitch and you need ideas for easily made, easily transported, easily consumed home-style baking, then this list is designed to help. Here goes...

1. Big Fat Ginger Crunch
This is an excellent GBB bake, because the not-so-pretty edge pieces can find their ways into lunchboxes the next day. I use this Spicy Ginger Crunch recipe  most of the time, though Chelsea Winter's Oaty Ginger Crunch is pretty great too.


2. Wholesome Fruity Muffins
These super-popular muffins are a not as heavy as those bran bullets of old, but they're not pretend cakes, either. This recipe is vegan, but I've been making them recently with regular milk and two eggs instead of the banana.


3. Double Chocolate Beetroot Cakes
Having said all that, these are definitely cakes in muffin form - a big hit of antioxidant-rich beetroot, chocolate and a fluffy hat of cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes a big batch so there may be some left over for your at-home testers...


4. White Chocolate And Lemon Bars
I can only ever make this if I know I am giving it away immediately - otherwise I'd probably eat the tray in an afternoon, all by myself. I use this Lime And White Chocolate Bars recipe, but often switch out the lime for lemon, and add dried cranberries or apricots. SO good! This recipe is also great for steamy summer/autumn days, when slaving over a hot oven makes you feel bitchy (not in a good way).


5. Old-Fashioned Fruit Loaf
Alice Arndell has a fantastic old-fashioned fruit loaf recipe in her book 'Alice In Bakingland' - it makes two big loaves, freezes well and tastes great. I can't find a link to it online anywhere (you should buy her book, it's really useful for GBB weekends - the melt 'n mix banana cake is also a lifesaver) but this Juicy Fruit Loaf is always a winner.


Happy baking, everyone. In this case, charity really does begin at home!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Double peanut brownies

My mother used to say that the definition of willpower was eating one salted peanut. She was wrong.

At least, she was right, but I've got an update. The definition of willpower is having a bag of salted peanuts in your house that you ARE NOT OPENING until you have tried them in a recipe you dreamed up during a particularly dull conference call.

Then, the definition of willpower is eating just one piece of the results. Reader, my willpower is lacking. Try these and let me know how you get on...

Double Peanut Brownie Bars Photo/Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Double Peanut Brownies
In New Zealand, a peanut brownie is a crunchy cookie with peanuts inside it. Nice enough, but nothing to get excited about. By contrast, these are proper brownies, which is to say they are soft, slightly cakey and very moreish. They use two sorts of peanuts - ordinary blanched ones (which I can report are nowhere near as addictive as their roasted, salted cousins) - and the lovely, naughty salted ones. If you don't have the wherewithal to grind the peanuts, use ground almonds.

1 cup blanched, skinless peanuts
125g butter
3/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
5 Tbsp Dutch cocoa
2 free range eggs - fridge-cold is fine in this instance
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup roasted and salted peanuts

Heat the oven to 180C and line a small brownie tin (measuring about 25 x 20 or similar) with baking paper.
Grind the peanuts to a fine meal in a food processor - stop before they start turning into peanut butter!
Melt the butter over gentle heat, then add the sugar and cocoa. Stir over the heat for a minute, then remove and let cool for five minutes.
Add the eggs and beat well, then add the ground peanuts, salt and baking soda. Stir to mix, then tip in the roasted peanuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes - it should be slightly wobbly in the middle. Let cool in the tin, then slice into bars. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (hide them, they won't last long!).

Double Peanut Brownie Bars Photo/Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

After a bit of an absence, I'm joining in with my favourite blog challenge, We Should Cocoa. This month it's co-hosted by Katie at Recipe For Perfection - and the theme (you guessed it), is brownies..

Have a great weekend, everyone x


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Must-watch TV: The Katering Show

I don't watch much food TV, as a rule. In fact, I don't watch much TV at all (I've even given up Coronation St). But a new series is making me reconsider. It's The Katering Show - a sort of Kath and Kim meets The Office meets Annabel Langbein.


Australian comedians Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney have hit on a winning recipe for their shows, which parody "foodies" and all the gadgets, fads and Pinterest-worthy lifestyles they aspire to.

The Thermomix episode is a must-see for anyone who's ever wondered if their life really would be improved by a "German death machine" - sample line: 'It's the kind of thing you buy yourself because you've always wanted to join a cult but you don't have the energy for the group sex'. I showed it to a work colleague and he was practically weeping over his computer with delight.



If you've been feel guilty about your sugar intake, the I Quit Sugar episode will leave you with a warm glow...



Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to watch this one...



Happy viewing!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Simple acts of love

Every day of their married lives (or often enough for it to seem like it was every day) my father took my mother a cup of tea in bed in the morning. Such a small, simple thing and yet such a grand, declarative act. So much more than just a cup of tea.


The situation was never reversed, at least not as far as I know. Mum getting up to take Dad a cup of tea was as unthinkable as her smoking a cigar or mowing the lawns. Sometimes, in the weekends, I was allowed to get into bed with Mum and receive a cup of tea too. I still have the miniature Crown Lynn cup and saucer. The cup is teal blue, the saucer is cream with a teal pattern radiating out from the centre. The tea was proper tea, looseleaf, made in a teapot. Occasionally there would be a thin slice of white bread and butter to go with it. Such luxury. When my parents travelled they took a portable tea-making kit with them, a sort of element prong that could be plugged into a hotel bathroom shaver's plug. Thus fortified (and miraculously, never electrocuted), they would set out. 

From what my mother said, this was learned behaviour. My father's father had always started the day by taking his wife a cup of tea - so strange to think of that fearsome woman sleepily easing herself upright among soft pillows, stretching her hand out to receive a china cup and saucer - and so Dad assumed that this was what happened in all households. On reflection, I thought it did too. Sometimes, even now, when I'm half-asleep in the morning I hear the faint, far-off rumble of a boiling kettle, the tink-tink clink of cup on saucer. These sounds, even imagined, are the comforting noises of my childhood. They are a sign that the day is beginning and that all is right with the world. 

Some years later, I realise the importance of the act of making that cup of tea. Despite what Hallmark cards may tell us, roses and boxes of chocolates are not the glue that bonds us together. It is the small acts of love - the early morning cup of tea, the remembering to buy a certain sort of biscuit or putting an emergency beer in the freezer - that keep us together. Flowers and chocolates and grand gestures may be expected on Valentine's Day, but there are 364 other days in the year in which boiling the kettle is just as lovable.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone x

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Easy frypan frittata

There comes a time in everyone's life when they get that sinking feeling. In fact, particularly unlucky people may get it several times a week. It usually strikes on their way home from work, when they realise that they have forgotten to arrange anything for dinner.

Some people shake this off and simply order takeaways, go out to eat or become a sudden devotee of fasting. Others turn to their fridges, brush the cares of the day aside and get busy with whatever they can find.

Making a meal out of 'nothing' (a relative term, I know) is one of my greatest strengths. It should be on my CV. Instead, here's an example to inspire you the next time you're in the dreaded position of Not Knowing What To Have For Dinner.

Easy All In One Vegetarian Frittata Recipe And Image By Lucy Corry

Easy Frypan Frittata
This can be customised to suit your requirements and ingredients. It fits my criteria for an 'emergency' style dinner - we always have eggs, cheese and potatoes hanging around - AND it involves very little attention or washing up afterwards. It's also a good way to rehome leftovers.

6 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 peppers, cored and sliced
2 cups diced cooked potato (leftover roast potatoes are good here)
3/4 cup diced feta
two handfuls grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese
8 eggs
salt and pepper
fresh herbs, if available

Turn the oven to 200C. Heat three tablespoons of the oil in a heavy cast iron frying pan (that can go in the oven later). Add the onion and peppers and cook for five minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the potato and cook for another five minutes. Add any suitable fresh herbs if you have them.
Crack the eggs into a bowl and add the feta, stir lightly to mix. Add the remaining three tablespoons of oil to the pan, then tip in the egg and cheese mixture. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and season well with salt and pepper. Put in the waiting oven and cook for 20 minutes, until golden, puffy and set. Let sit for five minutes before slicing. Hey presto - dinner for four - with leftovers for lunch the next day if you're lucky. Bon appetit!

What's your current favourite emergency dinner?

Friday, February 06, 2015

Raw beetroot bliss balls

A dear friend of mine calls herself an alternative eater - wholefoods, no meat, no refined sugar, the whole kit and kaboodle. While that makes her a rather challenging dinner guest, she's also one of the most appreciative people a cook could hope to create for. After I got over feeling daunted by her request for a birthday cake last weekend - especially one that could withstand a car journey and an afternoon in the sun - I had a burst of inspiration and these pretty-in-pink bliss balls were the result. 


Raw beetroot bliss balls - for Catherine
You don't have to be an alternative eater to love these. In fact, you don't even have to like beetroot. Soaking the almonds makes them easier to whizz up.

1 cup loosely packed grated beetroot
1 cup dates
1 /2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup roughly chopped best quality dark chocolate or cacao nibs, optional
1/2 cup desiccated coconut, plus about 3/4 cup for rolling
Put the dates and almonds in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain.
Tip the beetroot into a food processor and whiz until finely chopped. Add the drained dates and almonds, the chocolate (if using) and the 1/2 cup measure of coconut. Whizz until it clumps together.
Put the second measure of coconut into a shallow bowl. Form teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls, then roll in the coconut. Store in the fridge. Makes around 36 small balls.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Iceberg lettuce with spicy buttermilk dressing

It's hot. Not to hot to eat, but definitely too hot to cook. Last night I made the mistake of turning the oven on and nearly had a heat-related meltdown while cooking dinner, despite being fresh from a swim in the school pool and still being in my togs. If you're basking in similar temperatures at the moment (as I write, it's 6am and already 18C), then I suggest you forgo the oven and the stove for a dish that requires a bit of standing in front of the open fridge.

Iceberg Lettuce With Spicy Buttermilk Dressing Photo/Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Iceberg lettuce with spicy buttermilk dressing and pickled onions
This is a homage to something on the menu at Wellington restaurant Charley Noble - I've become slightly obsessed with it and when I first worked out how to copy it we ate a different version for four nights in a row. If you can't get hold of iceberg lettuce, try Little Gems.

1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 iceberg lettuce (or two Little Gems), washed and kept whole,
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, crushed to a pulp with 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise (preferably home made, otherwise, try Best Foods')
1/4 cup plain yoghurt
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce

Put the onion and red wine vinegar in a small bowl, cover and set aside while you get everything else ready (this can be done in advance).

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a screwtop jar with a lid and shake well. Taste - add more hot sauce, lemon juice or salt as necessary. This can also be done in advance and stored in the fridge.

To serve, put the whole lettuce on a serving platter. Cut out the hard central stem, then cut through the middle into eight wedges - like you're cutting a cake. Drain the onions and scatter over the middle, then drizzle about half the dressing over the lettuce. Any remainder dressing can be stored successfully in the fridge for up to three days.

What's your go-to hot weather dish?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Treat me: Easy coffee cake with coffee cream icing

Did you give up coffee, sugar and cake on January 1? Nah, me neither. If you did, look away now. Because here comes a lush coffee cake - that is, a cake with coffee in it, not just a cake to have with coffee - with a thick head of creamy coffee icing.

Simple Coffee Cake With Coffee Frosting Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Coffee Cake With Coffee Cream Icing
Just like this time last year, we are playing host to some of Wellington's finest tradesmen. (Note to self: buying an old house is a dumb idea.) We're almost old mates by now, so on Fridays I turn on a proper morning tea for them to knock back with their sandwiches at 10am. This cake vanished in seconds and one of them came inside with the empty plate to say "that was choiiiiiice!" I hope I haven't raised the bar too high for next week.

1 1/2 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup rice bran oil
pinch of salt
1 cup full-fat Greek yoghurt
2 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water
2 cups self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 24cm cake tin.
Put the sugar and eggs in a food processor (or a large bowl) and whizz or beat with a wooden spoon until well mixed and slightly fluffy. Add the oil, salt, yoghurt, coffee and flour and pulse (or stir) until smooth.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes then turn out of the tin and let cool completely on a rack. Cover with coffee cream icing as below, sprinkle over some vanilla grounds or finely grated dark chocolate, and serve.

For the coffee cream icing: Take 50g soft unsalted butter, 100g room temperature cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp hot water, and 1 cup icing sugar. Whizz in the rinsed-out processor (or beat furiously in the rinsed out bowl). Try not to eat it all before it goes on the cake.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Hope the new year has been kind so far...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sparking berry brandy cocktails

Someone asked me the other day what has been my greatest achievement of 2014. In the absence of anything else, I've finally decided that keeping going this year has been achievement enough.  Thank you dear readers for your continued support. May 2015 be full of 'great achievements' (whatever you think they are) for all of us.

In the meantime, here's a small, recent achievement - summer in a glass. Think of this as the Kiwi Pimm's...

Easy Recipe For Berry Brandy Champagne Cocktails Recipe And Photo By Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid 2014

Sparking berry brandy cocktails
This is a good way to turn a bottle of Lindauer into something more special. The first person I served it to commented that 'the strawberries hide the taste of the alcohol'. I didn't have the heart to tell him about the brandy...

2 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp icing sugar
2/3 cup sliced strawberries
1 bottle of your best sparkling wine

Put the brandy and icing sugar in a small bowl and mix well. Add the strawberries and stir. Set aside (this can be done several hours in advance if you like). To serve, divide this mixture between six champagne flutes and top with sparkling wine.

Happy New Year, everyone. See you in 2015.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Five last-minute festive fixes

At this stage in proceedings - with less than 36 hours to go until C-Day - there's not much point in sharing complicated Christmas recipes that involve harried phone calls to the butcher, baker or chocolate candlestick maker. If you're the sort of person who likes adding culinary stress to your festive preparations, I figure you will have planned it out already.

Instead, here are five fast and easy fixes for the person who has everything except ideas for last-minute things to eat and to give over Christmas, using some of the excellent products available via Alison's Pantry.


1. The emergency present
I've already tried this one out and it went down an absolute treat. Scoop a handful of Alison's Pantry Mega Mix - macadamias, hazelnuts, dried cherries, jumbo raisins, fudge pieces, cranberries and almonds covered in yoghurt, milk or dark chocolate - into a cellophane bag. Add a sprinkle of edible glitter, tie on a ribbon and label 'Reindeer Poo'. Kids love it, adults look mildly appalled (until they hit a choc-covered macadamia).


2.The spruced-up salad
This is for everyone who has to turn up with a salad on Christmas Day - or at any festive gathering - especially those who are low on energy, inspiration, aptitude or all three.
For six servings: Take one and a half bags of baby salad greens - baby spinach, rocket, mesclun - and sprinkle over two-thirds of a cup of Alison's Pantry Savoury Sprinkle (a blend of roasted chickpeas, karengo, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds and goji berries. Drizzle with three tablespoons of vinaigrette and serve. Everyone will think you're a genius.


3. The tropical breakfast
In lieu of any other suggestions (or requests dressed as suggestions), this is what we are having as part of our breakfast spread on Christmas Day, along with some fizz (elderflower kombucha and some champagne) and some kind of yet-to-be-determined baked good. Someone will have brought me a cup of tea in bed first, of course. Or, they will have if they know what's good for them. Anyway - this easy fruit salad is a good fallback if you miss out on berries and cherries.
For four-six servings: Take one cup of Alison's Pantry Tropical Fruits mix (dried star fruit, coconut chunks, papaya, mango, peach and cantaloupe) and put in a large bowl. Add 1/3 cup boiling water and squeeze over an orange. Leave to stand for four hours (or overnight), then add a tin of drained lychees, half a fresh pineapple (diced) and a few finely shredded mint leaves. Stir gently and serve with some good Greek yoghurt or whipped coconut cream


4. The Santa snack
I have heard that Santa wants a Garage Project beer and some crisps on Wednesday night but I'm planning to leave him a pile of Alison's Pantry Raspberry and Cacao Nougat and a glass of icy cold dessert wine. This nougat is soft, chewy and not too sweet - just the right pick-me-up after a night wrapping presents.


5. The cook's perk
The thing about cooking at Christmas is that the house is often full of food, but there's nothing to eat Right Now. Let me introduce you to my new addiction - Alison's Pantry Horopito Cashews. I'm not a savoury snack person as a rule; crisps don't thrill me and I'm not a fan of those orange-dusted polystyrene things either, but these nuts are something else. Horopito, also called bush pepper, is a native New Zealand herb with a fiery kick. It has all sorts of health-giving properties, which must explain why I can't get enough of these nuts. Buy yourself a secret stash of these to help keep you going in the days ahead.

* Disclosure: Alison's Pantry sent me a selection of products to use in this blog post - I am happy to recommend the ones mentioned here.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...