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




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Random recipe: Orange and lamb tagine

Once upon a time I used to scour charity shops and school fairs for cookbook gems, hoping to find a first edition Mrs Beeton tucked among the multiple copies of Alison Holst's Microwave Menus. While that never happened, I did come across plenty of great finds - The Silver Palate cookbooks, pristine paperback Elizabeth Davids, a Jill Dupleix that I'd always wanted and once - a brand new copy of How To Eat for 50p - among others.


But a year or so ago I realised I was in danger of being swamped by these dusty finds; that I didn't really need to pick up every half-decent cookbook I found and that it would be perfectly safe for someone else to buy. Then I met a woman who told me that one of the largest charity shops in Wellington gets so many books donated to it that twice a year they load up a container and take it to the tip. No, not the recycling depot, the tip. The charity can't afford to send them overseas, so they dump them. Now - there are all sorts of issues here, not least being - why don't they give them away - but it made me reconsider what I do with my own collection. I've recently decided that there are lots of books that, while I don't use them anymore, deserve better homes than being stuck in a damp charity shop while waiting to be bulldozed into landfill. I've selected both the books and their recipients carefully and it was such fun watching their reactions that I'm planning to do it again in a few months' time.

The thing is though, that all this largesse has meant that I had very few books to choose from for this month's Random Recipe challenge. The instructions from Dom at Belleau Kitchen were to select a book from the throw-out pile you're supposed to compile when spring/autumn cleaning - and in truth, I had only one. But the results were so convincing that I'm going to have to keep it!


A few years ago you couldn't move for being offered something made out of Jo Seagar's 'You Shouldn't Have Gone To So Much Trouble, Darling'. This book, which features the author up to her pearl-strewn neck in a bubble bath, was first published in 1997, then a reprinted and updated version came out 10 years later. I have the original version, which I picked up from a charity shop for $2. I bought it out of nostalgia, more than anything. It was badly waterstained and I didn't expect to ever use it, but the thing that swung it for me was the inscription on the front to the previous owner, 'Anna' - ' with much love from Momma and Poppa'. Gulp.

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Lamb and Orange Tagine
Anna obviously used it her copy of 'You Shouldn't Have...' a lot - the book fell open at the recipe for lamb tagine, which has 'Excellent!' scrawled across the top in blue biro. It turns out Anna was right - though I played around a bit with Jo's original recipe to make it even more 'excellent' - or at least, a little lighter and not as sweet. I've annotated the book accordingly, all ready for its next owner.

500g lamb shoulder, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2cm ginger, grated
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 medium carrots, washed, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 cup vegetable stock
3 large mandarins or 2 oranges, washed and roughly chopped, (including the skin)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup prunes, cut in half
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
Handful of coriander leaves, roughy chopped

Heat the oven to 160C.
Put the olive oil in a large, cast iron casserole and set over medium heat. Tip in the lamb, onion, garlic and ginger and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently, then add the carrots and spices. Cook for another minute, then add the mandarins or oranges and the vegetable stock. Stir well, then cover tightly and bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the lamb is very tender. Check it a couple of times to make sure it isn't drying out - add a little water if it seems dry.
Add the prunes and stir well. At this point you can let the tagine cool completely, then refrigerate and reheat the next day. If you're planning to eat it now, return it to the oven after adding the prunes and let cook for another 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and coriander just before serving with rice, couscous or flatbreads. Serves four.

Are you a charity shop cookbook buyer?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Treat me: Spanish Hot Chocolate

Winter is coming, I can feel it in my bones. There's only a month until the Shortest Day (after which winter really starts in this part of the world) and even though it's been bright and sunny, there's no mistaking that chill in the air.

That means porridge is back on the breakfast menu and so - occasionally - are delicate demi-tasses of my very own homemade Spanish hot chocolate. It's thick, velvety and just the thing to cheer you up on a grey morning. Want some?


Spanish Hot Chocolate
Spanish hot chocolate is like nothing else on earth. It's rich, thick and has a chocolate hit strong enough to sustain you until aperitivo hour. I've finally clocked how to make it at home - not quite as much fun as drinking it in Spain, but infinitely more achievable at the moment.
For best results, use the best cocoa powder and chocolate you can find. This makes enough for a good-sized jar - instructions follow on how to take it from powder to liquid heaven.

1 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup caster sugar - increase this to 1/2 a cup if you like things very sweet
6 Tbsp cornflour
200g dark chocolate, smashed into little bits

Put all ingredients into a food processor and whiz until it forms a fine powder. Alternatively, sift the cocoa, caster sugar and cornflour into a small bowl, then stir in the finely chopped chocolate. Transfer to a screwtop jar.

To make two small servings:  Mix 1/3 cup (6 Tbsp) of the chocolate mixture with 1/2 cup milk of your choice (not low fat milk, ok?) in a small saucepan. Heat, stirring all the time, until it thickens, then add 1 1/2 cups milk and stir frantically. Keep cooking over low heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture is thick and velvety. Divide between two cups. Follow with a brandy and a cigar, then go to work.

Have a great week, everyone x

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Just add water soup + a giveaway!

When we came home from our epic Euro adventures last year there was one thing I was dying to do: drink water out of the tap. Because cocktails and jasmine tea and magnums of rose are all very well, but there comes a time when all you want to do is turn the tap on and have delicious, unpolluted, H2O come gushing out.


New Zealand isn't immune from the cult of the plastic water bottle, of course, but we are lucky that we can drink the good stuff straight from the tap (even though many local councils advise people to run the water for a bit first thing in the morning to flush out any trace metals that might have built up overnight, which is a bit worrying!) I'm sure this is one of the reasons why our coffee is so good - an old flatmate of mine who was a coffee roaster was meticulous about water quality and insisted on using filtered water in his espresso machine.

While we're used to taking good quality water for granted, I am really happy to be able to support a UK-based campaign run by BRITA and Delicious magazine that's hoping to find some great recipes using filtered water. That might sound a bit 'Emperor's New Clothes', but good water is an integral ingredient to so many things (not to mention the soup below). You can find out a bit more about the Better With BRITA competition here - don't forget to check out the current entries to see who you're up against. The three winners will be taken on a VIP trip to The Big Feastival in London and get the chance to sell their wares (and show off in general).

If you'd like to improve your drinking water quality, BRITA have given me one of their exceptionally pretty Marella Water Jugs (RRP £33) to give away to a lucky reader. You can enter via the Rafflecopter wotsit below. Unfortunately this giveaway - like the Better with BRITA competition - is only open to UK residents, but I have a consolation prize for everyone else - the secret to making 'just add water' soup.

Frugal Chicken Soup

Just Add Water Soup
In the colder months we follow the happy ritual of having a roast chicken on Sunday nights, not least because it means we have two cheering lunchboxes of leftovers to brighten Mondays. I used to feel guilty about throwing away the carcass instead of making stock, until I twigged that I could shortcut the process and make hands-free chicken soup instead. Here's how...

1 x chicken carcass (or as many as you may have!)
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 onions or leeks, peeled or washed, as appropriate, finely sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/4 bunch celery, including leaves, roughly chopped
fresh herbs - parsley, thyme, sage
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
water
salt and pepper
olive oil
extras: tinned beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed; quinoa or buckwheat; more herbs

Start by putting the chicken carcass in a large pot. Tuck in the vegetables around it and barely with pure, filtered tap water. Cover, set over medium heat and bring to a gentle simmer. Let bubble away for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and extract the chicken bones and any bits of skin or fat. The meat should fall from the bones (and there will be a surprising amount of it). Return to the heat and add in any of the extras. If adding grains, add them to the pot and bring the soup to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender. Taste for seasoning - it will need a good amount of salt. Serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of olive oil. Makes 4-6 servings.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Given the frugal nature of this simple soup I think it's a fine contender for this month's Credit Crunch Munch, a blog event devoted to budget-friendly food created by - Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours. This month it's being hosted by Gingey Bites - check out her list of frugal and delicious meals.

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



Friday, May 09, 2014

Treat me: Fairtrade choc banana cake

This week two extremely important women in the world of food visited Wellington. One attracted loads of attention while she filmed an advertisement for Whittakers chocolate; the other could have walked down Lambton Quay without attracting a second glance from anyone.

I'm not saying Nigella Lawson's Wellington sojourn didn't deserve all the fuss, but it's a shame that the equally gorgeous Rose Boatemaa Mensah wasn't as feted. Rose was in town as part of Fairtrade Fortnight - as well as being a teacher she is a cocoa farmer in Ghana. Some of the beans grown by Rose and her family end up at Whittakers, where they are turned into my favourite chocolate (and the husks even end up on our garden).


I didn't get to catch up with Rose (or Nigella) this week, but to celebrate all things Fairtrade I've whipped up this utterly lovely cake. It combines the two Fairtrade things we eat most in this house - chocolate and All Good Bananas. It's even inspired by a Nigella recipe - how circular is that?


Fairtrade Chocolate Banana Cake
If you can manage not to gobble this the minute it comes out of the oven, glistening with nuggets of melting chocolate, then it keeps really well. And I'm sure your mum would love it for Mother's Day (that's this Sunday, in case you'd forgotten).

400g ripe bananas (peeled weight) - about 3 large ones
250g ground almonds
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
grated zest of two lemons
1 tsp baking powder
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
Put the bananas in a food processor and whiz until pureed. Add all the other ingredients, except the chocolate and whiz again until well mixed. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter the chocolate on top.
Bake for 35-45 minutes - it will be damp and sticky but a toothpick plunged in should come out cleanly. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, then turn out to cool on a rack.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Thursday, May 08, 2014

How to make the perfect viniagrette

Q: Why did the tomato blush?
A: Because it saw the salad dressing.

I've always loved that joke, partly because it's about the only punchline that I can remember. But all jokes aside, some people should blush with embarrassment at their salad dressings. Paul Newman, I'm looking at you. Whoever makes the salad dressings at several Wellington restaurants that I've visited recently should also take a good look at themselves.

How To Make Vinaigrette

The thing is, you don’t need to be a super chef to make a good salad dressing, but plenty of people do a great job of making bad ones. If in doubt, remember that condensed milk is best saved for baking and that no amount of secret herbs and spices will disguise cheap oil and nasty vinegar. A lot of people ask me how to make a basic vinaigrette (that's vin-AY-gret, not vinegar-ette - which sounds like the sort of perfume worn by sour little French women) so I've devised this handy guide. Here's how...

Vinaigrette Easy Recipe

How To Make Vinaigrette
Jamie Oliver once put out a special sort of gadget for making salad dressings but all you need  is a clean and empty jam jar, or a small bowl and a fork.
You can vary the acid and the oil to suit your preferences, your pantry supplies and what you're going to use the vinaigrette for. I most often use lemon juice and apple cider or red wine vinegar with extra virgin olive oil. A good pinch of cumin seeds can be a good addition, or finely fresh herbs. If you're using herbs, the vinaigrette is best used that day. Otherwise it will happily keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Having a jar of vinaigrette in the fridge makes that after-work dinner dash much easier. Even though it only takes minutes to make, knowing you can pull some salad leaves out of a bag (or the garden) and dress them with something you've prepared earlier makes dinner time seem less daunting. I also use vinaigrette on steamed beans and carrots, shredded beetroot and new potatoes.

First, peel a clove of plump, juicy garlic and put it on a chopping board with a good pinch of salt. Using the blade of a knife, crush the clove with the salt to form a smooth paste. Scrape this off the chopping board and put it in a clean, dry jam jar (or a small bowl).
Add a teaspoon of honey (or brown sugar) and a teaspoon of mustard (Dijon for preference, English for wow factor).
Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar/lemon juice and six tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, then screw the lid on the jar and give it a good shake. Taste it for seasoning and sharpness - does it need more salt? more oil? more vinegar? a pinch of sugar to balance the flavours? - before using.

What's your favourite salad dressing?

Friday, May 02, 2014

Treat me: Double ginger apricot balls

I know what you're thinking: 'Please, no, not another raw energy/bliss ball recipe. Save me, please!'
While it's true that the world probably doesn't need another set of instructions on how to pulverise dried fruit and nuts into a lunchbox-friendly treat, I think this one - my latest flavour combo - is worth sharing.

Apricot And Ginger Bliss Balls

Double ginger apricot balls
Don't even think about making these with those flabby, flavourless dried apricots - you want the really tangy, chewy, intensely apricot-y ones. If you don't have crystallised ginger, the stem stuff would work well here too. And if you really want to push the boat out, try dipping these in white chocolate instead of coconut...

150g dried apricots, cut in half with scissors
150g raisins
50g crystallised ginger
50g walnuts or almonds
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp orange blossom water
60g (3/4 cup) fine desiccated coconut

Put everything except the coconut in a food processor and whiz until it forms a lump. Put the coconut in a bowl. Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture, roll into balls and then roll these in the coconut. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Makes about 20.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Good Things: April 2014

T. S Eliot was wrong. April is not the cruellest month - at least not in the southern hemisphere, where it means a slew of public holidays, Easter and settled autumn sunshine. April is all about chocolate and hot cross buns and house guests and 'is it drinks o'clock yet?'. At least, that's how it was at our place.


First, the chocolate. As well as the gorgeous gilded bunnies I made with my pal Agnes (I was allowed to do the gilding, she did everything else), the single best Easter chocolate that passed my lips was a dark chocolate bunny filled with cinnamon-infused salted caramel from my local chocolatier, Bohemien Chocolates. I ate it in about three bites, then lay on the sofa in a state of complete satisfaction.


I made two huge batches of hot cross buns - the ones pictured above are made to the Little & Friday hot cross bun recipe, though I found the recipe in the book itself to be rather counter-intuitive and fiddled with it a bit to be sure it would work. I've found this to be true of several Little & Friday recipes and I think it's more to do with editing than anything else. But it's not very helpful to first-time bakers, is it? Anyway, these were good, but pretty heavy going to eat. I made a mega-batch of the Dan Lepard spiced stout buns the next day and they were much better. A little fiddlier to make, sure, but with better flavours and a much lighter texture.

As for the houseguests - they were of the very best kind. They performed magic tricks, provided high quality childcare, filled the fridge with exciting foodstuffs and good wine and cooked lovely dinners. The house hasn't been quite the same since.


Instead, I've been cheering myself up with this - quite possibly the BEST peanut butter I've ever tasted. I didn't think anything could top Pic's Peanut Butter (the one with a poem written inside the label, if you can ever soak it off in one piece), but Fix and Fogg Peanut Butter is incredible. The super crunchy is so crunchy you need to spread it in a thick, chunky layer. Essentially, it's peanut butter made for eating out of the jar. I am addicted. If this keeps up the only thing keeping me from the debtor's prison will be that I'll be too wide to fit through the doors...

What helped you get through April?


Monday, April 28, 2014

Smoked salmon rosti canapes

Do you know what I remember most about university? The jobs I did in between lectures. I cleaned houses, made coffee, waited tables, worked at functions, handed out flyers, recorded weather forecasts, washed dishes and occasionally looked after children. I'd like to think all of these things stood me in good stead for life after university, even if they aren't quite as useful when it comes to playing Trivial Pursuit.


The best gig of all was working at functions. All you had to do was turn up looking presentable, carry food and drink around for a few hours, then with any luck you'd get to eat and drink the leftovers with your fellow waitstaff - and still go home with a wad of cash in your pocket. Sure, there were pitfalls but for the most part it was a great insight into corporate life. It also taught me that if you're at any kind of function where canapes are on offer, you need to a) be especially charming to the waitstaff and b) to stand by the kitchen door if you're really hungry, because then you've got first pickings.

Easy Smoked Salmon Canapes Photo And Recipe: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

I don't go in for canapes much when we're entertaining at home, but when Regal Salmon asked me to create a recipe using their new Artisan Smoked Salmon, I knew exactly what I wanted to make. A really good canape needs to have bold flavours, eye appeal and interesting textures (the culinary equivalents of wit, good looks and charm) if you're going to remember it the next day. These little morsels fit the bill nicely - and they won't crumble down your front.

Salmon Rosti Canapes Gluten Free

Smoked salmon rosti canapes
Essentially, this is posh fish and chips in canape form. The crispy, crunchy potato strands are the chips, the silky salmon is the fish, and the lemon-spiked creme fraiche dressing is like a fancy tartare sauce. The great thing about these canapes is that you can do all the prep in advance, leaving you plenty of time to apply your face and have a pre-cocktail party cocktail before your guests arrive. Cheers!

600g (4-5 medium) floury potatoes, peeled
4 Tbsp olive oil
flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
180g (3/4 cup) creme fraiche
finely grated zest of two lemons and the juice of one of them
3 Tbsp capers, finely chopped
a handful of fresh fennel fronds or dill
250g best quality smoked salmon

Heat the oven to 200C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Grate the potatoes - use the fine grating disc in a food processor, if you have one - then tip them into a sieve set over the sink to drain. Press as much liquid out of the potatoes as possible, then wrap them in a clean teatowel and wring to extract as much moisture as you can. Tip the potatoes into a bowl and stir through the olive oil and salt and pepper until well mixed.
Using your fingers, take small amounts of the shredded potato mixture and place on the prepared trays, as if you were forming little nests. Season again with salt and pepper, then put in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crisp. Remove to a rack to cool.
In the meantime, mix the creme fraiche with the lemon zest, capers and a few finely chopped fennel fronds or dill leaves. Squeeze in a bit of lemon juice to taste.
To assemble the canapes, top each potato rosti with a piece of smoked salmon, a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of fennel. This makes about 40 canapes, which are great washed down with a glass of well-chilled bubbles. With any luck, you'll even have some left for your guests...

If you love smoked salmon but canapes sound a bit formal, this smoked salmon and wasabi pate is a more interactive (but no less delicious) way to eat it.

* This post was created with the assistance of Regal Artisan Salmon, but all opinions (and the recipes) are my own.*
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