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.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Random recipe: Tofu mayonnaise

You know what gets me about fancy houses in interiors magazines? They never, ever, have anything stuck to their fridges. Oh, sure, there might be some artful magnetic chalkboard,  or a designer decal, but there are never any library book notices, or 'art' or torn-out recipes. They are neat, tidy - and soulless.

By contrast, the outside of my fridge is extremely busy (and a direct reflection of the chaos inside). Magnetic newspaper headlines, school notices, drawings, business cards for builders and a motley collection of recipes ripped from newspapers or magazines. I was just about to add another one to the pile last week when I remembered this month's Random Recipes, which celebrates those torn-out clippings. So instead of consigning the recipe to the fridge door, where it would probably be lost forever, I made it that night instead. I should really do this more often.

Easy Vegan Tofu Mayo Recipe

Tofu Mayonnaise
I knew Aaron Brunet would win Masterchef in 2013 - right from the start he had that look about him. This mayonnaise recipe was from a recent newspaper column he wrote about the pleasures of eating with your hands - in which he endorsed plate-licking. Now, I had a flatmate once who licked her plate after eating and I don't ever want to see that again, but his recipes are definitely finger-lickin' good. Aaron uses this mayo in a chicken caesar-ish wrap - I used in our Friday night fishburgers and to lie beneath some hot smoked salmon on crackers. I've now lost the clipping somewhere, but this is the recipe from memory (ish). It's dead easy, good for you and adding some fresh herbs gets rid of any tofu flavour. You should try it.

300g block silken tofu
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp Kikkoman soy sauce
salt and pepper
½ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
Fresh herbs - finely chopped parsley, chives, basil (optional)

Put all ingredients, except the herbs, in a blender and blitz until smooth (I use a stick blender and a jar). Taste for seasoning and sharpness - add more salt or lemon juice as desired. If you're planning to use it all immediately, add the herbs and blitz again. Otherwise, this keeps in the fridge for a week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Really good peanut salad dressing

I'm not sure it's the sort of thing Oprah writes in her gratitude journals, but every day I thank my stars that no one in my household has a nut allergy. Quite apart from the threat of anaphylaxis, I can't imagine life without peanut butter. Actually, I can barely imagine a day without it. 

Peanut butter - especially proper peanut butter, like the excellent varieties springing up everywhere in New Zealand now - is a major food group in my house. Peanut butter and banana on toast is my hurried breakfast (and sometimes, lunch) of choice. It's a handy tahini replacement in homemade hummus, works well in a marinade and is a major baking ingredient. It's also a nifty addition to a salad dressing to perk up broccolini and other assorted bits and pieces. Add this to your weeknight repertoire for those nights when peanut butter and crackers seem like the only viable dinner option.
 

Really good peanut salad dressing
This is child's play to make and it's really useful. I think it's good with steamed broccolini, but you could add all sorts of crunchy greens and some cooked chicken or tofu for a very family-friendly dinner. 

1 clove garlic, crushed with 1/2 tsp flaky salt
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp good quality peanut butter
1/2 cup good quality peanut oil

Put all ingredients in a screwtop jar, attach the lid and shake well until emulsified. Makes about 1 cup - easily enough for a substantial salad for 4-6 people - and stores well in the fridge.

If you prefer your peanut butter treats to be a little more decadent, then this peanut butter pie should fit the bill (though you won't be fitting much after eating it). 

*My clever friends at Kiwi Mummy Blogs have teamed up with the nice people at Pic's Really Good Peanut Butter to collate some Really Good peanut butter recipes. You can get more peanut butter inspo here.*

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chilli chocolate syrup + a chilli chocolate martini

It's about this time of year that I start to feel slightly panicked and wish I could run away to some kind of closed community where they don't celebrate Christmas, or have jobs, or blogs or Things To Worry About. Do you feel like that too?

The internet is the worst place to be if you're in that kind of mood, because CHRISTMAS is around every turn. Don't, whatever you do, venture on to Pinterest, or you'll fall into a deep depression at the realisation that you've failed dismally as a mother/partner/sibling/friend/member of society because you haven't planned your themed decorations, hand-stitched jaunty bunting or made 20 sets of Frozen-themed figurines of every kid in your child's class from air-dried clay. And you've still got to bake for the school gala, sort your invoices, locate the spare car key and send your dear friend her birthday present, now three months overdue (sorry Claire!). 

Fear not, friends, because I have a remedy to lift you to a higher place. It's chocolate chilli syrup - and if pouring it over cake or ice cream doesn't cheer you up, then adding it to a martini certainly will. Here's how.

Chocolate-Chilli-Syrup-Recipe

Chocolate chilli syrup
If you're stuck for easy DIY Christmas gifts, this should go on the list. It takes minutes, doesn't cost much and is extremely simple. It's my offering for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the lovely Shaheen of Allotment2Kitchen. No surprises in guessing this month's guest ingredient - it's chilli.

1 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
3 Tbsp good quality cocoa powder
1 tsp chilli flakes

Stir the sugar and cocoa together in a small pot, then add the water and mix well. Bring to the boil and let simmer for five minutes, then remove from heat. Stir in the chilli and let cool to room temperature. Strain through a fine sieve into a jar or bottle and cover tightly. Store in the fridge.

Choc-Chilli-Martini-Easy-Recipe

Chocolate chilli martini
Martini purists, look away now - this is very much my desperate housewife interpretation.

60ml ice cold vodka
30ml vermouth
30ml chilli chocolate syrup
ice

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (confession: I use a jam jar) and shake well. Strain into a martini glass (or two, if you're generous).

 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Be my guest: Homegrown Kitchen

It takes a special sort of person to make chocolate and chickpeas sound like natural partners. Nicola Galloway - chef, author, gardener, mother and general all-round good egg - is that person.

Nicola's lovely blog, Homegrown Kitchen, has just turned two. Here's how - and why - she manages to fit writing it into a very full life.

What's Homegrown Kitchen about?
Seasonal & wholesome recipes and the occasional homemade craft. I think the word 'homegrown' encompasses many things, partly it is about cooking with food we grow in our garden, but it is also about keeping things simple, eating local where possible, making food from scratch, getting back to the basics.

When did you start it? Why?
Almost exactly two years ago. I already had a website with recipes from my cookbook, Feeding Little Tummies, and other seasonal recipes but it didn't have much energy or rhythm to it. I was wondering how to make it more interactive and around the same time was introduced to food blogging. It was quite a new thing in New Zealand at the time and it has taken a while for people to catch on. However, I really like the interaction and regularity blogging adds to my week and my writing and photography skills have improved immensely.

What's your day job? What else do you do?
I am a food writer for several magazines, and author, and I run cooking workshops in Nelson and around New Zealand. I am also a Mum to two young children so most days I am juggling work and family life.

30-minute pad thai (photo: Nicola Galloway/Homegrown Kitchen)
Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
I am a trained chef [dip, professional cookery 1999]. I travelled and worked as a chef for about five years before changing direction into food writing and running cooking workshops.

Who's your food hero?
My Nana taught me to cook and will always be my no.1 food hero. I also love Nigel Slater's rustic cooking style, and Sandor Elli Katz and Sally Fallon give me regular inspiration from their exceptionally researched and thorough cookbooks.

Describe your kitchen in three words.
Rustic, wooden, the heart of our home.

Salted caramel coconut flan (Photo: Nicola Galloway/Homegrown Kitchen)
Who do you cook for? 
My family of four (husband and two young children) and anyone who visits, there is always food going on around here. As I said, our kitchen is the heart of our home, it is a large open plan kitchen / dining room that spills out into a sunny conservatory. I am often recipe testing and have extra food that needs to be eaten if friends drop around.

Masterchef and TV food shows - hot or not?
Not for me, I don't have a lot of spare time to watch TV. But if they increase the interest of home cooking it has to be a good thing for those who do watch them.

What's the last cookbook you bought?
The Unbakery Cookbook by Megan May - absolutely brilliant if you want to learn more about raw food.
Cauliflower crust pizza (Photo: Nicola Galloway)
What has been the best meal you've ever eaten?
Oh gosh that is a hard one... let me think. We had some pretty memorable meals on our trip to Cuba last year. I remember one cooked by 'the Aunties' - my Mum is married to a Cuban and lives in Havana - it was very simple, beans and rice with a special goat curry [although not spicy], and large platter of the creamiest avocados I have ever eaten dressed with lime and olive oil.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
Of course just talking about Cuba one of them would have to be from our trip - Salted Caramel Coconut Flan, also 30-Minute Pad Thai + Behind the Scenes and Yogurt & Honey Panna Cotta w/ Roasted Strawberries.

Tell us about another blog you love.
My Darling Lemon Thyme by Emma Galloway - one of the first food blogs I started reading. I am asked often if we are related and recently found out we are distant cousins but have never met (yet!)
Roasted strawberries with yoghurt and honey panna cotta (Photo: Nicola Galloway)
What's for dinner tonight?
Lentil dahl with yogurt sesame flatbreads - I learned the recipe from a Pakistani woman about 12 years ago and it is still my favourite dahl recipe. I must share it on the blog one day.

Would you like to be my guest? Drop me a line...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pumpkin, prune and chocolate bars

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

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


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

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

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

Have a great week, everyone x

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homemade chocolate milk

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

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

Homemade Chocolate Milk Recipe

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

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

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

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Double chocolate beetroot cakes

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

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

Double Chocolate Beetroot Cakes With Cream Cheese And Honey Frosting

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

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

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

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

What's your favourite 'healthy' baking treat?

Easy Beetroot And Chocolate Cakes


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good Things: September 2014

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

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

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

Fresh Asparagus Photo

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

Food Memoir The Colour Of Food By Anne Else

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

What have you been up to this month?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pappardelle with tuna and cream

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

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

Pappardelle Pasta With Lemon And Cream

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

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

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



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