Monday, May 30, 2011

Escapism - Christmas day

Sophie Dahl is another of my favourite cooks.  Odd to think of her as a cook I know, but what I like most about her show is that she mixes poetry and stories with rustic and mouth watering recipes.  Each episode is classified into moods or themes.  Melancholy, celebratory, nostalgia, selfish, romance and finally escapism.  For me, food is my comfort and whatever I eat has emotional ties.  Whether it be memories of childhood, traveling or just the want to be part of another culture for a day.

So now when winter is almost about to set in, I'm escaping to Christmas day with this effortless trifle...and eating it selfishly out of my own little glass.

Berry and white chocolate custard trifles
Makes 6 individual trifles.


2 c frozen raspberries or boysenberries
10 Sponge finger biscuits
100mls Berry liqueur (I used creme a la Frasise des Boise available from Bel Mondo, Tauranga)
1/2 c homemade or bought berry jam, warmed to slightly runny consistency
White chocolate, to make flakes
500mls custard, homemade or bought
500mls cream, whipped

First put the frozen berries into a small saucepan with a 100mls water and simmer gently until berries are softened.  Be careful not to cook them to a pulp.  Cool.
Pour liqueur and berry liquid into a bowl and add sponge finger biscuits, dipping to soak up the liquids.  Don't leave them in the liquid for too long unless you want super boozy trifles...which I seem to be very good at!
Layer the glasses with sponge finger biscuits, then a tablespoon of warmed jam, berries and custard.  Grate of flake chocolate and layer over the custard.  Layer in that order again if the glass allows finishing with whipped cream.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My inspiration, my muse.....Peta Mathias

Back when I was 9 years old Taste of New Zealand was on TV.  I remember being entranced by her fiery charm and seeing her cook the most exotic things....things that are so normal to me now like vanilla bean and saffron.  That coupled with my father influencing me with his own passion for cooking, my venture into cookery began.

I have long been inspired by the one and only Peta Mathias.  She is exactly where I want to be in the future.  Not many people can say they show people how to eat and cook their way around the world for a job!  She is an amazing author, "gastronomad" and television presenter.....  and I'm pleased to say I've met her! well, kind of.  I attended her latest tour, Literary high tea at The Sebel, 2 week old baby in tow.  Lucky for me, my son George was a beacon for her to cast her eyes on and being up the front she talked to myself and George and mentioned him in her speech.  Star struck much??  Anyway, in her speech she had a tip for finding yourself a career you'll be most happy in.  The subjects you were good at in school, find a career that uses those subjects.  For me, English and cookery.  She also suggested when you need to write, lock yourself in your room with a bottle of wine and write.  So thank you Peta, I'm doing it!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

- Dinner tonight -

Being the end of autumn there isn't much selection in my garden..although this afternoon I managed to harvest the tiniest baby beetroots, a few baby leeks and spinach.  I will confess to swiping my best friends brocolini out of her garden next to me!  Don't worry I'll pay her back with some red onions or something..



Spinach and leek stuffed chicken legs with baby beetroot, brocolini and golden sweet potato

4 free range chicken legs
sea salt and black pepper
2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
4 large handfuls of spinach, blanched and refreshed in iced water then squeezed dry
150g feta cheese
2 baby leeks, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

8 baby beetroot, washed with 2-3 cm of stem left attached
8 stems brocolini, blanched and refreshed in iced water
4 golden sweet potato, chopped into chunks
leaves from the beetroot

4 tbsp balsmaic vinegar
2 mandarins, juiced
2 tsp dijon mustard
8 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and black pepper

To make the stuffing; gently saute leeks and garlic until soft and golden.  Meanwhile blanch your spinach then finely chop.  Crumble feta into a bowl, add cool spinach, leeks, garlic and sea salt and pepper.  Mix together well and set aside.

For the chicken, gently loosen skin from flesh all over the thigh bone.  You can remove thigh bone if you wish but I'm a mother of two not a chef!   Squash stuffing into a ball in your hands and shove under the skin, smoothing it down over the leg bone and meat.  You don't really need to secure the skin with toothpicks just push the skin back down over the thigh meat as much as you can.  Season with salt, pepper and cumin.

Roast sweet potato and chicken legs in a hot oven (200 degrees) for 30 minutes, adding baby beetroot for the last 10 minutes.

To make dressing;  whisk all ingredients together or shake in a jar.

When everything is cooked and your beetroot is nice and crispy, mix with dressing, beetroot leaves and brocolini.  Serve immediately.

Slow roasted tomato, lentil and goat chevre salad

This is the most simplest salad but so delish!  Serve with roasted chicken.

4 tomatoes, cut in half
1 red onion, finely sliced
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt
400g can lentils, drained and rinsed
200g soft goats chevre
handful chopped italian parsley
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil

Firstly turn the oven to 140 degrees.  Slow roast the tomatoes cut side up, sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil for 4 hours.  You want the tomatoes to still be a little juicy.
Marinate red onion in half the lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt until ready to use.
To make the dressing, whisk mustard, the rest of the lemon juice, garlic and red wine vinegar, slowly whisking olive oil in to emulsify.
Once tomatoes are cooked, mix all ingredients together with the dressing and serve.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chicken and preserved lemon tagine

A tagine is a pot unique to Morrocco, but not essential.  Serve this tagine over warm hot buttered cous cous, sprinkled with torn mint leaves.


Serves 4

4-6 pieces of leg and wing chicken pieces
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger

sea salt and black pepper
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
500ml hot homemade chicken stock
1 bay leaf
large pinch of saffron
1 cinnamon stick
1 preserved lemon, sliced
handful of green or black olives, destoned
sprig of thyme

Turn oven on to 160 degrees.  Rub chicken with ground spices to coat, then fry in hot pan for 5 minutes or until golden on all sides.  Add onions, garlic and fry for a couple more minutes.  Place chicken, garlic and onions in a tagine or casserole dish then add all the other ingredients.  Put in your oven and cook for 1-2 hours or until the meat is falling away from the bone.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.  Easy and delicious!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spiced kumara soup with crisp fried ginger

3 med size purple kumara, cut into large chunks
600ml chicken stock (preferably homemade)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, toasted then ground
1 bay leaf
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
300ml coconut cream
handful fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
5cm piece ginger, julienned
frying oil, ricebran, olive or peanut


Gently fry onions and garlic in a little olive oil until softened.  Add spices and bay leaf and stir until fragrant.  Add kumara and stock then bring to the boil.  Simmer for minutes or until kumara is cooked.  Puree in a blender adding coconut cream to thin a little.
To crisp fry ginger, heat oil until medium hot and looks like its swirling, add ginger and fry until crisp and golden.  This happens very fast so be careful not to burn.

Top soup with ginger and serve with crusty bread and butter.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eco food

Eco food to me is............economical, environmentally aware and eatable.  With a little bit of education we can still eat good food ie free range or organic without the price sending your grocery bill skyward.  Every week I buy a waitoa valley free range chicken which is very Sophie Gray of me but I get three meals out of it.  One with the breasts, one with the thighs and wings and I use the carcass for stock be it for risotto, soup or casserole.  Here's my three recipes of the week.

Crumbed chicken breasts with roast red pepper, baby beets and goats feta
Apricot and preserved lemon chicken tagine
Spiced kumara soup with crisp fried ginger

Crumbed chicken breasts with roast red pepper, baby beets and goats feta.  Serves 4

2 chicken breasts
fresh wholegrain bread
1 egg whisked lightly with a splash of milk
plain flour
sea salt and pepper
handful of roughly chopped italian parsley
few tablespoons thyme leaves
handful of grated parmigiano reggiano

2 handfuls of mixed leaves - I used mizuna, cos, red oak, washed
2 red peppers
4 baby beetroots, peeled and sliced thinly
150g goats feta
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Cut each chicken breast into 2 or 3 even sized pieces.  Sandwich between two layers of cling film then bash with a meat mallet or pestle until the chicken is an even thickness much like schnitzel.
Put wholegrain bread, herbs, sea salt, pepper and parmigiano reggiano into a food processor and whiz until you have coarse breadcrumbs.
Now make your crumbing station, put plain flour onto a plate, crumbs on another plate and whisked egg into a bowl.  Dust the chicken lightly with flour, shaking off the excess then place chicken into the egg.  Coat with egg, drip off excess then coat thoroughly with breadcrumb mixture.  Set aside until ready to cook.

Chargrill your peppers on an open flame until blackened and blistered then put into a bowl and cover with cling film.  This makes it easier to peel later when they are cool.
Put all the dressing ingredients into a jar or bowl and shake/whisk to combine, set aside

Heat up a pan add a spalsh of olive oil and fry your chicken til golden and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Season with sea salt.  Mix together all the salad ingredients leaving the goat feta to sprinkle over at the end.  Serve.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oh the weather outside is frightful

I just had to share this recipe with you all..it's from my favourite cookbook at the moment - Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Don't be scared of how long the list of ingredients is, spices are cheap from bulk food stores and if you'd like a recipe for preserved lemons I can always share that one too....

I truly believe in the holistic properties of spices; cinnamon to help regulate blood sugar levels, turmeric for it's amazing anti-inflammatory and antiseptic benefits, ginger for helping nausea, and even coriander for anxiety!  This recipe has a bounty of heat generating spices to warm your soul, and make you feel like you just snuggled back under the covers for a sleep in.

Ultimate winter couscous....serves 4

2 carrots, peeled + cut into chunks        handful dried apricots
2 parsnips, peeled + cut into chunks      1/2 can of chickpeas or 200g freshly cooked
8 shallots, peeled                                  350ml chickpea cooking liquid or water
2 cinnamon sticks                                 170g couscous
4 star anise                                           large pinch of saffron threads
3 bay leaves                                         260ml boiling vegetable stock
olive oil                                                 knob of butter
1/2 tsp ground ginger                             knob of harissa paste
1/4 tsp ground turmeric                         quarter of a preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/4 tsp hot paprika                                handful chopped coriander leaves
1/4 tsp chilli flakes
300g butternut squash, peeled + cut into chunks


Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.  Place the carrots, parsnips and shallots in a large ovenproof dish.  Add all the spices, bay leaves, big drizzle of oil, large pinch of sea salt and mix well.  Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin, stir and return to the oven for another 35 minutes.  The vegetables should have softened yet still retaining a bite.  Now add the apricots, chickpeas and their cooking liquid or water.  Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until hot.
About 15 minutes before the vegetables are ready, put the couscous into a large heatproof bowl with a tbsp olive oil, the saffron and a pinch of sea salt.  Pour the boiling stock over the couscous.  Cover with cling film and leave for about 10 minutes.  Then add the butter and fluff up the couscous with a fork until the butter melts in.  Cover again and keep somewhere warm.
To serve, spoon couscous into a deep plate or bowl.  Stir the harissa and preserved lemon into the vegetables; taste and season if needed.  Spoon the vegetables onto the centre of the couscous.  Finish with plenty of coriander leaves.