Monday 23 May 2016

Middle Eastern lunch

We hosted a lunch at our home a few weeks ago - with Middle Eastern dishes as a theme. I am a bit of a fan of this style of cooking. Unlike many of my friends I have never travelled to the Middle East but I just love the flavours and colours of their traditional food.One day I may get there.....
While cooking these delicious dishes I thought of the many women and children caught up in conflict in that part of the world. All they want is peace, food and shelter, to feel safe and loved. I am very lucky to have it all in my life........
In planning this banquet, the 'Eat your Books' app was again very useful. I found great recipes in Jerusalem, Made in Morocco and Turkey, all books I have used often.
The menu included Lamb Shawarma, Beef and Quince (I would have used Lamb Stuffed Quince but hollowing out all those quinces looked like hard work). I also made Chicken Pilaf, Saffron Rice with Barberries and herbs, Hummus of course, Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut salad, Carrots with mint and pomegranate, Orange Semolina cake, delicious Spice Cookies and of course my Quince paste with lovely cheeses from our local deli Gambonis. The Ottolenghi Spice Cookies were a star addition to the desserts. They were truly delicious and easy to make.
A good friend of mine said the only way to cook rice was the Middle Eastern traditional way of the cooking, by frying the rice first in a little butter, add the stock, boil for about 15 minutes or so and finish off with a placing a clean tea towel tightly wrapped around the lid and leaving the rice to steam cook, infusing the flavours.
I really enjoyed the day and all the preparation and practice with these dishes. In the end our lunch raised over $1,000 for Dyslexia services so I was pretty pleased about that.

Cauliflower salad with hazelnuts
Carrot salad

Saffron rice with barberries
Spice Cookies - so yummy!

Sunday 22 May 2016

Crab apple jelly

Over the last month or so I've been given large quantities of gathered fruit. It has been wonderful to receive, quinces, figs, feijoas, granny smith apples and on a chance conversation, a huge bag of freshly picked crab apples.
I was so pleased to receive the latter as I have never made crab apple jelly before and have longed to make some. In the past I have been put off making any sort of jelly as I had been told it could be a long tricky business waiting for the liquid to drip through a muslin, while hoping that the jelly did not became opaque in the process and of course finally set as it should.
My generous donor assured me that all you needed was a very large new Chux type cloth ( a trip to buy muslin was not required) and a really big pot (I used my preserving pan).
I used Mrs Google to find a local recipe and discovered this good one from Jonny Schwass, the well known chef from Canterbury. You can find it here on the RNZ website.

The recipe is so easy, but do allow a day to get it all done!! I was so thrilled with the result, the man of the house has eaten nearly a whole jar in less than a week! I will also look for recipes where my crab apple jelly can be used as a glaze etc.

It took a while to remove all the stalks!
Dripping nicely
The final result

Sunday 27 March 2016

Slow cooked quince paste

I have been having a bit of fun lately with quinces. I have posted on making quince paste previously. One comment from the 2012 blog mentioned a slow cooker recipe so this year when I was given about 15kgs of quince, I thought I would give the recipe a try. I made two batches of paste and I still had about 10kgs of quince to use up! But a bit about that later.
I subscribe to Eat your Books,  it is so easy to find what recipes are lurking in your cook books and low and behold I found a recipe in Simon and Alison Holst's book 'Year-round recipes for crock pots and slow cookers'. Using a crock pot is so much easier than making paste boiling in a pot on the stove.

Slow cooked Quince Paste – Simon and Alison Holst
You will need:
Quince fruit
A large slow cooker
A mouelei or large sieve
A muslin bag for pips and stalks
A sponge roll tin
Remove any blemishes or damaged parts from the washed quince.
Arrange them in a slow cooker (I got about 5-6 pieces in my cooker, although they describe using a
5 litre cooker holding 10-12 sized medium fruit).

Cover and cook on HIGH for 2-3 hours – turning fruit once or twice if possible, then turn off cooker and let cool enough to handle.

To make puree: with the fruit cool enough to handle, squeeze the pulp from each fruit into a large bowl.  Gather pips and stalks and place in a muslin bag and tie off (it doesn’t say to do this in their recipe but I had problems getting it to set and recommend this step – the pips hold the pectin).

To make pate’: For each cup of puree add an equal volume of sugar. Return the puree to the slow cooker, stir in the sugar (and add muslin bag), then cover and turn to HIGH. Cook another
1 ½ to 3 hours (time will vary depending on the model of cooker used and the amount of fruit involved). Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking time to allow for evaporation, the puree turns from a pale pinkish colour to a darker pink/red.

Line a sponge roll tin with baking paper and carefully spoon in hot quince mixture, smooth out for an even thickness. Leave to cool and once cooled cut into pieces.
The paler paste is the first batch, and darker one is the second one. I cooked the latter a bit longer (actually I went to the movies and came home with it almost turning to toffee!) Both are very nice though. Henceforth I am a convert to making quince paste this way.

There are a number of tips I picked up to help make it set.
Leave it on the back window of your car for a few days, the idea being that the warmth of a summer sun will help dry it out and help it set OR
My daughters tip – place in a very low oven and bake for 24 hours – which I did for both batches!
It will keep in the fridge for quite a while, really lovely with strong cheese.

Friday 26 February 2016

Liz's fail safe souffle

We went on a bit of a road trip early in the New Year which involved staying with good friends in various regions in the lower North Island. Not only did we have great catch ups, it was also a rather lovely opportunity to see some of their 'new' homes and say goodbye to their 'old' ones.
It's always such a pleasure for me to stay with people I love and share their space. I get such great ideas about home decor, source new recipes (we all seem to have the common fondness for eating and drinking good wine!) and admire their flower and vegetable gardens.
This holiday I had no interest in sightseeing which is not like me. For this holiday I was very content to just relax and share good quality time with friends, it was a nice way to unwind....
While in Tauranga our hostess (Liz) made a fabulous souffle for dinner. Her souffle was made with such ease, served with a lovely salad and warm crusty bread, washed down with great wine, I was in heaven. It was so perfectly cooked and delicious.
I really can't remember when I last had one or made one, probably one of those things I tried once and failed.... so it was with a bit of trepidation I used Liz's recipe and made one earlier this week for a special meal with family member visiting from New York.
Liz's fail safe souffle lived up to its name. It was perfect!
This photo doesn't really do it justice, you really need to be able to smell it!
Instead of adding the cheese to the egg whites I added little pieces of smoked salmon into my souffle, along with chopped chervil, chives and parsley. I then used the breadcrumbs and the cheese to the top.
I have converted her recipe from imperial measurements to metric, hence the odd measurements.
We had a few souffles left over, they are just as gently lovely (brought to room temperature) and heated in the oven for a meal the next day.
Liz’s fail safe soufflé
85 g (3oz) butter
57 g (2oz) plain flour
236ml of milk (1/2 pint)
Make thick roux sauce with the above ingredients and put aside to cool
Add pepper, salt and a little mustard to taste
85-140 g grated cheese (a mixture of cheddar and parmesan)
5 very large eggs - separated
Beat yolks into a cooled mixture
Whisk egg whites to soft peak stage – do not over whisk or they won’t fold in.
Fold sauce/yolk mix, and cheese very lightly into the egg whites and turn into 2 pt (about 1,000 mls) soufflé dish or 6 large ramekins. You may like to line the base with baking paper).
Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs or use Liz's idea and sprinkle the buttered sides and base with the breadcrumbs.
Place very gently into a preheated oven at 190 - 200°C for 35 – 45 minutes or for small soufflé 15 - 20 minutes. (I lowered the temperature to 190 for a fan oven and for ease of removal I placed my ramekins on a preheated oven tray).
Strongly resist the temptation to open the oven door. If you do, open and shut very gently.
If you want a soft top, stand the soufflé dish in a pan of hot water.
For a sweet soufflé use 57g castor sugar (57g) + flavourings 

Tuesday 29 December 2015

The best sponge recipe

For our Christmas Day  dessert I settled on a new trifle recipe from House & Garden Issue No. 256 December 2015, it looked fabulous!
Not wanting to use a bought sponge I decided to have another go at making my own sponge.
A couple of years ago one of my dear friends, Bernice, said she had a 'never fail' recipe that had been handed down to her through generations of bakers. It sounded like my kind of recipe and I filed it away.
A few weeks ago I finally got around to making it.
I was told to use a large roasting pan (greased with dripping, and floured) but decided to just butter and line the tin with baking paper, leaving out the dripping!
The result was absolutely the best sponge I have ever produced. 
Once slightly cooled, and with some trepidation, I removed my sponge from the tin, cut it in half, wrapped it in cling film and placed it in the freezer to make the trifle on Christmas Eve.
A sponge was always something my mother used to make with ease! And to honour her memory this Christmas I had hoped to create a fabulously soft perfect sponge. (In a few days time it is the 5th anniversary of her death, I will always miss her).
In previous blogs I have attempted a sponge roll which have all cracked, but this recipe rolls beautifully (apparently).
Bernice says 'take this sponge straight out of the oven and while still hot, remove from tin and turn out onto a damp tea towel. At this point spread with jam and roll it up. When cool unroll the sponge and fill with cream, and roll up'. Mmmmmmm, easier said than done.
I will let you know how I get on in another blog post.
Anyway, back to this great sponge recipe.  It is so simple, it's ridiculous....and so very tasty.
Cream Sponge  
 5 eggs
1 level cup of sugar
Beat together until thick and creamy
Gently fold in sifted
1 level cup of flour
1 tsp baking powder 
Lastly fold in 1 tbsp of boiling water
Pour batter into a greased floured pan ( I lined mine with baking paper to be on the safe side!)
Bake 180 degrees C  for 10-15 minutes on fan bake.
Watch it doesn't over cook, it should spring back a little when you gently press the top.
It can be cut in half and filled with cream and whatever summer fruit you may have. And ass Bernice has said, it will feed a crowd nicely.

It's so soft and tasty!
This is the final result using a House and Garden recipe from Dec '15 Issue 256

.  It's fab!

Thursday 26 November 2015

Old fashioned tomato sauce

It was one of those rare occasions when tomatoes were at a super price at the supermarket. M spotted beautiful big tomatoes for sale at only $2.00 a kilo, a complete bargain in our city, so early in the 'season'. If you have them growing in your garden this summer - lucky you! The wind here batters my plants to the point they just give up supplying any fruit!

The man has always loved this homemade tomato sauce. It was originally named Nana Spence's tomato sauce, a lady who has sadly long gone so I can't get her permission to use the recipe. I understand she was a lovely Nana so I suspect she won't mind if I share the love and post it in this blog.
It is the second year I have made it. It will last for a long time in a cool dry place (our wine cellar is the perfect spot).
You will get a slightly different taste depending on the apples you use, how much cayenne pepper is added and of course the ripeness of your tomatoes. Suffice to say I am very pleased with this latest batch.
We did a little experiment to see if the old fashioned style of sauce contains less sugar per serving. It comes just a little under the mass produced sort, but we think because it is homemade it must be better for you!

Nana Spence’s Tomato Sauce
The original recipe was in imperial measurement. We have adapted it to metric.
I used 6kg of tomatoes which made about 8 litres of sauce.
Allow a large part of a day to do this – it takes a while to prepare, cook, sterilise bottles and bottle.
You need a muslin bag for the spices, an extra big pot for this quantity and a mouli.
We used granny smith apples in one batch and red apples in the second. It made the latter sauce a little darker.

5kg tomatoes
800 grams onions
1.7kg apples
1.25kg brown sugar
56 grams whole cloves
1 tsp (or more) of cayenne
56g pepper (you could try peppercorns)
56g whole spice (I used ground and it was ok, but best to use whole)
125g plain salt
1 to 2 bottles of cider vinegar (you could use malt but cider gives a better flavour we think)
Place all whole spices in a muslin bag and tie securely.
Cut onions, apples, tomatoes into quarters and place in large preserving pan or pot.
Add all other ingredients (except the vinegar).
Bring to boil and simmer for an hour – keep stirring every now and then to ensure it doesn’t stick on the bottom.
Then add vinegar, boil for another hour.
Cool and mouli to remove the skins and bottle  into sterilised bottles