Saturday 29 September 2012

In the Christmas spirit - a bit early maybe??

Spring in Wellington is in full splendour. Yay!!
Shot in Wellington gardens - stunning display of colour
But is it too early to be thinking about Christmas? I had a little clean out of my pantry the other day and found a few interesting (and very odd) items. A half jar of Christmas Mincemeat was amongst the 1/2 packets of this and that, (along with some chocolate I had hidden away and forgot about, darn!).
Anyway back the the mincemeat. It smelt absolutely fine and tasted ok and as I am not one for wasting things (that's my mother in me), I got out my trusty books on 'what to do with your left over mincemeat' and found this recipe in my Muffin book. They came out really well and are perfect for morning tea to get you into the Christmas spirit - even if it is only less than 3 months away!
I think when I make them next time I will smear a little brandy flavoured cream icing on top, just to give them the finishing touch, it would add nicely to the spicy fruit flavour of the muffin too.

I am loving the lilac colour right now

Mincemeat Muffins – Just Muffins Pub. 1989 
1 cup wholemeal flour
3 ½ tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
¾ cup milk
¾ cup drained mincemeat
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
¼ cup oil
Stir dry ingredients together. Combine liquid ingredients and mincemeat and add all at once to dry mixture. Stir until just blended. Bake at 200°C for 15-20 minutes. Makes about 12

Sunday 23 September 2012

Fruity Tea Loaf

I was lucky enough to meet Julie Le Clerc recently which gave me the opportunity to say how much I enjoyed her recipes and confessing (really hope I did not gush too much!) that I owned a number of her wonderful books. All of them are well used which is not always the case with cooking books. I have a number of favourite recipes and this Fruity Tea Loaf post today is one of them. It is so simple to make and the result is always the same - a lovely moist fruit loaf - delicious buttered but also fine on its own. I like to bite into the chunky, slightly sour bits of apricot and the sweet soft sultanas (the child in me I guess). 
I remember my mother used to make lovely fruit loaves with whatever dried fruit she had in her cupboard, always soaking the fruit in hot water, but this loaf has that extra special touch with the nice herbal tea flavour. I use a Lemon and Ginger herbal tea but it would be interesting to play around with other flavours. It is ideal for feeding a crowd as it makes a large loaf. When wanting to share the loaf I have spread the mixture into two smaller tins (with the cooking time altered), but whatever size you make it never seems to last long.... lovely with a morning cup of tea or as a supper snack with a coffee.

Fruity Tea Loaf – Julie Le Clerc
From  - Made by Hand – Pub 2010
(Gluten free flour and baking powder can be used and self-raising flour is fine as well)
100g dried apricots – coarsely chopped
100g dried pitted dates – coarsely chopped
100g sultanas
50g raisins
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup boiling hot fruit herbal tea infusion
1 small egg lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

Found a nifty way to keep my page open on my book stand

Combine dried fruit and sugar in a bowl. Add hot tea, stir and leave for 30 minutes for the fruit to soften and the liquid to cool.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 1.5 litre capacity loaf tin with baking paper, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Stir beaten egg and vanilla into dried fruit mixture. Sift flour and baking powder into bowl and stir gently to combine with the fruit mixture.
Spoon the mixture into prepared loaf tin. 
Bake for one hour and 10 minutes, or until loaf tests cooked when skewer is inserted in to the centre and comes out moist but clean.
Cool in tin for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely.
Waiting for the tea to brew

Friday 14 September 2012

Moroccan fish and caravans

A couple of weeks ago I had an amazing foodie experience! During Wellington on a Plate my man and I shot along on to the last night of the Oyster Shack (cleverly marketed by Rachel of Yellow Brick Road). There was something extraordinary about hanging about in a car park on an overcast cool windy evening, lining up at the Oyster Shack caravan for our order, leaning on a wine barrel, slurping down a 'tray' of beautiful freshly shucked oysters followed by a mouthful of Pinot Gris. We both thought this 'pop up' idea was a stroke of genius and we loved the experience. During the Food Bloggers Conference I had the opportunity to listen to Rachel talk about her seafood business. She's passionate about sustainable fishing, and buys and sells knowing where the catch was caught,when and by whom. Rachel recently received the Sir Peter Blake Emerging Young Leader Award,
She deserves every success with her future business aspirations.

We eat a lot of fish in our house and I have many favourite recipes.One of my cooking mates Elaine gave me her recipe for a fish dish, it is a super recipe - full of flavour and can be prepared ahead of time. It is a perfect lunch dish with a side salad or for dinner as a main with beans and scalloped potatoes or with a medley of root vegetables cooked Moroccan style.
Moroccan Fish
Serves 4 people with generous portions
800g fresh fish fillets
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove of garlic crushed
1/3 cup fresh chopped coriander
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of olive oil (I use a little less)
Pinch Cayenne Pepper
Hot oil for cooking
Using my handy handheld whizz

Lightly dust the fish with salt and pepper and place in dish where all fillets lie flat. Whizz the rest of the ingredients - not too finely - leave them a little chunky. Spoon marinade over the fish and leave for a least an hour. Remove the fish and as you do cover the other side of fillet with the marinade. It is quite thick so it won't run off the fish when you place the fish into the pan.Cook in hot oil for a few minutes each side. Delish!

Fish ready to cook

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Lemony things

Over these past few weeks I have had a bit of a lemon theme. I love lemons. You can't beat a lemon flavour in any dish. I use them quite a lot in my cooking and my drinks (think gin and tonic or lemon, lime and bitters) and I have posted previously on my love for preserving lemons, just wonderful for Moroccon and fish dishes.
To feed this desire for  lemony things we are lucky to have a prolific lemon tree in our garden (it might be a 100 years old?). When I pick my lemons, I dig a nail into the flesh and walk back into the house sniffing the lovely smell, I think I might be a bit strange in my habits! In spite of not having a great amount of attention  - the tree serves us well and I seldom need to buy lemons.
I have just made lemon curd for the first time (can you believe that?) - check out a fellow food blogger Lesley's recipe at
Lesley talks about eating it straight out of the bowl, I confess now to the same habit! Her recipe is made in the microwave and it is so easy. This masterpiece jug of lemon curd became a tray of mini lemon filled tarts for a fundraising event. The rest of the curd made two pretty little decorated jars of lemon curd for our dinner host four nights later.

On the same lemon theme I was invited to morning tea with my neighbour a few days later and guess what she had made for me, beautiful  cranberry scones served with a bowl  of handmade lemon curd to dollop on top, the combination was divine! My friend made hers using a Ruth Pretty recipe, , her method is quite different and a little more labour intensive but the outcome was as delicious as the microwave one. I went home happy with a full tummy and a gift of a few more lemons - thank you dear neighbour!
This last weekend I was invited to a French themed  'food bloggers lunch', no pressure to produce something fabulous....... so I decided to make, you guessed it -  a Citron Tart. I researched among my many books as I wanted to make it the proper French way. I found what I was looking for in an old French Style cooking book. To 'test' it, I made it for friends for dinner on the Friday. It was just lovely... so I made another one for our lunch but this time I put tin foil around the edges when I cooked the flan base, it helped prevent the edges from burning.
We ended up with three delicious desserts, and had a fabulous time talking and enjoying our food together. I look forward to our next outing....

Tarte au Citron
Georges Blanc – Pub. 1987
Serves 8 people

For the flan pastry
300g sifted flour
150g soft butter
150g icing sugar
2 eggs

For the lemon cream
3 lemons
150g castor sugar
150ml double cream or crème fraiche
2 eggs
2 dessert spoons rum

Making the flan pastry
Work the softened butter and icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the eggs and then work in the sifted flour. Let it rest for several hours before use.
Preparing the lemon cream
Wash the lemons and grate the zest into a basin. Add the sugar, cream, eggs and rum.
 Cooking the flan
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Roll out the pastry, line the tart tin (I lightly grease it first), prick it (and rest in fridge for 30 mins), then bake blind to a pale golden colour. (Watch that it does not get burnt – you can carefully cover edges with foil).
Reduce the heat to 180°C. Pour in the cream and cook for a further 15-18 minutes until set.
A few minutes before the end of the cooking, peel the lemons (back to the flesh) and cut into thin slices. Arrange the slices prettily on top of the tart and sprinkle with icing sugar when it cools. Serve cold with cream or yoghurt.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

A great spicy family mince dish

I am always looking for recipes to feed a crowd, dishes that are made from 'cupboard items', are inexpensive and that are easy to 'throw together' for a quick tasty, nutritious meal. I also like recipes where the meal is in one dish, (which saves on washing up) can be prepared ahead of time and warmed through when needed.
This recipe came from an article written by Annabel Langbein published in the Listener dated 13th November 1993. At the time Annabel lamented the rapid growth of takeaways and ready made meals. She wrote at length about how important it was to learn to cook basic meals, encouraging people to do so by producing simple recipes and saying what a shame the art of cooking for yourself and the family was so underrated. Here we are nearly 20 years later and I feel her article is still so very relevant. Making ends meet is really tough for some families right now. While it really isn't that hard to make an inexpensive meal, it does mean you have to plan and of course make the time. 
I like this dish because it uses vegetables and a few canned products to provide a good solid meal with simple full flavour. At first glance the mixture of ingredients does look a little odd, but feedback from my best critic said it was surprisingly very good. I thought it was too, we agreed perhaps serving it for three nights in a row might have been a bit too much though!  I think the little ones would like it. I really hope you try it.
(It's great to see 20 years later Annabel has become such a successful TV cook and a publisher of so many fantastic cook books).
Spicy Mince and Tomatoes - Annabel Langbein
1tbsp oil
1 large onion chopped into small pieces
500g topside mince (or other lean mince)
2tbsp mild curry powder (to taste)
2tsp ground cumin
1 can chopped tomatoes in juice
400g canned spaghetti
½ cup water
About 1 cup diced peeled pumpkin or kumara
A shake of Worcestershire sauce
2-3tbsp tomato sauce
1 cup grated cheese
Heat the oil in a large pan and brown the onion, mince, curry powder and cumin over a high heat, stirring frequently (cook in batches if the meat looks as though it will not brown quickly). Add all the other ingredients, except the cheese, the mixture will be sloppy. Stir to combine and put into a casserole dish. Cover with cheese. Either bake (uncovered) in oven at 160 °C for an hour or cover and microwave at 50% power for 10-12 minutes.
Serve with a bold green salad. Serves 4 - 8 depending on portions.
NB - I think baking this dish in an oven is best and it can easily be doubled to serve a big crowd, just make sure the casserole dish is big enough!

Using my handy Dutch oven

makes a large dish for the family