Tuesday 30 October 2012

Chicken Tomato Pasta Bake with my glass of wine

I know you can buy a jar to make this dish but for me the best food is what you make yourself from scratch, there is no comparison with the final product. Yes, I am known to use the odd tin of something in my cooking but I prefer to make most of my meals from what I have in my garden, cupboard and/or fridge!
Last week this dish came about at the end of a very busy day when I hadn't organised anything for dinner (not like me at all), I was really hungry and felt like something really nice and tasty to go with the wine we had opened. I lined up everything and this is what resulted. Most homes can have these ingredients in their kitchen and it is easily put together within about 20 minutes. I am sure the little ones will love it too. The recipe made enough for 4-5 adult meals but it can easily be adjusted to feed a smaller or larger crowd.
 Chicken Tomato Pasta Bake
 2 - 3 chicken fillets - sliced to chunks
about 2 -3 cups of wholemeal spiral pasta - cooked to just under al dente and well drained
1 large onion - finely diced
I prefer this pasta to plain
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
1 - 3 carrots - grated
1 big handful of fresh oregano - chopped
olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta to instructions, drain and put aside.

Heat a small amount of oil in a fry pan, brown the chicken in batches and place in a large casserole dish.
adjust the sauce quantity with the amount of pasta and chicken
Add the chopped onion to the pan, fry until transparent, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and gently cook for about 5-10 minutes.
Add to the chicken and mix together in casserole dish. Add the cooked pasta and stir to blend all together.
Sprinkle some grated cheese on top and bake uncovered in a moderate oven (about 180 degrees Celcius) until top is brown and chicken is cooked. Serve with a big salad

the wine was perfect with the dish!

Sunday 21 October 2012

Whittakers White Raspberry Chocolate

When asked by the NZ Food Bloggers Association if I would 'trial taste' the new Whittakers White Raspberry Chocolate, I said ahhh yes.... I think so.
The said sample duly arrived in the post a few days later (thank you Tom), not a small block but one of those big blocks, yay!! I knew I was onto a winner.
Lovely pink and gold packaging
I could see this tasting job would need some assistance and my M was more than happy to oblige. We have a strange relationship with Chocolate in our house. He luuuuuuvvvvvssss chocolate, but thinks too much is bad for him so goes about saying 'we shouldn't have it in the house, don't buy any, I don't know when to stop', etc, etc, etc.
However..... I often find little empty chocolate wrappers in the car and in the garden, mmmmm...... and when we are given chocolate as a gift  - he hides it from me - in high places where I need a step stool to search for it, and sometimes when I do find it, it has often been seriously tampered with - not fair is it?! It causes a lot of hilarity in our house forcing a grown man to 'fess up' to his serious Chocolate crimes.
As I have mentioned on my blog before, I was never a great fan of Chocolate but when I turned a magic number in age, I suddenly started showing some serious interest in eating it - I now luuuuuvvvv Chocolate!
Back to the trial tasting....
Samuel Marsden Girls College entreprenuers
First of all I think it is a wonderful product these young women from Samuel Marsden Girls College have created. Whittakers took up their idea and cause by making and marketing White Raspberry Chocolate with a portion of the sales going to the Breast Cancer Appeal.
I love the packaging and I love the chocolate. The raspberry flavour is subtle and yummy. I would have preferred it to be a little stronger - but that's maybe because I can eat a whole punnet of raspberries on my own.
Whittakers make great Chocolate and they deserve to do well with White Raspberry.
So go forth people - try it out for yourself, it's great and while you are enjoying your treat you are supporting a very important cause.
Project completed

Friday 12 October 2012

Roasted Lemon Cake

I had this cake recipe carefully filed away and being a lover of lemon flavoured cooking, I recently decided to give it a try.
It is a total winner and it looks pretty posh too! Today I made it for the 5th time in about as many weeks. It seems to appeal to most as no-one I know dislikes lemons. ( In the process of collecting my fruit I've stripped our lemon tree bare but thankfully little green ones are starting to appear).
It is a great dessert but it would be just as fabulous as a special cake for that special afternoon tea.
The original recipe included a lavender syrup to drizzle/serve on top but I decided it was so divine the way it was I would not include the syrup.
At first, I methodically thinly sliced my lemons - by hand, and it took ages- but I eventually caught on that this labourious task could be done by my Kitchen Whizz in super quick time.
Also, each time I have made this cake I've varied what sugar I used, raw sugar gives a more intense flavour but castor sugar is fine too. One time I ran out of ground almonds so used unblanched raw ones and used my Kitchen Whizz with the 'grinding nuts attachment' to grind the almonds into almond meal. This gave the mixture and the final product a sort of wholemeal look which was a nice variance on the recipe.
I made the cake again today as tonight we have dear friends from Napier coming for dinner, I know they are going to enjoy this as much as we do......

 Roasted Lemon Cake

Cuisine - Celia Harvey – 20/8/2009
4 large unwaxed lemons
6 tbsp sugar
 For the Cake
100grams flour
1 tsp baking powder
100 grams ground almonds
175 grams softened butter
175 grams caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
For the lemons
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a spring form cake tin (23cm) with baking paper and butter or spray the sides well.
Thinly slice the lemons (I use the slicing plane on my Kitchen Whizz). Take out any pips.
Place the lemon slices on a baking dish, sprinkle with ½ the sugar and roast for about 10 minutes until lightly caramelised around the edges.
Arrange ¾ of the lemon slices in the base of the tin. And sprinkle the remaining sugar over.
For the cake
Reduce the oven to 160°C. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the almonds.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Mix the eggs in one at a time, sprinkle in a little of the flour mix as you go to stop it splitting. Fold in the rest of the flour mixture, chop the remaining lemon pieces and fold them in with any juice from the roasting dish.
Spread the batter over the roasted lemons in the tin. Bake on a rack in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. (Watch and cover the top with tinfoil to prevent it browning too much). Leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out of the tin.
Serve with cream.

Roasted Lemon Cake placed on a pedestal where it belongs
Newsflash!  As a Food Blogger I have been asked to sample the new Whittakers White Rasberry Chocolate - oh the joy when it arrived in the post. My feedback will be placed soon, I haven't quite finished the block so more time and much more deliberation is required.....

Monday 8 October 2012

Stuffing Eggplants

Glorious Eggplant
We have a number of vegetarian friends who love to try out my recipes, i.e. they are my willing guinea pigs. Actually thinking about that term makes me realise it is referring to animals who are 'tested' against their will which is what most vegetarians (and me) protest about, so not a good choice of words to describe my guest!
However that said, eggplants are relatively cheap at the moment (and I love their colour in our fruit bowl) so having one of our vegetarian friends over for dinner last week made me think I should try a recipe given to me by my foodie mate Elaine. I have made this dish several times before and I have experimented with different 'stuffing' combinations each time.
This time I used some left over cooked brown rice, the same spices, currants, a little finely chopped carrots and celery and sunflower seeds. I left out the peas, porridge, peanuts and tomato sauce (as in the recipe below) and grated a little Porcino hard cheese on top. It was still a great dish and M said he enjoyed it more than the fillet steak he cooked for the other guests.
When needing a main vegetarian dish I think I will use brown rice from now on as it made the meal quite substantial. Next time (for a change) I might add some chopped dried apricots and/or preserved lemon.You could also add pine nuts or chopped cashews or almonds. I like that you can prepare them beforehand.
Give them a go, you can experiment quite a bit with your filling, the eggplant takes up all the flavours and they are really are quite delicious.

Eggplants ready for the oven
Listed recipe sprinkled with sunflower seeds

Serve the eggplants with a 'big' green salad on the side. My salad consisted of 3 types of lettuce, chopped cucumber and spring onions, lightly cooked green beans ( plunged into cold water and well drained) garnished with lightly toasted pumpkin seeds. Asparagus would be just wonderful too.  Our vegetarian guest had 3 servings!

Stuffed Eggplant
1. Cut eggplants in half long ways and remove centre, chop this into pieces and put aside. 
2. Salt case, leave 30mins rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.
3. In a large pan, saute onion and chopped eggplant. Add chopped tomatoes (tinned or fresh).
4. Add a dessert spoon of porridge, stir until thick.
5. Add about ½ tsp each of turmeric, ground cumin, coriander and ginger.
6. Add crushed garlic to taste (I usually use 2 cloves).
7. Simmer together until cooked (about 10mins).
8. Transfer to a bowl and add 1 cup frozen peas, sultanas and roasted peanuts.
9. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fill the eggplant shells and top with a little tomato sauce.
10. Place carefully in a well-oiled baking dish (or lined with baking paper), cover with foil.
11. Bake at 200°C for about 30mins to 1 hour until the shell is soft.
12. Towards the end of cooking remove foil cover, top with grated cheese and cook further      until golden brown on top.

Left overs for Sunday dinner, with a little HP sauce on the side

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Potato, Fennel, Olive and Lemon Tart

People talk a lot about comfort food, i.e. what makes them happy and contented, well for me this tart is one of those dishes. When I made it recently M and I almost ate the whole tart in one sitting, it was so tasty, tasty, tasty! If you do not like the flavour of  fennel it would still work with finely sliced leeks or onion. (I use my magic Swiss mandolin for slicing all the vegetables). But I think these flavours work well together and apart from the fresh fennel which can be pricey at the beginning or end of the season, it is an inexpensive lunch dish or a lovely starter for dinner (made into smaller square tarts) or carefully sliced into small squares for pre-dinner drinks. I love that I can use some of my preserved lemons too. This dish is just perfect for vegetarians
Potato, fennel, feta, olive and lemon tart - Chef: Lauraine Jacobs as heard on Nine to Noon Monday, 10 November 2008

500g puff pastry
3 large Agria potatoes
1 egg, beaten
3 fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
150 g crumbly feta cheese
½ cup olives, preferably stones removed
1 preserved lemon, flesh removed and rind cut into small dice
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt
Fresh Italian parsley, stalks removed

Roll out the pastry to fit a 30cm x 40cm oven tray. Allow the pastry to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
Meanwhile peel the potatoes, cut into 1.5 cm slices and simmer in boiling salted water until just tender. Drain well and cool.
Beat the egg and brush over the surface of the pastry. Spread the potato slices over the egg, and if there’s any extra egg, brush the potatoes with this.
Layer the fennel on top of the potatoes and scatter the seeds over. Crumble the cheese over the fennel next, and then dot the top with chopped olives and diced preserved lemon. Season with pepper and salt.
Place in the hot oven and turn the heat up an extra 10°C so the pastry really starts to cook. When the pastry is puffed and golden brown on the edges and underside (should take about 20 minutes, but this will depend on your oven) remove the tart from the oven. Scatter over the parsley leaves and cut into generous wedges to serve.
Serves 6 as a meal with salad