Sunday 29 September 2013

Apricot and almond slice

This is one of those decadent slices that can be a little addictive. All the ingredients (on their own) are quite yummy as snacks but combined into a slice it is heaven in a slice tin!
The recipe comes from the Brown Sugar Café in Taihape and was requested by a Dominion Post reader in October 2012. (I can't remember the last time I passed through Taihape but clearly this cafe knows their stuff when it comes to baking).
I filed it away for future reference and looking for inspiration (and something to use a part opened tin of condensed milk) on a wet Saturday afternoon I decided it was time to try it. It's great. I like that it is simple to make. It's a lovely mix of sweet, chewy and crunchy and of course all those fruit and nuts must be good for you. Just forget about the butter and sugar!! 
The crushed malt biscuits gives the slice a nice flavour too. I remember as children (in Winter) we lined up in the kitchen, mouths opened wide, for our weekly dessertspoon of sweet sticky malt extract. My mother kept the tin high up in a kitchen cupboard, I wonder why?
I certainly did not give it to my children when they were little. But according to 'The Telegraph" in 2011, it was having a bit of resurgence. (Interestingly it is still made here in New Zealand under the brand name Maltexo). It comes from a by-product of the brewing process, contains a large amount of sugar and a bit of Vitamin A and riboflavin and is described as 'a tonic to boost general well being'. At one time it was very popular for parents to give to their post-war children. Being a baby boomer we just caught the edge of the wave for such treatments!
Anyway the hint of malt brought back some lovely childhood memories for me. It also reminds me of those sticky MacIntosh sweets - the dangerous ones that can remove your fillings/teeth in a flash - I no longer indulge in those either!
This slice will now be a regular in my 'baking for a special treat repertoire '.
Apricot and Almond Slice – Brown Sugar Café in Taihape  (as in Dominion Post October 2012)
Melt together
125g butter
¾ cup brown sugar
Mix in
½ packet crushed malt biscuits
½ packet crushed vanilla biscuits
Press into a lined slice tin
Base ready for pressing into tin
Place on base, in order:
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped apricots
½ cup coconut thread
½ cup sliced almonds (I used unsalted roasted)
Drizzle over 1 tin condensed milk
Bake at 30 minutes at 150°C
Final layering
Condensed milk drizzled on top
Cooked ready to cut

Monday 23 September 2013

Kedgeree - the quick one!

This is how you can use up some of those left overs in the fridge, and a recipe especially good if you are short on time!
I just happened to have some cooked brown rice, cooked left-over fish, lots of organic eggs, some fresh coriander and some tasty curry paste in the fridge. It all screamed a Kedgeree. It has been quite a few years since I last made one but I had a vague idea what ingredients to use and just went from there. I have to say it was extremely tasty and so easy to make, a child could do it.
I have since checked my books and while mine isn't exactly the same, it was pretty close. I used coriander instead of parsley and pan fried fish instead of smoked fish.
This is my 'thrown together' recipe, perfect for a quick lunch or light dinner.
Fish Kedgeree - depending on your appetite, this quantity will feed about 2-4 people
1 large onion - finely diced
1 large carrot  - finely diced
Some fish - preferably smoked but I used non-smoked - in any amount, to your taste
2 hard boiled eggs - chopped
1-2 cups cooked rice (I like brown but it will work well with white rice too)
Fresh coriander or parsley - about 1/4 cup finely chopped,
Curry Paste (I used about a heaped teaspoon of mild, but add to your taste) 
Heat a little oil or ghee in a pan,
fry an onion until soft, add a finely chopped carrot and cook until just done ( you want to leave a bit of firmness in the carrot).
Add curry paste and cook for a few minutes - stirring all the time.
Add rice and stir lightly until warmed through. Add the roughly chopped egg, gently stir through.
Stir in chopped coriander or parsley with a little garnish on top and serve.

Thursday 19 September 2013

The best Chocolate Chip cookies

This month there seems to be a bit of a theme with my blogs - chocolate and cookies.
Chocolate -  since the Chocolate Festival I have slowly worked my way through all the lovely samples (and yes, unfortunately I had to share), i.e. bar one called Christmas, made by Shoc Chocolates. I'm saving that one for Christmas because.... well it is called Christmas. The small sample taste at their stall tasted like Plum pudding and Christmas cake so I'm really looking forward to devouring it at the appropriate time.
Cookies - actually we call them biscuits in New Zealand but in the United States (their) biscuits are more like our scones. Most people I know call a biscuit a biscuit and a scone a scone, but have I noted a cafe trend  of labeling biscuits cookies, perhaps it is for American visitors (so they don't think it is a scone???)
This week I've been having fun baking cookies, ok biscuits. This recipe is by far the best chocolate chip biscuit I have made and it comes from the iconic New Zealand 'Edmonds Cookery Book', the 1999 edition.
In a past blog I posted a Flat Biscuit recipe (which contained chocolate chips) but this recipe is by far superior and does not include eggs, handy if you have no eggs in the fridge at the time of baking or if there is an egg allergy that needs to be taken into consideration.
Yes, it involves creaming the butter, sugar and condensed milk but that's easy done with all the fancy appliances we have in our kitchen now. When I use to help my mother in the kitchen - my job was to use the hand held electric beater and stand while it mixed for about ten minutes! Great for young hands, not so great when you get older. Make sure you grease the tray otherwise you may have to chip them off (excuse the pun!).
Ready for the oven
Watch your oven temperature, I needed to turn my fan oven down a bit and the cooking time was more like 15 minutes. After all your hard work you don't want them to burn.
They keep nice and crisp in an airtight tin, great for school lunches and supper with a cup of tea!
They also freeze well. I doubled the recipe (made two full trays) and they were still perfect.
Cooling before moving to a rack
Chocolate Chip Biscuits (from Edmonds Cookery Book, 1999 Edition)
125 grams butter
¼ cup sugar
3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
Few drops of vanilla essence
1 ½ cups standard plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup chocolate chips
Cream butter, sugar, condensed milk and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Sift flour and baking powder together.
Mix sifted dry ingredients and chocolate chips into creamed mixture.
Roll teaspoons of mixture into balls.
Place on a greased oven tray and flatten with a floured fork.
Bake at 180°C for 20 minutes.
Makes about 25
Oops! couldn't resist a taste!


Saturday 7 September 2013

The NZ Chocolate Festival

As a chocolate lover I prepared myself well ahead of time. Light meals and no chocolate for three days beforehand, check. On the day - a brisk, early morning walk with our dog, check, no morning tea or lunch, check. Camera and invite in bag, check. A big deep breath, brace yourself, check.
I was met at the entrance of the Intercontinental Hotel by three friendly staff and with a happy contented smile my name was ticked off their list. The nice usher at the bottom of the stairs was greeted by my big grin and then I was there. I was in the The NZ Chocolate Festival.
Was it me or did I imagine that everyone around me appeared really, really happy that morning! Following the opening speeches and a 'cheers'! with little complimentary chocolate cups filled with ganache, I had a couple of hours of sheer delight visiting the various stalls, tasting (lots and lots), smelling and watching chocolate played with, drizzled, dipped and licked. One favourite was the Christmas chocolate by Schoc, think Christmas cake and pudding in a chocolate. It was a winner for me!
And this year I had a couple of surprising firsts - I dipped a marshmallow into a fountain of glistening chocolate and stuffed it into my mouth, it always seemed a messy thing to do but the verdict was yum! I tasted a fresh cacao bean and discovered pure chocolate can vary in taste depending on the region they came from. Interesting, I did not know that! I was also amazed how many people were making chocolate in the Wellington area, what a relief - we don't need to worry about a shortage of great chocolate anytime soon. And I must check out The Press Chocolate Makers - a chocolate factory that is opening early October, here in Wellington. I think it will be a definite highlight for any future southern visitors.
Here are some pics of my time at the festival. A bit of a disclaimer, while I gratefully accepted a goodie bag from the festival, I have only talked about and taken photos of items that personally appealed to my eye and taste. Suffice to say there are some extremely talented, hardworking, clever people out there who make great chocolate!
My grandies would love this
Clever and a bit different

Something else a bit different

By this time I had devoured three. Number four coming up!

Thursday 5 September 2013

Craft, Cheese, Cookies and Chocolate

This post is a varied one as the title suggests. It has been a very busy couple of weeks! The weather has been very mixed in Wellington, so it has been the perfect time to get some crafty tasks done. I've almost finished my third (for this year) peggy square crochet rug and a cardigan for my newest grandchild. I have also managed to get through a 'brick of a book' for my book group, 'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton -  hours of reading by the fire doesn't hurt anyone me thinks!
The weather wasn't great on our little holiday in Hawkes Bay either. But we had a fine time catching up with our dear friends in Taradale - having lots of fun with the usual relaxing, drinking and eating. One of the highlights over the weekend was the Royal NZ Ballet, Swan Lake (having missed out on decent seats in Welly we decided to travel to Napier to see it). It was absolutely wonderful - magic - loved it!
Speaking of magic. The lady of the Taradale house is extremely talented - a wonderful 'stitcher' and general all round clever 'crafter'- another great reason to stay with them. I watched in amazement with how she transformed a plain cake into a work of art (for the Young Friends of the Ballet event), using what she had (stored) around the house - a piece of mirror (skillfully cut from her hubby's horde in the garage), a crystal swan (from her dressing table), a few cake decorating tubes and a lovely silk green ribbon,and viola, a masterpiece! Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of the final result (said lady went rushing out of the house running late) but it was a huge hit.
On our last day I accompanied her to a stitching group, which involved a lot of chatting about current affairs and other important things while stitching. The session also included a fabulous morning tea of delicious (hot, straight out of the oven) southern inspired Cheese Rolls - simple, but a big favourite of mine. Definitely my kind of fun - so much so I am thinking of starting a monthly stitching group myself, any takers??
On Sunday we went to the Hastings Market, it is a great market. I loved wandering around talking to the locals about their work and sampling offerings. One stall that caught my eye was a group of young women from Havelock North High School. They are participating in a Young Enterprise project and have created a business called 'Cookie in a Jar'. All the dry ingredients are in the jar that you place into a bowl and add the wet ingredients as per instructions on the label. They have created five flavours. I loved the concept and brought the Anzac flavour to try. It always makes me smile to see young people so excited about creating a business. I wish them well in their new enterprise. They sell for $12 each and can be contacted at
Ok, now the chocolate part. Today I am off to the New Zealand Chocolate Festival
 As a venerable food blogger I have been invited to the opening and will take the opportunity to spend hour or so wandering around the exhibits - sampling, tasting...... and watching the talented demonstrations. A tough job but as a chocolate lover I am definitely up to it. I went last year and loved it!
I will be posting photos and my feedback in due course.....Give me a few days to get over any chocolate overdose!!