Sunday 28 December 2014

Holiday in East Cape

   December has been an exciting month. A month of preparation and lots of organisation. A big family Christmas was planned which involved lots of preparation, baking and many, many lists!
   But before our busy Christmas, the hubby and I thought we would give each other the gift of time together. A small holiday was quickly planned. I had remarked that I had never visited the Bay of Plenty area. So it was decided to take advantage of our 'spare' week in December and drive to Gisborne, onto to Tokomaru Bay, Tologa Bay, Waihau Bay, Whakatane, Tauranga and back home via Taupo. We had a very special time in each place. I loved the history of the area, and everywhere we went people were so friendly and helpful. I finally managed to walk along the "most loved beach" in NZ, Ohope Beach. And a visit to the historic sites on route was truly memorable.
   In Gisborne we stumbled across Muirs Bookshop and Cafe. What a wonderful find, one of the best bookshops I have ever been to.
   Another highlight was a meal at Roquette in Whakatane I would recommend you try this lovely place.
   And finally, the Bay of Plenty is a bit of a photographers paradise.  I am already planning another trip in 2015.
Our first night - the Gisborne sunset
Toes in Ohope Beach - I thought the sand would be white?
Tologa Bay wharf - an amazing restoration
So many beautiful Pohutukawa trees
Historic St Marys Church

Sunday 7 December 2014

Unbaked Christmas cake

I love collecting recipes, especially those from friends with a bit of a personal story.
I have made many, many friends through my volunteering. Said friends have a habit of enjoying a morning tea break or lunch time together. Around the table (as you can imagine) we talk about all sorts of things and invariably we end up talking about food and recipes.
This recipe came from one of those friends. I will not embarrass her by naming her, lets just call her B.
She is an amazing woman, always ready for a challenge. Inspirational, caring, kind, interesting and fun to volunteer with. She is in her latter years but her energy and enthusiasm for life would shame many people half her age.
I have printed the email when she sent the recipe and will always treasure a couple of personal comments she included in her message.
Unbaked Christmas cake ( from B's repertoire)

Place in a large saucepan -

250g butter
1 cup sugar and melt
Add to this hot mixture 2 beaten eggs – remove from stove
Add two packets of crushed (not too small)  malt biscuits. Add 1 tsp of Rum, brandy, almond lemon or vanilla essence.
Add 3 cups of mixed dried fruit such as currants, sultanas, raisins, papaya (lovely for colour), cherries, peel, ginger and cut up brazil nuts.
Press mixture immediately into a large flat baking tin and cover with slivered almonds and put in fridge to set.
Cut into small pieces and place in an airtight container and keep in fridge.
Keeps well, excellent to have on hand to serve with coffee etc. at Christmas time. It is nice and sweet so a little goes a long way.

Friday 5 December 2014

Seville Orange Marmalade

I fulfilled a long held promise last week. A month or so ago I came across Seville oranges for sale at the Farmers Market in Hastings, Hawkes Bay. Yay! I was finally able to make Seville Orange Marmalade. (My English friend Di told me many years ago, 'the only marmalade worth eating is Seville Orange Marmalade', but until recently I had never seen Seville oranges for sale here).
This, my first attempt, produced a fantastic result. My medication prevents me from enjoying my Grapefruit marmalade. Now, there are no limitations to the amount of marmalade I can smear on my Burgen toast. So delicious, so satisfying! It took an afternoon to make it and oh the mess. But it was a totally worth it!
For making - I followed the sellers instructions.
 - Cut oranges into quarters, remove seeds and these put into a muslin bag.
 - Weigh fruit.
 - Weigh an equal amount of sugar and set aside.
 - Place fruit and seed bag into a large pot and (just) cover with water.
 - Boil for about 30 minutes, by then the skins should be soft.
 - Cool, remove muslin bag - then toss fruit into a processor and pulse into little pieces.
 - Watch this step as you don't want to process to mush, it should be just chunky.
 - Place fruit back into pot and bring back to boil.
 - Add equal amounts of sugar to fruit. (Or less if you like it more bitter).
 - Stir gently to combine. Bring back to boil.
 - Boil mixture for about 20 minutes (watch it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pan) and start testing for setting.
 - Boil until set.
 - Cool, put into sterilised jars seal when cool.
Sticky yummy stuff

Oops! Spot the spelling mistake

What a mess I made, it took ages to clean up

So satisfying to see all the jars lined up

Monday 10 November 2014

Bliss balls - chocolate and cranberry - gluten free

Until recently I had never heard of a Bliss Ball  (I don't get out much!) On the Healthy page of the Sunday Star Times, I came across this nice gluten free, healthy option and really liked the look of them.
I have since seen Bliss Balls displayed on a couple of cafe counters! And if you go on line you will find many varieties of this little treat. But I have found this recipe the most versatile as it is sugar free (sort of), dairy and gluten free. Ideal to have around at Christmas for your family and friends who avoid all of the above.
You will see from this recipe it contains a large amount of dried fruit. There is your sugar, but in my book that doesn't really count as real sugar.
I hope you like them.

Choc-Cranberry Bliss Balls
Sunday Star Times –  Niki Bezzant
Makes about 12 balls
1 tbsp no added sugar or salt peanut butter
½ c dates
2 tbsp cocoa
½ sultanas
½ c cranberries
½ natural almonds

Chop dates into smaller pieces. Process all the ingredients with 2tbsp warm water, scoop out even amounts and roll into balls. I used a lovely Martha Stewart scoop I purchased in the US a couple of years ago. It is perfect for the job as the handle has a spring that slides a lever that pushes the mixture out. (if you get what I mean).
If desired you could roll in chocolate hail or coconut but they are equally nice without a coating.
I double the recipe too, as they keep well in an airtight tin.

Monday 20 October 2014

Hastings Farmers Market and Hawk Hill Cottage

I had the good fortune to visit Hawkes Bay again earlier this month. I really love going up there. Not only for the company of our good friends Noel and Karen but also for the beautiful countryside and climate.
I have mentioned the B & B -  Hawk Hill Cottage my blog before. It is a magical  little place in Poraiti near Taradale in Hawkes Bay.
One of the many lovely views from the cottage
You are so well looked after by hosts Noel and Karen Hawkins.  Our friends have a little spot of paradise up on the hills (not far from Napier). We love it there. So pretty, peaceful and a perfect place to sit, relax, admire the view and chill out.
A cute little kitchen, just right for creating dishes with all your bought produce
It is a photographers paradise too, and if you like birds this is the place for you. It is not called Hawk Hill for nothing.I highly recommend a stay.
A view from the path to our home for the next few days

One of the highlights of our short holiday was a visit to the Farmers Market in Hastings. It is like a playground to someone like me. It was the first day of their summer market which meant it was held outside, nestled among the trees of the show grounds. The day presented us with brilliant sunshine and the trees were just holding the last of their blossom. The place had a lovely festive atmosphere. There was so much variety on the stalls and they were so well displayed, I could have spent a fortune on all of them.  But there were a couple of stand outs. The Gelato stand, where my friend and I had a lovely long chat with Cherry and purchased three jars of Carlo's famous pasta sauce. I just loved their stand, it was a visual delight under the blossom tree.
Marmalade on Gelato stand

I was also lucky to spot Seville oranges for sale. I knew the best made marmalade is made with Seville oranges, but I have never seen them for sale before. Unfortunately the stand had sold out. A quick chat with Phillip and Lesley (and with another trip in a few weeks) I will have 4kg waiting for me when I return. (They will ship their fruit around NZ too apparently). 
And I loved the Andrews Lime stand where I bought some gorgeous sauces.
Next time I will take more cash, while there is EftPos available, some stands only take cash.
Who can resist fresh flowers, they looked so beautiful!
 Take a trip to Hawkes Bay, you are never disappointed!

Friday 17 October 2014

Fabulous ham and cheese quiche

My quiche was one of those 'what is in the fridge moments?' It turned out to be one of the best I have made.
We had bought a large ham to provide a base for an election night gathering. Sadly what they ate from the rather large beast was miniscule and I was left to think about 'what to do with it leftovers?'
With Christmas just around the corner this is a very handy way to use up those bits of  ham we are invariably left with on Boxing Day.
I lined  the quiche dish with my favourite short  crust pastry, added a little grated cheese on the bottom, poured in the eggs, ham and cream mix, and topped it off with slices of tomato.
There is no real recipe, but I used about 5-6 eggs (depending on the size of your dish), 1 cup of finely chopped ham, and  a 'slug' of full cream. Yes, you could probably do without the cream but it adds that little bit of 'deliciousness' to your quiche.
Bake at about 200C (fan bake)  for about 30-40 minutes until the quiche is set and the pastry is cooked on the bottom. During cooking if the sides are getting a little brown - just protect your quiche with a cover of baking paper.  Ham is a little salty so only season to taste when serving.
We loved it, two helpings each later, there wasn't much left!
Use a spatula to check it is cooked on the bottom, there is nothing worse than half cooked pastry
Serve with a bold salad

Saturday 6 September 2014

Prawns with lemon butter sauce and tagliatelle

I have been a little remiss with my postings lately. Although I have cooked and experienced wonderful food of late, I've not found the time to share them with you. Not good enough I know, but there you are.
The past month or so has been more than a little distracting. Firstly, our dowager Sadie dog has been very unwell, actually on 'deaths door'.  It has been very, very upsetting to see our faithful companion stop eating and slowly lose weight. After many trips to the vet, antibiotics and much tempting with tasty morsels, she has finally turned the corner - thanks to (would you believe) freshly cooked, London Pride sausages! Our vet tells us that although this is good news, we still may only have limited months with her, due to the state of her kidneys etc. In the meantime we take good care of her, and make sure she rests in the sunshine. She will see her final days, in as much comfort as possible. Long walks with Sadie are no longer on our daily to do list. So the man and I have taken to going for walks on our own, just to get used to the idea of life without our dog!
Secondly I made a trip to Christchurch to spend time with family and to attend an Asian cooking class at the luxurious Otahuna Lodge in Tai Tapu This wonderful opportunity was a fantastic treat from my dear friend Deb, actually a birthday present she shared with lucky old me!
We had a gorgeous day eating, drinking and learning new techniques. An experience I will never forget. The staff at Otahuna Lodge are world class! And should I ever win Lotto I plan to book the whole place and invite all my family and friends to enjoy a weekend of Jimmy's cooking and the Otahuna experience.
I also managed to get along to a 'Wellington on a Plate' dining moment at the Ortega Fish Shack and Bar  It is such a great place, decor rustic with very classy food. Our first course was Prawns in lemon butter sauce on fresh tagliatelle. I could have picked up the bowl and licked it. A gorgeous dish that begged to be wiped clean with my piece of bread. (I made apologies for my lack of table manners but then noted everyone else followed suit!)
On a Friday night I had a go at making my own version of this dish. The result was superb if I say so myself. It is not a recipe for any one with fish allergies, or on a dairy free, carbo free, low fat diet. No sir ree!
Sauce just before it was served
Get everything ready before you start the pasta
So, so delicious
Prawn and lemon butter sauce on fresh tagliatelle (serves 2)
Prawns 6-8 for each person - depending on your appetite
Lemon - cut into 8ths (skins on)
Butter - about 2tbsp
Cream  - about 1/4 cup
Parsley - a small handful, finely chopped
Garlic - 1-2 cloves - finely chopped
Remove shells from prawns and de-vein (leave the tails on if you so wish) and set aside.
Boil a pot of lightly salted water, add the amount of tagliatelle you need for two. Cook to al dente.
Note: The quantities for the following sauce will depend on how many you are cooking for. 
While the pasta is cooking, make your sauce.
On a low heat, heat a medium size non-stick fry pan with about 2tbsp of butter (or more if you like more richness). Be careful not over cook or burn, it will spoil the final result.
Add the garlic and 4 pieces of lemon, squashing them to obtain the juice as the garlic cooks. You need the lemon, it cuts through the richness of the butter and gives your sauce a lovely flavour.
After a few minutes, add about 1/4 cup cream, add a pinch of parsley and warm through,.
Remove from heat and strain into a bowl.
Clean the pan, add a little olive oil and more butter if you wish. Toss in the prawns and cook for a few minutes until just done.
Remove from heat and set aside. Pour your butter sauce back into the pan, add a little salt to taste.
Add remaining parsley and warm through.
Serve pasta in a warm bowl, pile on cooked prawns and drizzle your sauce on top.
This is one of those decadent dishes you can save up for a celebration dinner for two. It is perfect with a lovely little chardonnay!

Tuesday 12 August 2014

Pumpkin and Spinach pasta Rotolo

  I watched Jamie Oliver make this a week or so ago. I love his new TV programme, 'Saving with Jamie', in fact I have always liked his casual style of cooking and have quite a few of his recipe books in my library. I have never considered myself a 'fancy' cook, I am more aligned to his style of cooking than Julia Childs!
  His new 'cooking demo place' is in an old rustic looking warehouse type building. You see the odd train sliding past.... And so I find myself checking out the 'bibs and bobs' hanging around in the background - and lose touch with whats going on in his demo, thank goodness for the rewind button!
  This recipe is my kind of dish. Easy to make, using inexpensive ingredients, and very impressive looking to plonk on the table for the family.
  I made it exactly to his specifications, but just added a little water to the tomato sauce the rotolo sat in. Quite rightly I thought it might dry out if the sauce did not come up more than half way.
  I also roasted the pumpkin in  big chunks, so much easier to handle for your filling.
  While aimed at vegetarians, I'm sure you could easily adapt the ingredients to include a bolognaise sauce in the 'roll ups'.
   At Jamie's suggestion, I used frozen spinach ( a first for me ) and at about $5.00 a packet it seemed an easier and quicker way to use spinach. Saves all that washing and 'destalking'. I will have it on hand in my freezer from now on.
This dish is easy to reheat the next day too.
I added a little more water and sauce, to come up two thirds of the pasta 'roll ups'

The fried sage on top is an especially nice touch, I love the stuff!

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Brown bread, walnut and golden syrup steamed pudding

 For a recent dinner party I received a special request to make a golden syrup steamed pudding. I found this Ray McVinnie recipe after a search on the Cuisine website. It is just the ticket to cheer you up on a cold winters night. Trust me, they are divine! So easy to make if you have a kitchen whizz, some stale brown bread and a cup of walnuts on hand.
  As suggested, I used my (almost) redundant electric fry pan. (You can also use a bamboo dumpling steamer for the job). Using the fry pan, I had to keep a close eye on the water level and temperature in the pan. And I cooked my puddings a little longer than his 45 minutes. When checking with a skewer they were not quite done so I replaced the foil tightly and cooked them for about 10-15 minutes until I got that 'doneness'. (Is there such a word?).
  This recipe is fine for one large pudding. Steam for about 1 1/2 hours in a well covered bowl in a large saucepan with enough water to come 3/4 of the way up the bowl.
Making individual ones is a bit more of a fiddle. But when you serve these hot little gems onto a plate, they look gorgeous with all that lovely golden syrup ooooooozing over them. And they smell wonderful!
  I made the Chantilly cream to accompany my puddings, and in spite of serving six people I had a large bowl of cream left over. The good news is, the cream seems to go with anything remotely like a dessert!! Picture a banana smeared with Chantilly cream, so simple, and so lovely as a morning tea treat. Be great on a scone with raspberry jam too. Nothing gets wasted in this house!
 You can make the puddings beforehand. Leave the foil on the puddings and when required place them in a roasting dish with hot water (about half way up) and heat them in the oven for about 20 minutes on 160C.
Please try this recipe, it will take you back and remind you of your childhood and family winter puddings.
This was a pudding left over, and reheated the syrup has soaked in a bit
Ready to dig in, mmmmmmm......

Brown bread, walnuts and golden syrup steamed pudding – Ray McVinnie –Cuisine 
1 cup golden syrup
180g butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup coarsely chopped New Zealand walnut pieces
1 ½  cups fresh brown breadcrumbs, made by blitzing good-quality day-old brown sourdough in a food processor
175ml milk

Butter 6 x 250ml-capacity bowls or tea cups. Divide the golden syrup evenly among the bowls. Set aside.
Beat the butter and brown sugar together until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir the zest, flour, baking powder, walnuts, breadcrumbs and milk into the butter mix. Spoon this mixture evenly into the bowls, on top of the golden syrup.
Cover each bowl tightly with a double layer of foil then place in a large steamer or side by side in a large frying pan with a lid.
Fill the frying pan with hot water until it comes three-quarters of the way up the sides of the bowls. Cover and bring to the boil then simmer for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a pudding comes out clean.
Remove the puddings from the steamer then unmould on to serving plates. Serve with Chantilly cream.
Chantilly cream
200ml cream
150g mascarpone
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Put the cream, mascarpone, sugar and vanilla in a bowl then beat until the mixture holds soft peaks. Serve with the puddings.