Thursday, 29 November 2012

Eve's Pantry Christmas Cakes

Eve's Pantry in Takapuna has got into the Christmas spirit already with their prettily iced Christmas cakes. gold painted reindeer, and a ratty Father Christmas.

NZ Rugby Kitchen

I wrote this review for the GrownUps website . It includes a great recipe for Roasted Snapper with Israeli Couscous from Al Brown's Go Fish.

Thankfully a man in the kitchen is no longer a rare sight. While some are there out of sheer necessity due to divorce or widower hood, others simply enjoy whipping up a meal by themselves.

Last year when I was working full time and my partner part-time it was such a pleasure to come home to one of his dinners. But after a steady diet of roasts and sausages (his favourite meals) it is time to extend his repertoire.

I could create a file for him of easy recipes. But this takes time. So a recipe book with accessible man friendly recipes is an easy way out. The New Zealand Rugby Kitchen (celebrating the love of food, family and rugby) fits the bill very nicely.

Inside is a wide range of dishes from the likes of Richie McCaw, Piri Weepu, Dan Carter, Jerome Kaino and Conrad Smith. And it is also a walk down memory Lane with recipes by Colin Meads and Waka Nathan.

It's great to see rugby players as role models in the kitchen as well as on the field. They look happy, relaxed and confident as they chop, stir the pot, barbecue and do the dishes.

When I showed this recipe book to my partner his eyes began to gleam as he leafed through the pages.

"Really good recipes," was his verdict. Some I knew he would immediately want to cook such as
  • Kurt Baker's Mince and Cheese Pies filled with prime mince beef and cheddar cheese encased in butter puff pastry.
  • Corey Flynn's Spare ribs marinated in hoisin ,oyster and light soy sauce, sesame oil and five-spice powder
  • Jimmy Cowan's Roast Pork rubbed with oil and flaky sea salt served with the crackling, roast vegetables and apples alongside.
  • Dan Carter's Lasagne properly made with a Bolognese and White sauces interlaced with fresh lasagne sheets and covered with grated mozzarella.
  • Sir Graham Henry's Apple Sponge .
  • And Charlie Faumuina's large and luscious Chocolate cake with a luscious thick layer of icing.

Some of the recipes would have to be only occasional treats. Richard Kahui uses 500 ml of cream to make his Sweet Chilli Mussels. This is probably fine for players who are into regular strenuous physical exercise out on the field. But if my partner took a fancy to this recipe I'd be encouraging him to go to the gym more often.

Rugby players are a carnivorous lot.While there are chapters on pies, beef, pork and lamb as well as seafood and poultry it does seem a shame that there is no vegetable chapter. Tane Norton's Bacon and egg pie also includes tomatoes and four bunches of fresh spinach. And Jarrad Hoeata's Thai Green curry is swimming in beans and broccoli as well as chicken in a coconut broth.

But to ensure that the man in your life cooks a balanced meal it would be a wise to teach him how to toss a good salad and  cook seasonal vegetables.

For first time cooks there are some incredibly easy recipes like Ben Frank's Easy Apricot and Mustard Pork Chops which has only 4 ingredients.

But once blokes have mastered these they will be ready to go on to further heights such as Andrew Hore's Venison with Beer and Port (a stubbie of beer needs to be sacrificed for this. Andrew recommends Speight's as any good Otago man would)

Or they might like to master that sixties party favourite Beef Wellington chosen by Victor Vito. This is a particularly gorgeous recipe inspired by Gordon Ramsay. And if they are fishermen they may like to transform their catch into Conrad Smith's Roasted Snapper with Israeli Couscous which is a fantastic Al Brown recipe.

In my experience Celebrity cookbooks can be disappointing, great to look at but once you try out the recipes they don't necessarily work. Thankfully behind every man in this book was a good woman by the name of Kathy Paterson (a trained Cordon Bleu Chef) She tested the recipes and created some great food for this book ensuring that they are not only tasty but fool proof.

If you do decide to give this book to the man in your life you'll be winning three ways. He will happily move into the kitchen and cook the dinner more often. You get to sip a glass of wine and put your feet up until dinner is served. And you'll also be contributing to a worthy cause. All the royalties from this book are going to the New Zealand Rugby Foundation which supports badly injured rugby players.

NZ Rugby Kitchen
RRP: $45.00
Publisher: Random House New Zealand

Conrad Smith's Roasted Snapper with Israeli Couscous

This recipe comes from Al Brown's 'Go Fish'. Serves 4

For the Marinade

½ cup chopped fresh parsley and coriander
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Zest of 2 lemons
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 x 2–3 kilogram whole snapper, scaled and gutted

For the Israeli Couscous

50 grams butter
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
zest and juice of 1 lemon
½ cup currants
Good pinch of saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
250 grams Israeli couscous
2½ cups hot chicken stock
knob of butter
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Place all the marinade ingredients, except the fish, in a food processor and process to a rough purée.

Make 3 slashes, through to the bone, on each side of the snapper. Place in a large, oiled roasting dish. Brush over most of the marinade, brushing well into the scored flesh on both sides as well as in the gut cavity. Cover and place in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 2 hours. Keep any remaining marinade for cooking the snapper.

Place a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the butter, onion, garlic, lemon zest and currants. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden. Add the saffron with its liquid, and the lemon juice and paprika. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the couscous, stir, then add the hot stock. Cover with the saucepan lid and cook for 8–10 minutes. Stir through the knob of butter and the chopped parsley. Keep warm or cool then refrigerate and carefully reheat for serving.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Remove the snapper from the refrigerator and cover the roasting dish with tinfoil. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the snapper from the oven and set the oven to grill. Remove the tinfoil, brush the snapper with the remaining marinade and place under the hot grill to caramelise the presentation side of the snapper. Remove from the grill and set aside to rest for 5 minutes.

Place the whole snapper on a large serving platter with the Israeli couscous to one side.

Conrad Smith made his All Blacks debut at centre in 2004 and has played in over 50 Tests. He has played for Wellington since 2003 and the Hurricanes since 2004 and he captained the Hurricanes in 2012.

Recipe reprinted with permission from NZ Rugby Kitchen
RRP: $45.00
Publisher: Random House New Zealand

Speculaas Apple Muffins

I baked these for Ann Marie , a Dutch visitor who was invited for morning tea today. Muffins are not a traditional Dutch recipe but Speculaas spices are.

Speculaas kruiden ( spices)  were first created in the 17th century in Holland when the Dutch East India Fleet were involved in the spice trade and brought spices to Holland from the Far East including cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves, coriander and cardamon.

Bakers began to mix these spices to create what became known as speculaas kruiden.In New Zealand Dutch shops sell this spice blend, and Equagold is now also blending it locally from imported product.

She really liked them so I'll post my recipe. Sinterklaas ( the Dutch festival of St Nicholas) will be happening on December 5 so I'll be using these spices again very soon


500 gm of peeled Granny Smith apples ( cut into small chunks)
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of castor sugar
1/2 cup of rice bran oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence ( I used Heilala)
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 tablespoon of Speculaas spices (I used Equagold)
a pinch of salt


Add the eggs and vanilla essence to the oil and whisk togehter
In another bowl stir the sugar through the apples
Mix the apples into the egg mixture
Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together and add.
Stir the batter until it it just combined
This will fill 16 medium sized muffin tins which have been lightly greased.
Bake for 25 minutes at 180C.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Garden Spinach and Silverbeet Quiche


I gathered an armful of young silverbeet and spinach leaves from the garden this morning to make this quiche and felt like an earthmother without gumboots.

They have to be young for this recipe so no fat white stalks! For the filling I added some mascarpone cheese rather than cream for its rich and slightly tangy flavour.You could use either spinach or silverbeet or both, just whatever is growing in your vegetable patch.

I've just started to make my own pastry again. It does mean you have to think ahead because it needs chilling before filling. What put me back on the path was a box full of ceramic beads ( which look like undersized marbles) , a birthday present from my sister-in-law Alison. In years past I simply used macaroni ( which I kept in a separate jar in the pantry so it could be re-used)

 The tin did not have a removable bottom as I was scared that some of the filling might leak out so I lined it with baking paper to make sure the quiche was easy to remove.



75 grams if diced chilled butter
150 gm of flour
2 tablespoon of very cold water ( chilled in the fridge for a while)
1 egg yolk


Whizz  the chilled butter, and flour in the food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the yolk and chilled water and pulse briefly just until the mixture comes together.
Remove from the food processor and knead briefly into a ball.
Roll out to line a 20 cm tart tin.
Put in the fridge to rest for an hour/or in the freezer for quarter of an hour.
To prebake the pastry crust in the oven cover  the top of the pastry with baking paper and fill with ceramic baking beans.
Cook for 10 minutes at 190C.
Remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes.


About 250 gm of young silverbeet and spinach leaves 
1/2 cup of milk
1/3 cup of mascarpone cheese
2 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of cheddar cheese (grated)
1/4 cup  of parmesan cheese ( grated)

Remove the stalks from the spinach and silverbeet. Rinse well and put in lidded saucepan with the water still clinging to them.
Bring to the boil and cook briefly until they have wilted and are reduced in volume.
Put into a sieve or colander and press with the back of a spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. Then chop.
Mix the eggs, the mascarpone cheese and the cheddar cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the spinach and silverbeet mixture.
Pour carefully into the pastry lined tin.
Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven at 180C until the filling is firm to the touch ( about 30 minutes)

A variation:
I also make this quiche with a mashed potato bottom and the same filling and baking time as as above. This makes an easy vegetarian meal.


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Key Lime Crumble Cake


This is a variation on a Lemoncurd  Krummeltorte which appears on several internet sites so I don't know who first created the recipe. For the filling, instead of lemoncurd I used a packet of Barker's Key Lime Tart Filling and it worked perfectly.I took it to our book club end of year party last night and they loved it.


2 cups of selfraising flour
1 cup of castor sugar
100g of butter (chilled and chopped)
2 eggs
1 packet of Barker's Key Lime Tart Filling
Icing sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 180C
Lightly grease and line a 23cm square baking tin with baking paper.
Whizz the self-raising flour, butter and sugar in the food processor until the mixture resembles crumbs
Add the eggs and pulse/mix briefly to combine.
Press 2/3 of mixture in the baking paper lined tin
Spread with  the Barker's Key Lime Tart Filling.
Crumble the rest of the pastry on the top ( I let it firm in the freezer and then grated it over)
Bake for 35-40 minutes
Before serving sprinkle over some icing sugar.


Monday, 26 November 2012

Raw Energy Salad from Ripe Deli

The festive season is upon us and after indulging in a steady diet of party food I'm craving healthy food. This is one of my all time favourite salads from the Ripe Deli Cookbook.
Ripe Deli is in Grey Lynn. It was started by Angie Redfern who has a passion for producing fresh quality healthy food with a creative touch . Apart from those healthy salads it also sells decadent home-baked slices, cakes and brioches, a variety of gourmet sandwiches & wraps, chutneys, relishes , cured meats and cheeses.
Raw Energy Salad From Ripe Deli:

Serves 4-6

500g raw beetroot, peeled and grated
700g carrot, peeled and grated
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
½ cup (80g) raisins
¼ cup (30g) sunflower seeds, toasted (see pg 211)
¼ cup (30g) pumpkin seeds, toasted
½ tsp salt

2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (60ml) orange juice
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
1 tbsp honey

To prepare the dressing: place all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to combine.
To prepare the salad: in a large serving bowl, combine the beetroot, carrot, mint, raisins, seeds and salt and mix. Pour over the dressing – toss again when ready to serve. 
 Ripe Deli takibg part in the Pop Up Sustainable City in The Cloud ( November 2012)

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Banana Pancake Bites

I've been working to create the perfect banana pancake  and this is what I came up with this morning. More "All Good" Fair Trade banana than pancake so these little bites must be healthy.They were yummy with a drizzle of Heilala Vanilla Syrup poured over them after they came out of the oven.

To make them I cooked a batch of pancakes and filled each with a banana . This was chopped into smaller pieces with a sharp knife and then the bites were put into a baking dish and sprinkled with some cinnamon sugar. They were baked for 15 minutes in a moderate oven , enough to warm the bananas, and slightly caramelise the sugar. I watched them carefully towards the end as I wanted the top of the pancakes to become crisp, not burnt.

The cinnamon sugar was made by mixing equal quantities of cinnamon and castor sugar.

The pancake batter I used made large thin pancakes, just right for this recipe

Pancake batter:


1 cup of flour
2 tablespoons of castor sugar
3 eggs
11/4 cups of milk
A few drops of Heilala vanilla essence


Sift the flour into a bowl
Add the castor sugar
Beat the eggs with the milk.Add a few drops of Heilala vanilla essence
Whisk the dry and wet ingredients together
Leave to stand for 1/2 hour.

For each pancake:

Melt a little butter in a frying pan
Ladle in enough batter to coat the base of the pan
When the pancake has browned underneath flip it over.

For the Banana Pancake Bites:

Roll a pancake around each All Good banana
Press down on it slightly and it will magically straighten out,
Cut it into fat slices with a sharp knife.
Arrange in an ovenproof dish,
Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven.


Cooking with Lavender

This bunch of lavender came from my friend Kathy's garden and after I had photographed it to capture its pure violet colour I started to investigate what culinary uses I could put it to.
 It is important to only use lavender which has not been sprayed. Freshly picked it can be  used as a decorative garnish.Some say that it tastes good in a salad but I tried chewing some and I didn't find the taste of fresh lavender appealing so don't plan to go there.
From what I have read,the stalks ( with the flowerbuds removed) can  be put on the barbecue when you are cooking chicken to enhance the flavour. Or they can be laid underneath meat while it is roasting in the oven.They can also be used as kebab sticks.
Lavender also has many culinary uses in baking and desserts when dried. I  look forward to trying some of these. But first I needed to dry some. This was easily be done  by arranging the flowerheads (with stalks attached) in a single layer on a paper towel in my microwave.
I started checking after a minute and then again every thirty seconds until they were completely brittle. In my microwave this took a couple of minutes. After this I stripped the flowerheads from the leaves, crushed them in my hand and put them in a lidded glass jar away from the sunlight in my pantry.Next I plan to make some lavender sugar and use it in some baking. The instructions are here:
An excellent overview about lavender, its history and how you can cook with it is

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Best-Ever Chocolate Cake

This is my grandaughter's Susie's birthday cake which she made and decorated by herself. The chocolate cake recipe is our very favourite one for special occasions. It keeps moist for several days but it's sturdy enough not to break apart or crumble when you fill it with jam and ice it.

And it brings back happy memories of our son Nick's time, quite some years ago, when he went to Takapuna Kindy.

The recipe comes from "Fun Stuff for Kindy Kids" (A Cake Stall Collection of Treats) from Takapuna Kindergarten.

The batter looks alarmingly runny after it has been beaten so I use a 20 cm cake tin without a removable bottom (lined with baking paper). When I double the recipe for a crowd I bake it in a small roasting dish.

Only about 20 copies of this recipe book are still available. It has lots of other delicious and kid friendly recipes in it.
To find out more you can contact the kindergarten at

Best-ever Chocolate Cake
(A.K.A. Easiest Ever Chocolate Cake!!!!)
From Three Bags Full

Reprinted with kind permission from Takapuna Kindergarten.


2/3 cup of cocoa
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup of sugar
2 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup of buttermilk or plain runny yoghurt
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 tsp of vanilla extract or essence
approximately 1 C of warm water


Preheat oven to 180C

Grease a small round tin or line 24 cup-cake pans

Mix all ingredients together with electric mixer for 3 minutes until smooth.

Pour batter into cake tin or divide evenly among lined cupcake pans.

Bake, until tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 35 minutes for cake or 15-20 minutes for cup cakes

Delicious filled with raspberry jam, iced with chocolate icing and served with a dollop of cream

Too easy! I often use Bakel's Gluten Free Flour Mix and just drop the baking powder from the recipe.

Double the recipe for a large cake ( ideal for a birthday cake size) Now I know everyone claims to have a "Best-ever" chocolate cake recipe, but this one is so fail safe and I have been asked for the recipe so many times I thought it's about time I gave it away!! It takes less than 10 minutes to make and I have even used it as a wedding base before's that good! The other bonus is it also makes equally good very versatile!


Strawberry or Lemon Mousse

This is a tale of two puddings . It started badly. I made this strawberry mousse ( alias a golden oldie called jelly whip) for my granddaughter's birthday, To make it a little more girly and exotic I added some rose water. Bad idea! Only one person showed any appreciation and that was my granddaughter Emily whose face lights up at the very thought of any dessert and has been known to cheekily calls me Grandma Pudding. How embarrassing to be caught out at a birthday dinner! Should always try first.

My sister in law Alison, who was there, has now put me right. She makes this dessert two ways and without rosewater. The lemon one, she says, is the best as it tastes like a proper mousse should with the sharp citrussy flavour of the lemon cutting through  the sweetness of the jelly.  To make it more fruity she adds some sliced strawberries to the pink mousse.

For these recipes the evaporated mik has to be very well chilled. Overnight in the fridge is good. The jelly has to cool down completely in the fridge, just to the point where it is ready to start setting.This means watching it carefully.

The  first time I made it I didn't.So it set completely.With a few bursts in the microwave it was easily turned into a liquid again.Then I did watch it carefully until it was almost set.

Each of these desserts makes enough for 6 servings in pretty teacups or smallish bowls but the recipe can easily be doubled.

Lemon Mousse:

1 packet of lemon jelly
1/2 tin of evaporated milk
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of lemon juice
grated rind of 1/2 orange

Chill the evaporated milk well ( for several hours in the fridge)
Make up the jelly with 1/2 cup of boiling water
Stir in 1/2 cup of lemon juice and the grated rind of 1/2 orange
Whip the chilled evaporated milk for several minutes until it is thick and frothy and has at least doubled in volume.
Mix the jelly and evaporated milk together briefly until there are no streaks.
Put back in the fridge until set (Allow a couple of hours for this)

Pink Mousse:

1 packet of raspberry jelly ( I used Gregg's )
1/2 tin of evaporated milk
1 cup of water
A few strawberries


Chill the evaporated milk well ( for several hours in the fridge)
Make the jelly up with 1 cup of boiling water and leave till almost set.
Whip the chilled evaporated milk for several minutes until it is thick and frothy
Mix the jelly and evaporated milk together briefly until there are no streaks.
Lightly stir in a handful of sliced strawberries.
Put back in the fridge until set (Allow a couple of hours for this)


Friday, 23 November 2012

More from the Sustainable Pop Up City

My son Nick is greener than green, I'm more of a light minty shade but after spending time at the Pop Up City at the Cloud yesterday I'm feeling very inspired. 
For starters I carried a bucket full of ECO cleaning products home and I would have to say that giving the kitchen a scrub knowing that there wouldn't be any of those nasty chemicals left on my hands or on the walls  was very satisfying.
Now that I know what's available I'll be on the lookout to take a few more small steps in the sustainable direction.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

A Sustainable Pop up City

The Sustainable Pop Up City is on in Auckland at the Cloud from November 22-24 2012 .I went because I had heard about the farmer's market /cafe environment and was keen to discover what kinds of organic and sustainable cuisine was  on offer. And there was  lots of good food from
  • All Good Bananas
  • The Farm Butchery
  • Purebread Organics
  • Oob organics
  • Kokako Coffee
  • Hakanoa Handmade
  • Ripe Deli
  • Nice Blocks
  • Scarborough Fair

But there was a lot more to discover. Here are some of the people I met and the products I found:
For more about this great exhibition go to



All Good Bananas Banana Bread

A Wheelbarrow of All Good Bananas at the Sustainable City

I dropped into the Cloud this morning  to discover what the sustainable city of the future could look like. It's on in Auckland from  November 22-24 2012.
It's a cool concept. You can meander through  different areas of the city, including office spaces, homes, transport, cafés and entertainment, and experience everyday sustainable solutions.With 110 different sustainable businesses there was a lot to take in.

The latest sustainable fashions were a feast for the eyes. But soon my stomach was rumbling. Thanks to All Good Bananas for filling the gap!

As I got talking to them they divulged that they have created a great banana bread recipe and  they are happy for it to appear on my blog.

Now what I like about All Good Bananas is that  they are the only Fair trade Bananas you can buy in New Zealand and they are exuberantly funny. They had the audacity to call this Badass Banana Bread!

Badass Banana Bread ( Yup it's that Good!)

Now we like to think we know a thing or two about banana bread. We’ve certainly eaten and baked our fair share of it. Not without controversy though (and no we’re not talking about the time we almost burnt down banana HQ).
Banana bread has its staunch defenders who like it sliced, toasted and smothered with butter each morning, and then there are the critics. Those who think calling it bread is just a super-sneaky, deluded way of fooling yourself that you’re not eating cake when you are.
Either way, we think this recipe is pretty much near perfect. Dress it up, or dress it down. Bake it, toast it, butter it (if you must), or stack it with cakey-butter-cream icing. Just enjoy it for what it is, a tasty banana treat.
Think you’ve got a better recipe? Then drop us a line at and tell us about it.
But we’ll need proof (mmmh delicious, delicious proof).

  • 285g/10oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 110g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 215g caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 85ml buttermilk or natural unflavoured yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (we tried it with Heilala vanilla, AMAZING!)
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon to taste (*optional)
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and grease a large-sized loaf tin (20cm x 12.5cm should do the job).
Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon if you fancy) into a large mixing bowl.
Grab a separate bowl, and cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Mix in the eggs, mashed bananas, buttermilk/yoghurt and vanilla extract to the butter and sugar mixture. Fold this into the dry mixture.
Pour the mixture into the greased tin and pop in the oven. Bake for an hour, or until golden-brown and its risen well.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for a couple of mins and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool before serving.

To find out more about All Good Bananas go to:


Two of my granddaughters won first prize for these orange flavoured meringues at  a Palm Oil Free Baking Competition held at the Auckland zoo.They  are mouthwatering treats with delicate crisp shells and chewy chocolaty centers.
For Meringues
3 egg whites
1 cup castor sugar
A few drops of yellow and red food colouring
1 tablespoon of malt vinegar
1 teaspoon of corn flour
1 teaspoon cocoa

For Ganache
100 gm of Whittaker’s milk chocolate
3 tablespoons of cream.
½ teaspoon of orange essence

1. Beat egg whites till the soft peak stage
2. Beat in castor sugar slowly, one teaspoon at a time till thick and glossy. This should take about 10 minutes.
3. Beat in food colouring, vinegar corn flour and cocoa.
5. Put lots of heaped teaspoons of the meringue mixture (for the child meringutans) and fewer heaped tablespoons of the mixture (for the adult meringutans) on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
4. Bake in low oven 110-120 degrees C for about 45 minutes until the meringues are crisp and dry.
5. While they are baking melt the chocolate and then stir in 3 tablespoons of cream and ½ teaspoon of orange essence to make the chocolate ganache.
6. When cold fill with chocolate ganache mixture and arrange on plates in meringutan families.

A sorry tale is rapidly unfolding in Borneo as the rainforest is being chopped down to make way for palm oil plantations. Unless this is halted orangutans will shortly become the first of the great apes to be extinct.

At the heart of the problem is the growing demand for palm oil. Palm oil is made from the fruit of the African oil palm tree. It is widely used in foods, cosmetics and biofuels. The problem will continue unless consumers can be persuaded to stop buying products which contain this ingredient.

We can do our part to preserve the orang’s habitat by refusing to buy any products containing palm oil. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to know which foods in our supermarkets do contain it as it is not compulsory to state this on the label. Only peanut oil, sesame and soya bean oil must be specifically labeled in food products to protect allergy sufferers. All other oils can simply be labeled as “vegetable oil”. However if the fat content is over 25 percent the oil will probably be palm oil.

Zoo staff are lobbying Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) to legislate to label palm oil on all food products that contain palm oil (or its derivatives) and are hoping that all New Zealanders will support them.

In the Indonesian rainforest time is unfortunately running out for the orangs. The Zoo’s Conservation Officer, Peter Fraser, has warned that they could be extinct in the wild within twelve years. Other reports from overseas estimate that the time frame may be much shorter.

It would be great if consumers, not just in New Zealand but all over the world, halted the tide of palm oil production by choosing palm oil free products.




Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Butter Chicken from the Westmere Butchery

The boys at the Westmere Butchery

 Butter Chicken is the favourite recipe of one of my granddaughters. I only cook it to indulge her very occasionally as it is swimming in cream, but this is what makes it taste so good. Here is the recipe from the Westmere Butchery We’re Not Firefighters 2010 Calendar . I interviewed them some time ago but they're still going strong.
  • 50g butter
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 600g Chicken thigh fillets, skin off, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ¾ cup cream
  • coriander leaves to garnish
In a large frying pan melt the butter and gently cook the garlic and onion until tender. Increase the heat and add the nutmeg, turmeric, cumin and chicken to the pan, Cook, stirring for 5 minutes Add the tomato paste, garam masala and sugar. Stir until well combined. Pour in the cream and simmer for 15 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve with coriander leaves and steamed rice.

Here is the original story:

As you enter the Westmere Butchery you can’t fail to notice the large Arsenal Football Club poster on the wall behind the counter. It’s obvious that there’s more to life than making the perfect banger for these guys. There’s some ardent supporters here and they are keen to let you know it.
The Westmere Butchery is a real butcher shop where the meat is prepared on site. The customers, of whom I am a regular, come because the meat tastes so good, it’s not too expensive and the staff is very obliging. You can ask for a specific cut. As they do all their own carcasses they are happy to do it for you.
They are passionate about producing quality meat. Their steaks can be boned, vacuum packed on the spot and then allowed to age for 2 weeks before selling, making them juicy and tender. They also cure their own bacon and have a smoker out the back.
They have a great selection of organic and free range meat, some of it in their own spicy marinades like their kebabs and chicken pieces. What they are best known for, however are their sausages, to which my partner is exceedingly partial.
His favourite, the award winning beef sausages. These, as well as the Toulouse won gold in the 2009 Great New Zealand Sausage competition which draws entries from all over the country, from small owner operated businesses to large producers.
The judges proclaimed them to be an outstanding example of the classic beef sausage. The reasons: they were in a generously filled casing, carefully seasoned and texturally very attractive. They had a fresh aroma, great colour and consistency of size and shape and a true beef flavour.
But what's the secret behind these sausages? They first start with quality meat, with just enough fat (about 20%) to keep them juicy. No gristle or bone chips of course. Then in go their special mixtures of seasonings before they are stuffed into their casings. A couple of days in the chiller sees them right. It allows the flavours to mingle. The end result is their prize winning sausages.
These sausages deserve to be cooked with care. You don’t need to boil them before they go on the barbecue. And don’t prick them; just cook them nice and slow. That way they won’t split.
In between a rush of customers I had a quick chat to two of the butchers. They have worked there for quite some time and intend to stay.
Their boss, Dave, the most ardent of the Arsenal fans, is English but lived in South Africa for 20 years. There he developed a taste for boerenwors and biltong which the Westmere butchers now make for their South African customers and which other New Zealanders are also developing a taste for.
Douglas has worked there for five years, and is now a qualified butcher He says that the best way to learn his trade was on site, which he did.
Les had been here for six-and-a-half years. Previously an engineer with the London Fire Brigade, he couldn’t be happier with his change of career, and the pay is better.
For the butchers it's a full-on working day. The first person is there by 5am and the last person is not out until 1-2am the following morning.
You'd think the long working hours would make the staff grumpy, but no, it's a great working atmosphere, and that’s how they like it, full of laughter, and that kind of quirky English humour. Doug tells me that out the back there’s a constant flow of typical butcher jokes, which being the gentleman he is he declines to share with me.
But I can take a look at their rather wicked tongue in cheek “We’re not Firefighters Calendar” in which Hugh, Pugh, Barney Magrue, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub (their stage names) bare rather a lot, to raise funds for the Guardian Angels, a trust that provides support for terminally ill children and their families which are financially disadvantaged.
Being a foodie my eyes are, of course, immediately drawn to the recipes in this calendar which includes such tantalizing dishes as barbecued butterflied leg of lamb, butter chicken; stir fried pork in lettuce parcels, Beef Guinness and mushroom pies and Sticky Asian oxtail.
It’s making me hungry. I’m out of here with my meat! This week it’s an organic chicken, some mince and of course those sausages which my partner will be exceedingly happy to see on his plate tonight served with mash while he watches a game on the telly: The perfect match!
The Westmere Butchery can be found at 131West End Road, Westmere, Auckland

Tortilla and Sincronizada: Healthy Mexican Snacks

I wanted to know the best way to make tortillas so I went to Margaret Flores, my colleague, who spent years living in Mexico and married into a Mexican family. She told me:

  “All sorts of variations on the tortilla appear in recipe books but most of them are local inventions and are not how they are eaten in Mexico. For instance they would never add lettuce to a tortilla filling.”

In New Zealand she often uses flour tortillas. “Flour tortillas are a staple in Northern Mexico. In other parts of the country they use corn tortillas which are smaller. These are difficult to find in New Zealand. The packet ones from the supermarket taste dry.

When I can find the time I occasionally make them myself with maseca which can be ordered from Mexifoods in Christchurch. They also stock a range of salsas and other Mexican food.” Her advice is to buy the Woolworths Home brand flour tortillas. Each packet contains 15 tortillas and they are the cheapest and best. “

In Mexico alongside the tortilla there will always be a sauce “Chilies are usually used in a sauce. But Mexican food does not have to be hot. There are many different kinds of chilies. It’s not how hot they are but their different flavours which interests Mexican cooks. A dish may have eight different kinds of chilies to give the desired complexity of flavours. Some sauces in Mexico are cooked while others are raw.

And in Mexico they would use white onions. Our brown onions are perfectly adequate but they do have a stronger taste. “ For a really quick snack her suggestion is to follow three easy steps to create a quesadilla

Fill: Put grated cheese on half of each tortilla. (For a variation you can also add ham.)Then fold it over.
Heat: In Mexico a tortilla is always warmed. Slide it into in a warmed fry pan, and when heated through on one side flip it over and warm the other side. Or you can use a George Foreman Grill to toast it.
Eat with a Sauce:

Here are two easy recipes for uncooked sauces

  Salsa Cruda:
• Mix together some chopped tomatoes, a little chopped onion, a green chili and some chopped coriander and some lemon juice. Season with salt.

• Mash an avocado; add a squeeze of lemon/lime juice, a little chopped onion, chopped tomatoes, and coriander. Add salt to taste.

Once kids have mastered the basic tortilla they may well like to try their hand at a sincronizada. For this a flour tortilla is left unfolded. Fry some chopped bacon and onion. Mash a tin of borlotti beans. Mix the bacon and onion into this. This is a simplified way of making refried beans. Spread some of this mixture on the tortilla. Add a slice of ham, some grated cheese and a little chili. A second tortilla is then placed on top. Lift the sincronizada into a warmed heavy bottomed fry pan. (Not too hot or it will burn). No need to add oil. When heated on one side flip it over and warm the other.

We tried both the tortillas and the sincronizada. They were a cinch to make and the kids loved the combination of savoury ham and melted cheese. The bacon and onion perked up the bland flavour of the beans. And they happily ate the salsa cruda and guacamole alongside except for the five year old. She turned up her nose and insisted on good old Wattie’s tomato sauce alongside. Margaret is philosophical about the fact that not all little kids will appreciate a freshly made salsa cruda and would rather squeeze some tomato sauce out of a bottle. She thinks they’ll get over it and their appreciation of Mexican Cuisine will hopefully develop over time.

Easy Kid's Dinners

The day my 6 year old granddaughter took one mouthful, pushed her plate away and said in her disarmingly frank way “If I eat this I’ll vomit”, was the day I stopped trying to cook special and creative dinners for them.

Now I stick to familiar food that they are comfortable eating, not too complicated or spicy. I imagine they will develop a taste for these kinds of foods later.

In my experience you can’t go wrong with perennial favourites like roast chicken or barbecued sausages. They’re evergreen family favourites and I can’t imagine them ever growing out of them.

Kids are creatures of habit. They like repetition. They love my easy version of spaghetti bolognaise. “It’s so nice,” they say, and look forward to eating it every week. So easy they’ll soon be able to cook it for themselves.

The tuna pasta is one their Mum devised one day using nothing more than a can of tuna, 1 packet of pasta, some cheddar cheese and a punnet of cherry tomatoes.

Alex from the butchery department in Ponsonby’s Nosh gave me the chicken nibble recipe late one afternoon when, on the way home from work, I was looking for a dish that was inexpensive and would effortlessly feed many. It is now one of their regular meals.

Vegetables are another matter. If two like cucumber one will not. It’s the same with most other vegetables. Few have their unanimous support.

The way I solve this in summer it to fill a large platter with rows of raw vegetables, carrot sticks, rounds of cucumber, chunks of iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes and avocado. They can choose what they like and have a spoonful of mayonnaise on the side if they wish. This works well and there’s seldom any left over.

And for dessert there’s always fruit and sometimes ice cream. For a specially decadent treat I keep a couple of tubs of Holy Moly ice cream in the freezer which are like whacky ice cream Sundays. My grandkids especially love the Meringue A’Tang ice cream which is a mixture of vanilla Ice cream, lemon curd Ripple, smashed pavlova and pie crumble. The Orange ice cream is another favourite . It’s a mixture of orange ice-cream, choc ripple, and smashed round orange chocolate lollies. Hide this flavour from any adults who are old enough to remember the days of rolling jaffas down the aisles in picture theatres, or they may demolish it before the kids get their share.

The following are more like shortcuts than recipes, but they work so they are very useful for feeding grandkids. For any accompanying adults I would add a few extra ingredients.

Tuna Pasta

Boil enough pasta in salted water to feed whoever is coming to dinner and drain.

Add a punnet of cherry tomatoes and a can of tuna (l always use a can of line caught FAD tuna like Pam’s)

Drain off most of the oil first, but leave just a little to keep this dish moist.

Stir is a generous amount of small cubes of cheddar cheese

For adults: Stir in some pitted olives and plenty of torn basil leaves.

Spaghetti Bolognaise:

Brown 500 grams of minced beef.

Add a grated carrot.

Pour in a jar of your favourite pasta sauce.

Let it all simmer for about 10 minutes until the mince is cooked and the liquid has reduced a little.

Boil some pasta in salted water.

Ladle the spaghetti bolognaise over the pasta in each bowl.

Cover with grated cheddar cheese.

Serve garlic bread alongside. Make this the quick way by slicing a loaf of French bread horizontally, then cut into smaller pieces. Spread with garlic butter and toast under a hot grill till the butter melts and the bread becomes crispy and brown. Watch carefully, it can burn easily.

For adults: Add some finely sliced mushrooms when you are cooking the bolognaise . Use grated parmesan rather than cheddar on top.

Chili and Sesame Chicken Nibbles:

The quantities are flexible. Simply put as many chicken nibbles as they will eat in a bowl. Pour over sweet chili sauce and stir to coat.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 20-30 minutes until done.

For adults: In a frying pan (no need to add oil ) toast some sesame seeds until they are lightly browned. Sprinkle these liberally over the chicken nibbles (some grandkids may also like these, but ask first!)

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Speculaas ( Dutch Windmill Cookies)


It's getting close to December 5, the Dutch Festival of Saint Nicholas so it was time to dust off my genuine
Dutch wooden speculaas mould, procured in Sydney for me by my niece at a Dutch shop and to make some
traditional speculaas.
But try as I would the dough would not release from the mould after I pressed it in. So here it is less than artfully arranged next to the cookies which I eventually turned into a roll , chilled in the freezer, cut into rounds and baked.
I used the Equagold recipe to make these spicy little biscuits.


120g butter
100g brown sugar
200g standard flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp Equagold Speculaas European Mixed Spice
Pinch salt
1tbsp milk
50g Ground almonds

Cream the butter, salt and sugar together in a bowl on low speed until mixed, but do not over mix.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and speculaas together and blend into the butter and sugar mix.
Fold in the milk and the ground almonds, and form the dough into a ball.
Wrap dough in a plastic bag or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hrs or overnight if you can.
Remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. Knead the dough until soft, but firm enough to work with.
Sprinkle some flour on the bench, and roll to a thickness of about 3-4 mm.
Use a biscuit cutter to cut into shapes—or use a genuine Dutch wooden windmill biscuit mould if you have one to press out the shapes.

Place shapes on a baking tray covered with baking paper.
Bake at 170 degrees C for 12-15 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven, and cool on the tray for 5 minutes, then place on a rack.
Store in an airtight container.

To find out more about Equagold, their products and recipes go to:



One Bean Salad

Now what could I make with a can of french green flageolets beans which I'd picked up at our Sunday market. These small delicately flavoured beans are popular in France but I'd never tasted them here. They are in fact young haricot beans.

Their pretty pistachio colour deserved to be shown off so I  decided to revisit that 1950's barbecue favourite " The Four Bean Salad". This was always made with tinned beans as apparently these had more flavour when left to go cold than fresh ones.

There would be a mixture of several beans ( waxed yellow, cut green beans, kidney beans and chickpeas) and they floated in a very sugary and vinegary dressing. Common proportions were 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and 3/4 cup of sugar. I'd throw up my hands in horror now if anyone requested me to add so much sugar!

But as it was just a matter of opening a few cans and chopping an onion it was a very quick and easy salad to make although it did have to be left to marinade in the fridge overnight so the flavours could mingle and the flavour of the chopped onion which was also added would mellow.

Here is my updated one bean salad.


1 can of D'Aucy green flageolets ( 400ml)
1/4-1/2 cup of marinated sundried tomatoes ( I used Cottrell and Rouse)
1/2 onion.( finely chopped)
1 clove of garlic ( finely chopped)
Plenty of chopped parsley


To make my flagelot bean salad I rinsed the beans well and put them in a salad bowl.

 I wanted to retain that sweet and sour flavour in this salad so I added half a cup of drained sundried tomatoes ( from a jar made by Cotterill and Rouse) These have been marinated in cider vinegar, sugar and spices.

I fried 1/2 onion and finely sliced garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a gentle heat until the onion was translucent and added these to the salad.

Then stirred in a handful of chopped parsley and a tablespoon of olive oil. And seasoned to taste with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and salt.

This salad could be served immediately. It was nice served slightly warm, but it would keep well in the fridge if it was made earlier in the day. In this case I'd add the parsley just before serving.

Next time I may add chopped celery for some crunch.
Or some small chunks of fried chorizo sausage.


Party Cakes for Kiwi Kids

Party Cakes for Kiwi Kids

When I saw these seriously cute kiwis peering out at me from the cover of Party Cakes for Kiwi kids I wanted to take them home immediately and add them to my, collection. But my kitchen bookshelf is already groaning with an overload of cookery books, some of which are seldom used. It would have to be really useful!

I leafed through the pages and was entranced by the delightful photographs of 25 cakes, many decorated with a decidedly New Zealand flavour such as Jandals , Pacifica Mermaids, a Beach kiwi , a Birthday Burger, a Happy Camper and a Soccer shirt. Then there were fantasies like a fairy tale castle made with lamingtons and chocolate covered ice cream cones, and an erupting volcano cake dribbled with fiery red icing. A twisting line of cupcakes had been turned into a creepy-crawly caterpillar with lollie eyes and sour worms for the legs.

And there were cakes for those who simply love lollies, a bright yellow liquorice express and a treasure chest filled entirely with wrapped chocolates. For kids who love parties around a particular theme there was certainly lots to choose from!

Now a lollie cake is what we have always made at our house. I simply made or bought a cake, iced it and let the kids stick jelly beans, M and M’s and more of the same into the icing before it set. A few candles in between and, hey presto, we were ready to celebrate!

They usually turned out fine. But on occasion I had bought the wrong kind of cake. It fell apart as I iced it, and crumbs stuck to the icing. As I perused this book, I discovered there are ways to avoid such an unsightly mess, and recipes for the right kind of cakes which are easy to make.

There are 25 cake projects ranging from easy to more advanced. Each cake is accompanied by its photograph which looks very tempting. How to make it is clearly explained, step by step.

The authors take nothing for granted. Absolute cake decorating novices, like myself, are taken through the whole process. The book starts with the equipment you will need, how to colour and make sugar paste decorations and figures and how to cover a cake with it. Not every cake featured uses this ingredient, in some the more familiar butter cream is used.

As a family birthday was on the horizon I decided to take the plunge and move up from our basic lollie cake to a more superior model. My 3 grand daughters, aged 4, 6 and 8 were invited to participate (as 4 pairs of hands could be better than one, and help would be needed to lick the bowl). The occasion was their Mum’s birthday.

What we needed for cake decorating was easy to find. Bakel’s Pettucini white icing to make the sugar paste and edible glitter pens were in the baking section of our local supermarket. Why had I never noticed them before?

Three little icing sets, one for each helper, were bought from the Warehouse for under $3.00. Our local baker’s supply shop, D & B Bakery and Kitchenware had little packets of tiny edible hearts and flowers and the gels needed for colouring the icing.

But which cake should we make? Due to our lack of experience it seemed a wise move to start at the bottom end. We leafed through the pages. And there it was, on page 34. Our lollie cake, suitably named “Lollie Overload” but looking decidedly more glamorous with aeroplanes floating above it attached to pieces of cake decorating wire.

Now aeroplanes would not be quite the thing for their Mum, instead they thought flowers on stalks would look great. But although I had searched this wire was not to be found in our local shops, and this was one case where that New Zealand standby number 8 fencing wire just would not do!

We looked at more cakes. The girls thought the funky handbag would be just right for their Mum (but oh dear, no wire for the handle!) and they loved the Pacifica mermaid but one of them wanted to save that for her birthday later on in the year.

So we decided to be creative and use the ideas in the book in our own way, The chocolate cake from the book was easily made and the bowl was licked clean. Then we kneaded some gel into the icing to make it an adorable light purple. It stained their hands which was a little disconcerting, but it was easily washed off with soap and water. Next time we’ll remember to use plastic gloves. Then they took turns at rolling the icing out to a circle and draping it over the cake. So far, so good!

They used the glitter pen to write Happy Birthday and added stars and swirly patterns. It was fun! There was enough icing left over to model hearts or flowers but time had run out and the birthday girl was due to arrive any minute. Se the candles were quickly stuck in, just in time! And she said it was great!

It had all been much easier than we thought. Our cake decorating skills have definitely gone up a notch. And there can be no looking back now! With 25 cake-making projects to inspire them the girls will be grown-ups before they are likely to run out of ideas!

Chocolate Cake

125 g butter
125 g dark chocolate
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk or plain unsweetened yoghurt
1¼ cups plain flour
¼ cup cocoa
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line a 23 cm round cake tin with baking paper.
Place the butter and chocolate into a small metal or glass bowl and set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. When the chocolate begins to melt, stir to combine it with the butter.
When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat, add the sugar and vanilla essence and mix well.
Lightly beat the eggs and add them to the mixture along with the buttermilk or yoghurt. Stir well and transfer to a larger bowl.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then add this to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate buttercream icing
100 g butter, softened
1¾ cups icing sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
a little hot water
Beat the butter in a small bowl with an electric mixer until it turns almost white.
Sift together the icing sugar and cocoa powder, then mix this into the butter along with a little hot water. Beat until you have a smooth, light-textured icing.
Buttercream icing
100 g butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar
a little hot water

Beat the butter in a small bowl with an electric mixer until it turns almost white.
Gradually sift in the icing sugar, along with a little hot water, and beat until you have a fluffy, light-textured icing.
Using a crumb coat
When you cut a cake to shape it you invariably create plenty of crumbs. To prevent these getting into your buttercream icing and ruining the finish, you may like to ice the cake with a ‘crumb coat’ first.
This is simply a thin layer of buttercream icing spread over the cake which will collect and hold all the crumbs in place. Leave the icing to dry for a few minutes before covering with your main and final buttercream coating.

Using templates
Templates for some of our cake shapes and decorative figures are provided in the back of the book. To make these motifs, cover the template with a sheet of baking paper. Knead the sugarpaste until it is soft and pliable, then place an appropriately sized ball of it in the centre of the template shape (visible through the baking paper). Use your fingers to mould the sugarpaste to fill in the outline. Place on the cake immediately or store in plastic food wrap until needed.
To cut the cakes that use a template, trace the template onto baking paper and cut out. Place this pattern on the cake and cut around the outline with a serrated knife.

from Party Cakes for Kiwi Kids
by Annette Hislop and Linda Ross
Photography by Nicole Topping
Publisher: New Holland

First published at

Monday, 19 November 2012

Baked Silverbeet and Ricotta Filled Pasta Shells


A box of conchiglioni rigati ( large pasta shells) had sat in my pantry for quite a while . I'd bought them on impulse because they are so decorative but it was time to use them up.So I filled them with a mixture of  young silverbeet leaves out of the garden stirred into some rich ricotta cheese .

It  served two of us for lunch  but it could easily be multiplied.

For this recipe I used the home made rich ricotta cheese which I posted previously

I guess you could use ordinary  ricotta but the litte bit of cream which is added to this recipe is what makes it taste so good. Instead of young silverbeet you could use some baby spinach.

Baked Silverbeet and Ricotta filled Pasta Shells


8 conchiglioni rigato pasta shells
2-3 young silverbeet leaves finely chopped
1/4 cup of rich home made ricotta cheese
1 egg
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
a handful of finely grated tasty cheddar cheese


Boil the pasta shells in salted water till they are still slightly firm ( al dente)
Mix the rich ricotta cheese, chopped silverbeet leaves, egg, and salt and pepper.
Fill each shell with some of the mixture.
Put them in a small baking dish
Sprinkle some finely grated tasty cheddar over the top
Bake for 15 minutes at 180C until the shells are piping hot and the cheese topping is golden and crusty.