Thursday, 28 February 2013

Apricot, Raisin, Ginger and Cardamom Loaf

Here's an old fashioned fruit loaf made with a mixture of apricots, raisins, crystalised ginger and orange rind. I've added a little cardamom to add a spicy note. Serve buttered slices of this loaf with a coffee.We like fruit loaves and they are good keepers.

If the apricots are moist and ready to eat when they come out of the packet I don't bother to soak them.But if they feel dry and leathery I'd pour some boiling water over them, leave them to soak for a couple of hours and then drain them well.

I use ready to eat apricots and put them in my mini chopper with the raisins and ginger. Then it's just a matter of whizzing but stopping when they are in small pieces. You don't want to turn them into a mush.

To save on cleaning up a sticky chopper bowl and blade  and not wasting electricity it would be good to do it by hand. Think of it as an exercise in mindfulness while perfecting your knife skills.


1/2 cup of chopped apricots
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup of crystalised ginger
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
4 oz ( 125 gm) of melted butter
the grated rind of 1/2 an orange
A few cardamom seeds


Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and soda into a bowl.
Add the dried fruits, chopped ginger. and sugar
Use a pestle and mortar to pound the cardamom seeds to a powder and add.
Next add the beaten egg, milk and orange rind
Melt the butter and stir this in also

Put the mixture into a lightly greased loaf tin/ a small cake tin lined with baking paper.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour in a moderate oven.

Allow to cool down in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.


My Favourite Ginger Crunch

If our national census which takes place next week included a question about the nation's favourite biscuits,  ginger crunch would be right up there with shortbread and chocolate chip cookies.

My best ginger crunch recipe was inspired by a sixties community cookbook : The Selwyn District Girl Guides 300 favourite recipes and was shared by a Mrs Hornblow.

The previous recipe in this book is a fudge cake from Mrs Mudoon ( could it be the Mrs Muldoon, ex Prime Minister's wife ?)

In recent years the icing has got thicker and thicker. In some cafes they make it thicker than the base.This can make ginger crunch overly sweet. In her recipe it was a mere glaze. I doubled the icing and crumbled some crystalised ginger on top. Nick loved it, and as my son is a man of perfect taste it must be good!
If you do like a fat layer oficing double the recipe.


4 oz of butter ( 125 gram) softened
1 teaspoon of baking powder
7 oz of flour ( 1 1/2 cups)
4 oz of sugar ( 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon of ground ginger

Cream butter and sugar and add the dry ingredients. Knead well and press into a shallow greased tin ( a 20-30 cm sponge roll tin)
Bake 20-25 min at 375 degree C

Icing: Put into a saucepan

4 tablespoons of butter
8 tablespoons of icing sugar
4 teaspoons of Golden Syrup
2 level teaspoon of ground ginger

Heat until melted. Then pour over the base while still hot and cut into squares.
Sprinkle some crystalised ginger over the top

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tabouleh Salad

I used to make tabouleh salad in my student days many moons ago because it was cheap, cheerful and healthy.This week I made it again to use up a whole bunch of parsley from our veggie plot. I'd forgotten just how good it tasted.

For this recipe you need finely ground bulgur wheat.I found some organic finely ground burgul wheat at IE Produce and it was perfect for this.

This salad makes a very large quantity. It keeps well in the fridge for a few days so if you are serving it as part of a barbecue it can be made well beforehand.

It's a flexible recipe . This is a good starting point but add more or less of any of the ingredients to your taste. If I add some chopped cucumber I add it shortly before serving so it doesn't make the salad watery.

The Hot Samoan Boys Chilli Sauce is optional but it adds a nice little kick.


2 cups of fine bulgur wheat
2 cups of boiling water
3 spring onions
1 red onion ( finely chopped)
2 cups of finely chopped parsley ( stems removed)
1/4 cup of finely chopped mint leaves
10-12 vine ripened tomatoes
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt and pepper
A few drops of Hot Samoan Boys Chilli Sauce

  • In a large heatproof bowl pour the boiling water over the bulgur. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes until the water is absorbed.
  •  Fluff it up with a fork.
  • When it has cooled add the parsley, mint, onion and spring onion.
  • Cut the tomatoes in half. Squeeeze each one over a bowl to remove the seeds, then chop.
  • Stir the tomatoes into the tabouleh.
  • Add a few drops of Hot Samoan Boys chili sauce for a little extra kick if you like,
  • It can be eaten straight away or kept in the fridge for several days.


Monday, 25 February 2013

Gluten Free Hummingbird Cake

Here is a recipe for Hummingbird cake, a family favourite flavoured with banana, pineapple and coconut. It is loved by both those who are gluten free as well as those who are not. This makes it very convenient.As oil is used in this cake rather than butter it’s also quick to mix.

I used to buy gluten free baking powder from a health food shop which was expensive. But I have recently discovered that Hansell’s baking powder is labelled gluten and aluminium free and this is cheaper.

It was adapted from an Australian Women's Weekly recipe.


450 grams crushed pineapple in syrup

1 1/2 cups of gluten free baking mix (I used Bakel's)

1 teaspoon of gluten free baking powder (I used Hansell's)

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of desiccated coconut

1 cup of mashed bananas

2 eggs

3/4 cup of vegetable oil


·         Preheat the oven to 180C.

·         Drain the pineapple into a bowl through a sieve. Press with the back of a spoon to extract as much of the syrup as possible. Save 1/4 cup of the juice.

·         Sift the flour, baking powder, spices, and sugar into a large bowl.

·         In a second bowl beat the eggs with a fork, Add the mashed bananas, crushed pineapple, vegetable oil, coconut and the reserved pineapple syrup and stir to mix.

·         Combine the wet mixture with the dry ingredients in the bowl.

·         Pour into a 23 cm round tin which has been lightly greased and lined with baking paper.

·         Bake for 40 minutes at 180C. Let the cake cool down in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a cake rack to cool.

I don't always ice it because the cake itself is quite sweet but for the sweet toothed it can be iced with a cream cheese icing made with 30 grams of softened butter, 60 grams of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar.

Beat the first three ingredients together until they are light and fluffy and then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Sprinkle the cake with chopped toasted walnuts or pecans.



Friday, 22 February 2013

Make your own Basil Oil

When there is a glut of basil in our garden I ususally make pesto but last night I made some basil oil  for a change. It's very easy and you can use it in lots of different recipes.

For a roughly textured oil you can leave the little bits of basil floating in it after you have whizzed it. But I like the the smooth grassy green oil that you get if you press it with the back of a spoon through a sieve.

I happened to have some mutton cloth so I let it drip through that and then twisted and squeezed it till all the oil had escaped into a bowl. This also worked really well.

Basil oil could be used in a vinaigrette, mixed through pasta , or drizzled on tomato and mozarella bruschetta. I tossed mine through a potato, green bean, egg, and rocket salad  and added a squeeze of lemon juice, some crushed garlic and plenty of freshly ground salt and pepper.


1 1/2 to 2 cups  of freshly picked basil leaves.
1 cup of mild olive oil
salt to tast


Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 30 seconds.
Tip into a sink of cold water
Lift out with a slotted spoon onto a kitchen towel.
Squeeze the water out. (do this very thoroughly )
Whizz until the basil is very finely chopped ( I did this in bursts)
Use as is, or for a smooth oil pour it into a bowl through a sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much oil as possible.
Add salt to taste

It can be used immediately or stored in the fridge for a few days.


Monday, 18 February 2013

Hanna's Dutch Speculaas Cookies

These Dutch speculaas cookies are so good, crunchy and redolent with spices.

I was leafing through my file of recipes that friends and family have shared over the years when I found my sister Hanna's recipe for them. I'm sure she won't mind if I post it.

I've put the approximate metric equivalents in brackets alongside and noted some small changes which I made to the recipe as it was first written.


7 oz ( 200 gm) of self raising flour
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of speculaas spices ( e.g. 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves)
3.5 oz  ( 70 gm) of flaked almonds
4 oz ( 100 gm) of of castor sugar
4 oz ( 100 gm) of chilled butter 
2-3 tablespoons of milk


Sieve the flour, salt, spices and sugar into a bowl.
Add hard butter and mix and cut this in with a knife.
Add the sliced almonds.
Add the milk gradually and knead it into a firm but elastic mixture. Form it into a roll.
Wrap it up in tinfoil and leave overnight in the fridge to allow the spicy flavours to mingle. (although  if you are in a hurry you can just put it in the fridge for 1/2 hour)
Cut into 1/4 " slices. Put on an oven tray, leaving room to spread. Bake at 350C.

My notes:

To come together the dough needed an extra tablespoon of milk when I made them.
I used half brown sugar and half castor.
I just cubed the butter straight out of the fridge and put it with all the other ingredients ( except the almonds) into the bowl of a food processor. Then I whizzed until it became like very fine breadcrumbs and started to clump (not klomp!) together.
I poured this mixture into a bowl , added the almonds and kneaded it all together for a while till it made a dough.

I  put it in the freezer for 1/2 hour and then cut it into thin slices with a sharp serrated knife.
The cookies were baked on an oven tray lined with baking paper.
I baked them at 350C for about 20 minutes until the cookies had very slightly browned.
You can store the dough in the freezer

If you don't feel like making your own speculaas spices you can buy them from a Dutch shop, or use the Equagold brand which can be ordered online.I used Equagold.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Spicy Indian Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn is so cheap right now, 3-4 cobs for $2.00 so this was the perfect time of year to try this colourful recipe by Madjur Jaffrey. I did make a few changes. I used less corn (only 2 large cobs) and substituted seeded red chilis to reduce the heat and for their vibrant colour. At the end I felt it still needed just a little more oomph so I stirred in a little Garam Masala.

I used black mustard seeds. If you don't find tiny dark spots fetching then yellow mustard seeds would make for a better look.

My friend Gill gave me a little bay leaf tree to plant quite a few years ago and I love going into the garden and picking leaves as I need them. I used only one in this recipe and think that was enough.

Here is the original recipe

Madhur Jaffrey’s
Corn With Aromatic Seasonings

An easy, perfumed, stir-fried corn dish that can be made with fresh or frozen corn.


3 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
4 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
One 1-inch cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot green chiles (do not discard seeds)
4 cups corn cut fresh off the cobs, or two 10-ounce packets of frozen corn, defrosted and drained
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cream


1. Pour the oil into a frying pan and set over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, combine the mustard seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves in a small cup.
3. When the oil is hot, put in all the whole spices. As soon as the mustard seeds pop, a matter of seconds, add the ginger and green chiles. Stir once or twice, and then add in the corn. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the salt and cream. Continue to stir and cook for another minute. Turn heat to low and cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until all the cream is absorbed. You can pick out and discard the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves if you are serving those unaccustomed to large whole spices in their foods.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

I found this recipe at
Here also are all the makings for a great Indian vegetarian feast!

This recipe wass created for the I Heart Madhur Jaffrey cooking challenge. Take a look at what other cooks have submitted over the weeks. There's some great recipes.


Pears Poached in a Saffron Syrup

These pears were scented with cardamom seeds and saffron and poached gently in a sugary syrup. I used a Madhur Jaffrey recipe ( in her Cookbook : Food for Family and Friends) who first made them with the purest saffron from Kashmir.

As she put it:
"They turn a rich golden colour and are suffused with the heady aromas of both saffron and cardamom, amongt the most prized spices in the world."

It's not an Indian recipe really, although it uses Indian spices. I wonder if she was inspired by a traditional European recipe of pears poached in red wine.

Halfway through the cooking I realised that my cardamom pods were not releasing sufficient flavour.  I bought them from our local Indian supermarket a long time ago when they had a strong aroma. I remember their smell as I ladled them into a bag. But it had faded.  I threw in a few more pods.

The pinch of Masterfoods saffron threads stored in a tiny box did not colour the pears as much as I had hoped. But once the syrup had been reduced it had turned a warm caramel colour.

It was a nice dessert but the flavour was not as intense as I had hoped it would be. Next time I make it I'll be sure to stock up on some fresher cardamom pods.

And I would be tempted to serve it with some whipped cream sprinkled with finely chopped pistachio nuts.


1 cup of sugar
2 cups of water
6 whole cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon good quality saffron  (the kind that comes in little saffron coloured threads threads)
3 tablespoons of lemon juice.
4 firm pears

Combine the sugar , 2 cups of water, cardamom pods, saffron and lemon juice and cook gently until the sugar melts. Peel the pears, halve them and core them. Put them in the simmering syrup. Cover and cook gently for 25 minutes. Every now and then , turn them and spoon syrup over them.
Take them out carefully with a slotted spoon and arrange them in a serving dish.
Keep cooking the syrup until it has reduced to 1 cup. Pour this over the pears and cool.


The theme of this week's I Heart Cookign Blog was Out of India . For more inspiration take a look at what others have posted on:

As I went back to read some of these recipes I noticed that Deb from Hawaii had already posted this recipe in Madjur Jaffrey's Sweet Endings Challenge. Sorry Deb, I didn't mean to double dip.


Friday, 15 February 2013

Corn, Feta and Basil Ravioli in Dumpling Wrappers.

In a Bunny Eats Design post Genie boldly declared "Authenticity is nothing". Then she shared a great recipe for dumpling wrapped prawn ravioli. Italian? Chinese? does it really matter. In our kiwi kitchens you'll find a global table that mixes and matches with gay abandon. As long as it tastes good, and uses fresh and mainly local ingredients I'm all for it. 
They sounded so delicious I wanted to make them at once! But as usual I didn't have the right ingredients to hand. What I did have was a packet of dumpling wrappers which had been lurking in my fridge for a week after a visit to our local Asian supermarket. Then I scrounged around in the garden and kitchen and used what I had to make these Dumpling wrapped corn, feta and basil ravioli. They were such fun to make that no doubt all sorts of other fillings will evolve.
I followed her basic technique  which you can read for yourself on the above link. But I did put the dumpling skins on a silicone sheet as they do have a tendency to stick. A lightly greased plate/tray would have also done.

24 dumpling wrappers
1 corn cob
100 gm of feta ( crumbled)
shredded basil
1/4 seeded red chili pepper ( more if you like it hot)
2 tablespoons of cream
freshly ground black pepper
rocket to garnish


Hold the corn cob under running water and shake. Microwave for 3 minutes. Peel back the husk and leave to cool a little before scraping the corn into a bowl.
Put 1/2 of the dumpling wrappers on a silicone baking sheet/lightly greased tray.
Mix the  crumbled feta with the cream
Add all the other filling ingredients and mash together with a fork.
Put walnut sized balls of the filling in the middle of each wrapper
Brush the edges with milk
Brush the other dumpling wrappers lightly with milk with a pastry brush) and put on top.
Press the edges together, and then press around the edges with a fork to make a decorative pattern on the edges.

To cook them I used a wide bottomed saucepan
When the water boiled I carefully placed some of the ravioli in a single layer.
Then I let the water come to the boil again before lifting them out with a slotted spoon onto a plate .
The process was repeated till all were all done
Finally they were sprinkled with some rocket
They should be served while still hot.

Genie added a little sauce to hers made from butter, chopped garlic and lemon juice which sounded divine . But I rather liked mine garnished with just some rocket.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomatoes are so cheap right now as it's the height of summer. A strange time of year you might think to make a tomato soup but by evening there's been a little chill in the air and we like this tomato soup as a starter before dinner or a light meal on its own with toasted cheese sandwiches.
Roasting  really helps to intensify the tomato flavour and makes the garlic mellow and soft.
It's not really necessary to add the cream, but it makes it a little more indulgent, and harks back to that old childhood favourite, Wattie's condensed tomato soup.


1.5 kg tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic
3 tablespoons of olive oil,
1 teaspoon of salt
1 large red onion chopped into chunks
2-3 tablespoons of tomato puree, or sundried tomatoes (pureed)
1 tablespoon of castor sugar
4 cups of vegetables/chicken stock
1/4 cup of cream
chopped chives


Preheat the oven to 180C
Cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato. Put them into a large bowl.
Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, then put them in cold water straightaway. The skins should peel off easily.
Cut the tomatoes in half and put face up on an oven tray with the garlic
Drizzle with 1 tablespooon of the olive oil and the salt and roast for 40 minutes
Fry the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a gentle heat for 5 minutes.
Squeeze the garlic over the top and continue to fry over a low heat for 5 more minutes.
Add the tomatoes and 4 cups of vegetable/chicken stock.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the cream ( Do not let it come to the boil again)
Process briefly in a food processor. Leave it a little textured rather than smooth.

Serve hot sprinkled with some chopped chives.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Poached Rhubarb in Verjus

Poached Rhubarb in Verjus with Mascarpone Cheese

Here is an easy dessert recipe in which I braised  a bunch of rhubarb from my garden in Verjus. I usually pair it with little pots of rich mascarpone cheese and some rhubarb and apple crumble or almond biscotti

1 cup of Moana Park Verjus
2 cups of chopped rhubarb
¼ cup of granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 slice of fresh ginger
½ cinnamon stick


Bring all the ingredients to a gentle boil in a non reactive saucepan
(A nonreactive saucepan is one that is made from Stainless Steel, Glass, or Ceramic materials which don't react with acidic ingredients the way copper and aluminum do.)
Simmer until just tender (about 10 minutes)
Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until cold.
Pour into small bowls and arrange on a plate with a spoonful of mascarpone alongside and an almond flavoured biscotti/rhubarb and apple crumble


Valentine's Heart



Double Chocolate Meringue and Raspberry Heart

I first created this for my sister Margreet and her husband Neil who have just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary and are still going strong.

Well actually they live in the South Island and we live in the North but I wanted to make them a virtual greeting card to congratulate them on such a momentous occasion and I needed an image.,  The Valentine's heart was happily demolished by my granddaughters for brunch. When Becky rubbed her tummy, a glazed look appeared in her eyes and she sighed "That was so Good!" ( her ultimate compliment) I knew I had one of those recipes that will be requested again and again.

This would also make a perfect dessert for Valentine's Day


3 egg whites
1 cup of castor sugar
2 teaspoons of cocoa
1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla essence
1 teaspoon of white balsamic/malt vinegar
50 grams of dark chocolate coarsely grated or finely chopped. ( I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana 70%cocoa chocolate which is New Zealand made and palm oil free.)


Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C
Beat the eggwhites until they are stiff
Keep beating while you gradually add the sugar a spoonful at a time
It will take about 10 minutes before they are sufficiently thick and glossy
Sift the cocoa. Add it to the bowl with the grated chocolate, vanilla and vinegar and stir lightly until well combined.
On an oven tray lined with baking paper trace around a heart shape lightly with pencil.The size can be as large or small as you want.
Fill the shape with some of the meringue mixture
Bake for about 40-45 minutes until it is crisp and dry.
Leave to cool and then cover with whipped cream and raspberries.

You will have some meringue mixture left over.
Spoon heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking paper
Give each meringue a twirl with the top of your teaspoon to peak it
Bake them for about 40-45 minutes until they are crisp and dry
These can be stored for a few days.
Before serving put the meringue halves together with whipped cream. These were especially delcious served with a berry coulis, vanilla icecream and tiny pots of chocolate mousse alongside.


Cos lettuce with blueberries, nashi and orange.

I dribbled this salad with an exquisite jewel like dressing which makes it look tempting enough for a Valentine's Day treat.That is what this week's I Heart Madhur Jaffrey cooking challenge was. Her Mother used to make it for her in India and used fruits like fresh guavas and star-fruit which looks like a yellow star when cut into slices. I couln't find it locally.

So I used a combination of seasonal fruits, and a pomegranate and lime oil dressing to accentuate the sweet sour flavour. As Madhur Jaffrey tells us, it's the cumin seed, through some mysterious magic of its own, which draws out the flavour so don't be tempted to leave it out.

Salad Ingredients:

1 chilled nashi pear (peeled and sliced)
1/4 cup of blueberries
1 orange, peeled, pith removes and sliced
A small bunch of baby cos lettuce leaves ( If large, tear into smaller pieces)


2 tablespoons of Foodie's Lime Oil (olive oil with a dash of lime)
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon of roasted cumin

Arrange the cos salad leaves in a salad bowl.
Scatter the sliced nashi pears, blueberries and orange segments over the top.
Stir the dressing ingredients together and dribble over the salad.


And do take a look at what others contributed for more inspiration for your Valentine's Day Jaffrey style!


Monday, 11 February 2013

Blueberry Pancakes with Yoghurt and Maple Syrup

Pancakes always seen like an indulgence but they don't need to be all that fattening if you use trim milk, add only one tablespoon of sugar to the batter and top with Greek yoghurt and fresh blueberries. You could stop there but to make these really delicious a dribble of pure maple syrup makes for perfection.

John came back from skiing in Canada this week and brought back a bottle of genuine maple syrup so I just had to make these for breakfast. This recipe is for two people but it can easily be doubled or trebled to feed more.  I like to make small pancakes with a little silver ladle that came from my Mum is what I use. It holds 1/8 of a cup and this recipe will make 6-8.

Why is it that the first pancake is often a disaster? No matter, the rest turned out perfectly.


1/2 cup of flour
1 large free range egg
150 ml of trim milk
1 tablespoon of castor sugar
a few drops of vanilla essence ( optional)

Whisk altogether and leave to stand for 1/2 hour
Grease a non stick frypan lightly with cooking oil/butter or olivani
Pour 1/8 cup of batter into the pan and swirl it to spread it. It will only cover part of it, Let it brown underneath and then flip it over to cook the other side.
You won't need to grease the pan again for the rest of the batch.
Serve while still warm with yoghurt, blueberries and a drizzle of pure maple syrup.

Why is it that the first pancake is often a disaster? No matter, the rest turned out perfectly


Saturday, 9 February 2013

Inspired by a La Cigale Salad

My sister in law Alison brought a huge salad platter over for a barbecue last night and it was one of those salads that isn't just beautiful to look at but just as good to eat.It was inspired by a recipe from Elizabeth Lind's La Cigale cookbook. It was composed of:

halved cherry tomatoes
spring onions
baby spinach leaves
blanched broccoli florets
blanched green beans
mesclun salad leaves

all tossed together in a garlicky vinaigrette

and scattered with plenty of cooked orzo and toasted sliced almonds

She'd found it on the net so I googled it and here is the original at:

It is very flexible salad. No exact quantities are given and different vegetables are used each time according to what's available which will change with each season. It's suggested you think green , white and red for a splash of colour.

I loved the combination of fresh salad leaves and blanched vegetables with the orzo and sliced almonds.

Now that I have found one of the lovely recipes from this book on the net,  I'm looking forward to trying my own variation on it as well as reading the actual book to see what other culinary treasures lie within.



Friday, 8 February 2013

Mushroom and Pea Curry

I cooked this lightly spiced curry from Madjur Jaffrey's Simple Indian Cooking  to go with a roast leg of lamb and oven potato chips. It sounds rather an odd combination but it tasted good, although I do think it would have been even better if instead of my ususal flavouring of rosemary and garlic I had rubbed the lamb with a more spicy mix. Or had tossed the potato chips in a little oil, cumin seeds and turmeric before roasting.As the curry was juicy there was no need to make any gravy which was a time saver for an easy family dinner.

This dish is one of her party favourites and she would serve it with dal and a flavoursome meat dish like Rogan Josh.

I made only a few small changes. I used the chopped coriander to garnish the dish, rather than simmer it with the vegetables so as to retain its bright green colour and fresh flavour. And after the recommended 5 minutes of cooking with a lid it was too soupy so I cooked it for a few more minutes ( lidless). I didn't have any sour cream so I thickened it with a little cornflour. 

Mushroom and Pea Curry


4 tb of olive or groundnut oil  ( I used olive)
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
350 gm of mushrooms , cut lengthwise into quarters.
2 teaspoons of very finely chopped grated fresh ginger
2-3 hot green chillies , deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon of freshly toasted ground coriander
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1/2-1 teaspoon of salt
150 gm of peas
2 tbsp of finely chopped fresh coriander
300 ml of water
2 tablspoons of sour cream


Put the oil in a large oreferably non stick fry pan
When hot put in the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for 10 seconds
Add the garlic, stir once and then add the mushrooms, ginger and chillies
Cook stirring until the mushrooms are silken
Put in the ground coriander and garam masala and stir for about 30 seconds
Then add the tomato puree, salt, peas, fresh coriander and water
Stir well and bring to the boil
Cover, turn the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes
Stir in the sour cream and cook gently for another minute, then serve.

I cooked this recipe for the I Heart Madjur Jaffrey Cooking Club weekly challenge. This week the theme was Potluck.

Have a look at what the other participants have cooked up and enjoy their recipes at



Thursday, 7 February 2013

Waiheke Island: Sculpture on the Gulf

We packed up a picnic lunch today and headed across the harbour on the Waiheke Ferry  to see Headland: Sculpture on the Gulf .
It was a 2.5 km coastal walk in brilliant sunshine with sculptures by well known New Zealanders strategically placed along the way. The sculptures said a lot about who we are as New Zealanders, some taking a dig at us in a humorous way.
Headland: Sculpture on the Gulf has made it onto the New York Times  list of "Top 50 Places to go in 2013." which is a huge honour for an event ( which is now in its tenth year)  in which there has been a great deal of input by the local community.






Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Quinoa: Should we eat it?

We were hiking  in Peru last year when our guide stopped and pointed to a field of golden flowering quinoa plants on long stalks.It was a special experience seeing this ancient grain, one of the world's most nutritious plants.He told us that Quinoa( pronounced as  keen-wa) is very healthy but as it is expensive so they don't eat it very often at his house.

."We like it as well, but it's not cheap at home either, so for us also its an occasional treat." I told him.

I  gave no more thought to our conversation until I read a recent article in the Guardian " Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth about Quinoa." by Joanna Blythman. She made the accusation that ethical consumers should be aware that poor Bolivians can no longer afford their staple grain, due to western demand raising prices. She wrote:

"But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up the prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fuelled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture."

" Global demand means less quinoa is being eaten in Bolivia and Peru, the countries of origin, as the price has tripled. There are concerns this could cause malnutrition as producers, who have long relied on the superfood to supplement their meagre diets, would rather sell their entire crop than eat it. The rocketing international price is also creating land disputes."

Her comments sent shockwaves across the Internet and sparked many a conversations on Twitter and Facebook.
I think that she not only pointed the finger unfairly at vegans (as many non vegans like me also enjoy quinoa) but also misrepresented the situation.

The high prices may well have lifted quite a few families above the poverty line. And if Westen consumers stopped buying quinoa there could be an adverse effect on the standard of living of quinoa farming families.

Some have also commented that many quinoa farmers are now able to afford a different kind of diet and are now choosing a more Western and less nutritious diet : rice, noodles, candies and coke.

And although the price of quinoa is high the growing middle classes are still consuming  sizeable quantities of quinoa -based products such as pizza crusts, hamburgers and breakfast cereals.

But as the price has tripled in recent years Quinoa has become unaffordable for many people. However I don't think that the answer is  for us to stop eating it or to eat less of it. I'm not an expert in economics but it would seem that a more positive solution would be for their governments to both encourage exports but also to put systems in place to sell quinoa at a lower and more affordable price locally.

I don't plan to stop eating quinoa occasionally but I would very much like to find a brand which is Fair Trade so that I could be sure that the farmer who grew it gets a fair return for their labour.

This whole debate has made me think again how we are all part of a global village. Although  the chronic malnutrition which is stil prevalent in poorer Andean Countries may not be attributable to us eating quinoa we should  care about where the food on our plates come from, who produced it and whether exporting it overseas is affecting their livelihood.

Below is the original guardian article that has sparked a great deal of discussion.
and since I wrote this a really good feature appeared in the Guardian, well worth reading


Rhubarb Orange and Ginger Soup

In the sixties chilled fruit soups were fashionable at dinner parties but soon they went out of vogue again. This afternoon I picked some rhubarb from the garden and decided to revive the idea and create a rhubarb soup. It made a very refreshing starter before we had our barbecued steak, corn,green salad and baked potatoes. But any leftover soup is equally good for dessert. For this you can whizz some strawberries into it leaving them slightly chunky to add some texture

It is usually a good idea to remove the stringy bits from the rhubarb with a potato peeler but  because it was fresh out of the garden I didn't bother and once whizzed in the food processor it was quite smooth.


1 orange
500 grams of rhubarb ( chopped)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of grated ginger ( or more to taste)
2 cups of water
Greek yoghurt
Mint to garnish


Using a fine grater remove the rind from the orange
Juice the orange
Bring the zest of the orange, the orange juice , the chopped rhubarb, the brown sugar and the water to the boil. Then cook for about 10-15 minuts until the rhubarb starts to fall apart.
Let cool slightly before whizzing until smooth in a food processor/blender.
Put into a bowl and put it into the fridge until it is chilled.
Serve in bowls with a dollop of thick Greek Yoghurt on top and garnish with chopped mint.


Sunday, 3 February 2013

Pacific Showcase : Foodie Treats

There is a lot more on offer than food at the Pacific Showcase which is on in Auckland's Cloud for the next few weekends: like art, fashion, cosmetics and dance. I enjoyed these as much as the food, but as this is a food blog I'll focus  on the food you can eat or buy there in this post.
As I walked into the Cloud I was handed  a packet of Banana Ripple Cut Chips  with a True Pacific Sticker on the front. This label is the one to look for; It shows that a business has been awarded the True Pacific quality mark (a stylised flower symbolising cooperation and unity) for producing  ‘quality Pacific products’ of ‘genuine Pacific origin’.”
The Pacific is right on our doorstep and to be good neighbours I'd like to think kiwis will support these businesses (often village based) and help them to grow. The range of food and drink products is still quite small  but it's expanding and already includes coffee, coco, noni juice, wraps, naan, coconut oil, chutneys,pickles and honey. Heilala Vanilla is the culinary star with an international reputation. Others like Hot Samoan Boy's Chili Sauce are growing in popularity not just in New Zealand but Australia.
After checking out what is being produced, and buying some to try at home, I headed for some of the food stalls to sample fresh pineapple, mozarella "sushi", a gourmet icecream, and a muffin and coffee from the cafe. 
I thought I might steal their idea of using my banana chips to decorate some muffins, so easy,  they just poked a couple into the icing. Unfortunately I had munched my way through the whole packet before I left the show, I'll have to go back for more before I start baking.
Heilala vanilla has created a baking club which features some great recipes And in previous posts I've used Hot Samoan Boys Chilli Sauce as an ingredient. A really useful sauce to have on hand especially if you can't lay your hands on fresh chillies and want to add some heat.
I took home a packet of Savante cumin and coriander wraps. We enjoyed them just brushed lightly with avocado olivani and crisped in the oven for a few minutes till they were toasty and lightly browned. Good with a cucumber and mint dip. Next I'm going to use them to make the Tandoori Chicken kebab recipe which is in their leaflet.
The Pacific Showcase runs for a few more weekends . I enjoyed  seeing what was on offer and talking to the producers who are full of enthusiasm. Here are a few of my pics. To find out more go to: