Thursday, 27 February 2014

Cajun Snapper: A Skinny Dinner

We loved the gift of some fresh snapper fillets caught by Rachel and Rod last weekend. I never imagined my daughter as a keen fisher woman but now she is and it has become a new passion. It probably helps that Rod knows the best fishing spots so they seldom come back empty handed.

 I turned the fillets into a skinny dinner by patting them dry with a paper towel, sprinkling them with some cajun seasoning and frying them quickly in a smidgin of olive oil in a non stick frypan.

The peppery rocket out of our garden, and a small squeeze of lemon juice were the only accompaniments necessary. Delicious! 

Passion Fruit, Mango and Red Pepper Couscous

As a change from dribbling some passion fruit over our kiwi favourite pavlova I dressed a couscous salad with their juices to give an intriguing sweet fruity flavour which is not overpowering.


11/2 cups of couscous
6 passion fruit
1 large red pepper (diced)
1 large mango (diced)
1/4 cup of olive oil
the juice of a small lemon
a handful of coriander and parsley
salt and black pepper


Pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over the couscous
Cover and leave to absorb the liquid for 3 minutes.
Uncover and loosen the grains with a fork
Halve 6 passion fruit and scoop out their flesh
Sieve this to remove the pips.
Stir the passion fruit juice though the couscous.
Add the olive oil.
Stir in the diced mango , red pepper, coriander and parsley
Sharpen the flavour to taste with lemon juice
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper

You could sprinkle this couscous with toasted pinenuts which would some crunch and more flavour but as they are quite expensive I'm happy to serve it without.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Anathoth Farm Quince Preserve Tarts

These little quince preserve tarts are delicious to pass round at the end of a meal, on their own or alongside a small cheeseboard.

To make them I simply used a fluted cutter to create  flaky pastry circles which formed the base for the tiny tarts. I pressed them  gently into the tin and filled each tart with a teaspoonful of  Anathoth Quince Preserve. Then I baked the tarts in the oven for about 12 minutes at 190  degrees C until the pastry was a golden brown. Before serving  I garnished each with a small sprig of thyme.

But beware:you do need to wait until they cool down a little as otherwise the hot jam can burn your mouth.
Make plenty of these little mouthfuls as they are very moorish.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

New Graduates Exhibition at the Lake House in Takapuna

I took these photographs at the Lake House's inaugural new graduates exhibition on the 18th February in which recent graduates from tertiary art and design schools presented works from their graduating portfolios. Great to see such talent on display. The exhibition is on until 9th March. Well worth taking a look ( and having a coffee at the Lake House cafe).

Friday, 14 February 2014

Cherry Tomatoes and Labneh Cheese Balls


Cherry tomatoes ripen abundantly each day in our garden at present. The best way to eat them is freshly picked from the vines. But sometimes I like to ring the changes. This morning I served them with labneh cheese balls.

Using the best olive oil and yoghurt you have on hand will make a great difference to this simple recipe. I used some Taihoa Tides Extra Virgin Olive Oil with a spicy aroma from New Zealand's North Eastern Coast and Cream topped Clearwater's yoghurt from the South Island.

To make the labneh cheese balls you have to start the night before. Line a large sieve with muslin/cheesecloth and balance it over a bowl . Actually I didn't have muslin so I improvised by folding some paper towels and changing them every hour or so when they got very damp. Previously I have also used a chux cloth ( doubled over) which is better as it allows the liquid to drain away easily and it is sturdier than paper towels.

Quite a lot of liquid will drain from the yoghurt and it will gradually firm up. After a few hours you can use it as a dip with some olive oil dribbled over the top. But I wanted it firmer so it could be rolled into balls. So I left it to drain overnight in the fridge. By morning the labneh was firm enough to roll.

I made the balls the same size as the cherry tomatoes , poured some olive oil over the top and sprinkled them with mint.
Delicious and healthy with some toasted ciabatta. Salt and freshly ground pepper are optional.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Crumble Topping

This is a great make ahead crumble topping as once baked it can be stored in an airtight tin for a few weeks. Sprinkle it over hot stewed apple or other seasonal fruit like plums/peaches or apricots for an instant dessert.

It was adapted recipe from Monica's Kitchen by Monica Galetti ( Quadrille Publishing).
She used a mixture of dessicated coconut and chopped hazelnuts and unsalted butter.

Preheat the oven to 180C


100 grams of flour
90 grams of butter
100 grams of castor sugar
3 tablespoons of dessicated coconut

Line an oven tray with baking paper and spread the crumble out on it evenly.
Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150C and bake for a few minutes longer until golden brown.

Valentine's Day Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes

Cupcakes dusted with icing sugar and decorated with chocolate hearts make an irresistable sweet treat for Valentine's Day.

I adapted the recipe from a Nigel Slater recipe for a Beetroot Chocolate Cake.The  beetroot helps to keep them moist so you can make them a day or so ahead.

The chocolate hearts are so easy that kids will love  helping to make them. They can be used to decorate all sorts of desserts ( like a chocolate mousse, little tarts or a favourite brownie recipe. If there are any left over pass them around with a coffee.

Valentine's Day Chocolate Beetroot Cakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 180C


   125g cooked and peeled beetroot
   100g chocolate ( I used Whittaker's 62% dark cacao chocolate)
   2 tbsp of hot espresso/hot water
   100g butter (room temperature, and chopped into cubes)
   2/3 cup of plain flour
   1 teaspoon of baking powder
   2 tablespoons of cocoa
   2 large eggs
   1/2 cup of brown sugar


  • Put the beetroot in a food processor, and blend until it is a coarse puree.
  • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.
  • Once melted take the chocolate off the heat and pour in the hot coffee/water. Stir in the butter. This will melt in.
  • Sieve the flour, baking powder and cocoa together in a bowl.
  • Fold the beetroot into the chocolate mixture.
  • Beat the eggs and brown sugar for about 5 minutes until they are creamy and thick then fold them into the chocolate mixture.
  • Fold in the flour.
  • Ladle the cupcake batter into a silicone cupcake tray which has been very lightly oiled. Fill each hole almost to the top (These cupcakes are not high risers)
  • Bake for about 15 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean.
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool before removing them from the tray.
  • Sprinkle icing sugar over the top.
  • Use a dab of melted chocolate to stick a chocolate heart to the the top of each cupcake.

For the chocolate hearts: 

    Lay some baking paper on a small oven tray
    Melt 100g of dark chocolate ( I used Whittaker's 62% dark cacao chocolate)
    Spread the melted chocolate thinly onto the baking paper
    Put the tray in the fridge for a few minutes so that the chocolate hardens.
    Use a small heart shaped cutter to cut out the hearts.

I created this recipe for the Breeze Radio Station website

Fabrics from Iraq at Ponsonby's Object Space

I took these photographs at the opening of  Enaam Battani's  exhibition and really enjoyed meeting  her and enjoyed hearing her reasons for sharing her precious Iranian costume and jewelry collection by holding this small exhibition at Objectspace.

She will be giving a free  floor talk on  Saturday 22 February 11am, Thursday 27 February, 11am  so if you are interested in coming along ring the Galleryon 376 6216

Objectspace is currently showing an exhibition of beautiful textiles from the collection of Iraqi-born collector in the Vault. Muslin was named after the Iraqi city of Mosul, as it is understood, that this is the place where Europeans first encountered this prized cotton cloth from Asia. Enaam brought to New Zealand a collection of costumes and textiles some of which she had inherited and some of which she had acquired. Works on display comprise mainly gold and silver embroidered works in muslin and silk which were worn for weddings, baptisms and other special occasions, the earliest garment being a child’s gold-embroidered silk Christening gown from the 1850s. The selection includes garments for men and women for wearing in the home, outside the home and at the bath house. This is a rare opportunity to see such garments, especially as from the 1940s many Iraqi women, particularly Christians and Jews, adopted the modes of European fashion and the wearing of traditional garments often fell from favour.
Enaam will be at Objectspace to discuss more about the history of the textiles and jewellery on display on the following dates: Saturday 22 February 11am, Thursday 27 February, 11am
If you would like to attend one of these free talks please phone the gallery on 376 6216 to register your interest.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Apricot and Date Snack Bars

This recipe comes from Feed a Family of 6 for Under $20 by Jas McFee, a South Auckland mum with five kids. Keen to help other families who are struggling to make ends meet, she started a Facebook page in which she shared her recipes. After one year there were 66,000 followers. The cookbook came next. It is full of easy and budget -friendly recipes for dinners, desserts and baking as well as lots of good tips on how to cut down on your food bills.
The great thing about these bars is that you can adapt them to use whatever different flavours you have at home. They cost about 35 cents a bar to make – much cheaper than a box of muesli bars.
Makes 20 bars
1 cup rolled oats 
1 cup rice bubbles 
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped 
 ¼ cup dates, chopped 
50g butter or ½ cup canola oil 
 ¼ cup sugar (white or brown) 
¼ cup golden syrup or honey 
pinch of cinnamon or 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional) 
½ x 375g bag white chocolate buttons (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 40cm x 30cm slice tin with baking paper.
2. Mix oats, rice bubbles, apricots and dates in a bowl.
3. Heat butter or oil, sugar and golden syrup or honey in a pot, then simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add cinnamon or vanilla (if using) and dry ingredients and mix well. If it looks too dry add a little more butter or oil.
5. Press slice mixture into tin.

6. Bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. Set aside in the tin to cool slightly before tipping out and slicing.
7. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over boiling water and drizzle over, or leave as they are.
What I spent:
Rolled oats - $1.00
Rice bubbles- $0.50 
Dried apricots - $1.00 
Dates - $1.00
Butter or oil - $0.50
Sugar - $0.30 
Golden syrup or honey - $1.00 
Cinnamon or vanilla essence - $0.20
Chocolate buttons - $1.50
TOTAL: $7.00
Reproduced with permission from Feed a Family of Six for Under $20 by Jas McPhee. Published by Penguin Group NZ. RRP $19.99. Copyright © text Jasmine McPhee, 2014 Copyright © food images Vance McPhee, 2014. Available nationwide from February 28, 2014

I wrote this recipe book review for the Breeze Radio Station website at:

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Valentine's Day Butterscotch Chocolate Tarts.

This recipe is so easy I almost felt I was faking it. But if it's delicious, does it matter if you simply gather a tub of Puhoi creamy butterscotch custard, a packet of Edmond's flaky puff pastry , and a bar of Whittaker's dark chocolate and put them together in your own heartfelt way?

All I did was to cut out small hearts from a sheet of the pastry and baked these for about 10-12 minutes at 200C until they were golden brown. Then I cut out circles of pastry and pressed them into small tart tins. They were pricked  with a fork and baked at 200C,

If you make these start checking after 10 minutes. As different ovens have different temperatures they may take a little longer. The pastry rose somewhat alarmingly but I pressed it back into the tins, protecting my hand from burning with a teatowel.

As soon as they came out of the oven I filled the hot tartlets with the cold butterscotch custard and sprinkled them with some grated dark Whittaker's chocolate. The finishing touch were the little pastry hearts,

We ate them at once. It was the combination of the hot flaky pastry and the chilled buttterscotch custard which made them so delectable!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Street Music in the Northcote Shopping Centre

I'd just gathered a tray of freshly made dumplings and some long noodles to cook some recipes for Chinese New Year when I spotted these old guys. They were playing jazz in the Northcote Shopping Centre in front of one of the big Asian supermarkets.

On the pavement in front of them some young people had started to dance.It reminded me of the spontaneous tango music and dancing we saw in the streets of Buenos Aires which made it so much fun to be out and about. There should be more music on our streets!

I discovered that they are a sextet of jazz players who perform at various venues. They can be contacted at