Friday, 25 April 2014

An Orange Salad for Koning Dag

Today, 26th April, is Koning Day and  King Willem-Alexander's  birthday will be celebrated all over Holland . On this national holiday everyone gets into party mood and there will be fairs, markets and music shows all over the country. 

My old school friend Hannie emailed from Amsterdam this morning to describe what will be happening there. There's a custom of having garage sales when everyone gets rid of things they no longer want. Kids play games in the park , or sells cookies they have made themselves, or play musical instruments out on the street.She'll be singing in a choir outside a cafĂ© later in the day It's always a fun atmosphere , and very busy and noisy in the centre of the city.

As a sign of national pride ( and because the royals belong to the House of Orange) orange clothes are worn and cooks may create orange food. 

Here's my recipe to mark the day. 

Orange, Carrot and Fennel Salad

1 orange ( peeled and sliced)
1 large carrot (grated)
1 small fennel bulb ( finely sliced)
1 spring onion (sliced)
1 stalk of celery ( sliced)


2 tablespoons of lime juice
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of ginger ( finely grated)


Toss the prepared salad ingredients with the dressing

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Feijoa and and Gingerella Smoothies

I crawled under my neighbour's feijoa bushes today to gather those which have fallen onto the damp ground while they are away on holiday. This was a very small price to pay for the pleasure of having a bag full of feijoas to take home. 

To my mind the best way of eating ripe feijoas is to simply cut them in half and scoop out the flesh. But they also make great smoothies. Recently I've been combining them with Gingerella ( made by All Good who also import and  market Fair Trade bananas).

Gingerella's  Fair Trade ingredients are sourced from far and wide and include organic ginger from Sri Lanka, vanilla from Papua New Guinea and sugar from Paraquay. It makes a very refreshing drink on its own but feijoas do add more goodness.

I found Gingerella locally at IE Produce in Takapuna which also stocks a great many other Fair Trade and organic products

Feijoa  Gingerella and Mint Smoothie

Whizz together:

1 cup of  well chilled Gingerella
The flesh of 4 feijoas
mint to garnish

The second recipe contains a lot more protein and makes a good start to the day . The tofu does have to be fresh and soft so it will blend easily.

Feijoa, Tofu and Gingerella Smoothie

1/2 cup of chilled Gingerella
1/2 cup of chilled milk
100 grams of tofu
The flesh of 2-3 large feijoas

Whizz together until smooth.

Quince, Apple and Caramelised Onion Sauce

I wanted to create an autumnal sauce to serve with  roast  pork. Traditionally this would be apple sauce but I was after something a little more complex and different so I mixed some stewed apples with quince preserve and caramelised onions.

I used Anathoth Farm Quince Conserve which is New Zealand made, contains no added preservatives or flavours and is gluten free. You can really taste the natural fruity flavour.

Quince Conserve, Apple and Caramelised Onion Sauce

Start by caramelising the onions. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Add 500 gm of very finely sliced red onions and 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and season with some salt and pepper. Cook very gently , stirring often, for 30-40 minutes until they are meltingly soft and sticky..

Then  make the apple sauce  in the microwave. Put 500 gm of peeled and sliced apples ( I used Braeburn) in a microwave safe bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of water and cover. Microwave on high for about 10 minutes until the apples are soft. When they have cooled a little drain them and whizz  in a food processor or blender until smooth. 

To complete the sauce add 1/2 cup of Anathoth Farm Quince Conserve and the juice of 1 lime and whizz again briefly to mix in.

There was plenty of sauce left over after dinner so the next day I put some of it to good use to make six very easy and tasty mini meat loaves. 

Mini Meatloaves 

500 gm of minced beef 
200 gm of middle bacon ( rind and most of fat removed and chopped)
1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup of quince, apple and caramelised onion sauce
1 egg
Salt and pepper to season

Mix all the ingredients together well and bake in mini loaf tins for about 30 minutes at 180 degrees C. This mixture could also be baked as a larger meat loaf in which case increase the cooking time to about 45 -50 minutes.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Banana Ice Cream With Salted Caramel Sauce

Simply whizzing a frozen banana to make  ice cream always seems rather magical. For a special occasion treat I enriched it with a little cream, scooped it into bowls, poured salted caramel sauce over the top and sprinkled it with toasted walnuts.To lessen the guilt I used All Good Fair Trade bananas.

The day beforehand  put some well ripened bananas in the freezer.

Shortly before serving make the salted caramel sauce:

Salted Caramel Sauce:


11/2 cups of castor sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of butter (chopped)
1/2 cup of cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 teaspoon of salt


Bring the castor sugar and butter to the boil in a saucepan over a high heat.
Keep boiling until the sugar starts to caramelise and  turns a deep golden brown.
Remove from the heat
Whisk in the butter. Careful, steam will rise !
Add the cream ,vanilla essence and salt and stir to combine. It can bubble up before settling down.

(This will keep really well in the fridge, covered, for over a month. It may set to a soft toffee like consistency which you will secretively be tempted to scoop out in spoonfuls). To reconstitute heat in the microwave briefly adding another dash of cream to make it flow better if necessary).

Creamy Banana Icecream

Per person put one peeled and chopped frozen All Good banana and 1-2 tablespoons of cream in a food processor and whizz until it turns into a smooth, creamy ice cream.

To assemble: 

Put a large scoop of banana ice cream in each bowl,
Dribble over some warm salted caramel syrup.
Garnish with a sprinkling of toasted walnuts.

Anzac Biscuits

"Biscuits. Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that"

This quote from Ormond Burton is not about Anzac biscuits as you might think.

The myth  that Anzac biscuits were sent and eaten by the troops in Gallipoli has been exploded by staff at the National Army Museum. It was not Anzac biscuits they got to eat but a standard Army biscuit, a rock hard tooth breaker  called the ship's biscuit.

A great many Anzac biscuits were however lovingly  made to raise funds for the war effort at home.

The are still a great biscuit to make, especially on Anzac Day. Here is my version. Using shredded coconut , instead of dessicated, gives it more texture.If you want to cut down on the sweetness use the smaller amount of sugar.


150 gm of butter
3/4-1 cup of castor sugar
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
2 tablespoons of boiling water
1 cup of plain flour
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of shredded coconut

In a saucepan melt the butter, vanilla essence and golden syrup over a gentle heat
Mix the boiling water and baking soda in a cup and add.
It will froth up.
Pour  into the mixed dry ingredients.
Stir together well
Roll into small balls
Put onto an oven tray lined with baking paper leaving plenty of space inbetween.
Bake at 170 degrees C for 12-14 minutes

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Cook With Me, a cookbook by Masterchef Aaron Brunet

When New Zealand MasterChef winner Aaron Brunet began writing his cookbook he initially felt his recipes had to live up to the fancy dishes he had created for MasterChef.  He soon found himself tangled up in knots and things just didn’t turn out right.

He gave up and realised that this is not how he cooks at home. So he let go of the expectations and decided to just use the ingredients he had to hand, have some fun thinking about what he would like to eat and how he could put them together to make  simple meals that he would enjoy eating.

Once he did that, the book started to flow. The result is “Cook with Me” a cookbook in which he has shared the food he and his family love to eat at home.

Included are lots of quick and tasty meals for busy weekdays, more leisurely and inventive dishes which he and his wife and daughter love to make together on the weekend, some tasty vegetarian recipes and a Mexican feast.  Some are also derived from his European family heritage.

Here are some of our favourites:

Fish Cakes:
Aaron and his family live at Raglan by the sea so he often cooks fish. His fishcakes made with hoki and trevally served with a tartare sauce flavoured with dill, cucumbers and capers are affordable and delicious.
Olive and Tomato Scones

Most of us already have a favourite scone recipe but I was one over by his olive and tomato scones in which he has used vintage cheddar for its bite and gruyere cheese to give it a nutty sweetness.

The Ultimate French Toast:
Aaron’s Orange Caramel baked version has a rich caramelised crust with a sumptuous baked custard filling.

Super Smoothies:
Aaron loves to make these after an intense yoga workout or as a pick me up in the afternoon. His recipe has a frozen banana, milk and yoghurt base to which (if you wish) you can add a sustaining mix of oats, flax seeds and blueberries. Or for a special treat add other flavourings like maple and walnut or coffee and muscovado sugar. If you are having a frail elderly day and don’t feel up to cooking this could well make a sustaining meal replacement

Zora’s Salad:
Aaron’s Mother Zora’s salad is a very flexible recipe. It starts with a layer of chopped tomatoes followed by generous amounts of both crisp and soft green salad vegetables, and herbs. The salad is tossed with a garlicky dressing made with olive oil, citrus juices and soya sauce.

Chilli Beef: 
Part of his Mexican feast this is slow-cooked beef in a rich and spicy sauce with a dose of lime marmalade for sweetness.

Sourdough Bread:
It could be Aaron’s background as an IT consultant which has enabled him to describe how to make sourdough bread which can be fickle in such a meticulous and detailed way (it takes up 8 pages including hints!) As I write his sourdough starter is bubbling away on my sunny window sill.  It will need feeding for another week or so before I can use it but hopefully I should finish up with two big rustic sourdough loaves with a rich dark crust.

Pressure Cooked Popcorn:
Popcorn cooked in a pressure cooker?! This is one recipe which I have not yet been game to try. Aaron agrees that this is not your usual popcorn experience and is getting out on the fringes but he included it because he was fascinated by its incredibly earthy wholesome texture.

Time for a Change?

This is a cookbook full of creative affordable and tasty family recipes. It is not a vegetarian cookbook but it does focus mainly on fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit and grains. 

The research shows that older people who eat a balanced diet, with lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, chicken and fish can have a better life expectancy and quality of life.

Even if up to now you have been a dedicated red meat and two veg person, it is well worth taking a look at Aaron’s healthy meals. You might well find you enjoy the journey and could then be on the way to a healthy and longer life.

Cook with Me by Aaron Brunet is published by Random House NZ (RRP $49.99)

I first wrote this review for my GrownUps column at

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

We've managed to resist the temptation to eat Hot Cross Buns till now. Well, Easter is almost here !
But where do Hot Cross Buns come from? I found an answer in this year's Anglican Easter magazine.
While some historians date the tradition of baking Hot Cross Buns to the 12th century the earliest record may well be 1361 when an Anglican Monk called Father Thomas Radcliffe was recorded to have made small spiced cakes stamped with the sign of the cross ( a symbol to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus) They were distributed to the poor  who visited the monastery at St Alban's on Good Friday.
They were so popular that he made them again every year from then on. But he wouldn't share his bun recipe and kept it close to his chest for many years.
Oh well ,there are dozens to choose from now. But none so tempting right now as this chocolate version by culinary stalwarts Dame Alison and Simon Holst .I have dusted off my bread maker to bake them.
They themselves like traditional, fruit and spice flavoured hot cross buns, but for some reason Simon’s children have gone off them, and now prefer this chocolate version.

Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

Makes 16 hot cross buns:

3 tsp instant active yeast
½ cup milk
¾ cup hot water
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp salt
50g butter, melted
1 large egg
½ cup cocoa powder
4 cups (560g) high-grade flour
½ cup chocolate chips

Bread Machine Instructions
1     Measure all the ingredients into a 750g capacity bread machine in the order specified by the manufacturer. Set to the DOUGH cycle and start. (Add the chocolate chips at the beep if your machine offers this option). When the cycle is complete, shape and bake as below.
To Shape and Bake
2     Divide the dough evenly into four pieces, then again into four quarters so you have 16 pieces in total. Shape each one into a round ball and arrange in non-stick sprayed (and/or baking paper-lined) baking pans or in a rectangular roasting dish, leaving about 1cm between each bun. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place until doubled in size.
3     If you want to add pastry crosses, bake the buns first and decorate when cooled with crosses made with vanilla or chocolate icing or melted white or dark chocolate.

4. Bake at 200 degrees C for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Glaze immediately with a syrup made by bringing to the boil 1 tablespoon each of golden syrup, honey and water.

This recipe was reprinted with permission from Everyday Easy Bread Machine recipes. By Simon and Alison Holst. Published by Hyndman Publishing. RRP $ 14.95