Sunday, 23 November 2014

Trade Aid Chocolate and Banana Brownies

My chocolate banana brownies are made with Trade Aid organic cocoa and Heilala pure vanilla bean  sugar ( both quality products). A delicious moist and slightly spicy dessert when served with some lightly whipped cream/icecream (and if you must, some maple syrup!)


3 ripe bananas
100 g of softened butter
100 g of Heilala pure vanilla bean sugar
100 g of self-raisng flour
50 g of ground almonds
30 g of Trade Aid organic cocoa
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 large free range eggs
75 ml of milk


Chop the bananas into pieces and scatter over the base of a 23 cm square baking paper lined baking tin.
Sift the self-raising flour over the dry ingredients and stir in lightly
Beat the sugar and butter together  until they are light and fluffy.
Beat the eggs in one at a time.
Fold in the dry ingredients.
Add the milk and stir in,
Spread this batter over the bananas.
Bake at 180 degrees C for about 30 minutes until the sponge is firm at the top and the brownie is cooked through.
Serve warm dusted with icing sugar.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Trade Aid Chocolate Sauce: Sweet Treats

The new Trade Aid Chocolate Sauce (which comes in a large 500ml recyclable glass bottle) is handy to keep in the fridge, especially over the coming festive season. It makes an instant dessert when poured over ice-cream .

You may have to stand it briefly in hot water before using if it is too thick to pour easily but that only takes a minute.

Or in the hot summer weather it may pour quite freely if you bring it out of the fridge for a few minutes and shake it.

This Trade Aid Chocolate Sauce as well as being Fair Trade, it is also organic, gluten free, vegan friendly and New Zealand made. The ingredients are Fair Trade organic sugar from Paraguay, NZ water, Fair Trade organic cocoa from the Dominican Republic and citric acid

I had fun creating some other sweet treats with it which I'll share. It's good to discover such a versatile sauce which can be used to flavour ice-cream, be turned into a mousse or chocolate coconut truffles.

Chocolate Coconut Truffles

1/2 cup of Trade Aid Chocolate Sauce
1/2 cup of cream
200 gm of gingernuts
1/2 cup of raisins
grated rind of an orange
1 cup of dessicated coconut

Extra dessicated coconut for rolling


Break the gingernuts into pieces and then whizz until the crumbs are finely ground in a food processor. Keep aside.
Next chop the raisins in the food processor/by hand into smaller pieces.
Put all the ingredients into the food processor and whizz together, The mixture will still be moist but should be able to rolled into balls .Run your hands under a cold tap from time to time .This will make rolling easier.
Cover the base of a tray with dessicated coconut and roll  the truffles in this to coat.
Put in the fridge to harden for a while.
These will also keep for ages in the freezer so good for Christmas entertaining.

Variations: You could use half malt biscuits and half gingernuts. Or replace some of the raisins with chopped apricots. Play with this recipe and adjust to your own taste.

I used the chocolate sauce while it was thick and gloopy ( so didn't warm it in hot water for this recipe)

Chocolate Banana Mousse

I always keep a few well ripened bananas in the freezer to make banana cake/muffins/ice-cream. I used one to make this Chocolate Banana Mousse. It sets instantly so it can be a very fast dessert for unexpected visitors or those times when you just crave a sweet dessert.


serves 2-3

1/4 cup of water
1 Tablespoon of gelatine
1/4 cup of Trade Aid chocolate sauce
1 large Fair Trade ( All Good ) banana
1 cup of vanilla ice cream ( I used Pam's)


Sprinkle gelatin granules over the surface of the cold water  and give them a goodd stir.
Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.
Warm the chocolate sauce by standing the bottle in a bowl of hot water until it is a runny liquid.
Add the warmed chocolate sauce to the gelatine,  stirring until the gelatine is dissolved.
To verify the granules are melted, lift the stirring utensil and make certain that there are no undissolved granules clinging to it ( If so you may have to heat the mixture gently until they are)
Put the chocolate sauce mixed with the gelatine into  a food processor.
Add the chopped frozen banana and the cup of icecream and whizz until the mixture is the consistency of thick cream. This may take a minute or so.
Scrape the mousse into little pots

Chocolate Sauce/Ice-Cream

Trade Aid chocolate sauce by itself makes a nice ice-cream sauce but I also experimented and added some other ingredients.

The addition of a  little cream  ( about 2 tablespoons of cream to 4 tablespoons of the chocolate sauce) made it  somewhat more mellow and gave it a creamy milk chocolate flavour which kids like.

Then I  made  a more adult version:

Chocolate Coconut Orange Sauce:

I mixed together

1/2 cup of Trade Aid Chocolate sauce
1 Tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
2 Tablespoon of orange juice
1 Tablespoon of Grand Marnier

This was especially nice with strawberries and ice-cream.

As there was some left over I put the remainder of this sauce to chill and thicken in the fridge, Then I stirred a generous tablespoon of it through a scoop of vanilla ice-cream (per person) and put it in the freezer to harden for at least an hour.It was a good way of turning a budget vanilla ice-cream (Pam's) into a more luscious tasting chocolate dessert.

Next time I may top it with crushed chopped toasted cashew nuts  and/or some grated Trade Aid chocolate.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Panir Tikka Masala

I'd just roasted and blended the spices for a fragrant curry powder when, sapped of energy at the end of the day, I couldn't quite face making the beautiful but rather complex Indian recipe I'd planned to cook for dinner.

So I quickly improvised and spiced up Marcella Hazan's famous Italian Tomato Sauce ( which is a real gem and a model of simplicity ), I gently simmered the cubes of panir in this. A dish was born which I will happily eat again.

It is essential to make a curry powder from scratch for this recipe so have posted Ani's again .

Serves one generously. For 2-3 people double the recipe.


Half a packet of Gopala Panir cut into smallish cubes (150 gm)
1 can of Italian tomatoes in their juice ( 400 gm) I used Chantal Organic which has no added salt.
1/2 medium onion (peeled) and chopped into quarters.
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tbsp of grated ginger
1 teaspoon of Anis's freshly made curry powder ( or more to taste)


Empty the can of tomatoes and their juice into a saucepan.
Add all the other ingredients except the panir cubes.
Let simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, then add the panir.
Continue gently simmering for another 20-30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking.
From time to time stir and  crush the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.
Keep the heat low to prevent burning, If the mixture dries out too much add a little water.
Lift the onion out before serving (optional)
Pour into a bowl.
Garnish generously with coriander leaves.

Nick sent me this great recipe which he learnt at a cooking class in Mysore, India recently.

Ani's Curry Powder
Dry red chillies       50 gm
Coriander Seeds    4 Tbsp
Cumin Seeds          1 Tbsp
Fenugreek seeds     1 Tbsp
Cloves                     5 
Cinnamon                1 incl piece
Cardamom               3 pods whole
Curry leaves (optional)  2 sprigs

Dry roast all the ingredients in a wok on medium flame stirring constantly.  Cool the mixture and blend into a rough powder in a dry coffee grinder. Store in an airtight box.

I made two small alterations to this recipe . I used 50 gm of red chilli powder from Kerala, instead of the dried red chillies , which is not so hot.

And I also, after roasting, ground the spices more finely and sieved them once blended. Then I stirred them into the Kerala chili powder.

If you make Ani's original recipe go easy on the amount of curry, start small and adjust to your taste.

The Gopal Panir I used is quite firm, If I was using softer home made panir I'd add it towards the end of cooking.

The Chantal canned tomatoes I used had no added salt. This recipe did not need it.

Nick suggested I could have added some sliced red peppers. good idea!

If you have never tried panir before do try it, starting with this uncomplicated recipe. As it said in the Sunday Star Times this weekend:

"Forget haloumi, It's Indian cousin is more delicious, less squeaky, more affordable, and easier to cook"  

Buttermilk Cheese Scones

These are the tastiest cheese scones I have ever made. It was the first time I have used buttermilk in the mix and I think this is what made all the difference.
I love the crust even more than the insides of scones so I roll the dough out rather thinly, about 1 cm instead of the usual 2cm. They go further this way as well,There were 20 in this batch.

2 cups of self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
Pinch of Salt
60 gm of butter ( straight out of the fridge)
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1/2 cup of tasty cheddar (grated)
3/4 cup of buttermilk ( I used The Cheese Barn, Organic Buttermilk Yoghurt)

Grate the butter and put on a flat plate in the freezer,
Leave to chill for about 10 minutes.
Sift the flour,baking powder, sugar and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour using fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in the buttermilk, mustard and cheese with a knife.
Knead gently and quickly just until the mixture comes together.(overworking spoils scones)
Roll out (on a lightly floured surface) about 1 cm thick . 
Cut into 20 pieces and put (not touching)  on a baking paper lined oven tray.
Bake for 10-12 minutes at 220 C/200C fanforced. They should be golden and crisp on the outside, tender and moist but not soggy within.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Pineapple Flood in Mysore

My son Nick is in Mysore doing yoga at present and this flood of pineapples caught his eye recently at a local market.

From Madhur Jaffrey's splendid new book Curry Made Easy Vegetarian I have recently learnt that pineapples came to India in the 15th century with Portuguese traders and first landed in Kerala where the locals disdainfully declared them to be 'the jackfruit of the donkey'
But they have since taken them to their hearts.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Favourite Recipes from Waiheke Retirement Village

Here are some favourite recipes from residents at the Waiheke Retirement Village which they are happy to share. Like their lovely owners they have stood the test of time!

Poached eggs on Toast
From Jane Griffin and Ann Suttle

1 or 2 eggs
1 or 2 slices of toasted bread
Butter or margarine (for your toasat)
Frying pan or saucepan
Sauce of your choice

1.       Fill the frying pan or saucepan with water up to a depth of 2 inches
2.       Vinegar or salt can stop the egg white from spitting off the yolk so add a splash of vinegar or a pinch of salt to the water at this point
3.       Bring the water to a gentle simmer
4.       Break each egg gently into the simmering water
5.       If you like soft eggs, cook for about 3 minutes
6.       If you like rock hard eggs cook for 5 minutes on each side
7.       Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon or slotted fish slice and let the water drain before placing them on your toast
8.       Season with salt and pepper to taste
9.       Add tomato, or HP sauce, or any sauce of your choice.
Savoury Scrambled Eggs (Serves two people)

4 or 5 eggs
1 or 2 tablespoons of milk
1 bowl
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of oil
2 or 3 sliced rashers of bacon per person
1 large chopped tomato
1 or 2 sliced spring onions
Parsley to garnish
1 or 2 slices of toasted bread
Frying pan

1.       Break the eggs in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
2.       Beat the eggs thoroughly.
3.       Add milk to the eggs and beat again.
4.       Cut the bacon and tomato into small pieces
5.       Slice the spring onions
6.       Gently heat the frying pan on a low heat
7.       Place the oil and butter in the pan to heat
8.       Place the bacon pieces into the pan to gently fry
9.       If you like crisp bacon , turn the pieces over and cook to your taste.
10.   When the bacon is cooked to your liking, add the tomatoes and spring onions and cokk until softened-stir gently.
11.   Next, pour the beaten eggs into the pan and keep stirring to prevent the eggs from sticking
12.   When the eggs are cooked to yur liking, pour the contents of the pan over thwe toast and garnish with parsley.

Simple Never Fail Fruit Cake
From Pam and Murray Beck


1 cup of water
1 tablespoon of vinegar
1 kg of mixed dried fruit
2 teaspoons of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
250 gm of butter
1 teaspoon of any essences


In a large saucepan , place water, butter, fruit, vinegar and spice.
Bring to the boil, stir, remove from heat and add condensed milk and baking soda.
Add flour, baking powder and essences and mix with a wooden spoon.
Scrape into tin lined with baking paper,
Bake about one hour at 150 degrees,
Check with a skewer.

Tips: Can use fruit juice instead of water. Add a small tin of crushed pineapple. Add more fruit as liked such as cherries, apricots, glace ginger etc.

Microwave Lemon Curd

From Rita Norton

11/2 cups of Castor Sugar
125 grams cubed butter
4 eggs
Juice and rind of 3-4 lemons
Place all in a microwave safe container.
Cook for 1 minute.
Whisk WELL
Cook in bursts of 40 seconds, whisking well inbetween.
No longer than 5 minutes in all.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Rita Norton

6 oz of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 packet of butterscotch or chocolate instant pudding
1 ½ cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp cornflour
1 cup of chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar
Beat in egg
Add instant pudding
Add remaining ingredients, mix well
Bake at 190 degrees for 10-12 minutes

Never Fail Chocolate Cake

From Rita Norton

6 oz butter
1 cup of sugar
2 cups of flour
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp of soda
2 tb cocoa
2 eggs beaten
1 tbsp of golden syrup
1 cup of milk
Pinch of salt

Soak soda in milk
Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs
Add golden syrup
Then add flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.
Lastly add soda and mik.
Bake at 350 deg for 40-45 minutes.
Easy Economical Christmas cake
From Rita Norton
Sultana Cake

Cup Cakes
From Rita Norton

6 oz butter
6 oz of castor sugar
Few drops of vanilla essence
3 eggs
6 oz of selfrasing flour

Cream butter and sugar and vanilla
Beat until light and fluffy
Beat in the eggs one at a time with the flour
Spoon into paper cups
Bake 150 degrees for 12-15 minutes
From Rita Norton

From Rita Norton


8 oz of flour
4 oz sugar
4 level tsp baking powder
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
1 cup of milk

Mix all ingrdients well
Cook in spoonful lots

Tomato Relish

From Bonnie Barton ( V33)


3 lb of tomatoes
( dip into hot water to take the skins off)
Chop into quarters
1 ¼ lb of onions
2 tbsp salt
3 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of curry powder
½ teaspoon mustard
1 pint of white vinegar
½ green capsicum chopped finely

Boil altogether for 1 hour.
Then mix 1.2 cup of flour with some vinegar and add to tomato mix
Cook another 10 minutes
Keep a little of the vinegar from the pint to mix with the flour)

Yorkshire Baked Cheesecake:

From a little recipe booklet called "Favourite Yorkshire Recipes"

9  oz of shortcrust pastry


2 oz butter ( 50 gm)
2 oz castor sugar
12 oz cottage cheese
2 medium eggs, beaten
3 oz raisins
Grated rind and juice of one lemon
2 oz ground almonds

 Roll out the pastry and line an 8 inch loose bottomed or spring-form deep flan dish.Chill in the refrigerator. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F (180  degrees C).
Make the filling by creaming together the butter and sugar and gradually adding the cheese.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Spoon this into the pastry case.
Stand on a baking tray and cook in the oven for approximately 40 minutes until the filling is just set.
If possible remove the sides of the flan ring and return to the oven for 10 minutes to ensure that the pastry sides are well cooked.
Leave to cool and serve cold.

Jo Seagar Bakes ( another cookbook fromThe Queen of New Zealand Baking)

Today few people learn to cook at the side of their grandmother or mother, wearing a pinny and licking the wooden spoon like some Norman Rockwell or Home Beautiful Poster.” writes Jo Seagar.
Too true. Most of the grandmothers I know are too busy having a life to bake, or they bake for fun only very occasionally. Unlike their mothers’ generation they are not duty bound to fill the tins every week.
But all would agree that it would be a great shame if the art of home baking was lost. So it is good that Jo Seagar is happy to assume the role of grandmother/mother and to take our children/ grandchildren through the baking process step by step. With 50 odd years of baking behind her she is the right woman for the job.
In Jo Seagar Bakes she shares her precious family recipes which were handed down through the generations as well as many new ones which she has created over the years. None are too fiddly and there are helpful shortcuts, techniques and tricky cheats. It could truly be called a baking bible as there is a huge range of biscuits, slices and cakes to choose from.
In her really crunchy and gingery ginger crunch Jo goes back to the old fashioned way of spreading only a thin gingery topping over the base rather than the thick gooey layer of icing favoured by many cafes. Hers I agree is far nicer.
The secret of her pikelets is that they are made with baking soda and cream of tartar which produces a superior result. They are not bendy or floppy when you eat them topped with jam and a blob of cream.
 For her Farmhouse Scones she uses an unorthodox method which she invented. She melts the butter in warm milk, and then mixes this with self- raising flour. This activates the raising agent quickly. It does work well and is easier to do.
Jo Seagar Bakes will appeal especially to sweet tooths. There are very few savoury treats. We tried out the tasty cheese and bacon muffins. The secret of their special flavour was the pinch of dried mustard in the mix.
Jo’s Granny Win’s recipe for Butterscotch Date Fingers was a winner in our house. This old-fashioned recipe was very easy to make and doesn’t need icing.  It also freezes well which is a real plus if there is some left over or if you want to make it ahead of time.
Her special mini pecan pies which she has been baking for more than for 40 years is her all time most popular recipe. People from all over the country tell her it is their party special. Now that I’ve tried making these nutty nuggets of sweetness they are also going to be one of mine. Best served slightly warmed.
There is time to perfect some of her Christmas recipes before the festive season starts such as the chocolate meringue kisses, mini Christmas mince pies, gingerbread cookies and Christmas cake.
Jo Seagar Bakes would be a great book to give to any family member who is keen to try their hand at baking. No doubt the giver will secretly hope that she will be invited over for afternoon tea to sample their efforts.
Reviewed by Lyn Potter
Title: Jo Seagar Bakes.
 Author: Jo Seagar
Imprint: Random House
RRP $55.00
pecan pies
 Jo’s Special Mini Pecan Pies
This recipe comes from Jo Seagar Bakes and was reprinted with permission from the Publisher. The photograph was taken by Jae Frew.

For the pastry
125 g butter
1 cup flour
½ cup icing sugar
For the filling
1 cup pecan nuts
60 g butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Spray 16 mini-muffin cups with baking spray.
Place the pastry ingredients in a food processor and run the machine until the pastry clumps around the blade. Divide the pastry into 16 small balls and, with floured hands; press into the bases and up the sides of 16 mini-muffin cups. Using a tart tamper makes this job easy and ensures the pastry sides are an even thickness.
Place the pastry-lined tins in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes until the pastry is really firm and hard.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Divide the nuts between the pastry-lined cups, breaking the nuts in half if necessary.
Whisk the melted butter, egg, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth, but somewhat gluey. Using a small jug, pour approximately a teaspoon of this mixture into each nut-filled cup and bake for 20–25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling set and crisp.
You will not use all this mixture. There is enough for two batches. It is hard to halve an egg, so in fact you have a double-batch of this filling. To use it all just double the quantity of pastry.
Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes in the tins until the pies are cool enough to handle. Give each pie a little twist to loosen the bottom, and then carefully lift out with the tip of a small paring knife to cool completely on a wire rack.
These are delicious served warm as a dessert. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They also freeze very well.
Prep time 15 minutes
Chill time 30 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Makes 16

I wrote this article for the GrownUps website

Depot: The Biography of a Restaurant review

Depot: The Biography of a Restaurant is the feel good story of Al Brown’s  iconic and very popular city eatery and oyster bar. He shares all the secrets behind its success.

He had a clear mission 

Al had fond childhood memories of the relaxed and generous kiwi hospitality he had experienced during summers spent at the family Bach.  His mission was to create a small informal restaurant where guests would be made to feel warmly welcome and have a similar experience. There would be no need to dress up. The crockery would be mismatched and the wine drunk out of tumblers. And the food would be genuine and unfussy: fresh and seasonal, cooked over charcoal on share plates.

He Put a Great Team Together 

This included the architect, the furniture maker, the graphic designer, the manager , head chef,  waiters, kitchen staff and PA and social media expert. He values their talents, loyalty and team spirit.

A Hands on Boss

To Al his staff is part of his family. No distant father figure, he’s a hand-on restaurant-dad who is hugely enthusiastic and passionate about his role. And he loves waiting on the tables and meeting the customers several nights each week.

The Sugar Pie Story

Al is a great raconteur and there’s a story behind much of his food. One story he tells is how early in his career he worked at La Luna in Montreal and had a massive crush on Brigitte, the restaurant’s gorgeous and highly talented French Canadian pastry chef. But no amount of his kiwi charm, manners or politeness could win her over. On her last day she kissed him on both cheeks and handed him a folded piece of paper, which turned out to be not to be her phone number as he had hoped but the recipe for her sugar pie. It languished in a drawer until he rediscovered it 25 years later and it is now the Depot’s signature dessert. A heart stopping recipe which contains 500 gm of brown sugar and 1 litre of cream!

The Depot Recipes

Al believes that the words secret and recipe don’t belong in the same sentence. So he has very generously shared all of the 70 recipes which feature on the Depot menu including the turbot sliders, harissa lamb ribs, roasted groper belly and sugar pie .
Some are restaurant style recipes with quite expensive ingredients. But others are really easy to make. These are my favourites to cook at home.

Turbo Sliders with Preserved Lemon Mayo and Watercress

This is the Depot’s most popular signature recipe. Almost every table orders them. A turbot slider is simply a baby fish burger with preserved lemon mayo and watercress,
The fish is cut into slider-sized portions, seasoned and cooked in a greased skillet or on the barbecue for a couple of minutes until caramelized and cooked through, Then these are stashed into  toasted slider buns with a dollop of Al’s  mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon juice and a couple of sprigs of watercress

Grilled Asparagus with Kalamata Butter 

Al suggests that you shouldn’t eat the first of the crop. If you wait for a few weeks the asparagus will have more flavour and will be cheaper. In his simple but tasty recipe he makes a savoury butter by blending the pitted olives, lemon juice and zest in a food processor until smooth, seasons it with a little butter and leaves it at room temperature. Then spoonfuls of this are ladled on grilled asparagus which is then scattered with chives and finished with lemon zest and juice.

Iceberg Wedge with Ranch Dressing

Al sees iceberg lettuce as part of our New Zealand Heritage and likens this crisp vegetable to nature’s vegetable sorbet. He slathers it with his ranch dressing and finishes it with cracked pepper.

Flour Tortillas

Al boasts that the Depot’s tortillas are better than any you’ll find at any of Auckland’s Mexican joints. They’re certainly very easy to make .Our Grandchildren love tortillas, and as you can fill them with just about anything.  I’ll be making this recipe often.

Who’d like this book? 

All those who:
- Dream of opening their own café or restaurant. This would be an indispensable insider look on how to grow one.
- Have dined at the Depot. They would enjoy its backstory and have a great reminder of a great evening.
- Love Al’s Cooking Style. They will enjoy pouring over all of the Depot’s recipes which he has so generously shared and to try their hand at some of them.
Title:  Depot: The Biography of a Restaurant by Al Brown. RRP $70, published by Random House,

I wrote this review for the GrownUps website where it appeared on  6th Nov 2014

You're Never Too Old to Cook

Sue Rattray really loves her life at the Waiheke Retirement Village. She has always been a great cook and feels strongly that elderly people should carry on cooking their own meals
“You can’t make them do it. But you can encourage them," she says.
Elderly people have grown up in times when meals were simple and made from a few basic ingredients .They have had plenty of experience and will remember how to do them. Or they probably have a few old recipe books tucked away without fancy pictures but with easy recipes that work.
As they browse through them they are likely to come across a favourite recipe they haven’t made in donkeys years. Or it may bring back happy memories of meals around the family table.”
Cooking your own meals from scratch keeps you healthy as well.
“Go for plenty of vegetables, and red meat at least twice a week to keep up your iron levels,” is her advice.” And don’t eat too much white bread.”
Not all the residents at her retirement village eat a balanced diet.
“It’s a worry that one of the old men lives on sausages and a packet of mixed veg from the supermarket. He can’t be bothered peeling a potato but you can just scrub and boil/microwave it. And one guy has ½ loaf of white bread with jam and lashings of butter for pudding every night.”
“It’s a shame because you only need very basic ingredients to make a meal which is full of protein. For instance you can easily make a poached egg on toast with baked beans. Or a poached egg with a tomato, one big slice of ham and a bit of salad will do. And for dessert a lot of oldies love jelly and that’s no trouble to make.”
The thought of doing a pile of dishes can be off-putting for elderly people who don’t like to stand for a long time. Here the microwave comes in handy. For instance you can put broccoli florets, salt and a little water in a microwave safe bowl, cover it with glad wrap or a plate. Zap it for a few minutes and its ready. You can eat it straight out of the bowl.
She does know from her own experience that there are times when you can feel overtired, lonely or a bit down and then it’s difficult to motivate yourself to cook.
“On those days just make a really good sandwich for yourself, ideally on wholegrain bread. Add some fresh fruit for dessert and maybe some ice cream.” she says
Being sociable is important .It’s pleasurable to share a meal with others, not every night, but maybe once a week.
“Ring an old friend who can still drive and ask them over. Or arrange to have a shared lunch. And bring back bring back potluck dinners! They used to be all the rage,” she says.
Having a small kitchen need not stop old people from cooking. You don’t need much equipment. Just a few basics including  a microwave, a small fridge freezer, 1 large pot and some smaller ones, a set of bowls, a few tools including a potato masher and wooden spoons, and maybe a rice cooker.
You also need plenty of small plastic containers for freezing left over food and make ahead meals.
For the Waiheke Retirement Village residents it’s only 600 metres to the supermarket in the bustling township of Ostend. You can get fresh ingredients as well as frozen meals from the supermarket.  The local RSA do frozen meals but don’t deliver so you have to go there to buy them.
But lots of old people don’t feel up to going to the shops every day to buy their groceries. The way round this is to plan ahead and buy enough food to last for several days and to cook larger quantities. Then divide them into smaller portions and freeze so that you have several meals at the ready.
Growing your own vegetables is also a good idea. Even if you have only a tiny outside space there will be room for a couple of pots to grow a few little vegetables like a bit of spinach and herbs. Everyone needs parsley and mint. It’s exciting to watch them grow.
Two of her friends at the village love broad beans and have several pot sized buckets on the deck. If you pick them really young you don’t need to soak or peel them.
Waiheke also has community gardens. If you work for 1 hour /week you can help yourself when the produce is ready.
When two old friends who love to cook get talking there’s usually an exchange of good recipes .Over a cup of tea out on our deck Sue shared some tried and true dishes with me that she often cooks for herself and that elderly people can easily make.

Mini Pies

Use sheets of puff pastry for this. Cut into squares and put into muffin tins. Add a mixture of beaten eggs, bacon/ham/ cheese, parsley and spring onion.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees C.
Serve with a salad alongside


Buy 500g mince. Add some crushed garlic, a chopped onion, some herbs, and salt and pepper. Roll into balls. Beat an egg and dip the meatballs in it then roll in some flour.
Fry briefly in a little oil in a frying pan (just enough to brown). Add some chopped flavoured tomatoes (any flavour will do, tomatoes with basil are good)
At this stage you can also add some chopped vegetables). Simmer until both the meatballs and vegetables are done.
Serve on top of spaghetti or with mashed potatoes and vegetables.
A roast dinner for one is not hard to do!
Bake one lamb shank in a roasting dish/ an oven bag.  Cut potatoes into small pieces and roast alongside.

Cauliflower Cheese with a Weet-Bix topping 

Steam the cauliflower. Mix with cheese sauce. Put in an oven dish and cover with a mixture of crushed Weet-Bix and grated cheese. Grill until the topping is nice and brown

Pumpkin Soup

Peel, chop and boil some pumpkin in water until tender.
Put the pan in the sink and let the pumpkin cool a little
 Mash it with a fork/potato masher. It doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth, a little lumpy is fine.
Thin with some chicken stock and add a little curry powder. Then reheat.

Vegetable Soup

Sue used to buy a bacon hock but for older people to lift this out of the pot while it’s hot and to skin it can be difficult.
Now she buys boiling bacon which has no bones or fat (you may have to ask your butcher for this, he will be able to sell you some.)
Cook the boiling bacon in the pressure cooker or cover it with water and give it a long simmer in a saucepan until it is tender.
Lift the boiling bacon out and shred the meat.  Put the meat back into the pot with the following:
3 big carrots (grated)
3-4 stalks of celery (chopped)
2 large leeks chopped (white up to light green parts)
Some of the tender celery leaves (chopped)
Pearl barley (a handful)
2 Oxo cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil until the vegetables are tender. No need to mash.
Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

Read more from Lyn Potter here  

I wrote this article for the GrownUps website ( September 2014)

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Fair Trade Banana Chocolate Muffins

I was really pleased to discover a bottle of the new Trade Aid chocolate sauce at my local Trade Aid shop so decided to make some Fair Trade banana muffins and to swirl some of the chocolate sauce through the batter.
It is a thick sauce and it did not pour easily from the bottle which was a little disappointing.But once I had managed to scoop some out it worked really well in these muffins so would make them again as all who tasted them liked them.

That evening I used the chocolate sauce again as a topping for ice cream and strawberries. I sat the bottle of chocolate sauce ( which had been refrigerated once opened as suggested on the label) briefly in some hot water and it quickly became pourable, so problem solved!) Such an easy summer dessert!


1 cup of yoghurt
1 egg
2/3 cup  if vegetable oil/ olivani
2 Fair Trade bananas (mashed)
1 3/4 cups of self raising flour
1/3 cup of castor sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1/4 cup of Trade Aid Chocolate Sauce
1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
Icing sugar to sift over top


Put the mashed bananas, egg, yoghurt  and vanilla essence in a bowl and  mix together
Add the flour, castor sugar and walnuts and stir in lightly
Add the chocolate sauce  and stir gently and briefly so that streaks of chocolate are still clearly visible.
Spoon the mixture into 12 medium sized muffin pans which have been lightly greased.
Bake at 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees C.
Leave to cool for about 5 minutes, then remove and sift some icing sugar over the top before serving.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Stir Fried Silverbeet

My beloved insists on growing silverbeet in our vegetable garden. It is not usually my favourite and comes second to rocket, kale, spinach and mesclun salad leaves. But after numerous experiments (after all food should never be wasted, and it is so good for us) I have finally come up with a very tasty recipe that hits the spot.

Our favourite right now is to stir fry the finely shredded leaves and to season them with IAMSAUCE , a naturally brewed soy sauce with fresh ginger, honey and tamarind. Not as salty as regular soy sauce and with more complex Asian flavours.

When I briefly visited South China some years ago one of the things I loved was the generous garnish of pine nuts in quite a few of the dishes. Until then I'd never realised that they were part of Chinese Cuisine.


4 stalks of silverbeet
1 clove clove of garlic
1 tbsp of olive/vegetable oil
A generous splash if IAMSAUCE
A few pinenuts


  • Cut the white stalks off the silverbeet and put these aside for another recipe which I'll post later this week)
  • Shred the leaves finely.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan ( or wok if you have one)
  • Add the garlic and let sizzle until it is starting to brown (be careful it can burn quite easily)
  • Add the silverbeet leaves and toss around for a minute or so.
  • Then add a generous splash of IAMSAUCE and keep stirfrying for another minute or two .
  • Serve sprinkled generously with toasted pinenuts.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Rod's Heroic Catch: A Giant Snapper for Dinner.

The giant snapper caught by Rod today was kindly delivered at our house. Such a huge fish deserved special treatment. I slightly adapted a recipe from Dish magazine and it turned out perfectly!

After dipping the snapper fillets (with skin on) in well seasoned flour and shaking off the surplus I fried them in 2 tb of oil and a knob of butter, skin side first and then briefly on the flesh side.

Over the top of the snapper fillets went a small salad composed of orange segments, thinly sliced red pepper, mint and toasted pinenuts. Alongside I dished up some wilted spinach leaves. Delicious!

Ani's Curry Powder

Nick sent this recipe from Mysore where he recently went to Ani's cooking class. I suspected that 50 gm of curry powder would be far too hot for me, but I gathered some large round chillies from my newly discovered Indian supermarket , as well as all the other ingredients and gave them a whizz in my little electric spice grinder.

It was hot. My tongue was burning after I tasted it. A glass of milk was the best antidote.
But it gave Ani's Butter Paneer Masala , which I'll post soon, an excellent flavour. And so much nicer than the shop bought variety which is often stale after it has  most probably been sitting on the supermarket shelves for far too long.

Curry Powder

Dry red chillies       50 gm
Coriander Seeds    4 Tbsp
Cumin Seeds          1 Tbsp
Fenugreek seeds     1 Tbsp
Cloves                     5 
Cinnamon                1 incl piece
Cardamom               3 pods whole
Curry leaves (optional)  2 sprigs

Dry roast all the ingredients in a wok on medium flame stirring constantly.  Cool the mixture and blend into a rough powder in a dry coffee grinder. Store in an airtight box.