Monday, 28 December 2015

Pairing Chocolate Truffles with Chocolate Milk Stout.

I'm not an expert on matching beer and food. I just do it intuitively. If it works for us I'm happy.
In the late afternoon today, when the heat of the sun was finally lessening, I had a bit of fun in the kitchen making a late afternoon treat.

I created some truffles to use up the last of a very rich and rather dense chocolate and coconut cream mousse which had been flavoured with orange rind and a splash of drambuie liqeur.

I reduced a few  Dutch  filled almond cookies ( which were also a Christmas leftover) to crumbs in the food processor and added these, together with some dessicated coconut and raisins, into the mousse until it was a truffle consistency. (The cookies were shop bought, made by a local bakery, and available in the supermarket.)

I formed them mixture into balls and coated them by rolling them  in more coconut to make some rather decadent and moorish chocolate truffles.

I poured a bottle of Mike's Organic Chocolate Milk Stout into two small glasses to test the theory that if a beer is chocolate flavoured it will pair well with a chocolaty recipe. And we agreed that it worked really well. But I do think that the nutty almond and coconut flavours also contributed. And the ripe cherries were a great addition

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

What a treat some freshly caught snapper caught by Rachel and Rod was for dinner this evening! We ate it simply fried with some black bean and corn salsa and a green salad alongside.

A glass or two of Mike's Traditional Pale Ale went down nicely with this meal. I managed to sneak a couple of tablespoons of it before it was poured to add to this salsa which, judging by its reception, is about to become a family favourite.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

To make it mix:

1 400 gm can of black beans ( drained)
1/2 cup of sweetcorn
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of soya sauce
2 red chillies ( seeds removed and finely chopped)
2 tablespoons of Mike's Traditional Pale Ale
1 long sweety red pepper (chopped)

Garnish with a mixture of chopped parsley and coriander

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Sesame Roasted Carrots

I flavoured these carrots with a deep-roasted sesame dressing which I discovered in the international section of the supermarket . This added both sweet and savoury flavours and helped to caramelise them. But the sesame flavour was not as intense as I had hoped. A generous sprinkling of freshly roasted sesame seeds made all the difference. 

The little platter they are displayed on is one that I am particularly fond of as it was made by Tony Simpson, one of the members of the pottery co-operative (Pots of Ponsonby) I used to belong to. This was an era when potters like us were influenced by the Hamada -Bernard Leach tradition of humble but beautiful domestic ware with earthy glazes which complement Japanese food so well. 

To make this recipe I cut the carrots into smaller pieces, boiled them for 2-3 minutes then tossed them in some deep roasted sesame dressing. They  were then arranged in a single layer on a baking paper lined oven tray and baked at 200 degrees C until fork tender ( 15-20 minutes)

The final touch, that generous sprinkling of freshly roasted sesame seeds. These carrots can be served either straight out of the oven or at room temperature.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Summery Soba Noodles with Ponzu

In this hot weather a chilled rather than hot noodle dish is so refreshing.  We like it simply flavoured with ponzu (a citrussy soy sauce) and ginger.

To make I added 200 grams of dried organic soba noodles to a large pot of boiling water, stirring them with a wooden spoon as I did so to help separate out the strands, and boiled them for about 3 minutes until they were fork tender . As soon as they had reached this stage they were laid in a sieve, rinsed with cold water until they had cooled right down, then drained and put in a serving bowl.

To complete the dish I finely chopped a couple of spring onions . They were tossed into the cold noodles along with some peeled and finely grated ginger.

A sheet of toasted nori was crumbled and used as garnish. For this I used a 5g snack pack of teriyaki flavoured roasted seaweed from Ceres organics)

For those who like a bit of heat a few red chili flakes could have been added.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Asparagus, Edamame and Snow Pea Salad

This will be our Christmas salad this year. I love that it is a vibrant green and is composed of just three vegetables: asparagus, snow peas and edamame beans.

It came about because we had good friends over to dinner and when I served them a medley of these three vegetables, warm and unadorned, the idea of adding a dressing came up.

Not really necessary I said but then I got thinking and created this simple dressing which I do think not only enhances the flavour but means the vegetables can also be served as a salad at room temperature.

To make it I boiled some  young asparagus spears very briefly until just tender and blanched some snow peas.
I brought some frozen edamame beans to the boil and simmered  them for about2 minutes. I could have drained and refreshed all the vegetables under cold water to retain their green colour better but I just drained them and they still retained their colour well.

The vegetables were combined and tossed with a dressing made by mixing equal quantities of ponzu lemon soy sauce and olive oil (I like to  dress lightly so used only one tablespoon of each)

This salad can be prepared well before dinner , Just before serving I poured over a little more ponzu lemon soy sauce and scattered the salad with freshly roasted sesame seeds.

It tasted light and mellow. I could have gingered it up with some grated ginger, spiced it with some a drop of hot chilli sauce or sharpened it with some rice vinegar, but we rather liked it like this.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Kale Salad with Ponzu Dressing

A bag of baby kale from an organic producer at Sunday's market was the starting point for this healthy salad in which I used two Japanese ingredients: ponzu  (a lemon soy sauce) and nori (roasted seaweed.
Ponzu is lighter and fresher tasting than a regular soy sauce. It is seasoned with yuzu (a fruit similar to lemon) but also sweeter as it includes mirin, a sweet rice wine.

I really enjoyed it but John found even the baby kale too chewy although it is much softer than more mature kale . I guess its either a case of you like kale...or you don't. The Ceres roasted seaweed comes in individual 5 g snack sachets. is certified organic and gluten free and the little flakes are just the right size to sprinkle over a salad.

To make it:
Wash and dry a small bagful of baby kale. Tear the larger leaves into smaller pieces .

For the dressing:
Stir together
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of ponzu ( I used Ceres organics)

Toss the kale with the dressing. 
Then add:
1/4 telegraph cucumber very finely sliced
Sprinkle with:
5g of Ceres roasted seaweed flavoured with mild chili)

It will happily stand around for a few hours so can be prepared beforehand. But if you do, sprinkle a little more Ponzu sauce over the top of it just before serving to refresh the flavour.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Mango and Ale Cook's Smoothie

A cocktail or a mini smoothie ?
Whatever you choose to call it this was rather delicious: sweet, sour and a little bitter.

My motto is waste not want not. I had a little ale left over when I was creating a recipe for a beery chili con carne (which is simmering on the stove as I write). I thought to myself: Isn't it a cook's privilege to have a little sip of something rather nice while stirring the pot? So I created this wee drink,

You could of course make your own sorbet, but it works perfectly well with a good shop bought locally made one, so why bother?

To make it I mixed equal quantities of mango sorbet and pale ale   I used OMPA Mike's One More Pale Ale) about 1/4 cup of each.
I whizzed this mixture briefly in a blender.
And poured it into a small glass.
I added a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice and a sprig of mint.
And sipped slowly .

Should you decide to try it do balance this to your own taste.If you want more bitterness and less sweetness add less sorbet. If you want a sharper taste, more lime.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Our Favourite 2015 Christmas Cake

After rather a lot of experimenting, tasting and expanding waistlines this is our favourite Christmas Cake for 2015. Soaking the fruit in a mixture of Mike's Traditional Dark Mild Ale and orange juice may sound rather radical but don't be afraid to try it. It's really good.

This cake is another variation on the Heavenly Fruit Cake in Everyday Easy Eats, a great collection of recipes from Friends of Balmoral School. It is so incredibly easy and unlike many Christmas cakes can be eaten straightaway.

Being one of those hurry up kind of cooks I can never wait to soak the fruit overnight so the microwave came in handy to plump it up (if you do this it is important to let the soaked fruit cool down completely after microwaving before adding the other ingredients,)


1kg of dried fruit (I used Tasti)
2 eggs
70 gm of macadamia nuts ( 1/2 cup)
250 gm of Whittaker's Hazelnut Chocolate
1 cup of Mike's Traditional Dark Mild Ale
1 cup of freshly squeezed tangelo/orange juice.
2 cups of selfraising flour.


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
Pour the ale and tangelo/orange juice over the fruit.
Either leave to fruit to soak overnight or if in a hurry heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. Leave until completely cold.
Beat the eggs lightly and stir in.
Whizz the chocolate and macademia nuts briefly in the food processor until roughly chopped/ or do this by hand.
Stir in the beaten eggs.
Add all the other ingredients and mix briefly.
Line a 23cm cake tin with baking paper.
Add the cake mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes. Cover with baking paper and bake for another 15 minutes.
Test to see if done.

(Ovens vary and I thought it could still do with a little longer. So I kept my cake covered with baking paper, turned the oven down to 150 degrees C and baked for a further 15 minutes.

Leave to cool before eating. In this hot weather store in the fridge so the chocolate doesn't melt.
It also freezes well. In fact if taken straight from the freezer you can slice it more easily with a sharp knife.

I made it again the day before Christmas and had run out of Ale, but I replaced it with half a cup of Mike's Chocolate Milk Stout  and 1/2 cup of water which was equally good.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Little Chocolate. Raisin and Almond Cakes

This is the time of year when it's nice to give a small edible gift  to friends or oldies who live on their own, or to take as an after dinner prezzie . These tiny chocolate, raisin and almond cakes are just perfect for this. The raisins are soaked in Mike's Milk Chocolate Stout which gives them their special flavour.

The recipe is a variation on the 'Heavenly Fruit Cake' by Prue McLafferty in Everyday Easy Eats, a  collection of loved recipes from Friends of Balmoral School.

I have used two tiny cake tins. The cakes are very dense so best sliced thinly with a sharp knife. A little goes a long way.  A nice after dinner treat.

1 1/2 cups ( 250 gm) of raisins
1 egg
1/2 cup of self raising flour
50 gm of sliced almonds/chopped macademias
60 gm of Whittaker's Dark Ghana Chocolate roughly chopped/ or Cadbury's Fair Trade milk chocolate
1/2 cup of Mike's Chocolate Milk Stout


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
Pour the stout over the raisins.
Either leave to soak overnight or if in a hurry heat in the microwave for 3 minutes.
Let cool before stirring in the beaten egg.
Add all the other ingredients and stir briefly to mix.
Line the bottom of 2 little 10cm cake tins with baking paper.
Add the cake mixture.
Bake for 25-30 minutes .
Test to see if done. If not, turn down the oven, cover the cakes with baking paper and bake for another 5-15 minutes at 150 degree C

Leave to cool before eating. In this hot weather  store in the fridge so the chocolate doesn't melt.
It also freezes well.

Christmas Smoothie

For a festive treat I created this alcoholic smoothie with Mike's Chocolate Milk Stout, lemonade and frozen strawberry and rhubarb compote.  A little bit naughty but nice.

Per person:

Christmas Smoothie

1/3 cup of Mike's Chocolate Milk Stout (chilled)
1/3 cup of Lemonade (chilled)
1/3 cup of Frozen Strawberry and Rhubarb compote

Whizz together in a blender
Pour into a wine glass
Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve immediately.

And here's the recipe for the compote which we had chilled for Sunday breakfast. I adapted it from 'Everyday Dish".  There was some left over so I suddenly had the idea of blending and freezing the leftovers for a smoothie.

Rhubarb, Strawberry and Orange Compote:

6 red stalks of rhubarb cut into 5 cm lengths
2 punnets of strawberries (halve strawberries if large)
2 tablespoons of  balsamic vinegar.
1/3 cup of brown sugar
Juice of 1 large/2 small oranges
1 orange very finely sliced (a lemon was used in the original recipe)

Mix and put in a large ceramic dish or in a baking dish lined with baking paper. Arrange the very finely sliced orange decoratively on top.
Roast until soft for about 20 minutes until the fruit is soft but not falling apart. Leave to cool.

Delicious served with yoghurt and muesli.

Or if you want to use this compote for smoothies remove the orange slices as the skins can be bitter. Then blend the compote and freeze. Use in the Christmas smoothie recipe.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Mike's Cheesy Beer Dip

I created this dip for you Mike . It uses some of your dark pale ale. The beer nicely adds to the flavour but doesn't overpower it.
So easy to make and  if you serve it with carrot and celery sticks it's not too decadent at all. But if you don't mind the calories have it with potato or kumara chips.
I like to give it an Asian twist by serving it with some fried shallots which are lovely and crispy and some hot and spicy Japanese Nanami Togarashi (assorted chili peppers). If you can't find them at your supermarket head for your nearest Asian Food Store.
Just dip your celery or carrot sticks into the cheesy dip, then into the fried shallots. They'll hang on. Add a sprinkle of  the chillies if you like it hot. Enjoy!

Cheesy Beer Dip

100 gm of tasty cheddar
2 tablespoons of sour cream
1/2 clove of garlic (smashed)
1/4 cup of Mike's naturally brewed and organic Dark Mild Ale
1 tsp of Dijon mustard

Cut cheese into small cubes. Whizz in the food processor until reduced to crumbs
Add sour cream , mustard and garlic
Feed the beer through the tube as you whizz until smooth. ( This can take a little while, and several bursts, but don't worry it will happen.

Chill for a while in the fridge before serving. It will happily sit there for several days so you can make it well beforehand.

For a change you can also  spread this dip thickly onto a sliced French bread , cover with ham and wafers of cucumber and you have a really easy platter of food to hand around while you are enjoying a cold beer with your mates.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Baked Snapper with a Japanese Twist

After our recent visit to Japan I'm loving playing with Japanese ingredients. So when Rod and Rachel generously shared some of their freshly caught snapper this is what we had for dinner,

First I rubbed smidgen of olive oil onto 3 large snapper fillets and laid them in a baking paper lined oven dish skin side down,

I generously covered them in a mixture of 1 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. This mixture was gently patted down.

The fillets were baked for 15-20 minutes in a moderately oven by which time the panko crumb mixture was lightly browned and the fish was done.

Spicy Avocado Mayonaise:

Alongside the fish I served a spicy dressing made by stirring a large dollop of Japanese Kewpie Mayonaise into a mashed avocado and adding the juice of a lime. To add some heat I sprinkled some nanami togarashi on top . These are little flakes of assorted chili peppers .

A bunch of spinach from the garden was destalked, washed, roughly chopped and steamed in the water clinging to the leaves. A few drops of sesame oil were stirred in at the end,

Delicious and Healthy!

The following night we had snapper again and as I had an opening to attend I made an even easier recipe by ( after oiling and seasoning the three fillets with a little salt) I smeared a thin layer of sour cream over them and sprinkled plenty of nanami togarashi chilli flakes over. Then I sprinkled over a mixture of breadcrumbs ( 1 cup) and finely grated parmesan ( 1/2 cup) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil
This mixture was then lightly sprinkled over the snapper ( You may well have some over) Bake as in  the previous recipe.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Mike's Beers : A Good Tasting

We celebrated the beginning of the festive season by a tasting of four of Mike’s Organic Beers the other night when we had a few friends around for dinner (One of whom is called Mike). 
Here's our Mike!
We generally liked all the beers, and our notes are below
Mikes Dark Mild Ale. We started off with this one and found it a refreshing lighter style beer. It had nice toasty characteristics
OMPA Pale Ale. This was the second choice of all of us. We found the beer had a nice citrus nose, was a refreshing taste and was good drinking. Highly recommended.
Without Warning India Red Ale. An enjoyable ale, but most of it found it to be a stronger flavour than we are used to drink.
 CMS Chocolate Milk Stout. The favourite of all of us. The stout was sweet, and did have a genuine chocolate taste. It was smooth and we were looking for more at the end of the tasting.

All in all, a great way to start the evening. And a good choice as Mike's Beers are organic and are NZ made  by a family owned company of beer brewers from Taranaki.
To find out more do go to 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Walnut Guacamole and Spinach and Orange Salad

It's warm enough now to have lunch outside on the deck some days. A loaf of good bread, a couple of salads and you're done! We spread the guacamole on the bread and serve the spinach salad alongside.

The spinach and orange  salad is ridiculously easy using only these two ingredients and a generous splash of extra virgin olive oil. Baby spinach leaves would be best for this salad but we had larger leaves in the garden that needed picking and surprisingly they tasted just fine. But I would avoid using a bunch of elderly supermarket spinach leaves.Our own New Zealand oranges were lovely and sweet, nice to be able to use locally grown fruit. A sliced avocado and some toasted and coarsely chopped macadamia nuts made a nice addition when we ate it again the following day.

Walnut Guacamole:

1 large or 2 medium  avocados mashed
A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley and coriander
1/2 cup of roughly chopped walnuts
2 medium tomatoes (squeezed to remove seeds and some of the liquid) then chopped
1/2 small red onion  peeled and chopped
Juice of a lime
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil ( I used Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil)

Mix together and season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Spinach salad.

This is one of the easiest salads you could possibly make . The oranges provide sufficient acidity so there is no need for vinegar in the dressing. A tasty extra virgin olive oil does make all the difference!
To make it simply peel some oranges and slice. Arrange some baby spinach leaves and orange slices in a shallow bowl. Dribble over plenty of extra virgin olive oil ( I used Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil). Add some salt if you must!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

A Shared Lunch with Two Black Dogs

The bottle of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil I was given last week wasn't finished yet so after my usual leisurely visit to the Takapuna market to gather supplies (creamy French feta, mushrooms,beetroot, semi sundried tomatoes and small loaves of ciabatta bread made locally by a German baker)) I felt inspired to put the rest of it to good use. I got busy and created a shared Mediterranean lunch with everyone dipping in happily.

And I have some exciting news to add. Nicky and Graham will be in a celebratory mood right now as last night they won a silver medal at the NZ olive oil awards for their Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil. So do try it in these recipes. It's seriously good.

Marinated Mushrooms with Semi Sundried Tomatoes

This is easy to assemble but it does need to stand for at least half an hour before serving to allow the dressing to soak in. We spread some slices of  ciabatta thickly with a creamy French feta from the market to serve alongside.


200 grams of mushrooms ( sliced)
100 grams of semi sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 clove of garlic ( peeled and smashed)
3 tablespoons of chopped herbs (I used a mixture of oregano, mint and thyme) 
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
2 extra tablespoon of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil.

Put all the ingredients ( except the extra tablespoons of olive oil in a bowl and mix together.
Leave to marinate for half an hour .
Just before serving stir in the extra tablespoons of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil. This will really allow its lovely flavour to shine through.
Serve with some creamy feta cheese and ciabatta bread alongside.

Beetroot Dip

I usually make this beetroot dip with yoghurt but I think it's even more delicious made with creme fraiche . It will keep for several days in the fridge and stay thick and creamy.

350 grams of beetroot
2 cloves of garlic (crushed)
150 grams of crème fraiche
1-2 tablespoons of 2 Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil
The juice of a lime
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
Some finely chopped mint and a few chopped walnuts to garnish


Boil the beetroot in their skins for 30-40 minutes or until fork tender.
Drain and leave  until cool enough to handle. Slip their skins off.
Put the beetroot and garlic in a food processor and blend  (there is no need to blend until smooth, a little texture is fine)
Add the creme fraiche and blend again.
Scrape the mixture into a bowl and stir in the lime juice and 2 tablespoons of Two Black Dogs olive oil,
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt.
Garnish with chopped mint and walnuts just before serving.

My Hummous
This is my hummous recipe. It is  light and  citrussy. In many hummous recipes the oil is mixed into the hummous  but I think the flavour of it gets somewhat lost that way. It's nicer to drizzle it generously on top. 


1 can of chickpeas (400 grams) 
1 clove of garlic (peeled and smashed)
3 tablespoons of tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 orange
1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
a good dash of hot sauce ( I used Hot Samoan Boys Chilli Sauce)
a drizzle of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil


Drain the chickpeas
Reserve the liquid
In a food processor put the chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid, and all the other ingredients except the olive oil.
Whizz till smooth.
If the mixture is too thick thin it down by adding a  little more of the reserved liquid.
Then adjust the seasoning and  if you like more fire, increase the amount of Hot Samoan Boys Chilli  sauce.

Put in a bowl and drizzle some olive oil over the top before serving with toasted triangles of pita bread.or spread on some ciabatta.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Two Black Dogs and a Bottle of Good Olive Oil

This week  I was given a bottle of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil to try. I love the back story. Graham and Nicky live in Mangawhai in Northland, New Zealand. Having bought a property on which there was a grove of olive trees  they decided to jump in gumboots and all to produce this lovely grassy green extra virgin olive oil.  

Their first olives were harvested in May 2015 and their Ascolano olives were used to produce a small run of extra virgin olive oil which has been certified by Olives New Zealand as Extra Virgin Olive oil.

Their two black labs have the best kind of dog's life running amongst the trees, sniffing around , sampling the odd olive and absorbing the sun after a swim.  The olive oil is named after them and they feature on the label.

I've really enjoyed creating some recipes with this oil:

Fennel. Apple and Celery Salad

I first tasted a salad made with just three ingredients: celery, fennel and apples at my sister in law Janet's house in Sydney recently and it has become a firm favourite at our home. To make it I sliced a couple of celery stalks, two fennel bulbs and two Granny Smith apples ( unpeeled) and put these into a salad bowl. I dressed the salad with 3 tablespoons of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil , the juice of 1/2 lemon (or you could use 1 lime) and some freshly ground rock salt. My special touch was to leave the dressing to soak in for an hour or so. Then I tucked in a few freshly picked mint leaves and provided a tiny jug of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil alongside to dribble over it as this really boosted the flavour.

The perfect breakfast

So what should come first when you have a slice of ciabatta, an avocado and some Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive .It's a debatable point. My son Nick uses olive oil like butter (he likes the way it soaks in and flavours the bread) and then adds the topping. Preferring to avoid soggy bread I do it the other way round. I mush up some avocado, spread it liberally on the bread and add a generous drizzle of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil which pools and glistens on top. Then I grind some rock salt on top and a sprinkle of Mexican spices or dukkah. Yum!The perfect breakfast.

Pita Bread with a fresh herb topping

Just  lately I've been making my own pita bread in the fry pan using a great recipe from the Kitchn . They don't puff up quite as much as those made in the oven but you do get nice crunchy toasted spots on the serface when you cook them this way. Here's the link:

You can of course buy a packet of pita bread for this recipe but home made is nicer.

For the topping I picked a bunch of herbs from the garden : rosemary, thyme and oreganum, chopped them finely and smashed a peeled clove of garlic with some rock salt. I stirred this mixture into three tablespoons of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil. Then brushed it liberally onto two pita breads. They were baked in the oven) at 200 degrees C for about 10-15 minutes until the bread had crisped up. We had this for lunch with some kumara  flavoured hummous, delicious!

Hearts of Palm, Tomato and Spring Onion Salad

At the Takapuna market on Sunday I found some canned hearts of palm. I'd never used them before but thought I'd try them in a salad. And the verdict ? Very tasty and would make again.

I simply drained the liquid from a 400 gm can of hearts of palm. These hearts of palm look like little fat sticks but are quite tender).I sliced them quite thickly and put them into a salad bowl. Then added two chopped tomatoes, the finely sliced whites of 2 spring onions  and plenty of flat leaved parsley. The dressing was made with 2-3 tablespoons of Two Black Dogs extra virgin olive oil and the juice of !/2 lemon.


The following evening we had this salad again. This time I added a chopped up avocado and arranged the salad on a bed of mesclun leaves. Some feta crumbled over the top completed the dish.

And here are some a pictures of the the handsome and bouncy black Labrador George, and his bosom pal little Millie! These two are the much loved pets of my daughter Rachel her partner and our three granddaughters. No olive trees for them but a nearby beach to cavort on !

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Quinoa Tabouleh with a smoked paprika and mustard dressing.

This is the tastiest quinoa salad I have made this year, inspired by a recipe in  Yvette Van Boven's 'Home Made ' recipe book. It made good use of some of our abundant crop of parsley and the last of our rocket.

What intrigued me about this recipe was the combination of smoked paprika and mustard in the dressing  giving a slightly smoky and pungent flavour. Thanks Nick for being the taste tester.


1 cup of quinoa ( I used Ceres Organics Super Grain Mix which is a mixture of white, red, and black quinoa and amaranth)
1 tin of whole kernel sweetcorn ( drained)
3 spring onions ( chopped)
1/2 cup of roasted cashew nuts
100 gm of feta cheese ( crumbled or chopped )
1 bunch of flat leaved parsley ( finely chopped)
1 bunch of rocket

Whisk together
1 tbsp of dijon mustard
1 garlic clove ( peeled and smashed)
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
1/2 cup of olive oil
the juice of 1 lemon (or more to taste)

Method: Cook the quinoa first
Sort through the Quinoa as sometimes small  stones are present and it pays to remove these little toothbreakers. Then rinse under running water, In  pot , put a cup of  Quinoa or Super Grain Mix with 2 cups of watr. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Leave to cool until lukewarm.Add the other ingrdeints and stir in the dressing. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Monday, 11 May 2015

La Boca Loca collected recipes from the taqueria

Shortly after La Boca Loca opened we enjoyed a lovely meal there. Before that our experience of “Mexican” food had been limited to the hearty pots of chili con carne we used to cook in our student days, and tortilla chips smothered in melted cheese served with sour cream and guacamole. So it was exciting to discover so many new dishes and to taste those earthy, smoky and spicy Mexican flavours. 
Afterwards I was invited into the restaurant kitchen to see how corn tortillas were made by hand on a tiny press so that each one ordered in the restaurant would be perfectly fresh.
Lucas Putnam grew up in a part of America with a large Mexican American population where Mexican food was readily available. But when he landed a job at Weta Digital to work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and came to New Zealand in 2001 he was surprised to discover that the fresh and tasty kind of Mexican food he loved was not to be found in Wellington. 
So he persuaded friends who travelled to Mexico to bring back the essentials he needed and cooked it himself. Before long he was hosting a Mexican dinner party every weekend. They became so popular that he was eventually persuaded to establish a Mexican restaurant with partner Marianne. Their aim was to bring the spirit of Mexico to the heart of Miramar by combining traditional Mexican ingredients with fresh and locally available ingredients.
La Boca Loca opened its doors in 2011. Four years later when they had hand-pressed 200,000 corn tortillas, made almost 70,000 burritos, 45,000 litres of salsa and poured 60,000 margaritas, the time felt right to write the cookbook which customers and friends had been asking for. 
In went the most popular dishes and cocktails from their restaurant menu as well as some personal favourites. Interesting chapters on the history of Mexican cuisine, pantry essentials and basic techniques such as handling chillies, how to prepare masa, press your own tortillas and making fresh and cooked salsas are also included.
If you are planning to try your hand at cooking Mexican food it is essential to know your chillies as these are widely used in Mexican cooking. I know how important this is from having once burnt my mouth horribly by biting into a fiery one grown by a Mexican friend. So the chapter on chillies, what they look like, how to use them and how each rates on the heat scale from mild to exceedingly hot is a must read.
But fear not, much Mexican food is not very hot at all or only as fiery as you want it to be and the heat can easily be adjusted to your taste.
Nothing is more annoying when you are keen to try a recipe from a different culture than not being able to find the ingredients. At La Boca Loca, they use fresh and local ingredients wherever possible but some that are unavailable here have to be imported. You can purchase or mail order these directly from the restaurant. and they are not expensive.
I’ve really enjoyed trying out some of the recipes and each one has been a success. So far I've made:
Fresh corn tortillas: These were so easy to make using only three ingredients (masa harina flour, water and salt).  A fun way to keep the grandchildren entertained in the kitchen!
Breakfast burritos: There are several variations in this book but we love the simplest one filled with scrambled eggs, crumbled feta or grated cheddar,  chopped tomatoes and avocado with a little hot sauce to taste.
Salsas are an essential part of a Mexican meal. The one I make most often is a mixture of finely diced onion, diced tomatoes and chopped fresh coriander, sharpened with lime or lemon juice and seasoned with a pinch of flaky salt. Adding chillies is optional.
Lucas encourages experimenting with whatever fresh fruit is in season. In autumn they use feijoa and in winter tamarillo. 
Ceviche de Pescado: This marinated raw fish salad tastes fresh and light. Far superior ras an appetiser to that old sixties favourite the prawn cocktail!
Black Bean and Corn salad is a healthy medley to eat with corn chips or tostadas. I find this a very useful recipe to make when there are vegetarians in the house.
Mexicans love to party. And La Boca Loca is famous for its cocktails created by its various bartenders whose legacy lives on in a bunch of tempting recipes for margaritas, sangria, mojitos, and fresh fruit juices.  When we have a Mexican feast or fiesta we’ll have ve to try some of these as well! 
La Boca Loca: Collected Recipes from the Taqueria. RRP $60.00. By Lucas Putnam andmd Marianne  Elliott. Available from bookshops nationwide. Distributed by Potton&Burton or direct from

This review was written for the GrownUps website:

Friday, 1 May 2015

Feijoa and Apple with a Crumbly Topping

A jar of this spicy crumble mixture will keep for at least a week  in the fridge . I sprinkle it on warm stewed apples and feijoas for an almost instant  winter dessert or over sliced mango and Greek yoghurt. Delicious!


1/2 cup of Tio Pablo masa harina
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of rolled oats
75 gm of very cold butter

Put the masa harina, spices and sugar into the bowl of a food processor
Grate the butter or chop into small pieces and add in.
Whizz briefly until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.Add the rolled oats and whizz for a few more seconds to combine.

Alternatively do it by hand:
Put the masa harina, spices, and sugar into a bowl and cut or rub in the butter until crumbly. Mix in the rolled oats.

Spread the crumble on a baking paper lined tray in one layer and bake at 180 degrees C for about 15-20 minutes until it is golden brown. Watch carefully, you don't want it to burn. Leave to cool down before storing in the fridge in a lidded jar.

The apples and feijoas can be stewed in the microwave. Simply scoop out the flesh of about 12 feijoas  and peel and chop 2 large apples. Put in a microwave safe ceramic  bowl with 1/2-1 tsp of cinnamon and about two tbsp of brown sugar (or to taste)  
Microwave  for 5-10 minutes until the fruit is mushy. ( Different varieties of apples will take different amounts of time to cook)

Gluten Free Masa Harina Porridge with Apple, Cinnamon and Walnuts

This is real comfort food and lighter than porridge made with oats. If  you just need something warm and nutritious to fill your tummy and to ward of the winter chills try it!

Whisk together until smooth

1/2 cup of trim milk
11/2 tbsp Tio Pablo  masa harina ( or 1 tbsp if you want it to be a more runny consistency)
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (or to taste)
1 tbsp brown sugar/maple syrup

Put all  in a microwave bowl and microwave on high for 11/2 minutes  ( whisking at 30 second intervals)
Add 1/2 grated apple ( leave the skin on if you wish) or  1/2 finely chopped apple and 2-3 tablespoons of raisins
Sprinkle with chopped walnuts before serving and drizzle a little more maple syrup on top
or sprinkle with a mixture of castor sugar, cinnamon and chopped walnuts.

This is also quite nice left to chil in the fridge overnight  ( rather similar to Bircher muesli). If it thickens too much it can easily be thinned with a little more milk. Add the nuts and more maple syrup

Banana and Masa Harina Smoothie

Sometimes you just want the kind of breakfast you can whip up very quickly and sip while reading the newspaper , checking your emails or better still just sitting quietly and relaxing for a few minutes before the day gets busy.
I always keep some chopped up bananas in my freezer to make one ingredient banana icecream and recently discovered that I could also use them to make this nutritious smoothie.

Per person
1 tablespoon of Tio Pablo masa harina
1/2 cup of trim milk
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of brown sugar or maple syrup
1 frozen banana ( chopped into chunks)
1/2 cup of chilled full cream yoghurt ( I used Clearwater's with a touch of honey

Whisk the masa harina ,trim milk , brown sugar and cinnamon together until the mixture is smooth
Put in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high (whisking every 30 seconds) for 1 1/2 minutes or until it has thickened
Leave to cool until lukewarm
Put into in a blender or food processor with the still frozen chopped banana and the yoghurt.
Whizz together until smooth.
Stir with a cinnamon stick (optional)

Put into a tall glass and sip, or scoop out with a teaspoon.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Gluten Free Little Masa Harina pancakes.

When I was  cooking up  pancakes for brunch  there was no way I wanted a gluten free guest to miss out so I had to improvise. These little gluten free pancakes made with masa harina were the result. They had quite a distinctive flavour but were nice in their own way. At their best when piping hot, they lost their charms when cold.


100 gm of Tio Pablo Masa Harina
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4  cups of milk


Put the Masa Harina into a bowl
Crack the egg and drop in.
Add 1 cup of milk and whisk all  together thoroughly until the batter is perfectly smooth.
Leave to stand for 1/2 hour.
Whisk in  another 1/4 cup of milk  or enough to make the batter slightly thicker than pouring cream.

Heat the fry pan then a little oil, just enough to grease the pan.
For each little pancake  use an  ice cream scoop as a measure.
When bubbles appear and the pancake has browned on the bottom  flip it over to cook the other side.
Don't rush the process , let them get a little crispy.

Serve while hot dusted very lightly with icing sugar. Pass  maple syrup to pour over.

These are also nice with a scoop of maple syrup ice cream ( check whether gluten free first!)

Or some stewed apples to which a little lemon juice and cinnamon has been added/.

Mini Corn Breads filled with Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese


I like to serve these  mini corn breads either as a party food or for a light lunch. They are based on Dame Alison Holst's evergreen recipe for champion cheese muffins but baked in little silicone loaf pans. Part of the flour has been replaced by masa harina which intensifies the corn flavour.
These little loaves ( unfilled) also freeze really well and can be quickly defrosted and reheated in the microwave .

  • 2 cup tasty cheddar cheese grated
  • 1  cup self-raising flour
  • 1/2 cup of Tio Pablo Masa  Harina flour                                                                                                        
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tbsp sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste  
  • 1/2 tin (205g) of cream style corn    
  • optional:  some chopped sundried tomatoes, olives, parsley and coriander.                                                                                                     


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C
Very lightly grease 6 silicone mini loaf pans
Put all the dry ingredients and grated cheese into a large mixing bowl and mix together lightly with fingertips to combine.
In a small bowl whisk the egg and milk together.
Add the creamed corn
Pour this liquid into the dry ingredients , then fold together briefly. Do not over mix.
Spoon the mixture into the mini loaf pans
Bake for about 15 minutes unto they have browned and spring back when lightly touched.

When they have cooled to room temperature fill with cream cheese and slices of smoked salmon.
I also use the same batter to make mini cheese muffins to which I add chopped sundried tomatoes, coriander and parsley.


Gluten Free Corn Fritters

While these little corn fritters are gluten free those who are not also enjoyed them . I only had moments to photograph them before they were all gone. So this is one of those really good recipes where one kind of fritter fits all.


1/2 cup of Tio Pablo Masa Harina Flour
1/2 cup of Healtheries wheat and gluten free baking mix
2 teaspoons of gluten free baking powder ( I used Hansell's)
3 large free range eggs
1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 tin (205g) of cream style corn
1 teaspoon of Tio Pablo chilpotle salt  or to taste)
A dash of hot chilli sauce ( optional)


Whisk eggs
Add to all the other ingredients in a bowl ( except for the creamed corn) and beat together
Stir in the creamed corn
Leave the batter to stand for a couple of hours in the fridge
In a frying pan heat a little  olive oil or a small knob of butter or a mixture of oil and butter
Put heaped tablespoons of the batter in the frypan
Flatten out slightly with the back of a spoon if required
Fry until they are golden brown, then flip over and fry the other side.Don't rush the frying as you don't want uncooked centres .
Serve while hot with some fresh salsa (made with chopped red onion, tomato, coriander and lemon/lime juice) and some thick Greek yoghurt/sour cream

Monday, 20 April 2015

Love & Food at Gran's Table

My youngest granddaughter Emily and I are busy in the kitchen making little Chinese sponges together. I’m teaching her how to crack eggs and to whisk them with sugar until they are creamy. Then we measure and sift the dry ingredients, fold them in and add one tablespoon of oil. Granny Shirley “Mama Chan, whose recipe it is, assures us this little bit of oil will make all the difference.

Spooning the batter into little muffin pans turns out to be a messy job for a beginner but after some mopping up they are into the oven. They come out perfectly, tender inside and crusty out. And what is especially good about these is that they are dairy free, as Emily is.

This was the first recipe we cooked from Love & Food at Gran’s Table by Natalie Oldfield. Soon to be followed by Australian damper, a bacon and egg pie and rhubarb crumble. All tried and true recipes that are bound to become family favourites and which our granddaughter will soon be able to cook for us at family get togethers. 

But Love & Food at Gran’s Table is much more than a book jam-packed with treasured family recipes. It’s full of stories about 60 special grans from around the world .They and their children and grandchildren reminisce fondly about good food shared around the family table. 

Auckland born Natalie Oldfield wrote this book as a tribute to her two grandmothers Dulcie May Booker and Nana Rita Burrell and the love of cooking they inspired in her.
Many of the grans had to pick up cooking skills for themselves, or learnt just by watching their mums with no written recipes to guide them .They cooked from scratch with basic ingredients but still managed to feed their families generously and well.

The kitchen was women’s domain.  As Janet Blackwell commented:
I have been married to John Blackwell for 52 years, and he has seldom cooked a meal in all that time!

Jenny Ngau is one of the few grans ( 5 children and 13 grandchildren) who is married to a husband who likes to cook, but she does divulge that it’s always best done by one  OR the other.
Baking was especially popular with these grans so there are plenty of biscuits, cakes, pies and desserts to tempt you into the kitchen. As well as savoury dishes such as smoked ribs, meatballs and homemade preserves and chutneys.

Many were keen to pass on their culture through food to the next generation so there are traditional recipes from different countries including Croatia, Scotland, the Lebanon, Samoa, and Japan. The Swedish Gravad Lax (dill –cured salmon), French potato pie, Japanese sesame raw fish and Scottish black bun all look delicious and are not difficult. 

It’s not often that you find Dutch recipes in New Zealand cookbooks so I was especially delighted to find two here. The bitterballen are tiny deep-fried meatballs with a crispy coating. This cocktail snack is a great favourite in Holland. The second recipe is for poffertjes. These tiny puffy pancakes are much loved by Dutch children. They are usually sweet, served liberally dusted with icing sugar and a dab of butter so the savoury ones in this cookbook are a healthy alternative. 

For many readers Love & Food at Gran’s Table will bring back fond memories of their own special grans.  We had one in our family, my mother-in -law who each Sunday evening invited her children and grandchildren over. Looking back I think we rather took the effort involved in cooking all those roast dinners for granted. Wasn’t that just what grandmothers were supposed to do?

It’s great that this piece of social history has been published and a lovely way to honour these 60 grans from around the world. They deserve their spot in the limelight. Through their hard work and unselfish generosity they were often the glue that held families together. 

Throughout the book the message in that love and cooking are inseparable. And it’s sprinkled with good advice. I especially liked Ruth White’s “My Life lesson is simple- have a good attitude towards life and a gin and tonic in the evenings always helps’ 

Love &Food at Gran’s Table
Author: Natalie Oldfield
Published by PQ Blackwell
Price $49.99 

This review first appeared on the GrownUps website

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Japanese Pickled Cucumbers : Tsukumono

The many cultural festivals we have in Auckland each year are a very pleasurable way to pass the time, and an excellent opportunity to have a taste of the crafts, music, dance and street food from the many different communities who have settled in New Zealand.

Today, at the 'Cloud' was Japan Day and here I discovered Kyuri asa-zuke for the first time. Japanese pickles are different to ours and are not built to last. They are usually sliced and  marinated in a variety of pickling liquids and should be be eaten within a few days. They can be served as a garnish, a salad or at the end of a meal. Less commonly they are , like these kyuri asa-zuke , served whole, at a festival.

Although they looked rather alarmingly like green sausages I suspect they would be delicious so am keen to try to hunt down some thin skinned Japanese cucumbers and the recipe.

I would have tried them, but had already had my fill of pork dumplings and a scoop of gourmet Kohu Rd macha (green tea) ice cream.

Cheese, Pesto and Herb Muffins

There's such a profusion of basil growing in the garden at present that I was persuaded to make some pesto and used some of it to make these very tasty savoury cheese muffins with a Mediterranean flavour. So good to come home to after a walk with Abby the mischievous  Lab along the beach.

2 c of self raising flour
1 c of grated tasty cheddar cheese
1 egg
1/2 c of olive oil
1 c of milk
2 heaped tbsp of pesto
1/2 c of chopped herbs: a mixture of parsley, basil and coriander
6 sun dried tomatoes (diced)

Sift the flour into a bowl. Add the cheese.
Whisk the oil , egg, milk and pesto together
Stir in the chopped herbs and sundried tomatoes
Mix the dry and wet ingredients , Don't overmix

Spoon mixture into 12 medium sized greased muffin pans
Bake at 200C for 12 minutes. 
Leave to stand until until they have cooled to lukewarm before turning out.
No need to butter but do if you must.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

An Autumn Salsa

At the beginning of autumn when the feijoa season is in full swing I like to add them to salsas like this one,

It's a colourful mix of chopped feijoas, tender cactus nopalitos from La Costena, red pepper, cucumber , mango, mint and coriander.
I also added a minced chillie for some heat, a tablespoon of fruity olive oil  , and a sprinkling of Tio Pablo's citrus chilli salt.

So healthy and so good to have for a quick lunch.

But do remember to rinse the slime from the tender cactus Nopalitos before using!

Feijoa Easter Eggs

Easter Sunday breakfast:Feijoa Easter Eggs
Halved, flesh scooped out with a spoon and replaced. Covered with a lavish sprinkle of grated chocolate , castor sugar and cinnamon and baked until piping hot.Served with Greek yoghurt.
Followed by hot cross buns.
Happy Easter all!

ps These  Feijoa Easter eggs are good chilled as well