Thursday, December 17, 2009

Awesome duck salad

It was the 6th anniversary of the night Sandy asked me to marry him. (He’s much better at keeping track of these anniversaries than I am, but once reminded of the date, I was into it.) And I needed to cook something really special.
I don’t remember what I cooked that night; we’d driven up from Auckland to stay at our camp site, and it’s fair to say I had zero idea of what was in store for me. I probably cooked lamb racks and veges and potatoes from the garden, and after that we walked, as was our routine, up to the house site and out to the gate to close it. But this time, he ambushed me somewhere near where our bathroom now is, and said “I want to ask you something.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

So – my cooking has come along since then, I reckon, and I had in mind something nice with duck. I sometimes just roast duck legs with a bit of a glaze and some potatoes cooked in a teeny bit of the duck fat (note the teeny!). This is nice, but with the hot weather and the lovely radishes and lime leaves I’d picked up at the farmers market, I thought maybe something fresher. I rummaged, and discovered some mandarins and ginger in the fridge, and that was enough to get me going.

This duck salad turned out to be really awesome, if I do say it myself, and Sandy really loved it, which was the point of the exercise after all. What better gift is there than cooking something special for the one you love?

As an extra added bonus, I think the search for the Christmas day entrée is over. Make it now!

Duck, mandarin and radish salad

2 duck legs
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 cups rocket leaves
3 mandarins, sliced into segments
2 radishes, finely sliced
1 spring onion, finely sliced
2cm piece ginger, very finely diced
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely

2 tablespoons rice bran oil
2 teaspoons kecap manis
2 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Score the skin on the duck legs and place in a roasting dish skin-side down. Roast for 20 minutes, then turn over and roast another 30 minutes, draining the fat away after 15 minutes. Mix the honey and soy sauce together, and brush over the duck skin. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, then remove and leave to cool slightly, then pull the meat from the bones and slice.

To make the salad, mix the dressing ingredients together and blend well. Toss the dressing though the rocket leaves. Add the other salad ingredients and distribute between the plates. Add the duck on the top.

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a starter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New nosh

I had an interesting catchup with Clinton Beuvink and Chris Moore, owners of Nosh food market, at their new store in Mt Eden yesterday. The Dominion Rd store has just opened, and it’s really fantastic. What I like about Nosh is not that its full of gourmet treats (which it is), but that it’s also full of everyday food, at really good prices. The veges, meat and fish are fresh and look great, and are priced extremely competitively – it’s like a really, really nice supermarket without all the washing powder and fizzy drinks. I for one like a smaller selection of things to choose from – an edited selection, you might say. It doesn’t bother me that Nosh doesn’t have ten brands of canned tomatoes, because they have my favourite one.

I’m super excited that Nosh is opening in Matakana next week, in the old Stubbs butchery space. I’ll be taking a sneak peek soon, so I’ll report back!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Naughty chef, happy eater

 “See what you think,” said Georgia, the lovely editor of the Australian Healthy Food Guide. “If you don’t like the look of it, we can go to the café next door”. She was taking me out for lunch in Sydney after a tough morning of planning and figuring out when we were going to schedule all the great story ideas we’d come up with for the NZ and Aussie magazines.

The Naughty Chef is a tiny Vietnamese Pho place in Albion street, Surry Hills. It has no ambiance to speak of, with plastic chairs and utilitarian tables, and boxes of tissues for serviettes. But I loved it instantly because I sensed there was something good to be found behind the uninspiring facade. Plus I had spied some of the photos of the food behind the plastic display.  “I love it”, I said, and asked the waitress what she would recommend. She described a hot and spicy chicken soup   - the “007 hot and spicy” Bun bo Hue - that sounded pretty good to me, and Georgia, the new vegetarian, ordered a vege version with tofu. The bowls, when they came, were gorgeous: fragrant and steaming and studded with cabbage and mint and tender poached chicken (in my case) and fried tofu. The broth was clean and savoury; a spicy-sweet stock made by someone who makes it every day and makes a lot of it.  

But it was the side dishes that were the most exciting thing about this meal. It was a help-yourself buffet of the usual pho condiments – lemon wedges, chillies, bean shoots, hoisin sauce. And the most inspiring and intriguing extra sauce. It was chilli, but mild, and smoky, with a smooth, thick texture. I couldn’t get enough if it. “It’s like these chillies have been roasted”, I said as I rolled it around in my mouth, and Georgia laughed and said “I love it that you taste that!” She could see the cogs in my little brain turning over, trying to figure out what was in there. Eventually I asked, and the smiling man who’d served us told me that he and his brother made the sauce (for which I didn’t get a name) themselves every week. I was right (yes!) about the roasted chillies, garlic, shallots, sugar etc, and completely wrong about the fish sauce. What I hadn’t picked was the peanuts, but as soon as he said it I mentally slapped my forehead; of course that’s what it was. I’m guessing very finely ground peanuts. He said it was very slowly cooked together over several hours, which made sense given its rich, deep flavour.

I briefly toyed with running the gauntlet of NZ biosecurity and bringing a jar home, but thought better of it. So the next step: recreating this at home! I’ve searched online and looked though all my Asian cookbooks without unearthing anything that seems quite right. I’m not a Vietnamese cooking expert, so clearly I need help. Anyone able to point me in the right direction, speak up! 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thai dinner on National Radio

Today I did another recipe segment on Radio NZ National's Nine to Noon show. I did two recipes - Thai salmon coleslaw and Green seafood curry. Matched with wines by Keith Stewart - listen here!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Latest TV appearance: Breakfast

Here's my interview with Pippa and Paul on Breakfast this morning. I cooked the goats' cheese, pear and walnut salad, and lemon and almond cakes with passionfruit yoghurt cream. I think they liked them!

Click here to watch the video....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pics from the book launch party....

I've been asked by one of the attendees how we manage to organise such amazing weather every time she visits us. I just said "the sun always shines at Matakana."

It's fair to say a good time was had by all. Thanks to all of the lovely family and friends who came along to help me celebrate.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Buy my books online here....

Eating In - fabulous food for friends and family

Eating In is now sold out! Sorry about that...but you can see my recipes regularly in the pages of Healthy Food Guide magazine and also here on the blog. 

Sorry folks: Bach & Beach House is all sold out! :(

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Latest TV appearance

Not cooking this time.... but talking about the Healthy Food Awards on Campbell Live.
Introducing "Niki Beznat"! (which, let's face it, is not the first time my name's been mispronounced.) :)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Recent media appearances

Listen to me here on Radio New Zealand National, Nine to Noon with Katherine Ryan.

On Wednesday I'll be covering both ends of the country, on Radio Wanaka in the morning, and Times FM Rodney in the afternoon.

And watch me on Wednesday evening, I'll be on Campbell Live, talking about the Healthy Food Awards and our 'health imposters' feature in the magazine. Phew!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 3 best things I ate in Melbourne….

It’s really not fair to visit Melbourne for just 4 days. That’s only 12 meal opportunities, and in that city, it’s not enough! I did manage, under the guidance of my lovely sister, to give it a pretty good crack though. Here are my favourite things from a long weekend of good eating…..

1. Spanner crab, galangal,  roasted chilli and lime betel leaf at Coda (141 Flinders Lane, city)
This is one of the hottest spots in town, if you believe The Age. I have no reason to doubt after this experience. The menu is divided into “Smaller” and “Bigger” items, and it’s all made for sharing. The smaller items are what floated our boat, and it was here we started with this gorgeous betel leaf. The sugar cane prawns, eggplant and tofu lettuce delight with enoki mushroom, crispy garlic and black vinegar, and bone marrow spring rolls were also great – but that tiny bite of perfectly-composed flavours just zinged and danced in the mouth. It was so good, we had to order seconds.

2. Pho at Love Pho (181 Swan St, Richmond)
You know the kind of food that just makes you so happy, you could dance a little dance? The bowl of soup (actually not strictly Pho, but a chicken broth with rice noodles, veges, lemon, chillies and won tons) I ate here was just like that. I could happily eat that bowl of soup 3 or 4 times a week. The traditional Pho, which Shel ordered, was also beautiful – delicate, spicy, fragrant and clean. Awesome.

3. Holy Goat La Luna organic goats’ cheese (from Leo’s Fine Foods, Kew)
We started out innocently ordering a chunk of a very lovely looking goats’ cheese from the cheese counter in this food market. Little did we know that we were about to start on a slightly obsessive 4-day craving for more and more Holy Goat. The Holy Goat became my Holy Grail of goats’ cheeses, and the most frustrating thing is that there are seven different cheeses made by hand by this organic artisan producer at the Sutton Grange Organic Farm just outside Melbourne, and I have only tried two of them! Now there’s an ocean separating me from the Goat. Sigh.  There is nothing for it but another trip.

Friday, October 2, 2009

In other news....

Watch out for two of my recipes in A Treasury of New Zealand Baking , published by Random House. Baking books are the flavour of the month right now, but this one is a bit special: it's a fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand. It's edited by Lauraine Jacobs, and it looks beautiful. One of those 'investment cookbooks' to use for years, I reckon.

Sample recipe: Chicken, kumara & lemon bake

Bakes like this are great for casual lunches year-round; they’re like a roast but everything’s in one dish and you don’t have to make gravy. The lemon slices add a really lovely punch and the tasty savoury flavour of the chicken and sweet caramelised veges is a great combination. I like to use bone-in thighs, but any chicken pieces with the bone in will work.

olive oil spray

6 potatoes, washed and cut into 2cm slices

2 medium kumara, peeled and cut into 2cm slices

2 rashers lean bacon, diced

8 chicken pieces, skin removed

6 tomatoes, halved

1 lemon, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Spray the base of a large casserole dish with oil.

Lay the potato and kumara slices in the bottom of the dish and scatter over the bacon. Place the chicken pieces on top in a single layer, scatter over the tomato halves and lemon slices and finally sprinkle over the paprika. Drizzle with the olive oil and bake until everything is tender – around 1 hour, but you can turn the heat down and let it cook a bit longer and it really won’t do any harm. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve from the dish, letting everyone help themselves. I like it with a green salad or veges.
Serves 6

copyright: Niki Bezzant 2009. From Eating In: fabulous food for friends and family

Sneak preview recipe: molten chocolate pudding

If you’re looking for a knockout dessert treat, this is all you need. It’s gorgeous, with its light cake exterior and melting molten centre. Even if you serve beans on toast for the main course, follow up with these puddings for dessert and people will think you are a kitchen genius. Don’t worry if they are slightly over- or under-cooked, they’ll still taste fabulous!

150g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
1/2 cup evaporated milk (use lite if you prefer)
canola oil spray
flour for dusting
2 eggs
4 tablespoons castor sugar
2 tablespoons flour
icing sugar for dusting

6 x 1/2 cup ramekins or small coffee cups

Combine the chocolate and evaporated milk in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir until the chocolate has just melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Spray the insides of the ramekins with oil and dust with flour.
Beat the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until thick and pale and at least double in volume. Add the chocolate mixture and sift in the flour. Gently fold together until just combined.
Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Bake the puddings for 10–12 minutes until cooked at the sides, but still soft in the centre. Remove from the oven and set aside for a few minutes.
Serve in the ramekins or run a knife around the edge of each and turn out onto plates. Dust with icing sugar. Serve with ice cream or yoghurt.

Serves 6

copyright: Niki Bezzant 2009. From Eating In: fabulous food for friends and family

Sample recipe: Crispy goat’s cheese, pear & walnut salad

In France, I discovered the chèvre chaud salad, which seemed to be on just about every café menu in Provence. Hot cheese might be a bit retro, but it is so delicious I felt obliged to try as many versions as I could to see if I could find the best, and to make sure I could replicate it faithfully. After exhaustive efforts I think I have it sussed now, so here you go: try this as a gorgeous starter or a lunch dish on its own. Goes really well with a pinot gris.

2 cups watercress or rocket leaves
2 pears, cored and sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in a dry pan
2 sheets filo pastry
canola oil spray
200g soft goat’s cheese

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
To make the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a screw-topped jar or similar and shake well. Set aside.
Divide the watercress, pear slices and walnuts between 4 small or 2 large plates.
Spray between the sheets of filo with some oil, then cut each sheet into 6 x 10cm squares. Slice the cheese into 12 even-sized pieces. Wrap each piece in a square of filo to form arty little triangles, or chunky squares like those in the photograph.
Place the filo-wrapped cheese on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or so – keep an eye on them so that the minute they’re golden brown, you’re there to take them out. Distribute the hot packages between the plates, then drizzle with the dressing.

Serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main

copyright: Niki Bezzant 2009. From Eating In: fabulous food for friends and family

Sample recipe: Roasted capsicums with mozzarella & tomatoes

This is an idea from my aunty, Trish Allen, who often serves something like this during the summer months. The capsicums look beautiful and taste great, making it a fabulous side dish to serve with simply cooked steaks or sausages. It’s also perfect on its own alongside some crusty bread. And if you’re entertaining vegetarians, just leave out the anchovies – it’ll still taste great.

8 red capsicums, halved and deseeded

8 small tomatoes, halved

5 bocconcini balls (the small ones), sliced

16 anchovy fillets (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

basil leaves to serve

Preheat the barbecue grill to a medium heat. Arrange the capsicum halves on the grill, turn the heat right down and close the hood for about 10 minutes until they’ve started to collapse and soften. (If you don’t have a hooded barbecue, simply cook them on the grill until they reach this stage.) Insert a tomato half and a slice of mozzarella into each capsicum half, and top with an anchovy fillet. Put the hood down again, and cook until the cheese is melted. (You can also cook these in the oven.) Season to taste and garnish with basil leaves.

Serves 6–8

copyright: Niki Bezzant 2009. From Eating In: fabulous food for friends and family

Sample recipe: Roast beetroot & pumpkin salad with feta & honey dressing

This colourful dish looks brilliant on a large platter. It can be served either hot or at room temperature (and goes really well with barbecued meat, too).

6 beetroot, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces

1/2 crown pumpkin, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces

olive oil spray

6 cups rocket or baby spinach leaves

50g feta cheese


2 tablespoons runny honey

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Arrange the beetroot and pumpkin on a large baking tray (or two) and spray with a little oil. Roast for about 30 minutes until tender and starting to caramelise. Remove from the oven and arrange on a large platter. Scatter the salad leaves over, then crumble the feta and sprinkle over. Combine the dressing ingredients, mix well and pour it over the salad. Gently toss to coat.

Serves 8–10 as part of a shared meal

copyright: Niki Bezzant 2009. From Eating In: fabulous food for friends and family

Sample recipe: Pesto lamb racks with Sandy’s special goat’s cheese mash

Lamb racks are a super-easy and luxurious meal to cook for guests (and your butcher will usually be happy to trim them for you). Using a bit of pesto to make a tasty crust is an easy way to add lots of flavour that won’t fall off in the pan. Perfect! The mash here is my husband’s specialty, combining two of his favourite things in the world: feta and mashed potato.

6 lamb racks, trimmed

olive oil spray

6 tablespoons basil pesto


6 large floury potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons sour cream

1/4 cup trim milk

100g goat’s feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Make the mash first. Cook the potatoes in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain and mash well or put through a ricer. Add the olive oil, sour cream and milk and whip with a fork. As soon as you have a smooth purée, crumble the feta into the mash and mix well. Taste and add salt and pepper as required, then set aside to keep warm.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Heat a grill pan until hot. Spray the lamb racks with oil. Put them into the pan and sear on both sides until nicely caramelised. Spread each lamb rack with pesto.

Transfer the pan to the oven, and cook the racks for about 10 minutes until medium rare – they’re best when still quite pink inside.

Slice the racks in half and place 2 halves on each plate. Serve the lamb with the mash and a green salad with balsamic dressing.

Serves 4–6

copyright: Niki Bezzant 2009. From Eating In: fabulous food for friends and family

See inside the book...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The book is on the way!

My books are on their way from Hong Kong... they're somewhere on the sea right now, and will be here in about a week, ready to go into shops all over the country. It's exciting! And a teeny bit scary. I have one advance copy in my posession, which I have shown to a very few people. The reaction has been really positive... let's hope that extends to the lovely book buyers of New Zealand!