Monday, December 20, 2010

One for parents of fussy kids...

salmon pikelets from
I've just discovered this fantastic blog from a lovely Aussie lady called Wendy Blume. Vegie Smugglers (don't you love that name?!) will be a godsend to parents of picky kids with its no-nonsense recipes, completely grounded in real life. What's more Wendy writes in a lovely down-to-earth way that's totally free of pretention and full of humour. Which is something many of us food writers could use a little more of, I reckon.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My new Christmas food obsession..... panforte!

This is really tasty, so much nicer than Christmas cake to me. Probably it's the addition of chocolate. Try it Tuscan-style with a glass of sweet wine. Mmmmmm.....

Ginger & cranberry panforte

1 ½ cups chopped nuts – I used 1 cup Tasti Nut Fusions (desserts & cakes) and ½ cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup crystalised ginger, roughly chopped
½ cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup flour
½ cup cocoa
½  teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
Zest of 1 lemon
¼ cup brandy
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup honey or golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Step 1 Line a 20cm springform tin with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160C.

Step 2 Combine the nuts, raisins, cranberries, ginger and half the chocolate in a bowl. Sift over flour, cocoa and spices, and add lemon zest and brandy. Mix well.

Step 3 Combine sugar and honey or golden syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves; about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add remaining chocolate, vanilla and 4 tablespoons hot water. Mix until chocolate melts.

Step 4 Add sugar syrup to dry ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture into tin, smoothing the top level. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until just firm on top. Cool panforte in the tin, then remove and store in an airtight container. Keeps for several weeks and the flavour improves with age.

There's another lovely recipe on the Healthy Food Guide website

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gazpacho salmon salad with roast tomato dressing - as heard on Newstalk ZB with Kerre

Last Sunday's ZB recipe, and one of the ones I did for our Healthy Food Guide demo at Nosh with Regal Salmon the other week (pictured). Try it this summer... it's really delicious and simple. Maybe this is a contender for Xmas day entree?

Gazpacho salmon salad with roasted tomato dressing

Serves 3 as a main or 6 as a starter
Time to make: 30 minutes

4 slices wholegrain or sourdough bread, crusts removed
2 x 250g pack cherry tomatoes
2 red capsicums, roasted, skin removed
1 medium cucumber
4 cups rocket or spinach leaves
275g pack salmon stir-fry
1 tablespoon Mexican spice mix
1 teaspoon oil

2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Chilli flakes to taste (optional)
Plus half cherry tomatoes from salad list
Basil leaves to garnish

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180C. Put all the cherry tomatoes on an oven tray and roast until softened and starting to split; about 10 minutes. Set half the tomatoes aside for the dressing and set half aside to add to the salad ingredients.

Step 2: Meanwhile, assemble the salad. Toast bread and cut into 2cm chunks. Cut roasted capsicums and cucumber into bite-sized pieces. Combine with bread in a large bowl.

Step 3: To make the dressing, combine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a blender or mini processor. Process until smooth. Press the remaining tomatoes through a sieve to remove skins and seeds. Add to dressing and process again to make a smooth velvety texture. Taste, and add chilli flakes if desired.

Step 4: Add dressing to salad bowl and toss everything together. Divide salad between plates (4 or 2) and add remaining tomatoes.

Step 5: Heat a pan over a medium heat. Toss the salmon stir-fry in Mexican spice mix and oil and mix well to cover. Add to pan and cook until just cooked through; about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and divide between plates. Garnish with basil leaves.

Nutrition Information
Per serve (3 serves)
Energy 2000kJ
Protein 28g
Fat 24g
- saturated 5g
Carbohydrate 35g
- sugars 13g
Fibre 7g
Sodium 540mg
Calcium 160mg
Iron 3mg

This recipe meets Healthy Food Guide’s criteria for:
• High fibre
• Low sodium
• Gluten-free
• No dairy
• Diabetes-friendly

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Something fun from my globe-trotting friend....

This made me smile, on the email from my friend, Mark Rose. Mark has an extremely well-developed palate, and is the most intrepid eater I know - seriously dedicated. Here's his description of his dinner last night in London. He certainly has a strong stomach.... he also had a 10-course foie gras dinner on this trip!

"Dined at Arbutus in London tonight and my courses were:
Entrée: Braised pigs head, potato puree, ravioli of caramelized onions
What it really was: Pigs cheeks, lips, ear, nose, potato puree, two pieces of pigs stomach lining with caramelized onions

M/C: Pieds et parquets – lambs tripe parcels and trotters (Marseille style)
What it really was: Lambs stomach, sweet breads, liver, heart, kidney in the parcels, lambs stomach braised with potatoes, kale and carrot and jellied pigs trotter on a piece of crispy baguette

Dessert: The best piece of old smelly cheese I (or Ben) have ever eaten!

Verdict: Managed to eat all of the first course – it was crispy, fatty and smelt very dirty! (a bit like a cow shed after milking). Texture was good, flavor OK, smelt like I shouldn’t have put it in my mouth!

Managed to eat half of the parcels – good texture, OK taste, OK smell (definitely not an aroma!)

Managed to eat half of the pigs trotter – texture awful (like a mouth full of jellied salmon caviar), tasted like it was old and dead, smelt like it was old and dead and should definitely not gone anywhere near my mouth!!

I have only struggled this way through a dinner once before in my life and the main course was mutton bird!

Great dining room, excellent staff, fantastic wine selection (they would let you buy any bottle on the list in a 375ml carafe at just over half the bottle price), food was very well cooked and presented, menu had lots of appealing offerings – just a shame that I didn’t choose one! And the worst part is… the waiter warned me that the two courses together would be very tough on my stomach. Guess what?

Not sure there will be much sleep I my hotel room tonight."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Recipe from Sunday's Kerre's Cafe, Newstalk ZB

Creamy spaghetti with asparagus, bacon and peas
This is a lovely celebration of that fab vege, asparagus, which is now in season. Enjoy it while you can! This pasta is super-quick to put together; perfect for a low-energy evening.

Serves 2
Time to make: 15 minutes

200g spaghetti
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed, sliced into pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 rashers lean bacon (or prosciutto if you’re feeling rich)
1 chilli, sliced
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup peas, frozen or fresh
2 good handfuls baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons light sour cream

Cook spaghetti in boiling water till al dente. Drain, saving a little of the pasta water.

While that’s going, make the sauce. Blanch asparagus, or microwave for 1 minute and set aside. Heat a little olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. Remove and cool, then break or cut into pieces. Add a dash more oil to the pan, then stir-fry asparagus for 2 minutes.

Add chilli, lemon zest and peas and stir through. Add bacon, spaghetti and spinach leaves and stir well to combine. Lastly add sour cream and stir through. Add a little bit of the pasta water to make a smooth sauce and coat every strand. Season well with black pepper and freshly-grated parmesan to serve.

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Sunday gig - Sunday News

As well as my regular recipe and Q&A column in the 'escape' section of the Sunday Star Times, you can now find me on the 'My Health' page in the Sunday News, in my capacity as Healthy Food Guide editor. Each week there's an article on a topical health issue, and a Q&A. Enjoy! :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Today's lunch....

...and the best thing I've eaten all week: a passionfruit macaron made by the lovely Lynne at the Brookview Tea House in Matakana. She says macarons are her latest obsession. I think they might be mine now, too! Divine. As was everything else on this stand. What a nice thing to linger over on a rainy afternoon.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Today's recipe from National Radio Nine to Noon

Pumpkin, chickpea and fig tagine

Serves 4 - 6
2 small onions, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon Moroccan seasoning
1 cinnamon stick
900g pumpkin, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
2 carrots, diced
2 courgettes, halved and thickly sliced (or use other green veg such as broccoli)
1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed
8 dried figs, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups couscous
optional to serve: harissa (Morrocan chilli paste)


Step 1 Place onions, garlic, Moroccan seasoning and cinnamon stick into a large saucepan with a little olive oil. Cook until onions are soft.

Step 2 Add pumpkin, carrots, courgette, chickpeas, figs and stock to saucepan. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid, take out cinnamon stick and stir in tomato paste and a little harissa, if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes more, uncovered. Turn off heat and add herbs.

Step 3 Meanwhile, place couscous into a large bowl with 2 cups boiling water or salt-reduced vege stock. Cover and stand for 10 minutes. Serve tagine with couscous and garnish with parsley and lemon zest, if desired.

 Variations and tips:

 ·         For a lovely caramelized, roasted flavour, roast the pumpkin in a hot oven while the other veges are cooking, and add at the end of cooking time.

·         Meat eaters may like to add chicken thighs to this dish in place of some of the pumpkin. Add at the beginning of cooking, after the onions, and brown before adding liquid.

·         This recipe is suitable for vegans. Use quinoa instead of couscous to get more complete protein.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Far Eastern Inspiration

I hardly ever cook from recipes. Which probably sounds weird coming from someone who spends a lot of her time writing them, but there it is.  I suspect I’m like a lot of cooks; I have an embarrassingly large collection of cookbooks, but I tend to open them for ideas and inspiration rather than to follow a particular recipe. But every now and then a book comes along that I’m compelled to cook from, and Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey is one of those. 

This book came along just at the right moment for me.  It was last September; I’d just finished working on my own book and, frankly, I was a bit sick of my own cooking. Here was a book filled with the zingy flavours I love, and a whole lot of different dishes from South East Asia that I hadn’t made before. It piqued my tastebuds and got my juices flowing again. There are post-it flags all through this book marking things I have cooked and want to cook.

As is usually the case, the best recipes in here are the simplest. There’s a Vietnamese dish of tamarind-marinated chicken in which the pieces of meat are wrapped in kaffir lime leaves and threaded on to skewers. It’s perfect, simple and absolutely delicious. I’ve made this several times now. Rick’s Pad Thai is a pretty good one, which I’ve been practising regularly. On the other hand, the Balinese dish of slow-cooked lightly-smoked duck stuffed with garlic, chilli, lemongrass and galangal I have only made once, but I will do it again when I’m inclined to spend an afternoon making dinner. It’s a labour of love, which sometimes is just what you feel like, isn’t it? The spice paste for the stuffing takes about 40 minutes on its own, especially when your stick blender gives up the ghost and you have to do it by hand. But – it is worth it – the duck tastes amazing: fragrant, tender and moist with incredibly complex smoky flavours. Yum.  

 I’ve also become a fan of Rick’s Laab neua (stir-fried minced beef with lemongrass, chilli and roasted rice rolled in lettuce leave) which at first I thought was a bit bland compared to how I’d usually attack a laab, but actually turned out to be a very interesting and satisfying thing to eat. The roasted rice, which to be honest I always thought was a bit of a palaver for nothing, turned out to be a really nice addition.

I don’t think Rick’s recipes are particularly easy recipes to follow; he is fond of chef-y measurements like ‘50g galangal’ and ‘75g garlic’, which is a real pain. I don’t think many home cooks would know how these translate off the top of their heads. I’m also not fond of reading ‘one quantity of balinese spice paste, see page 300’ and then finding I need another 12 ingredients to complete the dish.  And I can’t help myself tweaking the recipes to include vegetables; I know to be really authentic I would make separate vege side dishes, but there are not a lot of vege dishes in the book to be honest, and I just can’t not take the opportunity to add veges when it presents itself.

In that vein, one of my absolute new favourites is a stir-fried Thai yellow curry from the Thailand chapter, which is a really nice change from the usuals using coconut milk (much healthier, too). I adapted this recipe and demonstrated it to the Matakana Mens Grub Club recently and the blokes, I think it’s safe to say, loved it! So I thought you might love it too.

Beef and bean stir-fry curry (adapted from Rick Stein)

This is a good example of a Thai curry that doesn't involve coconut milk. It's full of complex flavours and is really quick to make. This paste is also really good with other meats or veges and tofu.

Serves 4

for the paste:
3 stalks lemongrass, sliced finely
3 dried birds' eye chillies
1 fresh chilli, roughly chopped
2cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried turmeric
½ onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 teaspoons shrimp paste or fish sauce
6 cloves garlic, peeled

for the curry:
3 handfuls green beans or broccoli
1 teaspoon brown or palm sugar
3 tablespoons reduced-salt soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
100ml water
rice bran or vegetable oil
500g beef sirloin or fillet, sliced
2 cloves garlic
5 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced black pepper

To make the paste, combine all ingredients in a blender or mini chopper and process into a rough paste, adding water or oil as needed. Set aside until ready to use.
Steam or microwave the beans until tender.

Combine the sugar, soy sauce, lime juice and water in a jug and stir to combine. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat oil over a medium heat. Add the beef and garlic and stir-fry for a few minutes, until just browned. Add the curry paste and stir to coat the meat with paste. Add the liquid and bring to a gentle simmer, simmer 2 minutes then add the beans and lime leaves and simmer a further 2 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Add black pepper to taste. Serve immediately with steamed rice.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Healthy mash recipes....

Perfect mashed potatoes are the holy grail for many cooks. But is it possible to achieve them without lashings of cream and butter? I say YES, absolutely!

Both of these have less than HALF the fat of standard mash made with butter and cream, and HALF the saturated fat.

Garlic and feta mash

Serves 4

4 agria or other floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
100g feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup lite evaporated milk
Pinch salt and white pepper

Step 1 Just cover the potatoes with water in a pot. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil, then boil until tender; about 15 minutes. 5 minutes before potatoes are done, add the garlic to the pot.

Step 2 Drain well and return potatoes and garlic to the hot pot. Mash or put through a potato ricer. Add feta and evaporated milk. Whisk together with a fork. Add more milk if necessary until the mash is your preferred texture (I like this quite creamy). Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information
Per serve (4 serves)
Energy 710J
Protein 8g
Fat 5g
- saturated 4g
Carbohydrate 25g
- sugars 3g
Fibre 2g
Sodium 450mg
Calcium 140mg
Iron 1mg

Kumara, potato and blue cheese mash

Serves 4

2 agria or other floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large kumara, peeled and quartered
¼ cup trim milk
50g blue vein cheese
pinch salt and pepper

Step 1 Just cover the potatoes and kumara with water in a pot. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to the boil, then boil until very tender; about 15 minutes.

Step 2 Drain well and return potatoes and kumara to the hot pot. Mash or put through a potato ricer. Add milk and cheese and mix well with a fork. Season. Add more milk until the mash is your preferred texture.

Nutrition Information
Per serve (4 serves)
Energy 680kJ
Protein 6g
Fat 4g
- saturated 3g
Carbohydrate 25g
- sugars 4g
Fibre 3g
Sodium 230mg
Calcium 100mg
Iron 0.5mg

Healthy mashed potatoes!

Here I am on Breakfast TV this morning - talking healthy mash. Mmmmm mash.... recipes to follow. :)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Gluten-free and good!

I've been doing a heap of experimenting over the past month or so, aiming to achieve good results with gluten-free baking. It's been hit and miss - as I said in my presentations at the Gluten-Free Food and Allergy Show, I've produced the odd thing not even the birds wanted to eat!

However - success in the end! I have come up with some really tasty recipes - ones that are not just "good for gluten-free" but plain good. And here they are for your gluten-free baking pleasure. Feedback welcome!

Niki’s sourdough-style gluten-free bread

This bread has a tasty sourdough flavour, and keeps for a day or so relatively well. Yummy toasted, too!

Makes about 14 slices

3 cups gluten-free bread mix (I like Healtheries Simple)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil (I like olive)
1 egg, beaten
1 ¼ cups water

The night before you want to bake your bread:

Step 1 In a large bowl, combine the bread mix, yeast, salt and sugar. Mix well.

Step 2 In a jug, combine the eggs and oil and whisk with a fork to combine well. Add to flour mixture. Gradually add the water and mix, until the mixture forms a soft dough. Add more water if necessary. It will be slightly sticky, but should still form a rough ball.

Step 3 Leave the dough overnight or for 12 hours, covered.

The next morning or 12 hours later: The dough should have risen and be a bit puffy.

Step 4 Turn the oven on to 180C, and put a large cast-iron or pyrex casserole into the oven for about 10 minutes, until hot. Remove from the oven and take the lid off, ready to put the dough inside.

Step 5 Carefully put the dough on to a board sprinkled with extra bread mix. Shape gently into a round, then carefully transfer into the hot casserole dish. Put the lid on, and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake a further 10-15 minutes, until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Banana and raspberry loaf cake

Makes 18 slices

2 cups gluten-free baking mix
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon GF baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
3 ripe bananas, mashed
½ cup oil (such as rice bran)
1 tablespoon milk or soy milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen

Step 1 Preheat oven to 180C. Mix baking mix, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together in a large bowl.

Step 2 In a separate bowl, mix bananas, oil, milk and eggs. Whisk together. Add to dry ingredients. Gently mix together until combined. Add raspberries and mix gently.

Step 3 Pour mixture into a large loaf tin. Bake for 1 hour, checking from time to time. The loaf is cooked when a knife comes out clean.

Annie’s rice waffles

Makes 2-3 waffles

Basic recipe:
1 cup fine white rice flour
1 1/4 measuring cup of any soy milk (or regular milk or half milk, half water)
small pinch salt

Step 1 Place all ingredients in bowl and stir thoroughly with a metal spoon.

Step 2 Heat up the waffle maker on full heat. Once heated fully (green light turns on with most waffle makers) then turn back a few notches. Put an oven-timer on for 6 or 7 minutes.

Step 3 Pour batter into the waffle maker to just under the top lip. Check waffle after about 5 minutes to check colour and crispness. After 6 or 7 minutes, or when you are happy that it is cooked through, lift out gently with a small sharp knife or spatula.

Use these waffles as a GF alternative to:
Pizza base
English Muffin

Try adding blended cooked pumpkin or kumara for a sweeter crispy waffle

Use corn meal instead of rice flour for a lighter waffle with tasty flavour

Add mashed tofu for a nice puffy waffle with nice flavour

Add blended or finely mashed banana for a sweet waffle

Topping ideas:
• Mashed banana, tahini and honey
• Pizza ingredients
• Avocado dip – mashed avocado, salt to taste, soy milk or yoghurt, - garlic, squeeze of lemon juice or 1 tsp tahini

Tips :
• Mixture can be saved overnight in fridge
• More flour makes a thicker waffle that is more bread-like or could even be a pizza base ,
• Less flour makes a thinner more crispy waffle , both nice, have an experiment *

Corn bread

Makes 16 slices

2 cups cornmeal/fine polenta
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons GF baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain natural yoghurt (check it’s GF)
2 eggs
1 cup creamed corn (check it’s GF)
spray oil

Step 1 Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a large cast iron casserole or Pyrex dish in the oven to preheat.

Step 2 In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix together. Add the yoghurt, eggs and creamed corn, whisking together well to combine.

Step 3 Spray the hot casserole thoroughly with oil. Pour the mixture into the casserole. Bake for about 20 minutes; until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back when touched. Cool in the pan, remove and slice into chunks or wedges.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pumpkin and blue cheese brown rice pilaf

Here's yesterday's recipe from the Sunday Star Times. For everyone who's never liked (or tried) brown rice!

Pumpkin and blue cheese brown rice pilaf

Rice pilafs are simple and delicious; this one has the contrast of sweet pumpkin and salty blue cheese.

Serves 4  

1/2 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
sprinkling fresh rosemary
650g pumpkin, chopped into chunks
100g blue vein cheese
1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons roughly sliced almonds  

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Put the pumpkin, with a little olive oil, into a large baking dish and put in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, until soft, then remove and set aside.  

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook the onion and herbs in the olive oil, until the onion is browned. Add the rice and toss to coat in the oil. Add enough stock to just cover the rice. Turn the heat right down to the lowest setting, put a lid on it and leave it alone for 30-35 minutes, until rice is tender and the stock has absorbed.  

Put the rice into the dish with the pumpkin, crumble up the cheese into chunks over the top, add the almonds and mix gently. Add a little more stock to moisten rice if needed. Then put the whole lot back into the oven for 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and the rice is a little bit crunchy on the top.  

Variation: This is nice with greens like rocket or baby spinach added. Or you could toss through some broccoli or cauliflower when the dish goes into the oven.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Healthy ANZAC biscuits

As heard on Newstalk ZB with Kerre Woodham today.

Look online and you will find many different recipes for ANZAC biscuits – all producing slightly different results. Proportions of ingredients vary, producing biscuits from hard and crisp to chewy and cookie-like. To me an ANZAC is quite flat, with a crispy golden outside and a slight chew to the inside. But for people who enjoy more of a cookie style, I’ve also included a variation for that.
I’ve come across ANZACs with fruit like sultanas or raisins in them, and I can’t help thinking chunks of chocolate would be nice too! But for now let’s stick to the classics. J

Healthy ANZAC biscuits

I have not messed too much with the classic here, don’t worry! But replacing the saturated fat with a good fat, and adding some wholemeal flour, means these Kiwi classics have a healthy twist, and still taste absolutely delicious.

1 cup rolled oats
½ cup plain flour
¼ cup wholemeal flour
½ cup coconut threads
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
¼ cup oil (I used rice bran, but canola or any mild-flavoured oil is fine)
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons water

Step 1 Preheat the oven to 180C, (regular bake). Combine the oats, flours, coconut and sugar in a bowl. Stir to combine.

Step 2 Combine the golden syrup, oil and water in a glass jug and stir with a fork to combine. Warm in the microwave for 25-30 seconds. Add the baking soda and whisk with a fork until well combined (it might foam a little, which is fine).

Step 3 Add the syrup mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well. Put teaspoon-fuls of the mixture on to a baking-paper lined tray, leaving space between them (they will spread) and flatten down with your fingers or a fork.

Step 4 Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Remove from the tray to a board or rack to cool.
Makes about 16 biscuits.

These biscuits are flattish, crisp with a bit of chew – a classic biscuit. If you prefer a more soft, chewy, risen, cookie-ish texture, use another ¼ cup flour, and add 2 tablespoons apple sauce/apple puree to the mixture when you combine the wet and dry ingredients, and cook the biscuits for 15-20 minutes. (See photo for the difference!)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Feijoa, apple and ginger strudel, as heard on National Radio Nine to Noon, Monday 12th April

This is gorgeous (and I don’t even like feijoas that much). The fresh ginger and lemon add a fantastic zing to this really easy-to-put-together dessert. If it suits, you can assemble the strudel ahead and simply set it aside until you’re ready to bake it. Reproduced from Eating In – fabulous food for friends and family.

6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped into small cubes
6 feijoas, flesh scooped out of the skins
2 tablespoons castor sugar
1/2 vanilla pod, split
2 tablespoons golden sultanas
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
zest of 1 lemon
6 sheets filo pastry
canola oil spray

Combine the apple, feijoa, sugar, vanilla, sultanas, ginger and 3/4 cup water into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the apples are tender, around 10 minutes. Add the lemon zest.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lay out the filo sheets, one on top of the other, on a board, spraying a little oil between each one. Put the apple mixture at one end of the pastry, fold in the ends and roll up to form a strudel shape. Place the strudel on a baking tray, seam side down.
Bake for about 15 minutes, brushing the top with milk about halfway through. Slice the strudel, and dish up with vanilla ice cream or yoghurt.
Serves 4–6

Healthy Lasagne - as heard on National Radio Nine to Noon - Monday 12th April

This is a healthy ‘makeover’ of a traditional lasagne. It’s easy to put together, tastes amazing and is super healthy. It has half the fat of a traditional lasagne, and about 1/3 of the saturated fat.

Serves 5

spray olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
500g lean beef mince
2 cups field or Swiss brown mushrooms
2 small red or yellow capsicums
2 x 400g cans tomatoes (chopped or whole)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs of your choice (basil, oregano, rosemary are good)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 packet (about 200g) fresh spinach, chopped

500g cottage cheese
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
250g packet instant lasagne sheets

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Spray a large pan with oil and place over a moderate heat. Gently fry the onion and garlic until soft but not browned.

Add the mince and brown gently. Add the capsicums and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, herbs and paprika. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the veges are soft and the liquid in the sauce has reduced by a third. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

While the meat is cooking, make the cheese sauce. In a blender or using a stick blender in a large bowl, blend the cottage cheese until smooth, then add all the parmesan except 2 tablespoons and the milk. Blend until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. Taste and season with salt and white pepper or nutmeg.

Add the spinach leaves to the meat sauce, stir in and cook a few minutes until wilted.

In a deep oven dish, place a third of the meat mixture. Follow with a layer of pasta, a layer of meat, a layer of cheese and repeat the layering, finishing with the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining parmesan over the top of the lasagne and place in the oven.

Cook for 30-40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving with a green salad.

• High calcium
• High fibre
• High iron
• Low fat
A winner all round!

Monday, April 5, 2010

My recipe from Newstalk ZB with Kerre Woodham - Sunday 4th April

Spiced lamb fillet with crispy roasted veges and chickpeas
I made this for dinner for friends last night, and it was delicious – autumny, earthy and sweet.

For the lamb:
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
salt & pepper
2 tablespons olive oil
2 -3 lamb backstraps (about 700g total)

For the veges:
4 agria potatoes, washed
400g chunk pumpkin, skin removed
1 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
olive oil

For the quince and pinot sauce:
1 ½ cups good quality chicken stock
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup red wine (I used pinot noir)
1 tablespoon quince paste (or use plum or berry jam)
dash soy sauce

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Combine the garlic, paprika, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large dish and mix together well. Add the lamb and rub in this mixture, until the lamb pieces are well coated. Set aside.

Step 2: Chop the potatoes and pumpkin into bite-sized cubes. Place in a large roasting dish (or 2 if you need to). Add the chickpeas and stir to combine. Sprinkle over paprika, cumin, olive oil and salt, and toss to mix, so all the veges are coated. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or so, until the veges are crispy. Toss once or twice during the cooking time.

Step 3: While the veges are cooking, make the sauce. Combine the garlic, stock, wine, quince paste and soy sauce in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook until it reduces to a jus – about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Step 4: Heat a grill pan or bbq grill to a hot heat. Cook the lamb fillets for about 4 minutes on each side – until medium rare. If you like, finish them off in a hot oven. Rest the meat for a few minutes, then slice.

Arrange the lamb on the plates with the veges, some sautéed spinach and the sauce over the top.

Serves 4. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ancient, inedible fruit...

“There’s a common theme to these endeavours”, I said to my husband as we were both working at the kitchen counter. I was stirring a pot full of thick and potentially hazardous quince, destined for paste. Sandy was dealing to the olives he’d just picked from our trees, bashing each one with a hammer before immersing them in salted water. The theme was not ‘labours of love’, although they are, clearly, since the effort vs. reward equation in both cases is seriously questionable. No, the theme is actually ‘things you can’t eat raw’. Or to be more detailed about it, ‘things you can’t eat raw, and have to spend hours/days rendering them edible’.

This can’t help but make me wonder about who the brave people were who ever found this out.
Somewhere in the ancient past, someone picked a quince, gave it a gnaw and went ‘yuk!’. Probably more than one person. But somewhere along the line, someone said ‘Hang on, maybe we can cook this?’ and gave it a try.
I wonder if they were shocked when the pale quinces turned rosy and then ruby red? I wonder if they were even more shocked when they turned out to taste quite nice? One thing’s for sure, it was a long time ago – quince are mentioned in the literature of ancient Greece and Rome; where recipes for stewing quince with honey can be found. Olives are equally ancient – they’re all over the Bible, and pickled olives have been found among the buried wreckage of Pompeii.
Our olives are still on their way to becoming edible, soaking in their salted water. But after several days of effort I now have enough quince paste to last me for quite some time, even given the amount of cheese I eat. It turned out really well, and is a lovely red colour – something which varies, I understand, from crop to crop. I used Stephanie Alexander’s guidance in the Cook’s Companion to make it – basically cook up the quinces with water until soft, puree them, weigh and add the same quantity of sugar. Then the fun bit starts – simmering that mixture while it bubbles volcanically, until it goes ruby red and thick.
This is the stage at which you risk serious burns every time you open the pot to stir – I could have done with some of those long gloves farmers use when they want to do unmentionable things to the back end of cows (must look into that for next year).
And if someone can tell me how to get the concrete-hard quince paste off my stainless steel cooktop without gouging it, I’d be really happy. Anyway, once it’s ready it goes into trays to set, or - my innovation this year – muffin tins, to make cute little puddings. Then it’s a couple of days in a warm place (low oven for me) to dry. Then it’s sliced, wrapped, and ready to eat. Phew!
At this stage you really need a sit down, a glass of wine and a piece of cheese, served with a sliver of quince paste on the side, and a few minutes to feel self-satisfied. Before you figure out that the cost to buy that much quince paste in a shop, divided by the hours you’ve spent making yours, means you’ve probably got paste that’s worth about $30 a block.

But it’s made with love, right?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An ode to fried rice

I was reading American Vogue recently, where my very favourite food writer, Jeffrey Steingarten, remarked that fried rice is up there with pizza as one of his absolute favourite meals. This made me very happy.

Of the many things I love about Jeffrey Steingarten’s writing, I think what I love the most is that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He loves foie gras and Milky Way bars with equal passion. He acknowledges that even though he moves in the lofty circles of the professional New York food critic, he also lives in the real world, where people eat takeaways and snack on M&Ms and don’t always shop at artisan food stores. He has a laugh at his own expense. He’s fabulous.

Anyway, I’m right there with Jeffrey - even though I’ve never met him, I feel I can call him Jeffrey - on the fried rice. (And the pizza, for that matter, but that’s for a whole other posting.)

Fried rice is one of my favourite comfort meals. I don’t know if this dish was invented to use up leftovers, but I suspect it may have been; it’s a fantastic way to do that. But I think we should celebrate fried rice in its own right as a perfect, delicious dinner, and not just because it helps us get rid of all those bitty veges and odd leftover meats that languish in the fridge. Fried rice – I’m talking home-made fried rice, not some greasy thing slopped up at the local takeaway – is a perfect combination of comfortingly bland carbohydrate, crunchy and soft textures, and sweet, savoury, salty and zingy flavours. Add enough veges and it’s a complete and balanced meal, and keep the oil to a minimum and it’s a healthy meal at that. It’s simple, but sophisticated (I don’t mean dinner-party sophisticated, I mean complex in flavour). What’s more it’s quick, which appeals to me when I’m exhausted and hungry.

I think everyone who cooks will have their own version of what makes for the perfect fried rice, and often it depends on what’s in the fridge. There are versions of fried rice in dozens of cultures, from China to Hawaii to Cuba, and they’re all different. Like Paella, it seems, even with the Chinese version there are many ‘definitive’ versions depending on who you talk to!

My fried rice follows a bit of a pattern. It’s not authentic, if there is such a thing, but it works for me. Here’s my ideal breakdown:

Dry rice
Because I cook a fair bit of rice, I often have rice left over, usually Jasmine. Leftover rice is the best rice for fried rice, because it gets nice and dry in the fridge. I have been known to cook rice especially to make fried rice when I’ve really been in the mood, but somehow it’s not quite as good.

Something tasty
This is where I pull out the frozen prawns, which I keep mostly just for fried rice purposes. Chopped ham works, too, or barbecue pork (yum), or those little Chinese cured sausages called Lap Cheong. If I don’t have any suitable meat, I sometimes use the Thai dried shrimps, which add a tasty savoury flavour and a nice crunch.

Something crunchy
Here’s where veges come in – I love cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots, and spring onions. Pile them in; remember half the plate is supposed to be veges, people, even in a combined meal.

Something soft
Egg is the obvious thing here, for its creamy, well, egginess. I make a little flat omelet and chop it up, and add it back in at the end. I also like soft veges like courgettes and baby spinach. Tofu is lovely, too.

Something hot
Chillies, of course – fresh or dried. And I love a Thai product called “Chilli Paste with Soya Bean Oil” which comes in a large jar with a yellow lid, from the Chinese supermarket. It’s a cooked mix of chilli, shallots, sugar, fish sauce and tamarind, and so fulfils the hot, tasty, salty and sweet categories all at once. I adore it; I have to stop myself eating it from the jar.

Something salty
Soy sauce or tamari is a must. Not too much – you don’t want it sloppy – but enough to colour the rice a little bit and get the nice umami flavour going.

Something sweet
I often add capsicums or other sweet veges for colour and flavour contrast. And for me - call me cheesy - peas are essential.

I can’t help myself wanting to doctor my rice on my plate, so I usually have an array of chilli sauces, kecap manis, sambal oelek and soy sauce on the table. I know, it’s chaotic, but sometimes I just feel like adding different things. Or sometimes nothing.

Fried rice is not really the kind of thing, I feel, that needs a recipe, but I understand that sometimes that’s what people want. So here’s one, from my book, Eating In. Adapt as you please.

Prawn & vege fried rice

1 tablespoon garlic oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 courgettes, sliced
1 head broccoli
1 cup sliced red cabbage
2 cups frozen raw prawns, thawed
2 tablespoons Thai chilli paste
3 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups baby spinach leaves
½ cup peas, frozen or fresh
1 red chilli, sliced

Heat the garlic oil in a large frying pan. Add the eggs and swirl them around to coat the bottom of the pan and make a thin omelette. When just cooked, tip the omelette onto a plate and slice into strips. Set aside.

Add the garlic, courgette, broccoli and cabbage to the pan and stir-fry for a few minutes until just tender.

Add the prawns and stir-fry until the prawns are cooked. Add the chilli paste and stir through, then add the rice and soy sauce, spinach and chilli and stir to combine. Cook just until the rice is warmed through and starting to brown a bit here and there. Add the egg back to the pan.

Serve in bowls with extra soy and chilli sauces on the side.

Serves 4

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hear me on the radio....

Listen out for me every Monday morning. I'm on the Morning Glory show on 95bFM with Charlotte Ryan; the slot's called "Let us cook", and the recipes are published on the Morning Glory page and on Facebook.

Also you can hear me on Easy Mix where I share recipes and healthy eating tips. Listen to all the recent ones here.

And to read more of my ramblings on food, visit the foodie website, where I also have a blog alongside a bunch of other entertaining chefs and food writers.