27 March 2010

Thai dessert

I decided I liked the sound of Coconut Icecream with cardamom biscuits. The icecream recipe is most intriguing because it uses basil seeds. (Otherwise known as Sabja, Subja, Tukmaria, Takmaria, this ingredient is used in traditional Indian cooking and helps the body to cool).
I found them at Farro Fresh, but I think a garden centre would have them too.
the recipe calls for you to soak some seeds in water which the woman at Farro and I agreed sounded most odd, but in the interests of learning I went along with it.....

Dry seeds into a dish
Almost imediately they start to swell and form a gelatinous skin....

and at this stage they can go into the dish. They look a little bit like fish eggs...
Coconut and Basil Seed Icecream
2 and 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 and 1/4 cups cream
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp sweet basil seeds
Bring the coconut milk, cream and sugar to the boil. Remove from heat and let it cool down a bit. In a separate bowl beat the eggs well. Gradually add the milk and cream mixture into the eggs - too fast, and the eggs will cook. Let it cool completely and then refrigerate to chill.
Pour the cold mixture into a small loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and remove any air between the film and the surface. Freeze for 2-3 hours, until it starts to get firm. Remove from the freezer and beat or blend until smooth. Put it back in the pan. Separately, put 1/2 tbsp sweet basil seeds into 1/2 cup water. Give them 5  minutes to expand. Gently fold the seeds into the ice cream and put back in the freezer with the plastic covering. Freeze several hours.
We served this with Cardamom flavoured biscuits (recipe coming) and Peach and Mango coulis.

25 March 2010

gone but not forgotten

Rob was one of my picks for the overall winner - right from the time we went into final round of auditions. Sorry to see him leave the show, but hopefully good things will come his way anyway.

I remember him being quite surprised at the time of the 24-down-to-12  challenges, because Simon said he came across as arrogant. Rob and I joked about it and I thought it couldn't be further from the truth. I think of Rob as a gentle soul - one of the beautiful people. His sense of aesthetics is huge, his cooking skill is excellent. And I also  like to think that he'll be 'discovered' as a model (sorry Rob!) or an actor... He's on the wrong side of the camera as a photographer!

24 March 2010

Thai night tonight

Our neighbour Gary and I like to cook collectively - and tonight is the Thai collection. He found Thai basil at one of the local shops - quite different to the normal basil, in that the leaves have an aniseed flavour - but it's restricted to the leaves alone. Therefore the flavour doesn't spread through the dish, but gives you nice little flurries of aniseed when you strike a leaf. Gary is making up a green curry spice paste, and making a seafood medley-type dish. I've made marinated chicken pieces which will be threaded onto skewers later and served with peanut satay sauce and a cucumber and chilli onion 'a jad' - pickled in white vinegar.

I found another unusual vegetable today and I'm told it's Thai - a kind of bean - so that will become a side dish with kaffir lime juice and chilli. All the prep is done for vegetable rolls in rice paper, they will have a dipping sauce, and I've also made coconut icecream with a surprising ingredient - recipes and pictures tomorrow.

My dad always used to joke about Thai Thursdays at the Novotel in Rotorua - he called it Thigh Thursday.

23 March 2010

Favourite Soups - getting ready for autumn

My husband Stewart and I have different versions of this. Mine is the full fat, skin-on, high carb one described here. Served for lunch today with left-over corned beef and kumara cakes - flavoured with cumin and fennel seed. Declicious!
Pea and Ham Soup
1 ham hock or 1kg of bacon bones.
(I chop big gashes into the ham hock so the meat starts to fall apart in chunks as soon as it's cooked)
4 large onions, chopped
12 whole peppercorns, or you can crush them
about 150-200gm split peas - I use the yellow ones
(can't get past the image of green eggs and ham if I see green split peas...)

Put the bones or hock in a big stock pot and cover with water. About 4 litres.. you can add more later if needed.

Add everything else and bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours.

At this stage Stew always removes the bone, cuts the meat off it and puts the bone in the bin - but only if I don't see him. Leave the bone in!
You do need to make sure the meat is not in great lumps or someone will get the whole lot in their bowl. I cut it into even-ish chunks for this reason only... by now the soup will be cooked and you can adjust the seasoning. The peas should be really mushy and powdery, the onions cooked through and the meat falling apart. Add more water if it's too thick - but thick is good. Be careful not to water it down too far.

Serve with bread and butter. Lots of butter. So you can see your teeth marks in it, as a friend of mine says.

For Stew's "good" version, you can cut all the skin off the hock and throw it away before you start. But I wouldn't....

22 March 2010

Meeting old friends

...and new ones. Fiona was in the top 24 of Master Chef in it's first season (that's this one) and she was up in Auckland today to run a workshop in Manukau so of course we had to get together for a coffee.
that's Arjay, Karyn and Fiona

me and Fiona
We talked cook books, future visions regarding cooking, networks, food ideas. Great to be able to share a conversation like that with a like-minded sould thank you.
Please look up Laura in Wellington
And best of luck with the writing idea... happy to be a sounding post, editor, proof-reader - anything!

another banana experience!

I'm loving the variety that's showing up everywhere now, just wish there was enough time in the day to try cooking it all...
here's another banana I came across recently at Lim's Gardens in Glen Innes - they are HUGE!

they're labelled Tindor but I think they're actually another kind of plantain...

19 March 2010

Kaffir Lime and a new shop

well, new to me anyway! Driving along Ponsonbby road and there's a massive display of flowers at Number 129, so stopped for flowers for the hostess at tonight's dinner party and was so amazed and impressed at the range of foods there...
kaffir lime!
use juice for Thai flavour
Cape gooseberries!
Gelatin leaf!
Rhubarb (at a good price...!)
Indian spices, beautiful breads, organic this and NZ grown that...
MUST visit again soon

Just googled it and it's called Bhana Brothers (yes, I know I'm a little bit slow - it's apparently been in that place for 60 years...)

18 March 2010

Bye Nige

and sorry... a nice bloke, really nice. Just ask Charlie.


Gosh that Team Leader thing is a sure-fire way to get eliminated... Shame it wasn't about the cooking Nigel.
Still, looking forward to June!

Ray McVinnie classes at Farro

if you've never been, it's worth a visit - 1pm every Thursday, Ray dons the pinnie and presents a new recipe with a few ingredients you may not be familiar with. A good excuse to try something new..

that's Ray on the right....
And then you get to taste it
and then you get to try making it at home...

Cook's books - your recipe Diaries

I had this great idea to make loose-leaf diaries with blank pages for cooks - somewhere you can collect all your recipes. With blank pages, you could either paste cut-outs in or hand-write. So I went looking for old  cookbooks - great in terms of retro-vintage photography and graphic design.
Here are a few of the ones I've bought ...

so now I'm going to turn them all into blank notebooks, with a few of the pages from the original books spread through - you can use them as dividers or just as quirky little reminders of cookbooks past....
And they're for sale at $20 each - a wonderful gift for a foodie, or something unique for you to squirrel away.

15 March 2010

The C word...

Coconut cream
a few of my favourite "C"s - and I haven't even mentioned chocolate, cake or cherries yet...

Corn and Coriander Coconut fritters
these are just gorgeous, a huge improvement on the simple corn fritter - and I love them...
serve with smoked salmon and a freshly made salsa of tomato, nectarines, spring onions and lime for a simple but memorable breakfast with a couple of friends.

A cup of corn (drained tinned kernels, or kernels off the cob)
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup of thread or shredded coconut
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
handful of fresh chopped coriander
Salt - a big pinch

Mix all together just as you're ready to cook them - if you want to make the mixture up ahead of time, put the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another and mix at the time of cooking - otherwise the baking powder will activate too early.

Heat about 50mm of oil (I use rice bran oil because it can stand the heat for deep frying) in a pot - use a small pan rather than large so you don't need so much oil - and when smoking cook the fritters in batches of round balls about the size of a golf ball. Drain and keep hot. Salt freely. Serve with a dipping sauce of sweet chilli.
Make plenty, they'll go very fast.

13 March 2010

Child Cancer Foundation Appeal

I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in this wonderful night where four of us from MasterChef NZ cooked a nice meal for mums of children with cancer.  Great to have the assistance of Ross Burden, one of the judges.

The three of us found it hard - being parents ourselves - to imagine the lives that these families are forced to lead. Good on TVNZ for giving them a makeover and a special night out. We designed a menu that could easily be acheived at a home dinner party.
Tamati Coffey served drinks. The mums had a visit from Bernadine Oliver-Kirby too

Marinated beef on Asian-style Noodles (by Kirsty)
Prawn and mango salad served on Asian spoons (by Rob)

Mini Fritatta with lemon mascarpone (by me)

Snapper fillets on Fennel and Leek Puree
Saffron and Lemon Sauce
Slow roasted vine tomatoes
Sesame Beans

Individual chocolate and raspberry tarts
Raspberry Coulis

If you'd like the recipes email me here.
Also take a look at Main Course, the venue for this event. If you're looking for cooking classes, Sonya and Eric andf their team are very professional and wonderfully welcoming.

11 March 2010

Kelly, Kelly...

Quelle disasteur! Mais, non!
gone for want of a pumpkin pie... Kelly you're a much better cook than that, however it was your swansong and some of us know how that feels. Now on with better things.... A darling girl, very 'sorted' about her fitness, her inner balance, and so pedantic and detailed about her food preparation. Not forgetting her drive to be a chef - how could she ever go wrong in life? Not a chance! It's all there awaiting her. Watch her exit interview over at TVNZ - sorry all you out-of-NZers....

09 March 2010

Hell’s Gate recipes and memories

As a family we used to manage Hell's Gate in Rotorua - a volcanic visitor attraction. Mum and Dad were the first to run commerical hangis (food cooked in steam and usually eaten with the fingers) in Rotorua in the evenings, mostly with international tourists in bus parties. This was the 1960's to 1970's. Us kids would plait flax baskets in the shop during the day, and help with getting the food ready: chicken and mutton, peeling potatoes, setting tables. All the food was cooked in big steel containers in the steam boxes... natural steam, piped through stainless steel milk vats where the food would sit with big tight covers over it.
Then the food was lifted out and served into the flax baskets for the tourists to eat at long trestle tables with their fingers.
Dessert was always this Steamed Pudding, cooked in covered basins also in the steam, and served in wedges in the same flax baskets, with great piles of whipped cream.

Hell's Gate Steamed Pudding
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 ½ tbsp marmalade
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
Enough milk to mix.

Put sugar, marmalade and butter in the oven to melt the butter a little, then add flour and soda, and milk to mix (pouring consistency).

Steam 1 hour
Serves 4

You can just double the recipe for more.

Often on the mornings after we'd done a hangi, Dad would cook up the left-over pudding for breakfast.
Thick slices of the steamed pudding were fried in butter and served with runny cream. It would have a crisp crust on it and of course for those of us with dairy addictions, New Zealand in the sixties and seventies was the place to be. Or, at least, at my Dad's breakfast table.

07 March 2010

Euro experience

Stew took me out for dinner last night, a surprise to go to Euro - domain of the Gault-man.
I'm just an average everyday person but I'd like to share my opinion about Euro.
(I'm very aware that Karyn on Master Chef was slated for suggesting that Tony Astle's roulade recipe needed more sugar, and here I am about to do the same kind of thing....) Fools rush in.

Entrance: A bit confusing, I felt I was walking into the kitchen. I like the chefs being close and viewable, but I don't like to feel lost and on parade when I arrive.
Maitre' d': Officious Efficient but a little personality-free. Nice trousers though...
Decor: Warm, friendly, slightly conservative, relaxed, comfy chairs though heavy... Love the white linen, hate the cutlery. Love the red vases - I wanted to know who they're by... but I'd guess they're Peter Collis (wouldn't fit in my hand bag ... mental note: take bigger handbag) and well done on having them fairly dust-free. Lighting good but became darker quite quickly - and then darker again. I mean noticeably dimmed... please make it a more subtle transition? I always feel as if I'm meant to go to sleep when it's that dark that early
Waiter: friendly, interested and thorough though obviously confused when I tried to share a personal anecdote with him - but I get that a lot.
Menu: the physical format I hated sorry...plastic! Uh uh, needs to be more trad sorry Simon. Typography quite good, readability excellent. I identified about 12 words I didn't know (and I really like words so that was a surprise) and the contents were awesome... making it very hard to choose. But I do like to take time over the choosing. I asked for the dessert menu too, as I'm a dessert lover and want to know what I need to work myself up to.
Wine List: comprehensive, interesting selection with everything available by the glass or by the bottle. Prices pretty acceptable actually.
Food: The bread was good (more please!) and the Saporoso balsamic, olive oil and mushroom truffle dips were sensational. Stew ordered the scallops (he didn't know what 'diver' scallops were...) and loved them. Very stylish presentation. My main was Salmon with cauliflower and saffron puree - really delicious. Subtle, interesting, the flavours really well balanced against the richness of the fish. Loved it. Stew went for the tuna steak on buffalo mozarella and seemed to like it - though he wasn't raving. We added 2 sides of gournet potatoes and glazed carrots and needed them. Portion sizes are smallish, as you would expect.
Dessert - for me the main event - was a crepe with Grand Marnier flavours. It was enjoyable, but I'm sorry, for a dessert-ette like myself one measly crepe will NOT do it.... 

Anyway there we were having a wonderful night and I mustn't be too picky... all in all about a 7 out of 10 for me. Largely bumped down by the arrival of next-table neighbours who were quite loud and - I'm sorry - quite pretentious and we were rather glad to be finished. But nothing against the place! Would definitely go there again...

I like the 'local produce' position Euro takes (from the menu): "Head Chef....and Sous Chef... track down the best ingredients available. Our goal is to use 100% locally grown & organic produce. Simon G"

05 March 2010

Food services

Back on 12th February I was wondering about food services that deliver - with my computer-challenged, cheque-book carrying grandmother in mind. Since then I've ordered a few sample meals from Tomorrow's Meals in Tauranga and during a visit to Rotorua last weekend my Mum and I took them to Nana. Her reaction was, "What on earth do you think I need those for!?" Not surprising at all knowing her - ferociously independent - even at 95. So Mum tucked them away in the freezer while she wasn't looking and I promised Nana that it wasn't that I thought she needed looking after, just a convenience for some evening when she'd rather not think about cooking.
The meals looked pretty good sizes, although being frozen and covered it was a bit tricky to see them and I didn't want to open them.

(I do think they need to keep the type size realistic for their customers who I'm presuming are largely the older age groups)
Anyway there they were in the freezer with the ones Mum bought her 6 months ago... might be on a losing streak there!

04 March 2010

oh no... Tracey! What a disaster...

I'm really sorry to see Tracey has been banished from Master Chef! She's a very very good cook that girl... precision plus, and creative as well as being utterly disciplined. A really interesting woman with tons of talent.
Tracey and her husband have a plan to shift back to the South Island to open a cafe on a block of land there. Her husband makes cheese and all this is of course leading up to a fine future. All the best girl...

Teenagers learning to cook

check out Claire's website and blog - what a great idea!

02 March 2010

Cardamom Chicken (or lamb)

Here's a sensational creamy and flavoursome Indian dish with so few ingredients you'll wonder how it could work... and a ship load of cardamom. Trust me - give it a try!

1 kg meat

1/2 cup yoghurt
35 green cardamoms in the pod
1/2 cup oil
2 tsp ground black peppercorns
1 tsp turmeric (found this fresh at Farro for $9.90 kg you Auckland ones...)
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp coriander powder (I use fresh)
3 medium tomatoes
Salt to taste

Grind the whole cardamoms and remove from the pods. Fry over low heat with the black pepper.
Heat oil and add minced or diced meat, turneric, chilli and coriander.
Saute 10 mins stirring regularly.
Lower the heat and add yoghurt, tomatoes and salt. Saute a further 5 mins.
Add about 4 cups water, cover and simmer until tender.