30 May 2010

Auction the cook...

everyone needs a sister with this much enthusiasm ... big sis Ann in Rotorua is a huge supporter for Rowing Rotorua, and is helping with fundraising for 3 Rotorua rowers to go overseas: New Zealand Representatives NZU23 Team Julia Edward and Laura Fischer and NZ Junior Nigel van den Akker. I'm off to an afternoon tea Charity Auction event at the Blue Baths in Rotorua next weekend where I've agreed to be auctioned off as a cook for a dinner party of 8. Yeearrrgh!!! (Let's hope Mum wins the auction)

Have a look at Ann's great rowing blog.

28 May 2010

persimmon jelly... an experiment

So I had these gorgeous looking things that bring back terrible memories of my father forcing me to taste them ... and have never eaten them since.
I saw someone peeling and eating one, like you would a pear, and I tried that... beautiful! And the colour is so jewel. Surely they would make excellent jelly?
I boiled them up and forced them through a seive - first mistake. Do not force, the syrup should stand in a muslin-lined colander to slowly drip through. (I knew that...) and now I have it doing just that.
It's also rather bland - delicate, but bland - so I've added cinnamon stick, honey, lemon juice and a little ginger.
More soon!

smoked snapper

You know me, I'm having a smoking obsession... Stew and I hot-smoke a piece of salmon over the gas hobb for breakfast about twice a week - the cost? around $5. Serve with ricotta (no fat in that, and the texture is wonderful!) and capers - lots of capers - on  a toasted bagel.
Last week I spotted fresh whole snapper for $8.95 per kilo at the swoopermarket - I swooped! And there it is in all it's scaled, boned and opened glory. (Still vacuuming scales from the floor a week later - must remember to be less exuberant with that...)
I added brown sugar and soy sauce as normal - that did not last long! We had people here for dinner a day later. The home made hummus I'd served with drinks was a no-no - Raewyn has an allergy to herbs of any kind. Lucky for us the fish was a hit ..... served with garlic pita and slatherings of lemon

25 May 2010

The French Cafe

I've been treated lately to some fabulous dinners: what a bonus! Other people have birthdays, and I get to eat with them at places like this.
It's my first visit there for at least 30 years, and I was very very pleased to be given the opportunity.
Deep fried quail's eggs on the side of the quail dish
What a gorgeous place! The staff are very attentive and lovely. We were quite early which was nice, we had the staff to ourselves for a while. But that soon changed - most impressive to see such a large and high end restaurant fill up to the level it did on a week night.

Lots of the group had the duck (above) but I was happy with my rabbit (below) with basil foam

Loved the presentation - a different plate or platter for each and every item. Seafood dishes such as Scallops (above) and tempura (below)  served on beautiful glass platters

The birthday girl had a call from her grand daughter in Australia.
For her last year's birthday we had given her The French Cafe cookbook which was also fantastic. (Still trying to steal it back for a read - mental note: borrow from the library!)

All in all, I think The French Cafe can rank as my new favourite restaurant in Auckland

14 May 2010

Fruit Bowl delight

The fruit bowl is looking fabtastic at present:
feijoas, limes, quinces, bananas, persimmons.. what a lot of stuff to experiment with!

13 May 2010

How to eat a chocolate finger

My most favourite bikkies are on special at the local supermarket this week... Yum!

When I'm bored there's only 1 way to have them - with a cup of tea and a special ceremony.
First take your biscuit
Bite off one end and then the other...
not too much, you want a decent straw length....

place in the hot tea
and suck...

eat it all in one mouthful before it melts!
Excellent! This works with Tim Tams too,
but I find they're too big.
I like Fingers 'cos you can have 4 or 5 at once...

12 May 2010

Banana and Caramel Dumplings

More of my favourite winter food.. in this case, one of the desserts my younger daughter always loved. I cooked it again recently and it certainly was warming on a cold autumn night.
Make the dough
wrap pieces of banana
melt the butter, golden syrup and water and bring the syrup to the boil.
Add the 8 dumplings and put the lid on. Allow 20 minutes to cook.

Serve with ricotta for a fat-free option, or whipped cream if you're a dairy-vert like me.
Recipe coming... sorry!

Obesity in NZ

I read a terribly worrying article in the NZ Herald last weekend. It refers to research by Professor Philip James from London who was invited by AUT to speak in Auckland and Hamilton. Professor James is an advisor to World Health Organisation and president of the International Association for the Study of Obesity.

His main message while here is that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of obesity in the Western world at 25%, and additionally that New Zealand’s obesity controls have fallen behind the rest of the West. In his view the reason for obesity is a genetic predisposition in an environment that allows it to happen with an “out-of-control” food industry and over-use of cars – in Britain it’s been accepted by the Cabinet that it’s not your fault if you get fat. Professor James says, “It’s a normal human response to get fat in the NZ environment”.

What he advocates (and he is astounded at the National Government’s reversal of the decision to allow only healthy foods to be sold in schools) is strict controls in schools, a food labelling system, bans on food marketing to children, tax breaks on fruit and vegetables and more cycle ways. He warns that without changes of this nature, obesity and the diseases it causes will overwhelm health services.

Let’s do everything we can to support anyone or any group that is trying to make these changes.

Source: NZ Herald 8 May 2010

06 May 2010


I've had a few conversations lately about food aversions and where they come from. For me, it has a lot to do with the things I was forced to eat as a child.

Peanut Butter: we 3 kids had it in turn (week about) to make the school lunches for everyone. My brother would make peanut butter sandwiches every  time.... and there's the problem. Even now I can't stand people eating it near me, putting their peanut butter-covered knife in my jam, breathing in my direction. It is indeed heinous.

Broad Beans: mother dear (such a good cook in other ways) why oh why did we have to eat frozen broad beans, boiled within an inch of ther lives and served in piles... and with our father insisting that all good children had to eat everything on their plate we were loathe to eat anything else until those beans were gone. Anything else seemed like a reward after them.

Kidneys: this is an odd one: I don't in fact have an aversion to these, I just haven't cooked them for years. However my cat eats them almost exclusively, and now I associate them in my head with cat food.

Brussels Sprouts: see broad beans above... however I'm almost convinced to give these another whirl after my brother (see Peanut Butter above) announced them to be his favourite vegetable. I've cooked them lots, I'm simply not convinced.

Black pudding: dad loved this, and I have cooked it, but still I imagine the floors of the butcher shop with the sawdust and other unimaginable sweepings going into the casing...

There are also some foods that I've tried and found to be very disturbing. Amongst those would be

Kina: having hunted this shellfish down in a Waihau Bay rock pool I can honestly say I've eaten these under the best possible circumstances. Never again.

Tongue: sorry, but I can't get my head around this one. A picture in my head of a very large, very blue cow's tongue cannot be controlled.

Mango: something about the flavour and the texture of a ripe mango makes me retch.

Smoked Fish Pie

is there anyone who doesn't have a favourite way to make this classic family dish? And if there is then I'll share mine with you right here, right now, for nothing!

Smoked Fish Pie
700 gm smoked fish or 1-2 cans smoked fiish fillets
1 large onion sliced
1 clove garlic crushed
25gm butter
1/2 cup plain flour
2 1/2 cups milk (I use a mix of milk, plain yoghurt, ricotta, cream - whatever is on hand)
Grated cheese - tasty if you can
700gm potatoes - about 3 large ones - boiled and mashed

Melt the butter and cook the onions and garlic over low heat until soft and transparent.
Add the flour, increase the heat slightly and cook for a minute or 2. Add the milk slowly, stirring well to make a smooth white sauce. Add the cheese and simmer slowly while you assemble the dish.

Take the fish off the skin and remove bones, or drain the water off the canned fillets (as Bronwyn knows, you use this liquid in the sauce). Place chunks in an oven-proof dish. At this stage add peas if you wish - frozen is fine. Must admit I've been known to adding halved boiled eggs at this stage too. Pour the cheese sauce over the whole lot, give it a gentle stir and then top with the mashed potatoes.
Heat the oven to 170 C.

I make a buttery crumb mix: 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 20gm butter melted, chopped herbs (sage, dill, parsley or similar) and crushed garlic plus salt. Mix all well and scatter over the potato.

Bake 20 minutes, serve with a green vegetable and plenty of buttery bread.

Left-overs are pefect on toast for breakfast.

04 May 2010

Yay for Winter food! New soup for me ...

I love soups! And I do tend to stick to my old favourites, like Pea and Ham, or Pumpkin.
Here's a new idea - really lovely combination of flavours, and ends up being thick and nourishing. Like all good soups should be!

Leek, Parsnip and Ginger Soup

3 tbsp oil
3 or 4 good sized parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 leek, cut in half, washed between the leaves and sliced
2 inch piece of root ginger peeled and finely sliced
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups good white wine
Cream and/or milk ... about 2 cups in total

Heat the oil and fry the leeks, garlic and ginger over medium heat till soft. Add the parsnips and stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the veges are cooked.
Puree all this together. I use my old mouli...
Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the cream and/or milk and wine to taste. Heat gently before serving with scrumptious ciabatta rolls and lashings of butter ...
(by the way, what is a lashing...?)

02 May 2010

Passionfruit Roulade

I tried Chef Astle's recipe today but I had passionfruit and not strawberries. So here's my take on the dish... and a very useful way to use the left-over egg yolks you always get with pavs.

Passionfruit Souffle Roulade with Ginger Apricots
For the Roulade:
6 eggs separated
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
1 tsp vinegar (I always use malt)
2 1/2 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C
Beat the egg whites till soft peaks form, then add the sugar slowly beating well between additions.
Now add the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla and continue beating till well incorporated, glossy and all the sugar is dissolved.
Line a baking tray with baking paper, splashed with a little cold water.
Spread the mixture out in a rectangular shape and bake about 10 minutes. It needs to be browned on the outside. Remove from the oven and cool.
For the Passionfruit Souffle:
4 egg yolks
2 tsp gelatine
Contents of 2 passionfruit
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup whipped cream
Soak the gelatine in the passionfruit for 5 minutes.
Heat the sugar and lemon juice slowly over hot water, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add the passionfruit and gelatine and stir to incorporate. Add a little to the egg yolks then stir them into the sugar and passionfruit syrup. Heat this until the mixture starts to thicken and the egg yolks are cooked.
At this stage I add a splash of Cointreau or similar. 

Beat the cream, cool the passionfruit mixture. Once it's cool and starting to stiffen, fold the cream through.

When the roulade is cool, turn it upside down onto a surface dusted with icing sugar. Spread with the passionfruit and cream mixture and roll it up. Trim the ends (so you can eat them...) and lift onto a platter.

For the Ginger Apricots:
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tin of apricot halves
a small handful of crystallised ginger
Bring the water and sugar to the boil, stirring til dissolved. Boil it to reduce it slightly. Add the apricots and continue cooking until they mush down - about 4-5 minutes. Add the ginger. At this stage I add a good slosh of Cointreau. (did I already say that?)
Be daring with this - it can be done with all kinds of combinations. Try adding a  few mint leaves.

To serve:
Cut a generous serve of the roulade, spoon some of the apricots over or around, and eat. If anyone else wants some, tell them to go away...

01 May 2010

Hints for a wannabe MasterChef...Issue 1

okay first up, you need to get your application in. Check that you can indeed be available on the dates given.
Don't wait for a family member or friend to suggest it to you; just do it.
Don't dither around wondering if you want to: just do it, take the risk.  What do you have to lose? I had so many people say they would have liked to enter - I just don't understand why they didn't. Not one of us thought we were necessarily better than anyone else, we only wanted to test ourselves and get the learning.

If you were unsuccessful last time, at any stage (unless you don't qualify), don't be put off. You have extra experience from the process that others don't have.

Be really clear about the Terms and Conditions. In fact, print them off now and read them carefully. I think you'll find they're water-tight, and they're pretty stringent. Think ahead and make sure you'll be okay with all of this. Get familiar with it before you click the submit button.

More later. Good luck!

Sydney food trail

Just back on Thurssday from Sydney where we saw lots of things we couldn't identify

I think the picture above was dried paua or abalone - there were abalone shells in the window...

some kind of citrus
I know the persimmons... but had never seen them dried as below.

Wonderful variety of mushrooms

I've seen the Pie Face brand before, but I still like how they describe the contents with an emoticon piped on the top with gravy.

and we were intrigued with the sugar cane juice machine. Wouldn't want your hand stuck in there...

Sydney at short notice

Laura and I took off for a quick shopping trip - what a luxury!

a day walking from Bondi to Bronte - what  magic weather!

nothing hard in this - but we loved the service in the cafes and the generous portions - this breakfast for $7

Dinner in the food hall at Chinatown was a feast for the senses. Dumpling soup, honey prawns, barbecued fish with lemon grass and chilli - ready for the price? $30
and although this sushi trai is nothing new we were impressed with the service again, and the amount others were eating.... 11 dishes nothing unusual! Sushi and sashimi would make a great masterChef challenge...

And finally on the last night, bar snacks at The Piano Room in King's Cross with live music by Scott. Salt and chilli squid! Yum!