Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Sandwich Fame !

Our kids seem to have made my favourite open sandwich famous (or infamous) with gen Y - it's been my lunch for 30 years when I'm at home, and honestly - I rarely fancy anything else. It simply ticks all the boxes as far as I'm concerned.
I've basked in the admiration of our children's friends for years now, but realised just how popular this sandwich has become when Thomas, a friend of our daughter, confessed he'd sent the recipe to 88!! friends, with photographs. Here is what he sent. .

                                    The Bishop

The Bishop is a fine art and we want you to get it just right. So to facilitate this, I have taken a series of illustrative photographs to help you on your way to creating the perfect 'Bishop'.

1. 1x piece of vogel bread - toasted
2. Next spread chunky peanut butter on reasonably thick (see image)
3. Spinach (can be from salad with other bits e.g cherry toms) (see image)
4. Aoli (garlic mayonnaise) but can use mayo if in a pinch (see image)
5. Beetroot (2/3 med/sm pieces) (see image)
6. Gherkins 1x sliced vertically (i.e. not rounds) (see image)
7. Tasty cheddar cheese on top to cover
 (see image)

Make it and let me know what you think :) Just follow the numbers. . .








Sorry they're not in order, but I have numbered them! Personally i don't include the gherkins, but i seem to have been outvoted. . .

I've also posted aioli from my 'Vegetarian Kitchen' cookbook - It's also in my 'Virtual Cafe ' as it's so good - not too rich as it uses whole eggs, not just yolks, and plenty of garlic.
We tend to be timid still in our use of fresh herbs and spices, but it’s only when introduced to authentic French food that you appreciate just how cautious we are with garlic. I’ve been making aioli for 30 years now and include it in every book or column write – but after visiting Provence I’ve upped the ante in terms of the amount of garlic I use.
The secret is to be patient when drizzling in the oil through the feed tube. If it’s too thin, you’ve drizzled too fast. Any neutral oil is fine – personally I like equal quantities of olive pomace and rice bran oils.

Make plain mayonnaise simply by omitting the garlic. This recipe is easily doubled, and is an essential ingredient of dips and the best salad sandwiches.

1 egg
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
1 cup neutral oil such as sunflower or rice bran
                or ½ cup pomace olive oil
                 and  ½ cup neutral oil

Place all the ingredients except the oil in a food processor and process for 1 minute until well combined.
Leaving the motor running, drizzle the oil in through the feed tube very slowly.
Transfer to a jar with a lid and keep refrigerated for up to 8 days.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Vegivore? Flexivore? Flexitarian? And Tahini Dressing

The launch for my new (sixth!!) cookbook, VITAL is set for 10 October, and it will be available from book stores and on- line retailers in the next couple of weeks (official release date 13th October, but often they appear in the shops a little earlier). 
 ‘Vital’ has a vegetarian focus, as always, but is more flexible; an ‘almost vegetarian’ cookbook. The emphasis is on main dishes, about 50% of which include the option of modest amounts of meat (mostly fish and seafood), although of course there are starters and snacks, soups, desserts and baking as well. My recipes always draw from a wide range of cuisines, although I love to showcase local produce and products when possible. Our green-lip mussels, for example, are fantastically versatile and such good value nutritionally and economically, containing more iron than lean red meat! (See the Best Mussel Pie Ever!).

I’ve preferred to eat this way for more than thirty years, but there is now huge interest in this semi-vegetarian approach, reflecting a sea-change in the eating habits of much of the western world. Labelled variously as Flexitarian, Flexivore and Vegivore, it emphasizes reducing red meat consumption, eating as few processed foods as possible and very few junk or fast foods. Coupled with eating less sugar and fat, and eating as much seasonal, organic and local produce as possible makes such good sense; we all want to eat great-tasting food but also need the vitality and energy to cope with the demands, pressures and pace of our lives.

Eat smart: Live long – and bon appetit!

Just a few weeks ago my publishers wrote to say they're also re-releasing 'The Vegetarian Adventure", my first book written 26 years ago with Sue Carruthers-Brown in Rarotonga, and reprinted at least 10 times. This book just refuses to lie down. . I've been asked for it so many times, and I'm guessing the publishers have too - very happy it's going to be available again, and it'll be released at the same time as 'Vital".
The tahini dressing below is one I'm using a lot these days, so I recommend giving it a try. . . 

                                     Tahini Dressing  (from "Vital")
A good dressing makes all the difference in elevating an ‘okay’ salad to something much more. This dressing is one of these, and partners not only with green salads, tomato and cucumber but with boiled veg such as potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and many more. In other words, it’s wonderful ‘frig’ accessory.
Makes 1 ¼ cups.

¼ cup tahini
½ cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
Juice 1 ½ lemons
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 ½ -2 Tbsp liquid honey
½ tsp salt or to taste
¼ cup olive oil

Whisk all the ingredients together vigorously, until well combined. Transfer to a jar with a lid and store in the refrigerator – this dressing improves on standing but is also very good as soon as it is made.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Cloud Ear Noodle Salad for Dinner or Office Lunch

Our daughter Stephanie recently spent a couple of weeks in China and was lucky enough to get some cooking lessons from a family friend living there. She made this salad for us when she was here recently, along with a wonderful soba noodle salad; great for dinner or an office lunch (hopefully in a park somewhere, not the office desk) - healthy, light and delicious.

                                                   Cloud Ear Noodle Salad
It’s so gratifying to taste a dish and then experiment, ‘listening’ to your sensory memory. The fun, after all, is in the challenge of trying to replicate a taste, in taking that leap of faith that you’ll produce something worthwhile, even if it’s not exactly what you originally had in mind.
The colour and shape of cloud ear mushrooms is quite dramatic; and although they don’t have a distinctive taste of their own, they absorb the flavour of dressings and marinades, and can be used in stir fries, soups and salads. They’re also full of protein, iron and fibre.
It’s perfectly possible to eat more than your share of this salad, especially when it’s made and eaten still warm – delicious!
Serve with steamed or shallow fried Chinese dumplings, steamed buns and steamed or sautéed Asian vegetables such as choy sum or bok choy .

15g dried Cloud Ear mushrooms*
100g cellophane noodles
1 spring onion, sliced thinly on a diagonal
½ cup julienned cucumber or zucchini
2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp black sesame seeds
Toasted pumpkin seeds **

3 Tbsp black vinegar***
2 tsp liquid honey
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil

1-2 tsp wasabi

Place the mushrooms in a heat proof bowl and pour boiling water over to cover, remembering they swell to twice their dried size. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain, slice off the ‘stalk’, where the mushroom has been attached to a tree, and slice each into 2-3 pieces. Set aside
Combine the dressing ingredients thoroughly to dissolve the honey and wasabi paste, and pour over the soaked mushrooms while the remaining salad is prepared.
Cut or tear the cellophane noodle bundles into 2-3 shorter lengths if possible, although it is often easier to do this after the noodles are cooked. Drop into boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes, until translucent and tender.  Drain immediately and refresh under blood temperature water. Drain well.
Place the cooked noodles in a serving dish and top with the prepared spring onion, cucumber or zucchini, toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds.
Pour over the dressing and mushrooms and toss to combine. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds with soy sauce if wished.

*Cloud Ear mushrooms, sometimes known as Wood mushrooms or Black Fungus, are prized for a light crunchy texture and nutritional properties. Readily available in any Asian food outlet in dried form, and when hydrated swells to twice its size, so a little goes a long way.
** Toast 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds in a dry frypan over a medium heat until most have “popped”, tossing or stirring continuously. Remove from the heat immediately and toss in 1 Tbsp soy sauce. Transfer the cooked pepitas to a bowl to cool, defending them from all would-be ‘grazers’ who swing past the kitchen. Store in an airtight jar.

*** An aged rice vinegar; rich, malty, smoky and mellow. Available at any Asian food outlet.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Persimmon Heaven

                                          Baked Persimmons with Pomegranate Molasses

This very simple dish is proving to be a real hit with everyone who tastes it. I have been saying for some time now that if you don’t yet know pomegranate molasses, you haven’t lived; the very distinctive tart fruit flavour complements so many dishes, (including roasted beetroot segments, incidentally – simply drizzle a little molasses over as they come out of the oven – sublime!).
Use Fuyu persimmons that are softening –these are usually eaten as soon as they colour, and are crisp, like an apple, but for this recipe they are sweeter when ripened a little more. The butter gives a lovely gloss and the syrup is both sweet and tart, a perfect foil to the fruit.
Serves 4-6
Suitable for freezing. If using a wider dish, shorten the cooking time to suit.

1 kg persimmons, peeled and sliced thinly
3 star anise
3 Tbsp grated palm sugar or brown sugar
3 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
¼ cup roughly chopped walnuts
30g butter

Pre heat oven to 180 C.
Place the prepared persimmons in an 20cm round ovenproof dish, tucking the star anise amongst the layers. Sprinkle with the  palm or brown sugar and drizzle over the pomegranate molasses. Top with the walnuts and dot with the butter.
Bake uncovered for 45-55 minutes, or until the persimmons are well softened.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, mascarpone or plain yoghurt (or salted caramel and cashew ice cream!).

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Mmmmm Mushroom Soup

I simply can't resist foraging, and this autumn has been a bumper one for mushrooms - I come home most mornings from walking the dog with a kilo or so, and love the flavour as well as the pleasure of getting something for nothing. . .
At first we just sauteed them in butter with a little seasoning and served them with toasted ciabatta for breakfast - sublime. Then soups came to mind, and I conjured up this creamy, lightly spiced brew which just works!

Field mushrooms

and mmmm mushroom soup!
                                            Mmmmm Mushroom Soup

Apart from the pleasure of foraging to get something for nothing, gathering field mushrooms with this creamy, lightly spiced soup in mind is a treat to look forward to every Autumn. Field mushrooms give it a particularly wonderful flavour, although it’s also very very good made from cultivated mushrooms, either buttons or portobello.  The chilli provides the perfect spark but the spices don’t overpower; this is truly a soup to remember and is also quick and straightforward to make.
If using field mushrooms that have been rained on, they may be lightly waterlogged, in which case less milk will be needed – about four cups should be fine.*

120g butter
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely
1 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli powder
700g mushrooms, sliced thinly
¼ cup plain flour
4-5 cups milk *
1 ½ tsp salt or to taste and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Flat leaf parsley, chopped, for garnish.

Melt the butter over a low heat in a large, heavy based saucepan.
Sauté the garlic until fragrant, then stir in the cumin, coriander, paprika and chilli powder..Saute for 2-3 minutes, then turn up the heat and stir in the prepared mushrooms.
Saute until soft and moisture is released, 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the flour and cook, bubbling, for a few minutes., stirring. Add a little more butter or oil if needed, as this step is important to cook the flour.
Stir in half the milk, stirring constantly, and bring to simmer point before adding the remainder of the milk and bringing to simmer point again. Don’t boil.
Stir in the salt and pepper.

Pour into heated bowls and garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.

 Apart from the mushrooms, which I've now made into base soup mixtures and frozen ready to stir in the flour and milk, there is so much produce to deal with - basil to be turned into pesto and frozen, tomatillos to make into salsa base and freeze, beat the birds to the figs and the persimmons, rescue the last of the passionfruit, and deal to truckloads of feijoas.
From a kitchen filled with the smell of fresh basil, garlic, mushroom soup and freshly cooked chutneys - happy Easter!

Basil, garlic and  tomatillos


Tomatillos husked and washed

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Almost Soup Time Again

Autumn is such a bountiful season and of course one of the busiest - we've had loads of passion fruit this year, the persimmons and figs are colouring nicely, and the feijoa tree is threatening to unleash the usual truckloads of fruit in a few weeks. My vege garden is bursting with chilies, capsicums, celeriac, basil, zucchini, Cape Gooseberries and lots of herbs. I''m about to make lots of Mexican tomatillo salsa base and freeze it, I can never make enough of this -  and I'm almost over run with tomatoes, the cherry tomatoes especially have produced fantastically well. Relish, chutney and pasta/pizza sauces are all squirreled away, but before I forget to mention it, I grew two tomaccio cherry tomato plants this year with spectacular results. I love the shape of these little tomatoes, slightly oval like the datterini we loved in the Italian markets, and so sweet! Apparently they've been especially bred with a slightly thicker skin than usual, which makes them prefect for drying in an oven (3 hours at 105 C) or dehydrator. They make great snacks or add them to pizza toppings,salads etc, they're completely delicious and are heavy croppers.

As if all this bounty isn't enough, I received a royalty cheque in the mail today - my 'Relish' cookbook is selling very well - yay! I've wanted to write a chutney/relish/sauce/salsa/pickle/ plus book for quite a few years now, so I'm delighted on a number of levels.

It's not that I'm wishing the end of the good weather; on the contrary, I dread bleak days and long, cold nights. However, the leaves are turning, it's really dark when I walk the dog in the morning and there's a distinct nip in the air that intimates winter isn't too far away. A perfect time for that first soup, in fact. . .

Roasted  Red Capsicum and tomato Soup

                               Roasted Red Capsicum & Tomato Soup

Roasted capsicum & tomato soup is superb, with a simplicity and elegance that makes a perfect starter or light meal; try it alongside toasted ciabatta topped with diced fresh tomato, avocado, feta, lemon juice and fresh coriander.
Serves 6.
Freezes well.

4 red capsicums (500g)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped finely
500g tomatoes*, halved through the equator
1 medium-large red onion, peeled and cut into 6
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 litre unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
¼ cup tomato paste
2 ½ tsp salt or to taste & freshly ground pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp chilli powder
Cream to garnish (optional)
flat leaf parsley, coriander or basil plus orange zest if wished

Pre heat the oven to 190 C.
Place the capsicums on an oven tray and roast about 25 minutes - until the skins are blistered and blackened in patches. When cool enough to handle, peel and discard the core and seeds.
While the capsicums are roasting, toss the carrot in 2 Tbsp of the oil on a separate, large shallow baking tray and roast for 10 minutes.
Combine the remaining oil, the balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt and rosemary. Place the tomatoes on the tray cut side up, and drizzle with some of the oil and balsamic mix. Toss the onion with the carrots, garlic, and the remaining oil and balsamic mix.
Return the tray to the oven and roast for a further 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are cooked through. Toss the carrot/onion /garlic mix once or twice.
Cool and invert the tomatoes; pluck off the skins and discard.
Combine all the roasted vegetables, stock, tomato paste, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and chilli. Puree in batches in a processor until very smooth.
Reheat and adjust the seasoning to taste. Pour into heated serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of cream, herb of choice and some threads of orange zest if wished.

*Preferably acid free                                         

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Real Berry Jellies and Weak- at- the -Knees Lamingtons

What do you do when you can't eat anything at all because everything tastes like metal and your mouth's ulcerated and you can't keep anything down anyway? My husband's been really very ill for the last 5 months, and completely lost his appetite at times. Finding things to tempt him has been a real mission; but just when I was out of ideas he phoned me one day (from hospital) and asked for - of all things- a pink lamington, complete with whipped cream!! I guess when you're ill you elevate memories of old comforts - especially true when it comes to food, I think.

In any case, I went searching but could only find them filled with truly awful  'mock cream'. As it turned out he couldn't eat it in the end in any case - it was a feed tube for him, unfortunately.
This whole episode got me thinking, though, about how I might be able to make really good lamingtons with real fruit, so out came the pinny. ..
I'd invented some lovely raspberry jelly moulds for a Xmas feature a couple of years ago, so I revisited that recipe and simply used the jelly base to dip squares of bought sponge in - and they turned out to be such a triumph I decided to include them in my new book (for which I just sent the manuscript away last week - Yay!!!). A friend, who's been making them ever since, says her husband literally goes weak at the knees over them, hence the name.

Real Berry Jellies and Weak- at- the -Knees Lamingtons

A photo like this will be in the new book, but as you can see this one is hardly a professional image!, just snapped over Carolyn (Robertson's) shoulder as she was setting up the shot.

                                 Real Berry Jellies and Weak- at- the- Knees Lamingtons

It must be the child in all of us; jellies never go out of favour, especially when served with fresh berries and boutique ice cream. Or, dip squares of sponge in the jelly before it sets and roll in coconut for some frivolous real fruit lamingtons.
Makes 16-18 lamingtons

500g fresh or frozen raspberries (thawed)
½ cup sugar
2½ cups cranberry, pomegranate or blackcurrant juice
2 Tbsp gelatine

Jelly moulds
Place the fresh or thawed raspberries with their juice, the sugar and 2 cups of the cranberry juice in a large saucepan. Soak the gelatine in the remaining ½ cup of cranberry juice.
Heat the raspberry mixture over a medium heat and simmer 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately strain through a sieve into a bowl. Discard the seeds.
Whisk in the soaked gelatine and stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved. Pour into six ½ cup moulds.
Cover and chill for 3-4 hours until set.
Unmould the jellies onto serving plates and garnish with fresh raspberries or berries of choice and crème fraiche or homemade ice cream. 

Real Fruit Lamingtons
Grown men have been known to go weak at the knees when these are produced - honestly!

Berry jelly, as for berry jelly moulds
300g plain sponge, bought or home made
2-3 cups desiccated coconut
200ml softly whipped cream

Make the berry jelly as outlined above, and set aside to cool. Refrigerate to hasten the process once it has cooled sufficiently, but don’t allow  to set; try to catch it just as the setting process begins.
Cut the sponge into approximately 5cm squares, and dip all sides into the cold jelly.
Roll in the coconut, then either slash the top or halve through the equator of each lamington.

Fill with the softly whipped cream and serve with or without fresh berries.