Friday, November 30, 2007

Tips on chocolate

Last night a friend of my husband’s came for dinner. I did chicken breasts (free range of course!) which I rolled in chopped rosemary, salt and pepper and then wrapped in proscuitto and baked, roast kumara and jersey benne potatoes with a sour cream dressing (from the latest Dish magazine) and broccoli. But the piece de resistance was pudding! Ever since I got the Donna Hay Instant Entertaining book a couple of years ago I have wanted to make the recipe for molten chocolate puddings. I made them last night.

They were so delicious, but incredibly rich!! I can stomach pretty rich food but even I couldn’t eat my whole pudding and it really needed the cream to cut through the richness.

A few people have asked me to blog about the type of chocolate I use in my baking, so now is probably an appropriate time to do that. I always look for chocolate that has greater than 60% cocoa solids – my favourite is whittakers 70% and I also use Cadbury old gold which has 70% cocoa solids. You can get quite good results with the whittakers and Cadbury dark chocolates that have about 47% cocoa solids, but to get the really chocolatey flavour, you need more. The percentage is always listed in the ingredients list. I never use cooking chocolate as it is not really chocolate and I have never bought the really expensive stuff like valhrona as I reckon Whittakers is very good. For things like ganache and dipping truffles I use dark chocolate melts (only nestle) because they set quickly and if the filling is rich I don’t think you need such good quality chocolate. Anyway, if you have anymore questions, post a comment – but try these puddings, they are a real treat!!!!

Molten chocolate puddings

¼ c flour
1/3 c icing sugar
¾ c ground almonds
2 egg whites, beaten
80 g butter, melted
160g dark chocolate, melted
4 x 10g pieces dark chocolate

· Mix all ingredients (apart from the chocolate pieces) together.
· Divide half the mixture between 4 greased ramekins, pop a square of chocolate on top and then top up with the remaining mixture
· Bake at 160deg for 20 minutes
· Leave for 5 minutes before turning out on plates
· Serve while still warm so that the centres are flowing

Thursday, November 29, 2007

fruit cake and cous cous!

Fruit cake is not something that I like (actually I don’t like dried fruit at all), but once again it seemed like a good thing to take down to Taupo with us –Mum and Dad both really like it and it is energy dense for the bike riders!!

Christmas cake is usually the only fruit cake I make (normally I make about 20 of them, but this year have decided not to make any!!!). But I found this recipe in Taste magazine for a fruit cake with bits of chocolate in it – which of course appealed (even though I didn’t eat any of it!). The only change I made to the recipe was to add more sultanas and currants and take out the glace cherries which I know my Mum doesn’t like. The whole cake got eaten over the weekend and had good reviews. Mum said she didn’t mind the chocolate for a change, but probably prefers it without.

On a different note for dinner last night, I made lemon rubbed lamb steaks with grilled vegetable cous cous from Cuisine. Cous cous can often be quite boring, but I have two things that I nearly always put in it which seems to make it a bit more interesting – lemon juice and chicken stock. I often add a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard as well. It also can take a reasonable amount of salt (like any starchy carbohydrate in my view!!). Chopped nuts are also a good addition as the texture adds some interest. Quite a quick and easy yummy dinner.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

chocolate cheesecake brownie

In the weekend we went to Taupo because my husband and father rode round the lake in the Great Lake Cycle challenge (they did really well!!! Both with excellent times!!). My Mum and two of my three sisters came as well. An excellent excuse to do some baking!!! Brownie is always a good thing to take away as it is easy to eat and keeps well. I have my favourite brownie recipe which I adapted from another recipe (one day I will post it!), but this time I decided to do something different – hence the cheesecake brownie from Donna Hay’s chocolate book (this book seems to be getting used all the time lately!!).

The only thing I changed with the recipe, is that I used dutched cocoa rather than normal Cadburys. Dutched cocoa is processed in a different way, giving it a much stronger and intense flavour. The brand I used was equagold which is a New Zealand brand and it can be bought from my supermarket, but also specialist delicatessens. As I have been disappointed in un-chocolately flavoured baking lately, I wanted my brownie to be quite rich.

The brownie wasn’t as gooey as I like – you had to make sure that you cooked it long enough for the topping to set properly. One of my sisters said she thought it needed some chocolate chunks in the base as well. That would have made it quite delicious! So if you make this brownie, try that!!!

Chocolate cheesecake brownie

185g butter
¼ c cocoa
1 c castor sugar
2 eggs
1 c flour

250g cream cheese
6 tbsp castor sugar
2 eggs

· Mix together first 5 ingredients and pour into lined 20cm square tin
· Beat the last three ingredients together and spoon over the brownie mix, swirling to make a marbled effect
Bake at 170deg for about 35-40 minutes

Monday, November 26, 2007

I am officially a daring baker!

When I first read about the daring bakers on another blog I was so excited – this sounded exactly like my kind of thing!! I love to challenge myself and even better accept a challenge from someone else. The daring bakers are a group of bloggers and each month a different member gets to chose the recipe for the month. Each daring baker has to make the challenge and post about it on the same day. I duly applied for membership and was accepted!!! Nervously I waited to see what my first challenge would be.
I must say I was a little disappointed after reading about the fabulous sticky buns, chocolate caramel tart and other sweet confections of months gone by to find out the November challenge was potato bread chosen by Tanna from My kitchen in half cups. I know not many people make bread, but I do, not really regularly, but often – usually on a Saturday afternoon if it is just going to be the two of us for dinner and sometimes on a Sunday if I feel like some nice fresh bread with lunch. However, I have never made potato bread before and usually I use my kenwood cake mixer rather than knead the recipe by hand as the recipe called for.

So, last weekend, I duly cooked my potatoes and following the recipe to the letter, I made my potato bread. I decided to make my bread into foccacia to go with the salmon salad we were having with dinner. There were some variations allowed for the topping, but with it being my first challenge, I thought I would stick close to the recipe and make the suggested rosemary and sea salt topping.

I used my potato ricer to “mash” the potatoes. I think that helped with keeping a smooth texture for the bread. The only thing I couldn’t get at the supermarket (although you can get it at the organic store, but it wasn’t open when I started making the bread) was unbleached flour, so I just used plain. The recipe said that the mixture was quite wet so I was conscious of not adding too much flour. The kneading part went not too badly – I don’t think I kneaded it as much as I should have but it didn’t make too much difference to the end result.

The dough rose a lot more than other breads I have made – maybe it was because the mixture was more wet or maybe it was the kneading by hand? I made one large foccacia with it, and sprinkled it liberally with chopped rosemary, sea salt and drizzled it with good olive oil. The bread baked beautifully. The crust was lovely and crispy and the inside was fluffy. Even though I only made one loaf, it made enough for us to have some with our dinner (dipped into beautiful parmesan oil which I bought at Sileni Estate in the Hawkes Bay earlier in the year), and I was able to cut the remainder into two decent sized loaves which I froze for another day. My husband said it was some of the best foccacica he has tasted!!! And that is my seal of approval!!!

So, even though initially I wasn’t too excited about my first challenge , in the end it gave me everything I hoped for – I tried something different, using a new technique and it was successful. I cant wait for the December challenge!!! You can see how the other daring bakers did here.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

chocolate pecan slice

One of my naughty sneaky treats when there is nothing else sweet in the house is to dip a teaspoon into the condensed milk tin, sprinkle a couple of chocolate chips on top and eat it! You are probably thinking yuck! But I love the taste of condensed milk and chocolate together. So when I saw that you can now by chocolate flavoured condensed milk I had to buy it!!

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it though and it has been sitting in the pantry for a while. But a few months ago I cut out a recipe from Taste magazine for a slice that used the chocolate condensed milk. I made it last night. The base is a simple butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and flour mix and the topping is simply the tin of condensed milk melted together with some milk chocolate. I dotted the top with pecans. At first I thought that the base was too cakey, but after my second piece(!) it is really yummy! Best kept in the fridge and eaten cold from there.

By the way I have posted before about the good vanilla that I use and that I also keep some cheaper stuff for baking for home. Well, Hansells have brought out a new vanilla that is obviously not as good quality as the real stuff (the price is too cheap for that!) but that has vanilla seeds in it and is pretty jolly good!! I bought some in the weekend (it is about $6) and used it in the slice base last night. I would use it again for recipes where the vanilla flavour is not too pronounced – it is not as good as the good stuff but is miles and miles ahead of any “imitation vanilla essence”.

Chocolate pecan slice

125g butter melted
½ c brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ c flour
1 tsp b powder

· Mix all ingredients together, press into a 27 x 18cm slice tin
· Bake at 180deg for 10 minutes

1 x 395g tin chocolate condensed milk
1 c chopped milk chocolate

Melt these ingredients together, pour over partially booked base and top with chopped nuts (I used pecans). Bake for a further 20 minutes at 180 deg

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

is it a cupcake or a muffin?

Our neighbours came over last night to have a look at the plans for the new house to make sure that they are happy with them. I quickly whipped up some muffins, using this recipe for chocolate peanut muffins from Taste magazine – I guess they are a little like a muffin version of a peanut slab.

So, what makes these muffins instead of cupcakes? I think a lot of it is to do with the texture – cakes are a lot airier than muffins which have a denser texture. Also, cakes tend to have a higher fat content and often more eggs than muffins. Muffins are usually just made by combining the wet and dry ingredients separately and then mixing together. Also, muffins usually don’t have icing whereas cakes often do.

I don’t usually bake my muffins in cupcake cases either – but I have discovered that where muffins have chunks of chocolate in them, no matter how well you grease the tins, the chocolate can get stuck in the tin. Putting them into paper cases saves this happening.

These muffins were nice. The chunks of chocolate definitely made them, otherwise they would be quite plain. I only used the 3tbsp cocoa suggested in the recipe, but mine didnt look nearly as dark as the photo in the magazine - they probably could have done with a bit more cocoa, but then I am quite a chocolate fan!!! The recipe suggested putting a square of chocolate on top, but I didn't, as I thought I was likely to eat all the tops of them!!! :0) Good lunch box fillers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

a quick and easy cake

In the weekend my husband had a work picnic. Even though the company was providing the bbq, I thought it would be nice to bring a cake. I made this cake using a recipe from Nigel Slater’s book The Kitchen Diaries. I love the way Nigel Slater writes. This book in particular is more of a memoir than a cook book, even though it contains hundreds of recipes. But it is the stories that go with the food that is interesting – his reason for making particular things. Also, the book is about eating in seasons which I think is really important.

Interestingly this pear and blueberry cake is not really that seasonal even though I picked it from May chapter which is the equivalent of our southern hemisphere November. Pears are more autumnal and even though we are heading into berry season we are not quite there yet and the cost of fresh blueberries is prohibitive. So, I used frozen blueberries but fresh pears. This was an incredibly easy cake to make and it tasted really good as well. We obviously had it cold at the picnic, but it would be delicious warm with whipped cream!! You could also use pretty much any fruit on top - a great stand by to whip up for unexpected visitors!!

Last night’s dinner was yummy – fish (gurnard which is my favourite!) spread with a paste of dill and parsley (both from Matakana market), Dijon mustard and lemon juice then flash roasted, with a Greekish salad of cucumber, red pepper, tomatoes (all from the Matakana market!) and olives with a dressing of natural yoghurt (Cyclops is my favourite!!), chopped mint and basil, lemon juice and feta. Lovely and summery and also pretty healthy!!!

Pear and Blueberry cake (Nigel Slater)

130g butter
130g castor sugar
2 eggs
130g flour
1 tsp baking powder
250g blueberries
2 small pears, peeled, cored and diced

· Cream butter and sugar then add eggs, one at a time
· Stir in flour and baking powder
· Spoon into lined 20cm square cake tin. Scatter blueberries and pears over top and sprinkle with some extra sugar
Bake at 180 deg for 45-50 minutes

Monday, November 19, 2007

A trip to the markets

On Saturday we went to Matakana with some friends. I love going up there – the farmers market is just fantastic and the way they are re-creating the wee town is awesome! I love going to markets because you can talk to the people who grown and create the produce. I also like to find some different things – things you don’t normally find in the fruit and veggie shop.

Saturday was a gorgeous day weather wise and the market was busy. I got some fabulous things – beautiful strawberries (I ate nearly the whole punnet giving my husband only 2!!), freshly dug Maori potatoes, beautiful dill, rosemary and parsley, gorgeous vine tomatoes and some lovely mustard among other things. I also got some quail eggs – not sure what I am going to do with them yet!! I was also pleased to see that some of my favourite stall holders from the Takapuna markets are at the Matakana markets – good to know that I am not missing out by not being able to go up there each week!!!

When we came home on Saturday night I made a lovely hot smoked salmon salad for dinner using fresh asparagus and the dill from the market. The dressing was made with buttermilk, mayonnaise and fresh herbs. I didn’t have any mayonnaise in the fridge, so I made some. I just love the small bowl of my magimix food processor for making mayonnaise –it turns out perfectly every time!!!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Am I a cupcake hero?

Well, this is my first blog event – cupcake hero challenge. The challenge for November was to create a cupcake with cranberries in it. I really tried hard to make my cupcakes interesting!! And I am so pleased and proud with how they have turned out!!!

Cranberries are not that easy to find in NZ. I did get some frozen ones last year which I used to make cranberry relish, but for the challenge I decided to use craisins – dried cranberries. As the challenge is from a US based blogger and it is November, I thought that I would try and incorporate some of the aspects of Thanksgiving into my cupcakes. I also wanted them to have a number of different elements – not just cake and icing.

So, using that as my starting point I looked through some of my books for inspiration and I came across a pear, pecan and cranberry up-side down cake. I worked the idea around in my head for a few days and came up with a cupcake topped with caramelised pears and craisins, then iced with maple syrup butter cream icing with a shard of pecan praline on top!!!! I was so excited when the idea came together!!

I am so pleased with how they look!! They also taste delicious – the cake is nice and light and then you get these bits of caramelised, slightly toffeed fruit through the cake (there are more cranberries in them than what it looks like in the photo). The icing is quite sweet and creamy and then the crunchy bits of pecan praline! Yum!!!

Caramelised pear & cranberry cupcakes with maple icing

3 pears, peeled and sliced
½ c craisins
50g butter
½ c castor sugar

· Melt together butter and sugar, add fruit and cook until caramelised

180g softened butter
300g castor sugar
3 eggs
½ tsp vanilla
315g flour
3 tsp baking powder
250ml milk

· Cream butter and sugar; add eggs, one at a time and vanilla
· Mix in flour and baking powder alternatively with milk
· Spoon into 24 cupcake cases. Top with the caramelised fruit and bake at 170deg for about 17 minutes

Make icing by creaming 200g softened butter with 2 tbsp maple syrup. Beat in about 4-5 c icing sugar and about ¼ c milk until you get the icing a good consistency

To make the praline, put 75ml water and 1 c sugar in a pot. Stir over a gentle heat until sugar is melted. Turn up heat and simmer until the toffee starts to caramelise. Stir in about ¾ c toasted pecans and turn out onto a tray. Break into pieces once cooled and hardened.

Ice the cooled cakes with the icing and then place a piece of praline on top :0)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

double chocolate cookies

I made these double chocolate cookies last night as a gift. There seems to be a bit of a chocolate theme going on for me at the moment!!! I actually do have a tried and true double chocolate cookie recipe (in fact I usually make them triple chocolate by adding in chunks of white chocolate as well) that I actually created, but, as you can probably tell I do try and use all the cook books and magazines that I buy and so last night I made a recipe from the Donna Hay chocolate book. I have used this book quite a lot lately and I like it.

These cookies were great. I added another 1/2c flour to the recipe as the mixture was way too moist. The end result was quite large cookies, probably a little flatter than I would like, but crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, with lots of large chunks of chocolate. I would make them again!

Double Chocolate Cookies

110g softened butter
¾ c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2c flour (this includes the extra half cup that I added)
¼ c cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
125g dark chocolate, melted
190g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

· Cream butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla
· Stir in flour, cocoa and baking soda, then melted chocolate
· Stir through chocolate chunks
· Roll into balls, put on tray and flatten slightly
Bake at 170 deg for about 14 minutes

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another pinny!

How cute is this apron???? Another gorgeous creation by Monique!!! The pattern from this apron was taken from a gorgeous French apron that my parents gave me for my birthday. My friend, Jenny, cut out the pattern and sent it to Monique who made the apron. The blue gingham material has little cherries over it and it exactly like the fabric of my favourite dress my Mum made me when I was about 9 – it was lemon gingham with little strawberries all over it. The reverse side is red polka dot.

Monique is so clever!!! I think I may have to just wear aprons all the time!!!!

I mostly try and post my sweet treats on this blog. However, here is dinner from last night - fish flash roasted in a mixture of sweet chilli sauce, lemon juice and ginger, brown rice (which I much prefer to white) and organic silverbeet from the Takapuna markets sauteed in a little sesame oil. A really yummy, healthy dinner. The fish was gurnard which I love – it holds itself together well and has a slightly sweet flavour.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

but wait there's more......

I’m a little bit over making chocolate cupcakes!! This is the fourth week in a row I have made them for this marketing thing at work. I have probably been a bit silly as well because instead of sticking to my tried and true recipe I have made a different one each week so that I don’t get bored!

This week I made the recipe for chocolate cupcakes from the Magnolia bakery. Apparently this is the bakery in New York that started the cupcake craze – it was featured on Sex in the City (I think I am the only person in their 30s who has never seen this programme!!). Unfortunately, these cakes weren’t that great. They weren’t chocolatey enough and I think that the proportion of sugar to flour was all wrong! They seemed to rise up and then crack around the edges of the cupcake wrapper. My husband said that he didn’t think I should use them, but I figured that they would taste ok and by the time I iced them they would look a lot better.

The usual ganache icing I use for chocolate cupcakes didn’t seem right as it is a lot darker and richer than these cakes, so I made a chocolate butter cream icing. They actually taste quite nice but I like a chocolate cake that is denser and fudgey – I think I will stick to my standard recipe from now on – no matter how boring I find it to be making the same thing!

Monday, November 12, 2007

friends for dinner

On Saturday we had our first real dinner party in the 1970s house. Well, it wasn’t a dinner party so much but the first time that we have had friends over. It was a gorgeous night so we had a bbq.

For starters I roasted some olives in a mixture of fennel seeds, garlic and dried chillies. I like those Greek olives that come in a can (cant remember the name but I think it starts with P). When olives are roasted, the flavour intensifies and they become even more delicious. I served them with some Turkish flat bread and some hummus that I made, adding some preserved lemons for something different. The lemons added a depth of flavour to the hummus.

Steak on the bbq was the meat of choice. I marinated scotch fillet in a mixture of crushed olives, garlic, thyme, olive oil and lemon juice. Salads were a baby spinach salad with toasted almonds and a lemon vinaigrette (I think I have mentioned before that I like very simple green salads, I am not a fan of having everything in the vege bin chopped up and put on top of the salad!!), and an orzo salad with mushrooms cooked in olive oil and lots of garlic with telegraph hill balsamic drizzle and chopped baby spinach tossed through. This was a great flavour combination.

And for pudding……. I have never made lemon meringue pie before, but when Michelle (who came for dinner) mentioned it was her favourite dessert, I thought I would try making it. I looked through all my cook books to find a recipe and decided to use one from an Australian womens weekly book, Old-Fashioned Favourites, that I got for Christmas when I was a teenager. It turned out so well – it was one of the nicest desserts I have had. The pastry was lovely and short and slightly sweet, the filling was gorgeously tart and very silky and the meringue was light and marshmallowy. So good!!! I will be making this again!!!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Yummy fritters

As I have mentioned before, on Thursday nights I often make something fairly easy for dinner. The price of courgettes seems to be coming down as we head towards summer and l had bought some earlier in the week. So I used them last night to make these courgette, ham and pesto fritters. They were so yummy!!!!

The base mixture was from Annabel Langbein’s best of (an absolute cook book must have!!!!) and was 2 eggs, 1 c self raising flour and ½ c soda water. To that I added 3 grated courgettes, about ¼ c grated parmesan, some chopped shaved ham and about ¼ c pesto (I had this in the freezer - I had made a whole lot up in Summer from the basil I had grown in the garden). When I am just cooking at home for the two of us, I try not to use too much oil, so rather than frying the fritters in oil, I just sprayed the pan with olive oil spray.

They weren’t as crisp on the outside as they would have been if I had cooked them in oil, but they were still so yummy and we managed to devour the whole lot!!! Especially nice with my home made tomato chilli jam!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

not quite pinwheel biscuits

Last night I made some biscuits for a gift, but they didn’t turn out quite like I was hoping, so I’ve given them to a friend for her children. The recipe was a Julie Le Clerc one that I ripped out of a womens weekly for pinwheel cookies. They didn’t work out well for me though. For starters there wasn’t enough butter to make a nice smooth dough – I ended up adding more butter to the chocolate mix. But then the butter I added to the chocolate mix melted and the dough ended up being crumbly, as dough made with melted butter can be.

So I tried to roll the two mixes out together and roll up, but my funny crumbly mixture all cobbled together and so the biscuits are now marble biscuits rather than pinwheel!!! They actually look quite good I think, but the flavour is not chocolatey enough for me. A good biscuit for the lunch box but not special enough to give as some wee treats.

Actually, dinner last night was really yummy. My husband said he would like something with mince (you would think reading my posts that mince is all we eat – it’s honestly not!!! Maybe once every two weeks!!) but with Asian flavours. So, I cooked the meat with some chopped ginger, lemon grass, chilli flakes, lemon juice and fish sauce and it was so yummy!! I stirred through chopped coriander at the end and sprinkled over some roasted peanuts. We had it with hokkein noodles and what else this time of year, but asparagus!!!! :0)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Apron obsession

I love aprons!!!! I am never in the kitchen without one on. A few weeks ago on Jane’s Apron, Julie posted about an apron that she bought from this gorgeous looking on-line shop. Unfortunately they don’t ship to NZ. But it got me and my friend, Jenny, thinking! Jenny is very crafty and has lots of clever crafty friends. Jenny e-mailed her friend Monique, I went to spotlight and got some fabric and here is the beautiful apron Monique has made me for me.

Isn’t she clever!!!! Monique also makes very cool bracelets and she has been making some for me for myself and for presents. You can see some of her designs on her blog. I am so delighted with my new apron and can’t wait for it to arrive!!!

Last night we had pork schnitzel for dinner. Loosley following a recipe from Cuisine I crumbed it in a mixture of panko crumbs, slivered almonds, thyme and parsley. My husband said it was the best schnitzel he has tasted. Not being a great pork lover I only had a small taste but it was pretty good. I served it with pommes fondant (basically potatoes kept whole but sliced almost the whole way through and cooked in chicken stock), some apples sautéed in butter with dried cranberries and asparagus (can’t get enough of the stuff!!).

Monday, November 5, 2007

more chocolate cupcakes....

More chocolate cupcakes yesterday for this work marketing thing we are doing (taking cupcakes to agents for their morning tea with some of our brochures). This time I used another recipe from the Donna Hay chocolate book. It was for double chocolate cupcakes and had melted dark chocolate as well as cocoa. The cakes baked to a really yummy consistency. The melted chocolate made them quite moist. The icing is like a chocolate ganache, but whipped once the ganache sets. Then I piped it onto the cakes. I think next week I might try something different to chocolate!

In the weekend we had a seventies party at our house. It was a pot luck dinner and as well as dressing up in seventies clothing, everyone had to bring seventies food. It was fantastic! Nibbles included chip & dip, sausage rolls, pate and baguette and pineapple and cheese on toothpicks stuck in an orange! The mains included beef stroganoff, lasagne, coleslaw and ice berg salad with condensed milk mayonnaise.

For my main I made a yummy chicken dish. The recipe comes from my Mum’s cousin – you make a roué sauce using chicken stock and milk, break up a cooked chicken, place in a baking dish, pour over the sauce and scatter over fresh breadcrumbs, some melted butter, chopped herbs, grated cheese and chopped bacon or ham. It is so yummy! Quite retro but really good hearty food!

Friday, November 2, 2007

You say tomato....

I have never liked tomatoes. When I was a small child I went into the greenhouse of someone that my parents were visiting and ate a whole heap of green tomatoes which made me sick. I am sure that is why I don’t like them. Anything with cooked tomato I am fine with, but I will always pick the tomato out of a salad or a filled roll and I would never make or eat anything that was simply tomatoes.

That is until I went to Italy. In Italy I tried my first tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes – they taste like a summer’s day – slightly fragrant. In NZ we can also get pretty good tomatoes now. The best are those you grow yourself – especially the cherry tomatoes that you can pick straight off the vine while you are pegging out the washing!

Early season tomatoes have now started to hit the shops. I bought some earlier in the week and made a delicious salad from them last night. It was loosely following a recipe in the latest Julie Le clerc womens weekly magazine. It was basically tomatoes, some sliced and some cut into wedges, then tossed with basil leaves and a dressing of 3 tbsp good olive oil and 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses (another one of those things that I think you absolutely must have in the cupboard!!). It was delicious. We had it with falafel made from frozen peas and chickpeas, based on a recipe from the latest Donna Hay magazine. Really nice for a change! I think I ate half the salad before my husband was even home for dinner!

And here are a couple of cards I made earlier in the week :0)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Bill's new book and spring salad

I can never resist a new cook book and I can’t make myself wait until Whitcoulls has 25% off – I have to have it now! So when I went into Whitcoulls yesterday and the latest Bill Granger book was on the shelf, I had to have it then!!!

I really like Bill Granger’s books – he uses fresh ingredients and has lots of gorgeous photos. The recipes are pretty simple, but I like his style. I have only been to Sydney once, but going to Bills (Bill Granger’s iconic café) was definitely on my to do list! Bills is famous for its breakfasts and when I went I actually had porridge with caramelised bananas! This may sound an odd choice, but porridge is actually one of my favourite foods!! I make up my own blend each morning for breakfast. It incorporates a mix of organic rolled oats, rye flakes, spelt flakes and barley flakes. Once cooked, I sprinkle over some sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds and serve it with yoghurt and milk. Delicious! I actually look forward to my breakfast when I go to bed!!!

Anyway, Bill’s new book, Holiday, is great! I had a read through last night. Lots of pretty pictures and great everyday recipes. I look forward to using it!

Last night for dinner I made a rice and smoked fish pie from the Julie Le Clerc womens weekly magazine. It was basically a mixture of smoked fish (I used smoked blue cod that I had bought at the Albany farmers market), cooked rice, eggs and cheese. I made a delicious spring salad to go with it, based on a recipe in the latest Dish magazine. I used rocket, blanched asparagus and peeled broad beans with a dressing of white wine vinegar, crushed garlic and hazelnut oil. It is amazing how something so simple can taste so good!!!