Thursday, July 31, 2008

Apricot Macaroons

As you have probably already guessed, I bake to show my love and I also bake to show my appreciation. Whenever one of my staff members has a birthday I always like to bake them some wee treats as a birthday gift, but it is also a token of how much I appreciate them. I also try to make something a little different.

It was two staff members birthdays last week and I made them these little macaroons. They are not macaroons in the true French style as we often see on Tartlette’s blog, but are more of an English version (I think). They are apricot and white chocolate macaroons. They are made in little paper cases which is probably just as well as they are crumbly little things. They are lovely and light though and something a little different. Each macaroon is merely a mouthful and it is sometimes nice to have a wee treat that you can eat in just one bite. The recipe comes from the Australian Womens Weekly cook book entitled “Sweet”.

Apricot and White Chocolate Macaroons (AWW “Sweet”)

40g dried apricots, finely chopped and soaked in 1 tsp cointreau
1 egg white
55g castor sugar
75g coconut
1 tbsp white chocolate, very finely chopped

· Beat egg white until soft peaks form, then add sugar a little at a time until mixture is nice and glossy
· Fold in remaining ingredients
Spoon into mini cupcake cases and bake at 150c for 15-20 minutes

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No DB for me this month

Today is a Daring Bakers posting day – unfortunately I just didn’t get to it this month, but I look forward to next month’s challenge. See how the other Daring Bakers did here.

I really wish that I had more time to practise my cookie decorating techniques. I am sure I would get better if I had time to practice! I may set myself the goal of practising decorating at least once every two weeks so that I am not forever disappointed with my attempts!

A couple of weeks ago our friends Teresa and Graeme got engaged and I made them these engagement ring cookies. I was kind of pleased with them but kind of not. I think that the little sparkles on the “rock” part of the cookies look quite good, but I was disappointed with how the gold dust turned out on the band part. I added some alcohol to the gold dust and painted it on, but I’m not sure that I did it right. Anyway, I do need to do some practice!

My husband is away for a couple of nights at a family funeral, so I am making meals for one. I don’t normally go to too much bother when he is away. Last night I made one of my stand bys, corn and ginger soup. It is loosely based on a Bill Granger recipe and is chicken stock with corn (I use frozen), freshly grated ginger, sliced spring onions, soy sauce to taste and a drop of sesame oil. It’s a lovely cleansing soup and nice and quick to make for one!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TWD - Summer Fruit Galette

This week’s TWD recipe was chosen by Michelle from Michelle in Colorado Springs and is summer fruit galette. Well, it is not particularly summery here in NZ at the moment, but I still liked the idea of a summer fruit galette. It may seem odd, but I actually don’t like stoned fruit other than plums and cherries, but I felt like making something sunny looking after the stormy weekend we had, so I used a can of apricot halves.

The galette used Dorie’s Good For Everything pastry, which was also used in the blueberry pie a few weeks ago. The recipe has shortening in it and last time I used kremelta instead, but this time I decided to use all butter. After resting and rolling out the pastry, you spread the base with jam, top with crushed graham crackers and your fruit, bake for about 25 minutes and then pour over a little custard made with melted butter, sugar and an egg.

I chose home made apricot jam to go with my apricots which gave a real apricoty flavour. We don’t have Graham crackers in NZ, so I used a couple of crushed up girl guide biscuits to crumble over the jam. I guess this is to absorb some of the juices from the fruit. I drained the apricots in a sieve before I placed them on the galette. The custard part was a yummy addition – it was almost like frangipane but without the ground nuts. My only comment is that it made way too much for the size of my tart (I was a bit lazy and didn’t roll the pastry out as thinly as I probably should have so my galette was smaller than it might have been) and I ended up tipping most of it down the waste disposal. The idea is good though.

The galette was delicious. I almost couldn’t wait for it to cool down enough to try a slice. I softly whipped some cream to go with it and it was perfect - I think it is the pie crust which makes the galette so good. The pastry would even be good just spread with jam and baked and eaten with whipped cream!

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Catching up with Dorie

Before I joined the TWD group, they had already baked their way through nine of the recipes. I have been trying to play catch up when I get a chance and have got 5 recipes to go before I have caught up. I made the orange berry muffins on Saturday bringing that number down to 4.

On Saturday we were battoning down the hatches for what they were predicting as the storm of the decade. I still wasn’t feeling very well and my husband also had a bit of my chest infection, so we were all tucked up in the lounge with the newspapers, books and blankets. I thawed some pea and ham soup I made a few weeks ago for our lunch and made Dorie’s orange and blueberry muffins to go with them. The muffins were lovely – nice and light and I really liked the orange with the blueberry. I froze what we didn’t eat. Luckily I had finished my baking when the power cut. The storm was yuck, but I don’t think it was as bad as what they had predicted.

Last night I was home alone for dinner. I had salmon in the fridge from the night before which I wasn’t able to cook with no power. I marinated it in a combination of natural yoghurt, smoked paprika and ground star anise, hot roasted it in the oven and served it with bulghar wheat with lots of lime juice and baby spinach.

Friday, July 25, 2008

mid winter dinner party

When Mum and Dad were here last week we had friends over for dinner. It was a week night so I did a roast of sirloin which is always nice and easy to prepare and cook. I rubbed it with a mix of horseradish and balsamic before roasting for about 50 minutes.

I served it with cous cous and green beans. A lot of people find cous cous bland, but if you dress it up right, it is delicious. I added cubes of roasted pumpkin to mine as well toasted, slivered almonds. I also added a teaspoon of cinnamon, lots of lemon zest and juice and a drizzle of good olive oil. I always season cous cous well – it can take quite a lot of salt (I always use sea salt).

For pudding we had individual golden syrup and raspberry steamed puddings. The recipe comes from Dish magazine. These puddings are lovely and light. They have the juice and zest of a lime which gives a zingy contrast to the sweetness of the golden syrup. The raspberries add a little interest, but unfortunately mine turned a dark colour so didn’t have the vivid red of raspberries as a contrast. I also forgot to fold the extra raspberries into the pudding batter, but they still tasted good. Having your own little pudding is a great thing at a dinner party – it means know worries in cutting up a pudding evenly and does look like you have gone to a little more effort, whether or not that is true! And, golden syrup steamed pudding is a real old fashioned favourite that just about everyone enjoys!!

Steamed Golden Syrup and Raspberry Puddings (from Dish magazine)

100g butter
100g sugar
2 eggs
zest and juice of 1 lime
1/3 c plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla
175g self raising flour
3 c frozen raspberries
6 tbsp golden syrup

· Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time
· Stir in lime zest and juice, yoghurt and vanilla
· Gently fold in the dry ingredients and 2 cups of raspberries.
· Spoon 1 tbsp golden syrup into each of 6 greased ramekins. Top with a few of the remaining raspberries and then divide batter between ramekins
· Place greased foil over the top of each ramekin, place in a roasting dish and fill with enough boiling water to come half way up the sides of the ramekins
· Bake at 200c for 25-35 minutes until firm
To serve, run a knife around each pudding and up-end onto a serving plate

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coffee Walnut Slice

Lucky that I did lots of baking last week, so I have still got things to blog about this week, as I haven’t been doing any baking since I got sick on Saturday!! Yesterday I posted about how I made Belgium Biscuits for my father. Well, my mother’s special request was for coffee slice. She explained how her new favourite thing is coffee slice with a wine biscuit base (wine biscuits are the NZ version of what I imagine Graham crackers are like) and creamy icing and walnuts on top. It doesn’t really sound like my kind of thing (I don’t like coffee and am not a huge fan of biscuit based cakes), but like a good daughter, I did my best to re-create Mum’s new favourite.

When I make chocolate fudge slice, I use Mum’s recipe which is simply melted butter, condensed milk, cocoa and crushed biscuits. I had thought of doing this but leaving out the cocoa and adding coffee. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that the condensed milk might be a bit sweet. So I flicked through some books until I found an Annabel Langbein recipe for chocolate slice which had an egg and sugar in the base instead of condensed milk. I adapted this base for my coffee slice by leaving out the cocoa and adding instant coffee dissolved in hot water. I iced the slice with a simple icing of melted butter, icing sugar and coffee dissolved in hot water and topped it with fresh walnuts.

The walnuts are delicious. I bought them in their shells from the Takapuna market and they taste nothing like walnuts you buy at the supermarket. If you don’t like walnuts, it may be because you have never tried fresh – they are like eating something completely different!

Coffee Walnut Slice

1 egg, lightly beaten
120g butter
1/3 c castor sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in hot water
250g plain biscuits, crushed (I used girl guide biscuits)

· Heat butter, sugar, egg and coffee together until smooth
· Add crushed biscuits (I crushed mine with a rolling pin so that there were still chunks of biscuit)
· Press into 20x18cm lined tin and chill
Ice with coffee icing and scatter with chopped walnuts

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Belgium Biscuits

I have mentioned before that Mum and Dad were up over the weekend. The perfect excuse to do some baking! Dad’s favourite is Belgium biscuits and on this occasion he had specifically asked if I would make him some! Belgium biscuits are a real kiwi favourite. I am not sure how the name originated, but they are effectively a spiced biscuit joined together with raspberry jam and one side is iced, usually with white or pale pink icing and decorated with pink jelly crystals. I usually lightly colour my icing pink and also add a dash of raspberry essence.

I have a couple of different recipes that I use when making Belgium biscuits – one has a little cocoa and golden syrup in it. The other just has spices added to give the distinctive spiced flavour. One of my treasures is an old recipe book of my Nana’s (Dad’s Mum) in which she has written her own variations of recipes and comments on the recipes she likes. One of the recipes is for Aunty Bubs’ Belgium biscuits (Aunty Bubs was actually Nana’s aunty, but she lived well into her 90s and I remember her well). I decided to make Aunty Bubs’ Belgium biscuits for Dad.

The biscuits are lovely and crisp – the trick is to join them together with jam as you go, rather that joining them all at once, as they tend to go soft. Dad loved them. If you haven’t tried them before, have a go at making them. They are really easy!

Aunty Bubs’ Belgium Biscuits

120g butter
90g brown sugar
1 egg
1 heaped tsp each cinnamon and mixed spice
1 tsp baking powder
225g flour

· Cream butter and sugar, them mix in egg
· Stir in dry ingredients
· Roll out dough thinly and cut into round (or other shapes)
· Bake @ 180c for 15 minutes
· Once cool, ice half the biscuits with simple icing made with icing sugar and hot water and a touch of pink food colouring (optional). Sprinkle with raspberry flavoured jelly crystals. Join iced tops with plain bottoms, using raspberry jam.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TWD - Rhubarb Cobbler

I am still at home sick today - feeling better than yesterday but still not that well, but I had to post my TWD challenge for the week. The recipe this week is rhubarb and cherry cobbler chosen by Amanda from Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake. This is the second cobbler we have done which is quite funny, given that I had never made a cobbler before until that first challenge!

My Mum loves rhubarb, so it was opportune that she was staying on Sunday night when I made it. Cherries arent in season in NZ at the moment (and even if they were I think it is sacriledge to cook our beautiful big central Otago cherries!) and I am not a big dan of canned cherries, so I used plums (canned) to bulk out my rhubarb.

This particular cobbler was a mix of wholemeal and plain flour and instead of rolling out the cobbler dough as we did for the previous cobbler, you put balls of dough on top of the fruit (a bit like dumplings). There was a little ground ginger added to the fruit and to the dough - I doubled the amount added to the dough but there was still only a hint of ginger in the taste of the pudding.

We had the cobbler with softly whipped cream. We all loved it. It is a bit like eating scones with fruit. The wholemeal flour gave a yummy nuttiness and extra depth to the dough. I would try this again.

See what the other TWDers thought here

Monday, July 21, 2008

Madeira Loaf

I am actually home sick today - I pride myself on never getting sick, but I feel just terrible- a real flu and chest infection! I thought I would make this quick post while I am feeling slightly better (having slept for most of the morning).

My parents have been up staying since last Wednesday. We have been having a fabulous time! On Saturday we went to the new Takapuna Beach Cafe for lunch. The food is fabulous! I particularly like how the sweet treats are on a table in the middle of the cafe under large glass domes. Thdre were so many things I could have chosen - the nut caramel tarts looked especially delicious! In the end I left the choice to my Mum and she chose a thick slab of madeira loaf. It was delicious - lovely and moist.

When we got home on Saturday afternoon I got it into my head that I wanted to make Madeira loaf myself, so I looked through some books and ended up making the recipe from Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess. Unfortunately I cooked my loaf just a fraction too long. I wouldnt say that my loaf was dry at all, but I loved the almost undercooked moistness of the loaf we had tried in the afternoon.

Madeira Loaf is a quick and easy loaf to make. It is yummy while still slightly warm and can be converted into a yummy dessert by serving with thick yoghurt or cream. My usual madeira loaf recipe and other tips on how to serve loaves, can be found in the feature I wrote for the Foodlovers website here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

July Cupcake Hero - Red, White and Blue

The July Cupcake Hero theme was chosen by Clara from I heart cupcakes and Nikki from Crazy Delicious. They went with the red, white and blue theme – I guess because of the Fourth of July. For someone who is not immersed in American culture it has been interesting reading blogs – I didn’t realise how big the Fourth of July is! Clara and Nikki said not to just use food colouring as the way of keeping with the theme. My cupcakes have ended up looking quite American, but I think they are kind of cute!

The cake itself is red velvet cake. This is something that once again is very American – I have never tried it before and have never seen it for sale in a shop in NZ. I used a recipe from the Whimsical Bakehouse mini cake book. The cake has a little cocoa powder, so tastes like a light chocolate cake. It also has red food colouring in it to give it the red appearance. The cake is very yummy – I was really pleased with the nice cakey texture – lovely and moist.

I filled the cakes with blueberry jam which I made myself last year, but you could use any blueberry jam. I tried to fill the cakes using a Bismarck tip which I bought but havent used yet (this is a tip which you more or less inject into the cake, squeeze and it fills the cake). Unfortunately, even though I whizzed the jam in my mini prep to make it smoother, the blueberries were still too big to fit down the tip, so I ended up cutting the tops off the cakes and filling the centres that way.

The topping is simply whipped cream with a little vanilla and icing sugar added. I then topped the cupcakes off with little shortbread stars which I covered in red and blur drageese. You could use the same approach for any shaped biscuits, but the stars are sticking with the American theme.

Red Velvet and Blueberry Cupcakes (adapted from Little Cakes from the Whimsical Bakehouse)

240g butter
1 ½ c castor sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp red food colouring
1 c butter milk
1 tsp each white vinegar and vanilla
2 tbsp cocoa
2 ½ c flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ c blueberry jam

· Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, one at a time
· Mix in food colouring, vinegar and vanilla
· Stir in dry ingredients and buttermilk alternately
· Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 170c for 20-25 minutes
Once cold cut off tops and fill with blueberry jam. Top with a swirl of whipped cream and a shortbread star

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On a Mission

The perfect chocolate chip cookie is something I have always been on a mission to make. In my mind there are two kinds of chocolate chip cookie – what I think of as the American one which is made with butter, eggs and usually two kinds of sugar, and the New Zealand version which is made with butter, condensed milk and white sugar. I love both kinds. The NZ chocolate chip cookie is the one from my childhood – an easy but yummy biscuit to quickly whip up. This blog entry is about the American version.

There is always great debate as to what is the perfect cookie. Joy from Joy the Baker has run a series on it on her blog over the last week. My perfect cookie is crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle with a certain amount of thickness that gives the cookie substance. I also like lots of chocolate! The double chocolate pecan cookies I made last week were a fantastic texture – I must try those without the cocoa powder to see what the they are like.

On Sunday I thought I would try Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I had already tried the variation on them when I made her peanutbutter chocolate chip cookies – they were fantastic. In fact my sister took them home with her, gave one to her boyfriend and told him that she had made them (she doesn’t even know what creaming butter is!!!). He said they were the best cookies he has tasted –when she asked me for the recipe I said not until you tell him that I made them, not you!

Anyway, I digress!! Back to the normal CCCs. Dorie’s CCCs were nowhere near my best attempt at making CCCc. They are way too flat. The flavour is nice, but they are also slightly too crisp. The pre-dominant sugar is white sugar – I think I prefer more brown sugar than white. There is also only a small amount of baking soda in the cookies – I think they need more raising agent. I must admit that I did not use the best chocolate I had on hand, just using chocolate chips and I was a bit mean with them, but I don’t think that would have made a difference.

I was disappointed with the flat crisp cookies. I am still on a mission. I will keep you posted…

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TWD - chocolate pudding

This week’s TWD recipe was picked by Melissa of It’s Melissa’s Kitchen and is chocolate pudding. Chocolate pudding is another one of those desserts that seems to be an American thing. We do have instant pudding in NZ, which is a packet of sugary stuff that you beat with milk and then set in the fridge. I am not sure if American pudding is similar to that, but I do know that Dorie’s home made chocolate pudding is a million times more delicious that NZ chocolate instant pudding!!!!

The other thing I liked about this pudding is that it transcends seasons. One of the disadvantages in participating in what is essentially a Northern hemisphere challenge is that anything fruit based is round the wrong way (ie no berries, stone fruit or melons here for us at the moment, unless you buy foreign fruit which I just don’t want to do). Thankfully chocolate is good anytime of the year!

The pudding is like a cross between real custard and chocolate mousse. You heat your milk with a little sugar, blitz an egg, cornflour and some more sugar together in the food processor, add the hot milk with melted chocolate and vanilla and then cook over a low heat until the pudding thickens. You then pour it into ramekins (I halved the recipe and got 3 generous ramekins) and chill.

Dorie suggested eating the pudding with whipped cream and I bet that would be delicious. To go with mine I made little almond tuille biscuits to dip into the chocolate pudding. The biscuits tasted great, but unfortunately didn’t crisp up like they should have – this may have something to do with me using milk in them instead of the cream that was part of the recipe.

The pudding was actually fabulous by itself. It was very creamy, very mousse like. In fact I think this tasted just as decadent as chocolate mousse and actually tasted like it was made with cream rather than milk. I wonder what it would be like if it was churned in my ice cream maker and frozen? Pretty yummy I think! I will definitely be making this pudding again. Thanks Melissa for such a great choice.

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Signs of Spring?

It’s been another lovely relaxing weekend. Yesterday even felt a little bit spring like! Although we really are in the depths of winter still. I didn’t do much baking over the weekend but did make these cookies as a birthday gift for a staff member.

They are honey cookies. I cut them into hear shapes and drizzled over a simple pale pink icing made with icing sugar and warm water. I used avocado honey for the biscuits which gave a gentle honey flavour. The only bad bit about using honey in baking is that the biscuits stay quite soft. I haven’t given you the recipe for these as I’m not sure I would make these again. I prefer spiced biscuits that retain some crunch.

Saturday night I made a simple dinner at home before we went to watch the rugby. I made this spinach, pea and avocado salad, simply dressed with white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. We had it with hot smoked salmon and potato rosti. Very yummy!

I went to Takapuna markets yesterday. This is a bit of an unexciting time of year for fresh produce, but I got agria potatoes, kumara, pumpkin, broccoli, silverbeet and beetroot and this lovely bunch of daffodils which reminds me that spring will be here soon - well, in a couple of months, but the flowers have certainly brightened up my kitchen!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lime & Coconut Cupcakes

Lovely Lyn, a regular on the foodlovers forum gave me a fabulous big box of limes in the weekend. I juiced most of them and froze the juice in ice cube containers. It’s a great way of having “fresh” lime juice, as if you are anything like me, you never have fresh limes on hand when a recipe calls for them. The rest I have put in my lemon bowl (yes, I have a special bowl that is always full of lemons) and I will use them over the next week.

I used some on Tuesday night to make these lime and coconut cupcakes to take into work. I based the recipe on one from the Australian Womens Weekly cupcake book, adding lime juice - the original recipe only had zest. I squeezed the juice of 2 limes into the mixture and also spooned over straight lime juice as they came out of the oven (I was too lazy to make a lime syrup). I also scaled the recipe down and still managed to get 16 cupcakes. The icing is cream cheese icing which I flavoured with lime juice and tinted a lime colour (the colour was slightly more vivid that the photo shows). I really liked these cupcakes – the flavour was quite sharp but there were the creamy undertones of the coconut essence in the background.

Also, there is another feature of mine on shortbread on the Foodlovers website. Check it out.

Lime and Coconut Cupcakes (adapted from the AWW cupcakes book)

180g butter
1 ½ tsp coconut essence
zest and juice of 2 limes
210g sugar
3 eggs
100ml milk
90g coconut
280g self raising flour
juice of two extra limes

· Cream butter, sugar, zest and essence. Add eggs in one at a time
· Stir in milk and juice, then coconut and flour
· Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 180c for 17-20 minutes
· While still hot, spoon over extra lime juice
· When cold, ice with cream cheese icing and decorate with coconut

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies

I made these cookies in the weekend as a contra for Jenny who has been giving me eggs from her hen. They are double chocolate pecan cookies with a hint of ginger. The recipe is from the latest Julie le Clerc magazine. They are almost my perfect cookie! Crispy with a slight chew which comes from just using brown sugar.

They are lovely and chocolatey as well and the pecans add a lovely crunch. I wondered if I should use more ginger as the ginger flavour isn’t very pronounced, but as Jenny said, you are left with just a hint of ginger which is quite perfect.

This isn’t a very good photo of last night’s dinner, but it looked so colourful on the plate, I wanted to post it. Dinner was chicken cooked in verjuice and chicken stock with dried figs, a carmague (red) rice pilaf, green beans and red peppers. I adapted the recipe from a Ginny Grant recipe in Cuisine. I had never cooked red rice before, but I really liked it – it has a lovely nutty texture which the sliced almonds in the pilaf intensify.

Double Chocolate Pecan Cookies (Julie Le Clerc Magazine)

125g butter
1 ¼ c brown sugar
1 egg
1 c flour
¼ c self raising flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/3 c cocoa powder
¾ c chopped pecans
¾ c chocolate chips

· Beat together butter and sugar , then add egg
· Mix in all dry ingredients and then the pecans and chocolate chips
· Roll into balls and put on tray, leaving room for spreading
· Flatten slightly and bake at 180c for 15-18 minutes
Cool on wire racks

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Soup and Mini Loaves

At Christmas time after we dispensed of the last of the Christmas ham, I put the bone into a bag in the freezer with the intention of making soup. I finally used it in the weekend to make pea and ham soup. I haven’t shown a photo as I found it difficult to make a bowl of soup look very inspiring! It was the first time I have made pea and ham soup though and it was delicious! I simmered the bone in a large pot of water for about an hour and a half. In the meantime I semi cooked a 500g bag of split peas. I then took the bone out of the water, chopped up the meat, put it back into the stock with the peas and discarded the bone. I actually added a packet of King’s pea and ham soup base at this point, but you wouldn’t have to. I simmered the soup for another hour and then seasoned it to taste. It was so yummy and has only improved with flavour as the week has gone on.

To go with the soup I made these little mini loaves. They are essentially savoury muffins, but I thought the little loaves looked much cuter. I used a fairly standard muffin base, adding grated tasty cheese, sliced salami , chopped tomato and pesto. But you could vary the flavours depending on what you had in the fridge. These freeze well, so you could make a double batch and freeze half to have on hand.

Pesto and Salami Mini Loaves

1 c self raising flour
¼ tsp salt
½ c grated tasty cheese
50g chopped salami
1 egg
2 tbsp olive oil (I used parmesan infused olive oil)
¾ c milk
2 tbsp pesto

· Combine flour, salt, cheese and salami
· Whisk together the egg, oil and milk, then pour into dry ingredients and mix lightly
· Swirl through the pesto and spoon into mini loaf ins
Bake at 200c for 15-18 minutes

The Engine Room cont..

Last week I posted about the Engine Room -just to give an up-date, yesterday we received a lovely note in the mail apologising if the clams had caused my husband's food poisoning and a voucher for the restaurant. As i mentioned earlier we did not expect anything other than understanding, so we were pleased to get this. I will be deleting my comments from the earlier post re: the food poisoning as a mark of thanks to the Engine Room.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TWD - Blueberry Double Crusted Pie

The TWD recipe this week is blueberry double crusted pie and is chosen by Amy of South in Your Mouth. This was an exciting challenge as in my mind blueberry pie is quite American – not something we think of making in NZ, so it was something different. Also, apart from apple pie, I’ve never made a deep dish double crust pie before! I didn’t want to make a whole pie because it would have been a waste with just the two of us to eat it, so I decided to do a third of the mixture and make little pies.

The pastry called for shortening – not something we really use in NZ. I used kremelta (a solidified coconut oil) which I happened to have in the fridge. I wasn’t sure what to make the little pies in. The majority of my dishes etc are still packed away – they got packed away last year when we moved into our house which we are going to re-build (by the way we are on track to start building in the Spring, so this time next year hopefully I will have a brand new kitchen and scullery!!) – so I had limited dishes to choose from. I decided to make the pies in large muffin tins I have that are more straight sided than usual muffin tins. I was a bit nervous though that they wouldn’t turn out that well, but I went with it anyway.

I used frozen blueberries for the filling (being the middle of winter here, it’s not exactly blueberry season). The berries were tossed in a mixture of flour, sugar and lemon zest and then piled into the pies with a layer of dried bread crumbs between the pastry and the berries. There have been some comments that breadcrumbs are a funny thing to put into blueberry pie, but I think that they did a really good job of making sure that the berry juice didn’t seep into the pastry.

I was so pleased – the pies turned out beautifully and tasted delicious! I made two little pies, but wish that I had made more. The nice thing about making little pies is that the ratio of pastry to berries was higher and that pastry is so yummy! We had the pies with natural yoghurt. Dorie calls the pastry “good for everything” double crust pastry, and she is right – the pastry would be good with most things!

See what the other TWDers thought here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Weekend Meals

We have just had a fabulous weekend! Very relaxing – sometimes it is so nice to have no plans. Even Friday night, we stayed at home and I made a yummy prosciutto and mozzarella omelette for dinner. It was so tasty, very simple, but with fabulous ingredients. The eggs were organic, free range, which my friend, Jenny, collected from her hen. It is amazing how vibrant the yolks are – even more so than market bought free range eggs. I filled the omelette with mozzarella (actually kapiti boccocini), prosciutto and basil leaves. The photo was taken before I folded the omelette over. This was the perfect Friday night meal!

On Saturday we went up to Matakana and went to the markets. It was a really cold, yucky day and there weren’t as many people at the markets as usual – not a lot of fresh produce, but we came home with Italian sausages, free range chicken, mandarins and agria potatoes. I also enjoyed a whitebait fritter there and my husband had a mussel one.

Saturday night was a quick meal at home before heading to the pub to watch the rugby. My husband felt like pizza, so I used the rest of the mozzarella on a home made pizza base. I made a quick tomato sauce by reducing sautéed garlic, a can of tomatoes, smoked salt, pepper and basil, spread this over the base, scattered over torn mozzarella, anchovies, capers and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. Drizzled with parmesan infused olive oil, this was another yummy, but quick and easy dinner. So much better than take aways!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Baby Shower Cookies

Last Saturday was my lovely friend, Summer’s, baby shower. Her baby is due in the end of August. A few weeks ago I received a new order of cookie cutters from the States and amongst them were these rattle and baby bottle cutters. I am not sure of the sex of Summer’s baby, so decided to decorate the cookies in mint green which is a fairly neutral colour.

To be honest, I didn’t give these cookies the time I should have, so they are not as polished as I would have liked them to be. I used fondant to cover the cookies and then piped on the detail with royal icing. I tried making the fondant on the rattles spotted, but learnt a valuable lesson on not rolling the icing too thin. I read somewhere that cake and biscuit decorating is a bit like a Picasso or other painting – when you look closely at the individual brush strokes, they don’t look that great, but when you stand back and look at the painting as a whole, it looks great. Sounds like a good theory to me!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Engine Room - Northcote Point

Last Friday night we went to the Engine Room in Northcote Point for dinner. The Engine Room is probably the best restaurant on the north shore. We had only been there once before not long after it opened. It was a real treat to go back. There was a group of six of us and we all thoroughly enjoyed our meals.

I didn’t have an entrée, but there was lovely sour dough (perhaps a tad on the dry side) and olive oil to begin with. We were also treated with a gift from the kitchen of arrancini – little deep fried risotto balls, which were incredibly tasty. From the main menu, the salmon was the meal that caught my eye, salmon being my favourite protein! However, it came with champ and mashed potato is my least favourite carbohydrate. I asked the waitress if I could have the salmon with the chicken’s accompaniment of lentil tabbouleh, roast pumpkin and labneh. She happily said yes and the meal was delicious – the salmon was perfect, not over cooked, but not too rare either.

I was looking forward to dessert as the previous time I had been to the Engine Room I had shared churros with chocolate and it is still on the menu. Churros are little Spanish doughnuts served with a chocolate sauce to dip them in. The chocolate sauce is pretty much warm chocolate ganache. The churros did not disappoint. My husband chose the pear crumble with vanilla bean ice cream as his dessert and it was also delicious.

Also, please check out my latest feature on Foodlovers on Unbaked Slices.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Warming Winter Dinner

My brother in law and his girlfriend came to stay on Sunday night. It’s great to have a valid opportunity to make pudding! I hadn’t really thought about nibbles, so quickly made a dip using half a bottle of marinated artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, lemon juice, parmesan and basil leaves. We had that with some little crispbread crackers and wine while I got on with making dinner.

For the main I roasted a beautiful free range chicken. I stuffed it with a mixture of bulghur wheat, olives, walnuts and sage. We had it with a simple rice pilaf flavoured with white wine and bay, a spinach and red pepper salad and wee mini pumpkins which I cut in half and roasted with a mix of maple syrup, walnuts and pine nuts in the cavity (adapted from a recipe in the Autumn Donna Hay magazine). I love pumpkin and the maple syrup and nuts were the perfect accompaniment.

Pudding was these little apricot and ginger caramel puddings. The recipe is from Taste magazine and you can find it here. The puddings are almost like little steamed puddings – there is a fudgy caramel sauce with dried apricots and crystallised ginger in the bottom (or on top once turned out) and then a caramel flavoured sponge. I made 8 little puddings from the recipe and have frozen half of them. We had them whipped cream. It’s not often that I find something a bit sweet, but I did find the caramel in the bottom very sweet and a bit sugary. I don’t think that I stirred the caramel enough to help the sugar properly dissolve, so if you are going to make them, make sure the sugar is dissolved before spooning your caramel into your basins.

This was a great menu for a cold winter’s night.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

TWD - apple cheddar scones

The TWD recipe this week was chosen by Karina of The Floured Apron and is Apple Cheddar Scones. I made these on Sunday for lunch. I love scones! Especially cheese scones. Whenever we are at a café I can almost always be persuaded by a good cheese scone. Some of the best cheese scones I have tasted are from Bosco café in Te Kuiti (always something to look forward to on the long trek south to Taranaki to visit the in-laws) and Zarbo in Newmarket. My Grandma used to make fantastic cheese scones as well. When I was at university she would often make me a batch and I would take them back to varsity for the freezer. But, the best cheese scones ever are made by my mother-in-law. They are divine and I can eat quite a few of them in one sitting.

Anyway, back to Dorie’s apple and cheddar scones!!! I wasn’t sure about the apple in the scones, but went with it anyway. Rather than those shrivelled up dried apple rings you often get, I bought apple that was dried in chunks – it looked a bit like crystallised ginger. The other unusual ingredients in these scones was apple juice and cornmeal. I used a very fine cornmeal and there wasn’t a lot of it, so it didn’t add a lot to the texture of the scones.

The scone mixture was very wet – often I would add more flour, but I just went with it and I think it contributed to the lightness of these scones. My scones were huge as well! I should have made them much smaller. The verdict – my husband loved these. He ate four of them with my home made blackcurrant jam. I ate one with butter and while I enjoyed the texture, I think they needed more cheese and probably no apple! Mind you, as I have mentioned many times before, I don’t like dried fruit.

See what the other TWDers thought here.