Monthly Archives: January 2013

a floral ice bowl

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This is just a heads-up to a post by a friend of mine (who’s also keen on the culinary arts): making a floral ice bowl to hold a lovely cool fruit salad. I have a fond memory of enjoying one of these (& its contents) at the end of a lazy summer dinner at Annette’s place, a few years ago now. The photo is hers – drop by Number8Network to find out how it’s done 🙂

my take on pork & fennel sausages

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Casting about for something to cook tonight, I thought fondly of the rather nice pork-&-fennel sausages that we’d had (courtesy of the local supermarket’s butcher) a week or so ago. Then I fished a 500 g pack of sausage meat and another of pork mince out of the freezer to thaw. And this is what I did with them.

  • Cut the crusts off 3-4 slices of bread & then cut the slices into cubes (or tear them into small pieces; it doesn’t matter which).
  • Put them in a bowl with an egg, a couple of Tblsp milk, a good grind of salt & pepper, and a slosh of soya sauce. Stir to mix.
  • While that mixture is soaking into the bread, peel a red onion & chop it finely, before adding it to the bowl with 2 tsp fennel seeds.  Stir it all together – the bread should be all soggy & starting to break up.
  • Then add the pork mince and the sausage meat (I had 500 g of each, but the exact ratio probably wouldn’t matter too much) and work everything together with your hands until the meats and seasonings are very well mixed.
  • Divide into even portions – I got 14 sausages from that quantity but you could make them fewer & larger, or smaller & more, as you wish – and form into sausage shapes before rolling each in dry breadcrumbs. You’ll find it easier to work with the meat mix if you keep your hands wet.
  • Then fry gently on all sides until cooked & golden.

We had them with fresh, thinly sliced green beans (with a knob of butter atop) and a warm potato salad dressed with a mix of equal amounts of mayo and sour cream, 2-3 Tblsp of vinaigrette, salt & pepper to taste, and finely-chopped garlic chives.

And had Granma’s chocolate log to follow  😀

feeding the many with a few pork sausages

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Last night I had 7 pork sausages and 5 (3 of them big eaters) to feed for tea. Eeeek! So I looked in the pantry & garden: fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic & peppers; tomato paste; tinned cannellini beans; stock; & spices. And in the fridge, sour cream & tasty cheese. So I sent the daughter off to get some corn chips from the dairy (she came home with Doritos) & got cooking.

First I chopped a couple of onions & set them frying gently in a couple of Tblsp of olive oil. While they softened I peeled & chopped the cloves of a couple of small heads of garlic & added them to the pan, along with a couple of sliced long sweet red peppers.

Then came the sausages. I snipped the end of each one, held it over the pan, & squeezed out walnut-sized balls of sausage meat – I got 6-7 little balls per sausage. I stirred everything around & let the sausage meat brown a bit, before adding 1 tsp of smoky dried paprika and 1/4 tsp of chilli powder. (That last mightn’t sound much, but the chilli powder they sell in the local supermarket is HOT!)

After that I added 2 c of peeled**, chopped tomatoes, 250 ml stock (it was chicken stock, because that’s what was in the cupboard, but vegetable stock would have been good too), & a small tub of tomato paste. I seasoned it to taste & then simmered for 20 minutes or so until it was all nicely thickened.

And then I served it, along with the corn chips, a bowl of grated tasty cheese, the sour cream, a lettuce/cucumber/tomato salad (we are having trouble keeping on top of the lettuces & cucumbers at the moment!) & some lovely fresh sweetcorn, picked about 10 minutes previously & cooked quickly in a pan of boiling water.

Rather to my surprise, there was enough over for a couple of people to share for lunch.

** If you put the tomatoes in a bowl & pour boiling water over them, then stand them for a few minutes before tipping the hot water off & flushing with cold water, the skins will split & slip off really easily  🙂

those blueberry brioche

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The family had intimated that Sunday morning blueberry brioche could become a tradition, if the cook were so inclined. This morning the cook did feel inclined: I made the dough & left it on the bench for its first rising** while I biked down to the local farmers’ market, & then made the actual little buns (for want of a better word) when I got back.

** It’s so hot here at the moment that there’s no need to rise dough in the hot water cupboard!

The recipe itself is one I found in the Sunday Star-Times a couple of years ago now, where it was reprinted from The Great New Vege Road Trip: Vegetarian Recipes from around New Zealand, by Nicola McCloy & Fiona McRae. I don’t have a copy of the book, but if this recipe is anything to go by, perhaps I should get one! Incidentally, I’ve made the dough for this recipe the ‘proper’ way, ie by hand, but I’ve also used the bread machine to do the mixing & rising, & that’s worked well too. The only thing to watch for there is that this recipe will give a very very soft dough, & in fact I tweaked the quantities a little when using the machine, so that the flour/fluid ratio was a bit closer to the ‘standard’ quantities. Still got lovely brioche from it, though. Also, the original recipe uses frozen blueberries & so will I, when it’s no longer blueberry season. But for the moment, I’m using fresh 🙂

Oh yes, & in the interests of not producing too many dirty dishes, I’ve changed things around a bit – I don’t activate the yeast in a separate bowl, then mix it with the various liquids, & then add the flour. Here’s my order of events (which represent a habit I got into years ago, from regular use of Ursel & Derek Norman’s classic Use Your Loaf):

  • Put 4 c high-grade (‘strong’) flour & 1 tsp salt in a large bowl, & stir through to combine. Make a well in the flour and into it put 2 tsp active dry yeast, 2 Tbsp sugar, & 1/4 c warm water. Leave for 5-10 minutes until bubbly (which means that the yeast has activated).
  • Into that bubbly yeast mix add 1 c warm milk (not too hot or you may kill the yeast), 150 g softened butter, 2 large eggs & 2 egg yolks.
  • Whisk gently to combine the liquids with the yeast mixture, & then fold in the flour. You’ll end up with a very, very soft dough with a lovely rich yellow-y hue.
  • Tip this out onto a well-floured work surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth – it’ll be almost silky to the touch.
  • Wipe out the original bowl & put a Tbsp of oil in it, then turn the dough in the oil to coat (this means it won’t stick to the bowl). Cover the bowl with gladwrap & leave somewhere warm for an hour.
  • Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface & knead again to remove all the big air bubbles; knead a bit longer until the dough is shiny.
  • Roll it out into a 25 x 60 cm rectangle. Sprinkle 3/4 c brown sugar (or the same amount of white sugar combined with 2-3 tsp mixed spice) & 1&1/2 c blueberries (fresh or frozen) over the dough.
  • Roll the dough into a log, starting with one of the long edges. Cut this into 12 equal portions and place each piece in a greased Texas-muffin cup, with the spiral facing up. (I don’t have any Texas-muffin trays but I do have some nice silicone mini-quiche cups, which do the job very nicely.) Leave to stand – again, covered with plastic wrap – somewhere warm for 15 minutes or so, while the oven is heating to 190 degrees C. (The original recipe notes that at this point you can freeze one 6-cup muffin tray in the freezer, to defrost & cook at some later date.)
  • If you like, brush the top of each brioche with beaten egg & sprinkle with sugar before popping the trays in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly, then dust with icing sugar to serve. (I’ve never actually done the glaze-&-dust bit, but those steps would make the brioche look particularly attractive for a special brunch or lunch.)

Sit back & wait for the compliments 🙂

 

garlic prawns & fried rice

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When I went past the ‘fish’ section of the supermarket the other day, I noticed that they were selling raw prawns for $9.99 a kilo. (I can’t for the life of me see why they don’t just make it $10 or whatever; is anyone really fooled by the .99???) Now, the daughter dislikes prawns intensely but she was away in Taupo, so I bought a kilo & popped the bike saddlebags along with the things I’d actually gone there to buy. (At this point I must say that I hadn’t really thought about the effort entailed in peeling the things, but anyway 🙂 )

It’s been barbecue weather here for what seems like ages, so that’s how I intended to cook my little crustaceans. After shelling them – there were rather a lot but everyone seemed hungry – I mixed together: 2 egg whites (left over from the brioche the other day), 2 Tbsp cornflour, a good grind of salt & pepper, & several (small) heads of garlic, crushed. That was then stirred through the prawns, & I left them in the fridge to soak in that garlicky goodness while I contemplated the rest of dinner.

Salad? That went without saying; we have lettuce & cucumbers & tomatoes in abundance, & there was still a nice avocado from last weekend’s market trip. I decided on a fruity, spicy dressing as that would go well with both salad & prawns: into the blender went the contents of a 450 g tin of peaches in fruit juice, along with 3-4 Tbsp of sweet chilli sauce. (It would have been mango dressing but I only had peaches in the cupboard.) Yum!

We also had about 2 c cooked rice in the fridge, left over from the previous night’s dinner. So I chopped a red bell pepper into eensy little pieces & added that to the rice with a handful of chopped garlic chives & a Tbsp or so of grated root ginger before beating in a couple of eggs.

At which point the husband fired up the barbecue: the rice/vege mix went onto the hot plate in large spoonfuls (I got about a dozen little cakes from that quantity) & the prawns went in batches onto the grill until their heads & tails were pink & their flesh white & cooked through. It took us a while to get through them all, but somehow we managed it 🙂 And the peach-&-chilli dressing went so well with everything.

butter chicken, raita & naan (nomnomnom)

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It turns out that the furriners we have staying with us at the moment (oh, all right: French niece & her Scottish partner) quite like a curry now & then. So do we, although neither the husband nor the daughter like them particularly hot. So, casting around for something to do with some of our excess cucumbers, I decided upon butter chicken, cucumber raita and – because I could! – naan bread (so that we’d have something to scoop up that lovely mass of sauce-soaked rice that you have towards the end of the meal). Oh yes, & rice; that almost goes without saying.

Now, there’s a huge range of butter chicken recipes on the net & no, I don’t have my own 🙂 You’ll find the one I used last night here, & while it may not be a traditional recipe it’s still rather nice. (I chose it because its ingredients happened to match what I had to hand.) And it was quick to put together, which I did while the bread (see later on) was resting/rising.

The raita was also quick & easy. I grabbed the largest cucumber, topped-&-tailed it, & then cut it in half lengthwise & scooped out most of the seeds. Then I cut each half into 4 longitudinal slices, sliced those crosswise into small almost-dice, & put the lot into a bowl before spooning over a goodly amount of Greek yoghurt and mixing in about 1/2 c of finely chopped mint & then salt to taste.

While I was at it I used some of the tomatoes, a red onion, & one of the lovely avocados I bought at the market on Sunday, to make a salsa, dressing it with a mix of lime & lemon juice & a bit of salt & pepper. (Yes, we have lime trees – they’re growing very well in a couple of tubs in our courtyard.)

The bread – which was lovely – is a recipe that I haven’t made in quite a while (for reasons that escape me, because the recipe is simple & quick to make). It comes from The New Zealand Bread Book which, alas! seems to be out of print at the moment.

  •  In a bowl, mix 1 c flour, 2 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp Surebake yeast (for Kiwis – the yeast in the red-top jar 🙂 ) & 1/2 tsp salt. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in 1/2 c plain yoghurt (or buttermilk), followed by 1/2 c boiling water. Beat until smooth & leave to rest for 3 minutes.
  • Add 2 Tbsp cooking oil & a lightly beaten egg, & stir to mix. Sift together ** 2 c flour & 1 tsp baking powder & add this to the yeast mix. Stir to form a soft dough (at this point, I must say that I always have to add a little more liquid to the mix, to get the right softness of dough).  Knead for around 7 minutes, then return to the bowl (I usually give the bowl a wipe & then add a couple of tsp of oil, & turn the dough in it to coat), cover with plastic, & leave somewhere warm for 15 minutes.
  • Knock back the dough & divide evenly into 6 pieces. (I’m thinking of making these for lunch, to fill with salad, in which case I’ll make 12 smaller pockets cos the big ones would be a bit much to handle.) Roll each one out on a floured board to an oval shape, about 25 cm x 12 cm.  Place the naan breads on well-floured boards or trays, & leave uncovered in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. They won’t rise much – if at all – in this time.
  • While the breads are resting, preheat the oven to 250 degrees C – and put metal trays in there to heat as well. Last night I used my ceramic pizza stone & that worked a real treat.
  • When the oven’s hot, carefully pick up a naan, turn it over (that part’s important!) & place it on the very hot tray. Do the same with the next naan – you need to cook them 2-3 at a time, for 5-7 minutes until they are golden brown & puffed up. (And they puff up amazingly – it’s quite fun to watch.) Wrap in a clean tea towel while you cook the remaining naan,  & serve warm.

** I don’t own a sifter; I just stir it all through with a fork.

sweet pepper sauce & handmade cheese-&-herb ravioli

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I am soooo enjoying being on holiday 🙂 And my idea of being on holiday includes (among other fun activities) cooking lots of Nice Things. This morning I biked down to the Farmers’ Market, but – because I knew I’d be coming home with blueberries – before I left I mixed a brioche dough & left it to rise. And when I got back I used it to make blueberry brioche (which I will probably write about in another post).

Also in the saddlebags were beetroot, apple juice, avocados, macadamia nuts, free-range eggs, and a whole lot of lovely long sweet red peppers, courtesy of the lovely folk at the Southern Belle Orchard booth. I had designs on those peppers! Some of them I packed away in the fridge, but I kept 4 big ones aside. After lunch (mmmm, nommilicious brioche!) I turned them into a lovely, slightly spicey sauce:

  • Slice a brown & a red onion thinly & start them frying gently in a heavy pan. (It wouldn’t actually matter which kind you used; I just grabbed what was there.)
  • Peel & chop the cloves from a couple of small heads of garlic & add them to the pan.
  • Remove the seeds from the peppers (you could use ordinary capsicums too) and slice the flesh; add that to the pan as well.
  • At this point I looked at our excess of zucchini, and then chopped 3 of them into small dice & popped them in the pan with everything else.
  • Add 1 tsp of paprika – the rich red smoked kind if you have it (which I do, cos my friend Annette gave me some), 1/4 tsp chili powder (more if you like it hot), & salt to taste, before pouring in 500 ml chicken stock (I didn’t have vege stock available). Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mix gently for about 30 mins, & then a further 30 mins with the lid off if you want to thicken the sauce.
  • Finally, use a stick blender or food processor to process to a smooth-ish puree.

Now, I’d started off making the sauce without a firm idea of what to use it with, but while it was cooking (& I was doing my embroidery) I decided it would go rather nicely with cheese-&-herb ravioli. So I mixed up a batch of pasta dough (3 c flour, 6 of those free-range eggs, a couple of Tbsp of olive oil, all kneaded together & then – when I needed it – rolled out into thin sheets), & then dealt with the filling. Again, you could vary this according to what you’ve got in the fridge.

  • Beat together 250 g ricotta cheese and 250 g cream cheese, plus however much grated parmesan you feel like using.
  • Crush 2-3 cloves of garlic and add that to the cheese, along with about a cup of finely chopped herbs: I used parsley, basil, marjoram, lemon thyme, chives, & garlic chives.
  • Fry 3-4 rashers of bacon, chop finely, & stir into the cheese/herb mix, along with the zest of a lemon & juice to taste.
  • Finally, mix in an egg – it helps hold everything together when cooked.
  • Take a sheet of pasta (I rolled this one sheet at a time) & place teaspoonfuls of the filling on half the sheet, spacing them about 3 cm apart.
  • Fold the other half of the sheet over the top & press down around each little mound of filling, before cutting into ravioli. Place to dry on baking paper on a cake rack & then roll your next pasta sheet. That amount of dough & filling gave me about 4 dozen  5 dozen** ravioli.

When ready to eat, bring a large pot of lightly-salted water to the boil, drop in the pasta, & cook 3-4 minutes or till they’re al dente. Heat the sauce through while the ravioli cook. I’m just about to go & do that now. And we’re going to have it with a nice bottle of red wine, all the way from Italy!

** make that 5 dozen – I counted as I popped them into the pot 🙂