Monthly Archives: April 2013

carrot soup – with a twist

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Yesterday, when I did the grocery shopping, I bought a little bottle of star anise. (I love aniseed. When I was little, aniseed balls were one of my favourite sweets; they used to be 8 for a penny at Mr Montgomery’s dairy. The fact that NZ has had decimal currency since 1967 tells you that I was little a loooong time ago ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I bought it, because I wanted to see if I could recreate the lovely soup we had for dinner at Scotts Epicurean, the previous week. And I had a go for today’s lunch.

First, I melted 25 g of butter in a large saucepan, before adding a finely-sliced brown onion & a minced clove of garlic & setting them to cook gently. On top went 2 medium potatoes, cut into small dice (I don’t usually bother peeling spuds if they’re going into soup; I just give them a good scrub). Once the onion was becoming translucent I added 6 peeled carrots, sliced about 5 mm thick, 2 star anise, and 1 L of chicken stock. Then I covered the pan & left everything to simmer very gently while I took the dog for a walk.

When we got back I put some scuffins in the oven, then pureed the soup with my trusty stick blender & served it – once the scuffins were cooked, with a spoonful of sour cream in each bowl. (It’s on Scotts’ brunch menu with creme fraiche, but I didn’t have any.)

Success! The husband said, this tastes just like what we had at Scotts the other night ๐Ÿ˜€

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parmesan-&-basil bread, with soup (pumpkin, of course!)

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Yesterday we had family coming to lunch. I had to go in to work for the morning (yes, I know it was Anzac Day, but we were running a practical exam for the NZ team hopefuls for the upcoming Biology Olympiad in Switzerland), so I got the soup ready the day before & put the bread in the bread maker. (The husbandย can cook, he just avoids it where possible ๐Ÿ™‚ )

I’m sure there are heaps of recipes already out there for pumpkin soup! This is what I put together on Saturday night: first, roast your pumpkin. Actually it was pumpkins in this case – 4 of them, halved, seeds scooped out, & into the oven at 180 C until tender. While they cooked I melted 50 g butter in one of my big pans, along with a goodly slosh of olive oil, & added 2 thinly-sliced brown onions to soften & go transparent. There was garlic in the soup too, but as we’re getting rid of the little heads from summer’s harvest before getting stuck into the big stuff, I sliced the tops off 8 of them & wrapped them in foil (with a splash of oil) before putting them in the oven with the pumpkins. Once they were cooked, all I had to do was squeeze the lovely rich pulp into the soup pan. At which point I also added 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, & just a soupcon of ground chili, & stirred it all together.

The pumpkins took around 30 minutes to cook, after which (wearing oven gloves, cos they were HOT) I scooped the flesh into the pot, followed by 1 L vegetable stock & 4 medium potatoes, cut into very small dice. I should have added them with the onions but I forgot; anyway, it all worked out ๐Ÿ˜€ I left them to simmer gently, with the occasional stir, for 20-30 minutes & then used my stick blender to puree everything together. The result was a very thick puree indeed, so I thinned it a little with water and 1/2 c cream (because it was in the fridge), then put the lid back on & left it for the morning – with strict instructions to the husband to stir carefully while reheating, because otherwise it was highly likely to catch & burn at the bottom.

And before I biked in to work in the morning, I put the bread in the bread maker. This is a riff on an Alison Holst recipe from a few years back, enriched with butter & an egg. And it’s just as easily made by hand, in which case you’d make a ‘sponge’ of the yeast with a little of the measured flour & water, before working in everything else.

Into the pan of the bread maker, I measured 4 tsp active yeast (here in NZ it’s the kind in the red-topped jar), followed by 4 c flour – yesterday I used 100% white flour but 1 wholemeal:3 white is nice too, 2 Tblsp white sugar, 1 tsp salt, 50 g butter cut into small pieces, 1/2 c coarsely grated parmesan cheese, & 1/2 c finely chopped fresh basil. This was followed by an egg and enough water to make up a total liquid volume of 1&1/2 cups. On my machine that gives an XL loaf. I set the crust to ‘light’ & set the timer so that the loaf would be ready around lunchtime, pressed ‘on’, & headed off to work, happy in the knowledge that there would be lunch when I got back.

And there was.

pumpkins – stuffed & in pie

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While the husband & I are both really fond of pumpkin, we don’t want to eat it the same way all the time ๐Ÿ™‚ The mini-pumpkins are just the right size for 1-2 people (well, some of them are – others would do for 4 & have some left over), so one night I decided to stuff them. This is probably the cheat’s way to do it ๐Ÿ˜€

All I did was cut out a ‘plug’ around the stump of the stem – this would act as the lid – and then used a spoon to scoop out the seeds. Then I got a packet of Uncle Ben’s savoury rice out of the pantry & used some of that, mixed with a little crumbled feta, to pack the cavity in the pumpkin before adding a couple of Tblsp of water and replacing the lid. (The rest I cooked & served as a side dish for the benefit of the daughter, who professes not to like this particular cucurbit fruit.) And then it went in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 180 C. Couldn’t be simpler, & tasted wonderful.

And for another option – well, my science blog-buddy Darcy has shared his favourite pumpkin pie recipe:

500g pumpkin (cooked)
3/4C sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1/2tsp ginger
3 eggs lightly beaten
150mL evaporated milk.

Mash pumpkin and blend ingredients together. Pour into pie dish lined with sweet short crust pastry (We usually get the pre-rolled stuff from the supermarket โ€“ much easier to work with). Bake @ 180C for 25 min or till skewer comes out clean.

Eat hot or cold with whipped cream โ€“ I prefer cold, straight from the fridge.

I usually do double the mix so I donโ€™t have half a can of evaporated milk lying around.

I’ve yet to try this one – but we’ll see what the next lot of dinner guests think ๐Ÿ™‚

And then of course there will be pumpkin curry, & pumpkin soup… And I’ve got a rather nice recipe for pumpkin bread too!

a nice thing to do with left-over pork

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We had some very good friends to dinner last night, & I decided to slow-roast a leg of pork. (All this entailed was using a dish into which the pork fitted quite tightly, pouring in 1/2 c of water,ย covering the exposed meat with tinfoil (but leaving the scored, oiled, & salted skin exposed), and instructing the daughter to put it into the oven (pre-heated to 140 C) at 3pm. Yes, I could have had some rosemary in there, but it was pouring with rain at the time I was getting things ready & I just couldn’t be bothered getting wet. Anyway, by 7pm the meat was sweetly succulent, & 30 minutes in the oven at 180 C – while the par-boiled spuds, kumara & (of course!) pumpkin cooked & I made the gravyย – got the crackling to the desired level of crunch. (For those worried about greens, we had a bean salad on the side.)

There were 7 of us round the table but it was a large leg of pork, & so even after seconds there was quite a bit of meat left, plus a few pieces of kumara. So this is what I did with it tonight:

First up, I got 3 sheets of ready-made flaky-puff pastry out of the freezer to defrost. Yes, I could have made it myself – & I suspect a hot-water pastry would have worked rather well – but I didn’t get home till quite late & all were hungry. Then, down the middle of each pastry sheet, I spread some cold mashed roast kumara, & over that drizzled a little of last night’s gravy.

After that I roughly chopped sufficient of the cold pork to pile it up along the length of the pastry, atop the kumara/gravy combo. And finally, I opened a tin of apple (not having any fresh apples in the house) and put a couple of spoonfuls of that on top of the pork, before carefully folding the sides of each pastry sheet up to enclose the meaty filling. Each pork’n’apple roll went into the roasting tray, which had been lined with one of my trusty Teflon sheets, & then into the oven at 200 C for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Along with steamed broccoli & the remaining gravy, that was rather a nice way to have left-overs ๐Ÿ™‚

a couple of dips

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When catering for the daughter’s birthday party, one of the things I made was a gloriously pink beetroot dip. One of her friends was asking about recently & so I thought I’d share it here, along with the yummy bean dip we had as a starter the other night.

Beetroot dip: drain a 480 g can of beetroot (sliced, chunks, baby; it doesn’t matter) & put it in a blender along with a 250 g tub of sour cream, and 1 tsp ground cumin. Blend till smooth & season to taste. For the party I served it with chips made from gluten-free wraps, as two of the guests are coeliac. (Which reminds me – until recently it’s been quite hard to get gluten-free spices. I was flabberghasted to find, on reading the labels, that many of them contained gluten. Presumably as a filler?)

Zesty red bean dip: this one’s from the wonderfulย Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook, by Alison & Simon Holst.ย Put a clove (or more – I inclined to more ๐Ÿ˜› ) of garlic into your trusty blender, along with 1/2 c roughly chopped parsley, 2 Tbl coriander leaves & stems (ditto), 2 Tbl olive oil, 2 tsp lime or lemon juice, & either 2-3 spring onions (cut into 2cm lengths) or a small red onion (also roughly chopped. Blend until smooth. Then drain a 480 g can of red kidney beans, keeping the liquid, & add the beans to the blender before processing everything until smooth & well blended. You can add some of the bean liquid if the mix is too thick. Taste it & adjust the seasoning – the Holsts suggest adding some sour cream if the flavours are a bit sharp, but I didn’t find I needed to.

Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

a most memorable dinner at our favourite cafe

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The daughter & I have been going to Scotts Epicurean pretty much since it opened back in 2000. Sometimes we drag the husband along as well. The friendly, welcoming service & the great food just keep us coming back – usually for Saturday brunch. However, every now & then they put on a dinner: 4-5 small, perfectly formed courses with accompanying wines, & we’ve thoroughly enjoyed those too. (Although the husband did feel that perhaps he should have dressed for the occasion when we went along for a meal the night Hamilton’s Riff-Raff statue was unveiled. It was a cold night, but somehow he felt somewhat overdressed in his polar fleece ๐Ÿ™‚ ) So, when I saw the flyer for their latest dinner, I bought a couple of tickets on the spot! (The daughter never wants to come to these; she is never quite sure that she’ll want to eat everything on offer.)

And as usual, we were not disappointed. (I am not going to talk about the wines here as a) I didn’t try them all & b) I can’t remember the names anyway. Suffice it to say that all those I sipped complemented the food rather well.)

First up, polenta chips with a lovely thick garlicy aoli. I rather like polenta & the last time I made it I did keep some over for chips, but couldn’t get them crispy enough. Will have to have another go, for those we ate on Friday were rather fine.

Next, kingfish, pan-fried & served with saffron rice, finely diced chorizo & red pepper, & ‘crackling’ of chicken skin. Which worked well & was apt, given that I’ve often heard kingfish described as the chicken of the sea. I’m not huge on fish but I cleaned my plate up.

The soup – served in a glass – was a creamy carrot soup made special by the use of star anise. It had a little scoop of what the menu described as black olive sorbet on the top, which was visually attractive. Being not a fan of olives (you can see where the daughter gets her fussiness from) I passed most of mine across the table to the husband; in retrospect this was perhaps foolish as the little bit left behind showed me that the flavours went together extremely well.

This was followed by Angus steak (fillet, I think), served medium rare on kohlrabi puree with smoked leeks & several types of mushroom. The husband, who also has his little food foibles, originally said that I could have his mushrooms, but I noticed sadly that he changed his mind after sampling them. The only part of this course we had reservations about was the leeks; the smoking led them to present as slightly fibrous, although they tasted good. The rest was scrumptious.

After this I have to say we were feeling comfortably full, although not over-so – which was just as well as dessert was still to come. This was a delightful free-form pie (on the menu, aka crostada) of feijoas on a bed of ground hazelnuts, served with a citrus-y cream. I enjoyed working out the ingredients as I savoured it, & checked with Jason Scott (owner/chef) afterwards that I’d got them all. “Yes,” he said “- & you can find the recipe on-line, on my sister’s blog.” So I did – & made it myself for friends the following evening.

All in all, a great evening ๐Ÿ˜€

pumpkin, feta & walnut ravioli

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We had several friends to dinner last night, & as one has a particular fondness for vegetarian food, I thought I’d do something with some of our plentitude of pumpkins. I decided on ravioli because I rather enjoy making pasta, & was enticed by the idea of a combination of feta, pumpkin & walnuts that bubbled to the front of my brain.

First up, the pumpkin(s) needed roasting. I picked out a big butternut pumpkin & – because you can never have too much pumpkin (had there been any excess it would have ended up in bread) – a couple of the cute yellow-&-white striped minis. Once split in half & seeds scooped out, they went cut-side down on a teflon sheet in a roasting dish, to bake at 180 C for about 40 minutes.

Then, the pasta. Traditionalists may flinch at this – but because I’d got other things on the go as well (making the dip for folks to enjoy with beer, not to mention the pastry for dessert), I decided to let the bread machine do the kneading of my flour & eggs with a littlebitta oil. I’d tried this before and with good results; you just have to keep an eye on it in case there’s a need for extra liquid or flour.

Once the pumpkins were cooked & had cooled a little, I scooped the flesh into a bowl & mashed it roughly, before stirring in about 1/2 c coarsely-grated parmesan, 150 g creamy feta (crumbled into bits about 1 cm on a side), & a cup of roughly-chopped walnuts (you want a bit of firmness to the bite, so don’t process them to the point where you have walnut flour!).

While I do have one of those little trays for making ravioli I’ve only used it the once. Instead I make use of my 4cm round ravioli cutter (a bit like a biscuit cutter but with a handle). So yesterday I rolled chunks of my dough ever more thinly through our pasta machine. With each sheet of pasta, I laid it flat on a floured bench and placed heaped teaspoonfuls of the pumpkin, cheese’n’nut mix onto half the sheet, well spaced. Then I slowly folded the other half of the sheet down over them, pressing down around each mound of filling to exclude as much air as possible, before cutting out the little pasta packets. As I made them, I dusted each one lightly with flour before placing them on racks covered with baking paper, then covering them with a dry tea towel & leaving them to dry. I ended up with over 6 dozen, but then there were 7 of us for dinner so thatย sounded right (although itย looked an awful lot!).

The sauce was easy as I have rather a lot in the freezer ๐Ÿ™‚ Just needed to defrost a couple of packets & then heat them through in the microwave, while boiling the water to cook the ravioli. Which, once the water’s boiling, don’t take long to cook. Pop them carefully into the pot, & then once they’ve come to the surface & the water’s returned to the boil, they should need only 2-3 minutes more – fish one out & try it to be sure.

To serve, I layered the pasta with the sauce in two large oblong dishes, and brought them to the table along with a bowl of finely-grated parmesan and a big salad of lettuce & finely-sliced red pepper from the garden.

The daughter swears she hates pumpkin. But we noticed that last night, she had two helpings ๐Ÿ˜€