syrup cake with strawberries & blueberries

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In the weekend we had Mum & my brother’s mother-in-law to lunch. Well, midday dinner, I guess. The main course was a butterflied leg of lamb, crusted with herbs and cooked on the barbecue. (Our first barbecue of the season!) Along with that we had roast potatoes & pumpkins (we’re still eating the wee ones we grew last summer), steamed green beans, fresh peas from the garden, and a minty hollandaise sauce. Once that had settled (& yes, we had leftovers for tea the next day) I served up this cake – I think the recipe was originally in the Viva section of the Wednesday morning Herald, but I’ve massaged it slightly.

Cream together 250g butter and 1 c sugar, before beating in 3 eggs. This time round I also added the zest of an orange. Then fold in 1/2 c fine polenta, 2 c ground almonds, & 1/2 c self-raising flour. Spoon the mix into a greased and lined square cake tin (or, in my case, a silicone ‘tin’) and smooth the top before putting it in the oven at 160 C. After 20 minutes cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil, then continue to bake for around 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven & cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before carefully inverting it onto a serving dish & removing the baking paper.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the fruit/syrup topping. The original recipe used summer stone-fruit such as nectarines and plums and added vanilla to the syrup, but I had a punnet of strawberries from the orchard shop near the kennels where the dog goes for ‘kindy’ (lol). So I sliced a couple of cups of strawberries into a saucepan & added 1/2 c sugar, the juice of the orange, and 2 sprigs of mint, before bringing it gently to the simmer. Trust me – mint works rather well with strawberries! I simmered it for only 10 minutes as I didn’t want the fruit to disintegrate, then cooled the mix for about 10 minutes before spooning it carefully over the top of the cake. The last step was to decorate with some more slices of strawberry & about 1/2 c of frozen blueberries – the residual heat from cake & sauce defrosted them before we got to the pudding stage.

Serve with vanilla icecream or whipped cream, or both, and wait for the compliments.

cheese-filled cannelloni

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The other day I found a packet of dry cannelloni tubes in the pantry, & decided we’d have cannelloni for tea. The sauce was going to be easy: we’re slowly working through the packets of tomato sauce that I froze last summer, so out came one of those, plus there was a 450g packet of beef mince in the freezer. So I turned the oven to heat to 180 C and next, once the meat was defrosted (microwaves are a wonderful invention) I browned it in a frying pan over medium heat, stirring to break it up, & then added a packet of sauce & left it to simmer very gently. But what to put in the tubes of pasta?

In the fridge were eggs, a block of parmesan cheese, and 250g tubs of ricotta cheese & sour cream. I emptied the 2 tubs into a bowl & beat them together with a wooden spoon, before beating in the egg and some grated parmesan. Next I chopped together fresh parsley, basil mint (because I still don’t have any basil) and lemon thyme & mixed that into the cheese mixture. I used a teaspoon to fill the pasta tubes, standing each on its end to do this. In retrospect I could have used a piping bag, but oh well…

I spooned a little of the sauce over the base of an oblong casserole dish, then arranged a layer of filled cannelloni over the top. More sauce on the pasta, and then the next layer of cheese-filled tubes, and finally the rest of the sauce. Because I felt like a cheese overload I sprinkled a little more parmesan over the top before putting the dish into the oven – it took about 35 minutes to cook, by which time the sauce was bubbling & the cheese golden. (You can check that it’s cooked by pushing a skewer into the pasta – there should be very little resistance.)

We had it with salad & some steamed broccoli from the garden – there was plenty for 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day.

 

not yer usual garlic prawns

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Last week the husband & I spent a very pleasant few days down in Napier. The sun shone, the wind didn’t blow, the temperature was balmy, & the food was terrific. One of several memorable dinners (memorable for all the right reasons) was eaten at Indigo, a most excellent Indian restaurant, We started off with a shared dish of vegetarian entrees, which we knew full well we didn’t need to eat but they sounded rather good & turned out to be so. I followed that with Kashmiri gustaba (a delightfully fragrant dish of lamb meatballs in a saffron & yoghurt-based sauce), & the husband indulged in jingha lasooni, which turned out to be garlic prawns & was probably the best dish of the evening (& you’ll have gathered that all of them were pretty darn good).

Anyway, ever since there have been small murmurings that perhaps I might like to make those prawns at home. So today was the day. I’d looked at quite a few recipes but, apart from prawns & garlic, they seemed more different than similar, so as usual I Made Stuff Up.

First, I minced a thumb-sized piece of raw ginger & put that in a large-ish bowl with 6 cloves of garlic, peeled & also minced. I’d have mixed them with a tub of natural yoghurt if we’d had any in the fridge, but we didn’t so I used 1/2 a tub of sour cream instead. For the spices I used 2 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1/4 tsp ground chili, a pinch of salt, & 1 tsp garam masala. Because I could, & also because I wanted a sauce/marinade somewhat runnier than things were looking right then, I steeped a pinch of saffron in 2 Tblsp boiling water for a few minutes & added that to the bowl, then mixed everything well to combine. I also added a handful of golden raisins, because I sort of remembered something in the jingha lasooni that had that same sweet mouth-feel. The final step at this stage was to add 400g of prawn tails and stir well so that each tail was well coated with the marinade.

Coming up to dinner time, I melted 50g butter in a heavy frying pan with 1 Tblsp oil, then added 2 brown onions (peeled and finely chopped – oh how I love my slice-y dice-y mandoline!) and cooked them, stirring occasionally, till they were softened & golden. Then I tipped in the prawns & their marinade, raised the heat, & simmered it all together until the prawn flesh was white & cooked through. (I cheated with the accompaniments: the rice was ‘Uncle Ben’s & the naan – this time – were some that I’d bought at the market a couple of weeks ago & frozen.)

Served over rice, with chopped coriander leaves on top & with naan on the side, it looked – & smelled – pretty good really, albeit quite a different meal from that Napier dinner 😀

macaroni with broccoli pesto

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We had my mother-in-law to tea last night & I wanted to make something a bit different that would tickle her taste buds. Looking in the fridge I found we had quite a lot of broccoli (the result of me buying some at the market before I found the first big head of the season growing in the garden). And in the cupboard we had dried macaroni, so I decided to make a variation on a recipe in the Saturday paper. (A variation that was necessary because I didn’t have basil & I didn’t have pine nuts & I didn’t have the fancy pasta, just the macaroni 🙂 )

First I set water to boil in a large saucepan, prior to adding the macaroni (about 1&1/2 cups). Then I cut a large head of broccoli into florets before cooking them until just tender. The recipe said just to blanch the veges, but Mum is not a fan of crispy greens unless we are talking lettuce.)

While the broccoli cooked I pulsed 1/2 walnut halves (I know you don’t like them, Annette, but you could use cashews instead – or the original pine nuts!) in my stick blender’s chopping attachment until they were like largeish breadcrumbs, put them in a bowl, & chopped a cup or so of basil mint leaves (new addition to my herb garden & it’s a very vigorous grower) before adding them to the bowl as well. Then I did the same with the broccoli, until it was a rough paste, & added it to the bowl with 1/2c olive oil & a good grinding of salt & pepper.

By that time the pasta was nicely al dente, so I drained it & returned it to the pan along with the broccoli pesto, mixed it all together, & served with grated parmesan atop and alongside some carrots & nice crumbed pork schnitzel.

Mum was very taken with this offering 😀

a very nice cheesecake

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This is a dessert I make quite often when we’re having friends over for dinner. It’s quick to make, requires no baking, & if you make it with ‘lite’ dairy products you can almost kid yourself it’s healthy 🙂 This recipe’s our current favourite variation on the original Edmond’s Cookbook version.

First, crush your biscuits** – for this version I use chocolate thins. (You can either put them in the blender until you get coarse crumbs, or put them in a reasonably sturdy plastic bag & beat them with a rolling pin; this can be quite cathartic.) Then mix in 70g melted butter & press the crumb crust into a 20cm-diameter dish. These days I use a spring-form pan – while it’s non-stick I still line the base with baking paper – but a ceramic pie-dish served us well for years. Put that in the fridge to chill & set while you make the filling.

Wipe the blender to get rid of the worst remaining crumbs & then into it put: 250g cream cheese (lite if you prefer); 250g sour cream (ditto); 1/4c white sugar; and the juice & zest of an orange (because this goes particularly well with the chocolate base. But you could use a lemon or lime instead). Blend till smooth.

Soften 4tsp gelatine in a couple of Tblsp water, & then briefly microwave to dissolve. Blend that into the cream mix & pour the whole lot into the prepared tin. At this point I sometimes add blueberries (though not with the chocolate version) or other fruit.

Chill till set, & serve 🙂

** If using plain biscuits (eg wine biscuits), then some crumbed macadamia nuts would be nice in the crust too.

mrs fordyce’s (gluten-free) gingernuts

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Back when I was in secondary school (a loooong way back!), my friend Ali F’s mum made the most wonderful gingernuts. We raved about them, & luckily she was only too happy to share the recipe. I found it again today – written in my school-girl scribble – when looking for something to make for morning tea. And because we had a couple of gluten-intolerant friends coming over, I tweaked the recipe a little to make it gluten-free. So…

Cream together 150g butter and 250g sugar. Once it’s pale & creamy, beat in 1 large egg and 1/4 c golden syrup. (I’ve made them before with honey & that’s worked well too.)

Sift together 2&1/2 cups GF flour, 3 tsp powdered ginger**, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt & 3/4 tsp guar gum, & mix this into the wet ingredients. It should give a firm, not too sticky, dough.

Roll walnut-sized pieces of dough into balls, then roll the balls in white sugar before placing on a greased baking sheet. (Or use a silicone sheet, or baking paper.) Bake at 150 Celsius for about 8 minutes – the original recipe said 180 C, but I could see early on that this was going to be a bit too hot. Cool a little on the tray before transferring to a rack.

I’ve had GF cookies before & found them very crumbly, but these were great: crispy outside, soft & chewy inside.

** I was really ticked off when I discovered that the commonly available commercial spices almost all have the words ‘contains wheat products’ on the packet! This is totally ridiculous – I’m assuming the wheat flour’s there to stop the stuff caking, but I’m paying for spices, not flour. Happily, you can buy a limited range of GF spices at our local supermarket; I’m hoping the market expands, not least so that I can still make a decent curry when our friends visit.

slow-cooked curried lamb neck chops

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The lamb leg steaks in the supermarket were going to cost me an arm & a leg. ‘Blerg!’, I said, & settled for the neck chops: a delicious cut that well repays slow cooking. Which is what I did for a kilogram of them yesterday.

First up, coat the chops in well-seasoned flour, melt some butter with some vegetable oil in a heavy pan, & brown both sides of the chops (do this in batches!) before transferring them to a slow-cooker on low heat.

Lower the heat under the frying pan & add one finely-sliced onion to the fat in the pan. Once it’s started to turn translucent, add as much garlic & ginger as you fancy – in my case it was 6 cloves of minced garlic & rather more than a tablespoon of finely minced raw ginger. Stir to mix & follow with the spices: I used 2 tsp ground coriander, 3 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp hot ground chilli, a cinnamon stick (broken in two), and about a dozen whole cloves.

Next, stir in any flour remaining from the chops, along with 500ml beef stock & then carefully pour the lovely spicy broth over the meat in the slow cooker.

Cover & walk away 😀

After 6 hours of that you should be able to lift out the chops & simply pull the meat off the bones. Remove the cinnamon stick pieces – your dinner guests will have to look out for the cloves themselves! Carefully decant as much of the fat as possible from the broth in the cooker, then return the meat to the cooker bowl & add a couple of Tblsp of plain yoghurt & one tsp of garam masala. If you want a thicker gravy, now’s the time to blend a Tblsp or so of cornflour with some of the broth and stir that through the curry. Leave it on low until you’re ready to serve, & then sprinkle some chopped fresh coriander leaves over the top.

We had it with another curry (of potatoes, cauliflower, & peas cooked with coriander, turmeric and cumin & some chicken stock) and naan bread hot from the oven. And followed with a choc-orange version of a cheesecake – one that I realise I haven’t written about yet. So that will follow shortly 🙂

And then sat around for a while as the food was sooo good & we all ate more than we should have.