Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Black garlic chocolate mousse

If I was the sort of person who did things by the book, I’d be planting my garlic today. But after the failure of last year’s crop – I’ll never know if it was too much rain at the wrong time, the wrong sort of compost, or just bad luck – I’m a bit reluctant. Serves me right for being so smug and getting it in on time last year, I suppose. Traditional garden lore says it should be planted on the Shortest Day, but apparently it can be planted any time from May until the end of July. That’s especially useful information for people like me, who don’t fancy going out in the dark tonight to get the job done.

In the meantime, I’m indulging in some extremely moreish black garlic grown and cured in Marlborough. Black garlic, or ‘garlic noir’ as it’s sometimes called, is fermented for a month to create a kind of super garlic that has double the antioxidants of the ordinary stuff. The fermentation process also changes the texture and flavour profile – black garlic is soft and almost chewy, with a sweet and smoky flavour that reminds me of molasses or fresh dates. It’s extremely moreish and I often find I have eaten a couple of cloves while slicing it up for something else.

 The clever people who make it at Marlborough Garlic suggest using it as part of an antipasto platter, but I’ve also been adding it to vinaigrettes, or adding it as a last-minute flavour boost to risotto, as it doesn't need to be cooked. They also suggest dipping in in dark chocolate, which I was unsure about until a recent lunch at the sublime Wharekauhau Lodge where pastry chef Yannick Beaurienne devised a gorgeous black garlic chocolate mousse with kumara and pear brunoise, kumara ice cream and garlic caramel, as seen below.

Yannick's version was beautiful, elegant (and extremely labour-intensive). Here’s my much-simplified version for the home cook.

Black garlic chocolate mousse with black garlic toffee
Don’t be afraid – the black garlic just deepens and enriches the chocolate flavours. This was a huge hit in my household, to the point that there was barely any left to photograph.

For the mousse:
200g dark chocolate
2 cloves black garlic (about 8g)
400ml cream
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the black garlic toffee:
3-4 cloves black garlic, finely sliced
4 Tbsp caster sugar
20ml (4 tsp) water

A little extra cream, for drizzling

Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a heatproof bowl. Put half the cream into a small pot and heat to nearly boiling point. Pour over the chocolate and set aside for five minutes.
Mash the garlic to a paste and stir through the chocolate and cream until the mixture is smooth.
Whip the cream and vanilla to soft peaks. Fold through the cooled chocolate mixture,  then pour into a large bowl or divide between six small serving dishes (I use Great Aunt Shirley’s whisky glasses). Cover and put in the fridge to set for at least two hours.

For the toffee, spread the sliced garlic on a piece of non-stick foil or baking paper. Put the sugar and water in a small pot and set over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then let it bubble away for five to 10 minutes, until it turns a dark golden colour (don’t wander off, this will happen sooner than you think!) Pour the toffee over the garlic and leave to set.

To serve, remove the mousses from the fridge at least 20 minutes before serving. Break the toffee into pieces and use to decorate each one. Drizzle a little cream over the top and serve.

Are you planting garlic this winter? Do you have any top tips for failed growers?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Frozen persimmon sorbet

Have you been struck by the dreaded winter lurgy yet? It has cut a swathe through our small household in the last week and I don't think it's done with us yet. I lost my voice over the weekend, then lost my hearing as soon as it came back. Worst of all, I've lost my sense of taste - unless it's chocolate or chilli, I've been reduced to eating for texture only. This is profoundly depressing.

I'm hoping that my current high levels of persimmon consumption will speed my recovery. Persimmons are high in vitamin C and look extremely cheerful in the kitchen. Oranges are not the only fruit at this time of year, after all.

This week's Three Ways With... column is devoted to the not-so-humble persimmon, which I have been consuming in huge quantities lately (so imagine how much sicker I could have been!) The following recipe for frozen persimmon sorbet will be extremely soothing if you're unwell, but you don't have to be poorly to enjoy it. 

Frozen persimmon sorbet
I was extremely sceptical when I read about this recipe - and I did have to experiment with it a bit to make it work - but it's a nice bit of fun to try (with minimal effort required). All you need to do is freeze as many persimmons as you have diners for a minimum of three hours. At least 45 minutes before serving, remove the persimmons from the freezer. Slice off the tops and let the fruit sit at room temperature. After 45 minutes they will be icy cold, but soft enough to spoon out the frosty flesh. For an extra treat, pass around a bowl of whipped cream.

If this sounds like too much hassle, be reliably informed that you can freeze peeled, sliced persimmons and whiz them up in smoothies. And if you have a dehydrator, dried persimmon slices are absolute heaven (thanks Ann for the lovely specimens below).

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Three ways with coconut + Spicy Persian Love Cake

Remember when coconut oil was going to save us all? I'm not sure it's happened yet, given that the world needs saving more now than ever before. If you've doubted that coconut oil is a miracle product, this podcast will be music to your ears. If you're like me, and love coconut purely for reasons of greed and culinary usefulness, you might be interested in this week's Three Ways With... column, which features three delectable recipes for coconut in various forms (including oil, though it is most definitely not a recipe with any health claims).

I make no health claims for the following recipe either, except to say that making - and eating - it makes me extremely happy. Since happiness is closely related to wellness, I think I can justifiably say that a slice of this is very good for you.

Spicy Persian Love Cake
This recipe is an adaptation of Sam Mannering's Persian Love Cake, which seems itself to be adapted from an internet-famous recipe by Australian chef Gerard Yaxley. I was inspired to make this version after Karen Dennison of Coyo sent me some of her wares to try. While Coyo's chocolate coconut yoghurt is outrageously good (rich, yet with a tangy finish) and the passionfruit one is lovely, I was most taken with the chai version, which is made with Hakanoa ginger syrup. To stop myself from eating through a tub in one go, I turned the rest into this just-as-addictive cake.

1/2 cup dried dates
1/2 cup walnut halves (about 40g)
1 1/2 cups whole almonds (about 200g)
1 scant cup lightly packed brown sugar
80g soft unsalted butter
1 egg
3/4 cup Coyo Chai coconut yoghurt
finely grated zest of two oranges

Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm tart tin (or springform cake tin).
Soak the dates in boiling water for five minutes, then drain.
Put the nuts in a food processor and whiz to fine crumbs. Add the dates, sugar and butter and whiz again until well combined. Press half of this mixture evenly into the prepared tin, creating a 1cm-ish rim at the sides.
Add the egg, yoghurt and orange zest to the remaining mixture in the food processor and whiz again until smooth. Carefully pour this mixture into the tin.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, until the top is dark golden and the middle is just set (it will continue to firm up as it cools). Cool on a rack, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Cut into thin wedges - a little goes a long way - and serve with more yoghurt or whipped cream. Any leftovers keep well in the fridge.

How do you feel about the so-called healing powers of coconut?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kitchen DIY: Goats' curd

Q: What do you call a goat that's sitting around doing nothing?

A: Billy Idol.

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. I fell down a rabbit hole of goat memes on the internet the other day and bad goat jokes were rife. Believe it or not, the Billy Idol example was one of the better ones.

Goats have been on my mind because today's Three Ways With... column is all about using goat meat, milk and cheese. The latter has become much more common in New Zealand in recent years -there were loads of great goats' cheese entries in the recent Outstanding Food Producer Awards, for example - but the former two are only just on the cusp of being mainstream. It's a pity, because they're delicious - and they tick all the boxes in terms of careful production and quality.

I was inspired to make my own cajeta (pictured above) after tasting Hamilton company Cilantro's version. Making your own is fun, not difficult and yields a generous amount that will disappear quickly. It's the closest thing I've tasted to manjar, the highly addictive Chilean dulce de leche. One spoonful and you'll never be satisfied with salted caramel again.

If you're too pure to sully your palate with such decadence, but want to have a play with goats' milk in the kitchen, I strongly recommend DIY goats' curd. I make it quite often (short-dated goats' milk is often on special at my local food emporium) and it's the sort of kitchen magic trick everyone should know how to perform.

DIY Goats' Curd
This is about as simple as cooking gets - milk + heat + coagulant + time = soft, creamy goats' cheese. Smoosh a bit on some toasted baguette, drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and bliss will be yours.

500ml (2 cups) goats' milk
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
a pinch of salt

Heat the goats' milk until simmering point. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, until curds have begun to form. While you're waiting, line a sieve with muslin (I use a very fine cotton table napkin) and set it over a large bowl.
Carefully pour the curds/milk into the sieve. Leave to drain for at least 20 minutes, pressing it gently to squeeze out the whey. If you're not in a hurry, you can put the sieve/bowl arrangement in the fridge and let it drain for a couple of hours.
When you're ready, scrape the curds into a small bowl. Use immediately or cover and store in the fridge.

Are you a fan of goats' produce? Or do you have a good goat joke to share? Let me know!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How about 'dem love apples?

Valentines Day might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I think there can never be too many days to celebrate the people you love. If that sounds too Hallmark for words, rest assured that I'll cheerfully stab anyone who claims that 'every day is Valentines Day for us'. It's precisely because every day ISN'T full of hearts and flowers that we need to be grateful for the ones that are.

Anyway, if you're stuck for ideas for ways to celebrate, here are some particularly good tomato recipes to make for your beloved(s). If that seems like a weird thing to do, rest assured that the French once thought tomatoes had aphrodisiac powers. Oh la la and all that, you know?

Friday, February 03, 2017

Ice cream daze

I don't want to be a weather bore, but Wellington is having the most dismal summer ever. I mean, really. On Monday I was so cold at work I had to borrow a jacket destined for the lost property box. On Tuesday I ended up buying a winter coat. On Wednesday I wore it. Yesterday it rained so hard I had to wring my wet clothes out when I got home - and that was after sitting in the car for AN HOUR because the weather wreaked havoc on the traffic. Harrumph.

Tangelo and cinnamon sorbet. Yum!
But today the sun has come out and it seems like the long weekend might even be fine. Ish. Which means it might be more appropriate to tell you about the Three Ways With Frozen Treats column I wrote two weeks ago. Here it is, for your reading pleasure. Bonus points if you can identify the model in the photo.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May the sun shine on you, wherever you are!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Three ways with... picnic food

There's a long weekend on the horizon and - though the weather is unlikely to be playing ball - I'm still hopeful that there will be enough sunshine for a picnic.

Photo: Ross Giblin/Fairfax Media
This week's Three Ways With... has a trio of picnic-friendly recipes for you to try. If all else fails, eat them while sitting on a picnic blanket in the lounge. Add lashings of ginger beer and some spy-catching for a frisson of Famous Five-style fun.

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bone (broths) of contention

News that popsicles made from bone broth are summer's 'coolest new treat' has made me feel decidedly hot under the collar. If you're slow to catch on, a Sydney cafe has started marketing 'brothsicles' made from frozen beef broth, coconut milk and raspberries, cacao or mango. Mmmm-mmmm. Want one?

I guess it's no business of mine if people want to go around sucking on frozen beef broth tszuj-ed up with raw cacao and raspberries. What I really object to is this wide-eyed wonder about bone broth in general. If you believe everything you read, this magic elixir can cure cancer, make your nails grow longer and improve your sex life. There are many 'reports' about its supposed beauty benefits too, but I found reading these breathless stories only deepened my frown lines. What everyone seems to have forgotten - if indeed they ever knew in the first place - is that bone broth is essentially good old-fashioned stock dressed up in the emperor's new clothes.

Don't start me...
I'm not sure where this fervour came from, but now it's hard to find a newly published cookbook or 'wellness' blog that isn't overflowing with evangelical praise for the kind of thing that metaphorical thrifty grandmothers have been making for decades. Whereas bone broth is so cool they make ice blocks out of it, there is nothing fashionable about stock. No one, except ordinary boring old cooks, ever gets excited about a good stock's potential (and they're unlikely to be wondering if it's better for your skin than Botox). Ordinary boring old cooks love stock because it adds depth and flavour to whatever you've put it in. Ordinary boring old cooks know that a proper, slow-simmered stock gives a certain 'je ne sais quoi' to a soup, stew or sauce.

That's why I spent several hours yesterday wrestling a giant ham bone into my largest stockpot. I added a couple of onions, a few sticks of celery and several carrots, then filled the whole thing to the brim with water. I covered the pot and let it simmer away for about three hours while I did a whole lot of uncool things like washing and work and gardening. At the end, the house smelled like ham (not entirely sure if this is a good thing), I'd boosted my bone health by doing some weight-bearing lifting in the garden and I'm sure the smug satisfaction of doing such a thrifty kitchen task had given me an enviable glow. Best of all, I now have three litres of stock in the freezer to use in the winter. Perhaps I should turn it into a kind of granita and sell it at a pop-up down in the village.

Ham bone granita. Want some?

In the meantime, if you want a truly delicious frozen treat, I wholeheartedly recommend the Dr Feelgood range of icepops. These are without question THE most delicious ice creams I've come across this summer. The fact that they're bone broth-free could have something to do with that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In bloom: Ricotta-stuffed nasturtiums

Today's Three Ways With... column is all about foraged foods, with a particular focus on what you can forage within the perimeter of your garden (unless you're lucky enough to be a marine forager).

Ricotta And Feta-Stuffed Nasturtium Blooms Recipe Lucy Corry Image Ross Giblin
Image: Ross Giblin/Fairfax Media
Find out how to make these - plus a pesto to use up all those pesky weeds - here.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Resolutions, chocolate smoothies and books

How are those New Year resolutions going? Fallen off the wagon yet? Evidence suggests that most people do, especially if their resolutions are all about depriving themselves of the things they love. Far better, I think, to have a positive goal in mind than kick off a new year with a focus on deprivation. The best New Year resolution I've seen or heard is from Alessandra Zecchini, who has vowed 'to eat chocolate and try new things'.

I'm planning to adopt that one, along with growing more vegetables, planting a lime tree and buying some more wineglasses (we had a smashing good time over the festive period). Small goals, maybe, but still valid ones. When I look back to this time last year it turns out that I achieved all the things I planned to do (and ran a marathon), despite feeling like I never got around to doing very much. So perhaps the real resolution is to expect less of yourself (and be pleasantly surprised by the results). In the meantime, I'm trying to maintain a positive frame of mind about returning to my day job tomorrow. Gulp. How am I going to cope without a slab of Christmas cake for morning tea and an snooze after lunch?

Easy Chocolate Smoothie With Almond Milk And Tahini

Back to work smoothie
Here's my recipe for a quick summer breakfast that a) feels like a treat and b) will keep you going until lunchtime. This is a good way to use up your stash of frozen bananas, but the rapidly ripening ones in the fruit bowl will also work well. I prefer almond milk in smoothies, but use whatever you like. I also think the banana makes it sweet enough, but add a little honey if you need an extra boost.

1 banana, sliced
1 Tbsp cocoa
1 Tbsp tahini (or peanut butter)
1 Tbsp ground LSA or almonds
3/4 cup almond milk

Throw all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth. Pour into a glass and drink immediately. Serves one.

If you're resolving to make some bigger changes to the way you eat in 2017, you might be keen on two new books full of advice and recipes.

YouTube sensation Niomi Smart's first book, Eat Smart: What To Eat In A Day, Every Day (HarperCollins, RRP $45), has more than 100 plant-based recipes that use everyday ingredients. I'm not about to follow her lead and give up all meat, dairy products, fish and eggs overnight, but there are some nice ideas here.

Closer to home, Australian model, mother, dancer and TV host Rachael Finch has also got a new book out and she's an equally compelling poster girl for the wholesome lifestyle. Her book, Happy Healthy Strong (HarperCollins, RRP$40), mixes mostly plant-based recipes with exercise tips and general wellbeing advice (don't let that bit put you off, the recipes are lovely).

I'm ever hopeful of having more time to spend on The Kitchenmaid this year (I should really take some of Rachael's advice on goal setting), but in the meantime, keep an eye on my Facebook page as I'll be giving away these books in the next week.

Hope you've had a great start to 2017 x

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Chunky white choc, orange and cranberry slice

I read something last week about how 'invisible prisons' - jobs, societal pressures, parenting, caring for older relatives - meant that modern women are shackled with more responsibilities than their mothers and grandmothers. I don't know if that's true. Personally, if that's the price I have to pay for being able to vote, drive, own property and be generally free to do what I like, I'm fine with it. But last week I did find myself wishing I did a bit less. There's nothing like racing home after work on the night of the school production and remembering en route that you were supposed to bake something for the cake stall to give you conniptions, is there?

Now, I know I could have ignored the cake stall request, or I could have been more organised and done it a few days in advance. But I didn't do either of those things. Instead, I whipped up this slab of deliciousness in 20 minutes, while concurrently making boiled eggs for dinner and getting the child in and out of the bath. We then made it to the show on time, and all the lovely mothers (it's always mothers, isn't it?) who are so good they even RUN THE CAKESTALL cooed over the slice and wanted the recipe. In that moment, I felt a little bit less like a failure and more like a contributing member of society, even if my child was appearing in the show with a whopper of a black eye. But that's another story.

Chunky white choc, orange and cranberry slice
There are a zillion versions of this slice and the world probably doesn't need another one, but if you have weeks where the wheels are coming off and yet you still need to 'bake', this will save your bacon. Or bakin'. Or something.
Anyway, this version is better than all the others because it's big and chunky, and therefore more satisfying to eat. It's also slightly less sweet than some versions. If you're very, very short of time, you may like to know that it's possible to pre-crush the packet of biscuits with the full tin of condensed milk while you're stopped at the lights. Also, if you don't have quite enough biscuits, add a little more coconut. Or use less butter. If you're reading this while running to the shops, a 200g packet of dried cranberries will give you enough for the base and the topping, while a 250g block of Whittaker's white chocolate will fulfill all your chocolate needs.

100g butter
1/2 a tin (about 3/4 cup) condensed milk
300g plain sweet biscuits, bashed to large crumbs (keep a few big pieces in there for texture)
1 cup desiccated coconut
125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
zest of an orange
1 cup dried cranberries
125g white chocolate, roughly chopped

For the icing:
125g white chocolate
50g butter
1 cup icing sugar
juice of an orange (use the one you zested above)
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Line a 20 x 25cm tin (or thereabouts) with baking paper, leaving enough overhanging the sides that you can use to pull it out later.
Melt the butter and condensed milk together over low heat in a large pot. Let cool briefly, then tip in the biscuits, coconut, most of the orange zest, cranberries and chocolate. Stir to mix, then tip into the prepared tin. Press down (the overhanging paper will help here) to smooth the top. Put in the freezer.
Use the same pot to make the icing. Melt the butter and white chocolate over very, very low heat. Sift in the icing sugar and stir well, then squeeze in a little orange juice at a time until it forms a thick, spreadable mixture. Pour over the biscuit base, then sprinkle the cranberries and reserved orange zest on top. Return to the freezer for 5-10 minutes before slicing and racing out the door.
If your life is more leisurely, let the icing set in the fridge before slicing. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spicy gingerbread and creamy apple whoopie pies

Remember whoopie pies? They were going to be the new cupcakes, or the new macarons, but I don't think they ever really took off. A shame, really; it's always sad when little cakes never grow up to reach their full potential. Perhaps they'll make a comeback (if slip dresses over white t-shirts, like we wore in the late 90s, can make a resurgence this summer, then surely there's hope for the whoopie pie). I'm hoping I can get ahead of the pack on this one and I might have made the thing to do it.

Spicy Gingerbread Whoopie Pies With Creamy Apple Filling

Spicy gingerbread whoopie pies with creamy apple filling

This is a recipe with three stages, but it's not hard. Just make the apple compote the day before, so it has time to chill in the fridge. The pies can be filled in advance and stored in an airtight container.

For the apple compote:
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 Tbsp caster sugar
3 Tbsp water
1/2 tsp ground cloves

For the pies:
1 large egg
150g caster sugar
100g butter, melted
150g sour cream
60ml milk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
250g plain flour

For the cream cheese filling:
200g cream cheese, at room temperature
50g butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla

To make the apple compote, put all the ingredients in a small pot and set over medium heat. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, until the apple is soft. Whip to a puree with a fork, then transfer to a bowl. Cover when cold and store in the fridge.

To make the pies, heat the oven to 160C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Put the egg in a large bowl and beat until thick. Continue beating and gradually add the sugar. Beat until pale and thick, then add the butter, sour cream, milk and vanilla. Beat to combine, then sift in the dry ingredients. Fold together until combined. Spoon into a piping bag with a wide nozzle and pipe small rounds of the mixture (about the size of a tablespoon) on the prepared trays, leaving room for spreading. You can also spoon the mixture on to the trays, but piping gives a nicer finish.
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the pies are risen and golden brown. Remove to a rack to cool.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Fold in the apple compote and transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large nozzle (or use a plastic bag and snip off the end). Pipe a generous tablespoon or so of mixture onto the flat side of a pie half and top with another. Dust with icing sugar and serve - or store in an airtight container. Makes about 32 little pies.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Apple and almond porridge

I'm sorry, the recent cold snap is all my fault. I was the one who said winter was over; I was the one who ignored the merino tights sale and who figured my daughter's ever-shrinking raincoat would last out the year. Rest assured I have been paying for my folly. Last weekend, while running in four layers (vest, long-sleeved running top, Icebreaker, rain jacket) plus hat, plus beanie, plus husband's gloves, all I could do was think about the steaming bowl of porridge I was going to have when I got home and my hands defrosted enough to stir the pot. The temperatures have since returned to double figures (just), but I'm not going to take any chances.

Apple and almond porridge
I find the easiest way to do this on busy mornings is to get it going over low heat and let it bubble away while I get ready for work/chivvy child out of bed/make lunches. If you're not a morning person, you can start this the night before - just put all the ingredients in a pot and leave it somewhere cold until the morning. In the summer, you can do this and call it bircher muesli. But those days are still a bit too far away to think about, I reckon.

2/3 cup rolled oats
1 apple, grated (include the skin)
2 Tbsp ground almonds
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp (a small pinch) ground cloves
a good pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 - 2 1/2 cups almond milk

Put all ingredients in a small pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and cook until thick and 'ploppy' (ie, bubbling lazily like a mud pool). Add more almond milk or water if it gets too thick. Serve with the porridge topping of your choice - here it's Zany Zeus Greek yoghurt, a drizzle of vanilla syrup and a scattering of chopped almonds. Cream and golden syrup are also good options. If it's a really cold day you can justify cream and Greek yoghurt...

Hope you are keeping at exactly the right temperature, wherever you are in the world.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

How to make really good soup from nothing (and a $2.50 bunch of cavolo nero)

Today's Three Ways With... column is all about food waste - using up the stuff you'd normally throw away. While I was thinking about it, I realised I do a lot of food 'saving' that's unconscious. Things aren't so desperate that I reuse teabags (I remember seeing a posh and terrifying friend of my mother's doing this and being thoroughly shocked), but I do like to extract maximum value from things.

Leftovers get taken for work lunches, baguette ends are turned into breadcrumbs or crostini, spotty bananas are frozen for smoothies or baking - it's stuff that seems basic household common sense. But I fear that the very existence of campaigns like Love Food Hate Waste (which I'm proud to support) means that people have lost their way.

I guess if you don't cook often, or see cooking as a difficult chore, then you're less likely to think about using up your leftovers. Or, you may be like someone I know who cooks a lot, but over-caters massively and then just chucks stuff in the bin (a long-lost Presbytarian gene means I am morally outraged by this). But it's not that hard.

If you want to waste less, you need to be mindful right from the start. You need to plan meals to a certain extent, you need to shop with purpose and cook with efficiency. That means, when you get excited by seeing huge bunches of cavolo nero at the shops for $2.50, you need to think on your feet about what you're going to do with it. In this case, I let it sit in the fridge for a few days, waiting for inspiration to strike. We have a small, ill-designed fridge and it's fundamentally unsuited to having lots of stuff in it. So, when I realised the cavolo nero was balanced on Sunday night's leftover roast chicken, something stirred in my brain.

The chicken, stripped of fat and skin, went in the pot, with an onion, a carrot and some limp celery. I covered it with water and an hour or so later, I had a vat of delicious stock. I sauted the rest of the celery, another onion and some garlic in a bit of oil leftover from a jar of sundried tomatoes, added a bowl of cooked quinoa from the fridge, a kumara from the cupboard and the cavolo nero. The stock went in, along with some herbs from the garden and before long 'nothing' had turned into soup. We ate half of it on the spot, and the rest went in the freezer. Not complicated, not costly, not wasteful. Why is this stuff dressed up to be difficult?

What's your favourite way to combat food waste?

Friday, June 10, 2016

The healing power of food

I've been thinking a lot lately about the healing power of food. Not just in the 'I've had a bad day, I'm going to eat my feelings in the form of this doughnut', but about the way food signifies care, comfort and respite.

When our daughter was born the best thing that happened to us was the beautiful food parcels delivered by a friend who lived nearby. She would send a text about 8am, saying she would be walking past our flat on her way to work, and that she would leave a food parcel at the front door. I'd stagger down, bleary-eyed and tearful from lack of sleep, and there would be a still-warm ham and zucchini quiche, a cake and - on real red-letter days - a Tupperware container of her incredible muesli. I've never forgotten how good it was. She seemed to instinctively know just when we needed it most.

I remembered that feeling a week ago when dropping off a modest food parcel to some friends with a new baby. The new dad said how kind people had been, inundating them with baby gear, and I joked that what all new parents really wanted was someone to arrive at 9pm and say, 'right, I'm taking over until the morning, when I bring you breakfast in bed'. He laughed and then said, seriously, 'getting food is the next best thing'.

I don't think you need to have a new baby to understand what he means. Any stressful life event is a good time for someone to arrive with dinner, or a batch of biscuits, or a loaf of bread they've picked up from the bakery. When my father died and the world seemed to be falling apart around us, kind people flooded our house with flowers. They were lovely, but the thing that really cheered us up was a home-delivered dinner from Angel Delivery, organised by the thoughtful office manager at my work.

Of course, there are people facing crises everywhere in the world, every day. You don't have to have a new baby, or suffered a bereavement, to need a bit of comfort. So my challenge to you, to all of us, is to do what we can, however small it may seem. If you're a cook, then by all means use your skills. If you're flush with funds, then there's a whole raft of ways to spend your cash on other people.

Here are some ways to help in New Zealand - with food, money, time or all three. Let me know if there are any I've forgotten and I'll add them to the list.

Angel Delivery: Know someone who needs a bit of cheering up but you can't be there? This is a brilliant service. The food is fantastic and all the little details are beautifully done. Don't send flowers, send food.

Bellyful: This is a volunteer service, providing meals to families with new babies or sick family members. You can volunteer your cooking, or donate money.

Eat My Lunch: Buy your lunch from this crowd and they'll donate a lunch to a child in need. If you live outside their delivery areas (Auckland or Hamilton), you can 'give two' - instead of buying your own lunch you can order two lunches to be delivered to hungry kids.

Good Bitches Baking: This is another voluntary organisation, spreading sweetness in the community via home baking. It's growing around New Zealand, but GBB founder Marie Fitzpatrick recently told me that people wanting to join or set up new chapters don't have to wait until there is a GBB in their area to 'do good': "I say, 'you don't need my permission to make a cake and take it to your local hospice, or soup kitchen, you can just do it.'" If you're not a baker but you'd still like to help, GBB also needs drivers, and money for cake boxes etc. The website has more information.

Te Puea Marae: This link has some great info on how you can help the homeless families taken in by the marae, as well as donate to their GiveALittle page.

In Australia, check out Eat Up Australia - a not-for-profit lunch service that combines food recovery with feeding hungry children. I've just interviewed the founder, Lyndon Galea, for Frankie magazine and he's a great guy with big plans.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Asian mint sauce

Remember mint sauce? I wouldn't be surprised if you don't. I'd all but forgotten about it myself, until last week when the Mr brought home half a slow-cooked lamb shoulder as a souvenir from a night out.

While I was reheating it for dinner the next evening, watching fat pooling in the roasting dish and feeling too tired to make hummus, I remembered the ultimate in traditional accompaniments. Five minutes later...

Easy Mint Sauce For Roast Lamb

Asian Mint Sauce
Let's be clear, this is a mint sauce with vaguely Asian ingredients, not a sauce of Asian mint (though I'm sure that would be nice, and if you have some growing, adding it would be a good experiment).

2 Tbsp grated palm sugar, or brown sugar
1/2 cup rice vinegar
a good pinch of flaky sea salt
about 40 fresh mint leaves, shredded

Put the sugar, vinegar and salt in a small pot. Bring it to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from the heat and add the mint. Stir and leave to cool, then transfer to a lidded glass jar. Store in the fridge and use liberally on appropriated roast lamb, among other things.

Given the weirdness of our weather - nearly May and it's still t-shirt weather in most parts of New Zealand, while it's sleeting in the northern hemisphere - it seems this fits the bill for Lavender and Lovage's Cooking With Herbs blogging challenge for April, which focuses on herbs for spring and Easter.
Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Monday, April 11, 2016

The perfect tuna sandwich

No blog posts for ages and then, what? A sandwich? I'm afraid so. Truth is, I feel like I've lost my food mojo in the last couple of weeks. Life seems to have overtaken me; there seems to be too much going on and not enough time to do it in. I've been doing a lot of running, so I'm perpetually hungry (and tired), and spending hours in the kitchen is a luxury I don't seem to have. 

Anyway, I'm hoping normal(ish) service will resume soon. In the meantime, here's a sandwich I perfected earlier in the year, when I was on holiday, combining lots of running with lots of gardening, lots of reading and lots of sitting on our newly finished deck, thinking how life was pretty sweet.

The perfect tuna sandwich
Not surprisingly, good tuna and good bread are essential to the success of this sandwich. The absolute best baguettes I've found in Wellington are the Acme sourdough baguettes from Prefab, the best tuna is the Sirena brand (the one with the mermaid on the tin).

1 x 185g tin good quality tuna in oil, drained (reserve the oil)
2 tsp green peppercorns in brine, drained
2 tsp capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
zest and juice of a lemon
2 tbsp mayonnaise
salt and pepper

Put everything in a small bowl and mix well. Add a little more oil if necessary. Pile into a halved baguette with some crunchy lettuce. Eat immediately.

What have you been up to while I've been away?

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Three ways with Guinness

Let's get something straight: I've never been one to join in the 'fun' of St Patrick's Day. Not for me the early morning pints of Guinness, the purposeful wearing of Kelly green or the joining of parades on March 17. Not my circus, not my monkeys, as the saying goes.

Three Ways With Guinness Guinness Granita With Irish Cream Credit: Lucy Corry

So it has come as a bit of a surprise to find that I'm actually a little bit partial to Guinness. I'm probably more likely to find a four-leaf clover than drink a pint of it in one go, but it's not a bad drop, all told. And it's quite fun to play with as an ingredient, especially if you get the cans with the little ball in them that help you pour it just like they do at the pub. Here are three ways to get some of that Guinness goodness into you...

Guinness Granita with Irish Cream
This idea came to me like a vision while I was running up Mt Victoria in the half-dark one hot and sticky late summer morning. It's every bit as refreshing as I hoped - and it makes one can of Guinness go a very long way. The granita will hold in the freezer for a couple of weeks and you should get at least six to eight servings out of it. The cream is best made just before serving - the amount specified below is enough for four.

1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 x 440ml can Guinness
1/2 cup cream
2 Tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream (or Irish whiskey)

Put the sugar and water in a bowl and stir well to dissolve the sugar. Slowly add the Guinness and stir well, then pour into a shallow freezer-safe container.
Put in the freezer and leave until partially frozen (about 1 to 1.5 hours), then scrape up the crystals with a fork and stir well. Return to the freezer for another 1.5-2 hours, then scrape up the mixture into large crystals. At this point you can serve the granita, or scrape into a covered container and leave in the freezer until you're ready.
When you're ready to serve, whip the cream with the Baileys or whiskey until soft peaks form.
Scrape about half a cup of the granita into a glass, then top with a large spoonful of the cream.
Serve immediately.

2. Black Velvets
This isn't my invention but I've always loved the story associated with it. After the death of Prince Albert in 1861, a London bartender invented a drink that looked suitably sombre for those in mourning by mixing Guinness and champagne together. It takes a little bit of skill to get it right without the glasses overflowing, but it's otherwise a very simple drink. Just half-fill a champagne flute with sparkling wine (not your best French champagne, unless you're a member of the Guinness family or similar), then carefully, carefully, carefully, top up with chilled Guinness.

3. Guinness Affogato
If you don't have time to make a Guinness granita, as detailed above, you can still have a Guinness-y pudding. Scoop some best-quality vanilla ice cream into a chilled glass, then pour over half a shot of espresso coffee and half the same quantity of Guinness. Top with some shards of very dark chocolate.

Have a great week, everyone. Slainte!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Black Doris Coconut Ice Cream

The hand-chalked blackboard sign loomed in front of us like a vision. It was a hot, windy day in the Wairarapa and the promise of 'REAL FRUIT ICE CREAM' was the perfect cure for three crochety travellers after two hours' in the car.

We drove into the orchard and parked outside the tin shed shop. Inside, in 40-degree temperatures, a sulky queue waited while one sweating woman operated the till and another worked the ice cream counter. I began to realise that we had made a wrong turn. The fruit and vegetables, which I'd first assumed to be grown on-site, looked like they'd travelled as far as we had. The fridge was full of dog meat. None of the staff looked like they'd eaten a vegetable that wasn't a deep-fried chip for a very long time.

The 'real fruit ice cream' sealed the deal. This was no artisan orchard operation, more like a factory production line. The 'real fruit' was pre-bagged frozen stuff, fed into a tube with cheap blocks of 'vanilla' ice cream. The resulting concoction spewed in a swirl out the other end of the machine, caught by a cone that tasted of stale communion wafers.

But by then it was too late. We paid handsomely for our ice creams and sat outside in the shade, wishing we'd stopped at a dairy for three of Tip Top's finest instead.

Nothing beats a good ice cream, nothing quite disappoints like a bad one. The good stuff is easy to make at home - here's how.

Black Doris Coconut Ice Cream

Black Doris Coconut Ice Cream
Last weekend my sister brought me a bag of tiny Black Doris plums from Hawkes Bay. They were slightly too soft for eating, so I decided to have a bit of an experiment with them instead. This incredibly good ice cream was the result. I based the coconut custard on this chocolate and cinnamon ice cream recipe by Emma Galloway (an ice cream so good it inspired me to acquire an ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid). It's very easy - the only hard bit is waiting for the custard to chill.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, then you should probably try making this just as a custard - set it in small bowls and top with a lid of melted dark chocolate.

10 small Black Doris plums
2 Tbsp sugar
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 x 400ml tin coconut cream (I used Kara brand)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar

Heat the oven to 200C and line a small baking dish with foil. Halve and stone the plums, then place, cut side up, in the dish. Sprinkle over the 2Tbsp of sugar and bake for 25 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, then mash into a puree. You should end up with about 1 cup of fruit.

To make the custard, put the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and beat until white and fluffy (an electric mixer is the easiest way to do this).
While that's happening, put the coconut cream, vanilla and plum puree in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to near boiling point, then pour onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time.
Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and return to the heat, stirring constantly for about five minutes or until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Transfer to a bowl and cool completely before refrigerating, stirring occasionally to stop a skin from forming on the top.
When the custard has chilled thoroughly, churn in an ice cream machine according to instructions.

Have a great week, everyone x

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Lemon verbena syrup + an elegant fruit salad

Four years ago, not long after my mother died, someone I didn't know very well left a lemon verbena tree on our doorstep. I found this gesture incredibly touching and kind, not least because my parents' garden had a huge lemon verbena tree and Mum often made tea from the leaves. I'm not sure if I ever properly thanked her - but Kate, if you're reading this, I often think of that kindness when I walk past the tree.

The tree has thrived, despite my neglect, but I seldom do anything with the leaves except for the occasional cup of tea. Then, while pottering around in the kitchen a week or so ago, I made this syrup and the whole house smelled like lemon verbena. It was gorgeous.

If you've got a lemon verbena tree, make this syrup now to get a dose of that intense lemony sherbet flavour in the depths of winter (or scent your house with it in summer). You can use it in drinks (nice with soda, or with very cold vodka as a kind of martini-ish number), or pour it over vanilla ice cream, or use it in this simple and elegant fruit salad (recipe follows). I'm thinking a lemon verbena sorbet could be next...

Lemon Verbena Syrup

1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 packed cup lemon verbena leaves

Put the water and sugar in a small pot and set over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then lower the heat and add the lemon verbena. Let bubble gently for five minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.
When the syrup has cooled completely, strain it through a fine sieve into a sterilised bottle or jar. Discard the lemon verbena leaves or use them as a garnish (they will be almost candied). Makes about 1/2 cup.

Simple fruit salad with lemon verbena syrup
2 white-flesh peaches
2 apricots
2 dark-fleshed plums
1 1/2 cups blueberries (or boysenberries)
1/4 cup lemon verbena syrup

Cut all the stonefruit into slim wedges - about eight slices - and put in a bowl. Pour over the syrup and stir gently, then add the berries. This can be done in advance, but I think it's nicest at room temperature rather than fridge-cold. Serves 4-6.