Monday, August 30, 2010

Portugese Custard Tarts

I stumbled across this recipe on Curious Kai and as soon as I saw the pictures, I started drooling!   We were heading out to a friends for dinner and I knew that Terri was cooking Paella, given that Portugal is at least in the vicinity of Spain, I though that was good enough reason to break out the pastry.

As I followed the receipe to the letter, I will just provide this link rather than type it out again!  My tarts do not look quite as lovely as the ones pictured on Curious Kai but they did taste great!

Wellington on a Plate: Finc!

I love Finc!  Their Wellington on a Plate lunch special for $25 included two courses and a glass of local organic wine - bargain!

I couldn't go past choosing the pork on pork option: pork dumplings to start followed by the pork belly main... what can I say, I'm a pig!  Soooo delicious though!

The Dumplings were definitely the winner with their tasty dipping sauce (wish I'd paid more attention to the menu in order to tell you about what was in it...).

The pork belly was just a tiny wee bit dry however very tasty and not overly rich which can be a problem sometimes with pork belly.  The greens were perfectly cooked and extremely tasty!

A lovely lunch, thanks Finc!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wellington on a Plate: Pop-up Restaurant

You know your week is going to be good when it is kicked off by scoring tickets to a two-night only Wellington on a Plate festival event!  A pop-up restaurant in the heart of the city with the menu designed by Rex Morgan of Citron fame, no-less.

Rex Morgan's Citron restaurant won more awards than you can shake a stick at and is still mourned by Wellingtonians after closing down last year.  These days Rex can be found at Boulcott St Bistro, another Wellington favourite but on Sunday and Monday night he was found in the old Rialto building, doing his thing for a few lucky punters, including me!

The ground floor of the old Rialto building has lately been used as a showroom for the stalled Watermark apartment development but was transformed for the festival event.  White table cloths, candles and dozens of bunches of spring flowers set the scene for a fabulous dinner with service which would be expected of any fine-dining restaurant. 

The meal started with a tasting platter which produced a reverential hush punctuated with exclamations of "have you tried the...", "OMG that ... is to die for!", "mmmmmm, so gooood".  The highlight for me was the Venison carpaccio with horseradish cream... my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

For my main I had Roasted Groper with Marlborough mussels, clams and green pea stew.  Another winner, nothing beats Groper and the peas were just barely cooked making them so sweet and juicy.  In fact the broth from the pea stew, which looked to be about 80% butter, was so delicious that my friend asked for spoons so that we could get at every last drop!  Across the table the beef was just as popular.

I hate to gush but it just keeps on coming!  The dessert of Mojo coffee brulee and Whittakers chocolate mousse had me wanting to pick up my plate and lick it clean and still the goodness kept coming with complimentary Mojo coffee and Whittakers chocolate square!

All of this for the bargain basement price of $29!  Although we did get through a few bottles of Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc and finished the evening with a palate cleansing bottle of bubbles which was also fantastic... unfortunately checking the label was beyond me by then.

Thanks for a memorable evening Rex Morgan and Wellington on a Plate!  And thanks to Lee for getting the tickets!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Daring Cooks August Challenge: The World of Pierogi!

The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Is there really anything better in the world than dumplings?!  Different forms of these delightful deliciousness come to us from all over the world; in NZ we are lucky to be part of a very multi-cultural society but with all the interesting culinary choices that brings, I had never heard of Peirogi!  I loved making these because they are something that I probably wouldn't have attempted at home by myself but would definitely order in a restaurant, and I was surprised at how easy they were - if just a little bit fiddly!

I used this basic recipe for the dough.  I learnt quickly that I had to be sure I had the dough rolled as thinly as possible to avoid a soggy, doughy finished product.

Dough Recipe
2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time.  Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

I made a sweet and a savoury filling, with the savoury winning the contest hands down. 

Pumpkin, Leek and Sage Pierogi Filling
Roasted pumpkin - mashed
1 leek
1/2 red onion
Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan cheese)
Small handful of fresh sage leaves
50g butter

I sauteed the chopped leek in butter for around 45 minutes, by this time is had reduced to around a third of the original amount and was quite caramelised and sweet.  Mix in finely chopped onion and sage along with the mashed pumpkin, parmesan and season well with salt and pepper.  I should note that I had about 1.5-2 cups of mashed pumpkin which was a good amount to go with the whole leek I'd cooked, but I ended up with about 4 times the amount of filling that I needed!  Allow filling to cool before use.

To assemble the Pierogi, on a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass.  Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together with a fork.

Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil.  Drop in the pierogi, only a single layer in the pan at a time.  Return to the boil and reduce heat.  When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes).

The cooked Pierogi are now ready to eat however I lightly fried these in olive oil before serving - yum!

Apple, Stem Ginger and Chocolate Pierogi
1 apple
2 pieces stem ginger
1T honey
Dark chocolate

For my sweet Pierogi I cooked up some finely chopped apple and stem ginger with honey and then added a little bit of dark chocolate before I sealed the Pierogi.  I used Whittakers Dark Ghana chocolate which is made locally and is fantastic.  I served these with a runny custard.

Wellington on a Plate!

We are amidst the second annual Wellington on a Plate festival which runs from 14 August through to 29 August.  The festival is a joint venture between Positively Wellington Tourism and Grow Wellington and was set up to showcase regional food and beverage products.  There are a multitude of events to attend and restaurants to visit.  With pop-up restaurants, wine classes, a beer festival, degustations and even speed dating - it's going to be an action packed fortnight!

The most accessible event is Dine Wellington in which participating restaurants and cafes offer lunch and dinner deals over the two week festival period.  The most common deal includes a set menu priced at $25 or $35 often with a glass of wine thrown in or tea/coffee, with a few variations on that theme such as a free desert or 20% discount.

Unfortunately, time and the ever elusive moolah will limit my participation to just a few events, but I can't wait!

Watch this space...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rick Stein!

Last Saturday a friend and I flocked to see Rick Stein live, along with hundreds of other Wellingtonians.  I was surprised to look around and note that we were perhaps 20yrs younger than the median age of Rick Stein groupies; I'm not sure why this surprised me as surely Rick, being as polite and gentlemanly as he is, appeals to an age-group who may find Gordon Ramsay, for example, a tiny bit crass or, common (as my mother would say!).

I wouldn't say that I learned anything new about food or cooking but the show was very entertaining.  I had tears in my eyes from laughing at some of the clips they played on the big screen - particularly the Chalky scenes!  But I am bias when it comes to cute dog stuff!  It was however, very interesting to hear about Rick's life.  I never realised he wasn't a classically trained chef - which gives me hope for some sort life in the food industry, after all anything is possible.

Another highlight of the evening was going to Capitol restaurant for dinner before the show.  What a revelation!  I had been to Capital before for brunch/coffee but never for dinner and I was extremely impressed with the quality of the menu, the wine list and, of course, the food!  Unfortunately, due to rushing off to see Rick, we could only enjoy one course in the beautifully ambient space, but every mouthful was bliss.

I had the baked lamb rack with wet polenta and broad beans.  The lamb was perfectly pink and juicy and the broad beans sweet and delicious.  The whole ensemble was brought to life with the most distinct jus I have ever tasted!  The jus was unpretentious and simply tasted of lamb, which was fantastic - why mess with perfection?!  Also, very apt given that we were off to see a chef who has previously criticised what he calls 'cheffy food'.

The meal was very reasonably priced and I can't wait to head back to Capitol for a more extensive sample of the menu!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sunday Roast

The great Sunday roast is infinitely more appealing in the dead of winter when the body is craving comfort food and a spot of hibernation.

The latest Dish magazine came out last week and there are things on every page that I'm dying to make (Read: EAT) but what most grabbed the attention of my beady little eyes was the spatchcock Roasted Basil and Lemon Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes.  Everything about the picture appealed to me (cause it's all about the food porn), the chicken looked crispy yet juicy and oh so flavoursome (seriously, it's a great picture!  My mouth is watering again as I look at it!) and the artichokes are all caramelised and moreish.

So I gave it a whirl.
Not quite magazine perfect but not too shabby!

I'd never before attempted to spatchcock a chicken before and was surprised at how easy it was (also very proud of the new skill in my arsenal).  The chicken was as succulent and tasty as the picture promised although the basil flavour didn't really come through at all - possibly due to the out-of-season supermarket basil.  I was lucky enough to have been given some Jerusalem Artichokes by a friend a few weeks ago and they were absolutely divine!  JA would have to be one of my favourite veges, however can only be enjoyed in the comfort of my own home as they have a rather adverse effect on my digestive system... 

Along with the artichokes I roasted a few baby carrots and beetroot from our garden.

Roasted Basil and Lemon Chicken with Jerusalem Artichokes
Adapted From Dish Magazine Issue 31, p106

1 free-range corn-fed chicken                                              
100g cream cheese at room temperature                            
2 clove garlic                                                                       
finely grated zest 1 lemon                                                     
2 spring onions                                                                    
1/4 c finely chopped basil                                                     
salt and pepper

To Cook
olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced
sweet spanish smoked paprika
salt & pepper
jerusalem artichokes/baby roasting veges

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Combine the cream cheese, garlic, lemon zest, spring onions and basil in a bowl and season.

To prepare the chicken follow this link.  Using your fingers gently ease the skin away from the flesh and spread the cream cheese mixture under it.

To cook: Brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Lay the lemon slices over the skin, brush with more olive oil and dust with paprika.  Place on roasting dish.

Clean vegetables, toss with olive oil and place around the chicken.  Roast for 1 hour, basting the chicken and vegetables with the pan juices occasionally.  The chicken is cooked when the juices from the thigh run clear when pierced with a skewer.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Soup for the Soul

It's wet and blustery here today - perfect for a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup.

When I started out making this I was thinking of this more traditional soup I read about earlier in the week, however it evolved slightly to a have a more Asian feel. 

Yesterday, a trawl of the Petone food shops turned up some black fungus at Davis Trading, the local Asian supermarket and I decided to try it out in my soup.  Black fungus comes dried like Shitake and needs to be re-hydrated before use.  I soaked it in warm water for half an hour before chopping and adding to the soup.  It had a surprising crunchy texture which was slightly disconcerting but not unpleasant.

Black Fungus, also known as wood ear - for obvious reasons!

The base of the soup is home-made chicken stock, which I simmered for around 30 minutes with fresh ginger, crushed garlic, chopped onion, carrot and leek and a few chicken drumsticks.  I then strained the stock and returned it to the pot, discarding the vegetables and removing the meat from the chicken bones to be added back to the soup.  To the broth I added the chopped black fungus, dark soy sauce, fish sauce, a small amount of chilli paste and seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper.  I served the broth over the chicken meat and Japanese Soba noodles and garnished with spring onion and a healthy slug of sesame oil.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fishy Friday

It's been quite some time since I've posted anything here, I have many excuses, none of them interesting.  I have been thinking about this blog a lot though and I just threw together a delicious wee fish dish for my Friday night dinner and as no one is here to share it with me I decided this is the time to get back in the metaphorical saddle!

This was so good, I decided halfway through eating to take a hasty photo.

This dish was done and dusted in less than 10 minutes.  I sauteed some leek and garlic until soft and then added a fairly generous amount of white wine and allowed it to reduce down.  I sat the fish fillets on top of the leek, seasoned well with salt and pepper and then squeezed over the juice of one whole lemon.  Cover, turn, stir etc then threw in some fennel from the garden.  Voila - simple, delicious... healthy?!  Actually, I forgot to mention the gorgeous knob of butter I popped on top!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Fish with a Chilli and Basil Tomato Sauce

Whenever I am looking for something fast and simple that is packed with flavour I consult my Donna Hay, knowing that it will come to my rescue with great recipes and ideas.  I bought 'the instant cook' when it first came out around six years ago and of my many (many) books it would be one of the most frequently consulted.  One of the things I love about this book is that it gives multiple variations to the recipes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Suburban Benevolence

I must admit that after several years of inner-city dwelling I was more than a little nervous about moving to the 'burbs, after all, I had spent many hours ranting about the strange people from god-knows-where who invaded the city every day via public transport.

I lived in an apartment building for over three years and didn't know anyone on my floor and only a few others in the building (met through work or mutual friends - certainly not from striking up a conversation in the elevator).  So the biggest shock suburbia had in store for me, was that people actually talk to each other!  If I'm in my front yard, busy tending the weeds and pulling out the plants (I don't know how you're supposed to tell the difference), people who are walking past, actually stop to say hello and chat about the weather!  This unusual and bizzarre behaviour stunned me initially however I am gradually becoming used to it and The HG is even playing the game by giving away excess veges from the garden to the neighbours... which has paid dividends!

We have a lovely elderly lady on one side of us and we came home recently to find a jar of fresh home-made Damson Plum jam in the letterbox.  Warm fuzzies all round - thanks Shirley! 

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I want some too!

Unfortunately, I haven't been in the kitchen this week so I have nothing exciting to post - The HG has been taking care of all the cooking which has been very nice!  As much as I love being in the kitchen, it's good to have a break occasionally to renew the enthusiasm!

No food pics, but here is our dog, sulking in the door-way because I sent him outside while we were eating dinner!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tamarind Chicken Drumsticks

The HG bought some chicken drumsticks at the supermarket and instead of doing my usual honey/soy/sweet chilli style marinade, I decided to have a go at something new with my new favourite flavour, tamarind.

These drumsticks were delicious for dinner but even better cold the next day for lunch - great picnic food!

Tamarind Chicken Drumsticks
8-10 chicken drumsticks
4-5 T tamarind paste
Juice of 1 large lemon
1/2 t ground star anise
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1.  Mix all ingredients together and then rub over the chicken and leave to marinade for a minimum of 2 hours.

2.  Bake in the oven for around 45 minutes until chicken is thoroughly cooked and juices run clear.

I served the chicken with a rustic, chunky guacamole, which worked nicely with the tartness of the chicken.  It is also worth noting that the tamarind paste I used, was bought made up in a jar - possibly the 'bricks' of tamarind that you rehydrate to make your own paste are stronger in flavour?  As I'm new to using tamarind I'm not sure if there is a difference in flavour or not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sumptuous Scallops!

An amazing thing has happened this week... the sun has been out three days in a row!  The, previously unheard of, warm weather made my husband desperate for a dive and we dashed out of our respective offices at 5pm on the dot last evening and made for... an undisclosed location.  While I sat basking in the sun, book in hand, my 'hunter/gatherer' husband (hereby known as "The HG") went in search of Kiamoana.


The HG got the legal limit of some of the biggest, juciest scallops I have ever seen!  Not bad for 45mins in the water.

The last lot of scallops The HG brought home, we cooked in their shells (after they had been cleaned and gutted) with garlic and butter on the BBQ.  This time we decided to wrap the muscle (white part) in streaky bacon and cook on the BBQ and just do the roe (orange part) in the shells with garlic and butter.  I cannot tell you how delicious this was!  Very rich though.  We served the scallops with potatoes mashed with creamcheese (my favourite mash!).

To cook the roe (and some of the smaller whole scallops) in the shells, The HG first melted the butter and garlic in the shells on the BBQ and then added the meat to it.  The scallops cook in only a few minutes.  The bacon-wrapped meat went straight onto the hotplate, the bacon protects the scallops from becoming tough and overcooked, and took slightly longer to cook.

Wags got very excited about licking the shells clean after dinner!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Look at my beans!


These beans are quite tough and need to be well cooked.  I steamed them for 6-7 minutes (much longer than I would ever steam other fresh veg!) and then when cooled, made a simple bean salad with them.  In the salad I used some canned butter beans and chickpeas, finely chopped red onion, red pepper and flat leaf parsley, and dressed it with a basic lemon juice/olive oil dressing.  Delicious and refreshing!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Daring Cooks January Challenge: Pork Satay

I finally completed the January challenge for the Daring Cooks last night - only four days late...

The January 2010 DC challenge was hosted by Cuppy of Cuppylicious and she chose a delicious Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay from the book 1000 Recipes by Martha Day.

The Thai-inspired recipe for Pork Satay can be found here.  Satay is not my favourite food of all time however I enjoyed the challenge as it forced me to cook something I never had before AND I discovered Tamarind which is now my new favourite flavour!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You win some and you lose some...

But lately I seem to have been having more loses than wins! 

Last week I had some strawberries that desperately needed using up, and I decided to make muffins with them.  I also had some natural yoghurt that was nearing the end of it's life and decided to adapt the recipe to include that too.  The strawbs were quite old and dry so I cooked them down in some sugar first - so far so good, they came out just the consistency that I wanted and I thought I was on a roll.  I should have left it at that but no, I had to play around with the batter recipe to include the yoghurt.  Big mistake.  While the muffins looked beautiful, they were dense and heavy as rocks!

So, after quite a list of failures (you really don't need to know about them all) I was quite pleased with myself last night when I made this bastardised version of a ratatouille to go with the pork steak we had for dinner.  In the end this turned out more like a warm vegetable chutney than a ratatouille and the flavours, with the slight sweetness from the wine and paprika and heat from the chilli worked beautifully with the pork.  not to mention the lovely colours on the plate!

Warm Vege Chutney
1/2 red capsicum
1/2 yellow capsicum
1/2 large red chilli
1/2 red onion
1 large zucchini
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c red wine
1/2 c thick tomato juice
1 T tomato paste
1/4 t sweet smoked spanish paprika
handful chopped flat leaf
parsley and basil
2 T olive oil

1. Chop capsicums, chilli, onion and zucchini into bite-sized pieces.  I used half of a large red chilli and left the seeds in, which gave the chutney just a hint of mild heat.  Heat oil in saute pan and lightly brown veges.
2.  Finely chop the garlis and add to the pan, along with the wine.  Allow the wine to bubble and reduce slightly and then add the tomato juice and paste.  I had the tomato juice left over from a can of whole peeled tomatoes that I used earlier in the week.
3.  Cook for five to ten minutes so that veges are soft but not mushy and the sauce has thickened and reduced.  Stir through the paprika and herbs and season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper and you're good to go! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's been a highly relaxing, enjoyable break over the Christmas/New Year period.  I have lurched from one delicious meal to the next without breaking stride and somehow managed to fit in morning and afternoon teas, nibbles and drinks as well!  To me, Christmas is all about good food, shared with good people which is certainly how I spent my holiday!

My husband and father-in-law are keen divers and fishermen so our holidays usually include an abundance of seafood and over the last 10 days I have been spoilt with fresh Crayfish, Paua (Abalone) and Blue Cod, along with all the usual Christmas goodies.

Stand out highlights of my holiday include trying Kina roe for the first time - it was cooked in a risotto, so fairly tame compared to the traditional Maori way of eating it raw, but delicious none-the-less!  A Boxing Day picnic of fresh Paua cooked on the beach (augmented with some bangers!).  A particularly lovely evening spent with friends over roast lamb.  Freshly picked raspberries with cream and home-made mini meringues... heavenly!  And, coming home to see how the garden had fared in our absence to find six huge, beautiful, perfect brocolli ready to be eaten!

THE most exciting thing that happened to me this Christmas though, was receiving Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion!  I have lusted after it from the moment I first saw it in my local bookshop and after dropping several hints to my husband, I actually had to come right out and make a specific request as I was terrified my extrememly subtle hints would be lost on him!  He scored bonus points too for getting me a Chef's Torch, which I have been harping on about with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever, for over a year!

Paua and Sausages cooking on the beach

The Cooks!


Our dog, Wags, was intrigued by the crayfish!

Our Broc!