Monday, December 26, 2011

Lebkuchen - Spice Cake


 Apart from the plain enjoyment and need to eat, there are other reasons why I am a bit of a "foodie". I guess my interest stems from the fact that food is linked with culture.

I'm a curious type of person and love embracing the differences amongst people and I love learning about all the weird and wonderful things around the world. I always get a buzz from learning new things about food, in and out of the kitchen. Christmas is one of those times where I get a chance to hear more about, and experience, different family and cultural rituals.

In New Zealand there is no stereotypical Christmas meal, some people opt for 'traditional' roast dinners, while others opt for BBQ meals (after-all who wants to be stuck in a warm kitchen in the summer heat). Personally my family just has a whole bunch of things that we'll pick at throughout the day, pretty much the ultimate smorgasbord. However, there is one yearly staple;  my mum's Swiss-German baking. It's one tradition I would love to continue.

So I took the opportunity this year to 'steal' my mum's recipe for lebkuchen, which is a beautiful spice cake. There are many versions of this cake but I think my mum's recipe is quite unique as there is no butter or eggs in it, it's made with cream. It's an easy cake to make and it's especially great at xmas time because the yummy aroma of spices being released when the cake is cooking will fill the house with a delightful festive scent. Plus it's a decent sized cake, so there's plenty to go around. It's best served with a big dollop of cream (unsweetened) or a thick slice of unsalted butter.


300ml cream (whipping cream)
5 tablespoons golden syrup
200g sugar
1/2 teaspoon clove powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons mixed spice
500g plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking soda
200ml milk (approx)


Preheat oven to 180 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit.

Beat the cream until thick, but not whipped. You want it to be the consistency of a thick pourable batter.

Stir in the golden syrup, sugar, and all the spices.

Now add the flour and stir again until all combined.

Heat 100ml of the milk until warm, stir the baking soda into the milk then add this to the cake mixture.

Fold in the milk, add another 100ml milk (does not have to be warm) until you get a thick batter. Add more milk if your batter is still too thick and stodgy.

Bake in a 28cm round cake tin for approx 50 minutes.

Since it's a decent sized batter you can also bake it in two medium-sized loaf tins ( 22 x 11 cm), just be aware that the cooking time will vary so just keep an eye on it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pistachio Ice Cream - The Real Deal

We've been having some lovely warm sunny days lately. Sure we still get the odd cold rainy day but it's definitely beginning to feel like a beautiful summer is just around the corner. I even have the beginnings of a jandal tan. For me even though I "slip, slop, slap" the tan I get from living in my jandals is inevitable (and welcome). It's a nice reminder that it's finally summer. So while my jandle-tan is still a work in progress I thought I should get to work on my ice cream making skills, because for me summer and ice cream go hand in hand (quite literally).

Ice cream is quite a fun thing to make from scratch, and easier than you might think. It's an especially good skill to have if you're a fan of natural ice creams. Pistachio is one of my favourite flavours of ice cream, but I've been totally put off buying it from commercial outlets because they're often full of artificial flavours (not to mention colours) and end up tasting like poo (not that I know what that tastes like). I just really hate that artificial pistachio flavour, it's so in-your-face and lacks all the subtlety and deliciousness of the real deal. Sure a homemade version may not look as pretty (I guess you could add a few drops of green food colouring if you like) but you'll be totally rewarded with a creamy ice cream that sings with the yummy perkiness of real pistachio. You don't even need an ice cream maker to get good results, this recipe works well when made by hand. Handy if you're gadget-less like me.


125g shelled pistachios

150g caster sugar

350ml milk

150ml cream (just regular whipping cream)

5 egg yolks, lightly beaten


First you want to roast the pistachios, this will give them extra flavour. To do this, sprinkle the pistachios onto a roasting tray then roast them in a preheated oven (180 Celsius) for 5-10 minutes until just golden. Leave them to cool then blend them with the sugar in a food processor. You want the texture to be quite fine. You can even grind them by hand (this is what I do) in a pestle and mortar. I quite recommend grinding by hand because while you'll get the majority ground to a fine texture it's still nice to have a few bigger chunks in amongst the mix, rather than having a uniform fine grade. Anywayyy, after processing, transfer this mixture to a bowl.

Heat the milk and cream to boiling point in a saucepan, then pour over the ground pistachio mixture, stir and leave to cool. Cover then refrigerate overnight. This will let the flavour infuse.

The next day, heat up the pistachio cream to boiling point. Pour this over the egg yolks, mix then return to pan. Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This means that when you dunk a spoon into your pan, pull it out and run your finger down the back of the spoon, if the mixture does not run and the little path you have drawn holds its shape then it's thick enough.

Next, chill the mixture. I like to do this by letting the pan sit in a bowl filled with ice, this cools it quickly before chilling it further in the fridge. Next, transfer the mixture to a suitable container for freezing and pop it in the freezer. It will take about 5-6 hours to freeze. I like to give it a good stir every hour or half hour until it's too hard to stir anymore. This helps beat air into the mixture, and improves the consistency.

Handmade ice cream tends to freezer harder, so soften the mixture at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hazelnut Shortbread Wedges

I'm a massive sucker for hazelnuts, well I'm pretty keen on most nuts, but I do love hazelnuts the most. They have such a distinct flavour and to me they seem luxurious (probably partly due to the crazy price). But they also hold a nostalgic place in my heart. 

When I was growing up my mum was a stereotypical domestic goddess and we regularly had fresh baking in the house. Hazelnuts featured highly in her creations. My mum is Swiss so it was quite common for her to use nuts in her baking, quite a change from the regular store-bought goodies that were available in New Zealand at the time. She used hazelnuts a lot in numerous cookie recipes (Totenbeinli being a fave), also on the base of her Linzertorte, and they were also the star in the filling of Nuss Gipfeli (a pastry which I have to  remember to steal the recipe for because they are amaaazing). So even though today's recipe is not one of my mother's, it would not have been out of place in her European style of baking. I shall have to make them for her sometime and see if they get the seal of approval. 

I wonder if other people have flavours or ingredients that hold some nostalgia?


150g butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1 and 1/4 cup plain flour
optional: white chocolate and dark chocolate (melt then pipe or drizzle on top of the cooled wedges, you could even dip the shortbread into the chocolate)


Preheat oven to 150 Celsius.

Grease a 21cm round flan tin with melted butter or oil. A regular cake tin works well too.

Beat the butter and sugar. Add the nuts, beat again.

Fold in the flour. Mix well until combined.

Press the mixture into the tin, smooth the surface. 

Use a sharp knife, score the surface into 16 wedges.

Bake 35-40 minutes until pale golden.

Leave to cool for just a few minutes. 

Carefully remove shortbread from tin, use sharp knife to cut into the scored wedges.

Leave the wedges to cool completely, then decorate as desired.

Makes 16 wedges

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sabudana Vada (Sago Dumplings)

These sago dumplings are an Indian dish, called sabudana vada. "Sabudana" meaning sago and "vada" meaning a fritter or dumpling type thing.  Don't be put off if you've never cooked with, or even heard of, sago.  It's actually a fun ingredient to work with, and economical and versatile to boot. If you don't know, sago is a starch that comes from the stem of a tropical palm tree. In this recipe sago pearls are used and they look like tiny white balls. Maybe you've heard of them used in puddings, but they are also great in savoury dishes such as this one.

The use of sago  helps create a moist dumpling, while the outside crisps up delicately and delivers a satisfying "crunch".  The flavour of the filling is subtle with just a hint of spice and is interspersed with freshness from the coriander and flecks of peanuts which give texture. If you're a fan of dumplings or fried patties then these are a fun variation The texture even reminds me of rösti made from raw potatoes, just with beefed up flavour. You could even beef them up further if you have any fresh chilli on hand; they would be a great addition too.

I've served the dumplings with a coconut and tamarind chutney that the manthing and I also created, but you could serve them alone or with another suitable chutney of your choice. I think the coconut tamarind chutney is an ideal match because it compliments the mild dumplings with a wonderful tang and bite thanks to the tamarind and garlic. 



1 and 1/2 cups sago
3 medium-sized potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely ground (or chopped into small pieces)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
juice of a lemon
salt to taste
oil for deep frying or shallow frying

Place the sago in a bowl. Pour in enough water to cover the sago. Let it soak for two hours then drain off any excess water.
Mix the sago with the potatoes, peanuts, coriander powder, chilli powder, coriander leaves and lemon juice. Add salt to taste.
After it is well combined, divide the mixture into 16 balls. Use your palms to flatten them into patties.
Heat a sufficient amount of oil, whether you choose to shallow fry of deep fry. Cook the dumplings over a medium heat until they are golden brown.
Drain on absorbent paper.
Serve with chutney.

Makes 16, serves 4 


90g tamarind (this would equal a ball about the size of a lime)
1 cup warm water
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup dessicated coconut (ideally fresh)
3 dried red chilli, chopped
salt to taste

Soak the tamarind in the water, pick out any seeds.
Once it has softened, add the garlic, coconut and chilli. Blend until it is a thick smooth consistency.
Add salt to taste then refrigerate.
If you have good blender then you could skip the soaking stage however I use a stick blender that loves to overheat, so I need to soften the tamarind before I blitz it.

Makes plenty, if you have any leftover it goes great with grilled fish or even as a sandwich spread.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Kadai Chicken

Kadai chicken is a chicken curry from India that has great depth of flavour. This version has a tomato based sauce and features spices like garam masala, which gives flavourful heat, and coriander seeds and bay leaves which provide a fresh earthiness. The dish is a little hot, but you can reduce the amount of chilli and you'll still have a tasty meal. 

- By the way, a kadai is a type of cooking vessel similar to a wok. This is what this dish is traditionally cooked in. I use a cast-iron wok and it's ideal, however, any wok or other suitable cooking pot would suffice.

Because this is such a simple meal to throw together it has become my boyfriend's signature dish. My man-thing is not much of a cook, he's adept at making Indian-style omelettes, is fantastic at giving me recipe ideas and cooking tips that he's picked up from his mum and granny, but it's not often that he is actually hands-on in the kitchen. I'm grateful that there are tasty simple dishes like this that inspire him to get cooking. I think it's a great dish for other home cooks who enjoy creating tasty dinners, but hate all the fuss. Usually it's served with chapati, but other breads or rice are fine accompaniments too.


3 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 whole red chillies (use less or de-seed them if you don't like it hot. Don't say I didn't warn you!)
4 tablespoons oil
2 bay leaves
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
4 tomatoes, peeled and sliced. When they're not in season, I just use a 400g tin of tomatoes instead.
1 kg chicken pieces. It's economical just to cut up a whole chicken, but I quite like boneless chicken so sometimes I'll just use 600g of breast or thigh. It's all good.
1 teaspoon red chilli powder (reduce or even omit this if you want it mild)
4 teaspoons garam masala
coriander leaves for garnish


Grind the coriander seeds and whole red chillies into a coarse powder.
Heat the oil in the kadai.
Add the bay leaves, cook for a minute then add the onions and cook them until they are lightly golden brown.
Add ginger and garlic. Cook on a medium heat for 2 minutes.
Throw in the coarse powder that you created earlier. Stir well.
Next in go the tomatoes, keep stirring and cooking until they are well cooked.
Add the chicken and chilli powder. Mix well.
Cover the kadai, cook until the chicken is tender.
Sprinkle on the garam masla, give it a stir.
Garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

Serves 4 hungry folk

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Chana Masala - Chickpea Curry

Growing up, I wasn't very much of an adventurous eater. My family is Swiss so most of my meals were European in nature, the closest thing I ate to Indian food was a veal dish my mum would make which had 'curry powder' in it. Delicious as it was, it didn't count. So when my palate discovered the yumminess of Indian food it took a little adjusting. I got the impression that creating 'real' Indian food would be complicated and time-consuming, what with the use of so many exotic spices and knowing how to combine them all.

Truth is, it's waaaay easier than you'd expect to create a yummy satisfying Indian meal at home. There is no need to buy ready made meals or spice pastes, don't waste your money! All you need to do is buy the commonly used Indian spices, get in the kitchen and have a go. Btw they are very economical if you buy them from Indian grocery stores or bulk stores (like Bin Inn here in NZ). You'd be surprised what quick and easy (and nutritious) meals you can come up with just with a few of them. You don't even have to follow recipes to the letter, you can customize them to your tastes (this is especially handy if you are afraid of the chilli).

Anyway, back to today's dish. It uses a spice that people may be less familiar with, but it is worth having if in your arsenal if you want to add a little more zing to your Indian creations. It's called Amchoor, a powder made from dried unripe green mangoes. It will add extra depth to curries due to its tangy and fruity nature. This dish is an accessible introduction to it, so feel free to adjust the other spices to your tastes, but don't leave it (or the lemon/lime) out as the citrus sour tang is what makes this dish stand out from the crowd. Chana Masala is often served as a dry curry, but I prefer a little more sauce so I don't reduce it too much, so feel free to cook it longer (or use less water) if you want. Make it whichever way you prefer.


1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
1 heaped tablespoon cumin seeds, lightly ground in a pestle and mortar (feel free to halve the quantity of whole seeds and add some ground cumin if you prefer)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
2 heaped tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon amchoor (mango powder) 
1 400g tin of tomatoes in juice, chopped
1 cup water
Two 420g tins of chickpeas, drained and rinsed. (Or use up to 4 cups of cooked chickpeas)
Juice of half a lemon (If you have limes, even better)
Salt to taste (I tend to use about 1/2 a teaspoon)
Coriander leaves, chopped, for garnish


Heat oil over a medium high heat.
Add onion, fry for about 5 minutes or until they start to brown.
Add cumin seeds, cook for a minute or so then add the garlic, ginger and chopped chilli.
Cook for a few minutes more then reduce the heat and add all the spice powders.
Stir constantly for a couple minutes then add the tomatoes, mix well.
Add the water and chickpeas.
Bring to a simmer and let it bubble away uncovered for about 10 minutes, or longer if you prefer the curry drier.
Add the lemon juice then salt to taste.

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with rice, chapati or even just bread.
It's also nice served with onion rings topped with black pepper and salt a squeeze of lemon/lime juice.

Serves 4

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Pikelets with Orange Cranberry Sauce

My boyfriend and I are a huge sweet-tooths, and we both love eating home made treats. So we often moan to each other about needing to stuff our faces with delicious sugary goodies. (We are pigs as well as sweet-tooths). Problem is, he doesn't bake so it's always me that is left to slave away in the kitchen. (Okay so I actually enjoy it most of the time). 

However, there are those times when I'm feeling lazy or uninspired, yet the sweet-tooth cravings must be sated. That's when I turn to those classic favourite recipes which are super easy and can be whipped up in a moment's notice, or before my boyfriend's tummy rumbling becomes deafening.  For me things like french toast and pancakes or pikelets  are my saviours. They can be made in under 15 minutes and the toppings are only limited by your imagination. 

The last time I made pikelets I found some cranberries in the freezer so I turned them into this simple yummy topping. The sauce is tangy and sweet and has a great citrus undertone. I also topped them with a bit of natural yoghurt to cut through the sweetness. A winning combination that I will be sure to repeat. A simple alternative to the standard jam and cream topping.

Btw if you don't know what a pikelet is, it's similar to a pancake but smaller and thicker. They are also really adaptable; I like to sometimes add grated apple or mashed banana into the batter, that way they are yum even without a topping. Yum!

Do you have favourite quick sweet treats you like to whip up when you get a craving?

The Cranberry and Orange Sauce:


200g frozen cranberries (fresh would obviously be fine too)
200g sugar
60ml water
Grated zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1 orange 


Cook all the ingredients in a pot on a medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and most of the berries have popped.
Let cool. Makes approx 1 cup.

The Pikelets:


1 cup (150g) self-raising flour (or add 1 teaspoon baking powder to plain flour)
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon caster sugar
3/4 cup (185ml) milk
1 egg 


Add the flour, sugar and salt to a bowl.
Whisk the milk and egg together. Gradually add them to the dry ingredients, whisking until smooth.
Heat a little butter in a frypan over medium heat. Drop tablespoonfuls of mixture into the pan. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface then flip over and cook for just another minute or until golden. 
Makes approx 20 small pikelets.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Upside Down Pear And Ginger Cake

I love finding bargains. I try to be good though and only buy things on sale when they are things I will use. I don't always succeed. But when it comes to food products I can't really go wrong; it's easy to justify a food purchase because eating is essential right? So yeah any purchase is bound to be put to good use. Or so I tell myself. My latest purchase had me a bit worried though: a big sack of nashi pears...for only $1.

Now as much as I like fruit (and nashi pears) I'm actually really slack at eating them, they tend to sit in the fruit bowl until they are almost on death's door, and even then I only eat them 'coz I hate to waste things. The only way I seem to truly get motivated to eat them is when they are a part of something else, like a cake or bircher muesli, or with other fruity friends in a fruit salad. But fruit on its own, is not so appealing. If only I'd been in the Garden of Eden instead of Eve, things might have been different.

Anyway enough rambling! This is a super easy recipe and so adaptable. I know commonly upside down puddings are made with pineapples and cherries, but I find that too sweet so I thought my nashi pears would be a better substitute, and I happened to have the ginger lying around (love the stuff) and I put in my favourite spices. So feel free to use whatever fruits and spices you prefer. The addition of the crystallised ginger worked really well as the sugary goodness of them got all sticky sweet and gooey. Yum!

Base recipe adapted from the good old Edmond's Cookbook.


125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
25g butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 - 3 nashi pears, sliced however you please
a small handful of crystallised ginger (approx 50g), slice them in half if you like


Cream the first measures of butter and sugar.
Add the eggs one at at time, beat well after each addition.
Fold in the flour and baking powder.
Stir in the milk.
Now onto the 'topping'...
Combine the melted butter, brown sugar and spices.
Spread this mixture onto the bottom of a 20cm round cake tin.
Arrange the pears on top.
Dot the ginger pieces into the gaps.
Spoon the cake mixture on top.
Bake at 180 Celsius for 30-40 minutes.
Flip over onto a plate to unmould.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hasenpfeffer - Rabbit Stew

I've been a little slack with blogging lately, partly out of laziness but also partly because I've been away in Quebec, Canada. It was just a short trip, but due to the millions of hours (well it felt like it!) spent travelling it feels like I've been away for ages. It also feels like I've also been hit by a bus, gotta love jet-lag. Anyway, I had a fantastic time, especially discovering new foods.

Site-seeing is all well and good, but one of my favourite things to do when travelling is to eat the local cuisine or try the foods I can't find back home. Some of the food highlights of my trip were eating escargot and horse meat. But other things I tried included things like elk meat, bison,  sugar pie, smoked meat sandwiches and of course...poutine. This love of trying new foods is something I also love to do in my home country of New Zealand, so when I spotted rabbit meat at my local supermarket (something I have never cooked with) I thought I'd give it a whirl. I love the taste of rabbit, it's like chicken but actually tasty. I used this recipe as it was similar to how my grandad would cook it; marinated in wine and vinegar for a few days to keep the meat nice and tender. It's really yummy served with egg noodles and rye bread. Btw rabbits are a huge pest in NZ, especially in the South Island, so I feel less guilty about eating these wee little dudes.


2 rabbits, skinned and gutted and chopped (if in doubt, Google how to do this, it's not so scary)

2 cups red wine
1 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
10 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup plain flour
6 slices bacon, cut up
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, quartered
1 onion, chopped
1-3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream

Combine the marinade ingredients, add rabbit, refrigerate for 2-3 days, turning the rabbit pieces daily.
Remove rabbit pieces from marinade, pat dry and set aside.
Strain the marinade and reserve 1 and a half cups of it, discard the herbs and excess marinade.
Toss the rabbit pieces in the flour.
In a dutch oven/casserole dish, cook the bacon until it starts to crisp. Add mushrooms and onion. Cook until onion softens. Remove vegetables, set aside.
Add a tablespoon of butter to pan. Add rabbit, brown on all sides, adding more butter if needed.
Return vegetables to pan. Add salt and reserved marinade. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until meat is tender (just over an hour)
Mix in sour cream, cook until heated through (do not boil).

Serves 4 - 6

Recipe adapted from 'The Complete Hunter' - Dressing And Cooking Wild Game

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gajar Halwa - Carrot Pudding

When I first tried Gajar Halwa I was highly sceptical that I would like it. Something about the thought of mushy sweet carrots just didn't appeal. But that was until I popped a spoonful into my mouth. And another spoonful. And another spoonful...There is just something delightfully moreish about this Indian dessert. 

I know Indian curries are hugely popular all over the world, but I reckon their sweet dishes are highly underrated. I must admit, when I lived in Auckland I used to go to an 'All you can eat' Indian restaurant just for the sweets. 'All you can eat' Laddu and Barfi, I was in heaven. One day I will get around to attempting to make those kinds of sweets, but they look slightly more complicated than this easy peasy pudding recipe. 

Anyway if you have never tried Gajar Halwa I urge you to give it a try. I guess it's more suited to those with a sweet tooth, but I'm sure you could easily reduce the amount of condensed milk if this is the case. Halwa could also be made with apples instead of carrots, you could even switch the nuts to almonds and use other spices like cloves and cinnamon. Personally I don't stray from this recipe, I also don't stray from the cooking pot, I can't resist second helpings. Thankfully this makes a decent sized batch.


1/4 cup of milk
400g can sweetened condensed milk
5 cups grated carrot, this is approx 750gm or 6 medium carrots
A couple pinches of ground cardamom
A few tablespoons of cashews and/or raisins
A couple of tablespoons of ghee or butter 


Heat the milk in a saucepan until it starts to boil.
Add the condensed milk and carrot.
Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture has become like a thick paste. So, the longer you cook it, the 'drier' it will become. I like to cook it for only about 20 minutes.
Fry the cashews and/or raisins in the ghee, pour on top to garnish.
Serve warm or chilled.

Serves 5

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Red Lentil Soup with Parsnip & Thyme

Soups can be such a saviour in the kitchen. When you're tired, pressed for time, or you have a mish-mash of ingredients and don't know what to do, the humble soup can always come to the rescue. You don't even need to be a good cook to create one, as long as you can boil water you're pretty much sorted.

That said, the difference between an okay soup and a delicious soup can come down to the extra bits of flavour you choose to add. For this soup the added wow-factor is fresh thyme, but you could add any other fresh herb you have handy, such as oregano.

I especially love this soup as it is really economical and simple to make, yet it tastes complex and is utterly yum. And if you're not a fan of parsnips you could replace them with another vegetable, I made it with gold kumara once and it was great. So feel free to experiment. Yay for soup!


50g butter (you can use olive oil if you prefer)
2 onions, peeled and sliced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and cubed
3 medium parsnips (approx 450g), peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
2 teaspoons salt
350g (about 1 and 1/2 cups) red lentils
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
50g/1/2 cup chopped spring onions (reserve some for garnish)


Sauté the onions and garlic in the butter (or oil) for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the parsnips, salt and 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil. Cook for 15 minutes.

Add the lentils, cook for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat.

Blend the soup with a stick bender (or food processor etc) until smooth. Add more water if you prefer a thinner soup.

Mix in the thyme and spring onions.

Serves 4-6

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Chocolate Cardamom Cream

Cupcakes are an extremely popular baking item for many reasons. They are easy to make, can be decorated in so many ways and the flavour options are limitless. However, the main reason I love making cupcake (apart from my love of eating them) is because they take such little time to cook. This means it saves power, (I am the queen of cheap), and the bonus is that it takes less time for yummy cakey goodness to be in my belly. It's win, win.

With yummy cupcakes, like these lemon ones, I don't often bother decorating them; not frosting them also saves me money. Plus I'm a bit of a piggy and just can't resist eating them still warm from the oven. But for extra decadence you can't beat a yummy topping that compliments, not overpowers, these little cakey treats. I like buttercream as a topping, but sometimes it can overwhelm a delicate cupcake. So for something different I like to use this chocolate cardamom cream recipe from Peter Gordon. It's not so sweet and has a delicious undertone of cardamom, it goes really well with citrus or berry cupcakes. It also makes a great cake filling.

Lemon Cupcakes:


125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar ( I use vanilla sugar)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 eggs
125g self raising flour (or use plain flour and add a teaspoon of baking powder)
2 tablespoons milk


Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, flour and milk and beat until smooth.
Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases and bake at 190 Celsius for 12-15 minutes, or until they have risen and are just firm to the touch in the centre.
Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate Cardamom Cream:


70g dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa)
1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom
200ml cream, chilled
1 tablespoon caster sugar


Melt the chocolate with the cardamom.
Take off the heat and add the sugar and 1/4 of the cream. Stir well.
Once the chocolate has cooled a little (but before it sets) add the remaining cream and whisk the mixture until it forms soft peaks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Nutty And Spicy - Fried Brussels Sprouts

I feel sorry for Brussels sprouts. They seem to be the number one stereotypical vegetable that everyone hates. But is it really true? Do we all hate them? Personally I love them, and I even loved eating them when I was a kid. Sure we grow up disliking different foods, and probably need to try things a few times, or prepared different ways, before we get accustomed to eating them. But it's sad when one poor innocent (and delicious) vegetable has to be the poster-child for "yucky vegetables".

I don't even know if this stereotype has any basis any more, and I don't know how these vicious rumours even start. But I do know that most of the people I know actually like Brussels sprouts, and some (like me) even love them. So today I thought I'd share my fun and yummy way of preparing them. Maybe you could even give it a go if you've never been a fan of these cute little cabbages. 

The flavours in this dish give a bit of excitement to the humble sprout, but they don't overpower. I should also mention that you should feel free to do away with the measurements and just splash stuff in. Taste as you go, add more chilli if you like more kick, and why not sprinkle in some chopped peanuts if you like things more 'nutty'. Brussels sprouts definitely don't have to be that boring ignored vegetable any more. Ignore the myth.


250g Brussels sprouts (this is about 12 medium sized sprouts)
1 tablespoon crushed fresh ginger, can also grate or finely chop
1 garlic clove, crushed (or grated or chopped)
1 dried red chilli, chopped finely (fresh chilli is fine too)
1 and 1/2 teaspoon thai fish sauce
1 heaped tablespoon peanut butter (I like to use 'crunchy' peanut butter)

Slice the sprouts into 3 pieces.

Heat a little oil in a pan to a high heat. Peanut oil is ideal.

Add the sprouts and fry for just a minute or two at the most.

Add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Fry for a minute.

Whisk the fish sauce and peanut butter together with a few tablespoons of water, then add to the pan.

Make sure everything is combined well and cook for a few minutes more until they are just tender.

Serves 2 as a large side, or 3 as a small side dish.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Ginger Cream Cookies

There are certain flavours which I consider my secret weapons when it comes to cooking. Top of the list are lemon and ginger.

Apart from the fact that my taste-buds just love the fresh zing of lemon and ginger, they are my favourites because they have the simple ability of lifting a dish from "blah" to "wow!".  For example, a little lemon zest in a leek and potato soup makes the dish come alive, and fresh ginger can bring a bland stir-fry back from the dead.

Since they are my favourite ingredients I will eat them in anything, sweet or savoury, their inclusion will no doubt make my mouth water. So today's post is an ode to my trusty pal "ginger".

The cookies are nice and light and ever so soft and crumbly and the butter cream filling has lovely chunks of crystallised ginger. They are best eaten fresh but if you are able to refrain from eating them all, they will keep fresh for a few days when stored in an airtight container.

Anyone else have favourite 'secret' ingredients that they love to rely on?


250g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch salt

Ginger Cream:
100g butter
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
45g ( a few tablespoons) chopped crystallised ginger


Cream the butter and sugar.
Beat in the egg and golden syrup.
Stir in the flour, baking powder, ginger and salt.
Roll large teaspoons of mixture into balls, place them on greased or lined baking trays. Flatten them with a fork.
Bake at 180 Celsius until light brown.
Transfer to a rack to cool.
Create the Ginger Cream by beating together the butter, icing sugar and ginger.
Spread the Ginger Cream onto the cookies and sandwich them together.

Makes approx 20 filled cookies

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chicken Curried Pies

Pies are a bit of a Kiwi institution. Sadly though, finding a decent one can be a case of hit and miss. Soggy bases, chewy pastry, bland and fatty fillings, these things are common in your bog-standard store-bought pie. You'd think as a nation of pie-lovers we would be a bunch of connoisseurs, but yet we still put up with sub-par pies. I guess the attraction of a nice comforting pie is just too strong. Well I for one won't settle for a crappy pie any more. Not since I realised how easy (and economical) they are to make at home. You can even keep a bunch in the freezer and heat them up when you get that craving. 

The pastry in this recipe is amazing,  exactly how pie pastry should be: flaky and melt-in-the-mouth, and the filling is chunky and tangy.  I guess pies are not something you should eat everyday, but when they are this tasty I am tempted to ignore my sensibility. However, since these are mini sized pies they are more suitable for an afternoon tea, or as a party snack, so more of a snack than a meal, so not something you'd consume everyday...although you will surely be tempted.

Btw if you're not a fan of Indian spices just substitute them with herbs like rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc. You could even switch the mango chutney with your favourite relish.
Also, if you think making mini pies is too fiddly and time consuming, why not make one large pie or several bigger ones.
Adapted from a recipe by Jane Price:


375g (3 cups) plain flour
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric powder
200g butter, chopped
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
100-115ml ice cold water

50g butter
350g boneless chicken, eg tenderloins or breast. Trimmed and diced into small cubes.
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
2 tablespoons sweet mango chutney
3 tablespoons chopped coriander

milk, to glaze


First, make the pastry:
Place the flour, cumin and turmeric in a large bowl. Give it a wee whisk. Add the cubes of butter and rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Make a well in the centre and add the egg yolks and water. Use a flat-bladed knife and "cut" the mixture as you mix it until it becomes clumpy.
Tip the mixture onto lightly floured surface and work it into a ball. Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Lightly grease two 12-hole patty tins, or small muffin tins. Roll out two thirds of the pastry to 2mm thick, cut 9cm rounds to fit into the tins. Roll out the remaining pastry and cut 24 tops with a 7cm cutter.
Keep these chilled in fridge.
Note: not all patty tins are a standard size, so while this the 7cm and 9cm cutters were ideal size for my tins, you should do a test cut first to see what size will suit you best. If you make a different size it will also change the amount you will make. So some common sense is involved. Btw don't worry if you don't have cutters the size you need; jar lids work well. So just look in your pantry. The lid of my jar of peanut butter worked ideally for me.

Now prepare your filling:
Heat the butter in a large saucepan or frypan. Add onion, cook until soft. Add chicken, when browned stir in the garam masala and cumin seeds. Cook for 2 minutes. Add flour, stir for 30 seconds. Remove from heat, gradually stir in stock. Return to heat, stir until boiling, reduce heat and simmer until sauce reduces and gets very thick. Stir in chutney and coriander. Season. Set aside to cool.

Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius.
Divide the filling equally among the pastry cases, brush the edges with water. Lay the pastry tops on the pies and press around the edges with a fork. Make a couple of wee slashes in the top of the pies to let steam escape. Brush tops with milk then bake for 30 minutes.

Makes 24

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Mini Cheesecakes - White Chocolate And Cranberry

If I could only eat one dessert for the rest of my life it would have to be cheesecake, preferably a baked one. I hear some people aren't fans of the baked variety, but I think those folk must be a little crazy in the head. Baked cheesecakes like this one have an awesome velvety texture that just melts in your mouth. Now how can that be a bad thing?

I like this particular version because it not only delivers in taste, but also in accessibility (non-food-processor owners like me will be pleased because it lends itself well to being completed by hand). The simplicity of it also means it'd be particularly good for any first-time cheesecake bakers. One tip to get you started: make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature, you can even soften it very briefly in a microwave (about 20 seconds on high). This way you'll be less likely to over beat the mixture while trying to remove lumps, and will yield better results.

Btw feel free to use other berries of your choosing, even a mixed berry combination is nice. Plus if you don't want to make mini ones just use a 22cm springform tin instead.


100g plain sweet biscuits ( I use 'Super Wines')
50g butter, melted
60ml (1/4 of a cup) thickened cream
180g white eating chocolate, broken into pieces
375g cream cheese
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
110g (1/2 a cup) caster sugar
1 egg
150g frozen cranberries, or other berries of your choice


Line a 6-hole Texas (3/4 cup) muffin pan with paper cases made from 17cm square sheets of baking paper.You could try using ready-made paper cases but I tried them once and they went soggy and were annoying to remove so I now stick with making my own.

Process the biscuits until fine. If you're like me and don't have a food processor, you can still achieve this by using a large mortar and pestle or by placing the biscuits in a ziplock bag (or two) and bashing with a rolling pin. Fun!

Mix the biscuit crumbs with melted butter until well combined. Divide among the paper cases and press down firmly. I use the back of an old spoon that I have bent backwards, makes the job easier. Leave in fridge for half an hour.

Place the cream and 130g of the chocolate in a small saucepan, stir over a low heat until smooth. Set aside to cool.

Beat the cream cheese, orange rind, sugar and egg until smooth. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.

Divide the filling among the paper cases. Sprinkle the berries on top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 150 Celsius for 30 minutes. Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cheesecakes.

Makes 6

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lamb Kebabs

I love lamb, well, I love to eat lamb. Sure the animals are cute when they are prancing happily around a field, but to be honest, I prefer them on my plate. Sadly though I can't really afford to be much of a lamb-eater. I love a good rack of lamb, but mince is more in my price range. Thankfully though we have an awesome supplier at my local farmers market where I can pick up delicious, and affordable, good quality lamb mince. So I still get my fix.

My absolute favourite way of eating lamb mince at the moment is in a kebab, and this recipe is the ultimate. You can play around with spices and herbs that you  like, but I've discovered that this combination works so well that I've settled on it, so I definitely had to include it on my blog. The kebabs are super easy to whip up and the flavours work so well together; I especially love the small zing you get from the inclusion of ginger, and the freshness from the mint. Thank you little lambies, from the bottom of my tummy.


400g lamb mince
1 small onion (or half a large one) finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt


Firstly, if you are using bamboo skewers soak them for at least an hour,  unless you are like me and are forgetful and/or don't mind burnt skewers.

Next, mix all of the ingredients until well combined.

Lightly oil your hands then pick up golf ball sized portions of the mixture and shape them onto each skewer. You can either shape them onto the skewer directly, or you can create little sausages then thread the skewer though them. Whatever you find easiest.

Grill until browned and just cooked through, this will take just a few minutes on each side.

Serve with a cucumber and yoghurt dipping sauce. This is easily created by mixing some Greek yoghurt with chopped cucumber (seeded and peeled if the skin is tough), a pinch of salt, and chopped coriander.

Makes 6 kebabs.                

Friday, March 18, 2011

Iced Berry Parfait

I'm a big fan of eating local produce when possible. I'd love to have my own garden someday, but for the moment I make do with a few planter boxes and make use of the community gardens. Thankfully we also have a  local Farmers Market  here every Sunday, where I can pick up things which we don't grow at the community garden. Plus it's fun to have a nosey at all the cool local things available (the $2.50 pizza slices from The Tin Kitchen are a delicious draw-card too).

I was at the market last week and the Waimate Berry Fruit and Vege stall totally caught my eye, it was brimming with punnets of raspberries. But while it was the raspberries that drew me in, it was actually the Karaka blackberrries that ended up in my shopping bag. I knew they'd be perfect for this kind of dish as they are a great palate cleanser. But I think any type of berries would work well in this recipe so I'm going to head back to the market this week and get some raspberries and give them a go. The parfait has a really light texture to it and goes really well with extra whipped cream. I love when you can create something really decadent with only a few simple ingredients and a few simple steps.

Btw if you are a fan of your local Farmers Market and want to give them some support  you can vote for  them and/or nominate your favourite producer (or stallholder) at

Iced Berry Parfait


3/4 cup sugar
200-250g berries of your choice (fresh or frozen, both would work fine)
3 egg yolks
1 gelatine sheet
190ml cream, softly whipped
1 and 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 and 1/2 teaspoons kirsch


Add the sugar and berries to a saucepan (Preferably a heavy-bottomed one). Heat slowly until the sugar dissolves, then bring mixture to the boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Puree the mixture then pass it through a fine sieve to remove any seeds (or skin).

Whisk the egg yolks until they are pale and creamy. Pour on the berry purée and whisk until you get a stiff smooth mousse.

Place the gelatine sheet in a small saucepan with the cold water. Don't turn the element on. Leave it until it softens. Once soft, warm it very briefly (and gently) over the lowest heat until it dissolves.

Add this to the berry mousse.

Fold the mousse into the softly whipped cream and kirsch.

Divide into 4-6 pudding moulds, or a terrine dish. Just be sure to lightly oil the moulds first.


Serves 4-6

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bengal Beef Curry

This week's favourite recipe comes courtesy of a cookbook that my boyfriend recently bought for me. I first scoffed at the book, it's called "Hellbent For Cooking" and is a collection of recipes contributed by members of heavy metal bands.

And while I am a fan of heavy metal, and cooking, I thought it was too much of a gimmick to be of any worth. Well that was until I read the list of recipes and tried some out for myself. There are some really great dishes, with some equally fun names, and it is scattered with tonnes of band trivia which helps keep things interesting. Even the layout and graphic design is appealing. So now it sits proudly next to my copy of "Joy of Cooking". 

The main thing that I like about the book is that the recipes  come from all over the world. One of the dishes that I particularly like is this one, the Bengal Beef Curry, submitted by Vetis Monarch of Weapon. It's so ridiculously easy to make and is amazingly tasty, plus it leaves hardly any dishes to wash up afterwards (bonus!). Also, you might want to note that even though the recipe suggests leaving the meat and potatoes to marinate for four hours, I have been pressed for time and only had it marinate for half an hour, and it still tasted fantastic, so I still recommend you give it a go if you aren't able to leave it that long. Also feel free to reduce the amount of chilli powder if you don't like things too spicy, it will still be flavoursome.

Recipe adapted from Hellbent for Cooking:

  • 900g beef (I like to use boneless beef cut into cubes, but bone-in is fine too) 
  • 3-4 potatoes
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped (you can use a whole one, it's fine)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 and 1/2 tablespoons turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 whole cardamom pods
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt


Add the onion, oil and spices to a mortar and pestle or blender. Combine until they become a paste.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into medium sized cubes.

Place the potatoes and beef into a large bowl. Mix in the spice paste and make sure to coat everything. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours. The suggested marinating time is 4 hours.

Pour all the ingredients into a large pot. Add a cup of water. Stir slowly over a high heat until the mixture starts to boil.

Stir well then turn the heat down to medium low. Cover the pot and cook for 50 minutes - an hour, or until meat is tender and potatoes are cooked.

Serve with basmati rice.

Serves 6

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Chocolate Bread

When I was a kid I used to love eating chocolate sandwiches. Literally a chocolate sandwich; pieces of milk chocolate wrapped up in slices of white bread. Fancy aye? To be honest, I still think it's yum. So when I stumbled upon this recipe I knew I had to give it a go, it was like the holy grail of chocolate sandwiches. There is even melted chocolate in the dough. It's so easy to make too,  if you can make bread then you can make this. The bread dough is patted out and then chopped chocolate is sprinkled on top and then it's rolled into a log. So when eaten fresh, the swirls of chocolate are all gooey and fudge-like. The slices are also yum when lightly toasted. Either way, I love it served with generous dollops of sweetened mascarpone cheese. Next time I might try sprinkling some chopped nuts into the centre as I think it'd be a fun and yummy addition.

Recipe adapted from Leanne Kitchen's "The Baker"


2 1/2 teaspoons active dried yeast
55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
375g (3 cups) strong flour
30g (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
50g unsalted butter (if using salted butter just leave out the salt above)
185g chopped dark chocolate
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
mascarpone, sweetened to taste with icing sugar

Pour 3/4 cup (185ml) of warm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast, and a pinch of sugar, on top. Leave this to sit for about 10 minutes or until foamy.

In another bowl; combine the caster sugar, flour, cocoa powder and salt. I like to use a whisk to get rid of any lumps. Set this aside.

Melt together the butter and half of the chocolate. Then stir in the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. Now add this mixture and the yeast mixture, to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon then turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for about 10 minutes, or until a smooth elastic dough is formed.

Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, coat its surface with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp clean tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm spot for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

Knock back the dough (punch it lightly). On a lightly floured surface use your hands to press it out until it is about 1cm thick (it's best to aim for a square or rectangle shape). Scatter the surface with the remaining chocolate. Roll the dough into a log.

Lift the log onto a greased baking tray, cover with a damp tea towel and let it rise for an hour (or until doubled in size).

Bake for 40-50 minutes at 180 Celsius, or until light brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

It's yummiest when served at room temperature.
After the first day I reckon it is best eaten lightly toasted so that the chocolate in the centre softens. Yum! The bread can even be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 weeks.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sweet 'n Spicy Fish

Why bother with ordering takeaway foods when you can whip up something easy, healthy, and so utterly tasty at home? This is one of those dishes that is easy to prepare and yet rewards you with a total taste sensation. Great for lazy evenings.  The ingredients used are things I always have in my cupboard, because I usually use them in my Indian cooking. But this is something a bit different. The flavours have a nice sweet and spicy combination, and the fish develops a nice crispness. I find it completely moreish.


1/2 teaspoon  chilli powder, or use a couple of red chillies if you have them
1 teaspoon turmeric
5 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 heaped teaspoon tamarind paste (without the seeds)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
4 x 200g firm white fish fillets

Method:Using a mortar and pestle or a blender, grind all the spices, onion, garlic, ginger, tamarind, sugar, salt and oil.

Process until it forms a smooth paste.

Marinate the fish in this paste for a couple of hours in the fridge. If you're short for time, a half hour will still be fine, but longer is better.

Heat some extra oil in a fry pan over a medium heat and fry the fish for about 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.

Serves 4.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Over the last couple of weeks I kinda lost my baking mojo. I've been a bit sick (feeling heaps better now though) and then my fridge up and died. We still have yet to get a replacement fridge, but it should be sorted soon. This meant I haven't been stocking up on staples like milk or butter. But with the price of the stuff, I'm probably doing my wallet a favour. Nearly NZ$5 for a block of butter, that's insanity. But that's a rant for another day.

So anyway, I decided to give myself a kick in the pants and get back into my domestic goddessness, fridge or no fridge, sickness or no sickness. Besides, baking (and eating said baking) is a great way to perk oneself up. So armed with my no fail easy peasy biscotti recipe I was back in the zone, and these have become our dunking biscuit of choice. They are so easy to make and don't require butter. Bonus! Have fun experimenting with flavour combinations, I like using salted pistachios, oh and almonds with orange zest is awesome too. You could even dip, or drizzle, them in chocolate for extra indulgence. For the ones in the photo I used raw almonds (blanched almonds are good too) and the grated zest of one orange.


375g (3 cups) plain flour
170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g nuts, e.g almonds, pistachio, hazelnuts, pinenuts
Other additions could include things like orange zest or crystallised orange, or spices such as cinnamon or aniseed.


Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon.
Next, use your hands to knead the mixture into a smooth dough.
Halve the dough.
On a lightly floured bench, roll each portion into a log about 20cm long.
Place the two logs onto a lined baking tray, and slightly flatten the tops with your hand.
Bake for 25 minutes at 180 Celsius, or until lightly golden.
Remove from oven and leave to cool for a little while.
Reduce oven temperature to 170 Celsius.
Cut each log on the diagonal, to create slices that are about 1cm thick.
Like this:

Slicing is easiest when using a large serrated knife.
Place the slices onto baking trays and bake for another 15 minutes, or until they start to brown

Makes approx 35-40

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Lasagne alla Tuna

When I mention tuna lasagne, some people give me a funny look. They think it's a crazy combination. But these people probably have never tried tuna lasagne, especially my family's version.

As a child I grew up on this stuff, I guess it was an economical and no fuss meal to create. The fact that we loved it and scoffed it down without complaint, also must have helped make it a staple item on our dinner menu.

The flavour of this dish is distinctly Mediterranean, with the combination of herbs really bringing the dish alive. I also love how the soft onions offer a yummy sweetness. Even people who are not fans of tuna will probably be converted with this recipe, they just have to be bold enough to try it!


2 onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or crushed
1 green capsicum, diced
3 tomatoes, or you can use tinned tomatoes (300-400g tin would suffice)
Tomato purée (we use a 400g tin, but smaller amounts are fine)
1 tsp dried oregano (If you have access to fresh herbs, use 1 tablespoon instead)
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp of beefstock powder
Pinch or two of pepper
425g tin of tuna in oil
500g of dried lasagne pasta
Cheese, to top


Drain a bit of the oil from the tuna into a pan (about a couple of tablespoons worth).
Heat this oil, then add the onions and garlic, cook for a few minutes until soft.
Now add the capsicum, tomatoes, tomato purée, herbs, spices and tuna (drain it first).
Leave this to simmer.
While the tuna simmers, cook the pasta (for 2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time).
Layer the lasagne and tuna mixture in an oven-proof dish.
Cover with sliced or grated cheese of your choice.
Bake at 210 Celsius for approx 30 minutes until cheese is golden.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Totenbeinli - Hazelnut Cookies

If you love hazelnuts, then you'll love this recipe. The nuts aren't hiding in the shadows, they are the main star. So when you bite into each cookie you are guaranteed to get a good helping of whole ones, and the ground ones will linger in your mouth helped along by the sweet tang of the lemon zest. I love the simple pleasures in life. Hazelnuts are one of mine.

I'm pretty frugal when purchasing ingredients, so when I use 'expensive' ingredients (like these nuts were) then I like to use them in recipes that I feel will show them off at their best. And this Swiss recipe of my mum's is one of my favourite ways to do so. Roasting the hazelnuts adds to the experience even more. Btw "Totenbeinli" means "dead legs" in English. Creepy name, delicious taste.


75g butter/margarine
200g sugar
2 eggs
The grated zest of half a lemon
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove powder
1 pinch salt
50g hazelnuts, ground
200g hazelnuts, whole
250g flour (you may need to add extra)
1 egg yolk (this will be used as an egg-wash. You could skip it but it gives a nice yellow sheen to the tops of the cookies)


First you'll need to roast the hazelnuts. I find it easiest to cook them in the oven on a roasting tray, just spread them out and cook them at 200 Celsius for 5 minutes or so, until they are golden. You'll need to babysit them as they will go from golden to burnt, pretty quickly. Then to remove the skins, just grab a clean tea-towel and roll the nuts around in it, the friction will slough the skins right off.

Now onto the dough...
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and lemon zest, beat until fluffy and foamy. Mix in the ground hazelnuts and the whole hazelnuts.
Fold in the flour, you may need to add more if you find it too sticky. You now want to turn it out on to a floured surface and knead it a wee bit.
Roll the out the dough, until approx 1cm thick. Cut into finger-sized sticks, approx 1cm wide and 5cm long.
Beat an egg yolk and brush onto the tops.
Bake at 200 Celsius for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Polenta Cake, With Lemon & Lavender Syrup

The first time I used polenta in baking it was a bit of a disaster. However, after some swift googling I came to the realisation that not all polenta is created equally. There is quick-cook polenta (takes about 3 minutes) and slow-cook polenta (takes about 30 minutes). And the polenta that I had used in my polenta cookies must inevitably been the slow-cook variety because it was like eating sand. I wondered if that was just how the texture was supposed to be, but I didn't think most people enjoyed chewing on gritty sand, so thanks to the interwebs I did some more research and got re-inspired and realised that baking with polenta didn't have to be disastrous. Nessie's yummy polenta creations on her blog 'baking=yum' were a great inspiration and spurred me on. So I tried again, with a different cake recipe this time, and wow I was delighted with the result. It was easy and moist (and not gritty!), and gobbled-up in no time. Originally the recipe uses rosemary instead of lavender, but I've often used rosemary in baking and as much as I love it I wanted to try something different. Here is the link to the original recipe if you want to give it a go, I will give it a go myself sometime. Happy baking!


114g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cup (187g) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup (105g) polenta (To be on the safe side, I used instant)
4 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
Zest of 2 lemons (or other citrus)

5 lavender flowers
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup (66g) sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon


Melt the butter, set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and polenta.

Beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy and doubled in size. Add the lemon zest.

Fold in a third of the dry ingredients and then half of the melted butter; repeat until everything is incorporated.

Pour into a greased or lined 9 inch cake tin (a spring-form tin is fine too). Bake for 35-40 minutes at 180 Celsius, or until golden and cooked through.

While the cake is baking, you can prepare the syrup: Heat the water, sugar, lemon zest, and lavender in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then take the saucepan off the heat. Let the mixture steep for 15 minutes (this just means let it sit there so all the natural oils and flavours get extracted). Before using, strain then add the lemon juice.
Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then spoon the strained syrup over the cake and let it sit a little for a while to fully absorb. The syrup will actually be very watery, but you will be surprised how thirsty that wee cake will be. I like to lightly prick holes in the top of the cake with a knitting needle to help this process along.

Remove cake from pan and serve. I think this cake goes really well with the sharpness of a nice thick plain yoghurt.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Pastetli (Swiss Vol-Au-Vent)

Apologies for the bad photo, I only managed a few quick snaps before gobbling the subject up. I didn't want to be the weirdo at the table taking millions of photos while everyone was already enjoying the meal. Besides, I wanted to eat it asap! So yeah, if it's hard for you to tell what the food is:  it, is a pastetli. Basically a Swiss vol-au-vent, a wee pastry case filled with a yummy white wine sauce made with stock, and a mushroom and meat filling. It's also what my mother and I made for my birthday dinner on New Year's Eve.

My sister and I share the same birthdate (but born two years apart) and for birthday dinners my mum would often offer to cook us our most favourite meal. I don't know why she kept asking because from what I remember the answer was always "pastetli". Clearly we are not sick of them because I happened to be in my home town for my birthday  this year, and yip, we  stayed with tradition. I took this as the perfect opportunity for me to learn how to make them. Yes they are quite involved,  probably why they were a special occasion meal at our house, but thankfully there's nothing difficult about them.  The filling is actually better when made the day before and slowly reheated, and I suppose you could also save time by purchasing pre-made pastry cases, but  freshly baked pastry cases straight from the oven are just heavenly...

Besides, this is the kind of dish where people will appreciate the time and effort you  put into making them. But be warned, you might end up having to make them year, after year, after year...

First I'll explain the ingredients you'll be using, then I'll move on to how it all goes together. Bear with me!

The pastry cases:
400g flaky puff pastry (high-five to you if you make your own.) Otherwise store-bought pastry is fine, avoid the pre-rolled stuff though.
One beaten egg.

The stock and meat:
800ml water
1 carrot, cut into small cubes
1 whole onion, peeled and spiked with a clove
1 bayleaf
1 tsp salt
400g cubed bratwurst, skin removed. Alternatively you can use veal, chicken or even cooked ham, or skip it and add more vegetables.

The sauce:

1 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
The leftover stock that was created earlier
200ml cream
150g mushrooms (these will be sautéed  in butter and 1/4 cup white wine before use)
Salt, to taste
Nutmeg, to taste

Creating the pastry cases: 

Roll out the pastry until approx 3mm thick.
Use round cutters that are approx 8cm in diameter and cut out 8 circles.
Take 4 of these circles and use a smaller round cutter and cut circles into the centre of each. This will create a 'ring' which will become the sides of the pastry case, and a 'lid'.
Brush the edges of the whole circles with beaten egg.
Take the cut-out rings that you  have created, and lightly press these on top of each whole circle.
Now place the tiny circle cut outs into the centre (after baking, these will be removed and become the lids). Brush over all the tops with beaten egg. For, hopefully, less confusion see pic:

Bake in the middle of the oven at 210 Celsius, for about 15 minutes, or until golden. These, or store-bought cases, can be reheated when needed, at 120 Celsius for just a few minutes. 

Making the filling: 

Add the water, carrot, onion with clove, bay leaf and salt to a pot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Note: add in the meat when it is appropriate to their cooking time. e.g sausages will only take 10 minutes so I would add them in the last 10 minutes, however, if I was using raw cubed veal I would add it in the last 15-20 minutes. Also, make sure to simmer with the lid off, as you want the stock to reduce down to approx 350ml. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Keep the stock.

Now to create the sauce. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and fry briefly. Add the strained leftover stock that you kept aside, bring it to the boil while stirring continuously. Add the cream and lower the temperature, simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. The sauce base is now ready. When ready to serve: add the meat to the sauce along with the mushrooms (along with the wine that they were cooked in). Reheat slowly over a low heat and add salt and nutmeg to taste. Drizzle over warmed pastry cases.

Makes 4