Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lettuce & Pea Soup

Pea & Lettuce Soup 2

Spring has well and truly sprung in my part of the world and, after the dreariness of winter, the arrival of new growth and the abundance of all things green is definitely a welcome sight.  Tender lettuce leaves and the first of the season's asparagus send me rushing to the kitchen with new enthusiasm, ready to create dishes with the lightness and lushness that befits the season.

Like most other parts of the world, however, spring here in New Zealand can be a pretty changeable affair - weatherwise anyway.  Warm, sunny days one minute - cooler, drizzly days the next.  It was such a day today - cool and gloomy.  Just perfect for a nice bowl of soup for lunch, but a soup on the lighter side, a soup that positively screams spring.

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're ladling it up, making Nigel Slater soups, stews, curries and other bowlfuls of goodness.  Nigel's "Soup of lettuce and peas" from Tender, vol. I, made the perfect lunch for today.  I reduced the original recipe a bit, since I had no need to feed six people.  This amount was just right to give me two good sized bowls today, and enough left over to take to work for my lunch tomorrow.  In other changes, I swapped in some leek instead of shallot, used parsley instead of mint, and finished things off with a swirl of coconut cream since I have some left over from last night's Shrimp & Curried Coconut Risotto (one of my favourite old recipes that I come back to time and time again).  In hindsight, I think a little grated lemon zest and a spritz of fresh lemon juice would work well here too.

This recipe is ridiculously quick and easy to make, deliciously fresh, and light enough that you could actually serve this as part of a multi-course meal.  I seldom have soup other than as a meal in it's own right, but this one could definitely fit into a bigger meal without filling you up too much.  It's pretty and elegant, and I wouldn't hesitate to serve this to company.  I hope you'll give it a try.

Pea & Lettuce Soup 1

Pea & Lettuce Soup Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Nigel Slater
from Tender, Vol. I
Serves 2
Click here for the free recipe card

1/2 an iceberg lettuce (or other lettuce of your choice)
generous knob of butter
1/2 a small leek, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups frozen peas
2 cups vegetable stock
large handful of flat-leaf parsley
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
coconut cream to finish

Separate lettuce leaves, wash thoroughly, and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add leek to the pan and saute until they have begun to soften, but not brown.

Roughly chop or tear the lettuce and add to the pan, stirring occasionally.  As soon as the lettuce begins to wilt, add the peas, stock and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the peas are cooked through and the lettuce is thoroughly wilted.

Remove from heat, and blitz until smooth either in a blender or using a stick blender.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Serve immediately, and finish with a drizzle of coconut cream.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Tender, Vol. 1 and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge    Souper Sundays Badge    Weekend Cooking Badge    Foodie Friday Badge

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Round The World 5-Stop Culinary Tour

La Boqueria 2

It's no secret that my favourite topic of conversation is food, and when I talk about this dish or that I have been creating, people often ask for the recipe.  So, when I first started blogging a bit over five years ago, it was really just a way to make that recipe sharing easy.   It was also a way to give voice to some of my thoughts about food, travel, yoga, and occasionally life in general.

Back then I never imagined anyone, other than immediate family and acquaintances, actually reading my posts.  I never dreamed that this "little hobby" would connect me with people, not only from all over my own country, but also from all corners of the globe, some of whom have touched my life in remarkable ways, and several of whom have become genuine friends.

So when the lovely Tina from Squirrel Head Manor invited me to participate in the Cross Country Culinary Tour, I was keen for the opportunity not just to tell you a bit more about myself, but also about Tina and a few of the other blogs I like to visit.

As I just mentioned, Tina hosts the blog Squirrel Head Manor, which I first discovered through the I Heart Cooking Clubs group.  Of course, like most of us, Tina loves to cook and share her delicious recipes.  Like me, she also likes a good wine with the food she creates, and often shares posts about her latest wine finds - from time to time she comes up with a New Zealand wine which always makes me smile.  Tina loves to travel, has a passion for genealogy, is a proud army mum, and also "mum" to a couple of shiba inus dogs.  Tina has a great sense of humour, and living in Florida, where I'm convinced they have perpetual sunshine (she assures me they have a winter, but I'm not buying it), you can often find her and her husband enjoying a grill and dinner on the patio.  There are many months of the year when I am insanely envious of that.

Check out this Bourbon & Brown Sugar Tenderloin, served of course with a Bordeaux Chateau Blouin.

Now I'm supposed to answer a few questions so you can get to know me better.

What am I working on currently on the blog?
Since starting my blog, I have found that there are several of my recipes that I go back to time and time again.  Having my laptop open on the kitchen bench so that I can look at the recipe is not always that convenient, so I recently had a go at creating recipe cards for the last couple of posts I published.  I was so pleased with the results, that I'm planning on revisiting a lot of my older posts and making recipe cards for lots of my favourite recipes.  I may even put together a few selections of cards for Xmas gifts for friends.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'm not sure that there really is anything particularly unique about my blog.  I like food, I write about food, I try to take pretty pictures of food - doesn't everybody?!  My principal point of view though would be trying to encourage you, as much as possible, to develop a genuine "awareness" of what you're eating and to make food from scratch.  It's actually not as daunting as it might seem - it just requires a little bit of planning.
Why do I write what I do?
Several years ago I read a book called "The Ethics of What We Eat".  At the same time, through my regular yoga practice, I was developing greater consciousness in many areas of my life.  It might sound cliched, but that was a life changing read.  It brought into question for me many ethical issues around the food that I eat.  Questions of eating local versus imported food, supporting farmers and growers in third world countries versus supporting local producers, the environmental impact of growing and producing everything we eat, eating animal products - or not, and many, many more issues.  I could write volumes on this subject, but I'll spare you.  In short, the main conclusion I came to, was that unless I had the time to spend hours and hours researching every single ingredient I purchase, it's impossible to make an ethically sound judgement about everything I consume, and I shouldn't beat myself up trying.  I can, however, take the time to consume as little processed food as possible, and I can take the time before blithely throwing ingredients into my supermarket trundler to consider where it has come from, who might have produced it, what animal may have given up its life for it.  That "consciousness" of what I consume is what I'm passionate about, and is what I hope readers of my blog will pick up on over time.

How does my writing process work?
I'd love to try and sound like a real writer and tell you all about "my process", but in all honesty there isn't one.  Sometimes I write things in my head while I'm standing in the shower - in fact, I come up with some of my best lines in the shower.  But it's usually forgotten by the time I come to write a post. 

Now that's enough about me.  I'm supposed to now introduce you to three blogs I enjoy and visit regularly, and then it would be their turn.  I didn't have any luck in finding any fellow bloggers who wanted to participate, but I thought I would nevertheless take you on a quick "world tour" of some of the bloggers I visit regularly and who also host some of the events I regularly like to participate in.

So first of all we're heading north across the Pacific to Hawaii, where my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, is not only one of my co-hosts at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but also hosts a weekly event called Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays.  As if that wasn't enough, Deb is also one of the co-hosts of Cook the Books, and Food 'n' Flix.  On top of all that she manages to dish up plenty of beautiful, mostly healthy food, along with book reviews and the occasional restaurant review.  I have only one question for Deb - how do you do it?!!

From Hawaii, we're headed to Malaysia, where I'd like to introduce you to Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.  Joyce is another blogger I got to know through I Heart Cooking Clubs, and I love the way no matter what the theme or who we are cooking with, Joyce always manages to come up with her own "spiced up" version of things.  I read Joyce's posts and the tantalising smell of spices and curry leaves swirls through my mind.  Joyce hosts Cook Your Books, a monthly event to get you cooking out of that collection of cook books you have;  The Home Bakers, currently dedicated to baking every recipe from "Coffee Cakes" by Lou Seibert Pappas;  and co-hosts Bake Along.

Now, we're flying off to the south of France to meet the lovely Karen at Lavender and Lovage.  I first "met" Karen just a few months ago through the Secret Recipe Club in which we both participate.  It didn't taken long to discover that we had a great deal in common - a culinary history hugely influenced by our grandmothers, and a shared philosophy of cooking mostly from scratch, growing what you can, and cooking with seasonal, locally grown produce.  I have a fantasy of one day turning up in the south of France, cycling up to Karen's back door, and sitting at her kitchen table to enjoy a natter over a cuppa and cake.  Of course there would be cake, but why my fantasy involves a bicycle I have no idea, since I never ride a bike in my normal life - still that's what fantasies are for I guess.  Karen also hosts Cooking with Herbs and Tea Time Treats.

You still with me?  Next stop on our tour is Berkshire in England, where I want you to meet April at The 21st Century Housewife.  April grew up in Canada before moving to England in her early twenties.  April's blog grew out of a series of essays she wrote to help herself and other stay at home mums overcome the negativity that can often arise around being a full time homemaker.  April and her busy corporate husband travel and entertain extensively, and you'll find April's blog chock full of travel, entertaining, style and fashion tips.  April also co-hosts the Hearth and Soul blog event - a weekly event around family and comfort food posts, sustainable living posts, gardening, family, kids, crafts and DIY.

From England, we're headed across the Atlantic to visit the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace in the state of Louisiana.  Michelle writes passionately about Cajun and Creole food, as well as Louisiana music and Mardi Gras.  She is equally passionate about the coastal erosion that is changing the landscape of her home state.  And whilst there is sometimes a serious note to her posts, she more often than not truly makes me laugh out loud.  It has been said that a "really good friend is one who makes you snort when you laugh, and will still hang out with you when you do it in public".  I always imagine Michelle to be exactly that kind of friend.  Michelle hosts the weekly See Ya In the Gumbo blog event, a tribute to her great grandfather who always used to say see ya in the gumbo instead of goodbye.

There are a few others I could add to this mix, but I figure five is enough - you should all be pretty jet lagged by now.  I hope you've enjoyed this tour with me, and come back tomorrow to see what's been cooking in my kitchen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Warm Lentil, Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Roasted Tomatoes

Warm Lentil & Leek Salad 2

One of the things I love about cooking is the creative process, finding inspiration in unexpected ways.

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're cooking with Nigel Slater, making dishes with lentils, legumes and pulses.  In Nigel's book Tender Vol. I, I came across his recipe for "Lentil soup with lemon, pancetta and mint".  Nigel describes it as being ... "One of those soups that doubles as a main course, earthy, filling and beefy.  The soup relies on the onion to add depth and body."

Sounded good enough, but enjoying warmer spring days and evenings now I was in the mood for something a little fresher than a hearty, wintery soup.  Which got me to thinking that I could put a lot of those same ingredients together in an entirely different way - some lightly sauteed leeks instead of onions, lentils, spinach and lemons - surely these same ingredients could make an interesting salad.  Replacing the pancetta in the soup with some lemony prawns would turn this salad into a substantial meal, and the rich fruitiness of some quick pan roasted tomatoes were the perfect foil to the earthy lentils and sweet prawns.

This turned out to be one of those dishes which, in its entirety, was so much greater than the sum of its parts, and was not just every bit as good as I expected it to be, but in actual fact exceeded all my expectations.  Thanks for the inspiration, Nigel.

Warm Leek, Lentil & Lemon Salad 3

Warm Lentil, Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Roasted Tomatoes Recipe
Serves 2 as a main meal
Download the free recipe card here

2x lemons
extra virgin olive oil
1x cup Puy lentils
1x small leek, halved lengthwise & thinly sliced
red wine vinegar
flaky sea salt & freshly ground pepper
large handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
2x generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves
200g prawns, peeled & deveined
12x cherry tomatoes

Using a peeler, remove a couple of strips of peel from one of the lemons, taking care to avoid any of the white pith.  Place in a small bowl, and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Set aside to infuse.  Grate the remaining zest from the same lemon and set aside, then juice the lemon and reserve.

Remove the peel and all the pith from the second lemon.  Place a sieve over a small bowl.  Hold the peeled lemon over the bowl and, using a sharp knife, cut down between the membrane and fruit on each side of the segment to separate it from the membrane.  Let the fruit segments fall into the sieve.  Squeeze the membrane over the bowl, extracting as much juice from it as you can.  Set aside.

Place lentils in a medium sized saucepan, cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil and cook until tender, but not mushy - about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, drain well, and place lentils in a medium sized bowl.  Immediately add a generous splash of red wine vinegar, and a couple of good glugs of olive oil.  Season generously with flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a small saute pan set over medium heat.  Add the thinly slice leeks to the pan, and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks have softened, but not browned.  Add lemon juice to the pan and stir until juice is reduced and slightly syrupy.  Remove from heat and add to the bowl of lentils, along with the lemon segments and any of their reserved juice, and flat leaf parsley.  Mix well to combine all the ingredients and set aside for all the flavours to develop.

Set a small saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add a dash of olive oil and the cherry tomatoes to the hot pan.  As soon as they sizzle and the skins start to split, add a splash or two of red wine vinegar, along with generous seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Toss around in the pan for a moment or two, until the pan juices are syrupy.  Remove from heat and set aside.  Wipe out the pan.

Remove lemon peels from the olive oil that has been infusing, and put the lemon oil into the same pan.  Set over medium heat, and once warm, add the prawns to the pan.  Season generously, and saute until cooked through - 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on size.  Remove from heat, add to the lentils, and toss gently.

To serve, arrange baby spinach leaves over a serving platter.  Spoon lentil salad over the top, and finish with the roasted cherry tomatoes.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge     Weekend Cooking Badge     Foodie Friday Badge

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quick Pickled Vegetables

Pickled Vegetables 1

I don't know about you, but I have a fair bit of angst when it comes to working week lunches.  Of course if you happen to be one of those super-organised, super-human people who prepares their lunch the day before, you probably don't understand my quandry.  I am not one of those people.  Getting lunch together is usually that thing that happens in the five minutes between getting dressed and rushing out the door, and usually with my toothbrush hanging out of the corner of my mouth while I'm doing it.  Not a pretty picture.

There's no doubt that a sandwich is the ultimate transportable meal, but I try not to eat too much bread, and in all honesty no sandwich really tastes as good after four or five hours at the bottom of your lunch bag as it does when freshly made.  Last night's leftovers too are great lunchtime fodder, but without the facilities to reheat anything at my workplace, I find I'm less than enthusiastic about the previous night's cold mac 'n' cheese.

Most weeks in our house we make a big pot of soup, and occasionally I have time in the morning to reheat some to take to work in a thermos.  Sometimes I will make a big batch of hummus and take that along to work with a bag of assorted vegetables, and that will provide me with lunch for three or four days.  But more often that not, I will make do with just grabbing a couple of pieces of fruit or an avocado out of the bowl as I rush out the door.

A salad is great for lunch, but a salad which is made the night before is seldom a thing of glory, and who has time in the morning for chopping ingredients, putting them in separate little containers, mixing a dressing, etc?!  Definitely not this girl.

Pickled Cauliflower 1

And now, that clever Nigel Slater has got me out of a pickle with some inspiration which will see me enjoying delicious work-day lunches for at least the next week.  You see, this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs our theme is "In Quite A Pickle", making our own pickles or a dish using pickled ingredients.

Looking through my Nigel Slater cookbooks, I couldn't find anything that was quite right or which used ingredients that are in season here right now, but online I found Nigel's recipe for Salmon Tartare with Quick Pickled Cauliflower.

With a whole head of cauliflower sitting in my veggie drawer and needing to be used up, this definitely piqued my interest, and although I wasn't considering making the salmon tartare today, it got me thinking.  For a start, why just stop at cauliflower?  I had other vegetables on hand that surely could get the quick pickling treatment too ... radishes, carrots, beetroot, and if these were going to be a good accompaniment to salmon, then why not with a variety of smoked fish?

Pickled Radishes 1

Seriously, these could not be simpler to make.  About 20 minutes of work this afternoon, and I now have four jars of assorted pickled vegetables with which I can stock the fridge at work.  I'll take along a couple of pieces of smoked mackerel as well, a bag of salad leaves and a packet of crackers, and I have a whole week's worth of sensational (and healthy) lunches to look forward to.

Pickled Carrots 1

Quick Pickled Vegetables Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Nigel Slater
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

You don't need to be too concerned about quantities here - just use what you have

1x small cauliflower, cut into small florets
coriander seeds

1x carrot
caraway seeds

4 to 5x radishes
fennel seeds

1 to 2x beetroot, depending on size
dill or caraway seeds

2-1/2 cups cider vinegar
2-1/2 cups water
200g (7 oz) sugar

4x washed & sterilised jars

Bring a small pot of water to the boil.  Add cauliflower, and cook for about 5 minutes, until just barely tender, but still crisp.  Drain and refresh in cold water.  Pack the cauliflower into one jar, sprinkling coriander seeds over each layer as you go.

Using a vegetable peeler, cut the carrot into long, thin ribbons, and pack into another jar, sprinkling caraway seeds over each layer as you go.

Cut radish into rings as thinly as you possibly can - a mandoline is ideal.  Layer in a jar with fennel seeds.

Cut beetroot in half, and then into thin slices - again a mandoline is ideal.  Layer in a jar with dill or caraway seeds.

Put vinegar, water and sugar in a small pot, and set over medium heat.  Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil.  Remove from heat and immediately pour over the bottled vegetables.

Leave to cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.  Allow to stand, in the fridge, at least four hours before using.  After a few hours in the fridge, they are really crispy, and beginning to take on the flavours from the spices they've been packed with.  If you can bear to wait till the next day, even better.

This is a quick pickle, so don't expect a long-term preserve, but they should keep a good week or two in the fridge.

Enjoy - I know I can hardly wait for lunch time tomorrow to come around.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge     Weekend Cooking Badge     Foodie Friday Badge

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Beetroot Stacks with Spicy, Caramelised Walnuts

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Beetroot Stack 2

Where did the last month go?  If your life is anything like mine, it's vanished in a heart beat.  During that month in my part of the world daffodils have burst into life, blossom is appearing on the trees, and spring lambs are bounding around countrywide.  My overcoat wearing has almost become a thing of the past, and I'm guessing that it will only be another couple of weeks before I can say goodbye to winter boots for another 8 months.  Yes, spring is definitely on the way.

In an entirely different part of the world, the owner and writer of the Enriching Your Kid blog has been completely oblivious to the fact that I've spent quite a bit of time poking around through her recipes in this last month.  You see, it's Secret Recipe Club time of the month and this was the blog assigned to me.  It was my mission to choose a recipe, make it in secret and post it along with everyone else in the Club on one glorious reveal day.

As its title might suggest, this blog is all about producing recipes which will fortify your kids with dishes that will strengthen their immune systems and stimulate growth.  As such, you will find plenty of recipes here for interesting baby foods and school lunches.

Of course, there's plenty of other good, nutritious stuff, but since I don't have children, I thought I might have a bit of trouble finding a dish here that I would want to make.  Wrong ... in fact I found almost immediately the dish I wanted to make - Beetroot Cutlets.

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Beetroot Stack 1

Now, if you live in my part of the world, when you hear the term beetroot cutlets, you might by thinking "what the heck"?  You see, down here, a cutlet is usually a piece of meat attached to a long bone - such as a lamb chop.

But I knew immediately what the nature of this was going to be.  When I was a kid, one of my favourite dinners was my grandmother's "potato cutlets".  These were spicy, minced meat (usually left over curried lamb), encased in mashed potato, and then crumbed and fried until crispy.  So I knew that here a cutlet was going to be some kind of rissole or croquette.

These beetroot cutlets are "spiced" up with a bit of ginger, garlic and curry powder (the original recipe called for garam masala, but I was all out of it), and I coated them with some panko breadcrumbs for a bit of crunch.

To finish things off, I served them on top of a spinach, lentil and goat cheese salad, with some spicy, caramelised walnuts, and topped them off with a dollop of raita (a combination of cucumber, yoghurt and mint).

This made a wonderful vegetarian meal.  The cutlets had a great combination of taste and texture and the salad was the perfect accompaniment, the earthiness of the spinach and lentils with the tangy, salty goat cheese providing a great contrast to the sweetness of the beetroot.  The crowning glory is easily the spicy, caramelised walnuts.

I know when you look at this recipe you might think there's a lot of ingredients and steps.  But, honestly, most of these ingredients are things you will likely have on hand already, and most of the steps involved here can be done well in advance - even the day before if you wanted.  This is a great dish for turning very simple, humble ingredients into a meal that looks and tastes really special.  Even the meat-eater around here declared that he'd pay good money for this dish in a restaurant.  I hope you'll give it a try.

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Beetroot Stack 3

Spinach, Goat Cheese & Beetroot Stacks with Spicy, Caramelised Walnuts Recipe
Inspired by recipe from Enriching Your Kid
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

For beetroot cutlets:
2x medium sized beetroot, peeled and grated
1x small leek, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced
1x clove garlic, minced
2.5 cm (1 inch) piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2x medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
freshly ground black pepper
flaky sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
generous handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
panko breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying

For spinach, lentil & goat cheese salad:
1 cup brown lentils
4x generous handfuls of spinach, or mesclun salad leaves
150g goat cheese crumbled
juice of 1/2 lemon
flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

For spicy, caramelised walnuts:
1x generous handful of walnuts
1 teaspoon curry powder
5 teaspoons sugar

For raita:
1/2 telegraph cucumber, peeled, de-seeded, and finely diced
flaky sea salt
3/4 cup Greek style natural yoghurt
dried mint to taste

Begin by making the cutlets.  Heat a small amount of sunflower oil in a shallow pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced leek to the pan, along with a generous sprinkling of sea salt.  Saute for a couple of minutes before adding the ginger and garlic.  As soon as the leek is softened (but not browned) and everything is fragrant, remove from heat.  Tip into a medium sized bowl.

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.  Drain and cool slightly before mashing.

Add the mashed potato to the leeks, along with the grated beetroot, curry powder, lemon juice and coriander.  Taste and add flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to your liking.

Use your hands to shape the mixture into patties, approximately 2cm (3/4 inch) thick.  Coat them in panko breadcrumbs, and refrigerate for at least half an hour to firm up.  You could even do this the day before if desired.

To make the raita, place diced cucumber in a small bowl, and sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt.  Set aside for an hour or so, then drain off the liquid that has been drawn out of the cucumber.  Add yoghurt, mix well, and add dried mint (or fresh if you are lucky enough to have it in season) to taste.

To make the salad, cook the lentils, place them in a medium sized pot, with plenty of cold water.  Place over high heat and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender.  Drain and place in a medium sized bowl.  While lentils are still hot, add lemon juice, a generous drizzle of olive oil and season to taste with flaky sea salt and black pepper.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.  This is another stage that can be completed well in advance.  Once cooled, toss with spinach or salad leaves and crumbled goat cheese.

For spicy, caramelised walnuts, drizzle a small amount of sunflower oil into a shallow pan over medium heat.  Add the walnuts to the pan, and add the curry powder.  Toss the nuts until they are well coated and allow them to toast for a moment or two.  Add the sugar to the pan, and stir constantly until the sugar is bubbling and the nuts are thoroughly coated in the spicy, sugary mixture.  Remove and allow to cool.  Again this could be done in advance.

Pour a generous amount of sunflower oil into a shallow pan over medium heat.  Add beetroot cutlets to the pan, and fry until crispy and golden all over.

To serve, place a generous amount of salad on a plate, and sprinkle a few of the spicy, caramelised walnuts around.  Stack the beetroot cutlets on top, and drizzle over a little of the raita.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and visit the links below to check out all the other great dishes my Secret Recipe Club friends made.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mocha, Date & Meringue Ice Cream

Mocha, Date & Meringue Ice Cream 2

Pot Luck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is always one of my favourite weeks, because it means that we get to cook with any one of our ten IHCC chefs.  For me that usually means the irresistible opportunity to catch up once again with my favourite chef, Yotam Ottolenghi.

This is timely, because this month at Tasting Jerusalem** we are exploring cooking with date syrup, through the lens of Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem.  I've use date syrup a few times before in dishes such as this Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread, which is finished off with a drizzle of date syrup.

Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread 2

Date syrup has a consistency similar to maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup or runny honey, and makes a great substitute anywhere you would use any of those ingredients, but the flavour is so much more, for want of a better word, "exotic" and complex than any of them.  The sticky sweetness of dates, combined with the intense flavour and aroma of rosewater, makes for an ingredient that will transport you to places far flung.

I've also used date syrup in these Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones ...

Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones 4

... but today I wanted to come up with something that was altogether more indulgent and which really played to the exotic nature of this ingredient.

Doing a little research, I found my inspiration in Ottolenghi's recipe for Chocolate, Rose & Walnut Ice Cream.  This seemed like a good starting point, and I thought I could come up with my own version.

To start with, I simplified the whole process by using a combination of coconut cream, condensed milk, and melted dark chocolate, instead of the typical custard base used in the original recipe.  Since I had decided I was going to work date syrup into the recipe, I didn't need rose water, as that flavour is already sufficiently pronounced in the syrup.  I also wanted actual dates in the ice cream, as well as the syrup, so I soaked them in some freshly brewed espresso to soften them, before swirling into the ice cream.  And for that all important crunch, I replaced the walnuts and digestive biscuits Ottolenghi used, with some crumbled meringues.  I love the way they hold their texture, and keep that little bit of "chewiness" even once frozen.  I did think about also including some cacao nibs, but I think it would have been an ingredient too far, and the depth of chocolate flavour here is more than sufficient without it.

Ottolenghi served his ice cream with chocolate sauce drizzled over the top, which seemed a bit unnecessary in the circumstances, and some little cubes of Turkish delight sprinkled over the top.  I think this would have been delightful, but I didn't have any on hand.  He also finished with a little sprinkling of dried rose petals - another delightful touch, which I did have and would have added, but the ice cream was melting and for the life of me I couldn't find them in the cupboard (note to self:  time to give the cupboard a clean out!)

In the end, this ice cream is everything I wanted it to be.  Rich and chocolatey and almost fudgy;  there are delightful little of nuggets of chewy dates and crunchy meringues;  the date and rose flavours really come through without overpowering, and linger long enough on the palate to tantalise the mind with thoughts of far flung places.  I think I should have called this Magic Carpet Ice Cream.

Mocha, Date & Meringue Ice Cream 1

Mocha, Date & Meringue Ice Cream Recipe
Inspired by a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi
Makes about 1 litre
Download the free recipe card here

1/2 cup finely chopped, dried dates
3 tablespoons freshly brewed espresso
1 tablespoon date syrup
400ml (13.5 fl oz) coconut milk
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
200g dark chocolate, melted (I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana)
40g (1-1/2 oz) crumbled meringues

Place chopped dates in a small bowl.  Pour over the hot espresso and date syrup.  Stir to combine, and set aside until the dates have softened, and mixture has cooled.

Break chocolate into smallish pieces.  Place in a bowl over a pot of gently simmering water, making sure the water is not actually touching the bowl.  Stir from time to time, until the chocolate is melted and glossy.  Set aside and allow to cool completely, but without re-solidifying.

In another bowl, beat together the coconut milk, condensed milk and melted chocolate, until everything is well combined.

Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Empty ice cream into a freezer safe container.  Stir in the softened dates and crumbled meringues.  Cover the surface of the ice cream with a piece of non-stick baking paper, and put in the freezer to firm up.

Serve generously whenever you have itchy feet.

If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better or any one of our other IHCC chefs, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up for Pot Luck week.

IHCC Ottolenghi Leek Badge resized

** Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.

I'll also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollam.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge      Weekend Cooking Badge    

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Michelle at Munch Cooking, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pina Colada Ice Cream

Pina Colada Ice  Cream 2

I don't wish to whine, but it's not been the best of times around here the last couple of weeks.  Long story short, and I'm sure I've mentioned this here before, our house got flooded in a big storm a couple of months ago.  I arrived home from work to find the dining room and kitchen floors resembling a lake and, as water is wont to work its way downwards, the water had filled up the ceilings and floor of the two bedrooms below.  Not a pretty sight.  Anyway, after several weeks of not much happening, the insurance company finally realised that the problem was way more serious than they had originally anticipated, launched themselves into "emergency action" as a result, and sent in a team of people to start ripping the house apart.  Walls and ceilings have been removed downstairs, and big machines brought in to try and dry the place out.  The kitchen and dining room ceiling will have to be removed, likewise the floor, and there is even talk of the possibility of the whole kitchen having to be pulled out.  Needless to say, there is plenty of chaos around here and not too much cooking going on, so please bear with me if I'm not posting as regularly here as I'd like to over the next couple of months.

Still, life isn't all grim ... the magnolias and daffodils are out, and the tui which always comes to our garden at the start of spring, and enchants us throughout the summer, has arrived.  A wonderful reminder that spring is officially only 14 days away.  For those of you who don't know, the tui is a native New Zealand bird, notable for its vibrant green plumage and the two white feathers at its throat.  As a child I was always delighted by this Maori legend as to how the kiwi became a flightless bird and the tui got its white feathers.

Tui Collage

The other great thing about this time of year is the abundance of citrus fruit in season.  I always have huge bowls of lemons, oranges and mandarins on my kitchen bench right now, and it's the time when I launch into production of preserved lemons and lemon curd.  Marmalade making is just around the corner.

The fact, therefore, that this week we are Zesting It Up with Nigel Slater at I Heart Cooking Clubs, really brightened my week, and with days warming up a little it definitely seemed like ice cream was the way to go.  Though, in truth, I eat ice cream all year round - no excuse of warmer days ahead needed.   Trawling around on the internet I came across Nigel's Lime Mascarpone Sorbet.  I really liked the sound of that, and in fact I had a couple of limes in the house.  I didn't, however, have any mascarpone, wasn't feeling inclined to head to the supermarket to buy some, and easy enough though it is to make time wasn't on my side.  Poking around in the pantry, I came across a tin of coconut milk and figured I could do something with that.  I also stumbled across a tin of pineapple chunks that had been sitting in the pantry for goodness knows how long, and for the life of me I can't imagine how I ever came to be in possession of a tin of pineapple in the first place.  Then I remembered half a tin of condensed milk that had been sitting in the fridge for probably at least as long as the pineapple had been around, and thus this ice cream was born.  It's a simple as blitzing up the coconut milk, pineapple chunks, condensed milk, and lime zest in a blender, and then churning in an ice cream maker.

The resulting ice cream is light and refreshing, and a beautiful combination of flavours.  This is definitely one I will be repeating a lot this summer.  Thanks for the inspiration, Nigel.

Pina Colada Ice Cream

Pina Colada Ice Cream Recipe
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1x 400ml (13.5 fl oz) can Trade Aid coconut milk
1x 450g (16 oz) can pineapple chunks in natural juice
1/2 can condensed milk
grated zest of 1x lime

Place all ingredients in blender, and blitz until the pineapple is completely crushed and everything is well combined.

Pour everything into an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions.

Turn ice cream into freezer proof container, and place a piece of baking paper directly over the surface of the ice cream (helps to stop it turning icy).

Remove from freezer 10 to 15 minutes before serving to soften slightly.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Michelle at Munch Cooking, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge     Weekend Cooking Badge     Foodie Friday Badge