Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Podding

Its been a while . . .

Winter has been and gone, the broad beans grew and the leeks lingered around in the frosty soil. We moved house and then spring arrived. With a new crew on board and a fresh garden (mostly shaded by large old tree's) I am filled with new ideas and inspiration for my place in the garden. Today was the first day I have eaten anything from the garden since our last home, the first sweet peas. It all came flooding back. .... the sweet crisp fresh flavour, the gratification of the months of nurturing and watering and the mindblowing fact that it was once a seed that looked rather hopeless.
This post doesn't involve a chistmas pudding, rather a pea podding incident and Christmas Cake . One that actually tastes amazing unlike like most of them. Inspired from the kitchen goddess Nigella, this cake is filled with rich moist flavours and doesn't involve any nasty white icing. Perfect for any drop-in cup of tea people during the month of December . Leave a few hours spare for this one and enjoy the process with some  background Michael Buble Christmas or Sufjan Stevens songs for Christmas.
Honey and Cocoa Christmas Cake


350 grams dried soft prunes, chopped
250 grams sultana's
125 grams cranberries
175 grams unsalted butter, softened
175 grams dark muscovado sugar
175 ml honey
125 ml coffee liqueur
2 oranges, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons good quality cocoa
3 free-range eggs, beaten
150 grams plain flour
75 grams ground almonds
 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

For the top

1/2 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons marmalade


Preheat the oven to 150 degrees
Line a deep square cake tin 30 by 30cm with baking paper lining the base and sides. You will need 2 long strips to cover all 4 sides crossing over each other.
Place the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee liqueur, orange zest and juice, mixed spice and cocoa into a large wide saucepan. Heat the mixture until it reaches a gentle boil, stirring the mixture as the butter melts. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, the mixture will have cooled a little. Add the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and baking soda, and mix well with a wooden spoon until the ingredients have combined.
Carefully pour the fruitcake mixture into the lined cake tin. Transfer the cake tin to the oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the top of the cake is firm but will has a shiny and sticky look. At this point, if you insert a sharp knife into the middle of the cake, the cake should still be a little uncooked in the middle.
While its cooking prepare the glaze in a small saucepan or metal measuring cup. Combine the honey and marmalade and stir over a gentle heat until the glaze is lightly bubbling, let it simmer for 30 seconds then take off the heat.
pour half of the glaze over the cake and spread. Scatter the almonds over the cake evenly and then pour remaining glaze over gentle pressing the almonds in to the glaze. 
Return the cake to the oven while its cooling for 10 mins and then remove and leave to cool.
Store in an airtight container and enjoy with company and a cup of tea.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Leek and Potato Soup and a Bowl of Thoughts

Despite the beautiful crisp clear autumn days we have here, I feel a sense of fleetingness and a heaviness. Autumn seems to be a time of reflection for me. Its like a sunday afternoon. An enjoyable time but the weight of a week ahead beckons. My floaty summer ideals that I lived out in the sunshine are now put to the test when my bones get a little stiffer in the cold and my thoughts begin to settle.
Pulling out the last of the wallowing pumpkins has given me time to think about what lies ahead of me this year and who I want to be as I tackle it. My vegetable garden has become some what of a living calender for me. I'm constantly reminded of what headspace I was in as I go from planting a seed to harvesting a vegetable. Despite some growing pains, I'm so excited for what awaits me.

I have been watching the slow progress of my paddock sized leek patch and I am noticing the change in speed as winter creeps. My impatient streak got me thinking, and I could wait no longer for my first batch of home-grown leek and potato soup. Last week as I was lovingly weeding the slender baby leeks my hand slipped and before I could acknowledge my impulsivity,I was gripping 3 sweet and earthy baby leeks. Straight to the kitchen we went and soup for lunch I had.

Baby Leek and Potato Soup
 Serves 2-3
Ingredients -
3 medium sized early Leeks
2 large garlic cloves
5 Large Potatoes, waxy variety
20g Butter
Olive oil
500ml good quality, organic chicken stock
1 tsp brown sugar
To serve -
Sour cream
Salt and Pepper
Wash and thinly slice the leeks and garlic. Peel and cube the potatoes to about 1cm square. Place the leeks and garlic in a pot on a medium heat in the butter and a dash of olive oil with 1/2 tsp of salt. Once the leeks have sweated down, add the potatoes,sugar and chicken stock. Reduce heat to a simmer and put lid on. Stir every few minutes, and add extra boiling water if necessary. Once the potatoes have softened, take off heat and blend until smooth in a food processor or with a hand held blender. Season to taste, and add a dollop of sour cream and parsley. Or. . . . put it in the thermos and escape to the mountains for a river side picnic.

Al xx

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mushroom and Streaky Bacon Pappardelle

 Serves 4
4 large handfuls of roughly chopped fresh mushrooms, wild mixture is best
8 rashers of free range streaky bacon sliced
3 med cloves of garlic finely grated
juice of 1 lemon
rind of 1/2 a lemon
1 cup of creme fraiche
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan

fresh pasta-
Will need a pasta machine
500g flour
5 large free range eggs
Buy a packet of fresh pasta so you can cut to pappardelle size.

In a large pot bring water to the boil. Meanwhile in a fry pan, on high, heat olive oil and add the bacon. After 1 minute add the roughly chopped mushrooms and a good pinch of salt. Fry for 3 mins until the mushrooms are cooked and golden brown. Add the finely grated garlic, remove from heat and combine well.
In a separate bowl combine the lemon juice, creme fraiche and parmesan with plenty of cracked pepper and a pinch of salt.
When water is rapidly boiling add 1 Tbsp salt and add fresh pasta. Home made pasta may only take around 1 minute to cook so stay close and drain when Al Dente.
Immediately add the creme fraiche mix and the mushrooms, toss well and serve. Top with freshly grated parmesan.
If making fresh pasta. . .
In a large bowl add the flour and create a well in the centre. Add the eggs and using a fork whisk the eggs, gradually bringing the flour into the centre, this will form a dough. On a floured surface knead for 5 mins until silky and elastic then wrap and chill for 1 hour in the fridge.
To roll out using a pasta maker. Separate dough into 5 even balls a roll out in to small circles to feed through the machine. Make sure you're continually flouring the surfaces with finely ground semolina or flour until you reach the finest setting. Then fold and cut into strips 1-1.5 inches wide.
except you will want to make it thicker than the style shown.
If using bought fresh pasta, simply slice into 1-1.5 inch thick slices and cook until al dente.

Enjoy x

Friday, March 29, 2013

Pumpkin Pancake Pleasure

Nothing can beat lazy saturday morning pancakes while mulling through thoughts of the hardworked week, burying your face in the paper and a steaming coffee Being a forward thinker, I see it as the time in the weekend where you have the most possible time left in the weekend. Sort of ! Mine however involves a painful alarm and leaving a house filled with happy (because they are still sleeping as they should be) friends to get to work before smug weekend-happy civilions arrive. You'll often find me peering over the coffee machine becoming bitter at the sight of their smirks. Spiced french toast, waffles,fresh bread, pastries, salty crisp bacon and fresh fruits surround me and entertain the nose, all for me to graciously deliver. Some days it really can get me down, until I remember that I am just as much a part of this experience as they are. I am here to create and serve the things I care so much about while relationships develop and weekends begin. So as Easter is here I have decided that I too will begin my weekend in a nonchalant manner.

I have risen to the occasion this long weekend (easter pun there) and am celebrating the first of the autumn harvest. The first time I ever delved into the pumpkin universe where it wasn't just served next to my roast lamb was in Byron Bay where I found my orange friend in my pancakes. Result? It was sweet, fluffy and the perfect pal for the temporamental cinnamon. These are the ultimate autumly pancakes with pumpkins ready for picking and trees heavy with pears.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Roasted Pears -

Serves 2
Ingredients -
1 cup Flour
3/4 teaspoons Baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
2 large free range eggs
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin puree

2 pears (halved and cored)
Maple syrup

To serve -
1/2 cup fresh ricotta or semi whipped cream


Preheat oven to 200 bake. In a baking dish halve and core the pears and drizzle a little maple syrup skin side up over the pears. Bake in the oven (will take around 20 mins)

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg into a medium-sized bowl. Add the brown sugar, stir to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, melted butter, buttermilk, milk and vanilla extract. Then add the pumpkin and whisk well.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk until just combined.
Set frypan over a medium heat and add a little butter and pour about 1/3 cup of mixture
allow the pancakes to cook until you see bubbles form on the surface. this can take less than a minute, then flip. Allow to cook on the other side for 30-45 seconds more.
Transfer the cooked pancakes to a small baking dish and store in the oven to keep warm while you make the remaining pancakes. Continue to check,turn and reglaze the pears every 5-10mins during cooking.

Serve in a small stack topped with the roasted pears, semi whipped cream, maple syrup and walnuts.

I hope the easter break is treating you well and any weight that life can load on us is lifted in remembering the meaning of this time.
I'm sorry for the delay in post's. I have recently had foot surgery which has kept me out of my natural habitat of the kitchen and garden. But the moon boot is on and I'm ready to attack the autumn haul. Mushroom's next I'm thinking
Al xx

p.s. To make buttermilk just put some cream in a jar and shake till it separates. The liquid is what you want to use and the remaining is fresh homemade butter.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Relishing and Preserving The Summer

This year has been my first real go at making jams and preserving vege. It started back near christmas when I was making berry coulis and my friend distracted me with an entertaining video of a scandanavian man diving into solid ice. Sounds terrible but it was rather funny. well. enough for me to forget the coulis and end up with jam. However, this jam was pretty awesome and put all the other siblings in the fridge to shame. 
Preserving never really captivated me but after seeing the patterns of seasonal foods it really does make the most sense. Now is the time when the plants are soaking up the heat and dishing out their once yearly treats too fast to eat. Chutney, sauces,  jam and poached fruit. I mean yes, we could just go and buy all of this from the supermarket. But it just adds to the weekly cost of living and when you can make all of it yourself which is yummier, fresher,local, healthier and is full of plain natural greatness. The later makes more sense to me.

I didn't know exactly where I personally would inherit a glut of something to preserve except our tomatoes. It wasn't until I stumbled (literally walking backwards entertaining a friend and rolled my ankle in the old chicken fence post hole) to find the plum tree in the back yard above my newly battered head. So with a daily plum intake exceeding 8, wrinkly summer fruit and a summer palate not ready for hearty stewed fruit it begun.

First it was spiced plum jam, and then Gar gave me a small inheritance of apricots a few days past optimal eating.  So on a scorching summer morning I was working in the garden getting all the leeks in and decided to seek mercy in the kitchen to get the apricot jam going. With summer ale in the left hand and a wooden spoon in the other the insipration took over. Now smirking away in the cupboard are jars of Apricot jam with ginger honey and a touch of ale awaiting my frosty morning fruit toast. That is the best thing about making these yourself, creativity and preference take rule. Less/more honey, sugar, cinnamon sticks,rhubarb,currants,orange....


Jam (all stone fruit)
1/2 the amount of sugar to fruit in weight 
Leave overnight then boil hard for 10mins and stir constantly to avoid burning until it coats a spoon.

Berry jam
2/3 amount sugar to berries in volume
dash of lemon juice
Boil hard 5 mins, reduce heat and continue for another 10-15mins, remove foam.
Hot Zuchinni Chutney-

Ingredients -
6 cups of roughly chopped zuchinni (any variety)
2 onions
2-3 fresh chilli's (depending on your heat tolerance)
2 capsicums of mixed colour
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 TBSP paprika
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp tumeric
1tsp ground cumin
Olive Oil

Roughly chop the veges, except the chilli. Place in a large saucepan and cover with the salt. Stir well and leave overnight.
In the morning, drain all of the liquid that is formed, add a few lugs of Olive oil and cook on the stove for around 10 mins to soften the vege, stirring often.
Add the remaining ingredients including the finely chopped chilli, stir well and simmer for around 30mins.
pour into sterilized jars.

Tomato Relish -

Ingredients -
1kg ripe tomato's
2 large onions
1 1/2 cups sugar
enough white vinegar to cover
2 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp cornflour
1-2 Tbsp extra vinegar
Cut a small cross on the top of each tomato, place in large bowl, cover with boiling water, leave for a minute. Drain and rinse with cold water, peel off skins.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and finely chop the onions. Place in a large sauce pan and cover with the salt. Stir well and then leave overnight.
Then add the sugar and enough vinegar to just come to the top layer of tomatoes, bring to the boil, reduce to a medium heat and gently cook for 15-20 mins.
Mix the curry powder, mustard and cornflour with the olive oil till it forms a smooth paste, stir into the tomatoes and cook until thickened.
Spoon into warm, sterilised jars and seal. Refrigerate once opened.
Makes: 2 large 500ml jars

Al x

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Addington Vege Co-op

This morning I found myself in a noisy hall filled with cackling old ladies and barefooted activist men, many wearing hi-vis. I thought to myself how cool it is when 2 spectrums of community collide. This unusual combo of people are here every wednesday morning to help get affordable and seasonal fruit and vege to the local neighbourhoods.

For $10 you get a bag of vege and bag of fruit. Banana's, oranges, apples, rockmelon, pomegranate, kiwifruit, zuchinni, tomatoes, sweet corn the list goes on. It is just whatever is available that week. The idea is that you get all the lower grade supermarket produce and deliver it all to this one hall where volunteers from different areas, separate and bag it all up and take it to their local drop off spot. Then you (the buyer) find your nearest dropoff spot and pick up your fruit and vege bags from there.

It's simple, even if I may have just made it sound complicated.  So if you live around the west/south ish side of Christchurch and want some cheap as delish produce then find your local spot and contact them  http://www.addingtonaction.org.nz/p/fruit-veggie-co-op.html

I left feeling pretty excited about what is being done around the city and chuffed to see how dedicated some people are to see the health and wellness of others around us improve.

So get amongst it. You can order more than 1 bag if your feeding a big household and the quality of the produce is good as.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Summer Salad's Selebration

We dont eat much meat here at the flat. Along with my beliefs in local seasonal food I am understanding the real cost of meat and the fact that we can't enjoy the amount of meat we do without sacrificing the quality and humanity of the animals. Which I'm not willing to do. I really do love meat, but with the demand that farmers are under for producing cheap and high quantaties of meat the animals are the ones that suffer. Smaller confined spaces, poor feed and health and a loss of nutritional value and ethics. Chicken and pork are the worst examples where we expect it to be a cheap and accessible product without much thought of how it gets to our plate. The solution. LESS. Just like everything else in this time, we 'expect' and we 'can' have accessiblity to anything. But this all comes at a cost and the we can't expect to eat meat everyday and still have well looked after livestock.
So with all that said. No meat can leave a bit of a gap on the plate and tummy sometimes while still adjusting. In come, Carrots. I do love carrots. They may not be sprouting of my garden this season but I'm more than happy to enjoy the success of others. There have been 2 carrot salad's I've been gawking over this summer. Both zingy, sweet, refreshing and both help you see really well in the dark.
Indian Spiced Carrot Salad (with yellow zucchini if its in your garden)
Serves 4
Ingredients -
6ish carrots and 1 yellow zucchini (zucchini optional and different coloured carrots are ideal)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Small bunch of coriander 
Small bunch of mint
I didn't have any coriander so used the tarty goodness from the carrot leaves, mix it up with what you have.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small red onion, peeled
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 heaped teaspoon freshly grated ginger
Extra virgin Olive Oil
Serving Idea -
Naan bread
Lemon halves
Shave the carrots into long thin strips with a peeler or a good slicer

Heat a small frying pan over a moderate heat and toast the cumin seeds for 30 seconds to get the oils going.
Put them into a pestle and mortar and grind them up.
Then toast the sesame seeds till golden brown and smell nutty, transfer to plate

Finely chop the red onion, (finely being the key word)

Combine lemon zest and juice into a bowl and add the onion, grated ginger, ground cumin and a pinch of salt. Whisk everything together with about 5 tablespoons of extra- virgin olive oil. Pour the dressing over the carrots, add the coriander and mint leaves, and mix it all together using your fingers. It's important that you have a little taste to check whether the dressing needs more lemon juice, oil or seasoning.
Sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds. Served with naan bread, some yogurt and a lemon wedge.
Orange, Carrot and Beet Salad

Ingredients -
5-6 Carrots
1 Beetroot
2 Oranges
Small bunch of mint and coriander
Walnuts or cashews (any nut or seed)
1 large clove of garlic
Olive Oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons of White vinegar

Grate the carrot and beetroot into a large bowl, add the zest of 1 orange and mix together well.

For the dressing
Combine the juice of 2 oranges, the white vinegar, finely grated garlic and 4 Tbsp of Olive oil. Stir well. Tear the coriander and finely chop the mint leaves and stir through the dressing. (save a little for the top)

In a dry fry pan lightly toast the cashews or your choosen nut/seed and roughly chop, set aside.
Add the dressing to the carrot mix and toss well to combine flavours
Place on your serving dish or bowl and scatter with the nuts and remaining coriander.
Enjoy with a cold beer and good company, and a clear conscience that you have made a difference to the welfare of an animal.