Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cheap as chickpeas

Tonights dinner would be great if you were a vegetarian or wanting a 'luxury' meal on a budget. I probably flirt with both ideas, and if I were to be entertaining a vegetarian, this is one I would whip up to impress! Well, it isn't exactly a recipe you whip up in a hurry, but it would be a fabulous one for entertaining as it's flavour comes from lots of long cooking, with very little mucking about! The recipe goes in a couple of stages, each one very straightforward. I imagine it is one you could add or subtract things from quite successfully, like tonight- I forgot to add the pistachios! I think they would have been really lovely in it too! :(
The recipe comes from George who also blogs and has inspired me to try quite a few recipes. I really liked the sound of this one, especially as it was inspired by a NZ food writer, Julie Le Clerc. It was well received at the dinner table, I served extra feta and roasted pepper to go with it, it gave it a little more 'luxury'. I substituted the bayberries for raisins, I have never heard of bayberries and George suggested raisins instead. Both the raisins and apricots made this so delicious, taking the edge of the tomato and giving it a tangy sweetness.
This is definitely one I will be making again, as I always have cooked chickpeas in the freezer, it is one I will adding to my regulars!Chickpea Tagine with Feta

Serves 4

For the Tagine:

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion peeled and finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 tsp saffron

2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ras el hannout

1 cinnamon stick

Salt & pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander

1 cup boiling water

1 tin chickpeas

1 tin tomatoes

2 roasted red peppers, sliced.

50g apricots, diced

3 tbsp barberries

3 tbsp toasted slivered almonds

1 tbsp toasted pistachios

250g feta cheese

For the Couscous:

2 cups couscous

1/4 cup olive oil or argan oil.

2 cups boiling water

25g unsalted butter, cut into small dice.

1. Place the couscous in a large bowl and pour in the oil, rub the couscous through your hands to ensure the grains are all coated then pour in the boiling water. Cover the dish with clingfilm and put aside. (If you don’t have a couscousiere leave this step out and follow the packet structions when the tagine is cooked).

2. Heat the oil in the base of a couscousiere or large pan. Add the onions and garlic and cook for around 10 minutes over a medium heat until soft and golden.

3. Add the spices and cook til fragrant, then add the tinned tomatoes and cup of boiling water.

4. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer gently for around 1 hour or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. At this point the sauce can be removed from the heat and left until later if you wish.

5. Add the chickpeas, peppers, fruit and seasoning, allow to simmer for another hour. Half an hour into this time, place the couscous in the top layer of the couscousiere and dot with the unsalted butter and allow to steam.

6. Remove the top layer of the couscousiere, add the herbs and nuts to the tagine, stir in.

7. Serve with the feta cheese crumbled over and couscous on the side.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tuesday's with Dorie

I decided to join a couple of 'baking' blogger groups, Tuesday's with Dorie and Daring Bakers. Unfortunately I chose the absolute worst time as far as assessment at uni goes and am struggling to keep to the guideline of baking at least once every two weeks with the Dorie group and was too busy to attempt the Opera Cake for this month's Daring Bakers (I would love to make it though, I have always wanted to give it a go!). I joined both groups to extend my horizons and try doing something new, and also as it is great to see so many people make the same thing at once (and how many variations can exist!). This recipe is the first recipe set when I joined TWD, a Ricotta, Honey and Fig Polenta Cake. The sound of it really captivated me, I have been wanting to make a polenta based cake for ages. I decided not to use figs though and instead used prunes, which I soaked first in some orange juice to plump them up. They worked wonderfully and I would definitely use them again. I also made it in one of my silicone ring tins instead of a fluted tin, which I would also do again as it worked out well. I drizzled it with a lemon glaze (lemon juice and icing sugar). I am going to try and do some catching up on the prescribed recipes in a few weeks when university is over for about a month, I really do like the idea of baking along with others.
If you would like the recipe you can find it hereI am looking forward to making this one again.


That is the only word to describe this dessert! Another recipe posted on the Pantry Challenge by JillyB, which was tried, eaten ridiculously quickly and soooooo enjoyed. It is definitely only for making when there are lots of others to share the calorie load!

Iced Caramel Dessert

3 Mars Bars, thinly sliced
1-tablespoon milk

10 fl oz double cream
1 egg white
Chocolate flake to decorate


Place mars bar slices and milk in a bowl and place over a pan of simmering water to melt, stir occasionally until melted and almost smooth. Leave to cool for 10 mins but give it stir now and
Whisk the cream until it just holds its shape. Stir in a spoonful of the caramel mixture then fold in the remaining caramel.
Lightly whisk the egg white. Fold into the caramel mixture. Pour into a bowl, cover and freeze for 2-3 hours before serving.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More comforting desserts

We are onto our 5th challenge on Violet's Pantry. Different members set 3 recipes for others to is a great way to get off your bum and try something new, which is why I am so enjoying participating. This time the recipe that jumped out at me was this one set by Glossy, Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding! I always enjoy bread and butter pudding, there is something about the custardy texture of it that I love, plus it can be as austere or as luxury as you want to make it. This one is definitely on the luxury end of the spectrum. My sweet tooth felt it could have been a little sweeter, so I served it with icecream. Anyway, it was readily devoured and there was plenty leftover for the next day!

Four star chocolate bread pudding
(Dorie Greenspan)

12oz bread (brioche, challah or white ) preferably stale
½ cup plump raisins
3 cups whole milk
1 cup double cream
3 large eggs

4 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
6oz dark chocolate finely chopped.

You will need a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and a roasting tin big enough to hold the baking dish and hot water.

Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes. If the bread is stale, put it and the raisins into the baking dish. If it is not stale, spread it out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake in a 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4 oven to stale for 10 mins. Then toss it into the pan (with the fruit).

Bring the milk and cream to the boil.

Fill the kettle with water and put it on to boil. Meanwhile whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Still whisking slowly drizzle in about one quarter of the hot milk. Whisking all the time slowly pour in the rest of the hot milk. Add the chocolate and whisk it in gently until it is melted and the custard is smooth.

Rap the bowl against the counter to knock out any bubbles that have formed then pour the custard over the bread and press the bread gently with the back of a spoon to help cover it with liquid. Leave the pan on the counter, giving the bread the back of the spoon treatment now and then for 30 mins.

Put the baking dish into the roasting tin and carefully pour enough hot water into the roasting tin so it comes half way up the side of the baking dish.

Bake for 35 mins at 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4 or until the pudding is uniformally puffed. The top is dull and dry and a thin knife inserted deep into the centre comes out clean.

Transfer the baking pan to a rack and cool to room temperature. Serve sprinkled with icing sugar either alone or with cream or creme anglais.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's cold outside

So I am well into soup mode! I spent yesterday stocking up my stocks- both chicken and vegetable, so that I could be prepared for when the next soup making frenzy took me. With some of the chicken stock I made the most yummy leek and potato soup, the well flavoured stock made it simply wonderful. I made a cheesy tomato 'swirl' loaf to go with it. A filling and comforting winter dinner.
No recipes, I made the soup up with the usual - sauted garlic and 2 large leeks, chopped, in butter then added stock and lots of potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper,

pureed it when cooked. Simple but stunning, my kind of meal.
The bread is my usual breadmaker dough, rolled out and spread with tomato pesto and cheese, rolled up and popped into a loaf tin and baked at 220C for about 30 mins. I got right into the swirl idea so made a sweet version as well with cinnamon and brown sugar. It's all ready for breakfast in the morning!

Thursday, May 22, 2008


I thought I had better quickly share a lovely evening we recently shared- my mother's 65th birthday. We all descended on her place with a 'pot luck dinner' (which was less pot luck and more a planned one!!!!), my sister taking care of the large cake. She decided a huge chocolate mud cake was in order and it needed to have 65 candles on it which made for a very entertaining time! It took quite some time to light them all but radiated plenty of heat while we sang Happy Birthday! Averils lung capacity was certainly up to it though- she managed to get them all out in not much more than one puff!!!

The heat of the candles even kindly shaved 5 years off!!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Busy, busy, busy!!!

It is the business end of the uni semester, when all my assessment is due, which is why my posts have been a little sporadic of late. I am still cooking plenty and accumulating photos, so I am sure at some point there will be a flurry of posting to clear the backlog but for now the only writing I am doing is about labour markets!!!!
No doubt I will need some distraction from that very soon and will get posting, until that time though my posts will be a little irregular!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mocha syrup cake

There are few things I like more than coffee or chocolate. A combination of the two is the only thing better! When I saw the recipe for this cake I instinctively knew it would be lovely as not only did it contain those vital two ingredients, but it was a syrup cake, which always means it will be deliciously moist. I had bought some cute little baba type cake tins that I wanted to try out so used them and put the balance of the mix into a silicone ring mould that I have. I discovered that it is not wise to use cooking spray in the little tins as it pooled in the curves and I ended up with little holes in the tops of my cakes. Fortunately they acted as perfect vessels for the syrup and melted chocolate that got poured on once it was cooked! Next time though I will make sure I grease the tins with a little butter instead. The little ring cakes were perfect topped with a scoop off icecream and drizzled with extra syrup.
I used freshly brewed coffee instead of the dried instant powder. I don't think we have had instant coffee in our house for at least 10 years, I can't abide the stuff. I have always preferred freshly brewed coffee and it is one of our indulgent vices. We bought a serious espresso machine about 6 years ago, (this is our E61 Rocket!)it was well worth the large price tag as it has provided many a perfectly extracted espresso and frothed many jugs of creamy milk for flat whites! We get our beans from an iconic cafe in Wellington -Cafe L'Affare, who were one of the pioneer coffee roasters in New Zealand. We have tried many other beans but keep coming back to theirs, we get them couriered to us about once a month (and commit the cardinal sin of keeping the beans in freezer, hey, it works for us!) and both Glen and I pounce on the box when it is delivered as they have usually been very freshly roasted and the coffee that comes from those just delivered beans is sublime!

Mocha Syrup Cake

3 tsp dry 'instant' espresso coffee (I made a plunger of very strong coffee and used about 1/4c)
4 teaspoons water
3 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar (165g)
1 cup self raising flour (150g)
2 tbsp cocoa
150g butter, melted
100g chocolate melted (for drizzling over once cooked)

3/4c caster sugar
3/4c water 3 tsp dry instant espresso powder (again I just used 3/4c strong fresh brewed coffee)

Grease 21cm baba tin. Combine coffee and water, stir until dissolved. Beat eggs in bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy, about 8 minutes. Add sugar gradually, keep beating until dissolved. Sift in flour and cocoa, then butter and coffee mix. Pour into prepared tin, bake at 180C for 40 mins or until cake starts to shrink from sides of tin. Stand cake 5 mins before turning onto baking paper covered wire rack. Reserve 1/4 c syrup and pour remaining syrup over cake. Drizzle melted chocolate over and serve with extra syrup.

Combine ingredients in pot, stir over heat, without boiling, until sugar has dissolved. Bring to boil, remove from heat, transfer to jug.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


My recent purchase of an expensive bottle of apple syrup got me wondering how I could 'acquire' it a little cheaper. At $14 for a 250ml bottle I felt that it was a little expensive. My son hit on the idea of reducing normal apple juice down to see how that would work, so we gave it a go. Surprisingly it worked very well, we bought a 3 litre bottle ($3.99) and after about 30 mins on the element it reduced down to about the right flavour and consistency to yield 250mls. So, even with the power consumption, this makes it a much cheaper and perfectly acceptable alternative. So I am rolling out the overnight yeast waffle recipe again this weekend!!!!!

I also tried another lovely 'syrup' (or cordial) recipe, given to me by my mother, from a recent Foodtown magazine. It sounded rather nice and very simple to make. The result was indeed refreshing- the kids really enjoyed it with lemonade, while we added a 'splash' of Bacardi to ours (with lemonade and plenty of ice) for a nice late afternoon drink! I made it a second time, this time reducing the ginger by half as I felt the recipe had too much in it and the halved amount gave it enough ginger zing without overpowering it.

I think both syrups would make lovely homemade gifts too!

Refreshing Citrus Cordial

1c fresh ginger, unpeeled, chopped
2 ½ c caster sugar
2 lemons
2 limes
2 oranges

Take a strip of zest from the citrus fruits using a vegetable peeler, then juice all. Combine with ginger and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, until the sugar has dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the mixture becomes very syrupy and about 2 cups in quantity. Cool to room temperature and then strain to remove ginger and zest. Cordial can be kept for 3-4 weeks in sealed, sterilised bottles in the fridge.

Serve in tall glasses. Put 2-3 tbsp of cordial in each glass with lots of ice and fill with soda water or lemonade.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Perfect Potatoes

There is something about getting the right kind of side dish that really lifts a meal from great to exceptional. These potatoes are that kind of dish! I have to say that I have become more of a potato eater in recent years, could never be bothered with the whole peeling exercise but since buying my ricer and discovering perfect mash, I have been happily peeling! I would say that potatoes mashed have to rank at the top of my list of ways to eat potato, but the method I tried tonight is going to seriously challenge that preference!
I first saw these made on Nigella's christmas special, she par-cooks the potatoes, then dredges them in semolina and roasts them in goose fat (2 cups no less!!!). Well, as good as they looked (and they look pretty damn good!) I wouldn't know where to get goose fat and 2 cups? Come on, that can't be good for you! This is why I have never bothered with roasted potatoes- not only did they all seem full of fat, but there was the whole parboiling thing, which just seemed like too much effort. I have instead always just chopped potatoes into smaller pieces, tossed in olive oil (and some herbs sometimes), given it all a good grind of salt and pepper and roasted until they are brown and crispy. Little effort, lovely result!
I did keep thinking about Nigella's potatoes though(I know, sad that I can sit and obsess about these things!) and knew I had to at least try it in some way. After my recent pantry tidy out (and discovering things like polenta was hiding in a corner) I thought I would adapt it and see how it turned out.
So I did the parboiling thing (a pain, but I was up for it!), then roughed them around in the pot to get them all fluffy on the outside (you need to have good floury potatoes to get the maximum fluffiness!). Then I tossed them in about 1/2 c of polenta ( a few at a time) and popped them into a roasting pan that had oil in it (that had gotten nice and hot in the oven for about 5 mins before). I made sure they all got coated in oil (I used ricebran oil, about 1/3 c) and then popped them back in the oven at about 220C for approx 25 mins. (There was about enough potatoes to feed 4 greedy people!).Well, they were a triumph! Really crunchy and crisp on the outside and gorgeously soft in the middle. I had slow roasted a leg of lamb and made a minted pea crush to go with it, as well as a lovely rich gravy, which the potatoes mopped up perfectly! A fabulous meal all round! I will be making these again!