Saturday, October 18, 2008

A little luxury......

We have just had the most glorious weekend at the Poronui Ranch near Taupo. We spied the ad for a food and wine weekend there, with a 7 course dinner cooked by Hunger for the Wild chef Al Brown (of Logan Brown) with wines matched to it by Mount Edward wines. My dear husband decided it was too good an opportunity to pass by as it was limited to 20 people so booked it for us knowing it would doubtless be a good time and an ideal anniversary/birthday present! I was so excited about going and was so looking forward to a relaxing weekend with great food and wine.
It absolutely surpassed expectations. Those who know me know that that is no mean feat! I had absolutely no idea what to expect as far as the accommodation went but I was amazed and delighted by the whole property. It is an enormous tract of land about 1/2 an hour from Taupo, in the hills off the Napier Taupo highway. It has a fabulous array of buildings and facilities and so many things to do. We did none of the available activities (guided fly fishing, deer hunting, mountain biking, hiking etc) but would definitely give them a go next time (yes, we are already planning the next time!!!). I apologise for the quality of some of the photos, it appears my zoom is not the greatest and the lighting in the cellar was of course rather low!
The main lodge is the centre of activity where breakfast is served each morning and has cottages close by perched on a cliff overlooking the Taharua river. The revelation was where we stayed....6 km up the road at the original owners residence 'Blake House'. It has four huge bedrooms and two cool big bunk rooms so can sleep a whopping 16 people, all in exceptional style, with a spectacular outlook. Two massive living areas and four lovely big open fires as well as a fully stocked serious kitchen. The weekend was an all inclusive package so all food was included, which was fantastic, but the fridge was well stocked with drinks, snacks and nibbles, the biscuit and cake tins were full too!
On the Saturday we were ferried by 4WD into the Safari Hut Camp, by the Mohaka River, which is truly my kind of camping. Two 'tent' huts with real beds and a kitchen/dining 'tent' complete with running water (!). You can only get to the spot by 4WD so it is totally isolated, only the roar of the river to keep you company. We had a gorgeous picnic, complete with wine and basked in the afternoon sun for a while.Saturday evening's dinner was outstanding. It was held in Poronui's underground wine cellar, which houses something like 10,000 bottles! It was a lovely setting.
Here is the menu and each of the 7 courses (except the paua fritters which were gone too quick!) Salmon Gravlax with green olive and lime tapenade and fresh wasabi Sauteed turbot with fresh tuatua on savoy cabbage with lemon zest Butter poached baby crayfish with salsa verde and horseradish Porcetta with celeriac puree, caramelised pear and bitter salad (celery, fennel, whitlof and walnuts) Seared duck breast with roasted garlic custard and pinot noir jelly Gingerbread and Cherry Trifle The pictures speak for themselves, it was completely delicious.
The wine was also excellent and it was great to get a run down from Duncan, wine maker at Mount Edward, on their philosophy and approach to wine making. We made sure to stop in at Scenic Cellars in Taupo to grab a couple of bottles of the Reisling, one for us and one as a thank you to my mother for the babysitting!
We are hoping the weekend is on next year as we would definitely do it again. Although I was a little apprehensive about spending the weekend with a group of strangers, we had an excellent time, meeting lots of great people, all of who shared the same intent - enjoying the occasion! Our impression of the weekend was that it represented amazing value. The level of hospitality was like nothing I have ever experienced and was absolutely worth paying that bit extra for.
As we were leaving the deer that we had seen plenty of all weekend on our drives to and from the lodge seemed elusive when I decided I wanted a photo. We just managed to catch this one before it darted off into the trees.... This will be my last blog for a wee while as I have my final assignment due for uni for the year. I will be back in a couple of weeks!

Friday, October 10, 2008

More muffins

I really think that a muffin needs to be made with butter. It is what gives it a nice crispy outside I think. So I am always a little wary of trying recipes which call for oil instead. HOWEVER....in the interests of better health, I have capitulated and have been making muffins with rice bran oil, which is an excellent source of omega 3 and is great for cooking as it is very 'clean' tasting. It is of course easier as there is no melting involved so I am conceding that it does have it's place. I have mainly been making bran muffins with the oil as the combination seems to work really well. But now I am going to undo all the preaching about health and tell you how I used it to make double chocolate muffins. Not very clever I know, but hey, it's Nigella, and you don't expect it to be healthy do you????
These muffins are in Feast- I added raspberries to mine as I adore the combination of chocolate and raspberry. I also had some ganache hanging about so they got adorned with this as well!!!Chocolate Chocolate-Chip muffins

1 3/4c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp cocoa
1 large egg
3/4 c dark chocolate chips
1 cup milk
1/3 c plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
3/4 c caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180 C and line muffin tins with paper cases. Measure dry ingredients into large bowl. Mix liquid ingredients together then pour into dry ingredients. Mix together lightly, don't overmix. Spoon into muffin cases and sprinkle with more choc chips. Cook for 20 mins or til muffins are dark, risen and spongy.

Now here is my tried and trusted muffin recipe, this time with BUTTER!
9 times out of 10 I make blueberry, but from time to time change and use apple, pear, peach, other berries or banana. But blueberry is definitely hard to beat!Blueberry muffins

2 cups SR flour
3/4c sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 eggs, beaten
1oog butter, melted
1 c buttermilk
1 c fresh or frozen blueberries

Put dry ingredients and zest into large bowl. Add blueberries and toss them through the dry ingredients, Combine all wet ingredients then add to dry ingredients, mixing to just incorporate.
Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake at 180C for 20 25 mins (longer for frozen berries) until golden brown.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Chelsea buns

I love making bread and even more than that I love making sweet versions! I will often make a pinwheel kind of concoction or a tea ring and when I saw this recipe I really wanted to try it as it was somewhat less of the traditional type of Chelsea bun in that it had pecans and was drizzled with coffee icing!
I am often impatient and don't let the bread do a proper second rising. I have recently taken to being more patient and letting it do its thing as the result is certainly a lighter and more voluminous end product. It also tends to cook alot more evenly I find. I made these in a tin so they all squashed into each other, which did look rather lovely. It pushes them up more too as they can't spread out, so they are lovely and deep!
As usual, I did the dough in the bread machine, then rolled it out and spread the filling on, cut them into pinwheels and popped them in the tin, leaving them to increase in size before baking.Chelsea Buns with pecans and coffee glaze

4 tsp yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
3 3/4c (560g) plain flour
1 1/2 c warm milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
2 tspn grated orange rind
1 tbsp caster sugar, extra
1 egg, lightly beaten
45g butter, melted
15g butter, melted, extra
2 tbsp raspberry jam
1/2 c currants
1/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c toasted, chopped pecans
3 tsp honey

Icing
1 1/2c icing sugar
15 g butter
2 tbsp warm milk
3 tsp coffee powder (I used fresh brewed espresso)

Combine first 11 ingredients together and set to dough cycle on bread machine. Once risen, turn dough onto floured surface and roll out into large rectangle. Brush dough with extra butter, spread with jam, then scatter over currants, pecans and brown sugar. Roll dough up from long side like a swiss roll. Cut into 12 slices. Place in 2 greased deep 22cm cake tins. Cover and let rise in a warm place for at least 30 minutes.
Bake at 190C for about 30 minutes. Cool in tin for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack. Brush buns with honey then drizzle with coffee icing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ginger Gems

These lovely little cakes really take me back. My mum had a gem iron and made them occasionally and they are just lovely fresh out of the oven. They require a heavy cast iron gem pan, which gets heated in the oven until really hot, then you whip it out, drop butter into each compartment, then the batter and get it straight back into the oven. They are very easy to whip up in no time so make an ideal 'spontaneous' afternoon tea treat. Apparently they can be made in muffin tins as well, to me it just wouldn't be the same, I think the shape is what makes these!
This recipe comes from the Edmonds cookbook, the staple cookbook and baking bible that would have to be in most NZ households! It makes 12 wee gems, I doubled this when I made them for 24!

Ginger Gems

50 g butter
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c milk
extra butter

Preheat gem irons in oven at 200C. Cream butter and sugar and ginger in bowl until light and fluffy. Add egg, beating well. Beat in syrup. Sift flour and stir in. Dissolve baking soda in milk and quickly stir into creamed mix. Put small dots of butter in each section of gem iron. Spoon mixture into sizzling butter. Bake for 10 mins or until well risen and golden brown.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bananas about Baking

I love the ease of muffin making, the whole throw it all in a bowl, mix and bake. They tend to be quite forgiving as long as you don't overmix! I refer to my basic recipe (safely in my head!) and use that as a guide when looking at new recipes as to how it might differ and whether it will work. I am always trying new recipes, substituting here and there and still haven't really found THE one recipe so it is an ongoing quest. Bran muffins are a bit of a different beast though, and even though I really love them, they are certainly not as light. I mostly pop blueberries in my bran muffins, it makes me feel doubly virtuous eating them and makes them lovely and moist. This recipe is for Banana Bran Muffins, it is from Annabel Langbein (from The Best of Annabel Langbein: Great Food For Busy Lives (revised and expanded edition)) and I add blueberries into it as well. I made them to pop in the freezer as a quick and reasonably healthy snack for the kids. The only thing I hate about muffin making is cleaning the trays. I don't like putting them in the dishwasher and they really are a pain to clean. Sometimes I circumvent this by using paper cases!

Banana Bran Muffins

2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 c bran flakes
1 tbsp each cinnamon and baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 cup milk
2 tbsp each butter and golden syrup
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 190C. Combine flour, bran, cinnamon, BP and ginger. Heat together milk, butter golden syrup and brown sugar until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Stir in baking soda and bananas. Add to dry ingredients and mix to just combine. Spoon into 12 greased muffin tins and bake for 15-20 mins. Leave to stand 2 mins before removing from tins.