September 30, 2014

favourites – September edition

the Bay
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be seeing out the end of September in my homeland.  It’s been far too long in between visits and I didn’t realise how empty my tank was until being surrounded once again by my whanau (family) and kiwi friends.  While I’m luxuriating in all this love and attention feel free to check out this months current favourites…..

Mooncakes? Hello!!

It would be my dream to start a community like this

Our grandmothers certainly had the right idea

Ceramic LOVE!

Yum and yum

A nifty gift idea

image (how awesome to find a photo on the internet of my childhood stomping ground)

September 22, 2014

date & almond balls

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I’ve been feeling a little unsettled lately, actually I’ve been feeling this way for a while now.  That pull to be closer to family is really tugging on my heart at present and the fact that we’ll be travelling home for two weeks tonight has me so excited that I can barely contain myself let alone concentrate on anything.  It will be a time of firsts for our youngest three…first time back in seven years*, first time meeting cousins who have been born in the eight years we have been away, first time seeing the changes that have occurred in the place of their birth, first time being back since the passing of loved ones.  So much has changed in the time we have been away, goodness knows I am not the same person I was when I left, but despite all of that we will finally be on home soil, albeit briefly, surrounded by family, and that fact alone makes me giddy just thinking about it.

In preparation for our trip, which will be 13 hours from woe to go, I’ve been busy making portable snacks to keep us sustained.  I know I am not alone in thinking that airline food is pretty dismal and the options for me are even more limited now that I know I have food intolerances.  Gluten free muffins, chia pudding (oh my goodness guys, the roasted strawberry miso chia pudding that I came up with is to die for!!) and these date and almond balls were just the ticket.  Simple to throw together, easy to transport and nutritiously filling!

Date & almond balls – 24-28 balls

1 1/2 cups whole almonds
1 cup medjool dates – pitted
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp coconut oil – melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and blitz till roughly chopped.  Add the remaining ingredients and blitz again until well combined and the consistency you want.  Using moist hand, roll tablespoon amounts of mixture into balls and place on a plate.  Refrigerate until firm.

- chocolate ganache or salted caramel sauce can be added for a more decadent ball, just omit the water and oil
- a nip of baileys or kahlua is perfect for the festive season
- maca or mesquite powder is a lovely earthy addition
- any type of nut can be used as can an assortment of nuts
- can be kept in the fridge for up to a week (if they last that long) and in the freezer for 4 weeks

* lets not delve into how guilty that makes me feel

September 17, 2014

roasted kumara, beet and quinoa salad with an orange-tahini dressing

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Things have been a little hectic this week as I prepare to leave for New Zealand next Tuesday.  In between the end of term school events/birthday parties/play dates and shopping for supplies for my men-folk who’ll be staying back, I’ve been trying to squeeze in the odd cuppa with friends, complete some sewing orders and prepare a few freezer meals on top of spring cleaning our home and of course pack.  It’s daft to be trying to do so much before I leave but I seem to work better under pressure and to be honest, I could do with the distraction.  It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled home and even longer since our youngest three were there so you can well imagine the excitement that is building.

When I know I have a busy schedule ahead of me I opt to keep our meals fairly light and simple and prepare what I can ahead of time.  This allows me to throw a salad, such as this one, together in mere minutes.  The thing I love about a salad like this is that it is a great base for other flavours and ingredients depending on what you have on hand.  Don’t be afraid to play around and make it your own.

Roasted kumara, beet and quinoa salad with an orange-tahini dressing – serves 2-3 as a main or 4-6 as a side

Ingredients: (salad)
1 cup quinoa
2 beetroot – peeled and chopped into cubes
1 medium kumara (sweet potato) peeled and chopped into cubes
1 Tbsp olive oil
handful parsley – chopped finely
toasted walnuts – chopped roughly
1/2 cup of orange-tahini dressing

Ingredients: (dressing) – makes 3/4 cup
juice and zest of 1 orange (1/2 cup juice/2 tsp zest)
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp sweetener of choice
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180°.  Toss the cubed kumara and beets in oil and place on a baking tray.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and tender.
In a pot bring 2 cups of water to the boil.  Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under running water and leave to drain.  Once the water is boiling, add the quinoa to the pot, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook the quinoa for approximately 12 minutes.  (Quinoa is cooked when it has swelled, becomes translucent and has a little tail sprout on the end of it)  Once cooked fluff up with a fork and set aside to cool.
Shake the dressing ingredients together in a jar until well combined and creamy.
Add the quinoa to a bowl with roasted veggies, chopped parsley, nuts and the dressing and toss gently to combine.

- left over dressing is delicious drizzled over porridge or a fresh fruit salad or stirred through greek yoghurt (if tolerated*)
- any roasted vegetables work well in a salad like this. zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant are particular favourites
- use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.  mint and coriander are a wonderful addition
- crumbed feta* rounds out the flavours beautifully
- substitute lemon for the orange for a more zesty dressing
- freshly grated ginger and chopped garlic give a lovely zing to the dressing as does ground cumin - use in 1 tsp amounts
- any lightly toasted nuts and seeds go well with salads like this
- serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves or wilted spinach/kale for a more substantial meal
- great side to bbq/grilled/roasted meat or salmon

September 08, 2014

bread and butter pudding

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Nothing says winter more than comfort food so as an ode to the last few days of winter, which is still lingering by the way, I made a brioche bread & butter pudding which was inspired by Unna’s brioche french toast that she recently shared on Instagram.  Bread and butter pudding is the epitome of comfort food (in dessert form) to my family and is up there with good old fashioned rice pudding.  The best thing about puddings like this is that they are even better the next day for breakfast.  Go on be a little reckless, I dare you *wink

Bread and butter pudding with crème anglaise – serves 6+

Ingredients: (pudding)
a day old loaf of bread – thickly sliced
100g butter – softened
2/3 cup dried fruit
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
generous pinch salt

Ingredients: (crème anglaise – custard sauce)
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 yolks

Method: (pudding)

Lightly grease a square pudding dish.  Butter both sides of the sliced bread and place in the dish, layering as you go.  Sprinkle the dried fruit on and around your bread as you go.
Preheat your oven 180° then whisk the eggs with the cream, milk, salt and spices until well combined and pour over the top of the bread.  Leave to absorb for 15-20 minutes.  Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden on top and set in the middle.

Method: (crème anglaise – custard sauce)

Gently heat the cream and milk in a small pan over a low heat until it just starts to simmer.  In a bowl beat the yolks with the sugar until it is thick and pale in colour.  While beating the yolks pour in a small amount of the milk/cream (approx. 1/4 cup) then add the yolk mixture to your pot and continue to stir over a very low heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow this mixture to boil!  Stir in the vanilla and salt then strain through a sieve into a small jug, place cling wrap directly over the sauces surface and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.

- the crème anglaise can be made up to 3 days in advance
- I used cranberries and raisins here but have also used dried diced apricots and sultanas
- roughly chopped walnuts or pecans are a nice addition as are slivered almonds
- use a bread of your choice.  fruit loaf is particularly decadent
- a dollop of ice cream doesn’t go astray
- the zest of a lemon/orange and a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips makes for a nice variation

September 02, 2014


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I kind of put my foot in it last week.  I was bragging about how amazing a brioche loaf would be in a request for bread and butter pudding without even knowing how to make brioche.  I’m certainly not new to bread making, I used to make bread by hand on a regular basis until I found out I am gluten intolerant and it lost it's appeal, so I thought to myself ‘how hard can it be?’  Have you ever made brioche?  Well let me tell you that it would be a piece of cake if you have a mixer of some sort but to make it by hand takes         c o m m i t t m e n t !    It’s messy, time consuming and somewhat tiring!!  Don’t be put off by the messy hard work though, the rhythmic kneading action is kind of therapeutic and the mix does eventually come together into a soft, smooth, pliable dough.  I'm also told that the effort I went to was well worth it *wink 
This brioche was used to make the most luxurious bread and butter pudding – recipe coming soon, and I think it would make an equally delectable french toast.

Brioche – makes one large or two small loaves
(recipe from Gourmet Traveller but the method is my own)

160ml warm milk
1 1/2 tsp yeast
5 egg yolks – lightly beaten
375g flour, plus extra for dusting
30g sugar
150g butter – cubed
1 egg – egg wash

Sprinkle the yeast over half of the milk and mix gently.  Set aside till frothy, approximately 5 minutes.  Whisk egg yolks into the remaining milk and set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl then pour in both the yeast and yolk mixtures and mix till well combined and dough like.  Tip out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for approximately 10 mins.  Once you have a nice dough, flatten out and place half of the cubed butter on one side of the dough then fold the remaining dough over the top of the butter.  This gets messy but you need to work the butter into the dough.  Knead the dough, working the butter in, till it is well combined and then repeat with the remaining butter.  Trust me, it does come together but requires a good 15-20 mins of vigorous kneading.
Once you have a nice smooth dough place it into a butter bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.  Once doubled, gently fold the dough over on itself a few times then cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
In the morning remove the dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature before placing into a lined loaf tin (this is where you can divide the dough to make two loaves).  Leave the dough to rise for a second time.  Preheat oven 180° and brush the loaf/loaves with the egg wash.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.  Cool briefly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.