Monday, June 10

Easy breezy souffle....yes, really

So my last post was moaning about the heat.......I'll resist the temptation to start complaining about the cold. I doubt you could hear me over the roar of the heatpump anyway.
Although it has turned a bit chilly recently I don't always want stodgy comfort food. Ok, quite often that's exactly what I want, but not every day, I don't really want to have to buy TWO plane tickets for my trip to New York in September (I know, wheeeeeee!!!).
My Outlaws arrived the other day, en route to the airport with fresh eggs from the farm. While this does not quite compare with two weeks in Fiji it is still a lovely treat to have in the fridge. A girl cannot live by omelette's alone, and fresh eggs and various remnents of cheese in the fridge says souffle. Now souffles do have a reputation (the dirty things!) but for the most part it is unwarranted. This particular recipe, adapted from the ever fabulous Delia Smith is cooked twice, is very user friendly, and means you can have the souffles ready to go in the fridge if , like me, you cant always be sure what time you will be eating dinner.
Rich but light, I like this with a fresh apple & lettuce salad. Cheese and apple are so good together, especially with a tangy mustardy dressing. Comfort without the stodge....although I may well have hot chips tomorrow

Twice-Baked Cheese Souffles adapted from Delia Smith

Make 4 souffles, serving 4 as a starter, or 2 for a light supper

1/2 cup milk
Thin slice of peeled onion
1 bay leaf
Fresh grated nutmeg
Fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp plain flour
2 large fresh eggs, separated
1 tbsp of fresh herbs- I use chives, parsley or chervil would also work
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup blue cheese
4 tbsp cream
Extra cheese to sprinkle

Heat the oven to 190C, and grease 4 half cup ramekins/tea cups.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan or a microwave jug until almost boiling, add the onion, bay, nutmeg & pepper, and leave to sit for 10 minutes or so.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat, then add the flour. Stir and cook for 3 minutes. Add the milk and whisk together , the mixture will be very thick. Cook for a minute or so, and remove from the heat. Add the egg yolks and herbs,  whisk together until smooth. Add the cheeses and whisk again, the cheese will mostly melt in the heat.
In a clean bowl whisk together the egg white until when the beater is lifted out a soft peak falls over. I recommend the old fashioned handheld beater in the picture, so easy  and quick to use, check out Hospice or Salvation Army stores for these gems (I use one found in a cupboard when my in laws sold their Bach)

Using a metal spoon add a tablespoon of the egg white to the cheesy sauce and stir, this loosens the mix & makes it easier to add the rest of the egg white. Now add the rest of the egg white and using a twisting motion fold it into the sauce, quickly but gently. The aim is to keep all the air in the bowl, this is what gives you puffy cheesy gorgeousness for your supper.
Pop the ramekins into a baking dish, and pour hot water around (not over!) them, then carefully pop into the oven. Water can only heat to 100C so this stops the egg getting too hot and over cooking to rubbery toughness.
Cook for about 20 minutes until risen and puffy, then remove from the oven and put them onto a cooling rack. They will sink, dont stress, this is normal! When they are cool enough to handle, run a knife around the edge and flip out onto a baking tray

You can pop them into the fridge, pour yourself a vino (you Souffle Master you!) and when you are ready for dinner pull them out, top wioth extra cheese and bung back into the oven at 180C for another 20 minutes. Take them out, pour over a tablespoon of cream over each souffle and pop back into the oven for a couple more minutes

Serve with a crispy salad and a smile of satisfaction, no cooking version of craft fail for you, nailed it!
The Engine Room in Auckland does a wonderful twice baked Goat Cheese souffle, so if you happen to have goat cheese that would certainly be worth trying. And chedder would of course be just dandy also
It took me longer to type the recipe for these than it did to cook them, so please dont be put off, I just like to over explain everything see?

PS please excuse the orange tint to the pics, we are mercifully replacing our orange light shades in the kitchen renovation..........sigh

Sunday, February 3

To hot not to really.....

I am writing this from my kitchen table, ambient temp in the room about 35 degrees. Why do tomatoes, so essential for the best condiment known to woman, appear right when it is least comfortable to have the oven on, or indeed be anywhere near the kitchen at all? While I ponder this & other mysteries of the universe (Marmite , the appeal of those incredibly sad animal rescue programs on TV, Rap music....) I have a couple of kilos of homegrown tomatoes roasting away in the oven. My desire for delicious pizza sauce has outweighed my desire for a nice cool house.

Instead of standing over a bubbly pan or several hours I am taking the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall route and making an oven roasted sauce. Place about 1.5-2 kg of tomatoes on an oven tray. I use a mixture of heirloom cherry tomatoes from plants Mum gave me & a slightly bigger variety called Tommy Toe. This I brought solely because I have a cat called Tommy, as you can see I'm quite the scientific gardener.......

Anyway, toss your chosen tomatoes with a good glug of Olive oil, a clove or two of chopped garlic, a few sprigs of thyme & a few of oregano, sprinkling with plenty of salt & fresh pepper. Roast in a 180C oven for about 45-50 mins until the fruit has collapsed, with tinges of brown. You may also have collapsed from the heat, can I just say its worth it?

Let the tomatoes cool for a while, then either push through a sieve or commender your Mums retro cool orange Mouli, (burnt melted bits where it was left on the stove countless times optional). Actually with the resurgence in interest in sauce making I have seen this beauty, certainly a bit more stylish than mine.....! Unlike a food processor a mouli gets rid of skin & pips, saving you having to skin hundreds of cherry tomatoes, surely the quickest way to a complete sense of humour fail.
This recipe makes about 500 mls of sauce depending on the moisture levels in your tomatoes If you find it a bit thin for your liking reduce it down by rapid boiling in a saucepan. Use right away or pop into the freezer for a taste of summer another day.....

I used a little of this as a basis for homemade pizza. Due to the fire ban in Auckland at the moment (we have not seen rain in weeks, the lawn looks like a brown and Mr PK is the only person happy about it, no mowing required....) the pizza oven is a no go. I spied a pizza stone at Farro on special for $20 and decided to splash out. Yet more heating up of the oven, but homemade pizza is SO much better than brought........

My go to pizza dough is here, if you have not made your own before I urge you in the strongest yet least bossy terms I can to try. A great crispy base, rich roasted sauce, a bit of mozzarella, maybe a few basil leaves, how good does that sound? 
I am a real purist when it comes to pizza, I think I am going way out when I put mushrooms on. Strangely I am married to a man who thinks Tandoori chicken & banana is completely acceptable as a pizza topping, at least making my own I have complete control. I do enjoy a hot pizza out of the oven topped with prosciutto, I like it cold & chewy rather than crispy after cooking, but its up to you.  Control freak I hear you murmur? Hmmmm.........

Are you having a tomato glut at the moment? 

Tuesday, January 29

Dont you want me Baby.....?

Well friends it would seem my hopes of TV superstardom are to be dashed once again. Despite a cracking audition vid (courtesy of Mr PK’s very clever cousin, who kindly brought his filming expertise, amazing kit and extreme amounts of patience to my kitchen for the price of a sponge cake) and potential writers cramp filling out an extensive application form I am not to be the next NZ Hottest Home Baker……..sigh.
I am must say I thought I might at least warrant an audition, but perhaps there was a surplus of competent baking woman my age (“cough cough”) with a taste for floral aprons & nary a tattoo to be seen clamouring to appear on screen?

I shall not however waste a perfectly good film, if you would like step by step instructions in the Art of the Sponge, please ignore the references to auditions and sugar companies & enjoy….

At least I got to feel like Nigella for five minutes………..

Ellerslie’s Slightly Lukewarm but still Enthusiastic Baker xx

Thursday, January 3

A new salad for a new year.....

So its 2013 already.I am resisting the temptation to bang on about all my New Years resolutions, I am quite sure you don't really give a toss if I lose 10kg by my birthday or finally get around to learning Spanish this year.
See, you don't, I knew it. I will tell you I have resolved to create a new recipe every week for the year. By new I mean original to me. Perhaps not recreating the wheel (not every week anyway), but created in my own little kitchen all fresh & new and lovely. Actually the kitchen is going to be ripped apart at some stage this year, so we shall see how we go (that could be smoothie/microwave/raw food week....)
Right, new recipe we have. Inspired by the delicious Nigel Slater & his fabulous Kitchen Diaries Two, which I was very happy to see in my Christmas Stocking this year, this is a fresh fast salad using Bulgur wheat. It has a pleasant nutty flavour, only requires soaking (no boiling pans in my kitchen, given its about 97% humidity at the moment this is a Good Thing) and makes me feel like I am being much nicer to my body than several weeks of rampant vino consumption should allow. Nigel's version is a bit simpler, more a side salad than the main event, but the addition of the halloumi in particular means this is plenty substantial enough for lunch or a light supper.
Bulgur wheat salad with melon, mint & halloumi
Serves 2 with leftovers
1/2 cup Bulgur wheat (also known as Cracked wheat or Burghul wheat) I use the Ceres brand
Boiling water to cover
1/2 small rockmelon
2 spring onion, sliced
1/2 small red or green chilli, sliced thinly
2 radish, sliced thinly
3-4 asparagus spears, chopped
Tbsp pinenuts
1/4 block of halloumi ( I used a chilli version, but plain would be perfect to)
Splash of olive oil
juice of a lime
Handful of parsley
Handful of mint
Put your bulgur wheat into a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to sit for 10 minutes or so while you prepare the rest of the salad.
Peel and chop your rockmelon into small chunks and put into your salad bowl. Add the spring onion, chilli and radish. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the asparagus. Boil for 2 minutes, then drain & cover in icy cold water (this stops it cooking any further). Drain again & add to your bowl.
Toast your pinenuts in a small non stick pan until just colouring, then add to your salad. In the same pan over medium heat put your helloumi slices and cook for a minute or two each side until golden and melting hot . While this is happening drain your bulgur wheat and add to the salad bowl with the oil, lime juice, herbs & some salt and pepper. Top with your cooked halloumi & devour, yum!

This is a very flexible recipe, so just add, remove or substitute as needed.
A ripe juice peach would be great in place of the melon, if you had the grill/BBQ going you could grill it, the asparagus and the heloumi all at once for a different flavor. Any nuts could be used in place of pinenuts, and feel free to substitute lemon or other citrus for the lime. If you don't want to use helloumi try feta, or leave it out all together and serve as a side to some grilled chicken or fish....
Now, to celebrate the New Year, and just because I can, some gratuitous cat shots. Tuppence does have a weight loss goal this year, I keep saying she is big boned but the vet suggested she is turning into a chubby so a little less food should be coming her way.........she isn't best pleased

Tommy is going to attempt to grow a brain this year. This is so he knows to not sit in the rain getting wet , or under the car when it is running, or on top of Tuppences head when she is clearly getting cheesed off............he has relied on his looks for too long.

Happy 2013 everyone, I hope you are looking forward to lots of good times this year, starting with a good meal!

Sunday, November 18

Call me a Jammy one then....

Apologies at once for the title, but Mr PK has assured me we really will win the lotto this week ( of course he may have said that once or twice before....). My aunt used to call anyone lucky "jammy" as in "he's a jammy bugger that one" or something similar. I have no idea why, or indeed why I have even brought it up, except that this recipe worked first time, so that probably qualifies as jammy....... Shall we progress on to a recipe then? I cant guarantee you any especial luck making this, but it tastes rather lovely.......

I made Strawberry Jam last year, this year I wanted something a bit less sweet. When a lovely work colleague suggest Strawberry & Rhubarb I figured we were onto a winner. This is the result, sweet but tangy yet with a definite hit of strawberry. The rhubarb mostly dissolves, but leaves a bit of texture and a hint of flavour.
I made a few jars for a table my friend was hosting at a craft market so needed to somehow decorate them fast. I finally found a use for the pinking shears I have had in my sewing box for years, trimming the edge of the linen jar covers..........naturally when I came to cut them out I couldn't actually find my pinking shears, what a wasted opportunity  No doubt they will turn up right when I dont need them........

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

makes 7 x 250ml jars

500 gr rhubarb
1 kg jam sugar (really useful when cooking low pectin fruit like strawberries & rhubarb)
1 kg strawberries
500 gr plain white sugar
150 ml lemon juice (about 4 lemons worth)
Small knob of butter

Wash & chop your rhubarb into chunks about one-two cm thick. Pop into a large preserving pan with 500 gr of the jam sugar and 80 mls of the lemon juice. Stir and leave to sit for about an hour. The juices will start to run out of the fruit and dissolve the jam.
While this is happening, trim your strawberries, and cut any large ones in half or into quarters (depends how chunky you like your jam really....)
When the rhubarb has sat for an hour or so, add the strawberries  remaining sugar and the rest of the lemon juice & stir everything together. Put the pan onto the cooker and heat gently over a low heat, until the fruit is warmed and juicy and the sugar has dissolved.

Now turn the heat to med-high and bring everything to a rolling boil. Using a large spoon skim off any foam that rises to the surface.  It will take 10-15 minutes, put a saucer into the freezer, and when you think the jam has had long enough put a teaspoonful onto your frozen saucer. It will rapidly cool the jam, and you will be able to see how set it is. If it is still very running keep boiling & re-test. If you can pull your finger through the puddle of cool jam and leave a gap where your finger has been, you are good to go. Add your knob of butter & stir, this will disperse any remaining foam in the pan

Take the jam off the heat and sit for a couple of minutes before bottling, this gives the fruit a chance to settle so it spreads evenly throughout the jar
Pot up into sterilised jar ( I find a jam funnel incredibly helpful for this bit),to sterilise  place clean jars & lids in a oven set at 120C for 10 minutes. 

Perfect as a wee Xmas treat for friends or collogues, it looks very festive and everyone loves a sweet treat. You could even whip a sponge to go with.....

I will leave you with some pics of my first hanging baskets, the woven baskets themselves are from Kings, filled with flowers under instruction from my Mother, she will make a gardener of me yet.....

Wednesday, September 12

Cook my Books Challenge- Frugal & Fabulous

Apparently it is spring. The calendar says so, but while I have seen my share of gambolling lambs (and who else but a cute little lamb chop could gambol??) and daffodils, until I enjoy that first plate of asparagus, it is still winter as far as I am concerned.

Watching the All Blacks play Argentina in a Wellington gale on the weekend, Mr PK and I enjoyed excellent cold weather footie watching food. A pasty is a perfect hand held dinner, sustaining, savoury, and if you don’t mind a hail of pastry crumbs all over the carpet, relatively low maintenance fare.

I actually made two versions. The first, based on the famous Cornish version, I baked in a lard based pastry (yes really, lard is wonderful stuff, see here). I kept it simple, with the traditional beef, onion, swede (known as turnip in Cornwall) and potato, going off piste only to add some fresh green parsley.

The second, for my non meat eating sister, a flaky short mess-making butter pastry also containing potato, parsley and onion, with the addition of sharp cheddar cheese. Completely delicious, even a carnivore would be impressed………

The Cornish pasty is based on ther recipe in the inimitable Delia's Frugal Food. I have the 2008 reissue, the book originally came out in 1976, and is full of good hearty mostly English style food that wont cost the earth.

A Long Way from Cornwall Pasties...... based on a recipe by Delia Smith

Makes 4 meal sized pasties, but you could make 6 smaller ones

First make your pastry. 

275 gr plain flour
125 gr cold lard (or cold butter)
pinch salt
Ice cold water 

In a large bowl, rub the fat between your fingers into your flour and salt. You can do this in a food processor, but to be honest it only takes a couple of minutes, and the resulting pastry is much softer & easier to roll than the processor version. Use the same method, adding a couple of spoons of icing sugar and some nutmeg for a lovely crust for an Apple Pie

As you can see there a still little chunks of fat, this is fine, it will melt in the heat of the oven & create steam, giving you little flakes of pastry (which if you are like me, will end up all down the front of your shirt....)

Using a knife to mix, add your ice cold water until the mixture comes together as a dough. Tip out onto a floured bench & just bring together. This isnt bread, it does not require kneading, you are just bringing everything together into a workable dough. Wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge for 30 mins or so (or overnight if you are working ahead)

Now prepare your pasty filling

1 large potato, peeled and cut into small slices
1 medium onions, peeled and chopped into tiny chunks
Half a swede, peeled and cut into small slices
300 gr chuck, blade or topside beef, trimmed of fat & cut into small slices
Salt & pepper
Chopped parsley (not traditional, but delicious)

Try to keep everything a similar size, thin slices of meat and vege will cook right through without overcooking your pastry. You will think there isn't enough filling but trust me, this is plenty, pasties are very economical fare....

Take your pastry out of the fridge, and cut into four quarters (or 6 pieces if maker smaller pasties). Roll out one quarter into a circle about the size of a dinner plate.

Top with a spoonful of potato, then swede, onion & finally meat. Season with salt & pepper, then another layer of potato, swede, onion & finally a sprinkle of parsley. The theory for the layering is the meat juices & seasoning then work their way through the root vege as they cook and give the pasty extra flavour.

If you are using cheese rather than meat, just following the same theory, with your cheese layer in the middle. Use something good and strong like a really sharp cheddar for flavour

Now fold one half of the pastry over to completely encase your filling. This is easier then you think as this pastry is quite soft and pliable. Crimp the edges together, I just go around the edge folding the edge inwards on itself over my finger, I cant tell you it is totally authentic, but it looks ok and does the job! If all else fails go around the edge with the tines of a fork,the main object is to make sure your delicious filling cant escape. Cut a couple of steam holes in the top with the tip of your knife and place on an oven tray

Pop into a 200C/400F oven for 15 mins, then turn the heat down to 190C/375F for another 25-30 minutes, until golden and smelling heavenly.

Now I wont pretend these are the quickest things to make, but they are easy, great value, and if you make a batch up they freeze perfectly. Brilliant picnic food, they are also delicious at room temp, which of course if how they would have been eaten down the mines. The crimp was used to hold the pasty, keeping the rest of your lunch clean if you didn't have facilities to wash your hands, then discarded , but of course you can eat it if you prefer.

Mr PK recommends a good dark beer to drink with your pasty (on a windswept beach with a blanket for preference) , his latest fav is this gorgeous Chocolate Moose from Boundary Road Brewery based just out of Auckland at Red Hill. Rich and chocolatey this is also wonderful in a beef casserole, and I am going to try it in Nigella's Guinness Cake, watch this space.....

Monday, September 3

Sweet NZ August, sweet indeed

Plum Kitchen was the host of Sweet NZ this month, a great initiative set up by Alessanda Zecchini bringing together some delicious treats to share from Food Bloggers all around New Zealand. If these goodies dont have you reaching for the sugar and a mixing bowl I dont know what will....

First up Jemma over at Time for a Little Something with a rather gorgeous Whittaker's & Whiskey Cake. Dense, dark whiskey flavoured chocolate cake, this is a contender for me for this years Christmas cake (I am one of those odd souls who dont really like fruit cake....), while I am not a whiskey drinker I love the depth of flavour it gives to cooking and baking. It looks so beautiful to, thanks Jemma

For a luscious exotic pudding treat Leslie at Eat Etc has shared a Cardamom Spiced Rice Pudding. I adore Cardamom, and Mr PK is mad for anything containing raisins, so pretty much our ideal winter pud. Warm or cold, this is creamy scented comfort eating, and how gorgeous is that blue cloth? Thanks Leslie

For a fab teatime treat that also happens to be Gluten Free, Lydia at Grace Cakes has posted a Flourless Orange Cake. The method for this one is intriguing and involves boiling whole oranges, for really intense orange flavour. What a treat with a cup of Earl Grey tea (and yes, a large dollop of cream or yoghurt on the side:) thanks Lydia

Mairi over at Toast has shared her recipe for Back Up Brownies. These came about after a wee sponge "mishap", I was lucky enough to have one (ok, several....) so let me assure you there is nothing "backup" about moist rich chocolatey brownie topped with tangy freeze dried strawberry powder. Not only do they look so pretty, they were completely scrumptious , thanks Mairi

For a sweet pudding treat Alli at Pease Pudding has sent us Winter White Sago Pudding with Lime & Coconut Sugar. I adore creamy style puds , so cant wait to give these a whirl, especially with tropical lime coconut flavours, it may be pouring with rain but I can turn the heating up and pretend.....thanks Alli (p.s where did you get those wonderful spoons???)

Continuing the tangy citrus theme, Sue from Couscous & Consciousness sent in Nieve de Limon, a zingy fruity Mexican inspired Lemon-Lime Sorbet. How much do you want to be sitting in the sun eating this right now? So light and refreshing, I am really looking forward to making this for Mr PK, who does not tolerate creamy ice cream very well, what a fabulous treat. Pretty pic to, thanks Sue

Another favourite fruit of mine, apple, is the base for a decadent treat from Genie at Bunny Eats Design. Nifty little cinnamon spiced apple hand pies with a rich butterscotch sauce, this is much easier than it sounds, and could very well make an extremely wet chilly Monday night perfectly bearable. And how cute is that rabbit?(his name is Tofu:) Thanks Genie

Alessandra  has contributed an indulgent Tirimisu, and being Italian we can be assured she knows what's what when it comes to this lovely dessert. I smiled when I saw this picture as the twist with this recipe is the use of Whiskey instead of coffee. Glenffidich was Dad's favourite, he would have had a terrible dilemma handing over the whiskey bottle, not wanting yet more of his precious drop to go into "cooking" but wanting to try the finished product, I will certainly be making this for my next whanau gathering, thanks so much Alessandra

Our last entry this month is courtesy of Angela at The Cook's Sponge, who has shared with us an Apple Fruit Bar. Perfect for kids and adults alike, this will be a perfect portable morning tea treat, much more delicious and sustaining than a big doughy muffin, and way better for me to! I am keen to try the original, and the suggested Apricot variation , which would be a nice change. Thanks Angela (and welcome to Sweet NZ)

What a line up, I hope you are inspired to get cooking, Sweet NZ for September is being hosted by Alessandra Zecchini so make sure you get your sweet delights to her for sharing at the end of next month.