Thursday, September 30

Easy potato curry in a hurry.......

I have been craving curry for a few days, and I wanted to make the  yummy looking flatbreads over at Pod & three peas . When my vege box arrived, the huge pile of spinach was so fresh looking I knew that had to be in the curry somewhere (and lets be honest, the quicker I use it, the quicker I get a quarter of my fridge space back...). Combine with potato, and you have my version of the Indian classic sag aloo.

Nigel Slater's spinach and potato recipe, in his wonderful vegetable book Tender was the inspiration,  but I fear his tastes may be slightly more austere than mine. I like my spinach well wilted with the potato, and the splash of lite coconut cream (I know, how unlike me to use lite anything, but actually it was fine) gave a lovely creaminess at the end. But if you don't have coconut cream, don't worry, you could use a spoonful of yoghurt, or indeed nothing at all, it will still taste fab.....

Potato and spinach curry

2 medium potatoes (or about 500 grams baby potatoes) peeled and cut into chunks
2 small onions peeled , halved and cut into thin crescents
1 tbsp mustard oil (if you don't have mustard oil, just use canola or olive)
1 tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 red chilli, finely diced (OR a good pinch of chili flake)
1 tsp of grated fresh ginger OR large pinch ginger powder
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt & pepper
LARGE bunch spinach (about 400 grams) OR 2 bags of baby spinach
1/4 cup lite coconut cream (optional)
Big squeeze lemon juice

Boil or steam your chunks of potato until tender when you put a sharp knife into them. Meanwhile heat the oils in a frying pan (I use a 23cm for this) over a medium heat and fry the onions for about 10 mins until tender. Add the garlic, chilli and the spices and stir for another minute or so, to get rid of the raw taste.

Season with salt & pepper, then add the potatoes back to the pan, stirring to coat them with the oil mix. Add a cup of cold water and stir again. Place all your chopped spinach on top of the potato and put a lid, or piece of foil over the top. Turn the heat to med-low, and cook for another 10 mins or so until the spinach is wilted, and about half the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the coconut cream, check the seasoning and serve, easy.

I was dealing with an electrician when I got home from work, and realised I would not have time to make the flatbreads, so we has these parathas from the freezer instead. I get them from New World, and they are so easy, just chuck in a heated frying pan straight from frozen, they are done in about 2 minutes, genius!

You might also notice a handful of broadbeans in the curry picture, I picked them fresh, and just chucked them in about five minutes from the end of the cooking time, but 1/2 a cup of frozen peas would also be perfect.

I cant say this is terribly authentic, but it was really tasty, filling and quick to prepare, so I will definitely be making it again....

On a totally different note, I was out walking last night (yep, Plum K is still trying to get leanish....), trotting along at a decent clip and feeling pretty pleased with my efforts, when I was overtaken by a guy with a backpack........... walking home from work! Not out exercising mind, just returning home (I assumed) from a day at the office. And as he whizzed past me he turned, smiling, and reassured me I was "doing really well"........??!
How tragic does a girl exercising have to look, that a stranger feels he needs to reassure her she will actually make it home PRIOR to her coronary, while simultaneously zooming past like she is almost stationery. Keep your kind words stranger, I'm just fine face will return to its normal colour in no time!
Mustering as much dignity as I could in the circumstances I smiled (grimaced) and bid him a hearty good evening..........I might have tried to trip him up but I didn't want to break stride.

Tuesday, September 28

Buttermilk coleslaw dressing........buttermilk anything actually

Here, finally, is the coleslaw recipe I have been raving about. It is creamy, but not overly rich, and makes a great alternative to mayonnaise. My sister make a wonderful Asian style dressing, with fish sauce and sesame oil, but I do like an old fashioned creamy dressing, without the clagginess of too much mayo. So I got playing around and this is what I came up with. I tried it out at one of my cooking classes a few weeks ago, and it went down a treat.....

½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup mayonnaise ( I use Best Foods, but what ever kind you have is fine)
½ tsp lemon or lime juice
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp chilli powder, flakes or fresh chilli
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 tsp chopped fresh dill
¼ tsp caraway seeds-roughly crushed in a mortar & pestle

Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Mix through the fresh coleslaw ingredients just before serving.

Dressing will keep for about a week in a jar in the fridge, it makes about ¾ cup.

For my coleslaw last night I used

About a quarter of a very finely chopped cabbage
1 peeled carrot
4 finely chopped spring onions
Handful of chopped coriander
Handful chopped dill

I like herbs in my coleslaw, for freshness, and I love to add fennel and radish when I have it, but it is entirely up to you

The dressing may taste almost too "milky" on it's own, but when combined with the strong tastes of cabbage and onion it works really well. This salad also transports well, so would be great for a BBQ or pot luck dinner (are they still called pot luck dinners??)

We had our coleslaw (I really want to say 'slaw, but I just cant, there being no Southern BBQ or hush puppies anywhere in the vicinity....) with grilled eggplant, and a stuffed cheesy potato....I know, a bit of a retro moment, but I was tired, and we both felt like something plain but good!

I cant wait to try the Sour Cream and Cheddar biscuits over at Smitten Kitchen this week, how good do they look? I think I will try substituting buttermilk for the sour cream since I have some in the fridge....I love biscuits, when Mr PK & I were in Amercia a few years back, I discovered biscuits & sausage gravy, to the detriment of both my waistline and cholesterol levels. Soft fluffy biscuits (like scones really) smothered in a savoury gravy made with milk & bits of sausage. It was a heart attack waiting to happen but so good, I could not stop myself. I dare not try making the gravy at home, but the chili is a grand idea, so will give that a go instead......

Friday, September 24

Sneaky vegetable muffins, a spanish mama's tortilla and a newsletter idea.....

The Zucchini muffins are the absolute best, I know you should not rave about your own food (although if you dont who else will?) but I have been making them for years and I know they are foolproof. I had a lovely email this morning from one of the girls who came on Wednesday, she made these to take to her daughters Kindy shared morning tea, and they went down a treat. She commented the parents loved the hidden vegetables, which is just great. I dont have kids, but I have made them before for children who seem to like them as much as grown ups (I think the vege makes them slightly sweet?), little do those small bundles of energy know, but they are eating loads of vegetables with every bite! Ha ha, I feel so subversive.....

Zucchini Muffins

This makes about 12 normal size muffins, or 24 mini muffins, which make fantastic canapés

Approx 500 grams grated zucchini (this is 5 normal sized vegetables, not marrows!)
1 carrot grated
1 medium onion peeled and diced finely
About 2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 cup grated cheese (Tasty is fine here)
1 cup self-raising flour
¼ cup canola oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4-5 eggs (depending on size)

Pre heat your oven to 180C/350F

Drain your grated zucchini, by placing them in a clean tea towel, and squeezing out as much moisture as you can, you will be surprised how much comes out of even very firm vegetables.

Put into a large bowl, and add the grated carrot, onion, cheese, flour and canola oil. Stir together, and add plenty of salt and pepper.
Add 4 eggs, and stir the mixture thoroughly, it should be moist but not to runny. Unlike normal muffins, this batter can take plenty of stirring without producing a tough result. If the mixture looks to dry, add the remaining egg.
Bake in greased muffin trays for about 20-25 mins at 180C until golden brown. Mini muffins will only take 15-20 mins.

These are so moist they don’t need buttering, but the mini version are divine split and filled with cream cheese and a sliver of smoked salmon as a canapé.

I have also served them filled with goat cheese and a tsp of beetroot relish

If you are feeding meat eaters, 3-4 rashers of chopped bacon can also be added to the mixture before baking.

Well, a few small branches on the Silver Birch aside, we survived the big storm which battered most of New Zealand last week. I felt so feeble after posting about my fair weather gardening, I actually got myself outside, dodging rain showers, and planted out a whole bunch of seedlings and lettuce plants. The neighbours must think I'm slightly deranged, standing in a force 10 gales trying not to inhale all my potting mix, while simultaneously getting minuscule seeds out of a tiny packet which refuses to open (if you want to keep something safe, put it in a foil seed sachet, they are practically impenetrable)

I felt very pleased with myself, thinking when everyone turned up at my cooking class on Wednesday night they could admire all my new herbs pots while coming up the path. Given it was dark by 7pm, and the front light bulb has blown, they were probably just lucky not to fall over one.......

The cooking class was great fun, and thanks to the lovely Mairi over at Toast and her whizz iPhone, I even have pics for you. It is usually impossible for me to take pictures and conduct the class, so it was great to get some nice ones to show you.

First up we made a proper Spanish Tortilla. I am using the word proper, even though we are a long way from Espana, as I see so many "tortilla" in cafes which would make any Spaniards blood boil. A tortilla is not a stodgy lump of leaden egg and potato, nor is it a dumping ground for every root vegetable known to man. It should be sweet, light, and yet substantial, and should never, ever have seen the inside of a fridge.....

This really is so much more than the sum of its parts……it was taught to me by my friend Jose’s mama Victoria, in her kitchen in Sedella in Andalusia. She is a great cook, but even if you are not using your own eggs, onions, potatoes AND olive oil as she does, this will still taste fab....the ingredient list looks sparse I know, but trust me...

Victoria's Spanish Tortilla
3-4 good size potatoes (as you probably know by now, I use Agria)
2 cups of Olive oil (I KNOW, it seems horrendous, but most of it is drained away & can be reused)
2 medium onions
4-5 eggs

Peel and slice your potatoes into small chunks. A Spanish mama would do it in her hand straight into a bowl, but feel free to use a chopping board (I do!) I cut the potato in half, then half again, and cut slim half moon shapes, as i like the way it looks when cooked and sliced, but it is really up to you
Peel your onions; slice in half then into thin crescents and chuck in bowl with your spuds. Add 1 1/2 cups of oil and mix all around to coat vegetables. Season generously, and I mean generously, potatoes need salt.

Put the whole lot into your non-stick frying pan. The size of your pan will dictate how many potatoes you use; this is enough for a 23cm pan. If the oil isn’t really coating the potato, add more, you are basically stewing the vege in the oil. But remember as the oil heats it becomes more liquid, so it will cover the potatoes more, check once they start simmering and add more then if needed.
Cook over a low heat for approx 20 mins until the potato feels tender, then drain off the oil (which can be used again no problem).I keep my oil in a jar in the pantry

Tip the spud mix into a bowl, and add 4 beaten eggs (add the remaining egg if the mixture looks too dry). Mix and add a little more seasoning, then tip the whole lot back into your frying pan, and put back on the heat. You can turn the heat to med-low, and cook for about 10-15 mins, until the bottom is golden and the egg mixture is reasonably set (so when you turn it out it isn't going to run everywhere)

Flip onto a plate, and then slide back into the pan to cook the underside for another couple of minutes.
This isn't nearly as tricky as it sounds. Take the pan off the heat, put a plate on top of the frying pan, and using a tea towel to protect your hands, grab the plate & pan together and flip. The tortilla will drop onto the plate. Now put the pan back on the heat, and slide the tortilla off the plate and back into the pan to cook for about 5 more mins. Turn out onto a serving plate

I like to serve this warm or room temperature. It travels well, so is great to take on a picnic or BBQ, I actually made this to take to the Ronan Keating concert at Villa Maria last Feb. A slice of tortilla and a glass of chardonnay was rather nice sitting in the sun! I usually just have it plain, but you could serve with a chutney or sauce to if you like, and maybe a salad, for a lovely spring/summer lunch.

We also made some Zucchini muffins, and rather delish Broadbean cakes, adapted from Yotom Ottolehghi's Plenty, I think I have raved about this book already.

On a totally different tangent, I came across this neat magazine the other day, Extra Curricular for people who like craft and do it in their spare time. It is published independently by Ellie Smith and some of her crafty pals. I love the mag, it is quirky and interesting and I love the fact it is put together without the aid of a big publisher or huge budget. Check the link for stockists, I got my copy at Mag Nation on Queen Street.

On this theme, I am eagerly awaiting my copy of Martha Goes Green, a vegetarian cookbook put together by three girls in Australia (a couple are originally from this side of the ditch) ,designed and  published by them independently, how gorgeous does it look? I cant wait to get my mitts on this & get cooking.....

Speaking of doing things independently, and being rather wonderful about it, check out the Underground Farmers Market, held in the flat and garden of Ms Marmitelover. This woman is fabulous, not only does she run an amazing underground restaurant in London (and is a total pioneer in the whole movement, setting up the network I belong to) but she does completely fabbo things like this, I mean, a whole market in a 2 bed flat & cool?

Cooking classes in kitchens, books from bedrooms, markets in flats, nothing like the spirit of DIY people, it's very inspiring:)
On that theme, I am setting up a little publication of my own, a Plum Kitchen Newsletter, which will be sent out monthly. It will have cooking class updates, supperclub dates, tip, recipes (of course!) , reviews and hopefully even some interviews (that's if a) I can find someone interesting who wants to talk to me, and b) I can shut my trap long enough to listen,) plus anything else I care to chuck in.....
To subscribe, please just send me an email and I will add you to my mailing list. Dont worry, I will NEVER send you crappy jokes, inspirational messages or ads for mens pharmacuticals, or give your email address to anyone else:)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 17

It's Spring, I don't care what the weather says....

There is a storm bearing down on Auckland as we speak. Not just any storm mind, according to weather reports this is the "largest storm in the world". Maybe it's because I come from a small country, but that kinda title impresses me. We could entirely do without it, especially those poor souls in Christchurch painfully trying to maintain normality in their broken (though not bowed) city. But as usual Mother Nature dishes it out, and in this case it's a super-size serving. So it would seem no gardening for me this weekend......again!

As you can see my little greenhouse isn't exactly filled with an abundance of seedlings. If I'm honest the ones that are there came courtesy of my sister Liz..........I know, pitiful. Linda Hallinan would be ashamed .I have a big girl crush on Linda, I even took my mum to see her garden when she opened it to the public, Mum was most impressed, although perplexed as to why I can be so interested in vege gardening, yet so ordinary at it. It is a mystery. Every time I put my garden gear on it rains, and I am a soft fair weather gardener.......I did brave a bit of rain to pick my freesias you can see at the top of the page. I love freesias, the smell in the house makes me happy, and they look so pretty in a wee jar.

I do have one edible crop I am harvesting at the moment, and that's broad beans.  They send a shiver down my sister Annie's spine, but I think that is memories of farty fat beans, boiled with the gray horrible skin left on, grim indeed. Fresh beans, picked while still about fingernail size, don't need peeling, and can be cooked or eaten raw in salads, or smashed up with peas, mint and feta cheese , oh yummy!

You must excuse the container, when Mr Lawn Mowing And The Odd bit of Flower Gardening But The Veges Are Your Area and I moved in before Xmas, the garden was mainly a rockery at the front, and not much else. Containers are my solution until I can organise my raised beds, and these obsolete Auckland City Council recycling bins fit the bill nicely, even if they don't look terribly attractive....


Last nights supper was supposed to be Grilled Chicken with pesto and coleslaw. I even made my tangy creamy buttermilk dressing, then discovered the fridge had partially frozen my cabbage, not happy! Even worse, it had also dealt to my basil, leaving just a few sorry leaves unblackened......clearly plans had to change. Instead I came up with grilled buttermilk chicken, potatoes baked in duck fat (not nearly as decadent as it sounds) and a fab green salad with pine nuts and fresh broad beans. It was divine, and I feel I really achieved the almost impossible, making a skinless boneless chicken breast tender and tasty. After that there is clearly very little I cant do, and I shall be offering my services to the UN forthwith......
I still have dressing for a weekend coleslaw, so don't worry, I will share that recipe next post, it is a goodie.

Buttermilk chicken

Firstly, take your chicken breast, and pop it in a plastic bag, or between two pieces of baking paper. Bash with a rolling pin, to flatten the breast. It will then cook much more evenly. One of the reasons breast can be so tough is by the time you have cooked the inside of the thickest part, the edges are dry and chewy. I had four chicken pieces, so I flattened all four, and left the other two in their bags in the freezer. Being thinner they will also defrost much faster.

For the marinade, mix together:

1/2 cup buttermilk (despite the name, this is actually a low fat product, you could also use plain yogurt)
Grated zest of a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Half a chopped chili
1 tsp rosemary finely chopped

Pour this all over the chicken and leave to marinate as long as you like, even an hour will make a difference.

For dressing the chicken after cooking, I made a Basil oil. I  took my sad little pile of rescued basil leaves, tore them roughly into pieces, and covered with a little EV olive oil. Let that sit for a while and the oil takes on a delicate basil flavour and fragrance.

While the chicken is marinating, I sliced a couple of Agria potatoes into rounds about 1/2 cm wide, and tossed them in a tablespoon of melted duck fat. I know this sounds decedent, but duck fat is amazing with spuds. I buy it in tins, and decant it into a glass jar, which lasts in the fridge for months and months. Use it for roasting potatoes and you will see what I mean....if you don't have any, or don't want to use animal fats of course olive or plain oil would be fine. Place the potatoes in a layer on a baking sheet and put into an oven heated to 180C for about 45 mins, until they are crispy. I like to serve them sprinkled with parsley

For the salad, I used glorious fresh greens from my vege box delivery and added in some peeled carrot strips, toasted pine nuts and fresh broad beans straight from the pod, then dressed the whole thing with olive oil and a splash of this amazing Chardonnay vinegar. I know, the price is horrific, but it is so wonderful I ekk it out, nothing could taste bad with this splashed all over it........

To cook your chicken, wipe off all the marinade and brush sparingly with oil. I know this seems a little wasteful, but a wet piece of meat will never brown up nicely, and that brown char is where you get a lot of flavour. The marinade has done it's job now anyway.
Season your meat, then either grill, or as I do, use a griddle pan, heated until nearly smoking. Grill each side until it is really well browned, which will also mean the meat will not stick. When it feels firm to the touch it is cooked, so don't keep cooking it just in case! Removed to a warm plate, and let the meat rest for a couple of minutes. Serve it splashed with your basil oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice. The acid in the buttermilk/yogurt tenderizes the meat, ensuring it remains juicy while cooking, try it for yourself, very yum.

I was very excited this week to have a mention on Ele Ludemann's great blog Home Paddock and in her discussion of Food Blogs on the Critical Mass show with Noelle McCarthy on Radio New Zealand.  If you would like to have a listen here is the link, the food blog portion starts at about 3.05 minutes. I would do this regardless as I love writing about food and 'stuff',  but it is rather nice to hear people appreciate what you do:)

Tuesday, September 14

It’s Keen-Wa, not Key-no-a……

Ok, it is actually Quinoa, but I like a bit of phonetic spelling now & again, and this does seem to be a rather tricky one. I have already raved about my cooking class at Somerset Cottage, so I thought it appropriate to share a recipe. This is a delicious salad, full of flavour, easy to make, and great to transport, making it ideal for packed lunches, and the inevitable ‘I need something to take to a BBQ” conundrum we will happily, at least at this end of the world, soon all be faced with.

Quinoa is an ancient South American grain, easy to digest and full of all manner of good stuff. Most importantly, it tastes good, mild but nutty. It works really well combined with the more robust brown rice in this dish. So, coming soon to a Barbie near you is…..

Quinoa & Brown Rice Salad-from Somerset Cottage

200 grams Quinoa (I used the red one)
200 grams Brown Rice
1 onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic
1/3 cup of good olive oil
Zest & juice of an orange
Juice of a lemon
Handful of toasted almonds
4 Spring Onions sliced
100 grams dried apricots roughly chopped
Salad greens
Salt & pepper

Bring two large pots of water to the boil, add salt and boil the quinoa & the brown rice. The brown rice will take about 20 mins, the Quinoa about 15, but test it yourself. The grains should be cooked but not mushy.

Drain each pot and put the contents on a tray to cool down. Don’t rinse! You are just washing away the flavour, it isn’t necessary.
Add a good slosh of the olive oil to a frying pan, and cook your onion until golden. Add the garlic for the last couple of minutes so it cooks but does not burn.
Put your rice & quinoa in a bowl, add the onion mixture, then add everything else to the bowl and mix. Taste for seasoning.

How easy is that? Next time I would add some chopped mint, and a little less orange juice, or maybe substitute it for lime juice. I made a carrot & orange soup years ago and was very liberal with my juice, it ended up like warm orange soup…has rather put me off strong orange flavours in savoury dishes ever since, but if you like then I would make as is.

I made a really yummy pie the other night, with a delicious wholemeal pastry. I would not normally utter delicious and wholemeal in the same pastry related sentence, but this really was. Short, buttery and tasty, it banished all memories of stodgy worthy pie crusts, which I am very happy about. It is also very quick and easy to make

Wholemeal Pie Crust

1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
200 grams cold butter (I use unsalted)
1 tsp chopped rosemary (optional, but lovely. Thyme would be great also)
½ tsp salt
About 1/3 cup iced water

Simply place the flours, salt and rosemary into your food processor with the butter, which you have cut into rough cubes. Pulse until the butter is cut into the flour and the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. You can also do this by hand, rubbing the flour and fat between your fingers, but I am slow and my food processor is quick, so I take the easy route…Add about half the water and pulse/mix. Keep adding water bit by bit until the mix comes together and forms a ball. I can always tell as my poor machines motor sounds very laboured. Tip the whole mess out onto a floured bench and bring it all together with your hands. Don’t over work it, just get it all together and apt out into a disk.

Wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge for at least half an hour. Don’t skip this step or you will have tears trying to roll it out.

When you are ready to roll, this makes enough for the top & bottom of my metal 23cm pie dish. Always use metal when working with pastry, it really conducts heat well, and will give you a nice crispy finish. Soggy pastry is not happy pastry.

Obviously you can use whatever filling you like, I went with poached chicken, leeks and mushrooms sautéed in butter, all bound together with a white sauce flavoured with lots of parsley and thyme, a slash of wine and a tiny bit of parmesan cheese. Tasted better than it looked, trust me……

Saw a great movie the other day, Beneath Hill 60 an Australian production based on a true story of miners fighting in Belgium during WWI.......ok, probably does not soyund the most gripping flick, but we really enjoyed it. Mr PK is a bit of a military buff, I enjoyed the story, exciting stuff. And such a treat at the Rialto, to have a glass of vino with your movie. Am I easily pleased or what:)

Thursday, September 9

Little dumplings for a little dumpling....

Actually I am slightly less dumpling like this week, although this weight loss thing sure is sloowww. However last nights supper was fresh, light, yet delicious, and I am sure it helped things along nicely...

I was watching Rude Boy Food on Food TV the other night, Aaron Craze worked at Fifteen, Jamie Oliver's restaurant in London then won a competition to start his own pub. He is also on Market Kitchen from time to time. I was all prepared to cringe at the Mockney references, and at times all the faux wide boy nonsense was a tad irritating. But he can cook, and all three dishes were food I would want to eat, although probably not while freezing my tits off on a grim Southend beach....

Aaron made dumplings, which were also demonstrated at my cooking class at Somerset Cottage on Sunday. I can wholly recommend these classes, you will undoubtedly come away having learnt a trick or two, have some great recipes, and a lovely lunch, what could be better? The dumplings at the class were pumpkin, but I fancied pork , which is what Mr Rude Boy whipped up also.
Dumplings are quite easy to put together, and rather therapeutic to make. The trick is to make a whole batch at once, then freeze them.

The mixture is simply a bit of chopping and stirring, then it is just a case of filling each wrapper, while resisting the temptation to don't want fat little dumplings bursting out of their wrappers do you?

The following made 47 dumplings, I used 6 per bowl of soup, and froze the rest.

Pork Mixture

500 grams minced pork
3 spring onions finely chopped
3 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine (or a splash of sherry or ordinary wine)
3 tbsp soya sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
Knob of ginger about the size of your thumb, grated
Handful chopped coriander
1 red chili deseeded and chopped (or use chili flakes)
zest & juice of a lime

Simply mix the whole lot together, and use about a teaspoonful in each dumpling wrapper. You can also use wonton wrappers. I got mine from Farro but you can usually pick these up at the supermarket, or greengrocer.

To make the dumplings I put my filling into each wrapper, then dipped my finger into a small bowl of water and ran it around the edge of the wrapper. Fold over the filling and press the edges together. I then went around and crimped the edges between each of my thumbs, creating a sort of pleat. Believe me it sounds a lot more complicated than it is, and as long as the filling is sealed in, it does not really matter what they look like. As you can see I have taken that piece of advice to heart. I am quite democratic in my ethnic boundaries however, and I can assure you my samosas look equally amateurish....


For the record 47 of these little puppies took no more than about 35 mins, so not quite as time consuming as you would think.....


To cook, I heated up  
3-4 cups of fresh (well, frozen actually!) chicken stock, 
A large knob of ginger that had been sliced into 5 pieces,
One sliced chili (to taste)
Big splash of soya sauce,
Big splash of kecap manis (that thick Indonesian soya sauce I would add to everything if I could)

When the stock was simmering I cooked half the dumplings for about 5 mins, stirring gently when I first put them in so they didn't stick, then removed them to a warm plate and cooked the other half. These were also put on a plate, and I added

Half a sliced red pepper
A handful of sliced mushrooms
Big bunch of chopped fresh spinach 
Two sliced spring onions,

Simmering for a couple of minutes until everything is cooked. Put your dumplings into warm soup bowls, and ladle over the hot stock mixture. Sprinkle with chopped coriander, and more fresh chili if you like. This method, while slightly more time consuming that simply throwing everything into the stock and cooking, means the dumplings remain perfectly cooked, rather than turning to mush while the vege cooks......

We really enjoyed this supper, the dumplings are light yet substantial, and the soup, with plenty of ginger , veges and chili is really tasty. To freeze the remaining dumplings I simply put the whole oven tray in my freezer, and when frozen took them out and bagged them up into portions of ten, feeling terribly domestically fabulous while I did so....
My next mission is to create a vegetarian dumpling filling that is equally delish, so watch this space....

Tuesday, September 7

Not making a hash of things.......

Corned silverside. It was a phrase, and goodness knows a smell, to make my heart sink when I was a kid. Walking in after school and catching a whiff of boiling meat, always accompanied by cabbage (one of Moses' lesser known utterances, thy shall eat corned beef with pongy boiled brassica...) you knew dinner would be even less of a highlight than usual.
Its taken many years to come around to the idea, but I think I have turned a corner. Last night I made Corned Beef Hash, and it was good, really good! My Mother-in-law gave me some cold beef to bring back from Tauranga, and thanks to Delia, this was turned into a savoury, tasty, filling supper with very little effort. Do give it a go.....

Delia Smith's Corned Beef Hash

200 grams corned beef
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 big tsp grain mustard
1 large onion
275grams (about 2 medium) potatoes, I use a floury agria
2 tbsp oil
salt & pepper

Cut the corned beef into small cubes, about a cm square, and stir in the worster sauce and mustard. Cut the onion into thin slices, and the potatoes into dice about the same size as the corned beef. Boil the potatoes for about 5 mins in salted water until tender.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan until hot but not smoking. Stir in the onion until it is starting to go brown, and add the drained potato. Stir for a couple of minutes until the potato is also starting to crisp. Add the corned beef mixture, and keep cooking until the beef is hot, and the vege crisp and browned. Add salt & pepper to taste, and turn out onto warm plates. There is no way of making this look delicate so don't bother.... I served mine with a fried egg on top, but this is entirely up to you! Next time I would add some chopped parsley, and a good squeeze of lemon.......yum

Friday, September 3

Nowhere near Tuscany Ribollita........

My first vege box from Epicurean Supplies arrived yesterday, what a treat. Jammed packed with lots of lovely fresh organic vege, a selection of herbs, and three lemons.
My box was $36 including delivery, I am not sure how this stacks up against a visit to the greengrocer, but part of the reason for me trying a box scheme is not purely financial. I also want the choice, and indeed to be effectively forced to use what I have to produce tasty meals. Like many people, if I am rushed, tired or generally not concentrating I tend to go onto auto pilot when shopping, getting the same tried and trusted things, rather than trying new ingredients. I don't like waste, so using what I have will be my challenge (and don't we know I love a challenge...!)

So tonight's dinner was a hearty "sort of" Ribollita, or Tuscan Bean & Cabbage Soup. Ribollita means "re-boiled" , and I believe traditionally the soup was made using the remnants of the previous days soup or broth, with cavelo nero, a type of Italian Kale and beans added. I say sort of, because of course I was not reboiling anything (unless you count the chicken stock from my freezer?) and lets be honest, I am a rather long way from Tuscany....

The recipe is based on one from Jamie Oliver's Italian cookbook, which has some great recipes, and lovely styling. It is interesting to note how his books have got much more "matt" looking, matt paper and photography replacing the glossy images of his earliest books. I am pretty over the glossy cookbook myself, but each to their own.......

Anyway, the recipe, this makes enough for 4 good servings (that's four normal grownups, not four picky toddlers.....).
Most ribollita recipes use stale bread IN the soup, I have a life long aversion to soggy bread (don't even get me started on Summer Pudding, I feel queasy just thinking about it..), so my version takes the day old bread and makes it into croutons to sprinkle on top. I can hear Italian mamas spinning in their graves from here.......

If you don't share my neurosis, please feel free to stir the cubed bread into the soup when you add the cabbage. This will give you are thicker textured soup, but you can add more stock if you want it a little thinner

Ellerslie Ribollita by way of Jamie's Italy by way of Tuscany......

1 red onion diced
1 carrot diced
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 leek, thinly sliced (your knife skills will improve making this soup...)
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
Splash of olive oil
Good pinch of dried chili flakes
Good pinch of fennel seeds, roughly bashed in a mortar & pestle or use a rolling pin...
1 tin plum tomatoes, and a pinch of sugar
1 tin canellini beans, drained
2 cups chicken stock
150grams cavelo nero, washed and thinly sliced, stalks & all
Handful of stale bread cubes, either toasted in the oven to crispy OR stirred into the soup....
Olive oil and parmesan to garnish

Put a good glug of oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the onion, carrot, fennel, leek and garlic, along with plenty of salt & pepper. Sweat over a gentle heat with the lid just ajar for 15-20 mins until the veges are soft but not brown. Add your chili & fennel seeds, then stir in your tomatoes with a pinch of sugar. Turn the heat to medium, add the chicken stock and beans, and bring to the boil. Turn the heat back down to low, and stir in your cavelo nero and bread if you using it. It will look supremely unappetizing but stick with it.Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or so until the cavelo nero is tender and the soup has reduced and thickened. Taste for seasoning, then serve in deep bowls sprinkled with your croutons, a good glug of fruity olive oil, a sprinkle of parsley and parmesan cheese, yum!
This is a really comforting supper, tasty, filling and full of good stuff, without seeming in any way worthy. First vege box day a success me thinks.
My sister came over to watch the netball, and was moved to comment  "it didn't look much when I arrived, but it tastes fantastic". Thank you esteemed food critic sibling.........

I have rainbow chard to use next, I am thinking maybe a gratin, with perhaps a cheeky little steak, Mr PK is craving some meat.....

I am off this weekend to Somerset Cottage in Tauranga, to attend one of their fantastic cooking schools. This time the class is all about vegetables, very appropriate, and I cant wait! Will have lots of lovely recipes and ideas to share next week, will keep you posted.....