Monday, May 24

Supperclub.......Big Night

After much anticipation the Supperclub opened for business. Three courses, charming wait staff, an organised cook, what could go wrong?? Surprisingly, not much.

Pudding was served before 10pm,which could be a record for me.  As with so many things in life, timing is all, and eating cheesecake, even if it does taste divine, may give you indigestion if consumed after midnight.
My friend Vanessa was most impressed, especially after she regaled fellow guests with a story which seemed to involve turning up  chez moi for dinner, and being slightly alarmed the roast was still sitting on the bench.........I didn't realize she slipped out the back to warn her sister who was baby sitting they might be slightly later than anticipated.........we don't eat early (our baby is of the feline variety, and kinda feeds herself), so I am a bit naughty forgetting others do, and may be starving by 8pm.

Anyway, my lovely waiting team (husband and sister, cheap labour) who looked terribly flash in their matching aprons, made sure everyone had a cocktail in hand, and we were off and running ...or slurping and talking as the case may be.

The menu for the evening consisted of:

Kir Royal

Jerusalem Artichoke soup with a seared scallop, chives and parsnip crisps

Goat cheese and caramelised onion tarts with beetroot and walnuts

Roast Pork Belly with sage and apple stuffing, and roast apple sauce

Potato and celeriac dauphinoise

Pear and rocket salad with whiskey vinaigrette

Banana pecan cheesecake with toffee sauce and cream

Apple pie with a cheddar crust, and proper custard.

Coffee, tea and homemade chocolate ale truffles (courtesy of my sister Liz, yum!)

Another sister Dette (I talk with a cast of thousands I'm afraid) was in charge of the lovely tables (with the odd , possibly unwanted, instruction, and glasses of vino from her partner David), as you can see I used the family shamelessly....

I am so pleased how the evening turned out, it is a great feeling to stand in the kitchen is listen to the buzz of people enjoying themselves talking and eating........if I can just figure out how to keep the sheer chaos at service time to a minimum it would be perfect.........
It was a lovely evening, although I did feel a tad lonely in the kitchen.........I did my wee blurb at the start to go through the menu and try to convince everyone the kitchen was an oasis of calm, but after that I figured I better stick to the oven and the task in hand (if I had sat down with a glass of chard after such a long day......... I may not have got up again) I managed to keep some semblance of order, for a while at least....but oh my was there some cleaning up to do on Sunday, cant believe the clean-up fairy never arrived?

Looking foward to the next one, I could be on a roll.......

Wednesday, May 19

Love in the Mouth Meatloaf......

Another busy week, cant believe it is the middle of May already, Christmas shopping next....(if you could see the amount of people on my Xmas list you would realise I'm only half kidding). I have had some really great emails from some of my cooking class students, it is very inspiring to hear their success stories, or "almost" success stories........the following is an excerpt of an email from my friend Jo, this made me laugh so much I had to share....

1. Take mince out of freezer Sunday morning at 9:30am and put on the bench to thaw. Note to buy soft brown sugar. Feel proud to be so organised.
2. 6pm stop by super market to pick up soft brown sugar. Much anticipation at the pending success of my dish.
3. Home by 6:30pm. Get out meat loaf tin. Check recipe - takes one hour. Are starving and can't wait that long. Eat some bread and decide to see what other tins are lurking in the cupboard. Find large muffin tin & smaller meat loaf tin. Decide to make 6 meatloaf muffins and a smaller meat loaf for dinner tomorrow night. Or the muffins could be good for lunch? Feel we have diverted semi disaster. Keep going.
4. Measure out the bread crumbs. Clean the bread crumbs from the cupboard as the bottom of the bag had spilt. Hubby tapes up bag with masking tape.
5. Get two large onions out to cut finely as per recipe. try remember what size onions Kristina used. Cut up one large onion in Tupperware onion cutter and enjoy the experience of no tears. Decide can put 2nd onion in if needs it.
6. Open the packet of pork mince. Find it to be frozen in the middle.
7. Check the beef mince (which was sitting under the pork mince) and find it still frozen 9 hours later.
8. Freeze  fingers squeezing the frozen centre of the pork mince into bits whilst hubby places beef mince wrapped in glad wrap in hot water to thaw.
9. Put in the other ingredients. Get brave and put in 1/2 tsp extra of curry. Squeeze the last of the t-sauce to be a tablespoon shy of 1/2 a cup.
10Start making the sauce while hubby mixes in semi thawed mince with pork mixture
11 start making the sauce. Find I don't have coffee or Worcestershire sauce ...damn
12. Make second trip to the supermarket
13. Real estate agent calls whilst at super market to come over with an offer.
14. Get home, finish making the sauce
15 See real estate agent, dont' sign anything. During conversation rush to oven to baste meat loaf muffins and mini meatloaf
16. 7:45pm. Meat loafs smelling and looking good. Decide what veges to have. take out broccoli to steam. Hubby asks "do we have potatoes for the mashed potatoes?".....damn
17 Contemplate trip 3 to supermarket. Find large kumera in the pantry and go with that.
18 Meat loaf is now cooked (been 50 mins!) but waiting for water to boil to cook kumera. cut kumera into tiny pieces to speed cooking time! Take meat loaf and meat loaf muffins out of the oven and place on rack on the bench.
19 Hubby mashes kumera then tips meatloaf upside down onto tin foil Wifey asks why as Kristina didn't do that. So he puts it back in. She finds can't cut the loaf in the tin as will cut the tin. So hubby tips it back out again.
20. Haven't tasted the sauce. Bit tart, have sweet kumera so will work well. Serve up.
21. realise forgot to cook broccoli ....damn. put lettuce on the plate.
22 How does it taste - onions aren't cooked (chop smaller!) . Meat a bit bland, sprinkle with flaked salt. Yum! Sauce and kumera are great!
23. Sit down and laugh at the steps 1 to 22 above. Very filling.

I am impressed with the ability for thinking on ones feet guys, nice!

This is the recipe, it was given to me years ago by an old boyfriend's step-father, hence it was known to me as Malcolm's meatloaf. But I took some around to my lovely ex neighbours and meet their gorgeous new son, and Anna called it "love in the mouth" meatloaf, cant top that for a name really can you?


500 grams Mince

500 grams Sausage meat (I just use plain Pork sausages from my butcher, split the skins and put the filling straight into the mixing bowl)

2 onions-chopped finely

1 cup breadcrumbs-fresh or packet is fine

1 Tsp curry powder (any kind, hot or mild)

1 egg

½ cup milk

½ cup water

Mix all the ingredients together (this is easiest if you use your hands) and press into a greased loaf tin. It may seem a little sloppy but this is fine, it will stay moist when baking. Bake for approx 1 hour. This may vary slightly depending on your oven. About halfway through cooking put a couple of teaspoons of your sauce over the top of the meatloaf. This is called basting. It will form a nice glaze on the top. To test doneness, put a skewer of knife into the middle of the meatloaf, leave it for a couple of seconds then pull it out, it should feel hot to the touch, if not continue cooking for a bit longer & test again.


For your sauce, place all the following ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer (boil gently with just a few bubbles popping on top of the liquid) for 5 minutes.

½ cup water

2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

½ cup Tomato sauce (I use Watties)

2Tbsp Vinegar (Malt is fine, or white)

2 Tbsp Lemon juice

½ cup Brown sugar

30 grams Butter

1 tsp instant Coffee powder

I like this with mashed potato and a green vege. Winter comfort food at it's best....

Preparations are full steam for Saturday's inaugural Plum Kitchen Supperclub.........I am really excited, and pretty organised, which I hope will see me through the inevitable 'what was I THINKING??!' moment when the kitchen is full of pots & pans & I have a room full of people to this space!

Thursday, May 13

Another pizza......with potato. Yes, potato.

In a delicious "Naples by way of Dublin" twist I give you the new fave in the Plum K. household, the potato pizza.
Pizza dough is surely the easiest of all breads to make, and if you are not in a tomato frame of mind this makes a top variation. We are often not in a tommy frame in our house, due to an unfortunate incident yonks ago with a dish very accurately labeled "three kinds of tomato pasta". I was newly arrived in London, lonely and jobless while my suited and booted other half trooped off to the City to talk about football all day and head to the pub after work (I think he did something in banking in between times). We were living with an 80 year old family friend, so as you can imagine we had little to converse about after the weather....I saw the offending recipe on an morning TV show, and thought I could at least be useful and make two compatriots were sick all day & night, i was fine so I dispute to this day it was my tomato extravaganza ......I spied this recipe in Dish last month, it is very similar to the focaccia dough I make, and the idea of potato, to a good Irish girl like me , on a pizza was intriguing.......anyway, enough raving, all you need for your dough is:

1 cup lukewarm water (remember heat kills yeast, so "blood temp" is about right), into which you place 1 teaspoon of sugar or honey, and 1.5 tsp dried yeast ( I used Tasti brand, in the baking aisle at any supermarket). Leave this for 5-10 mins in a warmish place till the little balls of yeast are replaced by a foam on the top of the water. This tells you the yeast is alive, and with the help of the sugar, is turning into the gas that will combine with the gluten in the flour and help your dough rise. It's magic! In a large bowl put two cups of High Grade flour. This has more gluten than standard, it might also be called Strong or Bread flour. Add to your flour a good tsp of salt, and a tsp or so of chopped fresh rosemary. This will smell heavenly when your dough is cooking.
Now add the yeast liquid to your flour, and using your hands mix together. You may not need all the liquid, just add about 3/4 of the cup and see how you go. I realise this lack of exactness is frustrating for newbies, but bread making is not an exact science, which is a good thing, honest. You will feel the dough coming together and when it is mostly a ball, rather than lots of separate bits of sticky flour, tip it onto the bench and start to knead. This is not tricky, just use your right hand to push the front of the ball of dough away from you, then pull it back and with your left hand twist the dough a quarter & repeat. Imagine you are stretching the dough, and as you work it, it becomes easier to stretch. After about 4-5 mins you will have a dough that feels smooth and springy under your fingers, if it still feels "tight" just give it another minute or two. Really that's all there is to it. Your dough can now be chucked back in the bowl with a tiny bit of oil rubbed on the surface, and left for about an hour or so in a warm place (I pop mine next to the heater, or next to the stove if I have the oven on) to double in size. This is called proving. I have made this in the morning while getting ready for work (honestly, it took all of 10 mins while I ate my toast) and then put it in the fridge, which slows down the proving time. When I got home I just left it on the bench for about 30 mins while I took makeup off, got changed blah blah, and it was good to go. Heat your oven to about 200 C, and place an oven tray in to heat also.
To make the topping simply thinly slice some waxy potato's (I use Red Desiree, Jersey Benne would be perfect also) and put in a saucepan of water with some salt. Bring to the boil, and boil for 1 minute, then drain, and slosh through some good olive oil. I use the peppery fancy stuff here, as I want plenty of flavour. A good grind of black pepper, an srpinkle of sea salt and some more chopped rosemary or chive and you are done. Take your dough out of the bowl and on your bench which has a sprinkle of flour, knead it again for about 30 seconds. Now you can roll it out to one big pizza or several smaller ones. I use a rolling pin, but an unopened bottle of wine would also work? I like quite a thin base, but it is up to you how you like it......

Take your hot tray out of the oven and slap the pizza dough on top. No oil or anything is needed on the tray. Tip your potato onto the dough and spread out so it is one thin layer. Sprinkle over a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The Kapati one is nice if you don't want to spend a fortune on the Italian stuff. I also used mozzarella last night because I had been given some, but it is fine without. Put the tray back in the oven, and in about 15-20 mins you will have a fabulous supper. I like to sprinkle a little more olive oil after it comes out, and some parma ham is also lovely, as is some fresh rocket. But the plain version is just me.

Monday, May 10

Happy birthday to me me me.....

What a busy time at PK HQ! I celebrated a thirty-something birthday last week, and I must say my haul of goodies has been pretty impressive, very spoilt. I have posted pic's of some of my gifts, as you can see I have a slightly retro bent. I had to leave my old/new to me coffee table at Mum and Dad's as it would not fit in the car, a mid-century Scandi beauty (with just a slight dent in the veneer suffered in transportation, Dette very carefully saved the bits so I can glue them back on!) will post a picture as soon as I take possession. How very grown up to have a coffee table.....

The tea cup set is particularly pretty, and I will be using that for my mid-morning beverage, I also scored a tin of homemade Anzac bikkies from my sister Liz, which I have ekked out as long as possible. Things like that always taste better when made by someone else. The orange casserole is just crying out for an old skool stew, I thought maybe Lancashire Hotpot?
I also have a new cushion for my gounge (girl lounge) which my clever clogs sister Dette made from a vintage tea towel, and a new haul of cookbooks, which will also necessitate a new bookcase, the other two are fill to bursting already. Jamie Oliver America, and Jamie Does... along with Al Brown's fabulous Fish (I don't cook nearly enough....), and in the post as we speak, River Cottage Everyday, Rotis by St├ęphane Reynaud ( I lugged his fascinating and funny Ripailles all the way back from Bath, England in my luggage, my suitcase carrier was less than impressed...) and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the one and only Ms Child. These I will be poring over in my window seat  while cosy in my new sheepskin slippers (my in laws live in Taupo and understand cold.....), ok, not the most rock and roll existence, but I like it.....

I cooked up pork two ways this weekend, firstly rubbed ribs with BBQ sauce from Jamie's American book, with cornbread and tooth achingly sweet Pecan pie. USA on a plate, it was good.

Then on Sunday I roasted Pork Belly, also very delish. This method came by way of our friend Andy in London, he got it from River Cottage Everyday, and kindly emailed me instructions, very helpful! I got the meat from my butcher, who trimmed the flesh and scored the skin. This is one of the many good reasons to use a butcher, they do fiddly jobs in seconds I would take ages to finish...and probably cut myself in the process. I then rubbed the meat all over with a bit of olive oil, and some peppercorns and coriander seeds I crushed in a mortar and pestle. I then rubbed in some sea salt, and bunged the whole lot in a 220C oven for 30 mins. Turn the heat down to 180C and cook another 1.5 hours. I also poured about a cup of apple juice into then tin, so the meat stayed really moist. The skin was not crispy enough for me after the 2 hours cooking, so I simply left the dish in the oven and turned the grill on, it was crisp and bubbly in no time. It is pork skin, along with bacon, that will forever prevent me joining the ranks of vegetarians, its simply a sacrifice I cant make...........our pork and bacon is Freedom Farms, that's about as noble as I can get on this one I'm afraid........
I served this with my new BFF vege, Celeriac. One of the ugliest vege to grace your table, I will post a pic next time I buy some so you know what to look for. It is a member of the celery family, but is a root, with a texture more like kumara or turnip, and an intriguing smell, celery but not, if you know what I mean......?

Anyway, for Potato and Celeraic Bake peel and slice a celeriac, then plunge it straight into water with lemon juice squeezed into it. Unlike yours truly, celeriac goes brown at the drop of a hat. Slice about 5 large agria potatoes thinly, then placed these in alternating layers with the dried off celeriac slices, seasoning as you go. Pour two 300ml bottles (yes, two!) of cream into a saucepan and heat with a couple of bay leaves, some peppercorns and a peeled whole clove of garlic.Strain the flavoured cream over the spud mix, cover it with foil and popped  into the oven with the pork when you turn the temp to 180C. I put it at the bottom of the oven so the temp would actually have been more like 160C, this kind of dish benefits from low slow cooking. The resulting creamy potato celeriac mix is comfort food par excellence, with the tender pork, crisp crackle , some applesauce and a green salad with a really tangy vinaigrette (you need something to cut the richness of everything else), well, if that does not say "I love you Mum and I am sorry what this is doing to your cholesterol, make sure you hit the All Bran tomorrow", I don't know what does?

Monday, May 3

Can you keep a secret?

After an unsuccessful attempt to find any underground restaurants here in Auckland, I am doing what any sensible girl would do and starting one of my own. It could be there are loads already operating, I am just too tragically uncool to know about them, but ignorance is bliss, and I will maintain Plum Supperclub is the original.....ha!

This has come about for a couple of reasons, I have eaten at some great restaurants , but also some pretty poor ones, and in these straightened times, forking over wods of dosh for something I know I could do better myself, in one instance while sitting on the worlds most uncomfortable chair, in a freezing draft ...well, lets just say it's irritating.
On a more philosophical note (and hopefully without sounding too far up my own backside) I believe in food and community. I am lucky to have a big family who often eat together, and I really think it is so good for the soul as well as the stomach to sit down with others & break bread. I also realize for a variety of reasons , be it time pressures, an inability to cook, or simply the fact they live alone, people don't sit down at the table and share a meal as often anymore. So that's where I come in, you can have a lovely meal, and conversation, and maybe meet some new people at my place....and I wash up:)
So, to the details:
A suggested donation of $50 (to cover my costs) gets you a cocktail, delicious three course meal (with vege option) and coffee or tea. I cant tell you exactly what you will get to eat, but I will probably never cook tripe. Unless you ask me to.
BYO vino.
You will sit with other interesting folk at communal tables (so feel free to come along on your ownsome), in a lovely dining room in Auckland (you will find out where after you book, mysterious non?)), and if you’re lucky you may even get seconds. No one will brush crumbs off the table, or comment on your choice of wine, but you can come and say hi to the chef (moi!), and marvel at my cookbook collection.....

First evening is Saturday 22th May, at 7pm, please email if you are interested in attending. Numbers are limited to 12 (that’s how many chairs and plates I can rustle up)

If you have never heard of underground restaurants (aka supperclubs or pop ups), please read about the Underground Restaurant of the fabulous Ms MarmiteLover in London, this is where I would want to eat if I were visiting …….

Plum xx