Thursday, February 17

Green bean and pea salad with feta...

After the pastry fest that was my sausage rolls, I thought some lighter fare was in order. A salad chock full of lovely crisp beans, peas, sweet tomato, zippy mustard and a final flourish of feta and bacon? Don't say I don't look after you......

This started life as a recipe form Ottolenghi's Plenty, but to be honest I have never actually eaten his version. My sister Lizzie made a variation of it for a BBQ dinner last week, and I liked it so much I wanted to recreate it at home, as a main meal salad rather than a side dish. I realised I was missing a few ingredients , and adding a whole lot more, so it is more a homage to the original. Anyway it is delish.

Green Bean and Pea salad with Feta

( inspired by the Green bean salad with mustard seeds and tarragon from Plenty)

Serves 2 generously

125gr french beans, top and tailed (that's about a large handful)
1/2 cup peas- I used frozen, but fresh would be lovely
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed or use ground coriander
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (or use spring onion)
1/2 fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
zest of a lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
Handful of lettuce, buttercrunch is nice here
salt and fresh ground black pepper
Feta cheese
4 rashers of streaky bacon, fried or grilled until crisp (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil, add a dash of salt, and throw in your beans. Boil for 3 minutes, then take out of the water and put in a bowl of cold water that has a few ice cubes floating in it. After a minute or so, put the beans on a paper towel to dry off. This might seem a faff, but it takes the raw edge off your veges, while leaving a nice crunch for your salad.. Repeat the process with the peas, but they only need about 40 seconds.

In a small bowl put your chopped onion, mustard, chilli and garlic. Heat your olive oil in a small frying pan, and add your coriander seeds or ground coriander. Sizzle for a few seconds then pour over the onion mix and stir through. That's your cooking done.

Put your drained peas and beans in a salad bowl, and toss with the onion mixture. Add the tomatoes, lemon zest, and lettuce and season with salt & pepper to taste. Divide your salad between two pretty plates and crumble over your feta cheese and bacon if using.

This is seriously good, satisfying without being too heavy, and full of different flavours. The mustard and chilli give heat, while the pea is sweet, and the beans have great texture. I also thought it would be great with grilled fresh scallops, in which case I would keep the bacon (I love pork and shellfish together) but lose the feta cheese.
You could also lose the bacon and feta altogether and serve with some lovely little grilled lamb cutlets, in which case I would add some fragrant mint leaves to the salad..........have I convinced you to give it a go?

Ok, now for a tiny brag...........I was very excited this month to have Plum Kitchen mentioned on the Web Mistress page of the latest Next magazine. Look out for it, Maggie Barry is on this month's cover. Also make sure you check out the other lovely NZ food blogs mentioned,

I am in rather good company indeed. You can also see a version of the article at Lindsey Out Loud, Lindsey Dawson's blog. Have a read!

Monday, February 14

Democracy is a sausage roll...........

They may be not be fashionable, they certainly are not fancy. But put a plate of sausage rolls on the table at a "do", and watch them disappear faster than you can say "porky pastry goodness".

They transcend class, style and social barriers. Do you know anyone who wont eat a really good one? Ok, excepting vegetarians.  They are impossible to eat without covering your front in a fine coating of pastry flakes, but who really cares? If you don't want pastry on your carpet, don't serve sausage rolls. Or worse, serve them cold. A cold sausage roll is an abomination. Pastry that is meant to flake must flake, not sit pallid , cold and lifeless on a tray.
While I am well aware you can buy sausage rolls frozen at the supermarket, these taste better, are better for you, and take no time to whip up. And of course you can use frozen puff pastry, I'm not a masochist.

Homemade sausage rolls

This recipe makes about 30 small rolls

6 good butcher's plain pork sausages
1 small onion, peeled and very finely chopped
1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs (straight from the freezer is fine)
1 egg
Handful of chopped parsley, (can also add chives or a little sage if you have some)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp salt
Good grind of black pepper
4 sheets ready rolled puff pastry (try and get one that is made with butter), defrosted

Preheat the oven to 210C
Take a sharp knife and cut a slit in the sausage skin, then peel it off. Sounds grim I know, but is surprisingly quick and easy

Put the sausage meat into a large bowl, and add the remaining ingredients. I find it easiest to mix everything together with clean hands, it should be really well combined, so each mouthful combines all the flavours you have added.

Now place a sheet of pastry on a dry flat surface and again using your hands, place a line of filling down each side of the pastry. Don't overfill, you are making finger food, not lunch. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, put a line of milk down the edge of the pastry, then fold each side into the middle, to create two rows of sausage roll.

Cut a line down the centre to separate, then using a fork press the edges of each roll together to seal. You can then cut them into smaller individual rolls. I like to make five per half, each about 3-4 cm wide.

Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, and brush with milk. I like to sprinkle some sesame seeds on also, but that is entirely optional. Bake for about 15-20 mins until the pastry of puffy and golden and the filling cooked through. You can eat as is, or cool, refrigerate and then reheat for your party, they come to no harm. But promise me you will reheat? Remember the flake factor, you want to hear those rolls talk.......

A few other tips/pointers/bossy exclamations...

Don't serve these straight from the oven, give them at least five minutes on the bench before serving. Watching someone choke on a scalding piece of meaty pastry and burning all the skin off the roof of their mouth isn't very nice, and you only have yourself to blame if they have to spit it onto the Axeminster.

Tomato sauce is the classic accompaniment. Some folk go fancy with sweet chili and the like, but I would stick to tomato. Homemade for preference.........

You may think my rolls are a bit on the small side, but they are supposed to be finger food. A couple of bites, max. I don't understand why shops and cafes insist on serving giant sausage rolls. If you want something that big, get a pie and call it lunch.

Ok, I will stop dictating now. But do try these next time you have catering to do. Maybe no one will say how fabulously trendy they are, but I doubt you will have leftovers......

Sunday, February 6

Be my Madeleine...

I don't usually advocate recipes that require very specialized equipment. Most of us don't have enough storage as it is, never mind filling it up with a plethora of seldom used gizmo's. But of course rules are made to be broken, and when my sister (vintage magpie!) gave me a lovely old french madeleine tin for Christmas I was rather pleased.

These lovely little cakes were made most famous by the French writer Proust. In his novel "In Search of Lost Time" the narrator refers to them in a passage about involuntary memory. On tasting a madeleine he is instantly transported back to his Aunt's bedside, where as a child he tasted the little cake dipped in her tea.
I cant honestly say they hold any such associations for me, mine was a childhood of lamingtons, pavlova and mellowpuffs, but I think the idea is entirely valid. Whenever I make the spiced fruit biscuits Mum used to make for our school lunches I am right back sitting on a bench at playlunch, throw a mince pie into the mix and it really is school days all over again......
Essentially these are a very delicate tender sponge cooked in tins shaped like a shell. I made this recipe up as I had great limes to use and wanted a slightly tropical flavour. I would like to try a version using coconut also, maybe in place of the ground almond. The nuts add a moistness, but can be left out if you cant/wont eat nuts.
Madeleine's don't keep well, so I would not suggest these as a tin filler, but for a special treat, maybe afternoon tea, or with coffee after a meal they are just right. And very easy to make, using no special equipment other than your lovely tins.

Lime Vanilla Madeleine

This recipe makes 24 little cakes

2 eggs
1/3 cup of sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste (or use vanilla sugar and omit the paste)
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tbsp ground almonds (optional, use an extra tbsp flour if you don't have almonds)
1 tsp baking powder
Grated zest of a lime
95 grams melted butter

Preheat the oven to 180C
Beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale. Add the vanilla paste if using and beat again.
Sift in the flour and baking powder, the add the almonds and lime zest (they wont go through the sieve) and fold the mixture together gently. I have come across a few recipes that say beat in the flour but I think this gives you tough cakes and funny peaks when they are cooked.
Add the melted butter and fold in. Spoon about a dessertspoon  of the mixture into your tins, which you have first buttered and floured. I just use a pastry brush dipped in the melted butter and brushed all over the tins. Then using a tea strainer or a teaspoon sprinkle over some flour and shake the excess out over the sink. This stops the cakes sticking.

Cook for 7-10 minutes until the cakes are coloured but not too dark. They will start to pull away ever so slightly from the tins. Leave to cool for a few minutes before using a little knife to gently loosen the edges, before you lift the madeleine's out. You will think they have stuck, but don't stress, they will peel off the tin.

The sponge is beautifully tender, and the delicate shell pattern is really pretty. Not flashy like a cupcake, but understated and not overly sweet. The lime flavour comes through against the vanilla, and the ground almond gives a moistness also. I ate four with a cup of tea, bliss.......

You can buy madeleine tins at kitchenware shops, but do keep a lookout in vintage shops , online auctions and Hospice and Salvation Army shops. Both of these organisations do amazing work in New Zealand, and by shopping at their shops you are supporting that work. I have had recent personal experience of the help Hospice can be at a difficult time, and they deserve every cent that comes their way. 
So take along unwanted items, old clothing, books, housewares etc. You get some extra space, and someone else ultimately benefits. I recently sent along about a hundred food magazines from the last few years. Mind you Mr PK's language was not very charitable when he tried to lift the box into the car.........
Check out this guide to vintage shops in Auckland

Tuesday, February 1

Tomato sauce, yes please.........

Before I start my ramble, I just want to say how touched I was by your kind comments after the loss of my Dad, what a lovely bunch you are, I was very moved, thanks so much:)

Now on with the show.....

When life throws you lemons apparently you should make lemonade. Life is throwing me tomatoes, so the obvious solution? Good old fashioned tomato sauce. By sauce I mean ketchup style, as opposed to something you might put onto spaghetti or pizza. I don't know why I suddenly have a craving to make this, I never have before, and Mum certainly raised a wry smile when I asked for some of her massive tomato crop.

Mum made her own tomato sauce when we were growing up. Dad always seem to think we were on the cusp of a world shortage, and grew Beefsteak like it was the last vege on earth. Waste was just not acceptable, so like most woman of her generation she preserved, bottled and stored the excess. Except for beans, they were just force feed to five children until we begged for clemency.........I think she finds it funny that what was done then out of necessity is suddenly so cool.
Old malt vinegar bottles (they were glass back then) filled to the brim with red lined the kitchen shelves, next to bottled golden queen peaches and christmas plums. I would come home whining from my friends house's complaining about having to have homemade, I wanted bought sauce, Watties if you please....or even Heinz at a push.
It was yet another indignity to be borne, along with getting dropped off at school in the huge old blue Falcon (my younger sister has cerebral palsy so could not walk, we would both beg Mum to park around the corner pleeeeeese!) and having to check Dad's Western books out of the library when I picked up my Moosewood cookbook and Sweet Valley Highs......oh the shame) It's amazing I'm fairly normal.......

This recipe comes courtesy of Sally Cameron, from NZ Gardener Homegrown series, the Tomato edition. It uses plenty of tomatoes, and isnt to difficult to make.....

Sally's Tomato Sauce

3 kg firm ripe tomatoes (I used a mix of cherry, Black Krim, Roma and Beefsteak)
2 onions, peeled
5 medium apples
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp salt
750 gr brown sugar
Pinch cayenne
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole allspice
2.5 cm fresh ginger root, peeled
1 tsp black peppercorns

Roughly chop the tomatoes, apples and onions and place in a large pot. I didn't bother peeling the apples. Bring to the boil and simmer for approx 30 minutes until the fruit is soft and pulpy. The original recipe say to push the mix through a sieve, but I used Mum's mouli, which was really easy and produced a great result. It is also what she used, and I thought you might like to admire that fab orange, yeoww!

Return the mixture to the saucepan and add the vinegar, salt, sugar, cayenne and lemon juice. Tie the peppercorns, cloves and allspice in a piece of muslin (or a clean hankie if you don't have muslin) and throw into the pot also. Stir gently while everything comes to the boil, then leave to simmer gently for about 1 1/4 hours.

I suspect I could have left mine a bit longer to make a slightly thicker sauce but it will depend on how much liquid was in your fruit. It will still taste amazing so don't stress. Take your bag/hankie out and pour into sterilised bottles or jars. I run mine through the dishwasher, but you can also let them sit for 10 minutes in a 110C oven. Either way make sure they are warm before you add the hot sauce or there will be tears and shards of glass from A to B........

This makes enough to fill ten 350 ml bottles, which is quite a lot of fish and chips. Give a bottle to someone who has never had the real thing, it is quite a difference. If they are a child don't be surprised if they give it back, kids can be ingrates........