Sunday, July 24

Oaxacan Pizza......and tractor films

Before I begin Mr PK would like it noted he is putting the washing out while I post on my blog. He will then clean the cat litter tray, and the trap in the shower. Your a marvel darling, noted.
Now onto much more exciting things , a Mexican pizza. From Oaxaca to be precise. That's pronounced Wha-ha-ka. you may well already know this, I didn't the first time I saw it...apparently in Oaxaca these are a night time street snack called Tlayudas, that's clae-yoo-das..........I think I'll stick with pizza.

These are truly fantastic, cheap, quick and delicious. I had two flat bread left over from Burritos the other night, and various bits & bobs in the fridge. With not too much effort they produced a great Saturday night dinner, with a bottle of this new NZ ginger beer

The inspiration for this came from one of my favourite cookbooks, Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasina Miers. Her version uses chicken, guacamole and rocket. Instead I have used grilled fennel, mushrooms, chopped avocado & grilled prawns. As you will see this is a very flexible dish, go with what you like, and more importantly, have on hand.......

Oaxacan Pizzas ( from Mexican Food Made Simple by Thomasine Miers)

I bag/bunch of normal or baby spinach
Knob of butter/splash of oil
Salt & black pepper
2 flat bread (I use fresh ones from my local Mexican, but any flatbread would be fine)
1 fennel bulb, sliced
Handful of Mushrooms
4 spring onions
1 avocado, peeled, chopped into chunks & splashed with lemon/lime juice
Handful of grated cheese (Mozzarella would be lovely, but anything that melts would be fine)
6 kings prawns (or you could use leftover cooked chicken)
Handful of semi dried tomatoes (in summer I would use fresh chopped tomato)
Handful of chopped coriander & parsley

Wash the spinach & shake off in a colander. Heat a medium frypan and add a the butter or oil. Add your spinach, and let it wilt for a couple of minutes. Take out and put back into the colander to cool off, then grab a handful of squeeze out the liquid (spinach has a lot of water!) . Put into a bowl & season with salt & pepper.

Using a griddle pan or the same frying pan, heat up again over a medium heat, then brush the vegetables roughly with oil, and griddle or fry your fennel, spring onions & mushrooms until charred & tender.

Sprinkle your prawns with salt & pepper, or use this spice mix recipe, I like to have in a jar in the pantry. You could also use a shop brought spice mix of course. Chuck your prawns onto the griddle pan/frying pan and cook for a minute or two until charred and pink. Take out and pop onto a plate.

To assemble your pizza use a medium sized frying pan (you can use the same pan for everything in the recipe, just give it a wipe with paper towel before your cook your flatbread) and pop your flatbread into it.
A sprinkle of water helps the flat bread heat up. When it is browned on the bottom, flip over & sprinkle with half your cheese. After a minute or two the cheese will start to melt, top with half of your spinach, then lay half of your grilled vegetables on top. Sprinkle over the chopped avocado, 3 of your prawns, some semi-dried tomatoes and a sprinkle of herbs.

Allow to heat for a minute of two, then fold one half over onto the other and slide onto a plate. Slice and serve with a ginger beer, chilli beer, beer beer............whatever.

There are lots of variations to this, if you don't have spring onions, some red onion finely sliced and doused in lime juice would be ideal. If you wanted to make this vegetarian simply omit the prawns and use a salty feta sprinkled over just before you fold. Griddled fish or Chorizo would also be fantastic. For an extra kick some chopped chilli sprinkled on just before serving is great too.........

My nephew is making this for his cooking night this week, if he can make it anyone can.......:)

Tractor films? About six years ago Mr PK and I went to see a movie at the film festival, I cant recall the name, but it was a Finnish film about a paraplegic who is travelling to the firm who made the tractors involved in his accident. I wont say it was terrible, ............well actually yes I will say that, what a dog.
The lead character was thoroughly unlikeable, the subtitles were in white, which on a snowy background is near impossible to read, and it went on.............and on.
Obviously there were Finnish people in the audience, they laughed away like drains while we struggled to decipher the make matters even worse the Springboks were playing the All Blacks that night, needless to say Mr PK was not impressed. So whenever we see a dodge film, it's a tractor movie. Luckily we have avoided any at this years festival, instead we have so far enjoyed.........

Very funny, 80's Wales never looked so bleak. Cringe in parts, but a clever script, and great casting. Noah Taylor rocking the Jewish carpenter look, yikes........tractor recommends 7.5/10

Taxi Driver
I had not seen this before, so it was a treat to see it on the big screen. Robert De Niro is hotter than ever, the soundtrack is pure 70's funk, and it wasn't nearly as violent as I imagined. Cybil Shepherd, now I get what all the fuss was about, she is luminous in this film. Gritty is such a cliche, I'll get back to you when I have something better.........tractor recommends 7/10

Mysterious of Lisbon
At nearly five hours this would be the longest movie I have ever seen, but I think it is worth the length. The story is captivating, it looks beautiful, and has the time to fill in all the gaps. Just a shame the Civic, while a beautiful theatre, is a bit of a trial for a 6 foot 3 inch husband.....for this it loses a point Tractor recommends 6/10

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
I love documentaries, especially low key ones like this, Jiro has been making sushi for 75 years (the best in Japan according to many), in his 10 seat restaurant in the Ginza subway station, and his passion is captivating. Also an interesting look at father son relationships in Japanese culture. Tractor recommendation 8/10

The Trip
I laughed my head off, witty, funny, the impressions for both leads are beyond clever, see this film! Just a shame I saw the 9.15pm show, again at the Civic, again a bit cramped. Tractor recommends 8.5/10

Still a few more to see this week, plus of course Happy Potter, am I the only person who has not seen it yet??? Any one else been along to the film fest, let me know if you can recommend any more films......?

Tuesday, July 19

Chorizo and lentil salad, now that is lunch......

I dont win things very often (hardly ever actually) so when I had a lovely tweet from Sabato telling me I has won a bottle of their delish Mas Portell Merlot Vinegar I said oh yes please. This recipe is inspired by my trip on Saturday to pick up my prize. As the Minister of Finance predicted I did come away having spent some dosh, but in my defence I defy anyone to wander that showroom & not haul the wallet out.......I was actually pretty restrained.......really. Really.

I attended a cooking demo at Sabato a few weeks ago, tapas & cazuela cooking, during which this vinegar was sloshed over some frizzled chorizo. It was completely moreish, and got me thinking how I could incorporate this into something more substantial. While I COULD eat my body weight in chorizo I do realise it probably isn't the lunch of champions. So in came lentils, providing a nutty substance to the hot spicy sausage. Lentils are a great foil to fatty meat, they pick up other flavours and provide a gentle background taste of their own.
Adding some crunch with nuts seemed a good plan, especially as I cant think od Spain without thinking of Almonds (I'll elaborate later....) The dressing is super easy, and uses another Spanish ingredient, Membrillo, or Quince Paste. I love this stuff, we eat a lot of cheese (I don't really have a sweet tooth, but love some cheese at the end of a meal) and this is a gorgeous accompaniment. I should have made some during Quince season (I made Quince and Apple sauce instead....) but the brought stuff is great, and lasts for yonks in the fridge. Anything sweet with a hit of tartness would work of course, redcurrant jelly, guava jelly, fig paste,  even a tangy marmalade? It is melted in the pan you cook the chorizo in, with your red wine vinegar, mustard and some water, simple but tasty.....

Chorizo & lentil salad with membrillo vinaigrette

Serves 2 with enough for lunch the next day (this is a TOP packed lunch)

100 grams lentils (Puy lentils would be great here, or I use these Montebello lentils from Italy)
1 clove of garlic, peeled
3 spicy chorizo sausages ( I love L'Authentiquie Chorizo, nice & spicy)
Handful of Almonds ( preferably raw to toast them yourself, but don't stress if they are already toasted)
One red pepper (capsicum)
1/2 red onion
Parsley (or rocket if you prefer)
Salt & pepper


Splash olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (obviously I can recommend the Mas Portell, but use what you have)
2 tbsp water
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp Quince paste (or alternative, see above)

Bring a medium sized saucepan of water to the boil, and add your lentils and garlic. Set the timer for 25 minutes.
Turn the grill to high, and put your pepper, sliced into four pieces and cored, onto a tray. I cover mine with foil, to save washing up. Pop under the grill and burn baby burn. You want black charred bits, so be brave.

When you have reached a sufficiently worrying burntness, take out and pop straight into a plastic bag, sealing the top. The peppers will steam, and the skin will peel off easily after a few minutes.

Sice your onion into thin crescents, and pop in a small bowl. Splash over a tbsp of the red wine vinegar. This will take the acrid taste out of the onion, and make it much more palatable to eat raw. I always do this with raw onion, sometimes using lemon, or lime, anything acid will do the trick. Your friends will thank you....

In a small frying pan toast your almonds. This is done over a medium heat, in a dry pan. Just keep your eye on them, they will burn in a heartbeat. Mine took about 4-5 minutes, when they are done tip into a small bowl, so you can reuse the pan

Pop you pan back on the heat, and add a splash of oil. Chop your chorizo into small chunks, or if you prefer, squeeze out small nuggets of meat from the casing. Add to the pan, and fry for 5-8 minutes until cooked and starting to crisp up. Pop onto a warm plate and get on with your dressing!

Into the same pan add a splash of oil, your water, vinegar, quince paste and mustard. Whisk together and bring to the boil. You will think oh my goodness what a mess, but trust me, it will come together.

Once your peppers have had 10 minutes or so, take them out of the bag & peel the skin off, it will come away easily. Slice into strips, and douse with Olive oil, salt & pepper

Now drain off your lentils, and add your dressing, onions, nuts, and some of the parsley leaves. I use the parsley more as a salad leaf than a herb in this, if you prefer rocket would be great, or mixed leaves. Spoon out onto a plate and top with your peppers, and chorizo. Check the seasoning, and sprinkle over more parsley. Tuck in and enjoy

I have probably made this sound far more complicated than necessary, but I do urge you to try it, even non lentil fans would be convinced. A great vegetarian version would use helloumi cheese and a chopped chili, salty & hot, yummo........

I spent a lot of time in Spain when Mr PK & I lived in London, mainly in Sedella  with my great friend Tiffany & her mum Estelle & much missed step father Dave. Isn't it beautiful?

They grow lots of beautiful produce in the area, including Olives and Almonds. On our very first trip to Sedella, lacking even basic Spanish and flying solo, we stayed in Estelle and Dave's little house, down a narrow lane near the square. We had been invited by Tiff's friend Jose to his parents for lunch after church on Sunday (this is Victoria's tortilla here) so I didn't have any breakfast.
Leaving the house we were waylayed by Antonio Almonds (most males in the village are called Antonio or Paco, so they get extra identifiers....) who had vast bags of nuts in his front room. He spoke no English, so we did lots of smiling while he insisted on pouring a glass of Village wine (at 10am!). Unfortunately some of gesticulating indicated the grapes had been crushed by his very own feet. If this ever happens to you can I offer a kernel of advice?
Don't look at the feet!!!!!!!!

A little disclaimer.....
I am happy to recommend the vinegar as despite winning it, I had already actually brought a bottle myself (before you say greedy trollop I am giving my extra bottle to my sister!) after tasting it,  so I feel happy to recommend. But as a rule I never mention/recommend a product I have not purchased and used myself. :)

Monday, July 11

Backyard marmalade, and a backyard........

What does a girl do when she has not just lemons, but oranges and grapefruit as well? Add a truck load of sugar, boil for several hours and make marmalade of course. Not mean thin sliced marmalade, but chunky, thick tangy don't mess with my toast Marmalade. Easy peasy and also makes a lovely gift (how pretty does it look in the jar?)
I was watching Barefoot Contessa months ago and jotted down in my notebook an Orange Marmalade recipe which looked incredibly easy. I have a plethora of notebooks, I love stationery and have a memory like a sieve, I don't feel comfortable unless I have the means to note down anything important I know I will forget in minutes. I came across one such notebook the other day, after Mr PK's sister had dropped off some very tart oranges from her tree. The original recipe used four oranges & two lemons, but I only had one lemon and a grapefruit, so that's what I used. It is a great mix, perfect for someone like me who cant make up her mind about anything.......

Backyard Marmalade (adapted from Barefoot Contessa )

4 Oranges (the best come from someone s;es back garden....)
1 large grapefruit
1 large lemon
8 cups water
8 cups of sugar (yes its a lot, but you are not eating cups of marmalade a day....are you?)
Splash of Whisky (optional!)

Wash your fruit, then dry and slice the unpeeled fruit thinly with a knife. Throw everything, including any juice you can into a large saucepan. I take the pips out as too many can make your marmalade very bitter, a little bitterness is essential, but the pith of your fruit will provide that. Add the water, and bring to the boil, then take off the heat & stir in the sugar. Cover & leave overnight just sitting on the bench doing nothing special. Next day, bring back to the boil and simmer for 2 hours.

I used the frozen saucer test to figure out when it was set, but afterwards I discovered a note on the next page telling me the jam is done when it is at 220C. So if you have a jam thermometer use it, or pop a small saucer in your freezer for a few minutes, the drop a teaspoon or so of your boiling jam mixture onto it. The marmalade will cool very quickly, if it is still very runny you are not at setting point, but if you pull your finger through it & get a very definite gap you are getting there. I don't know how set you like your jam, but citrus fruit contains loads of pectin, the stuff that makes jam "jammy" so you are in no danger of a strawberry jam no set tragedy. At this stage add a splash of Whisky if you fancy.......
Pour into sterilised jars (wash in hot water or the dishwasher, then dry off & pop into a 110C oven for 10 minutes, viola, sterilised jars) and bask in your fabulousness, with tea & marmalade toast. If your neighbours coughed up the fruit, its nice to turn up on the doorstep with a jar to say thanks, this recipe makes 7-8 jars, so you will have enough to share........
For a couple more ways to enjoy marmalade see Alli's lovely blog  Pease Pudding (and here) , the muesli bars are great for morning tea!

It is only about six months late, but I thought I would show you the state of or front garden, from hole to patio. Once the pizza oven arrives in October (it appears to have been shipped from Outer Mongolia via Mars and a leisurely detour through Timbuktu...) it will be a great spot to cook/smoke up a storm.......or lay on my sun lounger & read cookbooks?

Mr PK isn't the worlds most enthusiastic lawn mower...but the neither am I....

Yes, it does look a bit bare, and no I haven't stained the furniture....I think I did buy some stain last summer......

Sorry, another gratuitous kitten shot.........Tuppence, Cat of Action (it was probably dinner time...)
I also wanted to show you the fab Karen Walker necklace Mum & my sisters gave me for my birthday. Ok, possibly I am not the worlds most reliable gardener, but do you think they are trying to tell me something?

Before I sign off, do go & check out, this is my incredibly talented sister Bernadette's new website. Pretty much anything cool I own she found (the woman is a magpie, a magpie with excellent taste might I add) and if I can cook a bit, she can sew, craft, create & generally make gorgeous a fact if she wasn't my sister I might be horribly jealous & deeply scarred. But she is also the woman that inflicted her tuna chilli on the world , so I figure we're good................:)

Wednesday, July 6

A new winter coleslaw, you will never go back....

Big call I know, but this is seriously moreish. Mum wanted some to take home but a few sad scraps of cabbage was all that was left, and it was a big bowl of slaw......
Thanks again to the wonderful Yotam Ottolenghi & his glorious Plenty, if you don't yet own this cookbook can I suggest you immediately purchase? In the meantime keep yourself going with this little gem. Macadamias are caramelised with chilli & salt, then crushed & sprinkled through a crunchy mix of cabbage , herbs, chilli & fresh orange, dressed with a sweet salty vaguely oriental dressing. Tempted? Actually I used cashews in the picture as the macadamias I had were from my friends tree. Short of a jackhammer I am not sure how I was supposed to get to the nut, how hard are those shells???

Handful of macadamias
1 tsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chilli flakes
¼ savoy cabbage finely sliced
¼ red cabbage finely sliced
1 orange, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
Honey roasted cashews (or peanuts), chopped
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of coriander


50 ml lime juice
½ stalk lemongrass, bashed to bruise
2 tbsp maple syrup (use the real thing here)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
½ tsp soy sauce
Pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp light oil, eg sunflower, canola

To make the dressing put all the ingredients except the oil in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Boil for approx 5 minutes until thick & syrupy, then strain. When cooled a little beat in the oil and set aside

Lightly toast the macadamias (or other nuts) over a medium heat until lightly coloured. Stir in the butter and allow to melt. Sprinkle over the sugar, salt & chilli flakes and cook for approx 1-2 minutes until caramelised. Watch it as it will burn in seconds! Turn onto greaseproof paper & allow to cool, then roughly chop.

To make the slaw combine the cabbages, orange, chilli, nuts & herbs and toss to combine. Dress and toss again, then check the seasoning. Sprinkle over the macadamias just before serving.

If you don't want to make the caramelised nuts you could also use honey roasted peanuts or cashews chopped for a similar crunchy bite. But I do urge you to try the original at least once, it really is amazing. I served my slaw with snapper fillets wrapped in prosciutto & quickly pan fried. It is also great with a simple roast chicken.

Ok, I havent posted a gratuitous kitten picture in a while, so please enjoy Tommy & Tupppence reclining. I like to remind myself how cute they are asleep. As opposed to dawn raids on the bench, terror attacks on the dishwasher & generalized assaults on innocent shoelaces at any time.....nothing is safe!

I hope you are having a great week, remember to relax & have a snooze now and again.........