Saturday, August 20

Pumpkin & ginger cupcakes for Sweet New Zealand & a chilly afternoon......

Pumpkins are cheap as chips at the moment, but their really is only so much soup a girl can eat, even in this current freezing weather (snow in Auckland, can you believe it?). Here is another, altogether sweeter way to use this versatile vegetable. A perky moist orange cake, with the spice of ginger, and the warmth of cinnamon and nutmeg, slathered in cream cheese frosting. Even if, like me, you don't have a major sweet tooth, I think you will love these little cakes. I choose simple gold cases for my cupcakes, but Millys where I picked them up also have an amazing range of printed ones for every conceivable occasion. If you can get Halloween cases, these cupcakes would be perfect!

This is my contribution to Sweet New Zealand, a nifty new monthly blogging event, from Alessandra. At the end of the month she is going to summarise all the submissions, cant wait to see what everyone else has come up with

I have adapted the recipe ever so slightly from Cupcakes, by Elinor Klivans. I added nutmeg, and folded in the dry ingredients rather than beating as I think this gives a more tender cake. I have also used steamed mashed pumpkin as I cannot get tinned pumpkin puree, but if you have tinned at your store go right ahead.

Pumpkin & Ginger Cupcakes

Makes 12 regular cupcakes

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
100 gr unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup mashed pumpkin (this was 375gr raw peeled pumpkin steamed for 15 mins then mashed)
3 eggs
Handful crystallized ginger, chopped into fine bits

Preheat your oven to 175C (375F) and line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases of your choice

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger into a large mixing bowl.
In another bowl beat together your sugar, melted butter & pumpkin puree. You could use a Kitchen Aid or a held held beater, or even a wooden spoon, just give it a really good beat together. Beat in the eggs & crystallized ginger.
Gently fold in the flour mixture with a metal spoon, until no bits of white flour are showing. You want to make sure everything is mixed together, but no more, or your cakes will be a bit tough and rise with peaks in the middle.
Fill your cases with the mixture, to about 1/2 cm from the top. This is a pretty thick batter, so I use a large tablespoon to fill the cases. An ice cream scoop would also work.
Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden. Check with a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cake in the centre of the pan, it should not have any wet batter clinging to it, if it does cook for a few more minutes and check again.

Cool on a wire rack, and when cold top with the following topping.

Cream cheese icing

1 250gr tub normal cream cheese (not spreadable)
Approx 2 cups of icing sugar (I know, but it is icing, your not eating the whole bowl!)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the cream cheese in a bowl, and beat until it is smooth. Gradually add the icing sugar, a few spoons at a time. Try not to cover yourself & the kitchen with icing sugar by keeping the speed of the beater reasonably low. Keep incorporating the sugar until you have an icing that is thick and will hold its shape on top of a cupcake. Add the vanilla & beat in. You can use a piping bag with a nozzle or simply a knife to slather on as much as you dare, it is pretty rich......

I decorated with little pieces of more crystallized ginger, but really wanted to make little mini pumpkins with would take hours and no doubt end in tears so I eventually decided to stick with the ginger, you however may be much more creative than I......

My Mum brought these over from her garden the other day, I love looking at them & reminding myself Spring is just around the corner, I for one cant wait......

Lastly, I had to show you these fabulous earrings I picked up at Swonderful in Wellington last weekend, I always find some little treat there, pop in if you can, or check out their online goodies. These were a bargain, and the colour is great against dark hair. Kinda 50's don't you think?

Thursday, August 11

Hello Wellington......I'll stop talking long enough to eat

I've just spent a great weekend in Wellington with my friend Yummy Mummy. She was having a wee holiday from being mega-mum to two young kids, I was leaving Mr PK to have some quality time with Tommy & Tuppence......ok, any excuse for a trip to Wellington.
We have been friends since we were 5, but have never actually travelled together, so it was a bit of an adventure. Being friends with someone does not guarantee you can share a room, a lesson I learnt the hard way on one particularly fraught trip to New York. I was in charge of booking flights (thanks Grabaseat!) , YM booked the accommodation, and here is one secret to convivial travel, your own bathroom and hairdryer! We stayed at the Boulcott Suites, booked through wotif. It was fab, a bedroom/bathroom each, proper coffee and nice & central, what more could you need? A camera actually, I managed to leave mine at home, so all pics are from the iPhone....

Our home for the weekend.....

We did what friends do, talked, ate , talked, shopped, talked, drank, then talked & ate a bit more, bliss....and jaw ache

Ernesto was a great spot for brunch pre shopping. We both had the  Free-range eggs on  hash browns with  bacon and hollandaise (I know, but we both really wanted the same thing ok?) which was excellent ballast for the morning. Who can resist a crunchy hash brown, I mean really, who? It was also lovely to say hi to Laura over at Hungry & Frozen, who happened to also be at Ernesto ( I spent ages myopically trying to decide it was actually her, before crossing the room & potentially being shot down by someone else not called Laura wondering who the hell I was...)

Dinner at Floriditas was a treat, even if we did eat at 6.15 (people with kids do eat a little earlier....) I went for the Wellington on a Plate menu, which was great value, and delish, YM ordered a la carte.

My meal, from a small set menu selection was

Rocket & walnut pesto, smashed green olives & pea tendrils & parmesan linguine
Verdict: delish, the pesto was really flavoursome, the pea tendrils added a wonderful freshness, and the pasta was well cooked, my only teeny gripe, it could have been slightly hotter
Wine match Nga Waka Vineyards 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Char grilled aged black angus sirloin, cavelo nero & rosemary roast potatoes
Verdict: Tender well cooked beef, slightly chewy tasty cavelo nero & crunchy rosemary potatoes. Not reinventing the wheel, but a great meal.
Wine Nga Waka Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay (not the suggest match, that was a Pinot Noir, but once a Chard Hag, always a Chard Hag I'm afraid....)

No, this isn't my beef, but YM Chorizo Risotto balls, served with a white port (cue more giggles, we had already had a bubbly....)

Baked vanilla ricotta, caramel pears & gingerbread crumbs
Oh yummy, I don't normally go large on pudding, but this was delish, not to sweet or heavy, prefect after a rich meal....

Confession, we had already started eating when I remembered the camera....

I must confess I didn't get as many pictures as I planned, natural greed overcoming any pretensions to artistic photography (ie I was halfway through my beef before I remembered I forgot to take a pic....dang),so apologies for that.

The set menu with the two glasses of vino was $70, which I think represents great value. The other options, a Pork terrine, pork chop & chocolate mousse also looked fab, get along if you can & try it out:)

As usual I had a great time in Wellington, and would be back in a flash. Check out all the other great events going on for Wellington on a Plate and get along, I'm jealous!