Sunday, November 18

Call me a Jammy one then....

Apologies at once for the title, but Mr PK has assured me we really will win the lotto this week ( of course he may have said that once or twice before....). My aunt used to call anyone lucky "jammy" as in "he's a jammy bugger that one" or something similar. I have no idea why, or indeed why I have even brought it up, except that this recipe worked first time, so that probably qualifies as jammy....... Shall we progress on to a recipe then? I cant guarantee you any especial luck making this, but it tastes rather lovely.......

I made Strawberry Jam last year, this year I wanted something a bit less sweet. When a lovely work colleague suggest Strawberry & Rhubarb I figured we were onto a winner. This is the result, sweet but tangy yet with a definite hit of strawberry. The rhubarb mostly dissolves, but leaves a bit of texture and a hint of flavour.
I made a few jars for a table my friend was hosting at a craft market so needed to somehow decorate them fast. I finally found a use for the pinking shears I have had in my sewing box for years, trimming the edge of the linen jar covers..........naturally when I came to cut them out I couldn't actually find my pinking shears, what a wasted opportunity  No doubt they will turn up right when I dont need them........

Strawberry & Rhubarb Jam

makes 7 x 250ml jars

500 gr rhubarb
1 kg jam sugar (really useful when cooking low pectin fruit like strawberries & rhubarb)
1 kg strawberries
500 gr plain white sugar
150 ml lemon juice (about 4 lemons worth)
Small knob of butter

Wash & chop your rhubarb into chunks about one-two cm thick. Pop into a large preserving pan with 500 gr of the jam sugar and 80 mls of the lemon juice. Stir and leave to sit for about an hour. The juices will start to run out of the fruit and dissolve the jam.
While this is happening, trim your strawberries, and cut any large ones in half or into quarters (depends how chunky you like your jam really....)
When the rhubarb has sat for an hour or so, add the strawberries  remaining sugar and the rest of the lemon juice & stir everything together. Put the pan onto the cooker and heat gently over a low heat, until the fruit is warmed and juicy and the sugar has dissolved.

Now turn the heat to med-high and bring everything to a rolling boil. Using a large spoon skim off any foam that rises to the surface.  It will take 10-15 minutes, put a saucer into the freezer, and when you think the jam has had long enough put a teaspoonful onto your frozen saucer. It will rapidly cool the jam, and you will be able to see how set it is. If it is still very running keep boiling & re-test. If you can pull your finger through the puddle of cool jam and leave a gap where your finger has been, you are good to go. Add your knob of butter & stir, this will disperse any remaining foam in the pan

Take the jam off the heat and sit for a couple of minutes before bottling, this gives the fruit a chance to settle so it spreads evenly throughout the jar
Pot up into sterilised jar ( I find a jam funnel incredibly helpful for this bit),to sterilise  place clean jars & lids in a oven set at 120C for 10 minutes. 

Perfect as a wee Xmas treat for friends or collogues, it looks very festive and everyone loves a sweet treat. You could even whip a sponge to go with.....

I will leave you with some pics of my first hanging baskets, the woven baskets themselves are from Kings, filled with flowers under instruction from my Mother, she will make a gardener of me yet.....

Wednesday, September 12

Cook my Books Challenge- Frugal & Fabulous

Apparently it is spring. The calendar says so, but while I have seen my share of gambolling lambs (and who else but a cute little lamb chop could gambol??) and daffodils, until I enjoy that first plate of asparagus, it is still winter as far as I am concerned.

Watching the All Blacks play Argentina in a Wellington gale on the weekend, Mr PK and I enjoyed excellent cold weather footie watching food. A pasty is a perfect hand held dinner, sustaining, savoury, and if you don’t mind a hail of pastry crumbs all over the carpet, relatively low maintenance fare.

I actually made two versions. The first, based on the famous Cornish version, I baked in a lard based pastry (yes really, lard is wonderful stuff, see here). I kept it simple, with the traditional beef, onion, swede (known as turnip in Cornwall) and potato, going off piste only to add some fresh green parsley.

The second, for my non meat eating sister, a flaky short mess-making butter pastry also containing potato, parsley and onion, with the addition of sharp cheddar cheese. Completely delicious, even a carnivore would be impressed………

The Cornish pasty is based on ther recipe in the inimitable Delia's Frugal Food. I have the 2008 reissue, the book originally came out in 1976, and is full of good hearty mostly English style food that wont cost the earth.

A Long Way from Cornwall Pasties...... based on a recipe by Delia Smith

Makes 4 meal sized pasties, but you could make 6 smaller ones

First make your pastry. 

275 gr plain flour
125 gr cold lard (or cold butter)
pinch salt
Ice cold water 

In a large bowl, rub the fat between your fingers into your flour and salt. You can do this in a food processor, but to be honest it only takes a couple of minutes, and the resulting pastry is much softer & easier to roll than the processor version. Use the same method, adding a couple of spoons of icing sugar and some nutmeg for a lovely crust for an Apple Pie

As you can see there a still little chunks of fat, this is fine, it will melt in the heat of the oven & create steam, giving you little flakes of pastry (which if you are like me, will end up all down the front of your shirt....)

Using a knife to mix, add your ice cold water until the mixture comes together as a dough. Tip out onto a floured bench & just bring together. This isnt bread, it does not require kneading, you are just bringing everything together into a workable dough. Wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge for 30 mins or so (or overnight if you are working ahead)

Now prepare your pasty filling

1 large potato, peeled and cut into small slices
1 medium onions, peeled and chopped into tiny chunks
Half a swede, peeled and cut into small slices
300 gr chuck, blade or topside beef, trimmed of fat & cut into small slices
Salt & pepper
Chopped parsley (not traditional, but delicious)

Try to keep everything a similar size, thin slices of meat and vege will cook right through without overcooking your pastry. You will think there isn't enough filling but trust me, this is plenty, pasties are very economical fare....

Take your pastry out of the fridge, and cut into four quarters (or 6 pieces if maker smaller pasties). Roll out one quarter into a circle about the size of a dinner plate.

Top with a spoonful of potato, then swede, onion & finally meat. Season with salt & pepper, then another layer of potato, swede, onion & finally a sprinkle of parsley. The theory for the layering is the meat juices & seasoning then work their way through the root vege as they cook and give the pasty extra flavour.

If you are using cheese rather than meat, just following the same theory, with your cheese layer in the middle. Use something good and strong like a really sharp cheddar for flavour

Now fold one half of the pastry over to completely encase your filling. This is easier then you think as this pastry is quite soft and pliable. Crimp the edges together, I just go around the edge folding the edge inwards on itself over my finger, I cant tell you it is totally authentic, but it looks ok and does the job! If all else fails go around the edge with the tines of a fork,the main object is to make sure your delicious filling cant escape. Cut a couple of steam holes in the top with the tip of your knife and place on an oven tray

Pop into a 200C/400F oven for 15 mins, then turn the heat down to 190C/375F for another 25-30 minutes, until golden and smelling heavenly.

Now I wont pretend these are the quickest things to make, but they are easy, great value, and if you make a batch up they freeze perfectly. Brilliant picnic food, they are also delicious at room temp, which of course if how they would have been eaten down the mines. The crimp was used to hold the pasty, keeping the rest of your lunch clean if you didn't have facilities to wash your hands, then discarded , but of course you can eat it if you prefer.

Mr PK recommends a good dark beer to drink with your pasty (on a windswept beach with a blanket for preference) , his latest fav is this gorgeous Chocolate Moose from Boundary Road Brewery based just out of Auckland at Red Hill. Rich and chocolatey this is also wonderful in a beef casserole, and I am going to try it in Nigella's Guinness Cake, watch this space.....

Monday, September 3

Sweet NZ August, sweet indeed

Plum Kitchen was the host of Sweet NZ this month, a great initiative set up by Alessanda Zecchini bringing together some delicious treats to share from Food Bloggers all around New Zealand. If these goodies dont have you reaching for the sugar and a mixing bowl I dont know what will....

First up Jemma over at Time for a Little Something with a rather gorgeous Whittaker's & Whiskey Cake. Dense, dark whiskey flavoured chocolate cake, this is a contender for me for this years Christmas cake (I am one of those odd souls who dont really like fruit cake....), while I am not a whiskey drinker I love the depth of flavour it gives to cooking and baking. It looks so beautiful to, thanks Jemma

For a luscious exotic pudding treat Leslie at Eat Etc has shared a Cardamom Spiced Rice Pudding. I adore Cardamom, and Mr PK is mad for anything containing raisins, so pretty much our ideal winter pud. Warm or cold, this is creamy scented comfort eating, and how gorgeous is that blue cloth? Thanks Leslie

For a fab teatime treat that also happens to be Gluten Free, Lydia at Grace Cakes has posted a Flourless Orange Cake. The method for this one is intriguing and involves boiling whole oranges, for really intense orange flavour. What a treat with a cup of Earl Grey tea (and yes, a large dollop of cream or yoghurt on the side:) thanks Lydia

Mairi over at Toast has shared her recipe for Back Up Brownies. These came about after a wee sponge "mishap", I was lucky enough to have one (ok, several....) so let me assure you there is nothing "backup" about moist rich chocolatey brownie topped with tangy freeze dried strawberry powder. Not only do they look so pretty, they were completely scrumptious , thanks Mairi

For a sweet pudding treat Alli at Pease Pudding has sent us Winter White Sago Pudding with Lime & Coconut Sugar. I adore creamy style puds , so cant wait to give these a whirl, especially with tropical lime coconut flavours, it may be pouring with rain but I can turn the heating up and pretend.....thanks Alli (p.s where did you get those wonderful spoons???)

Continuing the tangy citrus theme, Sue from Couscous & Consciousness sent in Nieve de Limon, a zingy fruity Mexican inspired Lemon-Lime Sorbet. How much do you want to be sitting in the sun eating this right now? So light and refreshing, I am really looking forward to making this for Mr PK, who does not tolerate creamy ice cream very well, what a fabulous treat. Pretty pic to, thanks Sue

Another favourite fruit of mine, apple, is the base for a decadent treat from Genie at Bunny Eats Design. Nifty little cinnamon spiced apple hand pies with a rich butterscotch sauce, this is much easier than it sounds, and could very well make an extremely wet chilly Monday night perfectly bearable. And how cute is that rabbit?(his name is Tofu:) Thanks Genie

Alessandra  has contributed an indulgent Tirimisu, and being Italian we can be assured she knows what's what when it comes to this lovely dessert. I smiled when I saw this picture as the twist with this recipe is the use of Whiskey instead of coffee. Glenffidich was Dad's favourite, he would have had a terrible dilemma handing over the whiskey bottle, not wanting yet more of his precious drop to go into "cooking" but wanting to try the finished product, I will certainly be making this for my next whanau gathering, thanks so much Alessandra

Our last entry this month is courtesy of Angela at The Cook's Sponge, who has shared with us an Apple Fruit Bar. Perfect for kids and adults alike, this will be a perfect portable morning tea treat, much more delicious and sustaining than a big doughy muffin, and way better for me to! I am keen to try the original, and the suggested Apricot variation , which would be a nice change. Thanks Angela (and welcome to Sweet NZ)

What a line up, I hope you are inspired to get cooking, Sweet NZ for September is being hosted by Alessandra Zecchini so make sure you get your sweet delights to her for sharing at the end of next month.

Saturday, August 18

Black Dog Cottage Cookbook: Sweetcorn, Spring Onion, Feta & Coriander Fritters

As you probably know by now, I am a girl who loves a cookbook. So when the publishers of the second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook by Adie McClelland (released this month throughout New Zealand) asked me if I would like to test drive a couple of recipes I said yes please.

I love fritters as much as I love books, so the Sweetcorn, Spring Onion, Feta & Coriander fritters were calling to me. The trick with a good fritter is to have the minimum of flour, enough to bind but no more, to avoid stodginess. You will think their isn't enough in this recipe, but trust me, it works a treat, and the end result is light, crunchy & moreish.

Sweetcorn, Spring Onion, Feta & Coriander fritters (from the second Black Dog Cottage Cookbook, published August)

3 cobs fresh/2 cups frozen sweetcorn (fresh is best, but these are still fab with frozen)
2 eggs, whisked
2 tbsp flour (yes, just 2!)
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Handful of coriander, finely chopped
80 grams feta, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying (I used Canola)

If using fresh corn cut the kernels off the cobs. Whisk together the flour and eggs to make a batter. Combine the spring onions, coriander, feta, pepper and corn into the batter and mix well.
Splash some oil into a medium frying-pan and heat over medium. When hot add small spoonfuls of batter to your desired size, and turn over when golden to do the other side.
Drain on kitchen paper.

As you can see, they could not be easier. I served them for lunch with bacon , sour cream and more coriander. I had intended to add avocado also, but of course when I cut it open it was brown, why are so many avocados like that!? They would also be lovely made bite size & topped with sour cream and a flake of hot smoked salmon to have with drinks, yum!

The book also has a recipe for Zucchini , Mint & Feta fritters, which follow the same method, substituting grated zucchini and mint for the corn and coriander. As soon as zucchini come back into season I will be giving these a try also, maybe with a fresh zingy tomato salsa....

I have the first Black Dog Cottage cookbook and it is a cracker, so I am really looking forward to seeing the next one. I am getting around the cookbook buying ban by putting it on my Christmas list, clever no? If it is following the same format as the first book expect light, fresh, easy to prepare recipes full of flavour with minimum fuss. Hard to go wrong really.......
For more information please visit Phantom House Books or the book's Facebook page.

Wednesday, August 8

Wishful Wednesday, the beginning of an affair...(hopefully not the end of a marriage)

What a week! Firstly apologies for my technology induced hiatus, all manner of IT dramas at work (is their anything more tedious??), no laptop at home, I feel rather bored by technology. So let’s talk about something far more interesting. No, not the Olympics, (although it had been thrilling) but Kitchens!

Mr PK and I are renovating. Starting with the kitchen, following up with the bathroom, adding another bathroom and oh joy of joys, a walk in wardrobe. No doubt it will all be intensely stressful, but at least if we do get divorced the house will be gorgeous when we have to sell it & split the proceeds………just kidding. Maybe.

Anyway, the architect came around with his first set of drawings last week, and I was delirious with excitement. It is only in hindsight I realise I have made a blooper. I asked for the kitchen to be moved to an area off to the side of where it is now, ending up as a very large U shape. Adding a huge wow factor and providing unbelievable amounts of storage. Amazing you would think?

Actually not. Putting washing onto a portable rack (its raining again, surprise) down the end where my cooker would be, I realised how isolated my new kitchen would actually be. Instead of being in the hub of my home, off the lounge, I would be off on my own (albeit luxury) wing. Big mistake, I like to know what’s going on, so instead I sat down with a glass of vino and pictured a bigger version of what I actually have. Instead of just moving everything, I thought about what works at the moment (the Triangle from cooker, fridge & stove), and what doesn’t (not enough storage, pantry miles away). Not having to move windows, a wall and all the plumbing will save us a fortune………….which I can them spend on exciting things like this beauty from was love at first sight.

The stainless steel version is also rather handsome.........

Is it odd to plan the kitchen around a cooker? And wander around Harvey Norman taking pictures of cookers? Wait until I take my roasting dish in for a size check.......

I also rather like this sink..........

And this rather handsome tap

Now I just have to decide on cabinets, flooring, tiles (loving these subway tiles with gray grout)

(Pic via

So many choices???!!! Any kitchen tips greatly received.................

Leaving kitchens entirely I wanted to share a great song I heard on the radio the other day. Those that know me may well be groaning at this point (that's you BFF1) , my taste in music is notoriously dodgy, but do have a listen to this from Icelandic band Little Talks, so catchy, YEAH! (the intro is in German I think, but they sing in English)

Lastly, a gratuitous cat pic (come on, it's been a while) of Tuppence in mega pose mode......she is such a star

Have a great week!

Monday, August 6

Sweet New Zealand- August!

I am very happy it is August at last. Only a few weeks & we are officially into Spring, my very favorite month. So to get me through to my first bunch of daffs, and taste of asparagus,  Plum Kitchen will be hosting Sweet New Zealand for August!

This event was originally started by Alessandra Zecchini in 2011 and really encourages food bloggers to share their secret recipes, discover new delights and of course, get to know other New Zealand food bloggers, living both here and overseas.

If you’d like to enter, here are some super simple rules:

1. This event is open to all bloggers living in New Zealand (even if you are not a Kiwi), as well as all Kiwi bloggers living and blogging overseas.

2. You can enter anything sweet (as simple or complicated as you like): cakes, biscuits, slices, desserts, even drinks, and you may submit as many entries as you like, including old posts if you like.

3. Your entry must contain the following: the phrase “Sweet New Zealand”, a link to the host (my blog homepage), a link to this post and include the Sweet New Zealand badge (just right-click and download the image from this post), and if you are submitting an older post remember to update it accordingly with all of the above.

4. To submit your entry email me at by 30th August with:

 your name

 your blog name

 a link to your blog

 a link to the post you’re contributing (and name of recipe if it’s not on your post’s title)

 a photo from your post (not more than 250 kb if possible)

I’ll do a round up of all entries at the end of August (Mr PK wants me to cook them all also so he can taste test!?). I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, July 30

Dessert for an Olympian.....

I have gone slightly off-piste this week with my cookbook challenge, although the base of my ice-cream is from Donna Hay, it is so much a variation I think we will just call it a one off, and save Donna for another day……….

Unless you are living under a rock you may have noticed a certain sporting event filling the telly schedule, newspaper, social media……
I love the Olympics. Yes it may be commercial, and but so what, I will cry at the winners (and some of the losers) and become extremely knowledge (or so I think…..) about the most obscure sports, and countries for that matter.

To celebrate I had the whanau around for an Olympic themed dinner. We went back through the last eight countries to host the games, pulled the names out of a jug and cooked a dish we thought represented that country. Mr PK drew a drink from Moscow (um, guess what he made………)

I was challenged to come up with a Sydney inspired dessert……….

So, if, like me, you will be staying up all sorts of unsociable hours to watch the Peoples Republic of Somewhere I Can't Pronounce beat Wherethehellisitstan in the woman's singles final of the synchronised swimming, here is a treat to make it just that bit more worthwhile………

Mango, Lime & Toasted Coconut Ice-cream

The ice-cream is inspired by the Donna Hay recipe from Modern Classics 2, it is plain vanilla to which I add fresh mango puree, lime zest and toasted thread coconut.

1 cup milk (I use semi-skim but anything is fine)
2 cups cream
Vanilla pod
2/3 cup caster sugar
6 egg yolks
1 fresh mango (or use canned)
2 tbsp icing sugar
Zest of 1 lime
¾ cup thread coconut, toasted in a dry pan until golden & fragrant

In a saucepan heat the milk, cream & vanilla pod until hot, but not boiling. Leave to sit while you whisk together your egg yolks and sugar until thick & pale. Take the vanilla bean out (you can rinse it & leave to dry, then pop into your sugar jar!) and while whisking, pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the whole lot back into your saucepan, then stir over a low heat for about 5 minutes until your custard has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. It will still be quite runny so don’t worry.

Pour into a bowl & leave to cool for 20 minutes or so. Meanwhile peel your mango and whiz the flesh in the food processor with the icing sugar until it is pulped. Press through a sieve and stir into the custard mixture with the lime zest and coconut. Pop into the fridge & when cold put into your ice-cream machine and churn

Alternatively pout into a plastic contain & pop into the freezer. Take out every hour and using and electric beater, whisk up to break up any ice crystals. Do this 3 or 4 times. Yes, the ice-cream machine is easier!

I like to take my ice-cream out of the freezer for 20 minutes or so before serving so it isn’t to hard to scoop, I served it with Anzac biscuits , and an almond praline. This would have been a Macadamia praline until I saw how expensive Macadamia nuts are?!

This is also my entry for the July Sweet NZ over at After Taste. Be sure to pop over and check out the round up of goodies from all over, great for a sweet tooth!

In case you are interested,the rest of the Olympic marathon looked like this.....

 Pork Dumplings representing Beijing, with Kimchi via Seoul...........

Buffalo wings and ranch dressing all the way from Atlanta (no buffalo was harmed.......)

From our friends in London, Fish & tartare sauce (or Fush!)

Via Los Angeles, Chicken and vege Enchiladas, with avocado & tomato salsa.....

Last savoury course before pud, Athens gives us Octopus and  Potato Pickle salad.........

As you can see, it's a marathon not a sprint..........but food was the winner on the day!

Thursday, July 26

Wishful Wednesday- for kids to read....

The sad passing of the inimitable Margaret Mahy (if you have never read any of her books step away from the computer & go immediatly to the local library, you wont regret it:) got me thinking about books in general, and children’s books in particular. When Mum moved we were under strict instructions to please finally remove the piles of books we had left behind! A few treasures were unearthed, what follows is a completely arbitrary run down on my fav’s……….

Little House in the Big Woods

For starters, my all time favourites, the Little House series. From The House in the Big Woods right through to Almanzo & Laura’s wedding in These Happy Golden Years I devoured the lot. The wonderful description of the maple dance, the day the family kill the pig, Caroline Ingills making butter, so much fascinating food history (I was all about the food even as a kid…….), I recently reread several of the books and enjoyed them just as much. Again I am not sure the iPod generation would find them as fascinating, I can only hope……..

The Classics: The Little Woman series by Louisa May Alcott, oh how I wanted to be Jo, although I have always suspected I may have more in common with conservative Meg. I read the entire series of these books, growing up with a gaggle of sisters I could certainly relate (although surely none of us were as sweet and kind as Beth!) Do girls still read them? I hope so………

Now I know kids still read these, The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. If you have not read the adventures of Jo, Bessy & Fanny with their friends Silky & Moonface, you must immediately befriend a child with even a modicum of reading taste, they certainly will have. I have the box set, although I realized the other day they actually belong to my sister………whoops

More recent reads: Beverly Cleary’s brilliant Ramona Quimby stories. Poor Ramona has many trails to deal with, not least her bossy older sister Beezus, but she handles everything with her brilliant imagination, even when things don’t go to plan….. I loved these books, so funny and clever; I was surprised to find they had been made into a movie. I watched the first 20 minutes on a flight back from Fiji, but the characters were so far away from the ones in my head I had to switch it off; don’t you hate it when that happens?

My younger sister started reading about Carbonel (the King of Cats!) by Barbara Sleigh and I followed suit. The books have been reissued, and are a great read, especially if, like me, you fully appreciate how clever cats really are……….

Sweet Valley High, yep, I am a child of the 80’s! Francine Pascal series follows the lives of impossibly pretty popular twins Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield living in Sweet Valley California where it never rained, they never got zits, or chubby, despite living on milk shakes & French fries . Apparently there were 152 books in the series (?!) I got my fix courtesy of my best friend across the road. Looking back the stories are so incredibly American I wonder now what the appeal was, but at the time they were compulsive reading. A follow up book Sweet Valley Confidential, following the lives of grown up Elizabeth & Jessica was released last year, I am reliably informed to give it a miss ……….


I cant not mention Mollie Katzen and her amazing Moosewood Cookbook, and the follow up Enchanted Broccoli Forest, I LOVED these books, I got them out of the Library so many times I should have just brought them………all that wonderful hand lettering, and some of the dishes seemed very exotic to me, tofu, really????

So, what were your favorites??