Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Ginger Beer Comeback!

I have been drinking quite a lot of ginger beer recently and buying packs of it on special in the supermarket. However, last week my daughter reminded me about the ginger beer I used to make on the farm when they were young.

The recipe was given to me by an old friend, Margaret Brown, years ago and so I have started making it again! It’s a good reminder that tucked away in your old trusty recipe books full of handwritten recipes, from mothers, grandmothers and aunts, there are some great ones that need to be revisited from time to time. Also maybe it’s a good time for me to put them into a computer so they don’t get lost forever among the loose pages covered in butter stains and coffee marks!

This drink is easy, refreshing and cost effective.

Ginger Beer

5 litres warm water
3½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon citric acid
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon natural lemon essence
1 teaspoon dry yeast
Mix together and leave 2 hours stirring occasionally. Then bottle, leaving space in bottles – leave 3 days before drinking.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blue Skies - Red Tomatoes

It's been a fantastic growing season in Christchurch - lots of blue sky and sunshine and we've all loved watching our gardens flourish even though we're on water rationing.

I was quietly working in the kitchen yesterday with my chefs and overhearing their conversation as they worked.

They were talking about their vegetable gardens and how many courgettes they had picked, when their beans would be ready, the state of their tomatoes and how many eggs their chooks had laid yesterday. It made my heart sing! There is a quiet revolution taking place and people are returning to the soil, growing their own food and taking such pleasure in proudly cooking and feeding their families with wondrous, seasonal, fresh produce. There is nothing better and the satisfaction gained unparalleled.

Over dinner last night with friends the subject came up again and we talked of visits to France and Italy where driving in the countryside everywhere you looked there were houses surrounded by carefully tended vegetable gardens, giant artichoke plants, tomatoes and every other imaginable vegetable.

A wonderful way to preserve excess vegetables is to make relishes and pickles. I am sharing my Aunt’s tomato relish recipe today because it’s a favourite, the uses are endless, and a barbecued or grilled lamb chop without it seems unthinkable.

Tomato Relish

12 large tomatoes
4 large onions
1 tablespoon salt
Malt vinegar
500g sugar
1 tablespoon curry powder
1½ tablespoons mustard powder
(mix the curry and mustard powders in a bowl with a little vinegar to form a paste before pouring into the tomatoes and onions)
5 dried chillies
2 tablespoons flour

Roughly dice tomatoes and onions, place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Stand overnight.

Drain and discard liquid. Place tomatoes and onion in a large saucepan and pour over vinegar until the liquid reaches 2 cm below surface of vegetables.

Bring to the boil, add sugar and spices. Simmer for 30 minutes. Mix flour with a little extra vinegar to form a paste. Pour into hot mix, stirring constantly and gently boil for a further 5 minutes.

Pour into hot sterilised jars and seal.

Some other things I love to do with Tomato Relish

Under the cheesy mix for mousetraps

Mixed with mayonnaise and dolloped over cold chicken

Split saveloys, fill with relish, wrap in bacon, hold together with toothpick
and grill (memories of my mother!)

Add to meatloaf mixture before cooking

Add to mashed potato for cottage pie topping

Use for a quick pizza spread

Use in quesadillas with shredded chicken, grated cheese and coriander

With sour cream and corn frittersIn pinwheel scones with grated cheese

With grilled haloumi

Cook it - Love it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

And here's an extra little gift for Christmas!

Thank you for reading my blog, and here’s an extra special festive gift for you all as we dash up to the end of 2011! One of you contacted me a short while ago wishing for advice on my fabulous Strawberry Vinaigrette to accompany salads and also for one of my chicken salad recipes…so – Merry Christmas to you all once again, and here’s an extra little something fabulous…

Poached Chicken Summer Salad

(This is utterly glorious, so easy, and will delight everyone who tries it…ENJOY!)

Serves 6

4 chicken breasts, poached and shredded
½ cup mayonnaise
400g tin mango slices, drained and chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
¼ cup each chopped coriander and mint
1 cup seedless green grapes
good bunch watercress, washed and picked over
3 spring onions, chopped
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss to combine.

Et voila!

Strawberry Vinegar (and Vinaigrette)

1 punnet strawberries
1 cup sugar
2 cups white vinegar
Bring to the boil and simmer together for 15 minutes. Strain and bottle.

For vinaigrette:

Combine 2 parts canola oil to 1 part vinegar.
Cook it, love it!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Father Christmas is packing his sleigh....

It’s the “silly season” when we all love to try and cram in as many gatherings with friends and families as possible … what a time of the year for us all! It’s wonderful to mark this very special celebration and isn’t it great that nowadays celebrating the holiday season doesn’t necessarily need to be with a huge meal? We celebrate in as many guises as there are people – picnics, barbecues, ornate meals with specially laid tables and decorative theming, right through to an intimate celebration with smoked salmon and champagne…

I’ve just made some Christmas Marshmallow – a recipe I featured during my “Tart Up Christmas” cooking class held in October – and which we all love! I know we normally associate marshmallow with children’s parties and lollie cake but this one is really an ‘adults marshmallow’ and to be honest, when put out in a lovely bowl it doesn’t stay around long!

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to give – and I think something delicious, made with love, is the ultimate Christmas gift … I love to parcel up these delicious morsels to give to someone special …

I hope everyone has a joyous, relaxing and fulfilling holiday – that your Christmas, in whatever way you celebrate, is a happy one. Stay safe and smiling everyone – it’s holiday time! I wish you all a Happy Christmas and my warmest wishes for 2012

So...Christmas Marshmallow - cook it, love it!

Makes 40-50 pieces
3 tablespoons powdered gelatine
½ cup cold water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Icing sugar for dredging

In a bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatine over the ½ cup of water. Soak for 10 minutes.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, spices and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute. Pour boiling syrup into gelatine, and mix at a high speed. Add the salt and beat for 12 minutes. Add vanilla and scrape into a 9” x 9” cake tin lined with oiled plastic wrap and spread evenly. (Note: lightly oil hands and spatula). After pouring marshmallow mixture into the tin, take another piece of oiled plastic wrap and press over mixture in tin.

Let mixture sit for a few hours. Remove from tin, dredge the marshmallow slab with icing sugar and cut with scissors – the best tool for the job.

Completely coat marshmallow in icing sugar.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heaven sent spears - Asparagus!

We are right in the middle of asparagus season so now is the right time to enjoy this wonderful vegetable.

It is low in calories, packed with essential vitamins and minerals and long been recognized for its medicinal properties.

Its versatility makes asparagus a perfect meal accompaniment and it is equally delicious served hot or cold. Wash it thoroughly as the head can sometimes contain grit and sand from the growing process. Snap off the ends, it will snap at the point where it begins to be woody. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, salt it generously and add asparagus. Cook until tender. If serving cold, immediately plunge into ice water to refresh and maintain its beautiful colour. I love to eat it with my fingers dipping the ends into homemade mayonnaise but here is a delicious salad I want to share.

Asparagus and Tomato Salad
Serves 4 – 6 as an entrée

Extra virgin olive oil
45g anchovies, drained and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
Dash of white wine vinegar
½ cup toasted breadcrumbs
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
24 – 36 asparagus stalks trimmed

Heat a little oil in a heavy based fry pan and cook the anchovies over medium heat until they begin to ‘melt’. Reduce heat, add garlic and cook for a further 1 –2 minutes then stir in the vinegar to taste adding a little oil as necessary. Stir in half the breadcrumbs and cook for two minutes then remove from heat and keep warm. Steam the asparagus until tender then drain and transfer to a platter with the tomatoes. Pour the anchovy mixture over the asparagus and sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Summer is approaching - and so is Christmas!

I hate to remind you that we are in the lead up to Christmas, but in Christchurch the week after the Melbourne Cup is always our New Zealand Trotting Cup and Show Week, and once that’s over - its Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!

I had my Christmas cooking class last weekend so I have been working on the recipes over the past few weeks. A really good thing to do as soon as you have read this, is to make your Fruit Mince and jar it up for use later. This allows the flavours to develop really well. You can use store bought but this is so much better and really easy to make, so why would you? Just keep a cup aside and try this slice recipe as well, because it’s absolutely delicious! It came from the grandmother (Neddy) of one of our chefs.

Christmas Fruit Mince
Yield 1.5kg
4 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and chopped
2 cup raisins
1 cup currants
150g butter
2 teaspoons mace
2 teaspoons nutmeg
3 teaspoons spice
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 cups brown sugar
100ml brandy
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
100ml lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer partly covered with lid for 30-40 minutes or until thick. Pour into clean, sterilised jars. Cover when cold.

Neddy’s Christmas Mince Slice

100g chilled butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
Process butter, flour and sugar until breadcrumb consistency and press into lined slice tin. Bake at 160ºC for 10 minutes.
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup fruit mince
Mix dry ingredients well and add wet ingredients. Place over base and cook for a further 30 minutes. Cool completely before cutting
Dust with icing sugar to serve.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Ok - I'm fronting up - I have to eat humble pie apparently ... some of you have been wondering where on earth I've been ...if I have to eat pie I may as well share the recipe as well!!!

This is a fabulous LAMB AND YOGHURT PIE discovered on my travels in the Mediterranean.

A gorgeous flavour filled delight for you and your loved ones ...

Lamb and Yoghurt Pie
Serves 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic crushed
1 kg lamb mince
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
70g toasted pine nuts
12 sheets filo pastry
100g clarified butter
500g natural yoghurt
1 shallow tin approximately 30 x 22 x 3 cms

Heat oil in a large frying pan, add onion and garlic and cook until translucent.
Add lamb and brown thoroughly, breaking up clumps as it cooks, with a wooden spoon.
Add cinnamon, tomato paste, lemon, salt and pepper, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Add parsley, breadcrumbs and pine nuts and set aside to cool.
Remove filo pastry from packet and count out 12 sheets.
Place pastry on bench and cover with a damp tea towel.
Brush one sheet of filo pastry lightly with melted butter..
Place another layer of pastry on top, brushing with butter as you go, and repeat until you have six sheets.
Butter pie tin and line with the first six sheets of pastry.
Fill with half the lamb mixture, spread with yoghurt and top with remaining lamb.
Brush remaining sheets with butter and scrunch individually and place on top of the pie to completely cover.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180º C for 40 minutes.
Cook it – love it!