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!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I have just had a week in Bali attending my beautiful niece’s wedding, having a rest from shattered Christchurch and bonding with some great Balinese caterers. What fun!

It seems we foodie types are all the same the world over. Wherever there’s a great party in progress, much as we love being part of it we tend to find ourselves drawn to what’s going on in the kitchen. The flavours were delicious and I will share some with you when we get a little closer to summer, meantime it was back down to reality with a thud! Landing in minus zero temperatures, there was nothing else to do but get into the kitchen and drag out the soup pot!

Nothing beats a bowl of warm nourishing soup and a slab of homemade bread to fight away the chilly nights and it’s amazing how simple they can be by just being a little creative with what is in the pantry.

Try these for starters….

Soup of Pear, Horseradish and White Pepper
Serves 8 -10
400g tin of pears
100g butter
100g flour
2 litres good quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons horseradish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons white pepper

Puree the pears and half the syrup until smooth. Reserve remaining syrup. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes and then slowly add the warmed chicken stock, stirring well to keep a smooth consistency.

Add the pureed pears, horseradish sauce, salt and pepper. Adjust consistency if necessary with remaining juice.

Roasted Mushroom Soup
Serves 8 -10

500g Swiss Brown mushrooms, quartered
500g Portobello mushrooms, quartered
1 large onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
3 sticks celery, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
½ bottle white wine
1 ½ litres chicken stock
1 bouquet garni (bay, parsley, thyme)
200ml cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Place mushrooms in a roasting tray with onions, garlic and celery. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in a moderate oven until browned. Add white wine and cook a further ten minutes to cook off alcohol. Add stock, bouquet garni and cook until vegetables are tender. Remove bouquet garni, add cream and blend until smooth.
For special occasions drizzle with a little truffle oil at service.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


All of a sudden wherever I turn people are talking about cream sponges!
My brother has just moved to the country and when I visited him the other afternoon he asked me if I had brought a cream sponge for afternoon tea. A couple of days later I had a request for cream sponge for 40 guests at a party because it was the birthday boy’s favourite.

It reminded me of my childhood on the farm where afternoon tea was taken into the paddock during harvesting and very often a cream sponge sat among the goodies in the bottom of the picnic basket. I have vivid memories of my father devouring great chunks of sponge with dirty hands, a face black with dust, and a huge smile on his face. He used to say it was the perfect afternoon tea treat because it didn’t sit heavily on the stomach when there were still hours of work to do before it got dark.
I made one for my grandson’s first birthday and it was a huge success so I am thinking - maybe it’s time to bring back the cream sponge! Talking in the kitchen with my chefs I discovered that nearly all the cream sponges you can buy are made with commercial sponge mix and the difference is huge.

So, here is a great sponge recipe and a few tips to help you make the perfect cream sponge. I have also included my mother’s Sponge Drop recipe which is fabulous as well. They are so light and delicious and I have often taken them to visit someone who is sick as they melt in the mouth.

- Use size 7 eggs
- Always have eggs at room temperature

Cream Sponge
3 eggs, separated
½ cup castor sugar
½ cup cornflour
1 dessertspoon flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar gradually followed by yolks. Beat until thick. Fold in sifted dry ingredients. Pour mixture into two lined 20cm round sponge tins and bake for 15-20 minutes at 190°C. Cool in tin for short time and remove to cooling rack. Sandwich the two cakes together with whipped cream.

Sponge Drops
3 eggs
¾ cup castor sugar
½ cup cornflour
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon baking soda

Same method as above, and then drop mixture in teaspoonfuls on lined baking tray. Bake at 190°C oven for 3-4 minutes. Cool on rack and sandwich sponge drops together with whipped cream.

Cook it – Love it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chocolate Cake Heaven

I realise I am a totally indulgent grandmother and I don’t wish to bore you with grandmother pursuits but there are two very good reasons why I want to share this with you.

One is that anything that encourages young children into the kitchen is worthwhile and with so many mothers busy and holding down jobs, there is an opportunity for grandparents to become teachers.

We have more patience, generally, and time, hopefully, to fill the role.

The other thing I wanted to share with you is this fabulous chocolate cake recipe which is a firm favourite in our family. It is birthday cake, lunch box cake, cupcake and no reason at all cake!

Given to me by my foodie sister years ago it is firmly imprinted in my head. A one bowl wonder that is chocolatey, moist and truly delicious.
Cook it and love it.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Makes 1 x 23 cm round cake or 18 regular cup cakes

200g plain flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons cocoa
150g brown sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup
2 eggs
150ml oil
300ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Sieve dry ingredients in bowl and add the sugar. Make well in centre and add syrup, eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Beat all together until smooth. Pour into a greased tin/s. Bake @ 170°C for 45 mins to an hour – or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cupcakes – 20 minutes.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Autumn’s gift to Aphrodite ….the Quince

It’s quince season and oh! how I look forward to it every year! For the chefs in the kitchen, it means jars and jars of beautiful pink jelly, packets of delicious quince paste and giant bottles of our pickled quinces which we use on cheeseboards and chopped into aromatic lamb tagines.

To me, one of the greatest pleasures is a chunk of freshly baked bread smeared generously with quince jelly and topped with a wedge of ripe oozing brie – divine!

My mother used to grate them into apple pies and crumbles but as a child I found them tart and uninteresting which surprised me because quince trees are exquisite in blossom and look just as beautiful with the shiny golden fruit hanging decoratively on their branches.

I like to make a SUGAR SYRUP using 1 cup sugar and 2 cups water in a cast iron casserole dish. When the sugar has dissolved, I add 1 cinnamon stick, the juice of a lemon with pith and a vanilla pod which has been split. Peel, quarter and core four quinces, then cut each quarter in half again. Place into syrup, cover tightly with lid and place in oven which has been preheated to 150°C. Bake for 3-4 hours until quinces are ruby red and tender. Cool in syrup.

To make a delicious QUINCE SYRUP CAKE:
50g butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar
4 quinces poached as above and drained (reserve syrup)
Line a 23 cm round tin with baking paper. Combine butter and sugar and pour into lined tin. Cover with quince segments in a circular pattern.

Make a batter by creaming together:

150g soft butter
1 cup brown sugar
Add 3 eggs, and fold in 1⅓ cup flour, 2 teaspoons ginger, 1½ teaspoon baking powder.
Spoon over fruit carefully so as not to spoil pattern and bake in preheated oven 180°C for 35-40 minutes.

Remove from oven and rest in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto plate. Pour over 1 cup of reserved syrup and serve with yoghurt, ice cream or lightly whipped cream.

Cook it – love it!

Monday, April 18, 2011


What a beautiful time of the year - the trees don their ball dresses and display their gold and red leaves and the sunny windless days hint at the chillier days to come. It's a wonderful time to think of preparing warming delicious dishes for those you love - to use the rich, deep flavours we all so enjoy.

What a time we've had! The earthquake in February has changed our lives and I send my heartfelt good wishes to you and your loved ones at this very difficult time. The night of the earthquake I had family and friends gathered at my home and we cooked kedgeree on the barbecue - no power, or water, but it was still wonderful to be able to comfort and share in the way I love best - cooking!

As the days went on we were delighted to help clients and friends from out of town who wanted to help their own loved ones in a practical way - we made up food parcels and beautiful dinners to keep residents of Christchurch going in the darkest of times - and we are still doing this as residents return or we receive the message "more, please!".

We have also had a major change - we've moved into beautiful ground floor premises at 84 Gasson Street in Sydenham - which is going to be the new business hub of Christchurch for some time to come.

Easter weekend is just around the corner - a wonderful opportunity for us all to get together and catch up - families and friends - sharing laughter and the tears as we all do - as well as the chocolate! One of my favourite dishes to prepare when we have a crowd in is a delicious but simple Chicken Marbella. The flavours so reflective of autumn, the combination of the capers and olives so divine with the chicken! Cook it Love it!

Chicken Marbella
12 portions
24 thighs
1 small head of garlic, peeled and crushed
¼ cup dried oregano
Salt and pepper
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 cup prunes
½ cup pitted green olives
½ capers and some juice
6 bay leaves

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
¼ cup parsley

Arrange chicken in a single layer in roasting dish. Combine garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and bay leaves and spoon over chicken. Marinate overnight, and the next day sprinkle with brown sugar and pour around white wine. Cook at 180˚C, basting occasionally, for 45 minutes to an hour. Sprinkle parsley through before serving.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Here Comes Our Bride!

Photo courtesy of Shar Devine

At White Tie we love weddings. We love being involved in the planning process, helping our Brides and Grooms achieve the look, style and atmosphere they yearn for to make their day of days splendid and memorable – whether it be a private beach ceremony with delicious, perfectly formed canapés and champagne or a dinner party for 200 of their closest friends! We love it all!

It’s even more exciting and gorgeous when it’s one of our own. My beautiful daughter, George, married her Lewis on 21 January at the Rose Chapel followed by a fun filled reception. George has a wonderfully ‘simple is beautiful’ approach to the world – she is overflowing with good humour and warmth, and loves the out of the ordinary – or life with a twist! George and Lewis’ special day reflected all of their attributes for they are a well matched pair… One is a kiwi, the other a Brit and they met in Greece. So to shake things up a bit, we did food stations of New Zealand, England and Greece. Mussels and lamb cutlets for NZ, bangers and mash and bacon butties for England and onion pie and Greek salad for Greece. We had a small intimate family dinner the night before as the formal seated event instead.

Just before her wedding – and my girls don’t believe in long engagements (thanks for the 6 week heads up!), I threw a “Champagne and Chocolate” afternoon for a bridal kitchen party. George adores chocolate and champagne so I combined these two wonderful ingredients and served my guests all things chocolate! Chocolate is a comfort food for most of us so I kept it comfy, clean and simple.

Apart from chocolate lamingtons topped with cream and strawberries (who can resist, and straight from our childhoods), chocolate sponge drops (that smooth soft sponge and the cream!) and chocolate pikelets (posh pikelets!), glamorous chocolate macaroons in two flavours no less – I also served chocolate marbled cheesecake – a real winner for any occasion and an incredibly delicious caramel tart which one of my guests said she wanted to throw herself into the dish and eat the lot! So thought I would share these recipes with you…

Marbled Chocolate Slice
250g cream cheese
75g extra sugar
5ml vanilla
1 egg
185g butter (melted)
40g cocoa
210g sugar
2 eggs
150g flour

Put cream cheese in a bowl and beat until smooth, add sugar and vanilla. Scrape sides and beat in egg. Beat until smooth. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter and cocoa and beat together. Add sugar and combine. Pour in beaten eggs and mix well then add flour. Mix until well combined. Pour mixture into a 20 cm x 30 cm tin and spread out evenly.
Dollop cream cheese mixture equally over top and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect.
Bake 150°C for approximately 20 minutes or until set – should wobble slightly. Cool in tin.
Cook it – love it!

Caramel Tarts
Tart cases
60g icing sugar
90g butter
200g flour
30g cornflour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 rounded tablespoon cocoa
½ tin condensed milk
½ cup sugar
60g butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
1½ tablespoons flour
1 egg yolk

Cream icing sugar and butter together, add egg and other dry ingredients and mix until combined. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll out pastry thinly and line 24 patty tins. Chill again and then bake pastry @ 180°C for 10 - 15 minutes or until just starting to brown. Place all filling ingredients in a bowl over pot of boiling water and beat until combined and sugar has dissolved. Pour into pastry cases and ice with chocolate icing when caramel has set.
Cook it – love it!