Saturday, 22 December 2012

Say 'Merry Christmas' with Lebkuchen

Christmas provides a wonderful excuse to make delicious sweet treats to share with family and friends. Fruit mince pies, pavlovas, cream filled brandy snaps are some of the more traditional New Zealand offerings. BUT this year I wanted to try something different.

Lebkuchen are dark, spicy heart shaped cookies that are found throughout Germany. You'll usually see them hung from a ribbon with phrases such as 'Ich liebe dich' (I love you) and 'Frohe Weihnachten' (Merry Christmas) written on them with icing. 

This particular recipe comes from Marian Keyes' recipe book Saved by Cake (my new favourite!), so while not traditionally German, it produces something to convert you all the same.  

And this is a prime opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas!

100g butter
275g honey
100g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
0.5 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cloves, bashed
1 star anise
6 cardamom pods, bashed
2.5 tablespoons cocoa powder

600g plain flour (I used a little less than 600g of flour and still the mixture was too dry. I'd recommend a lot less flour- maybe 500g?)
pinch of salt
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg

In a saucepan, heat the butter, honey sugar, spices and cocoa powder gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Be careful not to let it burn.

Take it off the heat and allow to cool. Remove the cloves, cardamom pods and star anise.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking powder and stir together with the salt. Make a well in the center and pour in first the egg, then the butter-spice mix. Mix together on low speed with until it comes together in a ball.

Divide roughly into 2 balls and wrap each in glad wrap and place in the fridge. Let them sit for at least a couple of hours, or even up to 2 days.

When you’re ready, line 4 baking trays and pre-heat the oven to 180C. Flour your bench and roll the dough out to about 1.5cm thick. The cooled mixture actually ended up being too hard so I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so- depending on the amount of dough.

Press your heart shaped cookie cutter down into the rolled out dough and wiggle to loosen. Carefully left off the bench (use a palette knife if you have one) and place on the baking trays.

Make a small hole in the corner of the hearts with a drinking straw if you wish to thread a ribbon through them to hang as decorations.

Once all the hearts are cut, bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Do watch that they don’t catch on the bottom (they will burn from the underneath first- the heart tip will colour to let you know).

Let the cookies cool completely on the trays- they will harden. Then decorate as you wish. I used an icing sugar, water, colouring mixture and used an icing pen. 

(L) 1st attempt (R) 2nd successful attempt

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Chronicles of Europe: Spain


Barcelona is an amazing hub of constant bars,cafes and restaurants. I didn't stray much past La Ramblas but within those streets were delicious morsels- even if you can't hide from the tourists.

To sample the ones to the right, visit Sagardi near La Ramblas. A busy and well priced joint, floating with international visitors.

An extremely popular and simple tapas bar was Can Paixano, located not far from Barcelona's water front. It was packed, hot and sweaty but the cava cooled you down and the Iberian ham rolls kept your tummy satisfied.

I was lucky enough to participate in a cooking class and market tour with Cook and Taste, an extremely well thought out and tidy space. Our teacher took his art seriously, but with a laugh. The day just flew by- we drank, we talked, we cooked and of course we ate!

First was the tour of La Boqueria market off La Ramblas, housing many Catalonian culinary delights, to purchase the fresh produce for the class. We saw exotic fruits, an abundance of seafood including salted cod, wild mushrooms and a variety of Iberian hams.

Next up was the cooking class. A mixture of Australians, Americans, an English couple and the one New Zealander worked together to create a variety of dishes true to the Spanish cuisine. If any of these dishes appeal to you, I can email you the recipe (contact

On the menu was:
Pan con Tomate (Tomato bread)
Served with a hard, sharp cheese and Iberian ham (which is amazing- the best ham in the world!)

Anchoas a la Plancha con Melón y Vinagreta Suave de Aceitunas Verdes y Pepinillos (Griddled anchovies with melon and a light green olive and gherkin vinaigrette)
The melon is marinated in sweet dessert wine and lemon juice. Sounds like an "interesting" mix, but the flavours work so well together. My favourite dish of the day.

Sopa de Pimiento Rojo al Aroma de Azafrán Tostado con Atún (Red bell pepper soup, flavoured with toasted saffron and griddled tuna)
The peppers were gently roasted and the saffron toasted in foil over an element- bringing out the best in both of these ingredients.

Clam Escabeche (Clams in a acidic fish broth)
The broth was made using bits of seafood left to boil and infuse. This dish really makes the most of the seafood available in Barcelona.

Paella de Marisco (Seafood paella)
A classic. The best rice to use is a strachy and round- sushi rice in fact! Also suggested was not to stir the rice as it cooks, to make the most of the starch content.

Crema Catalana (Catalan cream)
Créme brulée's cousin... quite simply- creamy and crunchy!


This city holds a vibrant mixture of flamenco, mosaics and food.

There is definitely a love affair with pastries going on in Spain. My favouite in Seville was located behind Plaza de Toros: Los Angeles Confireria y Pasteleria. There was so much to choose from, in fact I went back three times!

In this picture is a polvorón (a Spanish type of shortbread). It is an ode to my Mother who taught me so much about the Spanish cuisine.

Of course, it is mandatory to recommend a tapas bar. I enjoyed Taberna el Papelón, on Seville's main tourist street. With that comes tourist prices, but an exciting and busy vibe to it. I ordered a refreshing sangria and Jambon focaccia- a classic dinner bite. Plus you got a free bag of little baguette shaped crackers. Score!

When I was stuck for what other foodie discoveries were in Seville, off to the internet I went. I came across La Fiorentina, an artisan ice creamery recommended by The Guardian. It has an unbelievable variety of original flavours- the best I've ever seen!


Spain's capital city has many treasures- unfortunately I didn't discover many of these as it was constantly raining during my visit. Consequently I left my camera at the hotel (wasn't bidding on the success of my water lodged camera insurance claim), so I have no record of my foodie adventures. You will just have to take my word for it.

The tapas are world renowned in Madrid, with famous streets being Calle del Almendro and Calle Cava Baja. A Basque pintxos bar in the area is Taberna Txacolina, a very popular destination with a delicious display. I highly recommend trying the caramelised goat's cheese, and the jamon, brie and jam combination- both served on toasted baguette. It is also customary to try some txakoli (a traditional sparkling wine).

Later on that night (restaurants, bars etc. open around 8pm and close in the early hours of the morning- the Spanish way of life), we visited the must-see Mercado de San Miguel. Absolutely amazing! Grab a sangria and have a wonder, you can spend hours in this place sampling all that's on display.

I was also hoping to do a Tapas Experience tour with New Madrid, but it was called off due to the rain. If you try it one day- let me know what it's like!

As you can see, there is much to say about the Spanish way of life and cuisine. Really, one blog post does it no justice- you have to experience it for yourself. I hope this has given you a starting point for ideas. I would love to hear from those who have been, so I make notes for my next trip!

Keep a look out for my next post- Chronicles of Europe: France.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Marian's White Choco Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

Marian Keyes' venture into cookbook writing was a wise move! The recipes contained in Saved By Cake are varied and interesting, and the advice accompanying each one is simply helpful. What caught my eye were the Wasabi and White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing- doesn't this strange combination sound delicious! Unfortunately, having no wasabi in the house, meant my version lacked the essential flavour. BUT I (and Marian) highly recommend you try it, as I will for my next round.

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White Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

For the cupcakes:
100g white chocolate
100g butter, chilled and cut into cubes
110g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
75g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

For the icing:
100g butter
75g light brown soft sugar
75g golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C and line 12 hole cupcake tray.
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boiling water (double boiler method). Be sure to heat up slowly as white chocolate has the tendency to burn.

Add the butter to the bowl and stir until melted.
Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. It will look clumpy at this stage but do not be worried.
Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes then stir in the vanilla essence.
Beat in an egg at a time with an electric mixer until each one is well combined.
Double sift the dry ingredients. (I actually triple sifted as Marian recommends to get as much air in there as possible). Gently fold into the wet mixture. It will look very liquid at this stage. I was a bit concerned but they still turned out well!
Divide mixture among cupcake tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Mine were in there for 22 minutes. Result: slightly browned cupcakes.

To make the icing, place all ingredients into a saucepan and melt over a low heat.  When butter and sugar have melted, raise the heat. Whisk briskly until mixture starts to bubble, but do not let it boil. Keep it at this point for 5 to 8 minutes, until it thickens. Be careful as it will be very hot!!!
When the mixture has cooled down but is still liquid, spread over the cupcakes. The mixture I produced as quite runny so take this step slowly so it doesn't all spill down the sides.
Once iced, sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt- and voila! The soft sweet cupcake goes so well with the salty toffee. And feel free to adjust amount of salt in the icing depending on your taste.

How do these compare to the original?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Chronicles of Europe: Germany

German cuisine cannot be compared to Spanish, French or Italian... it's a whole different kettle of fish. Like the foodie pun? But it does have that ability to warm your heart from the inside out. Just not everyday otherwise Mr or Mrs Heart won't be thanking you.

One of my favourite breakfasts comes from Bavaria. It consists of Weisswurst (a sausage made out of... better not say) with Hausmachersenf (a sweet mustard), pretzels served with butter and good German beer!

When in Germany and in the mood for a hearty meal, don't look past a delicious pork knuckle covered in crackling. We made the trip out to Andechs from Munich on a beautiful sunny day and sampled such a meal. The band was playing traditional music in the background while we shared the pork accomplished by a pretzel (they are everywhere!), sauerkraut and a cream cheese spread with paprika and Camembert (yum!). A new drink I discovered was mixing beer with coke... strange for some but I would definitely recommend, and best serve it ice cold!

My tour of Germany also consisted of a visit to Berlin. A city which had many Italian restaurants among others. A classic Berlin dish is Currywurst. It is simply frankfurter sausage covered in a tomato sauce with curry powder sprinkled on top, and usually accompanied with chips. Not the height of sophistication, but it's good when you're hungry!

And a classic drink is Berliner Weisse. It apparently (I'm told by a tour guide) was created by the French in Berlin as they couldn't stand beer. It involves mixing a beer with Raspberry (red) or Waldmeister (green) syrup. Sweet and good!

Something else you notice is the constant presence of bakeries. I would suggest visiting one of the Kamps bakery franchises as they stock a delicious assortment of Germany pastries at a reasonable price. The stores are well designed and you'll really enjoy sitting back with pastry and freshly squeezed orangensaft in hand!

And when you are looking for something a bit special, Cafe Luitpold in Munich is where you will see the ladies of leisure sipping on coffee and delicately eating cake.

I had the raspberry tart, a pastry base with ground almond filling topped with fresh raspberries and cream. If that doesn't put a little foodie smile on your face, I don't know what else will!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Gooey Leek Risotto

When you have a spare leek or two lying around in preparation for the 5pm throw together, my first thought is leek risotto. This recipe has been adapted from the BBC Good Food website recipe.

Leek and Parmesan Risotto
Serves 2

25g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 leeks, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
75g short grain white rice
1 glass dry white wine (eg Chardonnay)
500ml vegetable stock
25g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Heat a large saucepan and add the butter and olive oil.
Toss in the spring onions, leeks and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes until softened. 
Add the rice and stir. Pour in the wine and simmer until reduced. 
Gradually add the stock, stirring until the rice is tender.
Stir in the Parmesan and season.

How easy is that! Plus it tastes delicious. I don't bother with arborio rice. It's too costly and short grain rice does a similar job.

 Also:   I am heading to Europe next week so you won't hear from me for the next month or so. However, watch out for my travel chronicles on my return. All the best with your cooking 'til then!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Steak... Good!

So I love meat (within moderation, of course). I can't go past a delicious steak sammy. This amazing marinade recipe allows the meat to taste perfect between two slices of bread, lettuce, tomato, aioli and caramelised onions! It originates from one of my favourite food magazines- Dish.



3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Place all ingredients in a plastic bag (with no holes) and close tightly. Shake the bag and leave to marinade for however long you like.
Heat in fry pan until desired pinkness reached.


I also have to share with you the recipe (also from Dish) for Caramelised Onions.

Caramelised Onions

2 tablespoons olive oil
knob of butter
2 onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat oil and butter in saucepan. Add onions, season, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Uncover cover and add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yum yum yum!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Auckland etc.

The next destination on my travels was Auckland and it's surrounds. Being New Zealand's biggest city means there is a lot on offer. In fact, too many to mention! But here is a summary of my recommendations. Firstly, in Auckland city, are well known brands Milly's Kitchen shop and Nosh Food Market. Both offer a large assortment of goodies, and are locally owned and operated.

About an hour plus north of Auckland is the very popular Matakana region. There's the Matakana Farmers' Market on Saturdays, which is larger than most but easily compares to any other Farmers' Market in New Zealand. There are some great shops to explore and you can tell a lot of effort has been put into sprucing up the town- check put the public toilets! We had a coffee break at the Matakana Market Kitchen, and then an ice cream break at Blue. They stock delicious Oob ice cream- the licorice flavour comes highly recommended!

If you are looking for a day trip away from the main city, why don't you follow suit and make a trip out to Waiheke Island to sample the beautiful beaches and wineries. Our trip consisted of a visit to Te Motu vineyard and Stoneyridge vineyard. We sampled some cheese and soaked up the sun at the latter. I also came across a well stocked fruit and vege store, which housed some surprising treats. 

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Traditional South African Food

I'm all about embracing cultures and the foods that accompany that. I myself was born in South Africa, a country that has had a particularly interesting history. And one that has involved different culinary influences. This dish is made up of many spices- arising from South Africa's Indian heritage. The mixture and proportions can be played around with to suit your taste. It is a delicious meal that would be prefect for a quick dinner on a winter's night. It is usually served with yellow rice (coloured by tumeric) and chutney.


Serves 6 

2 teaspoons curry powder
teaspoon ground ginger
teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika
teaspoons sugar
teaspoon turmeric
teaspoon salt
teaspoon pepper
2 small onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
tablespoon apricot jam
1 handful raisins
tablespoons chutney
tablespoon worcestershire sauce
4 slices white bread, roughly chopped
500g mince
1 egg
3/4 cup milk

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Put in first 8 ingredients, warm thoroughly.
Add next 6 ingredients. Return to low heat and mix until bubbly.
Dampen bread with milk. Squeeze out excess milk and add to mixture. Stir well.
Add mince and cook for 15 minutes.
Fill a large oven-proof dish with the Baboti mixture.
Beat the egg with milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over Baboti mixture.
Bake at 180C for 45 minutes (until custard is golden).

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Lakes District

My most recent trip out of the ol' Ch-Ch was further south to Queenstown, and as has become habit I want to share with you a summary of my foodie discoveries. This part of the world is one of the most beautiful (and many tourists would agree). That's especially true when you're lucky enough to have perfect weather like we did. While still on the cold side, one cannot complain when there is constant sun this time of year.

So the tale begins... first on the list is The Remarkable Sweet Shop. There are stores in Queenstown and Arrowtown with sweets and treats from all over the world. We dived right into their fudge. The favourites were Creme Brulee (a classic), Jelly Tip and Red Velvet. I won't put photos up for risk of drooling onto the keyboard- and also that it went too quickly for any to be taken.

Next recommendation is any fruit stall from the Cromwell region. Maybe it was just the fact that Cromwell has a big statue of fruit which draws you in, but there must be something good about it. Our choice was Jones' Fruit Stall which had a large selection of dried and fresh fruit. Just make sure you get the freshest possible to lower the chance of wastage.

Another important part of one's diet is cheese. Naturally, this was high on the agenda. We visited Gibbston Valley Cheese, which is right next door to Gibbston Valley Winery. All of which are located on the main road to Queenstown. Soon after walking in we were flooded with samples (a good sign!- or maybe a good marketing ploy). In the end, we left with a smoked brie and a Kawarau blue cheese.

While not exactly in the Queenstown area, a must visit for me was the Barker's Store in Geraldine. I have a lot of respect for this company who have become a household name in New Zealand, and who are always developing new products. The store itself has a vast selection of products (all of which you can sample), and you can pick up some bargains like expired stock (only by a month or so) and product trials- e.g. a citrus curd made with lime.

And right next door is a cheese store called Curds and Whey who stock locally made cheeses- delicious! From there we picked up a Geraldine Vintage Cheddar, which includes a silver sticker. It was a great trip with a lot to discover. My goal next time is to hit the back roads and hopefully come across something amazing to share with you all- fingers crossed! But in the meantime and I can put my feet up at home and enjoy a scrummy assortment of cheeses.

(L-R): Smoked Brie, Kawarau Blue, Geraldine Vintage Cheddar

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

My First Italian Cooking Class

I have a love of Italian cuisine that cannot compare to any other. The pizza, pastas, salads, meats... all of them hit the spot. It was reasonable that the next step would be to take a cooking class in order to recreate some of those dishes in my little kitchen. The class of choice is through Risingholme Community Centre. The first class was held last week. The authentic Italian teacher, Brunella, taught us how to make 'Crostini ai Funghi' and 'Pasta alla Puttanesca'. According to Brunella the pasta dish means an easy dish for a women to cook, but I was later told by my learned mother that it means something quite different.... So in dedication to my love of Italian food, I present Crostini ai Funghi- recreated! A really delicious spread, which is so easy to make!

Crostini ai Funghi

20g butter
1/2 onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
250g mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon vegetable stock
Freshly ground salt and pepper
75g cream cheese, or according to taste
(the recipe actually says 100ml cream but you can use cream cheese as an alternative)
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
1 baguette, sliced
Edam cheese, grated (recipe says Mozzarella but didn't have any)

Melt the butter in a pan. Add onion and garlic and cook over medium heat until tender.
Add mushrooms, parsley and stock, and cook on high until mushrooms are soft.
Reduce heat to low, add salt, pepper and cream cheese. Cook for another two minutes.
Put all into a food processor with parmesan and blend.
Toast baguette pieces in oven until crunchy. Spread mushroom dip on toasted bread and top with grated cheese. Top in oven until cheese is melted.

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Ginger.Love.Care. (New Zealand Food Blog)

Monday, 30 April 2012

Annabel's Quick Zucchini Fritters

I needed to use up a zucchini/courgette/long green thing, and given I was brought up never to waste food- off I went to my cookbooks. This recipe comes from Annabel Langbein's Free Range in the City. The word quick is understated. It's an extremely fast, tasty lunch. I do not, however, recommend that you squeeze out the liquid from the zucchini with a light coloured tea towel. It might turn green... just a bit.

Quick Zucchini Fritters

Makes 4 medium fritters

1 medium zucchini
1 egg
3 tablespoons self-raising flour
30g feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 clove garlic
Sprinkling of dried mint
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper, freshly ground
Oil, for frying

Grate zucchini into a clean tea towel, pull up the sides and squeeze tightly to remove as much liquid as possible.
Mix egg and flour to make a thick, smooth batter. Add the courgette and the rest of the ingredients (except butter).
Melt the butter in the fry pan and spoon mixture into pan to make 4 fritters. Flatten slightly.
Cook fritters for 2-3 minutes each side or until cooked through the center.