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.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I'm always constantly seduced by baking that looks pretty... and these cupcakes are pure eye candy! This recipe is from Made From Scratch. It's not the traditional method (doesn't use buttermilk) but is a great substitute when you don't have any at home.

Tweaked Red Velvet Cupcakes

1 bottle of red food colouring
2 tablespoons cocoa (the first time using my packet of Valrhona cocoa... ohhh la la)
1/4 cup milk
125g butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon plain flour
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 cup self-raising flour

Butter icing:
125g softened butter
1 cup of icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
A few drops of red food colouring

Preheat oven to 180C
In a small bowl make a paste out of the food colouring and cocoa, and mix until smooth.
Combine all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add cocoa paste to the cake mixture and beat  until light  and well combined. Spoon mixture into cupcake molds.  

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before icing.
For the icing, whip butter until white and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Monday, 23 April 2012

A Change from Rice and Pasta

I recently checked out the revamped 'The Colombo' and was pleasantly surprised at what a great retail space it has become and the food offerings available. After discovering Coopers & Co and their assortment of unusual foods, we came across Trade Aid's Palestinian Couscous. Even had the store manager rushed up to explain the product with much enthusiasm. And she was right- it's delicious! The nutty flavour and asymmetrical texture really made this dish (courtesy of Donna Hay).

Roasted Pumpkin and Couscous Salad

Serves heaps! (mostly consisting of couscous ;) )

Half a pumpkin, cut into thin slices
Few dashes of olive oil
1 packet Palestinian Couscous
3 cups chicken stock
Half preserved lemon rind, finely chopped
Mint (I used a few sprinklings of dried mint)
200g feta, sliced

Homney Cumin Dressing:
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 200C. Place pumpkin in baking tray and drizzle with oil. Bake for 25 minutes. (Was actually running behind schedule so par-boiled it first).
Prepare couscous according to packet instructions and leave to the side while pumpkin roasts.
Stir the rind, mint and feta through the couscous.
For the dressing, shake up all the ingredients together.
To serve, mix pumkin, couscous and dressing together.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Fennel and Potato Gratin

I keep on seeing this beautiful vegetable at Farmers' Markets with long green stems and feather-like leaves. My decision to finally purchase some was purely superficial, so I didn't want a recipe that involved a lot of fuss. After a quick Google search, a recipe for Fennel and Potato Gratin was chosen. Having never made a savoury gratin before, this was a learning experience (ie a bit of a fail). While cutting up the fennel, it was hard to miss the distinctive smell of licorice leaving the stems. Fennel appears to be used a lot in Italian cooking, and given that's my favourite kind of cooking, it will have to be prepared as such next time.

And speaking of Italian...

... Got a bit side tracked there...

Fennel and Potato Gratin

Serves 4

4 medium potatoes
1 fennel bulb
1 cup cream*
1 cup milk*
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Peel and finely slice potatoes and slice fennel into slivers. Put into cold water, drain and pat dry.
Heat cream and milk in a saucepan to simmering. Add garlic, pepper and salt.
Layer the sliced vegetables in a baking dish and pour over the milk/cream mix.
Cover with foil and bake at 180C for half an hour.
Remove the foil and allow to finish cooking till tender and the top has browned.

*I would highly recommend using half the amount of milk and cream, as the mixture came out quite runny.
It might be quite nice next time with a Parmesan bread crumb coating. Yummy!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Winter Soup

Now that the temperature is dropping and the days are shorter- it is hard to deny winter is here. I like to focus on the positives... like woolly slippers, hot water bottles and soup! It's great to divide up into portions to last you for lunch for the week. I like to think of it as what salads are to summer, soups are to winter. The following has been adapted from one of my favourite magazines- Dish. I quite like this recipe for its use of the smoky paprika. It adds a wonderful depth compared to traditional pumpkin soup recipes.

Pumpkin and Smoked Paprika Soup

Makes around 6 bowls

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled and chopped
3 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the paprika, onion, carrot, garlic, thyme and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until vegetables are soft and lightly coloured. Add the pumpkin and stock, simmer until all vegetables are tender. Cool slightly and process until smooth.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Different Kind of Snack/Entree/Tapa

During a visit to The Monday Room in Christchurch a group of friends and I sampled some of their delicious tapas. The stand out for me were the Blue Cheese Polenta Chips- sooo good! After hunting around, I finally came across some instant polenta (becuase let's be honest, no one really wants to stand over the stove for hours stirring the normal stuff) at the Mediterranean Food Company. Here is my most recent suggestion for your next nibble.

Blue Cheese and Thyme Polenta Chips
(accompanied by Paprika Mayo)

1/2 trim milk
1/2 vegetable stock
3/4 cup instant polenta
25g ish blue cheese
Sprinkles of thyme
Olive oil, for frying

For the Paprika Mayo:
A few spoons of mayo
A few dashes of paprika ( I used La Chinata 'Sweet' paprika powder)

Combine milk and stock in a saucepan and bring to simmer over a medium heat.
Remove from heat, and gradually pour in polenta while mixing with a spoon. The mixture should have a porridge like consistency.
Stir in the blue cheese and thyme.
Pour into dish, and place in fridge to set for about 1/2 - 1 hour. Once set, cut into chips.
Heat oil in a pan and fry chips until golden brown. I don't actually recommend frying the chips using the method in the photo (it's for artistic purposes).

For the paprika mayo, mix ingredients in a bowl and add enough paprika to your liking.

This particular recipe used a lot of improvisation so have a bit of fun with it. I found the chips to be a bit dry so would suggest to add some more stock or similar (but not some much it becomes runny). Another recommendation would be to make the chips smaller so you have more to share. However, they were delicious and don't require a lot of confidence to make- so easy!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Hot Cross Bunnies

Easter just happens to coincide with receiving a breadmaker so here I am experimenting with an appropriate recipe! It's a nice feeling to know the bread maker will take the hassle out of sore arms, although it's understandable that some might feel that a bread maker is a waste of space. 

This recipe has been adapted from the breadmaker's manual and I think a failure on my part was to not play around with ingredients- the buns didn't have a lot to them. Other possibilities are Mocha, Peanut Butter chocolate, Chilli chocolate. You can probably tell I have a bit of a chocolate tooth.

Hot Cross Buns

Makes 12

310 ml water
1 egg (measured with water- place egg at the bottom and add water to make 310ml)
2 tablespoons oil
3/4 cup sultanas
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 1/4 cups high grade flour
3 1/4 teaspoons breadmaker yeast

For the crosses:
1/4 cup plain flour
40 ml water
1 teaspoon sugar

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon gelatine

Place the ingredients into the bread pan in the order listed.
Use 'Dough' function on machine.
Once cycle is completed, remove dough and knead on floured surface until elastic and springs back. Divide dough into 12 balls. Place close together on baking tray. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
To make the crosses- mix flour, water and sugar until smooth. Pipe crosses over risen dough.
Bake buns for 30m minutes in pre-heated oven at 180C until golden brown.
For the glaze, combine ingredients in a jug. Microwave for 1-2 minutes. Brush over hot buns.

Serve with your favourite topping (butter, gooseberry jam are suggestions), possibly toasted? Eveyone has their own way of enjoying Hot Cross Buns (which I feel is the best part of Easter). And now I can have them all year around... and you're more than welcome to join me for one.

HAPPY EASTER and enjoy your time with family and friends!

Monday, 2 April 2012

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

Having had some rhubarb left over from my last Farmers' Market visit, I thought it would be a good idea to make an easy cake to share with my loved ones. The ginger gives this cake some extra flavour, while mixing nicely with the softness of the cooked rhubarb. I would recommend roasting the hazelnuts before hand and rubbing between a tea towel to get rid of the skins. Delicious!

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

2 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
150g butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
4 stems rhubarb, chopped
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
1 1/2 tbsp soft brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 160ºC. Grease and line a cake pan.
Beat eggs and sugar until pale and creamy. Pour in melted butter and vanilla and mix well. Stir through combined flour, baking powder and ginger.
Pour half the batter into the cake pan and arrange rhubarb over the mixture, then top with remaining batter.
Sprinkle hazelnuts and sugar over top. Bake at 160ºC for 1 hour or until cooked.