I’m back in my usual blogging position (in bed with a cup of tea) listening to the rain pattering away outside – dammit there goes my morning walk! Today’s recipe is one I put together for Fairfax: wholegrain jumbo oats and chia seeds soaked overnight with dates, quickly cooked in the morning into a big bowl of nourishing porridge. To serve, you can stir through a lovely big blob of fig and date puree, and top the lot with smooth, creamy Greek yoghurt and crunchy honeyed nuts. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed this but I usually detail what flavours and textures you can expect in each recipe – to me those combinations (and their balance) are so important. Anyhoo – balance or not, it’s nutritious, hearty, and will sustain you for hours…and tastes good too! (Also the ideal start to a wet, cold winter’s day..)
In other news, I’m so excited that Rich arrives back from his visit with Henry in Melbourne today – and has eight nights in Auckland before heading back to uni in Wellington. Hurrah! I have no doubt that he will want to spend a minimal amount of time being uber-nurtured by his enthusiastic, son-starved mother and will be more keen on catching up with Auckland mates…but I will grab the moments that I can and make the most of them! (That may be sitting drinking tea while he plays play station, but that’ll do!). Meanwhile poor old Pog has developed a crappy cold, but is being ably looked after by the lovely Will who arrived on his doorstep last night with pizza and flowers – perfect! (Ohh, the rain has stopped, up I get!!!)

1 ½ cups wholegrain jumbo rolled oats

2 ½ tablespoons chia seeds
3 cups whole milk plus 1 cup extra (or use almond or rice milk)
½ cup roughly chopped dates
½ cup walnuts
½ cup pistachios
½ cup whole almonds
2 teaspoons honey
1 cup Greek yoghurt
Put oats, 2 tablespoons of the chia seeds, 3 cups of the milk and the dates in a sealed container in the fridge over night. Dry fry walnuts, pistachios and almonds in a large frying pan, over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add honey and cook a further 3-4 minutes until lightly toasted and glazed with honey. Stir occasionally so that the nuts don’t catch and burn. Although toasted the nuts remain a little sticky, so store in an even layer until ready to spoon over porridge. To cook porridge, bring the oat mixture to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring for 8-10 minutes until thickened. Add extra milk to achieve your desired consistency. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with a dollop of date and fig puree, a spoonful or two of yoghurt and a sprinkling of nuts. For garnish, sprinkle with the extra chia seeds if desired. I find porridge serving sizes vary wildly – and while this would happily serve four of me, I know some men would demolish half of it, so use your judgement with regard to servings!
6 dried figs, stems removed, roughly chopped
10 dates, halved and stones removed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely grated zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
Put all of the ingredients in a small pot with ¾ cup water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes then remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before mashing to a paste with a fork – or for a smoother consistency blend in a small food processor. For a thinner consistency simply add ¼ cup more water. Cool and store in a covered container in the fridge until ready to use.

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Left-overs Roast Lamb & Vege Tart

God here we are again then – where does time go? It seems to just slip by so quickly that before you know it months have passed in the blink of an eye. Pshh – haven’t got enough time for blathering on, I have to be out the door in half an hour and haven’t ‘got my face on’! This tart is an ode to the Sunday roast – or rather a way to use up left-overs that doesn’t involve bread (not that I don’t love a white bread sandwich with left-over lamb, salt, pepper and tomato chutney), and which extends the whole lot into dinner round 2. But – it is also a great flavour combo, with an extra hit of fresh rosemary, a wee pillowy base of creamy Parmesan and a couple of fresh mint leaves at the end to give it a fresh lift. Add the ubiquitous mint jelly or tomato chutney on the side, and it really is a winner 🙂
While I fluff around making roast tart, the man/boys are together in Melbourne – hurrah! I got such a kick out of seeing Hoob for 10 minutes the other day – by delivering him from the domestic terminal to international on his way from Wellington to Melbourne to visit Henry. If anyone knows of the old classic film/TV show The Odd Couple – that pretty much sums up my gorgeous sons. One immaculately-groomed, stylish force of nature and one free-spirited, long-haired, philosophical cruiser. Would love to be a fly on the wall during their week together – or maybe not!!! Anyhoo – I’m wishing them a super-happy week, because they might be outwardly chalk and cheese, but their common link is being pretty bloody fabulous and loving. Right, better hit it…!

1 ½ onions

1 kumara
1/5th pumpkin
1 parsnip
1 carrot
1 ½ cups left-over roast lamb
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 -2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
rosemary sprigs
1 ½ sheets Edmonds ready rolled savoury short pastry sheets
½ cup cream
2 eggs
½ cup + 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
To serve – fresh mint leaves and mint jelly and/or tomato relish
If you are using left overs for this, you will need about 2 ½-3 cups of left over roast vegetables and 1 ½ cups of lamb. If you are preparing the vegetables specifically for the tart, preheat the oven to 180˚C and cut the onions into 8ths (in wedges), and the remaining vegetables into roughly 5cm chunks and batons. Place the vegetables in an even layer in a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil and honey, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and tuck in a few sprigs of rosemary. Roast for around 30-35 minutes until all of the vegetables can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow the vegetables to cool while you line a 25cm removable base tart tin with pastry, trimming and patching it where necessary. Prick the base, chill the pastry for 10 minutes, then line with baking paper and baking beans or weights and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the baking beans and paper and cook a further 10minutes. 

While the base is baking whisk the cream, eggs and grated Parmesan together and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Once the pastry shell is cooked, fill it with the roast vegetables and lamb, and pour over the cream mixture. Lower the oven temperature to 160˚C and bake a further 35-40 minutes until just set. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin before removing and serving with fresh mint, mint jelly and/or tomato relish. Serves 6 for lunch and 4 for dinner.

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Hot smoked salmon & leek pies with aioli

Another rainy Saturday, another All Black rugby test – and another pie! But today’s is completely different to last week’s meaty extravaganza while still being totally addictive and indulgent. These ones involve sweet soft leeks, flaked firm white fish, rich hot smoked salmon, aniseedy dill and sharp lemon zest all tucked up together in flaky pastry – a decent blob of aioli and a few sharp capers or caperberries on the side, and the result is so bloody delicious! Also – they are incredibly easy to make, can all be done in advance, are loved by all ages and are perfect for everything from a ladies’ lunch to said rugby-watching food.

Unbelievable even though it is 7:30am on a weekend morning I am about to head out on my walk having already taken delivery of my new, orthopaediacally sound yet soft and lovely, mattress , and directed the delivery guys up and down stairs and around corners and back down to the garage with the old one. I am ridiculously excited after having woken every day with a sore back for the last 12 months or more, to finally have the old rock hard mattress replaced. Yee ha! (God – so old, so enthusiastic about sleep…). Meanwhile Rich has made it through his psych exam and now just has to round things off with his (favourite) philosophy – the subject he was pretty much born to – and Henry is back into the daily grind in Melbourne and on the count down to the start of his interior design course, followed shortly thereafter by a trip home to celebrate his 21st birthday. I have managed to book myself in for a ton of work coming up, but will try and head back here in the usual once-a-week manner to share the recipes (like this one I prepared for Bonds Australia) that I think you’ll like.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 medium leeks, trimmed,  quartered lengthways, finely sliced
2 tablespoons cream
150g tarakihi or similar white fish, chopped into 2cm pieces
finely grated zest of half a lemon
200g hot smoked salmon, flaked into 4cm chunks
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
675g flaky pastry (I used 4 1/2 ready rolled pastry sheets @ 150g each)
1 egg, lightly whisked
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
Heat oil and butter in a large heavy based saucepan and cook onion and leeks together for 10-12 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt. Add cream, terakihi and zest and cook a further 3-4 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Set aside to cool, gently fold through salmon and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Cut each pastry sheet into 4, (and half a sheet into 2), divide filling between 9 of the squares and top with the remaining pastry squares. Seal the edges by pressing firmly with your thumbs or using the tines of a fork. Compress the pastry around the filling as you go then trim the edges neatly with a sharp knife. Slice two small slashes on the top of each pie, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. refrigerate while the oven preheats to 190˚C. Bake the pies on very lightly greased oven trays for 25 minutes or until golden. Serve with aioli and caper berries if desired. Makes 9

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Rustic Apple Tart with Whiskey Ginger Ice cream

Good morning 🙂 Right – now that it is actually proper winter, we can can fully justify some hard core comfort food action – like these really simple apple tarts with ginger & whiskey ice cream that I put together for Fairfax. The ice cream isn’t as sweet as you might imagine, but has a subtle smoky background that works perfectly with the little nuggets of crystallised ginger. Similarly the apple tart has a comforting apple-y feel good factor without being overly sweet (depending on how heavy handed you get with the icing sugar), and a pleasing flaky pastry base to support the big wodge of ice cream you’ll want to put on top. Both recipes are an absolute doddle, and only take minutes to throw together – seriously.
Not much else to report, Henry is back in Melbourne after his romantic Tasmanian get-away, while Rich has exam number two at Victoria uni today – psychology. (Hoob, the chance that you will read this is a solid 1% – but just in case – good luck!!!). I am about to haul arse for a walk, then it’s a busy day of zooming into Dish magazine to drop of pics, finish editing my next recipe for Fairfax and basically trying to get my act together.
If you are reading this from the States – I feel for you, how bloody awful to be living in a country where idiots like Trump get media oxygen, and where gun laws are patently ridiculous. I can’t bear thinking about the events in Orlando – how do you cope? Be nice to each other!

No-churn Ginger & Whiskey Ice Cream
400ml cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons whiskey

Whip the cream to soft peaks in a large bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk and salt and beat together until thick and well combined. Add the ginger and whiskey, beat together then pour into a 1 litre container. Cover and freeze for 6 hours or over night. Makes 1 litre
Rustic Apple Tart
250g puff pastry (I used Paneton ready rolled puff pastry)
3 large Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons lemon juice
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons caster sugar
20g melted butter
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 210˚C and put a baking tray in the oven to heat up. Roll out the pastry if necessary and trim it into a 28cm by 20cm rectangle. Place the pastry on a piece of baking paper and refrigerate it while preparing the apples. Peel, half and core the apples, then slice them finely. Toss in the lemon juice, zest and 2 tablespoons of the caster sugar. Mark a 1.5 cm border around the edge of the pastry with the tip of a sharp knife and prick inside the border lightly with the tines of a fork. Arrange the apples in overlapping half moons in the pattern of your choice – they don’t have to be too perfect. Brush the apples and pastry edge with butter then sprinkle the remaining caster sugar over the apples. Slide the pastry on the baking paper, onto the hot oven tray and bake 25 minutes – keeping an eye on any oven hot spots so that your pastry cooks evenly around the edges. Rest for a few minutes before serving with a light dusting of icing sugar. Serves 6.

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Beef, bacon and mushroom pies with mozzarella and caramelised onions

Morning all – as you see I have a particularly decadent wee pie here for you, just in time for the weekend. As you want with any good pie the base is crisp and holds together, while the top has a good bit of flaky action. The filling is lush – layers of melty mozzarella, earthy mushrooms, tender beef and sweet caramelized onion – all harmonizing together in every delicious mouthful! This is my latest recipe for the Dish magazine website, and ideal for enjoying with the rugby on Saturday. I would strongly suggest making the beef filling the day before – the longer all of those flavours can hang out together the better – but in emergencies, being made in the morning will suffice 🙂 Grab the stuff on your way home from work – the beef bit only takes about 10 minutes to prep and 15-20 minutes to get cooking, then you just leave it for 4 hours – et voila – all done. If you can’t be faffed making caramelized onion, bought will do just fine – and the pastry is all made for you too, so really, just a bit of work at the beginning, a bit of work in ‘construction’ and you’re all done. Serve with a good chutney, a pile of creamy mash and a bitter green salad. Or not. Haha – up to you!

Very brief state of the nation – Pog is off for a romantic weekend in Tasmania with the lovely Will (adventures!), Rich is actually swatting for his uni law exam (I have seen video evidence) and I am spending a night at a girlfriend’s batch anticipating a flurry of crosswords and code crackers, a walk or two and a fair bit of whiskey. Have a good one – go the ABs – and hope you enjoy the pies 🙂

3 tablespoons olive oil

150g streaky bacon, chopped into 1cm strips
500g mixed mushrooms (I used field mushrooms and Swiss browns – large mushrooms sliced, and small mushrooms quartered)
850g stewing steak such as blade, cut into 3cm pieces
1 cup red wine
1 cup beef stock
a sprig of thyme
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons whole milk
525g shortcrust pastry (3 1/2 Edmonds ready rolled pastry sheets)
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
600g flaky pastry (4 sheets Edmonds ready rolled pastry sheets)
1 egg, lightly whisked
12 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)
Caramelised onion:
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large red onions, finely sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy based saucepan and cook bacon for 4-5 minutes until the fat has started to render and the bacon is a little crispy. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and add the mushrooms. Cook over a medium high heat for 8-10 minutes then tip mushrooms out into a container. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same pot and cook beef over a medium high heat for 3-4 minutes until browned. Add mushrooms and bacon back to the pot with wine, stock and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and simmer over a low heat for 4 hours until the beef is super tender. Chill over night.
Remove thyme and reheat beef gently, sprinkle with flour, stir in milk and cook, stirring until smooth and slightly thickened. Set aside. Heat oil in a large frying pan and add onions, cook for 10 minutes then add sugar and cook a further 30-35 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and season if desired with sea salt and black pepper. Cool. Lightly spray 8x 1 cup capacity pie tins with a little baking spray. Cut shortcrust pastry rounds and strips to line the tins, squishing any joins together. Divide half of the mozzarella between the pastry cases. Divide beef filling between the cases then top with remaining mozzarella and caramelized onion. Cut 8 pastry lids from the flaky pastry and top pies. Seal edges by pressing with the tines of a fork or your thumbs, and trim. Brush with egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Chill the pies while the oven heats to 180˚C then bake for 1 hour – cover the tops with foil for the last 15 minutes if necessary. Leave pies to sit for a few minutes before tipping out of the tins and serving with tomato chutney, a bitter green salad and a pile of creamy mashed potatoes.
Serves 8

Pies can be made a day in advance and cooked just before serving.

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Deep, dark spinach, feta & ricotta tart

Forgive me for not having many words at the moment (maybe it’s a blessing?), but I just wanted to quickly share this recipe for a deep, dark spinach, feta and ricotta tart I recently put together for Fairfax. It is so dense and iron-rich, a really satisfying spinach-packed tart, but with the little lift from ricotta and slightly salty hit from the feta…not a bad way to start junk-free June? Have a good one 🙂

1 ½ cups plain flour

110g chilled butter, chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan
4 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons chilled water
baking oil spray
1 kilo frozen spinach, defrosted
250g ricotta
200g feta, roughly chopped
1/3 cup cream
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Put the flour, butter and a 1/3 cup of Parmesan in a food processor and whiz until it forms breadcrumbs. Add 1 egg yolk and the chilled water and pulse until it starts to come together in big clumps. Tip the mixture out onto a clean bench and squeeze and pat together to form a round disk. Wrap the pastry disc in plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes. Lightly spray the base and sides of a deep 26cm tart tin with baking oil spray and preheat the oven to 190˚C. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until it is a large circle, big enough to fit up the sides of the tart tin. Use a spatula to loosen the pastry off the bench and carefully lift into the tin. (If it breaks up a bit, this will not matter at all). Press pastry into prepared tin, pressing all the way up the sides (and mending any tears) and prick the base lightly with a fork. Cut a large circle of baking paper and place inside the pastry then fill with baking beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the baking paper and baking beans and bake a further 10 minutes. While the base is cooking put the spinach in a colander and squeeze out the excess water. Put spinach in a food processor with remaining eggs and yolk, ricotta, feta, cream and nutmeg. Season well with salt and pepper and whiz the mixture until smooth. Once the pastry is ready, pour in the spinach filling, reduce the oven temperature to 180˚C and cook 60 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is set. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin to serve. The tart is great served on it’s own or with your favourite tomato chutney.

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Brown Sugar Apple Crumble Tart

Good Friday morning – just a very quick post of this apple crumble tart recipe that I recently put together for Dish magazine. It’s basically got a brown sugar short pastry, topped with a wee bit of sweet jam, filled with loads of tart apples and then a sweet brown sugar crumbly topping. Basically all the good bits put together! You really need to serve it with softly whipped cream or ice cream to make the most of it – cool and creamy with all that fruity crumble…
Super brief state of the nation – Pog has just switched direction in Melbourne and is now lined up to go from graphic design to interior design, which as any one who knows him will attest, will suit him down to the ground. I have no doubt he will be bloody brilliant. Meanwhile Hoob has exams looming in Welly…so a bit of stressy pressure to deal with – but so far he’s had amazing essay results. That man/boy is more capable than he realises! And I’ve just finished shooting my next spread for Dish, some really delicious recipes and (I think) pretty decent pics, so hurrah 🙂 Anyhoo – wishing you a happy (if damp) weekend…

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3cm pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons of your favourite jam (I used raspberry and rhubarb)*
110g cold butter, chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cups plain flour
1 cold egg yolk
1-2 teaspoons cold water
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
80g cold butter, chopped
Put apple chunks in a large frying pan with brown sugar and water. Cook over a medium heat for 15 minutes until the apples are just soft and the water evaporated, then set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Pop pastry butter, brown sugar and flour in a food processor and whiz to form breadcrumbs, add yolk and 1 teaspoon of water and pulse until the mixture forms large clumps (add extra water only if needed). Tip out onto a clean bench and pat and squash together into a pastry disc. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from the fridge and roll pastry out on a lightly floured bench. Release from the bench if necessary with a spatula and fit into a 26cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Press into the sides and base, patching any holes and trimming away any excess pastry. Prick the bottom lightly with a fork and put in the freezer for 5 minutes. Put a large circle of baking paper into the pastry base and fill the tart tin with baking beans or rice. Bake for 12 minutes, remove the baking paper and baking beans and cook a further 8 minutes. 
While the base is cooking put all of the crumble ingredients in a food processor and pulse to form big clumpy breadcrumbs. Once the base is cooked, spread jam on top of the pastry, tip in apples and sprinkle with crumble topping – squishing some of the crumble into lovely big lumps. Bake a further 25 minutes then rest for 20 minutes before removing from the tin. This can be made in advance, removed from the tin when cold and reheated for 10 minutes in the oven, but is also great at room temperature. Serves 6-8 with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

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Loaded Lamb Meatballs with eggplant hummus, yoghurt, pine nuts, coriander & mint

Check out these lamb meatballs, not bad hey!? I just put the recipe together for Dish, and they’re a real winner. As it’s only me at home I delivered the whole lot, with all the extra bits, to my sister’s house last night, and they got a resounding thumbs up from the whole fam 🙂 I love things eaten together which all compliment each other so beautifully like this – so first up you have the delicious spiced meatballs (great as left-overs cold in lunch-boxes etc), but load them up with garlicky eggplant hummus, salty crumbled feta, sharp red onion, creamy yoghurt with lemony pomegranate molasses, crunchy cumin spiced pine nuts, fresh bright mint and coriander and they’re basically just bloody amazing!

Phew – it’s been a weird old time lately, but such an incredible treat to head back to Melbourne last weekend to spend Mother’s Day with Henry. His flat his hilarious, both unbelievably rumpty and super-cool at the same time – and in typical fashion Pog has transformed his bedroom and the living room into urban-chic magazine-worthy spaces. I also got to see where he will be working from today (now yesterday), and spend a bit of time with the lovely Will, rounded out with lots of eating out and a tiny bit of shopping! Meanwhile down in Welly Hoob has been getting stuck into his uni work, going to the gym, (even doing yoga), handing out his CV and is generally on an awesome proactive roll – woo hoo, go Rich! So, having been away, and not really with the program last week, it’s now time for me to get my sh*t together – lots of work to do, time to get busy 🙂

Loaded lamb meatballs with eggplant hummus:
3 slices white toast bread, crusts removed, roughly torn
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
½ cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 red onion – half roughly chopped and half finely sliced
1 egg
1 kilo lamb mince
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil spray
To serve: 
2 cups Greek yoghurt
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 red onion, finely sliced
200g soft goat feta, crumbled
½ cup coriander leaves
½ cup mint leaves
6-8 flatbreads
Put bread and milk in a small dish to soak. Heat olive oil ion a small frying pan and cook pine nuts and cumin seeds together for 3-4 minutes until lightly golden and fragrant. Put bread and milk in a food processor and add spices, garlic, chilli flakes, lemon zest, roughly chopped onion and egg. Whiz to combine, add lamb mince and pulse to mix together. Lastly add half of the pine nuts and cumin seed mixture and pulse again briefly. Season with salt and pepper then tip into a container, cover and refrigerate for half an hour. Roll into 24 large golf ball-sized balls and refrigerate again while the oven preheats to 200˚C (400˚F)  and line an oven tray with baking paper. Put lamb balls on the lined tray and lightly spray with oil then bake for 20 minutes, turning once during cooking. Rest the lamb balls for 3-4 minutes while the flatbreads heat in the oven, and serve with eggplant hummus, yoghurt, a drizzle of pomegranate molasses, finely sliced red onion, feta, fresh herbs and a sprinkling of pine nuts with cumin seeds. Serves 6
Eggplant Hummus:
2 small eggplants, total weight 600g
1 400g tin cooked chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 210˚C (410˚F) and line an oven tray with baking paper. Wash and dry eggplants well then poke 7-8 slits in each eggplant with a small sharp knife. Place on the prepared tray and cook in the hot oven 40-45 minutes until easily pierced with a knife. Trim of stems and chop into large chunks. Put remaining ingredients in a food processor; add eggplant and whiz to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve drizzled with a little extra olive oil.

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Pear & Date Bundt Cake with Caramel Mascarpone Sauce

Well this makes a change – for once I am neither propped up in bed nor at my desk, but at the hairdresser! (Loving the wifi 🙂 ) You may have been wondering if perhaps I had been captured by aliens given the length of time between posts. The truth is far less exciting – I have been having a bit of a rough time lately for one reason and another, which I won’t go into here, and am only just starting to poke my head back above the parapet. (No drastic worries – it’s not health related).
So, here I am, waiting for my hair colour to do it’s thing and anticipating escaping to Melbourne this weekend to go and have a visit with Henry for Mother’s Day. Luckily I had a good catch up with Rich when he was home on uni break – but I will miss not being with both the boys on Sunday – them’s the breaks hey? I will miss seeing my Mum too, but had her over for a girls’ night recently, making her a twice baked pumpkin souffle (work in progress), and vanilla rhubarb layer cake which we had with a few wines and then collapsed on the couch to re-watch The Dressmaker. If you are planning a catch up with your mum this weekend, this might be just the cake for you. It took quite a bit of testing to get it just right – sweet but not too sweet, moist but not ‘sinky’ and the caramel sauce lightened with a little mascarpone is just the thing to finish it off. Go give your mum a hug this weekend (even a virtual one) – you know she’ll love it!

1 ½  cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
200g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 medium pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into 1-2cm dice
Spray a 24cm bundt tin with baking oil spray and preheat the oven to 170˚C (335˚F). 
Pour boiling water over dates, stir in baking soda and leave to one side. Beat the butter and sugars together for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy. One by one add the eggs and vanilla mixing well after each addition until well combined. Add dates and soaking water and mix together. Sift the flour and spices together, then fold into wet mixture. Add one pear and stir to combine. Plop one third of the mixture around the base of the prepared bundt tin. Add remaining pear to cake mix then plop on top of mixture already in the tin and smooth gently with the back of a spoon. Bake at 170˚C (335˚F) for 60 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150˚C (300˚F) and bake a further 15 minutes. Cool half an hour in the tin before removing and serving with caramel mascarpone sauce and optional whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream.
Caramel Sauce:
1 cup caster sugar
4 tbsp water
300ml cream
2 tablespoons mascarpone
Heat caster sugar and water together in a pan over a medium heat until the mixture has crystallized, then turned a light golden color. Remove from the heat and microwave cream for about 1 minute or so until almost boiling – it must be very hot – not tepid. In amounts of about 1/4 cup at a time whisk hot cream into hot caramel sugar – it will froth up madly in a freaky way, but just whisk hard and keep adding in small amounts until it is all incorporated…worth the effort! Once cooled pour into a bottle and store in the fridge. Before serving whisk mascarpone into 1/2 cup of caramel sauce and pour over cake. Remaining caramel sauce can be served on the side or stored in the fridge and heated to serve over ice cream.

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The Ultimate Lamb Burger and Rosewater Rhubarb Eton Mess

Greetings from magnificent Waiheke! God I love being out here – it is worth every moment of frazzled, rushed preparation to make the last car ferry out with one vomitous and one fretful dog to arrive to a spectacularly clear, still evening, crackling fire, fresh fish and chips and a cheeky l’il glass of wine. So here I sit now (next day) at the Waiheke Library using their  lovely free internet and getting a bit of work done for Fairfax (Mother’s Day baking- coming soon). 
Meanwhile we are actually here to take advantage of the long weekend in recognition of Anzac Day (to honour the fallen soldiers of New Zealand and Australia, on the day that troops landed at Gallipoli in 1915) – and I figure these lamb burgers (that I also put together for Fairfax) are a pretty perfect Anzac meal to share with friends: good quality lamb mince, flavour-packed with cumin, coriander, garlic and chilli is moulded to fit Turkish bread roll shapes. Once cooked they are sandwiched with ripe tomato, creamy avocado and iron-rich spinach, fresh vibrant raw beetroot and a creamy, minty cucumber and yoghurt dressing. To follow, a decadent little glass of Rosewater Rhubarb Eton Mess – crumbly sweet meringue, tart rhubarb and pillowy cream flavoured with fragrant rose water and topped with Turkish delight and chopped pistachios. Seriously – the whole lot is bloody delicious, if I say so myself!
Now, time to go and savour Waiheke a bit more – we all followed our usual routines this morning: I went for my monster walk, Nick took the dogs to the beach, and Rich (up from uni in Wellington for semester break) slept. So now I think a wander around the shops is in order, then back to the section for a big cup of tea and a few hours reading on the deck. Wish Pog was here too, but by crikey that man/boy has been busy transforming his new room in Melbourne into a lux haven – such an amazing ‘eye’! See you again soon…have a great weekend 🙂

The Ultimate Lamb Burgers

1 kilo lamb mince
1 red onion, half finely sliced, and half roughly chopped 
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cloves garlic (1 small)
1 red chilli, halved lengthways, seeds scraped out, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 avocados peeled and sliced
3 cups baby spinach or watercress
3 large tomatoes, sliced
6 Turkish bread rolls, halved
1 ½ cups grated tasty cheese
1 telegraph cucumber
1 1/4 cups natural Greek yoghurt
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup finely chopped mint leaves
2 large beetroot
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ teaspoon caster sugar
In a food processor whiz the roughly chopped onion, tomato paste, 3 cloves of garlic, chilli, cumin, coriander and black pepper. Add spice paste to the mince and stir to combine. Gently form into 6 patties, about the size of your Turkish rolls . Make several small thumb print indents down the middle of each patty and put on a baking paper lined tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook. (These can be prepared up to 8 hours ahead). Halve the cucumber lengthways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Grate the cucumber and put it in a bowl with the yoghurt, lemon zest and mint. Add the small garlic clove, crushed. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper then cover and chill until ready to serve. Peel and grate the beetroot and put in a bowl with the finely sliced onion, oil and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set the oven to grill. Heat oil in a frying pan, season the patties with sea salt and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Lay buns on an oven tray cut-side up. Divide cheese between bun bases when patties come out of the pan and grill buns for a minute until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Top cheesey sides with spinach or watercress, beetroot, lamb patties, tomatoes, avocado and yoghurt dressing then add bun ‘lid’. Serves 6
Rosewater Rhubarb Eton Mess
400g rhubarb stalks, angled sliced into 2-cm pieces
1 tablespoon rosewater
3 tablespoons caster sugar
1 1/2 cups cream
2 tablespoons berry jam (I used Anathoths Rhubarb & Red Berry jam)
95g meringues, crumbled 
50g Turkish delight, chopped
1/3 cup lightly toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Preheat oven to 180˚C and put rhubarb in a small roasting dish. Sprinkle with rosewater and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar and roast for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Leave to cool in the juices. Whip cream and remaining sugar to soft peaks. Add ¾ of the rhubarb, ¾ of the meringue and ¾ of the pistachios to the cream and the jam and stir to combine. Spoon into serving glasses and top with remaining rhubarb and juices, meringue, pistachios and chopped Turkish delight. These can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead, but garnish just before serving.

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Spicy Fish Tacos

Good morning to you from my normal blogging location – in bed with a morning cup of tea 🙂 With the long Anzac weekend ahead for Australia and New Zealand I thought it timely to post a couple of relaxed entertaining recipes. First up is this one for spicy fish tacos which I put together a while back for the beautiful Dish magazine. The fish is coated in a spiced flour with a good l’il chilli kick, cosied up with a crunchy slaw, creamy avocado, sweet mango and zesty, lime and garlic crema all wrapped up in a warm tortilla. A few coriander leaves (that’s cilantro to some) on top and every mouthful is exploding with vibrant flavour. Before the grim reality of winter wet weather kicks in, gather up a few friends, put everything out on the table and let them help themselves. (And on that note, there is a bit of prep to be done but then it is too easy – lay out toppings/warm tortillas/cook fish – that’s it!).
Aaaand in other news, I’m trying to shake of the tired grumpies from too little sleep seeing as for the last two nights the dogs have woken me up around 2am barking and hassling some poor wee hedgehog in the garden. There is no let up until I drag them back inside, and then my brain is in turbo-mode and sleep is out the window. Bloody dog door – middle-of-the-night wake-ups or pee inside…it’s getting to be a close choice! I’m sure my morning walk and a few coffees will help – and then in a flurry I’m shooting for Fairfax, Nick arrives home from China/Blangladesh/Hong Kong, Hoob arrives from Wellington and we all head out to Waiheke! Ta dah! Just spirit me to 7pm on the deck with a glass of wine… No Pog unfortunately, but the good news is he has found and moved into a new flat (hurrah!) in Melbourne, and is in room transformation mode. Right: up walk, coffee – and keep an eye out for another new recipe coming in time for the weekend!

2/3 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ – ½ tsp chilli powder
1 kilo firm white fish, cut into 5cm long pieces
Mix flour and spices together in a container with a lid.  A few at a time drop in fish pieces, cover and shake so they are well coated. Chill, covered until ready to use, for up to 6 hours.
finely grated zest of 1 lime and 1 orange
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1 small red cabbage, finely shredded
½ red onion, finely sliced
Whisk lime and orange zest, juice and sugar with olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss through red cabbage and onion.
1/3 cup rice bran oil
2 avocados, sliced
1 cup of picked coriander leaves
12 soft tortillas
Chipotle hot sauce, optional, to serve
Lime & Coriander Crema*
Heat oil in batches and cook fish pieces for 2-3 minutes each side until cooked through. Serve fish on warmed tortillas with red cabbage slaw, avocado, coriander and Lime & Coriander Crema and Mango Salsa with (optional) a few drops of hot sauce.
Serves 6
Lime & Coriander Crema
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup whole egg mayonnaise
finely grated zest of 2 limes
¼ cup lime juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
½ cup coriander leaves
Whiz all ingredients together in a small food processor. Thin to desired consistency with water and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Mango salsa
1 mango, flesh diced (if you can’t find fresh, use well-drained tinned mango cheeks)
½ small red chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ small red onion, finely chopped

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