hvar

Hello not from glorious, sunny Croatia, but instead from my slightly cold and uncharacteristically messy kitchen. Here I sit whisky in hand (probably shouldn’t…went out for drinks twice last night…long story), Tom Misch playing on my laptop (try the album ‘Geography’ with thanks to Hoob for the stellar recommendation) and I have decided it is finally time to reminisce and get these pics from my recent trip sorted. (I should mention I wrote this last night and am posting this morning…now  it is tea in my hand!). So (it feels like a bloody eternity ago now – the one downside to travel), I read once that the best parts of travelling were the anticipation of going, and the arriving home, but I’m not sure that I can agree in this instance, I had such a brilliant time with the men/boys and re-living our adventures through the pics isn’t too shabby either. So…if you’re only here for the food, head over to the recipe page for a good old fossick around, but if you’re remotely interested in my trip, read on!

It all started with a hiss and a roar when Hoob arrived in Auckland and we realised that his passport would be outside the acceptable expiry threshold for travel to Europe (ahem, this is the second time it has happened, and it was entirely my fault) – cue mad rushing around for photos and loitering around the department of internal affairs whilst passports were processed at what seemed like a glacial pace. Rich maintained his equilibrium in excellent form and I’m relieved to say we had the new passport in our hot little hands in time, and made it to the airport in exuberant fashion at the appointed hour. 26 and a half hours later we arrived (via Hong Kong) at Heathrow where we met Pog in an airport cafe ready to carry on as a threesome to Croatia. Rich and I were, as you can imagine, a bit knackered at this point but surprisingly not as bad as I had anticipated, so buoyed by the excitement of all being together we jumped on our plane to Split, Croatia and from there took an hour-long ferry trip to the gorgeous island of Hvar (so yep, at this point Hoob and I had been travelling for about 38 hours). As you can imagine we were all bloody beside ourselves to get there – and hop onto the tiny wee boat that whisked us to our airbnb:

Our place was directly opposite (about 2 metres from) this gorgeous sea – it took us approximately 3 minutes to ditch our bags and hurl ourselves in the water!

So having swept away the cobwebs in that glorious crystal clear sea we began our investigations. The place we were staying was just a few doors down from the legendary Hula Hula Beach Bar, (a total bloody hoot with hot music, hotter bodies and dancing de rigueur) and onwards down the coastal path we meandered past the stunning Bonj des Bains beach club. Given that I anticipate trips like this will be few and far between, I booked us in for a day on the sun-loungers, luxuriating in bar and food service. Cocktails in hand we dove in and out of the water (clearly we actually put the cocktails down while swimming – although one woman floated around endlessly on a giant blow up floaty, with a massive glass of chard in her hand…), ate, drank and basically gloried in this extra-special treat. Henry had a sea-urchin misshap (reef shoes are quite a bloody good extra to throw in your suitcase), but other than that we found ourselves unwinding in spectacular fashion. Given we haven’t spent any significant time together in five years it was gratifying to find ourselves slipping quickly into our normal familial ways.

During our four days we did a good deal of nothing other than swimming and lazing around in the sunshine, but we did also head out and about, further around the coastline walk and into the Hvar town centre…

It was outrageously picturesque and a blissful way to start our adventure. Whilst there we had some pretty bloody fabulous cocktails at Caperasa Bistro and Bar as well as one of our better vegetarian meals at Fig Cafe (my two darling men/boys are fairly stringently vegetarian, and I am less-so). But to be honest the real highlight of Hvar was simply being there, relaxing, laughing, eating and drinking together, meeting lovely kind and generous people along the way (our house keeper was a gem who baked us delicious goodies and we left her with a round of enthusiastic, squeezy bear hugs). We quickly established a holiday routine of coffee, followed by more coffee, then fresh bread with butter and jam (heavenly). We would spend time lying together in the sun, but had the perfect balance of alone-time too, zoning out on occasion, each listening to our own music, together but not in each others’ space. We could easily have stayed longer than four days but two weeks isn’t a lot of time for an entire trip and we had more to discover. Croatia is as you can see, insta-perfect, but it is so much more than that – it is the perfect place to unwind. If you’re staying for long enough I would definitely recommend getting out on the water by boat, but other than that, travel with people you love and you can’t go wrong. My next post will be all about Dubrovnik, well known to Game of Thrones fans, but a revelation to me…but more on that next week!

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kedgeree smoked fish pie

serves 4-6

Gooooood morning, and I hope you’re having a lovely weekend! I was thinking this could potentially be your perfect snuggy, Sunday night dinner – a smoked fish pie/kedgeree combo that is warming and comforting, with a wee spicy kick tempered by soft mashed spuds and a crunchy, crumbly topping. It is basically just bloody delicious, so don’t be put off by it’s less than stellar looks.

Crikey – it’s been a busy few weeks! As we speak (?) Pog is lying in bed eating peanut butter toast and drinking black coffee, while I’m lying in bed in my room drinking my second vat of tea and thinking I really must get up. Henry arrived at 4:30am Thursday, (which is basically the middle of the night) sick with a rotten sinus infection, but looking deceptively healthy with a dark tan and sun-streaked hair. Since then I have been guiltily working like a demon but still managed a few hours bargain hunting with him yesterday (excellent purchases), and watching movies on the couch – me with intermittently leaking eyes. While he has been recuperating I was back at My Food Bag (and for the next two weeks – so much fun doing the corporate thing for a change!) and shooting Dish. I am so excited about my next spread, not that I can tell you about it yet, but it’s so pretttttttty… Meanwhile darling Hoob messaged last night to say he had just dislocated his knee – bloody hell, it’s the fourth time, and it happened just while he was stretching. He managed to pop it back in (gross) but it can’t be good. So, flat situation, no ice, but anti-inflammatories and rest on the agenda, while a flat gig raged around him. (Musician flat mates – so cool).

And that’s my news for the moment – I have a rare day off tomorrow to spend with Pog, then it’s styling  at My Food Bag Tues – Thurs and shooting Fairfax on Friday…no rest for the wicked! I hope you’ll give the kedgeree smoked fish pie a whirl and enjoy it as much as I did.

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spring breakfast power up

Remember the last post I did when I was talking about serendipity, well I don’t know what’s up, but I have been experiencing it again all over the show (anyone else or is it just me?!). I popped into Smith & Caughey’s last week to work out what I would be featuring next – and given spring is only moments away I decided to showcase four power-up breakfasts to get myself (and you) in the right mindset to shake off the winter blues. Meanwhile Pog is due back this morning (finally-hurrah!!!) from his European Grand Tour ­– with a terrible flu…and what do I have waiting, all ready to fix him up?! The magic ingredients from my breakfasts! First up is the Whaiora, The (totally) Natural Smoothie Blend, which can be put in smoothies (no surprises there), but it is also delicious whisked into yoghurt as I have done, or sprinkled on fresh fruit or cereal. The flavour I used is passionfruit and carrot, which has a really lovely earthy sweetness, perfect with creamy natural Greek yoghurt and a topping of fresh passionfruit. Next I tried it out in a smoothie made with almond milk (although of course you can use whatever milk you fancy), banana and yoghurt, and topped it with J. Friend and Co Bee Pollen, packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes – a veritable health rocket booster! (Just avoid if you’re allergic to bees obviously). Next on the list (I had an epic breakfast day) is Blue Frog Probiotic Porridge with vanilla bean and chia seeds – because even though spring is just around the corner the temperature is still in single digits every morning, and porridge totally hits the spot. (I know Henry will be big on this one as he is always telling me about the importance of gut health). I topped my serving with natural yoghurt, sliced banana, a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and a drizzle of the wickedly good Noble Handcrafted Vanilla & Chamomile Infused Maple Syrup. The combination of nubbly oats, smooth yoghurt, ripe sweet banana, crunchy seeds and luscious, maple syrup was bloody good indeed! My final test was of the RC Butters vegan High Protein Peanut Butter. Smooth and silky it is packed with 40 percent more protein than regular peanut butters and went down a treat slathered on sprouted wholegrain toast with some sliced banana and a sneaky wee drizzle of that fabulous maple syrup. To drink, I made a Jomeis Fine Foods Turmeric Latte. Vegan, gluten and caffeine-free it was mild and warming with a mellow spiciness, and I felt very virtuous indeed getting a turmeric hit. So basically I had enough breakfast for a week in one day – but they will be on permanent rotation now… – choices dependant on mood and weather. To get your hands on any of these lovely products head to the second floor of Smith & Caughey’s Queen Street store, or their website here.

Aaaand what else?! I am definitely in need of those boosting breakfasts as I have a monumental amount of work on at the moment – basically I feel like I am holding on by the skin of my teeth – but I know as long as I keep to my list and plough on it will all get done. Bring it on! Last weekend I headed to a prop sale organised by a few good foodie mates and sold a few of my spare props while drinking coffee, chatting to punters and listening to an awesome musician entertaining the throngs of shoppers –such a mellow vibe, and a very successful day. This week I’m all about the next Dish magazine (super excited to report that sales of the latest mag with my first cover have been fabulous!), as well as spending a day in styling with My Food Bag. In between I will be ministering to Pog so that he can head on down to Welly in good health. Hoob is also a bit under the weather (come on spring), but has finished the first part of his semester in fine academic form – I’m so proud of him, not long to go now! Right then, must get cracking. See you again soon with a fab new recipe for the weekend…

 

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castello marquis double-baked cheese souffles

makes 6

Do you believe in serendipity? Lately I have had a weirdly large amount of serendipitous things happen in my life, in terms of coincidences and crazy timing that have pretty much blown me away…nothing overly dramatic or major, just lots of small good things happening in synch. Any waaaay this is a bloody good example of that. I serve Castello blue cheese with grainy crackers as part of the nibbles offering whenever I have friends around for casual drinks, and I mean every time, because the flavour is so lusciously delicate yet distinctive and the texture so creamy and perfect that everybody loves it. Well a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely people at Castello, unaware of my secret obsession, to ask whether I was keen to work with them on their new product Castello Marquis – well yesssss! So they sent me some product to play with and this is what I came up with – mega indulgent, surprisingly easy to make, double-baked souffles. The cheese itself has this luscious rich, buttery taste with a little oomph. The pretty orange rind contributes some of the earthy tropical flavour, as does the albino blue mould inside. The flavours are distinctive yet not over-powering so I wanted to pair with, rather than overwhelm them, so apart from the lovely cheese the souffles just have a few hints of happy partners – soft sweet onions and leeks. The recipe is super straight forward and so easy – and perfect for entertaining as you can make the souffles up to 3 days before, then do the double baking bit (where they puff back up in golden glory), just before serving. If you wanted to give them a little extra surprise, fruity magic I would also suggest popping 1/2 teaspoon of quince or other fruit paste on the souffle before topping with cheese and re-baking…phwaor!

Before I forget the good people at Castello have also supplied me with 2x $50 Castello premium range cheese vouchers to GIVE AWAY! All you need to do is leave a comment below telling me which is your favourite recipe on the blog so far – you have many years worth of recipes to choose from, good luck! Winners will be chosen this Sunday and announced on the blog Monday morning, 27th August, vouchers are valid until 31st December 2018 and can be redeemed at all good supermarkets New Zealand-wide.

Right then, in other news, it is basically business as usual again. I had a great night on Saturday, watching the rugby (awesome ABs) and testing recipes on my willing friends, (it is always a bonus when work and my social life crossover) and have pretty much been flat out with work in general. This week I have been working on Cuisine, next week it is Dish and I have squeaked a few recipes for Fairfax in there too. Other than quiz night and walking first thing every morning I have been essentially house-bound. (You’re probably not interested, but I walk 8-10km every day with three (unintentional) styles/speeds depending on the music I’m listening too: late for a meeting, late for a plane and NY fashion week runway – bahahahaha). Meanwhile Hoob is still cranking for his final semester in Welly, with his 21st birthday just weeks away now. I can’t wait to head down in October and hang out with him, the gorgeous Raven, and a few of his mates! Pog is into the final stretch of his grand tour and arrives home from Greece at the end of next week. It’ll be wonderful to have him in my clutches for a few days before he too heads down to Welly…it does occur to me sometimes that maybe I’m living in the wrong city!? So, time to get up, the rain has stopped and my walk beckons. Have a great day – and do try the souffles, I promise they are way easier to make than you might think.

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the best late night pasta

serves 1

Happy Friday night! I thought I’d get a quick recipe from Coming Unstuck on the blog tonight for any of you heading out on the town who might return late with a bad case of the munchies – a super quick, utterly satisfying, classic Italian pasta loaded with garlic and chilli. It was actually apparently originally created for exactly the situation I just described – you only need a few ingredients, and it’s ready in a flash…and I know it is on regular rotation for a few owners of the book.

Crikey I have so much book-related news, but for the moment it will have to keep for another day. In the meantime, I have spent the day cooking and writing, singing and dancing in my seat while blasting Aretha Franklin on my computer. ‘Who’s Zooming Who’ was the soundtrack of my Swiss scholarship year at the tender age of 17 – and I love it just as much now as I did then. Aretha, the Queen of Soul, so sad to hear of her death…another reminder to make the most of every day we’re above ground!

Other than secret squirrel book news, it’s been a pretty regular week – an average showing at pub quiz night on Monday (actually pretty standard, but a total laugh as always), followed by a fabulous night at Bahrulo in Parnell with the uber-talented food editor of Dish, Claire Aldous, and Nici Wickes, both so inspirational. Last night it was all glamour and bubbles at the launch of Giorgio Armani makeup at Smith and Caughey’s in town – God I do love an excuse to get out and check out the beautiful people! So – tonight, it’s a quiet night in before the first Bledisloe rugby test tomorrow night, I have a team coming around for a feast of beef cheek ragu pasta bake and rhubarb crumble ice-cream with a few bottles of red on standby. Wishing you a fabulous weekend, take care, have fun and see you next week…

(…oh and before I forget this recipe serves one, but multiplies easily for whatever number you’re serving.)

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tomato baked eggs with prosciutto turkish toasts

Serves 4

Hungry? Can I make a suggestion for Sunday morning brunch (or easy dinner even) – eggs baked in a warming, spicy tomato sauce, rich and fragrant with the addition of salty feta and olives. To finish off the turkish toast fingers wrapped in crispy prosciutto made for dipping into the soft yellow yolks are bloody magic – frankly they’d make a great drinks nibble on a Sunday afternoon! This recipe is part of a ‘mediterranean brunch’ spread that I put together for my lovely friends at Dish magazine a while back, and it’s definitely a keeper – so easy to make and packed with flavour!

Right then, in other news Hoob is currently asleep in his room (hurrah) on a fleeting trip to Auckland. I only have him in my clutches for a little while but will be enjoying every minute! Meanwhile Henry is exploring the idyllic Greek island of Paros and in the last stage of his epic European adventure before beginning the journey back to New Zealand – it feels like he has been there for aaages. In my department it’s pretty much same ‘ole same ‘ole – lots of work on (shot my next Dish spread last week), and have a heap more lined up to get finished…but it’s all good though, I am incredibly lucky to love what I do, so for much of the time I lose myself in the creative flow and it doesn’t feel like work at all. Even so all work and no play makes me a dull girl (‘woman’ I should say, God who wants to be a middle-aged woman ‘girl’!?) and I have had some lovely catch ups with friends of late, including a night out when negronis were the celebratory drink of choice when the only cause for celebration was being in a great mood and getting out of the house! Tonight I am whipping up a wee Sunday night feast of chicken pie, kumara and potato mash and green beans for some of my dearest mates – a proper l’il homey Sunday night dinner. Right haha, am in bed as always and I need to get my walk done before Hoob wakes up – time to go! Have a great week ahead and see you soon…

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perfect steak with herb butter, cauliflower puree & french-style carrots

serves 2

Good morning all you loved-up l’il couples out there – this is a recipe for you…perfectly cooked (more on that) steak with creamy, addictive cauliflower puree and ‘French-style’ baby carrots. OK, first up the perfectness of the steak is obviously open to debate as some people like theirs still mooing (apologies to the lovely vegos), and others like them incinerated. This cooking method is designed for big fat (5-6cm thick at least) steaks, and will leave the steak with a caramelised, seared exterior and a uniformly pink just-cooked (not the wobbly texture of ‘blue’ meat) inside. This results in my favourite textures, and  if I am going to eat a steak (which is a rare (pun intended) thing indeed), this is the only way I want it cooked. They are then topped with flavour-packed, grunty herb butter and served alongside my favourite pillowy cauliflower puree and just-cooked thyme and garlicky, honey-buttery (so many adjectives this morning- whaaat?) baby carrots. It is a quickly prepared, indulgent dinner for two and I’d love to hear if you try it! If you have your own perfect method for cooking steak as you like it, obviously just do that, and give the herb butter and sides a whirl…

Right then, what else is news? I have just finished an epic week working at My Food Bag in Parnell – crikey, it was full on. I was filling in for a stylist away on holiday, so prepping and plating/styling dishes for photography. MFB is such a slick operation I loved seeing a big-budget business dealing with what I do, and now just have to figure out how my modest budget would allow for a version of their lighting set-up – it was super impressive. It was also bloody fun and a welcome change to be working surrounded by a team rather than my normal solo-endeavours, but this week (actually starting this weekend) I must crack on in my normal way with a load of work ready to be done. Due to the busy week (and the absence of a few of my besties) I didn’t have a lot of energy left over for any social life, but did manage to squeak in one drink with a dear girlfriend which was just enough to keep me sane! Meanwhile Hoob has roared into his final semester at uni ‘firing on all cylinders’, which is bloody fabulous, and Pog is still working in the idyllic surrounds of Markington Hall before heading off to Greece and the completion of his European sojourn. (Missing my lovelies after our gorgeous holiday, thank God for my ridiculous schedule to keep me occupied!). Right, I haven’t exercised all week so it’s time to haul arse before getting stuck into some work. Bye for now, have a great weekend – more recipes coming again soon…

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super green soup

serves 4

Happy Sunday morning to you! I thought I had better get my act together pronto after being away for the last two weeks, and this soup seems the perfect way to start – the intense iron-rich spinach is enhanced with sweet onion and leeks, then given a l’il kick with fresh mint, a hit of fire from cayenne pepper, and brightness from zingy lemon. It has a healthy yet comfy feel-good factor that works like magic for a Sunday night, easy dinner. The blue cheese, walnut sourdough toasts are a whole different thing – pure indulgent naughtiness – they’re bloody brilliant with the soup (or French onion, mushroom, cauliflower or chicken soups) but are equally good served as a snack with early evening drinks, seriously, let me know if you give them a try, you won’t regret it!

Right then, in other news, Rich and I arrived back from Rome late Wednesday night, he was back on a plane (complete with budding eye infection and a suitcase of rapidly washed and dried clothes) on Thursday. Then Friday morning I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (kind of to be fair – bloody woke at 4am so probs looked a bit knackered) at my latest freelance job – working alongside the brilliant team at My Food Bag, filling in for a food stylist heading off on holiday. God the set up is so slick in the kitchen/photography department I had a wee twinge of the green-eyed monster at the resources on hand! So next week I will be doing my thing in a nine-to-five capacity which makes a fun change, before getting back to shooting the next issue of Dish the following week. (Was seriously excited to return from Europe to see the current issue, with my first ever Dish cover recipe, styled and photographed by me…such a buzz). So, ha, no rest for the wicked.

Meanwhile Hoob is straight back into uni after being welcomed home by the gorgeous Raven, lucky man/boy, and working hard at Timberland in his ‘spare’ time. Pog has returned to England and is working at Markington Hall in North Yorkshire, as part of his wwoofing experience. It looks absolutely stunning, with beautiful gardens and a rich heritage (including being inherited by William Wilberforce, whose descendants still own it) and he is right at home gardening and whipping up floral arrangements for a weekend wedding. Right then – loads to do, so time to get up, (still writing these propped up in bed with a vat of tea), I have about a billion pics to edit from our trip, but once that’s done I’ll be posting a big ole blog post about Hvar, Dubrovnik, Florence and Rome…see you soon.

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slow-cooked, italian beef cheek ragu on soft pappardelle

serves 8

Well hello there from the other side of the world! Before I tell you what I’ve been up to, let me just quickly introduce you to the most meltingly tender, slow-cooked beef cheeks, shredded in their luscious winey tomato sauce, spooned over just-cooked pappardelle (or soft polenta if you fancy), and sprinkled with lashings of Parmesan. This is not what I feel like eating right in this minute in the summer heat of Florence, but if I were here in winter (or at home in New Zealand) it would be just perfect! As in the old cooking TV shows – “this is one (a post) I prepared earlier” and it is my latest collab with the fabulous Smith & Caughey’s, featuring one of my all-time favourite brands, Le Creuset. I really am so lucky to be able to work with such great products, especially given they are ones I have used and loved for many years myself. I was gifted my first Le Creuset frying pan as a wedding present many moons ago, and over the years have managed to add a few more gems, like this gorgeous 26cm signature round casserole in the original ‘volcano’ colour, to my collection. (To check out one for yourself just pop to the website here ). For over 90 years Le Creuset have been creating stunning enameled cast iron cookware and stoneware, and more recently, stainless, silicone and more. As I was rummaging around the second floor at Smith & Caughey’s Queen St before I left, I seriously could have picked just about anything from the range – they are investment pieces that last beautifully for a lifetime.

Aaaaand what else can I tell you….as it happens I am finishing this post off sitting in the most magical spot in the world – in a roof-top cafe, over-looking the Ponte Vecchio spanning the Arno River in the heart of Florence. I have been so incredibly lucky to spend the last 10 days with Pog and Hoob, swimming in the crystal, deep azure sea in Hvar, eating outrgaeously delicious seafood and roaming the Old City walls in Dubrovnik, and now just with Hoob having an unscheduled, yet still somehow fun night in Munich (delayed flight=missed flight), followed by a day of shopping and sightseeing in beautiful Florence. It is impossible to believe that the time has gone so quickly that tomorrow we take the train to Rome for two more days before flying home. I have loads to share about our adventures, but will save that for a post where I have more time (and my office at home!), but in the meantime, I can say it has been one of the best experiences of my life to hang out with my men/boys, travel and meet so many wonderfully kind people along the way. Definitely have a bit of a glow on…see you when I get home!

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self-saucing choc coffee pudding

serves 8

Bloody hell – it is 3˚C as I write this (that’s 32˚F), which quite frankly is making the inclination to jump out of bed to go for my walk harder to muster…but I shall! Meanwhile today’s recipe is a self-saucing chocolate, coffee pudding, pretty much perfect for this freezing weather. I have also included a recipe for a dark chocolate coffee sauce – which you don’t strictly need as the pud makes it’s own sauce, it’s really just to be extra-decadent if you’re serving it up to guests, (and the sauce keeps well in the fridge for heating up to pour over ice cream). I’ve used ground almonds for the pudding, but hazelnut or walnut meal would also work well with the coffee/choc/liqueur combination.

Aaaand – crikey – this time next week I will be packed and ready to head away. I. Can’t. Wait. I feel like I have been hanging out for this holiday for at least six months – bring on the sunshine and the company of my men/boys. Henry has made a pit stop back home so I have had him here since Sunday which is such a bloody treat – he flies back to London on Friday, then Hoob and I follow next week together. He will have finished his exams and I will (she says) be up to date with my work, so we’ll both be primed to let loose! Other than that I have been enjoying my normal round of quiz nights and catching up with dear friends for drinks out and about, rugby, good food and whisky – fantastic! Oh – and I saw Ocean’s 8 the other day, and while the movie may not exactly be arthouse/rule-breaking, looking at the fashion is worth the ticket alone – particularly Cate Blanchett’s kick-arse style, can I please be her when I grow up? (Hahahahaha – might have missed that boat slightly…)

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indian-inspired dinner for 6

serves 6

Helloooo and happy Saturday! Another cold winter’s night rugby test and another curry night at home – which is just bloody perfect in my book. This time I am working in collaboration with the good people at Silver Fern Farms to create some Indian-inspired dishes to take you on a taste adventure, and which are perfect for entertaining friends, where all of the hard work (not that there is much) is done in advance. As you know I am very choosey when it comes to who I work with, so I am feeling very lucky to have been able to team up to create today’s recipes. First up we have Indian spiced pan-seared lamb fillets with mustard seed and chilli-spiked onions and cool herby yoghurt served on crunchy poppadum wedges to enjoy with a beer or pre-dinner cocktail, then it’s onto the main event of grunty venison meatballs served in a rich curry sauce with loads of fresh herbs, paratha and rice. The beauty of the cuts used is that both are lean and luscious, requiring minimum intervention (there is no need for slow-cooking here), with the lamb loins ready in under 10 minutes. (The way I have cooked them they’re designed to be served as nibbles, but they would also be great angle sliced on a winter salad of rocket, grilled eggplant and quinoa topped with the mustard onions and the yoghurt as a dressing). The venison is an ideal match for the rich curry, so easy to prepare and a little bit different (and special) for serving guests. They could also be offered as a cocktail nibble with the sauce for dipping and can be prepared the day before and stored, covered until ready to cook. If you make the kofte balls bigger (and squash them) they would also be fabulous in a burger with the onions and yoghurt (pinched from the lamb loins) and some bitter greens. Yum.

Aaand what else is there to report? It is now less than three weeks until my grand adventure with the men/boys and I am fairly well beside myself with excitement. As is typical I have a flurry of grooming preparation planned (hello fake-tan, thanks for the body-rescue), as well as a slightly scary amount of work to get done before take-off – deadlines don’t go on holiday when I do sadly. Basically I can’t wait to spend time with Pog and Hoob – there are so few opportunities for us to hang out as a family, (I am exploding with happy anticipation), and that it happens to be while exploring the beaches and towns in Hvar and Dubrovnik makes it all the  more special. Bring on crystal clear waters and a cocktail! (and some culture too obvs). So, the count down is on, but I will be back here again before I go, so keep an eye out, and in the meantime let me know if you give the recipes a go, and join me on my mid-winter taste adventure…

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honey roast pumpkin with prosciutto, sage, blue cheese & walnuts

serves 4-6

Good morning, and holy moly – check this out – the most fabulously indulgent sides for a roast dinner! Tender pumpkin wedges roasted with runny honey, sage, sea salt and black pepper, finished off with melting blue cheese, crispy prosciutto and a crumbling of crunchy walnuts. (Really bloody delicious if I say so myself.) Aaaand the all time classic creamed spinach with a whisper of garlic and freshly grated nutmeg – where a mountain of spinach is magically reduced to an intense, iron-rich and addictive side in minutes. In the pumpkin department if you don’t like blue cheese (!) you can swap it for feta and also play with other flavour and texture combinations using rosemary, pine nuts and olives and even a few chilli flakes to counteract the honey sweetness.

So – winter then (hence the roasty sides), and I am hanging out for my trip to Croatia and Italy with every fibre of my being – not least because I have just finished my second lot of antibiotics for a chest infection and consequently have been feeling a bit poo. Meanwhile what the hell is this about – every morning (and I use that term lightly) at about 3:30am two birds outside my window get together for a raucous old catch up, calling to each other and chatting cheerily and fulsomely until about 5am. I know they’re just lovely nature’s gift and all that but I don’t have much of a sense of humour at 3:30am…hahaha I sound like such a grumpy old woman! I have also been flat out with my normal round of work for Dish, Cuisine and Fairfax/Stuff with the odd collab thrown in for good measure. Despite the truly dreadful weather over the recent long weekend I hooned down (almost underwater at some points) to Whangapoua for a quick over-nighter with darling friends, with much card playing, whisky drinking (that might have been just me) and laughter. At the tail-end of my lurgy I whipped up a trio of curries to hook into with the rugby last weekend and had a hilarious time at pub quiz night on Monday (ridiculously excited to win a bowl of chips for my team – ah yes, the fun never stops)…so business as usual really. Poor old Hoob is also full of a cold in Welly and is head down bum up in preparation for uni exams (hurrah) while Pog is still in Italy being stung by bees, ‘attacked’ by ticks (well one embedded in his back any way) and on the permanent look our for snakes. So that’s it from me for today, I hope you give these a whirl, and if you do, let me know what you think…bye for now!

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