slow-roasted Indian-spiced lamb with coconut chutney

Serves 6-8

Unbelievable as it seems, it appears that the weather is going to be fine (in Auckland anyway) for about four days in a row…a miracle! So, if you’re getting a few mates together at the weekend, this is definitely worth a try – slow roasted Indian spiced lamb served on Indian flat breads with a quick coconut chutney, deliciously aromatic tomatoes and tamarind-swirled yoghurt. Bung the spice rub on the lamb the night before, then the next day basically just stick it in the oven for 5 1/2 hours – et voila you are a domestic god/dess! The other stuff takes about 15 minutes to prepare, so basically the easiest possible sunny-Saturday dinner.

Right then, it’s been a while so what else is there to report? Well good on you Australia for voting (non-bindingly…) ‘yes’ to gay marriage – you’re a little late to the party, but congratulations all the same! Aaaand my lovely Hoob is on his way up to Auckland for a few days next week – hurrah – it always feels like a bloody age since I’ve seen the men/boys. Then, with perfect irony a few days after he heads back my darling Pog arrives from Melbourne for my birthday, I’m so excited! It will be such a huge treat to have them both here, I will just have to stop myself from going into full, overboard, lunatic, annoyingly cloying mother mode…And 50 – holy shit balls how is that possible (early December)? I don’t know, I have to say having my 50th as a singleton is weird. Can I confess that I used to think about single women of a certain age – ‘oh my God how awful, what a hideous prospect’ and it turns out there was some truth in my smugly married, self-satisfied thinking. ‘Putting yourself out there’ when you work from home as a freelancer is trickier than you think (even if you already think it’s tricky), but dammit I do my best and for the last year have made it my mantra to go to every single thing (be it work-related or social) that I have been invited to. Sometimes I have felt like leaving within 5 minutes and sometimes I’ve had a ball…and sometimes I just ended up feeling really tired! Anyhoo, no real reason for that ramble other than I obviously spend to much time alone despite my best efforts and am still waiting for the bloody fabled ‘I am woman hear me roar’ post separation stage to kick in!

And finally (‘go you’ if you’ve kept reading), I am hosting and demonstrating at a fab little event partnered by Fisher & Paykel and Dish magazine this Sunday. I will be showing how to make a luscious soy glazed salmon with edamame, broccoli and avo salad and a brilliant kumara, noodle, sesame salad with coconut, white chocolate and lime mousses with raspberries for dessert. I will also be leaping about showing how I do a basic food shoot set-up with a few styling tips for anyone interested in that side of things…so if you’re keen, just head here to the Dish website to find out more. Right then, time to get moving – almost the weekend, hang in there!

 

Spice paste:

2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespooon cumin seeds
1 green chilli, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 large thumb ginger, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
¾ cup natural yoghurt

To cook:
2kg lamb shoulder
355ml beer (ale)
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
1-2 teaspoons sea salt

Put all of the spice paste ingredients in a food processor and whiz into a paste. Put the lamb shoulder in a small, deep roasting dish (it should fit snugly). Use a small sharp knife to poke slits all over both sides of the lamb, then smear all over with the spice paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours and preferably over night. Take out of the fridge 45 minutes before cooking. Heat the oven to 160˚C. Pour the beer around the base of the lamb and sprinkle the cardomom seeds into the beer. Season the lamb well with salt and cover with a double layer of tinfoil. Roast for 4 ½ hours , turning twice during cooking. Remove the foil and cook for a further hour. Serve with Coconut Chutney, tamarind chutney swirled yoghurt, tomatoes and coriander on heated flatbreads.

Coconut Chutney

1 fresh coconut (shake to ensure it is fresh with liquid)
½ cup finely chopped coriander
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon coconut cream
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ green chilli, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Drill a hole into two of the ‘eyes’ of the coconut and put in the heated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and drain out the liquid through the ‘eye’ holes (reserving to use in place of coconut cream if possible). Use a hammer to crack the coconut, or simply drop it on a paper towel on a hard floor. Prise the coconut out of the shell (I used a clean flat head screwdriver to do this), then use a sharp knife to cut off any remaining brown skin. Grate one cup of the fresh coconut.Mix the grated coconut with the coriander, lemon juice, coconut cream (or reserved coconut water), ginger and chilli then season to taste with sea salt. Makes 1 ¼ cups

To serve:

2 cups chopped tomatoes
½ teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 ¼ cups natural or coconut yoghurt
1/3 cup tamarind chutney
1 cup coriander leaves
6 Indian flat breads

Mix the chopped tomatoes with the cumin seeds, olive oil and lemon juice and season to taste with sea salt. Swirl the tamarind chutney through the natural yoghurt and heat the flatbreads to serve. Serves 6-8

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raw beetroot & carrot salad with feta & walnuts

serves 6

…and this is the other salad I mentioned (see previous post) – absolutely brilliant as a work lunch but also served alongside roast lamb, cutlets or even in a burger. The combination is all earthy veges with the beetroot, carrot and zucchini, matched with salty feta and the crunch of toasted walnuts – all brought to life with a bright cider vinegar and orange dressing sweetened with a little honey – immensely satisfying.

Very quick update on the current state of the nation in the previous (salmon and asparagus salad) post if you’re interested. But while I think of it – Kevin Spacey…noooo…is that why you were so good at playing a predatory arsehole in House of Cards?

Dressing:

2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
finely grated zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons runny honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium beetroot, peeled
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
100 grams salty feta, crumbled
½ cup lightly toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Put all of the dressing ingredients in a small, lidded container and shake to combine. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Grate the beetroot, carrot and zucchini. Toss the vegetables together in a large bowl. Crumble in ¾ of the feta and stir through three quarters of the walnuts, reserving a little for garnish. Toss through the dressing, season well with salt and pepper then spoon the salad into a serving bowl. Garnish with reserved feta and walnuts and serve immediately.

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thanksgiving / halloween all-American (kind of) pumpkin cheesecake

pumpkin pie

Way down here in New Zealand Halloween is only just becoming a bit more of a thing, still not huge, but these days kids do dress up and go door-knocking around the neigbourhood ‘trick-or-teating’ and teenagers have a few themed dress-up parties. Back in the dark ages when I was growing up, Halloween was just something we saw on American TV shows – a distant, foreign, alluring holiday, filled with lollies (that’s candy to some) and crazy horror costumes. Likewise, Thanksgiving is an all-American celebration, and not one that anyone else in the world observes (that I know of!?), but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of the classic festive dishes that are eaten at that time of year. Some of them are just too crazy for me (please – what is this marshmallow-topped sweet potato with savory business?) but some like beautifully seasoned roasted turkey followed by pumpkin pie (or in this case cheesecake) are just the ticket. So even though we don’t keep the same traditions, I thought I would post this recipe, which I put together and photographed for the lovely Dish magazine’s international issue. This is a ‘from scratch’ version of spiced pumpkin cheesecake – no tins (cans) will be harmed in the making of this dessert!It is particularly ironic to be posting this today, a kind of ‘harvesty’ autumnal recipe on what feels like the first actual day of spring in Auckland – the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting (they actually are) and there is a fly buzzing around the window… Whether you are like me, considering exposing your snow-white legs in shorts for the first time in many months, or just fossicking in the back of the wardrobe to find your woollies, I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe, it’s a real family favourite 🙂

750g peeled, de-seeded pumpkin, cut into 6cm chunks
2 tablespoons maple syrup
250g Gingernuts or similar biscuits
45g melted butter
875g cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups caster sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/4 tespoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons custard powder

4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F) and line a roasting dish with baking paper. Put in chunks of pumpkin and drizzle with maple syrup then cover with tinfoil. Bake for 45 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife. While the pumpkin is cooking line the base and sides of a 23cm removable base cake tin with baking paper. Whiz gingernuts in a blender, add butter and whiz a bit more until smooth crumbs. Pour into prepared baking tin and squish down with your hands, then smooth out with the back of a tablespoon.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Reduce the temperature to 150˚C (300˚F). Chop pumpkin up a bit to get it to cool down faster then put in the blender and whizz until really smooth. Give it five minutes to cool down more then add cream cheese, sugar, spices, salt, maple syrup and custard powder and blend again until smooth. Lastly add eggs and pulse briefly to combine it all, then you can pour it onto the base. Give it a tap on the bench to open up air bubbles then bake for 1 hour until it still has a bit of wobble in the middle. Allow to cool in the oven for at least two hours before removing. Cool further on the bench then pop in the fridge to cool completely. Remove from the fridge half an hour before serving.  Serve with bourbon spiked whipped cream or as is. Serves at least 10.

 

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chilli chocolate caramel tart

serves 10

Oh my God, what the hell? It is half past seven on Saturday morning and I am lying in bed listening to the hosing down rain – blerghhhh, I am so sick of crappy weather! It’s all well and good in the middle of winter, snuggy jumpers, hot chocolates and all that, but one month from the official start of summer and a bit of sunshine would be nice…Anhyoo, grumpy complaining aside – this tart is bloody awesome, and would be perfect for a (wet or dry) halloween dessert. It has a short chocolate base with a hint of orange, rich, smooth caramel filling and is topped with a layer of chilli-spiked dark, bitter chocolate…then the Valrhona chocolate balls are an optional little bit of fancy stuff if you’re so inclined. The combination of rich, sweet, bitter and hot is magic, and it is deceptively easy to make.

Soooo, hmmm not much else happening really. I’ve had a super-quiet week which makes a nice, yet slightly disconcerting change. (Actually I’ve been feeling like a cat on a hot tin roof all week – having had such a fun time away last weekend and being surrounded by friends, it is back to being totally solo, it’s so quiet I can practically hear the clock ticking). Thinking it would be a good opportunity to get sh*t done I emptied cleaned and re-filled the spa (beloved by the Hoob). Having taken it from mouldy and a bit gross to sparkling and clean I was completely bummed to find that after re-filling it has now magically developed a bloody great leak somewhere and within three hours was empty. Thinking I could find the leak I re-filled it, aaaaand no – empty again but where is the water going – I do not know, potentially being sucked up by aliens, it is a mystery. So bloody spa aside you can see just how exciting my week has been! So, today it’s back to busy-business, I have my next lots of Cuisine and Dish recipes to get testing with Fairfax newspaper columns lining up from now until Christmas. So – happy halloween if it’s your gig, and I hope you enjoy the tart, there’ll be new recipes up again next week, see you then…(wish me luck with the case of the self-emptying spa).

 

base:
1 1/4 cups plain flour
3 tbsp Dutch or dark cocoa powder
1/4 cup icing sugar
100grams butter, chopped
finely grated zest of 1 orange

filling:
1-2 tbsp iced water
1 egg yolk
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
1 tin caramel caramel condensed milk or dulce de leche
25 grams butter, chopped
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 cup (heavy whipping) cream
200 grams 70% dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 tsp – 1 tsp chilli powder (to taste)
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1/3 cup Valhrona chocolate balls to garnish (optional)

You will need a 25cm tart tin with a removable base for this recipe. Whiz flour, cocoa, icing sugar, butter and zest together in a processor . Add 1 – 2 teaspoons water and pulse until it starts coming together in big clumpy breadcrumbs. Tip onto a clean bench and squish together into a big fat disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Remove the pastry from the fridge, sit for 5 more minutes then roll out between two pieces of baking paper until it is a few centimetres bigger in diameter than the tart tin. Carefully remove one side of baking paper and put this side down into the tin, remove the top baking paper and ease the pastry into the tin. Press firmly into the sides and base then trim excess from the top. Don’t worry if a bit of patching is required – no-one will ever see! Prick the base gently with a fork and pop in the fridge while the oven preheats to 180˚C (350˚F). (Save left-over scraps of pastry to patch any cracks after the first bake). Line the pastry with a circle of baking paper and fill with baking beans or rice and bake for 10 minutes. While it is cooking put the condensed milks, butter and golden syrup in a large microwave proof bowl. Heat in 30 second bursts, whisking between each until it is smooth and luscious. Once the base has baked for 10 minutes remove the baking paper and baking beans from pastry case and cook a further 10 minutes, then patch any cracks with leftover pastry dough and pour caramel filling into base. Cook a last 10-15 minutes until the filling is set and the pastry cooked through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. While it is cooling, heat the cream until it is simmering, remove from the heat and drop in dark chocolate. Leave for a minute then add chilli powder and orange zest and whisk to combine until smooth. (If necessary heat again briefly to encourage the chocolate melting). Sit for 10 minutes then  pour chocolate filling over caramel and leave to set – this will take at least 3 hours, but you can easily make it until this point the day (or even 2 days) before. Don’t store it in the fridge unless it’s really hot, but if you do, remove it from the fridge half an hour before serving. (If using Valhrona chocolate balls, leave the chocolate topping to set for two hours in the fridge before adding to the top).

 

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spicy prawn tostadas with tomato salsa

serves 4

How the hell is it Thursday again already?!?

Today’s recipe is super easy and deceptively quick to put together – and don’t freak out when you see the list of ingredients as a few are repeated and they are all very straight forward. Basically it is fried corn tortillas (the tostada bit) topped with a lime and garlic smoky mayo, quick red cabbage slaw, sliced avocados, tomato salsa, spicy prawns and fresh coriander. All of those lovely bright flavours and textures together make it the perfect I-wish-it-was-bloody-summer-already lunch or dinner. It is a recipe that I created for my good mates at Dish magazine in conjunction with Fisher & Paykel.

Right then in other news, poor old Hoob has a terrible hoiky cough but is still playing bball, working and about to start his last essay for the uni year. He has done so well in this first year of flatting and managed all of his study, work and recreation beautifully – I would just love to wrap him in woolly jumpers and drag him to the doctor every now and again…Meanwhile Pog seems to be revelling in his extra-curricular activities, and it makes so happy to think of him pottering about the community garden on his days off, contributing, connecting with his community and mastering the art of vege-growing while it appears that the lovely Will has taken up yoga to go with his gym training – a perfect balance indeed!

And me? I had the most fun I’ve had in ages over the long-weekend, heading out of town for a friend’s birthday shindig. I stayed with the most gorgeous group of new and old friends by the beach, and on Saturday night we all headed a few doors down to the party. I talked and drank, danced and laughed my arse off into the very, very wee hours and it was bloody fantastic. Add to that lovely walks on the beach, bacon cooked on the barbecue and constant friendly banter and it was just perfect. Coming home it felt like I had re-entered the isolation zone – soooooo quiet! Anyhoo I’m sure I’ll get used to it in a few days…besides which a post-party quiet time is probably just what the doctor ordered. Time to get up (in bed as always for writing) but check back in on Saturday for another new recipe…see you then!

Mexican prawns:

500 grams raw prawns (without tails)
1 tbsp chilli oil
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder

cabbage slaw:
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tsp olive oil
½ small red cabbage, finely shredded
3 spring onions, finely sliced
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Tomato salsa:
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp sugar
½ small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red capsicum, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeded, finely chopped
2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes, sliced into thirds

lime & garlic smoky mayo:
½ cup good quality egg mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
finely grated zest of 1 lime
1 small clove garlic crushed
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

to serve:
4 largecorn tortillas
¼ cup high smoke point cooking oil
2 avocados, sliced
1 ½ cups coriander leaves
Sriracha hot sauce
lime quarters to serve

 

For the prawns: mix all ingredients together in a snap-lock bag and marinate in the fridge for 4 hours or up to over night.

For the slaw: whisk the vinegar, sugar and oil together in a large bowl and stir through shredded cabbage and spring onions. Season well with salt and pepper. Can be prepared an hour before serving.

For the salsa: whisk together the lime juice, oil and sugar. Add onion, capsicum, chilli and tomatoes and stir to combine. Prepare half an hour before serving.

For the mayo: whisk all ingredients together and store in the fridge. Can be prepared a day ahead.

To serve: Pre heat the oven to 160˚C. Heat the high smoke point cooking oil in a large frying pan and fry corn tortillas 30-seconds to a minute each side until crispy and golden. Drain well on paper towels and keep warm in the oven for 5 minutes while you cook the prawns. Drain most of the oil from the frying pan and cook prawns for a minute each side until cooked through. Serve crispy tostadas layered with lime and garlic smoky mayo, slaw, tomato salsa, prawns, avocado and coriander. Top with a drizzle of Sriracha sauce, sprinkle with sea salt and serve lime wedges on the side.

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fancy coming to my place for dinner?

Well hello there lovely single person – do you feel like coming for dinner on Sunday 12th November? I’ll be cooking and passing around the drinks with the help of the gorgeous Vanessa Marshall, editor of Dish magazine. All you need to do is enter the competition (details here at Dish magazine), but the essentials are this – you must be single (‘cos you know my cookbook Coming Unstuck and all), you must be able to get yourself to Auckland, and then all you need to do is make one of my recipes from the current Spring issue of Dish magazine. Then just upload a pic of your dish to insta or Facebook with the hashtag #ComingUnstuckSinglesDinner . Entries close November 8th and 4 winning singles will be chosen to come around for dinner…should be a hoot! Don’t be shy – here are my pics from the latest issue – get yourself a copy if you haven’t already and get cooking and snapping. The recipes are (above) pomegranate roasted grape and blue cheese bruschetta with salted caramel walnuts, and (below) egg net with hoisin pork, prawn brioche with chilli lime mayo and mozzarella tartines with anchovies and olive and parsley salsa.

 

This is going to be hilarious – I can’t wait!

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lentil, spiced beef & watercress salad with roast beetroot, coriander, beans & feta

Serves 4-6

Helloooo and happy Wednesday. Today’s recipe is one I put together for Dish magazine and it is a bloody delicious salad for any time of year. I love the combination of earthy lentils and tender spiced beef contrasted with peppery watercress, crunchy beans, salty feta and sweet beetroot, it is a seriously good combination, and hearty enough to serve as a stand alone dish. If you are heading away for the long weekend in New Zealand, it would make a perfect lunch or dinner dish to share with friends.

Aaaand, hmm what else? Tonight I have been invited to sell and sign books at Caci Clinic in Newmarket from 5:30 – 7pm (level 1, 53 Davis Crescent) while they serve nibbles and bubbles, so if you haven’t bought a copy of Coming Unstuck yet please feel pop in and say hi! Other than that, I went to Coco’s Cantina’s birthday dinner on Monday night which was, as you would expect with Cocos, a total blast. I was literally dragging myself around in my pjs having decided I was too old/tired/grumpy/dowdy to go and had to force myself to get changed and in an uber to get there – and I’m so glad I did, with a panel of speakers which included Michael Meredith and Yael Shochat and the gorgeous Damaris zooming around serving organic, vegetarian, Italian food it was fabulous. It just goes to show it is usually worth making the effort to get ou and about, even when you feel a bit poo…Next up Caci Clinic tonight then I’m heading away for a couple of nights at the weekend to attend a lovely friend’s birthday hoolie and then it’ll be back home and into the Fairfax/Cuisine/Dish cycle of recipe development and photography.

Meanwhile dear old Hoob still has his lurgy in Welly, but is soldiering on and doing incredibly well – I’m so proud of him! And darling Pog has been busy away from work, gardening at a local shared garden, attending bee-keeping courses and has now bottled his homemade kombucha – I swear he sounds happier than in a very long while, a slow-focussed hands-on lifestyle really suits him! Right then, amazing tart to shoot this morning (more on that later) – see you again after the long weekend…

 

700g piece eye fillet, trimmed
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons five spice
1 cup green lentils
2 cloves garlic, squashed
2 bay leaves
16 baby beetroot
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon runny honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
400 grams green beans, trimmed
200grams feta, crumbled
7 cups watercress
1 cup picked coriander leaves

Dressing:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, crushed

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Put two tablespoons olive oil and five spice into a shallow dish and stir to combine. Place meat in the oil mixture and rub all over to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour, until half an hour before cooking. Line an oven dish with tinfoil. Bring a medium pot of water to boil with bay leaves and garlic. Add lentils and cook 15-18 minutes until just cooked. Drain well. Trim beetroot and put in the centre of the foil. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey. Season well with salt and pepper and draw the sides of the foil up and scrunch to secure as a sealed parcel. Cook 40-45 minutes until beetroot are soft all the way through when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. Increase oven temperature to 200˚C (400˚F). Leave beetroot to cool for 20 minutes then slip off the skins. I advise wearing gloves and using a small sharp knife to make this process easier. Put a roasting dish in the oven to heat up. Bring a frying pan to a medium-high heat and sear the fillet for a minute (or a little more to achieve a good dark colour) on all sides, including the ends. Transfer the fillet to the hot roasting dish and cook a further 23 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest, covered in tinfoil and a folded up tea towel, for at least 10 minutes. Bring a pot of water to boil and drop in beans for 2 minutes then drain well. Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together to combine. To serve, layer lentils, watercress, sliced beef, beetroot, feta and coriander into a large serving dish. Drizzle with dressing and season with a little extra sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to serve.

 

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asparagus, egg & prosciutto breakfast tarts

Makes 4

Happy Sunday morning! I’m sitting here half way through my second cup of tea tossing up between yoga and a walk and thought I should quickly get this fabulous brunch recipe ‘up’. It is one that I put together for Dish and Fisher & Paykel last week – and really goes to show you don’t need any fancy equipment to make quite a flash looking dish (I made it while at my friend’s batch on Waiheke). It is bloody brilliant for a weekend  brunch (or dinner for that matter) with fresh new season’s asparagus and baked egg tucked in flaky puff pastry, topped with salty, crispy prosciutto, a little crumbled feta and grated lemon zest. You can easily bung other stuff in too – if you don’t like asparagus, some quickly pan-fried field mushrooms or slow-roasted tomatoes are also fabulous and work well with the feta and egg.

Aaaand in other news, not much to report really…I have been flat out with work since getting back from Welly and Waiheke and have consequently been feeling totally knackered. I am so excited that I have NO WORK today, it’s a miracle. I am going to actually get some boring crap done like dusting (hurrah) and gardening (I actually love that) and general tidying. I am already anticipating having a satisfied Sunday night glow tonight, which may be a tiny bit premature. Other than that I am going to Coco’s Cantina’s birthday dinner tomorrow which should be fabulous (if only my regrowth wasn’t so bad I would be even more excited), and hosting a book selling and signing at the Caci clinic in Newmarket on Wednesday between 5:30pm and 7pm which should be lots of fun (please feel free to come along). Poor old Hoob is suffering from some kind of cold/lurgy in Welly but still managing to drag himself to mate’s gigs and work  as well as uni (take care of yourself my lovely!!!) while Pog is on the case investigating all things related to sustainable living and gardening (including bee keeping and chicken rearing – how bloody fabulous) and busy making kombucha (I’m so not-cool, it always tastes like fizzy pickle juice to me). As always I miss my babies, but thank God for Facebook messenger and texting as an easy way to stay in touch. Anyhoo, too many words, I need to haul arse and get going for my walk…make the tarts!

 

250 grams ready rolled puff pastry (I used Paneton)
1 egg whisked with 2 teaspoons milk or cream
150 grams chevre or soft goat cheese
16 spears asparagus, trimmed, halved lengthways and through the centre
4 eggs, preferably free range organic
80 grams prosciutto
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
2 teaspoons lemon oil (optional)

Preheat the oven to 200˚C (400˚F) and line an oven tray with baking paper. Cut the puff pastry into 4 equal pieces and place on the oven tray. Gently mark a 1cm border around the edge of each piece of pastry to cut just half way through. Brush the edges with a little of the egg wash and use the tines of a fork to gently prick the inside base of each pastry square (Make at least 8-9 prick marks). Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and poke down all of middle pastry bits that have over-puffed. Crumble half of the cheese evenly on each piece of pastry. Top with asparagus, leaving a little gap in the middle then crack an egg into the gaps. Reduce oven temperature by 10˚ and bake a further 10-15 minutes until the egg is cooked through. While the tarts are cooking dry fry the prosciutto in a hot frying pan for a minute each side until crispy. Season the tarts with salt and freshly ground black pepper, sprinkle with lemon zest and serve immediately garnished with remaining crumbled cheese, chopped chives and shards of prosciutto. Drizzle with a little lemon oil if desired.

 

 

 

 

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prawn & asparagus dumplings

makes 24

Goooood morning, good morning – how is it possibly Saturday again already? I can’t believe I have already been back from Welly for a week…what the hell? It was so fantastic to see Hoob for his birthday, we managed to squeeze in two dinners (one Vietnamese and one Mexican with obligatory margaritas), talk non-stop and have a great laugh – God it is an incredible treat to have two grown up sons who are such brilliant company, I know I am bloody lucky! I also had my book signing at Moore Wilson’s which was huge fun – especially getting to meet bloggie/book followers and discuss their favourite recipes. I finished the weekend with some ghastly virus (headaches, nausea and sweats…brilliant), but fortunately it was gone in 24 hours and by the time I managed to nip over to Waiheke for two nights it was gone completely. My darling friends offered me their bach for two nights and it was too good to turn down!

I do miss the island so much – it was amazing to get back on the walking tracks and to wander along the beach, and I ended up doing a mammoth three hour walk making the most of it. Apart from that I just took the opportunity to relax for the first time in a looooong time, and almost finished the last few episodes of The Good Wife which I have been binge-watching for some time now (I do realise I am the last person in the universe to have seen it…).

Anyhoo, it’s now back to business with these super easy prawn and asparagus dumplings. I promise – they are not remotely difficult, and you don’t even have to do any fancy pleating, you can just squeeze the dumpling wrappers together if you fancy and they will still look and taste fabulous. The sweet prawn and new season’s asparagus are gently seasoned with a hint of toasted sesame oil and fresh chives – the result is delicate and delicious, a perfect little spring starter.

250 grams raw prawn meat
100 grams firm white fish (I used terakihi)
3 thick or 6 fine asparagus spears
1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp finely chopped chives
24 dumpling wrappers
1/3 cup light soy sauce
3 pieces finely sliced fresh ginger
2 tsp sesame seeds

Finely chop the prawns and fish and put in a bowl. Trim the asparagus, then if it is thick, slice it lengthways, then quarter and finely chop it, if it is thin just finely slice it. Add the asparagus to the prawn and fish meat, add 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and chives and stir to combine. Keep your dumpling wrappers covered unless using them to stop them from drying out, and have a small bowl of cold water ready. Place a wrapper in the palm of one hand, dip a finger in the water and run it around the edge of the wrapper. Place a heaped teaspoonful of filling in the centre of the wrapper then fold it gently as you would a taco, into a half moon shape. Starting at the centre pinch the top together. You can simply squeeze the edges together to seal them in a simple half moon and that will work just fine, or if you are up for a challenge, pleat the dumpling on one side, creating a curved shape. Refrigerate the dumplings on baking paper lined trays for at least half an hour (and up to four hours), then steam in batches for 15 minutes until cooked through. Bamboo steamers are cheap and come in all different sizes – and are also perfect to serve the dumplings from. I line the bases of the steamers with baking paper, then use the tip of  a small sharp knife to make loads of little slits in the paper – this allows the steam to come through but stops the dumplings from sticking. Put the soy sauce and remaining sesame oil in a small dish with the ginger, sprinkle the dumplings with sesame seeds and serve as soon as possible.

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orange tart

Serves 10

Hellooo – back to normal here from bed with my second mug of tea. Today’s recipe is one I put together for Fairfax so appearing in newspapers around the country today and online at Stuff – orange tart, luscious and creamy with a gentle orange flavour and crispy short base. Actually the flavour is so subtle my sister even wondered if there was pineapple involved. You could also make this with lemons, or give other citrus a whirl – lemon and lime are great together, and I would love to try it with mandarins too…but probs not grapefruit.

I’m so excited to be heading down to Welly tomorrow for Hoobie’s birthday – hurrah my baby is turning 20! I am so proud of him, he is such a kind, intelligent and questioning man, it will be such a treat to see him again. These days a trip anywhere is such a major organisational effort; I have two people coming on separate nights to dog-sit, so two lots of fresh sheets and cleaning, making sure the fridge is stocked, dog food is plentiful etc. Yesterday afternoon I also managed to quickly mow the lawn and give the garden a tidy, so almost sorted – the running around before hand makes it all the more rewarding to finally jump on a plane and go. While in Wellington I am also doing one tiny bit of work – but the fun kind – I will be signing books at Moore Wilson’s from 12-1pm this Friday, and you can read all about that here. (Any Wellingtonians reading this, I would love to see you there!). Meanwhile in Melbourne Pog is delving into the world of self sufficiency heading along to the most fabulous workshops on tiny house building, bread making and community gardening. I love that both the boys/men have such a strong connection to the land and outdoors from all of those fabulous times on Waiheke…I miss those days so much, I just have to work out how to make something similar possible again.

Anyhoo, must get up – dermatologist appointment and Dish shoot on the agenda today. I really hope you have the chance to give the tart a try…see you again soon!

 

110g cold butter, chopped
1 1/3 cups plain flour (plus 1 tbsp to dust bench)
1/3 cup icing sugar
finely grated zest of 1 orange
1 egg yolk plus 2 egg yolks (reserve 1 egg white and lightly whisk)
1 tsp iced water
baking spray
4 eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar (1 cup for extra- sweet-tooths)
200ml cream
250ml freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
¼ cup freeze dried mandarins, crumbled or toasted flaked almonds to garnish
vanilla bean ice cream or softly whipped cream to serve

Put the butter in a food processor and add flour, icing sugar and orange zest. Pulse to combine then add 1 egg yolk and the iced water. Pulse until the mixture forms big clumpy breadcrumbs and starts coming together. Tip out onto a clean bench and press and squash together into a round disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the fridge for half an hour. Preheat the oven to 180˚C and remove the pastry from the fridge. Let it sit for 5 minutes then roll out on a lightly floured surface until it is 5cm bigger than a 25cm loose-bottomed tart tin. Spray the tin very lightly with baking spray and use a paper towel to wipe off any excess. Use a fish slice (or thin metal pizza paddle if you have one) to slip it off the bench and into the tin. Press firmly into the base and sides, patching up tears as you go. Prick the base lightly with the tines of a fork and pop in the freezer for 10 minutes. Gently whisk eggs with remaining yolks, sugar and cream. Don’t whisk it too hard or you will make it foamy and bubbly – gently does it. Stir in the orange juice.  Cut a circle of baking paper 5cm bigger than the tart tin, place in the tin and fill with either baking beans or raw rice. Bake for 12 minutes, then remove the baking paper and beans/rice and brush the base with a little reserved egg white. Bake a further 10 minutes. Put the tart base on a baking tray and place back in the oven. Pour the filling through a sieve into a jug then carefully pour straight into the base in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 160˚C and bake 35 minutes until the filling is just set, but still with a bit of a wobble in the middle. Cool in the tin before removing to serve with lightly toasted flaked almonds or a crumbling of freeze dried manadrins, whipped cream and/or vanilla bean ice cream.

 

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roast side of salmon with pomegranate glaze…

Serves 8-10

Ta daaaaah!!!!! Thanks to the enthusiastic number of comments on my weekend Facebook ‘win-a-cookbook’ promo, I am so happy to share one of my absolutely favourite recipes from Coming Unstuck – it is the ideal, super-easy, gather-the-troops for dinner dish – the absolute perfect entertaining recipe for spring and summer. With a gorgeous pomegranate molasses glaze, the salmon’s served just-cooked, with a side of sharp, quick pickled red onion and a dollop of herby yoghurt mayo. I hope that it becomes as much of a go-to dish for you as it is for me.

So…in other news, bloody hell I’m knackered, this launching a book business is pretty full-on, but also unbelievably rewarding. In the past couple of weeks I have received the most amazing messages from people, also going through crap, who have bought the book and are finding it a source of solace and connection. Seriously, some of you people made my eyes leak with your incredibly kind words. Then to top things off, I got an email from my distributor on Thursday to say that Coming Unstuck was sitting in the NZ top ten bestsellers list at number nine. What the hell? I always feel that I am invisible in terms of profile, (no one is going to give a sh*t if I do a faux baby news insta post – haha as if!) despite the fact that I contribute to Dish, Cuisine and Fairfax, so to think that the book, with it’s unassuming cover, by a relative un-known, has sold out in some places already, blows my mind. I know that some people have found it hard to find – if so please contact your local Whitcoulls or Paper Plus store and invite them to order it, or failing that homewares or gift stores, they can contact me directly and I will pass them on to my distributor. Of course you can also buy it here by hitting the BUY THE BOOK tab above.

So now it’s back to business as usual, time to focus on my regular work while still staying in touch with new recipes as often as I can here. Don’t forget there are literally hundreds to choose from in the recipes section (hit the RECIPES tab above), and don’t forget to hit OLDER POSTS when you’re there so you don’t miss out on the full selection. Happy Sunday, have a great night, and I’ll see you here again soon…

1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
3 tbsp table salt
1 side of skin-on salmon, pin-boned (mine weighed 1.4kg/3 lb )
dill to garnish

Herby yoghurt mayo
1 cup Greek-style natural yoghurt
1/2 cup good-quality mayonnaise (I used Best Foods)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp roughly chopped capers, plus 1 tablespoon whole for garnish
3 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus a few fronds to garnish
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the vinegar and sugar in a small non-reactive bowl and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Add the onion, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Mix the olive oil with the garlic, pomegranate molasses and cumin seeds. Put the salt in a big roasting dish, deep enough to lay the salmon in, and with capacity for 6 cups of water. Add 1/2 cup boiling water to the salt and whisk to dissove it. Top up with 5 1/2 cups cold water and leave to cool. (I threw some ice cubes in to speed up the process). Add the salmon, flesh side down, and leave in the brine for 30 minutes – this will help to prevent the milky white fat from rising to the top of the salmon while cooking. Preheat the oven to 230˚C (450˚F) and line an oven tray with baking paper. Carefully remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry. Lay, skin-side down, on the baking paper. Brush the pomegranate molasses mixture over the salmon flesh. Bake for 10-15 minutes – I did 15 for my whopper, but if your salmon is smaller, stick to 12 minutes or less; you really don’t want to over-cook it! Leave to rest while preparing the yoghurt mayo.

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roast kumara & blue cheese pasta with caramelised onions

Well this is bloody unusual – it is not the morning, and I am not in bed with a cup of tea – I am sitting at my computer like a proper person! The weird reason is that I am shooting with Cuisine tomorrow and have had a quick manicure this afternoon as one of my hands might make it into the shot…consequently I can’t do anything much in case I smear my nail polish, but tapping on my computer is fine. Oh my God I am so zombied out at the moment, the last six weeks leading up to the launch of the book have been monumental, then there was the launch itself and having my darling men/boys to stay. Unfortunately Hoob was only here for two nights ( I’m heading to Welly to see him for his birthday in two weeks, hurrah, can’t wait), but Pog and Will stayed on for a week and we had such a fabulous chilled time…haha, or I did any way. I cooked a couple of nights (the ultimate vege burgers from the book one night and pizzas the other), we had a delicious dinner at Amano another, and the compulsory Thai takeaways for their final night. It is such a huge reminder of how quiet it is to live by yourself when there are other people in the house. Poor guys, I maxed out my hug quota as if I could bank them for the future! Any waaay they headed back to Melbourne on Saturday afternoon so it is back to sad-arse dinners for one for the moment.

Whoops, so obsessed with having the boys here I forgot to talk about the food – this is a vego take on mac and cheese that I made for Hoobie’s last visit and which appeared in Fairfax newspapers last week. The flavours are some of my old favourites – sweet kumara and caramelised onion, sharp salty blue cheese and fragrant, fresh rosemary all bound in a silky cheesy sauce with big tubey pasta – cooked ’til golden with a fine crumbling of crunchy crumbs on top. It is making me hungry just writing about it…(gurgly stomach noises in protest).

And finally, I have been doing a few media-type events lately, chatting on the radio with Toni, Sarah and Sam on the Hits, Jesse Mulligan at Radio NZ, Helen Jackson and Tony Murrell at Radio Live, Mel Homer on the Mix aaaand Brian Kelly on Coast. Phew! All such lovely people who made me feel relaxed and welcome. Then there was my Milly’s book signing where they served a delicious batch of my salted caramel cheesecake bites and a fabulous event at the Northern Club where I got the old slideshow out (kind of) and did a presentation. Add to that the story I did with Dish in the latest issue and the video I did for Stuff and it’s been non-stop! Busy times. And it’s not over yet…

COMING EVENTS – this Saturday 30th September I will be signing books at Sabato in Mt Eden, Auckland between 12 and 2pm then on Friday 6th October I will be at Moore Wilson’s in Wellington from 12noon until 1pm. It is so much fun meeting people who have cooked my recipes or are keen to try, so please do come along and say hi if you fancy! Finally, my nails are dry so I had better go…don’t forget if you are keen to buy a copy of Coming Unstuck it is available at Whitcoulls, Milly’s, Moore Wilson’s, selected Paper Plus stores, Flotsam & Jetsam in Ponsonby and here on the website. If you know of a retailer who might be interested in stocking the book (hello anyone have a contact at Williams Sonoma or Anthropologie in the US while I think about it!?), they can contact me for details. Right, better get busy – have a great week and I will see you again on Friday with another new recipe…

Serves 6

caramelised onions:


¼ cup olive oil    

5 medium red onions, peeled and sliced  – aim for thin slices 

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons caster sugar

sea salt and black pepper to taste

small pinch chilli flakes, optional

Heat olive oil in a big heavy based pot. Add onions and salt and cook over a medium heat for 25-30 minutes until nice and soft, stirring every once in a while so that they don’t catch on the bottom. In between stirring, half cover with the pot lid – I always rest it on the wooden spoon laid across the top of the pot, so it is mostly covered, but not completely. After half an hour add balsamic vinegar and sugar, remove lid completely and cook a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like a little heat, throw the chilli flakes in now too. Once you add the sugar the onions will brown up more and go more caramelisey – if your heat is a little low, you might want to increase it a bit now. If the onions seem a little dry add an extra tablespoon of olive oil and stir through then season with salt and black pepper. Leave to cool then spoon into a sealable jar or container.

1 yellow kumara (sweet potato)

1 orange kumara (sweet potato)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons runny honey

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon chilli flakes

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 cup caramelised onions (see recipe above or use store bought)

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

2 ¼ cups whole milk

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup tasty cheese, grated plus 1 tablespoon

50g blue cheese crumbled (plus extra 50g, optional)

250g pasta shells, tubes or macaroni

3 slices white toast bread, crusts removed

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves plus extra to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180˚C (350˚F).  Peel and chop the kumara into roughly 4cm pieces and put in a roasting dish. Drizzle with oil and honey and sprinkle with cumin seeds, chilli flakes, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until just soft. Heat three tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat until just melted. Whisk in the flour then add the  milk in three lots, stirring continuously, until well incorporated. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk while cooking over the heat until the sauce is thickened and smooth. If it misbehaves, just whisk it vigorously again until smooth – it should finish thick and silky. Add the cheese at the end of heating and stir well to combine. Cook the pasta for one minute less than the packet instructions advise, in plenty of salted, boiling water until only just al dente. Drain well. Add the drained pasta and cheese sauce to the kumara, add onion and stir to combine. Spoon the pasta mixture into a 25cm x 30cm baking dish. Roughly chop the bread and put in a food processor with the remaining butter, rosemary leaves and the tablespoon of cheese. Whiz to form crumbs and sprinkle over pasta. If you are a hard-core blue cheese fan, now is the time to add the rest of it crumbled on top, but it is  also great ‘as is’. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Serve sprinkled with reserved rosemary leaves.

 

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