Eight Bells

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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Coq au Vin

Why do I hear Tony Robinson's voice in my head saying 'It's coq that's been...' and then Rowan Atkinson 'run over by a van'?
I'm sorry Italy but for me the French have it over the rest of the world when it comes to cooking. The diversity in dishes, ingredients and flavours is unparalleled.
Probably one of the more famous dishes in the world and one which many regions of France claim as their own is Coq au Vin.
It is said that Julius Caeser's cook prepared the first Coq au Vin after the Gauls gave Caeser a tough old rooster as a 'tribute' for defeating them. The cook then made a delicious meal from the old bird in part to prove the Romans superiority over the 'barbaric' Gauls. The fact that the Romans had cooked and eaten one of the Gallic national symbols probably didn't escape them either. He was a wily old bugger was Julius.
Traditionally a rooster or 'Coq' would be used because it would have more connective tissue in the meat which would dissolve to make the gravy or broth much richer.
Of course chicken is much easier to come by and makes a perfectly acceptable substitute.
There is a basic recipe that all Coq au Vin dishes will follow but there are many subtle variations in cooking time, ingredients and assembly. This is my method.
If you can butcher a whole fresh chicken into breast, thigh, leg and wing then please, feel free. Personally I prefer that the butcher does that part for me.
This recipe will serve 4, preparation and cooking is time around 3 1/2 hours.

One whole chicken, butchered or 4 drumsticks and 4 thighs.
1 bottle of good red wine (we used Kim Crawford Pinot Noir)
200g of lardons
10 shallots
6 cloves of garlic
1 meduim sized red onion (do not substitute white onion)
1 heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
1 heaped tablespoon of chopped fresh flat leafed parsely (do not substitute curly leafed parsely the flavour is to strong)
Salt & pepper
Flour and butter

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pot (this is the same pot you will cook the whole dish in so it needs to be fairly big, around 5-6 litres) and brown half your chicken well.
When browning chicken get the oil fairly hot, not quite smoking and simply put the pieces of chicken in the pot and leave them. The worst thing you can do is play around with them. When you put the chicken in the pot the chicken will stick but if you leave it alone after a few minutes it will unstick. Turn the chicken to brown all sides/ends well. Remove from the pot and repeat with the rest of the chicken and remove.
Brown the lardons well and remove from the pot and put with the chicken.
Turn the heat down to about 1/2. Peel the shallots and cut them in half. Finely chop the red onion and add to the pot with the shallots. The juice from the shallots and onions will deglaze the pot. Cook for a few mins until the shallots and onions have softened a little and taken up all the oil, chicken fat and caramelised meat juice.
Turn the temperature down to about a 1/4 and add the chicken and lardons back to the pot at the same time adding the thyme, parsely, red wine and peeled garlic cloves. Season with a little Maldon sea salt (not too much salt as the lardons will be fairly salty) and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Simmer very slowly for 3 hours checking regularly to make sure the dish is not cooking too rapidly.
When the Coq au Vin is around an hour from being ready take some smallish good floury potatoes and cook them whole in salted boiling water for around 20 mins. Drain and replace the lid immediately and leave to steam for another 40-50 mins. Don't take the lid off.
Make a beurre manier by melting 1 tablespoon of butter removing from the heat and then stirring 1 tablespoon of flour into it. It should be a stiff paste, we will use this to thicken the gravy/broth.
After 3 hours your chicken should be well cooked. Use the pot lid to pour all the liquid from the cooking pot into a large frying pan, don't worry if you get a little onion or even small bits of chicken in it. Replace the lid on the chicken pot and leave on the now switched off oven element.
Reduce the liquid by half on the oven top by rapidly boiling it in the frying pan stirring all the time. Make sure you are tasting the broth every 30 seconds or so as there is a small window when it is ready. If you do overcook it and it becomes to strong simply add a little diluted liquid vegetable stock.
Once you have achieved the desired flavour use the buerre manier to thicken it to a glossy gravy like consistency by using a fork to whisk a little at a time into the liquid until you have the right viscosity.
Remove the potatoes from the pot and break them by hitting them with your fist lightly, this will squash them slightly and break open the skin. Return them to the pot, add butter and coat the potatoes with the butter.
Serve with green beans or other green vegetable (broccoli in this case).
This is a fairly full on cooking experience as far as time in the kitchen goes but mastering Coq au Vin gives you a real sense of pride and achievement. Try it.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Friday Night

Another easy peasy quick Friday night meal. Isn't it amazing how slow the week before a break goes? This week has crawled and we're both pretty stuffed (thus the burger). Julia and I are going to the New Zealand food show next week and are taking a few days off work to stay in Auckland and hang out. The food show should be fantastic and there will be many pictures to share I'm sure. Anyway here's another burger.

And here is the view from our driveway at about 7.00am this morning. Brrrrr!

Salmon Filo Parcels

8 sheets filo pastry
2 salmon fillets
2 courgettes
2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
Hollandaise sauce
Salt & pepper
1 lemon

Bone the salmon and cook skin side down in a hot pan for about 5 mins to crisp the skin well. Stand to cool. Cut fillets into three pieces to make assembling the parcel easier.
Thinly slice the courgettes diagonally and marinate in the juice and zest of the lemon. Mix to ensure all the slices are coated.
Briefly wilt the spinach in boiling water (this only takes a few seconds) and drain.

Put 4 sheets of the filo onto your preparation surface one on top of the other. Use oil spray between each layer of filo.
Arrange a good layer of spinach leaves in the centre of the filo keeping to the dimensions of the filo. Add a layer of courgettes and lay the pieces of salmon on top of the vegetables placing slices of courgette in between the salmon pieces. Season with a little salt and ground black pepper. You should end up with a small rectangle of food about 10cm x 15 cm. Drip a heaped teaspoon of hollandaise sauce on top and spread evenly. Top with more spinach.
To make the parcels fold the long sides of the filo in and fold in each end. Turn upside down to secure the parcel and spray with a little oil.
Cook for about 40 mins at 180C/355F till golden. Serve with salad or for winter with roast potatoes and lime oil dressed roasted tomatoes. You can use this recipe to make one large parcel and then slice it to serve or smaller individual servings.
Be careful when taking from the oven tray to the plate that you support the parcel from underneath, this will prevent them falling apart.

Now That's A Steak

It looks like the supermarkets may be raising their game. This week one of the last independant butchers in Hamilton closed it's doors leaving only three to carry on the fight. Our local butchery on 5th Avenue is one of those and looks in no danger of going the same way. These steaks are beef scotch fillet or Boston scotch and as you can see they are two extreme pieces of steak (if you're going to eat steak you may as well do it right).

It is extemely difficult to cook a steak this size to a perfect 'rare' state and admittedly ours were slightly towards the medium. They were however absolutely delicious and the vegetables complimented the large chunks of butchered bovine very well. Simple and classic.

Lamb Stew & Vegetable Bake

The leg of lamb the other day was huge and as there are only two of us we knew there would be a lot of left over meat. This stew continues on in the 'Provencal' style which seems to mean black olives, tomatoes, onions and garlic (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

Left over lamb from the previous meal
1/2 a cup of pitted black olives
1 large onion peeled and sliced into chunks
1 red pepper sliced
6 cloves of garlic peeled (and cut in half if too large)
6 anchovies and anchovy oil
1 tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
1 tin of whole tomatoes without the juice
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsely
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
Salt & pepper

Shred the cold lamb and add with left over sauce if any and the above ingredients to a large casserole.
Cover and cook on 180C/355F for 45 mins. Remove lid, stir and taste. Adjust the seasonings and continue to cook for another 25-45 minutes till slightly thickened and the vegetables are soft.

Gratin of Mixed Vegetables
Thinly slice cauliflower, broccoli and celeriac and layer in a roasting dish. Grind black pepper over the vegetables and sprinkle on a little salt.
Make a white sauce (roux) and pour over the vegetables, you can make this plain or add cheese if you wish. Bake for 1 hour in the oven with the lamb. The vegetables will produce quite a lot of water so after 30 mins or so you may want to remove the liquid with a spoon. Cover loosely with foil if the dish starts to brown too much.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ham & Vege Soup

This is a great winter soup. It's really easy, feeds a truckload of people and keeps well in the fridge or freezer. Everyone has a recipe like this I'm sure. It's a New Zealand standard and is probably made in some form or another the world over. Anyway, here it is.

It doesn't really look like much in the picture but remember there's a whole pile of smoked bacon hock at the bottom of the bowl, yum.

1 bacon hock (we used a manuka smoked, dry cured, free range organic hock from the 5th Ave butchers, $7)
2 packets of Kings vege soup mix
18 cups of warm water

Put the water and the hock in a large pot. pour in soup mix and stir. Bring to the boil. Turn down and simmer for 2 hours stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Taste after 1 hour and if too salty add a small onion, peeled and diced. Let cool and skim the fat off (if there is any).
Remove the hock from the soup and when cool enought to handle skin and then shred it. Add the meat to the soup and reheat to serve.
It is perfect on a cold winter night with hot buttered bread and butter.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Anniversary Dinner

11 years on the 23rd July 2006. It has raced by and if we weren't already married I'd propose again today (she might even say yes).
The lamb and the courgette recipe are taken straight from Cuisine magazine July 2006 and will serve 6-8.

Chicken Liver Pate
500g/1 1b 2 OZ of chicken livers
1/4 of a cup of brandy
1/4 of a cup of cointreau
90g/3OZ of butter
1 onion very finely chopped
1 garlic clove crushed
1 teaspoon of chopped thyme
1/4 of a cup of thick (double/heavy) cream
4 slices of white bread
Salt & pepper

Trim the livers, cutting away veins etc. Rinse, pat dry and cut in half. Place in a bowl with the brandy and cointreau, cover and leave for 3 hours. Drain the livers, keeping the alcohol.
Fry the onion and garlic over a low heat in a pan with half the butter until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the livers and thyme and stir over a medium heat until the livers change colour. Add the booze and simmer for 2 mins. Cool.
Place the livers and liquid in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Add the rest of the butter grated and whiz again until smooth. Pour in the cream and process briefly until just mixed in (we don't want to make more butter!)
Season the pate to taste using salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper and then spoon into a dish or terrine smoothing the surface. At this point if the pate is to be kept over night chill it and then pour melted clarified butter over it to seal. Serve the pate with toast or as we did with ciabatta crackers.

Provencal Style Lamb
1 tunnel boned leg of lamb from Gourmet Direct
1 onion chopped
1 bulb of garlic with the cloves seperated but not peeled
2 tomatoes skinned, seed and quartered
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
3 tablespoons of olive oil
300ml of dry white wine
1/2 a cup of black olives, stoned
2-3 anchovies chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F. Season the leg of lamb generously on all sides with salt & pepper.
In a large heavy casserole (we used the Le Crueset marmite again which is perfect for this) heat the olive oil and brown the lamb well all over. Add the chopped onion and continue to cook, stirring until golden. Add the garlic, tomatoes, thyme and half the wine and bring to a very gentle simmer.
Place the lamb in the oven and cook for 2 hours, taking out from time to time to turn the lamb and check the liquid has not evaporated. You may need to add more wine during cooking. Add the olives after 1 hour and continue to cook.
When you are almost ready to serve add the anchovies so that they melt into the sauce for a few minutes. This is what it looked like when it came out of the oven.

Take the lamb from the casserole and carve. Serve with the sauce and in this case a gratin of courgettes (zucchini).

Gratin of Courgettes
1 kg of small courgettes
60g/2 OZ of butter plus a little extra to dot the surface
1 onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon of flour
250ml of milk
Salt & pepper
304 tablespoons of finely chopped flat-leaf parsely
1/4 of a cup of grated gruyere cheese
1/2 a cup of fresh white breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F. Slice the courgettes lengthwise into 4 or 5 slices.
Arrange the slices in overlapping rows in an ovenproof dish. In a frying pan melt the butter and add the chopped onion, cooking over a low heat until it is soft and starting to turn golden.
Add the flour and continue to cook for 3 or 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the milk and stir well until the sauce comes to the boil. Simmer over a low heat for 7-8 mins then season to taste, add the parsely and pour the sauce over the courgettes.
Mix the cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the top adding a few small pieces of butter to keep it moist. Bake in the oven for 35-40 mins until golden. Serve with the lamb.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Chicken 'n' Chips

Another ready made meal today so no recipe just a picture. This is one of those crumbed stuffed chicken breasts you can find at the supermarket served with oven chips and a green salad. Quick and easy and great for those nights when you come home utterly knackered. There seem to be more of those every year.

Apologies if the blog is a little light on content at the moment, my inspiration will return at some stage I'm sure. Thankyou for reading.

Stuffed Pork Chops In Bacon

This recipe serves two, just increase the number of pork chops to suit and make a little extra stuffing etc.

Slit your pork chops down one side so you have room to stuff them leaving about a 1cm 'hinge' on one side.
In a blender put 6 prunes, 6 sun dried tomatoes, a piece of blue cheese about the size of a matchbox and a tablespoon of chopped parsely. Blend.
Stuff each chop and wrap with streaky bacon.
Cook in a preheated oven at 180C/355F for 40 mins turning once. Bacon will become quite brown and crisp but pork will stay moist and tender.
Serve with potato fritters, baked apple and tomatoes and raw baby spinach leaves.

Boil 3 medium size potatoes until just done. Allow to cool and grate into a bowl.
Add 2 tablespoons of chopped parsely, 1/2 a finely diced onion, 1/2 a lightly beaten egg and salt & pepper. Mix and form into fritters. Fry in a little olive oil. Yum.

This is not the easiest meal in the world, this is just a tribute

I don't know why I'm posting this other than the fact that it was a meal we ate in the evening. It was bloody nice too.

Eye fillet beef
Packet roast potatoes
Packet gravy
Lettuce and tomatoes

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Poor Salmon, They Just Taste So Good...

Serves 4 takes 40 mins

1 tin of light evaporated milk
1 onion finely diced
1 tablespoon of oil
Salt & pepper

200g of smoked salmon fillet
1 courgette
1/2 a packet of free flow frozen spinach

In a saucepan heat the oil to a medium heat and cook the onion until soft and translucent (gotta love that word), do not brown. Add the evaporated milk and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking (scrape any sticking milk from the bottom of the pan). Cook to thicken, darken and reduce by half (about 30 mins). Add salt & pepper to taste. This sauce will take on the flavour of whatever it is served on that is why the lemon and salmon are not added, it is not necessary and the sauce will often split if acid is added.
While cooking the sauce bring a large pot of salted water to the boil for the pasta. Flake the fillet of salmon and remove any bones. Squeeze the juice of 1 large lemon on to the salmon and mix in. Grate a courgette and set aside. Take 1/2 a packet of free flow frozen spincah and set aside.
10 mins before serving cook your pasta as per instructions, the pasta you can see is orecchiette and takes about 10 mins.
Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the veges and salmon, stir through gently adding a splash of olive oil if it needs loosening up a little (we used lemon infused olive oil).
Spoon into warm bowls, pour over the sauce and serve with lots of freshly grated parmesan and ground black pepper.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sunday Night Scoff

No pictures or recipes tonight. It was a long day and after the culinary wizardry of yesterday it was time for takeways. But not just any takeaways, instead the fabulous takeaway delights of Scoff

I had the Lamb Curry which was excellent if a little on the medium side in the heat department (although my version of medium may well be your version of hot, you know what it's like with curries).
Julia had the Mushroom Risotto and reported all was well with her meal.
The mum-in-law opted for the Bacon Fettucini which was huge (it went unfinished) and delicious.
The geezer had the Classic Burger and Chips and was impressed, and he knows his burgers.

If you live in Hamilton and have not yet had takeaways from Scoff I recommend you get there asap.

We're going to the zoo zoo zoo

We are very lucky in Hamilton to have one of the best (we think it's the best) zoos in New Zealand and while morally I think there should be no place for zoos in a perfect society most well run modern zoos have an important part to play in conservation and education. You can visit the Hamilton zoo website here
Sunday turned out to be an absolute ripper of a day, perfect blue skies and just enough winter chill in the air to make the 5 km walk around the zoo very comfortable.

HORSEY! (this is a very long running joke between Julia and I which basically consists of her calling every animal she sees a HORSEY! until I'm just about falling on the floor laughing).

Puss puss this is Bob the cat, he's a bobcat...


HORSEY! Actually a kunekune pig

African Hunting Dog

These guys are awesome. Last time we were at the zoo we were lucky enough to be at this enclosure just before the pack of 20 dogs was fed with a whole goat carcass. It was quite a sight and worth taking a trip to the zoo for that alone. Very spectacular.
It was a great trip and at the end we had ice cream, what could be better.

Birthday Cake

While it is of course true that you really can't have a birthday party without helium balloons it is equally true that you need a birthday cake. Preferably completely over the top and sporting sparkling candles. Anybody out there having a birthday around about now, this cake is for you.

Turkish Delight Cake
1 quantity of basic cake mix e.g. madeira cake or this batter recipe

2 X 4" cake tins
250g/9OZ butter
1 cup of sugar
4 eggs
2 cups of flour
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon of yellow food colouring

1 tablespoon of rose water
1/2 a teaspoon of pink food colouring
1/2 a packet of turkish delight (rose and lemon) pieces finely diced & separated (yellow in one pile pink in the other.

Line the cake tins with baking paper, double thickness, base and sides and allow side paper lining to extend above the rims of the tins by 5 cm. This should prevent over browning and uneven cooking.
Preheat the oven to 160C/320F and put the oven tray or rack just below the middle of the oven.
Cream butter and sugar thoroughly, add eggs two at a time and beat well between additions. Add sifted flour & baking powder and mix till combined.
Halve the mixture into two bowls and add colour (yellow), flavour (lemon juice) and turkish delight (lemon) to one bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Repeat with the other bowl of batter only using the other colour, flavour and turkish delight.
Combine the two portions of batter in a larger bowl and gently but quickly mix to get a swirly marbled effect. Don't over mix, less is more in this case.
Spoon this mixture evenly into the prepared tins and cook for 1 hour. Test with a wooden skewer and continue cooking if batter is present on skewer. Remove cakes when skewer comes out clean.

Icing (Whipped Vanilla Cream, Donna Hay)
1 1/4 cups of sugar
5 egg whites
500g/17 1/2 OZ of cold butter diced
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the sugar and egg whites into a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or use a double boiler if you have one). Whisk for 1-2 minutes till sugar is disolved.
Remove bowl from the heat and pour into a mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer until cool (should look like meringue). Continue beating adding butter a few cubes at a time. Mix until light and fluffy. Use a metal spoon to stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside in a cool place (not the fridge) till ready to use.

Remove cooled cakes from tins, make the top the base and slice into 3 even layers. Generously fill each layer with icing and decorate the top with more icing, turkish delight or what you will.

It was so good Julia had it for breakfast the next day!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Birthday Dinner The Second

The in-laws are staying and it's the mum in-law's birthday so a slap up dinner is the order of the day. We went for a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean themed mezze type meal which was great fun to prepare (although a lot of time in the kitchen). As you can see from the picture there was a lot to prepare. To give you a rough idea, we were cooking for four adults. This is an excercise that will take roughly half a day but the results really are worth the effort.

Salted almonds
White bean dip
Baba ghanoush
Parmesan Aioli
Hot Tomato sauce
Lamb rack
Keftedes (fried meatballs)
Saganaki (fried Halloumi cheese)
Stuffed capsicum (bell pepper)
Peppered squid
Grissini (bread sticks)
Sesame crackers

Salted Almonds
1/2 a cup of whole almonds (skin on)
1 tablespoon of butter

Melt butter on medium heat, do not allow it to split or colour.
Add almonds & allow to 'sizzle' for 5 mins, do not brown.
Tip on to a plate with a couple of paper kitchen towels on, pat dry and salt.
Serve as an appetizer, half a cup would serve 4.

1 tin of chick peas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
6 cloves of garlic, roasted
The juice of one large lemon
1/2 a cup of olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 teaspoon of tahini (we actually used vegemite because it's always in the house and it's cheaper)

Blend all ingredients till smooth. Adjust flavour with salt & pepper and consistency with oil or lemon juice if required. Stand for 2 hours before serving.

White Bean Dip
You will find the recipe here

Baba Ghanoush
1 large eggplant (aubergine)
1 head of garlic roasted and the cooked cloves removed
2 tablespoons of tahini
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of parsely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper

Bake eggplant at 170C/340F on a tray for 1 hour till soft and almost collapsing.
Skin the eggplant and blend it and all the other ingredients to a smooth dip and adjust flavour according to your taste. Leave to stand for 2 hours.


Parmesan Aioli
1/2 a cup of plain aioli (purchased or home made)
1/2 a cup of parmesan cheese, grated finely
Salt & pepper

Blend, adjust taste and leave to stand for at least 2 hours.

Hot Tomato Sauce
2 tins of peeled and chopped tomatoes in juice
1/2 a cup of white wine (use a decent bottle of sauvignon blanc then drink the rest)
Salt & pepper
1 teaspoon each of oregano, parsely and thyme chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1/2 an onion finely sliced or grated
4 cloves of garlic either roasted or just crushed raw depending on how strong you want the garlic flavour to be.

Put ingredients in a saucepan and blend until smooth with a whiz stick (use a food processor if you don't have one of these nifty gadgets).
Heat and simmer to reduce to about half over 1-2 hours stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot or whatever temperature you prefer. We used the sauce on the meatballs and stuffed peppers.

Parmesan and Herb Crusted Lamb Rack

Keftedes (fried meatballs)
2 slices of bread, finely crumbled
1/4 of a cup of milk
300g/10 OZ of minced beef and pork (150g/5 OZ each)
1/2 a teaspoon of dried mint
1 tablespoon of chooped parsely
1 egg yolk
1 apple, peeled, cored and grated
Half a red onion, finely chopped or grated
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Break up the bread in a bowl and add the milk, leave to soak.
Put the meat into a bowl and add the mint, parsely, egg yolk, apple, onion and the soaked bread.
Season with salt & pepper and mix well with your hands. Form into small balls and leave to stand for 30 mins.
Pour approximately 1 cm of olive oil into a large frying pan over medium to high heat (not hot enough to smoke the oil). Cook the meatballs in batches as they can be tricky to turn and you don't want to stew them. Fry till golden brown all over. Don't push them around or fiddle with them, just fry them, turn them and fry again.
Remove from the pan and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.

Olive oil

Slice the halloumi into 1cm thick slices and fry till golden brown in olive oil over a medium-high heat.

Stuffed Capsicum

5 large red, orange or yellow capsicum (one of them finely chopped up)
200g of minced lamb
1/3 of a cup of uncooked Arborio (short grain risotto rice) rice.
Half an onion finely chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped parsely
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 a teaspoon of dried mint
1/2 a teaspoon of sweet paprika
1/2 a teaspoon of ground black pepper
1/2 a teaspoon of salt

1 tin of chopped tomatoes
50g/2 OZ of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 180C/355F.
Put the meat in a large bowl with the onion, parsely, rice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, paprika, mint, the 1 chopped capsicum and salt & pepper. Mix well.
Carefully cut the tops of 4 of the peppers away by using a small sharp knife and cutting down into the pepper (don't just slice the tops off). Remove seeds and as much membrane as you can, don't worry about getting it all out.
Using a teaspoon stuff the capsicum with the stuffing, don't over stuff.
Melt the butter and combine with the tin of tomatoes and the olive oil. Place the capsicum in an overproof container and pour the tomato/butter/oil mixture over them. Replace the lids and bake in the oven for around 1 1/2 hours.

Peppered Squid

Take 2 large squid preferably already prepared by your supplier. Cut the 'tube' into 1 inch thick rings then slice so that you have a strip of squid. Cut this in half and score on the inside (non skin side) in a criss cross pattern, be careful not to cut right through the flesh.
Take 1 teaspoon of whole sichuan pepper ,1 teaspoon of black pepper corns and 1 teaspoon of smoked red peppercorns. Heat a small frying pan and cook the peppercorns briefly on a medium heat moving the pan the whole time. Do not burn and remove when the aromatics really kick in (you will smell it) after about 2 or 3 mins. Remove from the heat and grind in a mortar.
Heat a frying pan on a medium high heat and add half your squid. Sprinkle about 1/2 a teasoon of your pepper mix on the squid, turn and do the same again. The squid will be ready after only about 3-4 mins. Remove and cook the other half of the squid in the same way.

And of course you can't have a birthday party without helium balloons.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


This is actually a quesadilla recipe but Julia calls them questestados. I'm not quite sure where she got that from but it's hillarious every time, really.
I know I've said this about other recipes but I could seriously eat this a couple of times a week, it's definately 'bloke' food. This will make about 4 or 5 large quesadillas. If anyone has a decent recipe for the seasoning please let me know, for now the supermarket bought stuff is pretty good.

1 skinless chicken breast cut into smallish pieces (substitute a tin of kidney beans for a vegetarian quesadilla)
1 tin of black beans, drained
1 tin of whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 packet of taco seasoning powder (Old El Paso is good)
1 packet of burrito seasoning powder
1 onion diced
1 courgette diced
3 tomatoes diced
1 capsicum (bell pepper) diced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes, drained

Cook the chicken and onion together in a saucepan with a little oil until the chicken is nicely browned.
Add all the other ingredients and mix well, you may need to add a little water at this stage.
Cook for approximately 1 hour until the mixture is thick enough so that it will not run off the tortilla and the flavours are well developed. Add water if it thickens too quickly.
Spread some of the the mixture onto a tortilla, grate cheese on top and place another tortilla on top. Cook in oven at 180C/355F for 10 mins or until tortilla is slightly brown and starting to become crisp. Serve with sour cream and salsa. Eat. Oh man give me more...

Sicilian Apple Cake

You must make this cake, seriously, just do it. This is a recipe from the Zarbo cookbook 'Zarbo, Recipes From a New Zealand Deli' by Mark McDonough. It is quite simply, outstanding.

Sicilian Apple Cake
50g/2OZ of walnut pieces
120g/4 OZ butter, melted
1/2 kg/1 lb of apples, cored and sliced
1/2 a lemon, zest and juice
150g/5OZ plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
3 eggs
250g/9OZ sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
100 mls milk
1/4 of a cup of raisins
1/8 of a cup of pine nuts
1 tablesppon of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Lots of bowls

Toast the walnuts in the oven at 170C/340F for about 10 mins. Make sure they don't burn.
Line a 23cm cake tin with baking paper. Pour a little of the melted butter into the tin and sprinkle over the toasted walnuts.
In a bowl, mix the sliced apples with the lemon zest and juice.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder
In a third bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla essence. Mix in the milk and the rest of the butter. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
Pour half the batter over the walnuts in your cake tin. Arrange half of the apples, juice and zest over the batter and sprinkle over half the raisins. Pour the rest of the batter into the tin and arrange the rest of the apples, zest and juice and sprinkle over the rest of the raisins. Lastly sprinkle on the pine nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Bake at 170C/340F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The cake may even take a little longer than that to cook. It should be set but still moist. Cover the top with baking paper if it begins to brown while cooking. If you don't succeed on your first attempt keep trying, it really is something special.

Easy Chinese

Looks like it's the week for quick and easy meals.
This is simply diced pork from the butchers fried with a diced onion. 4 large field mushrooms sliced and a bag of frozen mixed asian veges. Throw it all in the frying pan once the pork is browned, add 1 Continental flavour base 'Chinese Sichuan Pepper & Hoi Sin' and fry/cook until ready. Serve on top of noodles. 20 mins and you're done.


I really wanted a meal that would inspire my readers to greater things in the kitchen. After a very busy Sunday for both of us I came up with this.

2 pieces of fish
2 oysters
2 scallops
$3 chips
1 litre of Fanta

Winter Stew

Hi folks, apologies for the lack of blogging, I have been slack again. I'm going to try to catch up over the weekend and then get back to daily entries (yes I've said it before I know). To tell the truth my interest wained a little and there's just been too much going on, I promise to do better.

This recipe is quite possibly the best stew/casserole dish I have ever tasted. Prep/cooking time is about 2 1/2 hours (most of that is waiting for the dish to cook in the oven). It is based on a recipe in Allyson Gofton's 'Casual Eating' recipe book with the addition of shitake and chanterelle mushrooms and a little more red wine than she uses. Allyson's recipe also uses bacon which we leave out as it can overpower the other flavours. You need to use good beef stock and good red wine, we have found a decent cabernet sauvignon merlot works well. This recipe serves around 6-8.

3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 kg/4 1/2 lb of beef cut into 1 inch cubes (we always use shin but gravy beef or blade steak will do fine)
1/4 cup of tomato paste
3 tablespoons of flour
2 cups of red wine
2 1/2 cups of beef stock
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
300g/10 OZ mushrooms
1 bouquet garni
16-20 pickling onions, peeled
Salt & pepper

Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large frying pan or heatproof casserole dish and brown a third of the meat over a high heat until it is well browned (ensure it is well browned, the flavour of the dish depends on this step). The Le Creuset 'Marmite' is the perfect vessel for this. Transfer the meat to a plate and continue with the remaining beef and oil browning it a third at a time and removing the beef from the pan when done.
Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook, stirring until the tomato paste darkens to almost a deep brown, do not allow it to burn.
Stir in the flour and mix in well until the paste is even and has no specks of white flour. Add all the red wine and stir until the sauce becomes thick. If you have problems with lumps at this stage you may need to pass the mixture through a sieve.
Add the beef stock gradually making sure all the sediment is scraped from the bottom of the pan. Pour all the beef and sauce into a casserole dish and add the garlic and bouquet garni. Brown the onions in butter and add to the dish. Cover and cook at 180C/355F for 1 hour. This is what it looks like before it goes in the oven.

Brown the mushrooms slowly in a little butter and add to the dish after it has been cooking for an hour. At this stage we added a handful of dried shitake mushrooms and about 1/4 cup of dried yellow chanterelles.

Cook for a further hour.
Season with salt & pepper and serve with potato and pumpkin mash and steamed green vegetables. The perfect winter stew.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lemony Creamy Chickeny Pasta

This yummy little thing will serve 3 and takes about 1 hour from start to serving.

300g/10 OZ dried pasta
1 boneless chicken breast
1 375g can of Carnation lite evaporated milk
1 onion
1 large courgette (zucchini)
1 large handful of baby spinach leaves
Fresh chopped chives and parsely
1 large lemon
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot with water, salt the water and bring to a simmer.
Dice the onion and cook on low/medium heat in a tablesoon of oil till soft and transparent. Do not brown.
Add the tin of evaporated milk (just the milk not the tin) to the onion and simmer gently stirrring regularly as the sauce thickens.
Slice the chicken breast and cut slices in half. Zest the lemon and put the zest and the juice into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil, mix and toss the chicken pieces in the mixture till well coated. Leave to stand in the marinade till ready to cook.
20 mins before service the sauce should have reduced by about a third. Bring the pasta water to the boil, add pasta and cook as per packet instructions.
Heat a small pan and cook the chicken and marinade until chicken is well browned. Add grated courgette, spinach, salt & pepper and herbs to your sauce mix. Reduce heat to low and cook for 10 mins.
Drain the pasta, add the chicken to your sauce and serve with plenty of fresh grated parmesan cheese and black pepper.

Lamb Rack with Parsely and Garlic Crust

This recipe uses the left over cauliflower and potato puree from a couple of nights ago. Boil four large florettes of cauliflower till soft and mash. Add to the left over puree adding 2 tablespoons of fresh grated parmesan. Mix well and serve. Prep and cooking time for this is around 40 mins.

Lamb Rack
In a kitchen whiz crumb 2 slices of staleish bread, a large handful of fresh parsely, 4 cloves of garlic and salt & pepper.
Oil the lamb rack and with oily hands pat the crust mixture on to the rack. Put the rack on a baking paper lined oven tray. Cook at 150C/300F for 25 mins, test for pinkness meat should be rare. Stand for 5 mins and serve with puree and brussel sprouts or other green vegetable.

It is the first game of the Tri-Nations rugby tournament tonight which if you don't know is a tournament held between South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Tonight New Zealand play the old enemy Australia. The only comment I will make is that I am concerned that the All Black team will be underdone given the tactic of their coach to not play the A team consistently in the lead up to the tournament. I think it is a mistake. Good luck All Blacks.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Toot Toot

This is such a tasty dish and as a winter meal just perfect. I felt like a French peasant (albeit a pretty well off French peasant) sitting down to a steaming meal of beans and various charcuterie. Prep and cooking time combines to about 2 hours and the recipe serves at least 6 as a main.

Sausage and Bean Casserole
1 large onion diced
3 tablespoons of cooking oil
2 large carrots diced
2 sticks of celery diced
300g/10 OZ lardons (chunks of smoked bacon)
2 Toulose sausages sliced(A small French sausage made of coarsely diced pork flavored with wine, garlic and seasonings)
2 Cabana sausages, sliced (similar to the Toulose but with a stronger smokier flavour)
2 400g cans of Cannellini beans
1 400g can of large red kidney beans
1 400g tin of diced tomatoes
2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 a small can of tomato paste
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 a cup of fresh parsely, chopped
Black pepper

Heat oil in a large pot, add onion, celery, carrots, lardons and sausage. Cook gently for about 20 mins.
Add beans including liquid, tomaotes, tomato paste, chicken stock and garlic and stir gently.
Bring ingredients to a simmer and cook for 1 1/4 hours. Stir regularly to ensure the bottom doesn't stick and burn but be very gentle you do not want to break up either the beans or the sausage.
15 mins before serving taste and season with black pepper and chopped parsely. If the dish is very salty (it depends on the pork products) add a couple of small peeled potatoes cut in half and cook a further 15 mins. Remove the potatoes before serving and discard.
The recipe is based on a traditional French cassoulet which takes about a day to cook and contains endless meat and bean products.
Serve in bowls with hot, crusty buttered bread. C'est bon.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Steak & Cauliflower Puree

I know you can cook steak and courgettes already so I will just give you the procedure for the musrooms and puree.

This meal from go to whoa takes approximately 40 mins.
For two people you will want a couple of handfuls of sliced large field mushrooms. Cook them in a pan with Olivio (a low fat olive oil based spread) or butter and plenty of white pepper and salt. Cook well until they reduce in size and become very brown and tasty as in the picture.
For the puree take half a cauliflower and cut it into small pieces. Take 3 small potatoes peeled and cut up into small pieces.
Boil potatoes and cauliflower together in unsalted water until soft.
Heat 1/2 a cup of low fat cream in a pan (no need to even bring it to a simmer, just heat it).
When ready to serve the meal, drain the cauliflower and potatoes and mash finely or pass through a potato ricer (this will cool the puree down somewhat though). Add hot cream and plenty of ground sea salt and white pepper.
Just a note re the steak, the more astute of you will notice that the steak is not exactly rare as we would prefer. This is due to the fact that it rested for a good 15 mins after it was ready while we tried to fix the puree. While salting the puree the lid of the salt container fell off and well you can guess the rest...the addition of more potato made it palatable, we will know better next time.

Takeaways cooked at home

Tonight (this is Sunday nights dinner, yes I'm a slack bugger we have already established that) we were so knackered after doing the garden that we didn't even bother making the burger patties ourselves. If you haven't tried them, Angel Bay burger patties are probably the best suprmarket bought burger patties around. There really is not a lot of need to eat the hundreds of grams of fat that come with your regular chip shop burger and chips. These are oven cooked fries, Angel Bay beef patties, lettuce tomato and cheese. Simple and great.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Who Killed Bambi

So what did you think of? Disney movie or Sex Pistols song?
What a day, up at the crack of dawn (yes the sun rises around 9.30am this time of year in New Zealand, I challenge you to prove any different) to go to the hamilton farmers market and then the garden centre where Julia nearly got hospitalised slipping on a path covered in ice. The garden centre manager is now fully aware of my thoughts on maintaining safe environments for his customers (if only we lived in the U.S.A. I would probably be looking at purchasing a yacht right now). Then planting and digging all day. Cauliflower, cabbage and brussel sprouts in the 'winter garden', tulips, daffodils and freesias in the 'spring garden' and strawberries in our newly acquired strawberry tree planter. It was an absolute ripper of a Hamilton winters day, frost the night before and then perfect cloud free weather all weekend long. Bravo!

Oil, pepper and sear your venison in a hot pan and then cook in a preheated oven at 180C/355F for 15-20 mins for rare (please don't cook it any other way except rare, you heathens). Remove from the oven and stand covered in foil for 10 mins. Carve and serve on hot plates with steamed baby vegetables, potato gratin, roasted baby turnips and brussel sprouts. Dress with a prepared meat glaze, this one was venison glaze from Gourmet Direct the venison came from the same place. I strongly recommend this company, the quality of their products is outstanding (and no, they did not pay me to say that).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

More Chook (recipe)

In response to Blerv's question re how we cooked the organic free range chicken the other night.

The chicken is stuffed, then rubbed with oil and place in an oven tray. The chicken rests on half a dozen thick slices of lemon and a little water is added to the oven tray (2 tablespoons). As it goes into the oven it has the juice of a lemon squeezed over it and sea salt and black pepper ground over it. It is not cooked in an oven bag and may be basted if you wish.

Gluten free stuffing
4 slices of thick wholegrain bread, crumbled. The bread in this case was gluten free pumpkin seed and sunflower bread.
1 egg
The zest and juice of a lemon
Fresh chopped herbs: sage, parsely, chives and marjoram/oregano.
1 small onion diced and precooked
3 cloves of garlic chopped and precooked with the onion
Salt & pepper

Mix ingredients well in a bowl and stuff your chicken.

Gluten free gravy
Once the chicken and lemon slices have been removed from the oven tray pour off the fat so that what remains in the oven tray is just the meat juices from the chicken. Pour these juices into a small saucepan.
Add to this 1/3 of a cup of orange juice and begin to cook.
Mix 1 teaspoon of arrowroot and 1 tablespoon of water to a smooth paste and add to the saucepan.
Cook until gravy is the desired consistency and serve (you may have to sieve the gravy to remove lumps).
This produces a small amount of very tasty gravy if you wish to increase the volume add 1/3 cup of chicken stock and reduce a little.

Giving The Dog A Bone

Sorry, as a recovering AC/DC fan I just couldn't resist that one. Tonight we have lamb shanks/knuckles and couscous. This meal takes approximately 1 hour to prepare and cook.

We have again used the 'Bed of Roses' Moroccan rub from Cape Herb which is a fantastic rub for lamb.
Simply rub your lamb shanks with lemon oil and rub in the rub, lol. Place in a preheated oven at 160C/320F for 20 mins, add the baby beets to the oven and cook for a further 30 mins.
While the lamb is cooking you can make the couscous.

Prepare the couscous as per the instructions on the packet but for every cup of water used add 1 teaspoon of chicken stock powder.
Add the following to the hot cooked couscous: diced tomatoes, drained tinned chick peas, fresh chopped parsley & chives, diced chargrilled capsicum (bell pepper), pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. Season with lemon juice, salt and ground black pepper.
Serve with the cooked lamb, baby beets and yoghurt dressing (unsweetened greek yoghurt, grated cucumber, chopped parsley & chives and lemon juice).