Every salad needs a good dressing, and personally I like a variety of dressings on hand to spice up a plate.

This dressing makes use of the seasonal blueberry, and is really delicious. A small disclaimer that it does have a bit of a kick so the kids may not love it – reduce the quantity of dijon mustard if you prefer less kick yourself. Food is made to enjoy so taste and adjust to suit your palette.

Blueberry Balsamic Dressing

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt ( I use pink Himalayan)
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil (but use olive oil if you don’t have this)

In a food processor or blender, combine all dressing ingredients except for the oil. Blend until the blueberries are completely pureed, then drizzle in the oil with the blender still going. Once the dressing is emulsified you’re done!

IMG_0286

Happy dressing xx

SaveSave

Blueberry Balsamic Dressing

Advertisements

Now I know that Christmas is all but over; except I’m on a well-deserved break from work and felt like baking some tarts!

To be honest, I had bought a packet of shop-made tarts before Christmas and thought to myself as I helped myself to one, I really should have made these; let’s face it, they are so jolly easy to put together and home-made always tastes better than baking from the supermarket.

IMG_0272.JPG

And since the bought tarts were gone,  I headed to the kitchen to make a batch!

I grabbed a packet of sweet short crust pastry from the freezer, and while that defrosted, hunted in the refrigerator for my mincemeat. I usually have jars of all sorts of ‘fixings’ such as home-made raspberry sauce, chocolate sauce and a range of dressings. I knew there was a jar of this good stuff in there somewhere 🙂

Dust your bench lightly with flour and roll out a sheet of pastry so it is a little thinner than it started out like. Use a pastry cutter so the pastry just fits into the pan nicely – top a tablespoon of mincemeat in the pastry and top with a smaller circle of pastry. I cut-out hearts in mine just for fun.

Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Dust with icing sugar and let cool long enough that you don’t burn your mouth with the hot filling!

Happy baking xx

Christmas Mincemeat Tarts


Summertime, and the livin’ is easy – and so is the wonderful summer fruit at this time of year. Apologies to my friends overseas who are slogging it out in the snow and cold of winter; something to look forward to for you when the season changes?

I make this Raspberry & Almond Slice often and with a punnet of fresh raspberries begging to be eaten, it was time to roll out this old favourite this week.

Super easy, and quick to put together, especially when you have a pack of ready-rolled pastry in the freezer – my recipe for making your own sweet shortcrust pastry below if you don’t.

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet sweet short pastry, thawed
  • 75grams
  • 1/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (works well with frozen too)

Use pastry to line a 34 x 10cm flan tin. Blind bake in a pre-heated oven (180°C fan forced/200°C conventional oven) for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and remove dry filling. Bake a further 5 minutes and them remove from the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C/190°C.

Cream butter and sugar until light in colour. Stir in the almonds flour and egg, is until smooth.

Spread mixture into the prepared flan tin. Place raspberries into the mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes or until set and golden in colour.

Allow to cool in the tin before removing to cut and serve dusted with icing sugar.

IMG_0268

Blind Baking

Baking blind (sometimes called pre-baking) is the process of baking a pie crust or other pastry without the filling. Blind baking a pie crust is necessary when it will be filled with an unbaked filling (such as with pudding or cream pies), in which case the crust must be fully baked.

Line a lightly greased pan with the pastry, trimming the excess the pastry. Place a sheet of baking paper onto the pastry case, and 2/3 fill with dry rice. I have baking beans that are made of clay – rice or beans will do the job for you though so you don’t have to buy these special ones

Bake for 10 minutes, remove baking paper and whatever you have used to weight the paper – be careful the filling will be very hot! Bake a further 5-10 minutes, then you are ready to fill the case.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

2 cups standard flour; 150g soft butter; 1/2 cup sugar; 2 egg yolks; 1 tablespoon water

  1. Sift the flour into mixing bowl, and drop in the softened butter cut into small pieces.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in the sugar followed by the egg yolks – add the water if the mix seems too dry.
  4. Mix quickly to a stiff dough, using a table knife, knead lightly until smooth and then shape into a rectangular block. Wrap well and chill for an hour before using.

IMG_0278.JPG

Happy ‘tarting?’xx

Raspberry and Almond Slice


‘Quark?’ I hear you say – what on earth is that? Quark means ‘curd’ in German and is thought to have originated in Central Europe–in fact it has been made since the Iron Age!

Quark is a fresh, white cheese, very similar to Ricotta. It can be used in baking for both savoury and sweet pies, mousse and cheesecakes. It is also a good low-fat replacement for butter in scrambled eggs. The flavour is mild and milky; not surprising when you learn that it is made from pasteurised milk which has a starter culture added to it then some rennet to form the curd. It is then hung in cheesecloth to drain some of the whey off.

I discovered Quark last weekend at my favourite food store Farro Fresh on the North Shore here in Auckland. I love Farro because the store showcases the very best and finest of New Zealand food, which means you can always find something new and delicious to try. IMG_0203.png

I chatted to the maker of this Quark who was in the store demonstrating the product.

The Cheese Barn can be found on the Hauraki Plains of New Zealand in a little town called Matatoki. They specialise in certified organic cheeses and yoghurt’s that are gluten-free, have no artificial additives, antibiotics, growth hormones and no chemical sprays.

The ‘chief tester’ and I tried a little piece of this No-Bake Lemon Quark Cheesecake in the store and we loved it! I bought several tubs of the Quark and could not wait for the long weekend to make one for dessert 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 80-100g plain biscuits
  • 50g melted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 200g soft cream cheese
  • 500g quark
  • Zest of 2 lemons & juice of 3 lemons
  • 3-3 1/2 tsp gelatin
  1. Crush the biscuits, mix in the butter and the press not a 20cm spring form tin.
  2. Whisk the cream cheese, quark and icing sugar in a large bowl, and then fold in  the zest.
  3. Soak the gelatine in the lemon juice, then melt on a low heat.
  4. Beat into the cheese mix – until smooth. Spoon in to the biscuit base.
  5. Chill until set (approximately 3-4 hours) in the refrigerator.
  6. Serve with chopped pistachio’s, and a dollop of cream

Now if you can’t source Quark, you can use Ricotta for this recipe however I do recommend that you hunt the stuff down – it  has a smoother texture and a brighter flavour than ricotta.

I’m sold and will be restocking to ensure I can whip this cheesecake up again, and feel slightly guilt-free for eating dessert 🙂

Happy ‘Quark’ day xx

IMG_0203

No-Bake Lemon Quark Cheesecake


What on earth is ‘Confetti  Couscous” I hear you say! What it is not is small pieces of coloured paper tossed in couscous!

This is a fabulously quick & easy side dish for any protein; fish, beef, lamb or chicken. I whip this up when I am feeling too lazy to wash and peel potatoes (or it is carb-free night and I’m cheating!)

Couscous is so easy to cook.

1/2 cup of boiling water to 1/2 cup of dry couscous. In a bowl combine couscous, boiling water, 1 tbsp butter and a pinch salt. Cover and leave tis and for 5-10 minutes. Use a fork to fluff up the grains.

While the couscous is ‘cooking’ heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan

Chop 1 small red onion and add to the pan and cook until soft. Next add chopped capsicum, courgettes…and literally whatever else you have in the vegetable drawer that is quick to cook.

I had a fresh sweetcorn that I sliced the kernels off and added to this cook.

Season well with fresh cracked pepper and salt. Add cooked couscous to the pan and mix  to combine. A handful of chopped parsley adds colour, texture and flavour if you have it on hand.

img_0179

When I have more time, I roast orange kumara (sweet potato) or pumpkin that I have chopped into 2cm chunks; use runny honey or even maple syrup drizzled over the vegetables and season. Roast for about 20 minutes until the kumara/pumpkin is soft.

Dried cranberries are also a great addition – bottom line is this is a side dish that  you can make your own with your favourite vegetables.

Happy confetti tossing? xx

Confetti Couscous


Yesterday the ‘chief tester’ and I went to the French markets in Parnell, Auckland – La Cigale.  I love strolling around this market and tasting different foods, and chatting to the growers and budding entrepeneurs.. You can do your weekly vegetable shopping, pick-up some amazing cheeses and wines, have a tasty brunch or just a great coffee!

One of the stalls I stopped by was all the way from Rotorua – Mamaku Blue. Last year my husband and I had spent the weekend in Rotorua and had stopped for a fresh Blueberry ice-cream there.

I bought a large tub of fresh juicy blueberries – there is something about buying direct from the grower that makes fruit & vegetables so much better isn’t there?  I had them on my cereal for  breakfast with some plain yoghurt this morning and they were delicious. I also made a batch of muffins with some of them. Tonight they may find their way into a fresh fruit salad with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flourimg_0165
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar or 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 100 grams butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1 1/2 cups blueberries – use frozen if you don’t have fresh

Put the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

In another bowl warm the butter until melted, then add the milk and egg (and unsweetened applesauce if using)- beat to mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together without over doing it!

Fold the fresh berries into the mix gently so the berries hold their shape.

Scoop 1/4 cup of the mixture and spoon into your muffin pan that is neither paper lined or well coated with a cooking non-stick spray. Sprinkle each muffin with
Cinnamon Sugar – just a little 🙂

Bake in a hot oven – 220°c for 12-15 minutes. (The muffins will spring back when pressed).

*if you used frozen berries the bake will take about 5 minutes longer

Makes 12 muffins

Cinnamon Sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar, and white sugar, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Shake together in a screw-topped jar – sprinkle over your muffins before baking.
img_0164

I have to tell you a funny story about the first time I made Blueberry Muffins for my husband – I had packed a couple of freshly baked muffins in a lunch box for him as he headed off to the office.

Sometime later that day I received a text message from him that left me puzzled. It read ‘husband poisoned by new wife – mouldy muffins for lunch!’ – I wondered what he was talking about?

It wasn’t until we were home in the evening that I questioned his message – he had split open a Blueberry muffin and it looked mouldy to him so he did not eat it. Silly man I said ‘the Blueberries had ‘oozed’ juice and the muffin mix was slightly bluey-green!!

We have laughed about this more than once – and I smiled about that occasion as I was folding the Blueberries into the muffin mix today!

Happy ‘mouldy’ baking xx

Sunday Bake – Blueberry Muffins


I spotted a couple of banana’s in the fruit bowl that needed some magic to bring them back to life – closer inspection told me that there was nothing left for these brown-skinned beauties but to sacrifice themselves for a tasty cake! 

One of my favourite recipes for a banana cake uses yoghurt instead of milk, and although the recipe says unsweetened yoghurt I use whatever I have in the refrigerator (including fruit varieties). 

This is a very easy recipe to put together and that also makes it a favourite of mine – when you are busy with a family and a job outside of the home, time is a precious commodity so having a selection of ‘go-to’ quick & easy recipes is key to your baking.

 Of course if you have been following my blog you will know that flavour is one of my other important criteria’s when I am in the kitchen and this banana yoghurt cake won’t let you down in the taste department! 

Ingredients:

  • 150g soft butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1 tsp grand lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened yoghurt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Yoghurt Icing

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 -4 tbsp unsweetened yoghurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon rind

Place first 6 ingredients in your mixer bowl. Mix on a low speed until combined. Sift in the dry ingredients and beat on a low speed to combine all of the ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 -3 minutes.

Pour into a baking paper-lined 18cm cake tin.

Bake at 180c for 50-60 minutes or until your cake skewer pulls out clean. I like to leave the cake in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Ice with yoghurt icing.

Yoghurt Icing

Sift icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in yoghurt and lemon rind to form a smooth icing.

Now because there are no children at our place, I iced the cake and sprinkled chopped walnuts on the top. Making this child friendly is really easy with 100’s and 1000’s sprinkled on top or chocolate icing and grated chocolate!


Happy baking xx

Banana Yoghurt Cake – a family favourite!


One-Pot Smoked Paprika Chicken, August 2016

One-Pot Smoked Paprika Chicken with carrots, potatoes & mushrooms is full of flavour, healthy and so easily put together! Try it with rice, quinoa or couscous.

Ingredients

  • 500g, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped into 4 pieces
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt & black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 350g small potatoes, cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 2 tbsp flourOne-pot
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • garnish – fresh thyme if you have it – parsley if you don’t

Take the smoked paprika, salt & pepper and mix together in a zip lock bag.  Mix the chicken with the spiced set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan – add the chicken and cook until brown. Put aside.

Next cook the onion, and garlic in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.

Whisk the flour with the wine, and pour into the pan with the vegetables. Bring to the boil, stirring as you go. Add the chicken stock and stir again. Next add the chicken back to the pan and bring to the boil.

Cover the pan and simmer gently on a low heat for roughly 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust with more salt & pepper – serve on rice, quinoa or couscous.

And that is as easy as it gets – this is a delicious tasty one-pot meal that the whole family will enjoy!

Happy cooking xx

Smoked chicken

One-Pot Smoked Paprika Chicken


Home-Made Alfredo Chicken & Spinach Pizza,  last day of July 2016!

We often have a home-made Pizza and a glass of wine on a Friday night – you know how it is?  TGIF! I do cook ‘properly’ all week and feel quite justified in a quick takeaway style meal by Friday.

When the children were younger they loved making their own pizzas – I wish I could show you a photo of the smiley faced pizza’s with salami eyes & mouths!

This Friday was a little different at our house as I had taken the day off work for a much needed break – my new job has been pretty exhausting since taking it on in May and I thought a mini break would recharge my batteries! I thought I would cook a nice meal in a relaxed fashion – glass of wine in hand as I pottered about the kitchen making some delicious dinner for two like the domestic goddess I am!  🙂

I had, however, bought tickets for The Auckland Food Show – and this was my first venture to the show and I had no idea I would be out for the whole day…(and what a great day it was). I highly recommend this show for any foodies – cooking demos from well-known NZ chefs and the variety of food was amazing – from old favourites to new products getting ready to hit the supermarkets shelves and refrigerators. I took the ‘chief tester’ along with me, and thank goodness too – I did shop and came home laden with goodies (well the ‘chief tester’ did if you know what I mean?)….the specials were too good to resist!

Back home, with tired feet and a thirst for a cup of tea; any thoughts of that amazing dinner were well and truly gone. The cup of tea went down a treat and so did an early night!

Saturday came and I have to admit to feeling quite justified in resorting to that Friday night mentality of a quick and easy dinner. I had spent the day doing housework after all 🙂

I had this idea to make a different sauce for the pizza – my ‘chief tester’s’ tummy does not always love tomato-based meals so I thought I would try something a little less acidic.

Why not an Alfredo sauce? Creamy deliciousness on a pizza base?

Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 1/2 tbsp flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 cup tasty cheese – your choice, I used Parmesan

Melt the butter in a small pot, then add the garlic. Cook for a minute or so. Sprinkle the flour in, mixing well and letting the mixture cook slightly. Pour in the milk and mix vigorously with a whisk to ensure you get no lumps. Cook until mixture starts to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.

Take off the heat and add the cheese, stirring to melt the cheese.

Pour the sauce over the top of your pizza base.

Pizza Ingredients

  • 1 handful of chopped baby spinach
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast
  • 1 red onion, sautéed until soft
  • Feta cheese, cubed
  • Chopped parsley
  • Salt & ground black pepper and Creme Fraíche to serve

I topped my pizza in the order above…baked for 12-15 minutes in a hot oven. And poured a glass of wine – dinner was served!

Alfredo pizza (1)

Alfredo Chicken & Spinach Pizza – nothing like a home-made take-away meal

Declared a keeper by the ‘chief tester’ – I will definitely do this again – perhaps some mushrooms in the Alfredo sauce next time?

Happy TGIF xx

 

Alfredo Chicken & Spinach Pizza


Lamb

Slow cooked Lamb with Winter Root vegetables – perfect for a winter’s night dinner

Lamb with Winter Root Vegetables – Slow Cooked

Don’t you just love a meal made in one-pot? less dishes for a start….and you get a meal that is packed with deliciousness!

Ingredients

  • 500g diced lamb shoulder
  • 3 tbsp seasoned flour
  • 1 leek, white part only, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled & diced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled & diced
  • 1/2 swede, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock

Roll diced lamb in the seasoned flour. Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add a dash of oil and when hot, brown lamb on both sides. Transfer to the slow cooker.

Add all of the chopped vegetables, together with the wine and stock. Give a nice stir to combine all the ingredients.

Cook for 6-8 hours on high.

To Serve: Serve hot with Israeli couscous and steam green vegetables. Top with gremolata if you wish (adds a nice touch :))

Gremolata – 2 cloves garlic finely chopped, 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley and grated zest of 1-2 lemons mixed together.

Putting together a meal in the Slow Cooker is so easy, and at the end of the day, when you come through the door to the aroma of dinner cooked – you will wish you did this more often.

Invest in a slow-cooker and save yourself time, energy (and dishes) – it is so simple but packs a wonderful flavour.

Happy slow-cooking xx

Lamb with Winter Roots – slow cooked