Thursday, April 17, 2014

Treat me: Easy Easter Brioche

Do you dream of waking up on Good Friday to a trayful of freshly made hot cross buns? Me too. Over the years I've tried many ways of achieving this, ranging from buying them in the day before, to getting up at the crack of dawn. Neither one is particularly good - especially if you already get up at the crack of dawn and everyone in your household is ravenous at breakfast time. The first hot cross bun of the day is like the first cup of tea; you shouldn't have to wait for it.

But this way - using a clever, no-knead, no stress method - is perfect. All you do is make up a batter-like dough the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight. Then all you have to do in the morning is wait for the oven to heat up, then these lovely, light, buttery buns are ready to eat 15 minutes later. If that's not an Easter miracle, I don't know what is.

Easy Easter Brioche Buns Recipe And Photo: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Easy Easter Brioche
If you've had hot cross bun disasters in the past or are a novice yeast baker, this is the recipe for you. There's no kneading, just a bit of energetic stirring with a wooden spoon. If you don't have a muffin tin you can make a giant loaf in a 23cm cake tin - it will take more like 25-30 minutes to cook.

200g raisins or sultanas
50g mixed peel (or finely chopped crystallised ginger, or other tangy dried fruit)
150ml milk
250g strong or high grade flour
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dried yeast
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
grated zest of one orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten
140g unsalted butter, softened but NOT melted, and cut into little pieces

Put the dried fruit in a small heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water from the kettle. Leave to steep while you get everything else organised.
Put the milk in a small pan and bring to nearly simmering point, then remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm.
Put the flour, sugar, yeast, spices and salt in a large bowl and stir well. Drain the dried fruit and set aside.
Pour in the milk, the orange zest, the vanilla, the eggs and the dried fruit. Beat well until you have a smooth batter. Set aside in a warm place until doubled - this will take about an hour.
Beat the risen batter until it deflates, then add half the butter and beat well with a wooden spoon until it is all mixed in and there are no lumps. Repeat with the remaining butter and beat until the batter is smooth.
Grease the holes of a 12-cup muffin pan with a little butter or oil, and divide the mixture between them.
Cover the tin with a plastic bag and put it in the fridge.
In the morning, turn the oven to 170C and take the tin out of the fridge. When the oven has reached temperature and the buns have lost their chill (about 35 minutes, in my house) put them in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until risen and golden brown.
Leave them in the tin for five minutes, then gently ease out with a spatula. Makes 12.

Have a wonderful Easter, everyone x

Friday, April 11, 2014

Treat me: Blueberry Orange Delicious

There are only two things happening in New Zealand this week. One, the royals are here (no, not the Royals immortalised by Lorde, the other ones). Two, it is raining. Incessantly. Torrentially. Mistily. Irritatingly. We are all trapped indoors, with nothing to do but assess Kate's hair and worry about whether Prince George's carseat is installed correctly. And think about what to have for pudding.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Orange Delicious Pudding Photo Credit: Lucy Corry

Blueberry Orange Delicious
This is the sort of pudding your Nana probably used to make, given a bit of a makeover. It’s all about the textural contrast - soft sponge on top, silky custard underneath. You can make them ahead of dinner - they're fine to eat slightly warm.

1 cup frozen blueberries
50g very soft butter
½ cup caster sugar
Finely grated rind of 2 oranges, plus the juice of one of them
1 tsp orange blossom water (or vanilla extract)
3 Tbsp ground almonds
2 eggs, separated
200ml milk

Heat the oven to 170C. Grease four ramekins (about 200ml capacity) or cups and set them in a deep roasting dish.
Divide the blueberries between the ramekins.
Beat the butter and sugar together - it will be tricky, but persevere - then add the orange zest and orange blossom water or vanilla and mix well. Stir in the flour.
Add the egg yolks and milk and beat again to form a smooth batter.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, then gently fold them into the batter. Carefully pour the mixture over the blueberries.
Fill the roasting dish with hot water - it needs to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins - and put it in the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes, until the sponge is risen and golden. Serve warm or hot (though they are pretty good cold the next day too).

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Spicy seedy spuds

Regular readers of this blog will know that we eat a lot of potatoes in this house. I have gone from being someone with a mortal fear of the humble spud (boarding school, need I say more?) to someone who heaves sacks of them into the trolley with abandon. Thanks to the previous owners of this house, we even have some growing in the garden.

But that doesn't mean I don't get bored with them. You could say we have a troubled relationship, but I am trying to do my bit. That's how this delectable recipe came into being...

Crunchy Potatoes With Indian Spices Photo And Recipe Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Spicy seedy spuds
This recipe was born purely out of chance - I was thinking about something my mum used to do with potatoes and sesame seeds, but pulled out the jar of fennel seeds instead. One thing led to another and before long we had this tray of crunchy and aromatic spuds to eat with some grilled fish and salad. I can't recommend them highly enough.

800g roasting potatoes (eg Agria, King Edward, Maris Piper)
60g butter or ghee
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli flakes, optional
a good pinch of flaky sea salt

Heat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper or foil (or both, if you are the sort of cheating cook who hates washing up of any kind).
Scrub the potatoes and cut into 2cm dice. Tip them into a large bowl.
If you have the time, the inclination and the equipment, bash the seeds in a mortar and pestle to crush them slightly.
Melt the butter in a small pot, then add the seeds, spices and salt. Let cook for a minute or two, then pour this mixture over the potatoes. Stir well, until they are completely coated.
Tip out onto the prepared tray, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes, giving the tray a shake halfway through. Serves four.

What's your favourite new way with potatoes?

Friday, April 04, 2014

Treat me: Homemade Easter eggs

I'm not really that keen on sweets or lollies, but it takes a lot of willpower for me to resist a marshmallow. This has been a lifelong problem - when I was about five I discovered a stash of marshmallows in a high cupboard and secretly scoffed the lot. I still remember the speech I got about how it was bad to take the marshmallows, but even worse to lie and pretend I hadn't. I've been a terrible liar ever since (and still feel guilty about indulging my marshmallow habit.)

How To Make Marshmallow Easter Eggs

Last weekend my friend Agnes came over and made a swag of beautiful Easter eggs while I found whatever kitchen tool she needed and kept our daughters out of the chocolate (one of those tasks was much easier than the other). Agnes and chocolate are like Picasso and paint - it's amazing watching her work. I was too embarrassed to make these eggs - the way I remember doing them with my mother - in front of her, but my taste for nostalgia (and marshmallow) meant I've been dreaming about them all week.

So if you've ever wondered how to make marshmallow Easter eggs at home without any fancy kit, this is how to do it.

Homemade Marshmallow Easter Eggs
Don't be alarmed - the flour and egg are only used in the shaping process. Both can be reused in the normal way. You need electric beaters, or preferably a stand mixer, to make the marshmallow. Don't attempt it with a rotary beater, it will only end in tears. This is a bit of a process but the results, which taste like chocolate-covered clouds, make it all worth it.

2 kg flour (use gluten-free flour if you have gluten woes)
1 egg - at room temperature (or the flour sticks to it)
1 Tbsp powdered gelatine
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup hot water
1 cups sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice
Pink food colouring, optional
180g good quality chocolate - I used Whittaker's Fairtrade Creamy Milk
1 Tbsp coconut oil or other plain, flavourless oil

Spread the flour into two or three large, deep baking dishes. The flour needs to be about 5cm deep. Gently press the egg (in the shell) into the flour to make a half-egg shape to make 20 hollows. Carefully set aside.
Put the cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatine. Stir well, then let swell for five minutes.
Put the hot water and the sugar in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the gelatine mixture, stirring all the time, until it has dissolved too.
Bring this mixture to the boil and boil gently for six minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until lukewarm.
Transfer it to a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and add the vanilla, rosewater and lemon juice. Beat on high speed until thick and creamy (about five minutes, depending on your mixer). If you like, add a few drops of pink food colouring when the mixture is nearly done.
Carefully spoon the marshmallow mixture into the egg shapes, making sure it comes to the top.
Let set for 15 minutes, then carefully remove the halves from the flour by touching the top of each one with your finger and lifting it out. Join the halves together (the top stays sticky, so they 'glue' together nicely) and dust off the flour. A pastry brush is helpful here.
Cover a tray with plastic wrap and set aside.
Leave the marshmallow eggs in a cool place while you melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a double boiler over low heat. Let cool until lukewarm, then carefully dip the eggs in, using a fork or a dipping spoon, then put them on the plastic-covered tray. This is a messy job - just resign yourself to the fact that chocolate will go everywhere. When the eggs are covered (or as best as you can get them), put them in the fridge to set. Store them in a covered container in the fridge (wrap them in foil if you're really fancy). Makes 8-10 eggs, depending on how much marshmallow you eat in the process...

Given that this is such a chocolate-filled time of the year (in our house, at least), it makes great sense to add this post to April's We Should Cocoa challenge, where guest host Rachel Cotterill has chosen Easter as the theme.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The best stuffed mushrooms, ever

One of my favourite childhood memories is of picking mushrooms with my father. It’s funny, because I detested mushrooms, but I loved picking them. There was something special about it; something almost magical. Maybe I’d read too many fairy tales or maybe it was the novelty of doing something with Dad, but I loved those little jaunts. We’d collect as many mushrooms as we could - once we picked such a lot we took off our woolly hats and turned them into mushroom carriers too - before returning home across the farm with the spoils. As long as I didn’t have to eat them, I was blissfully happy.

Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe And Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

The Best Stuffed Mushrooms, Ever
The giant Portobello mushroom is the fillet steak of fungi. Slather one with this rich, olive and caper butter and you’ll convert the most ardent mushroom hater. Trust me, I used to be one. If you’re picking your own mushrooms, remember to leave the toadstools or the fairies will have nowhere to hold their meetings.

4 large Portobello mushrooms
1 cup kalamata olives, stoned
100g soft butter
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp capers
½ - 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Grated rind of 1 lemon
A handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 slices of stale rustic bread

Heat the oven to 210C. Line an oven tray with baking paper and put the mushrooms on top, flat side down.
Put the olives, butter, garlic, capers, chilli flakes and lemon zest in a food processor and whiz until it forms a smooth mixture. If you don’t have a processor you can use a stick blender or a mortar and pestle. If you don‘t have any of these things, just chop the olives and garlic finely, then mash everything together with a fork.
Divide this mixture between the mushrooms. Put the stale bread in the processor or blender (no need to wash it first) and whiz to form crumbs. Scatter these over the mushrooms.
Put the mushrooms in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden. Scatter the finely chopped parsley over the top, then serve with a crunchy green salad and some good bread. Serves four.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Good Things: March 2014

It is inky-dark outside and the hail is lashing the windows. It's not late, but it feels like the middle of the night. Suddenly, a quarter of 2014 has disappeared already. I feel like it won't be long before I'm panicking about the approach of Christmas. Is this happening to you too?

Organic Camomile Flowers Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

If you feel stressed by the pace of life, then you need to sit down with a calming cup of camomile tea. In fact, you need to sit in the sun for an hour and harvest some camomile for best results. This is a very relaxing task, even if you spend it in the company of a child who thinks it gives her carte blanche to decapitate every flower in the garden.

Then (if you're me) you need to come inside and admire your lovely new Owen Bartlett bowl. Isn't it lovely?

I found it at the Martinborough Fair, along with a vintage duvet and various other gems. It was a biting cold day and I had an appalling head cold, which was improved greatly by a hot cup of this cider vinegar and honey concoction (nicer than it sounds) and a steaming plate of masala dosa, eaten sitting in the gutter outside a pub (also nicer than it sounds).

When I wasn't in the garden, snipping at camomile or treasure hunting, I spent a lot of time with my nose in a series of books. One was The Luminaries, the other was Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain Of Rice, which is a no-less brilliant exploration of Chinese home cooking. It's not particularly new, but it's brilliant. The day I carried it home from the library I made this very elegant spinach in a soy-ginger sauce and made a mental note of about 20 other recipes (including chao fan, a sort of fried rice that was my number one favourite when I was a child). I'm dreading having to return it to the library.

Spinach With Soy And Ginger Sauce Photo Credit: Lucy Corry

I've also spent a lot of time eagerly awaiting Emma Galloway's first book - My Darling Lemon Thyme: Recipes From My Real Food Kitchen - which is officially released on April 1 (no joke!). I've been a fan of Emma's for ages and her book is completely gorgeous. All but a tiny handful of the recipes are brand-new (so I still have to keep that bookmark to her excellent sushi instructions) and they look amazing. A lot of so-called 'wholesome' cookbooks (and food, for that matter) are so preachy and disconnected from real life - this one is totally on the money. Even if you don't have food intolerance issues, you should get this book, it's a game-changer.
I must have achieved other things this month, but I can't recall them for the life of me. But a little gardening, a little cooking and a lot of reading isn't a bad way to pass the time, is it?
What have you been up to?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Treat me: Marshmallow nests

I was out the other night and someone I hadn't seen for a long time said to me, apropos of something else, 'it's lucky you're not a proper journalist because...'. Reader, I was mortally wounded.
I was also slightly lost for words, but I realised afterwards I could have come back with a whole lot of reasons of why I AM still a proper journalist. At the time though, I could only think of this one: that I can still eavesdrop on a conversation across the other side of the room while staying engaged in the one I'm having. That's a proper journalist skill, that is. Trust me. You don't spend ages listening to the police scanner while being shouted at by the chief reporter and keeping abreast of office gossip for nothing, you know.

Easter Marshmallow Nests - Gluten-Free Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Anyway, because I'm not a 'proper journalist' any more I now have to practice this skill at things like kids' birthday parties - which is where I picked up the first part of this recipe. Two women across the party table were discussing rice bubble cake and I heard the other one say, 'no, no, you should do it with 50g of butter and a packet of marshmallows'. Then the conversation I was in got interesting again and I tuned the rice bubble ladies out. Still, it was enough. All you need is a lead, after all.

Marshmallow Nests
I urge you to suspend your disbelief for a minute and try these - they are absolutely addictive. Trust me, I had to leave the house to stop myself eating the whole batch this morning (it's been that kind of week). This makes 12 mini nests, but if you want to make more I suggest making up a new batch rather than doubling the recipe as the mixture starts to set quite quickly. If you have a silicon mini muffin tin, now is the time to use it.

125g marshmallows - the little ones melt faster, but the big ones are fine to use
25g unsalted butter
2 cups rice bubbles
about 36 mini marshmallows, for decorating

Put the butter and marshmallows in a medium saucepan and set over low heat. Stir frequently until the marshmallows are melted and the whole thing is a spooky looking mess. Remove from heat, then tip in the rice bubbles and stir until well combined.
Divide the mixture between the 12 holes of a mini muffin tin (or a small tartlet tin), then, using your fingers and a wet spoon, hollow out the middle to make a nest shape.
Let cool and set (about 10 minutes), then remove the nests from the tin and arrange a few mini marshmallows in each nest. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place (but not the fridge, they get too sticky).

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Friday, March 21, 2014

Treat me: Chocolate pani popo

Many moons ago I went to a cooking demonstration by Ray McVinnie in which he was asked if one could substitute low-fat coconut milk in a recipe he was making. He looked up over the wok, raised an eyebrow and said, 'but why would anyone want to do that?' When the questioner murmured that 'some people' liked to watch their weight, Ray looked her in the eye and said, 'just eat less'. It was a slightly uncomfortable moment.
Easy Chocolate Pani Popo Recipe And Photo Credit: The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Anyway, I thought of that this morning while I was checking my email and eating some extremely high-fat, high-sugar chocolate pani popo. After signing up to Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop emails (it was for work, honest!) I often find myself accidentally reading her helpful tips on how to become an altogether better, thinner, more detoxed, less stressed, version of myself. These usually involve signing up to some costly therapy, buying lots of expensive trinkets or working out like a maniac as suggested by her guru Tracy Anderson.

Today, as sticky-sweet coconut caramel dripped off the fluffy chocolate-studded bun, I'd never felt less in need of Gwyneth's advice. She might think it's time for a spring break detox a la Tracy, I say it's time for more pani popo. Who's with me?

Samoan Pani Popo Recipe And Photo Credit: The Kitchenmaid/Lucy Corry

Chocolate Pani Popo
I created these buns - my own version of a Samoan classic - for the March edition of We Should Cocoa, the chocolate blogging challenge dreamed up by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. This month, guest host Laura of I'd Much Rather Bake Than... has chosen coconut as the special ingredient. It's also a fitting entry for the March edition of Sweet New Zealand (hosted this month by Frances of Bake Club).
Don't be put off by the lengthy instructions, these are easy to make.

For the buns:
350ml coconut milk - not the low fat sort
500g high grade flour
40g butter, cold
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
2 Tbsp brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
1 1/2tsp salt
100g chocolate, chopped into little bits

For the sauce:
300ml coconut milk
1 cup sugar

Put the 350ml measure of coconut milk in a small pot and bring to the boil, then let cool to blood heat while you get everything else organised.
Put the flour into a large bowl and grate in the butter. Stir through briskly until the butter is mixed through (this is easier than rubbing it in).
Add the yeast, sugar and salt and mix well, then pour in the warm coconut milk and stir until it forms a soft dough. Cover the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. Rub a little oil on the bench and tip the dough out on to it. Fold the dough in on itself, one corner at a time until you have worked around the whole piece. Cover with the upturned bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Repeat this twice more, then return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a teatowel and let it rise until doubled (about an hour).
When the dough is risen and puffy, tip the dough out onto the bench and knock back, then roll out into a rectangle about 1cm thick.
Scatter the chopped chocolate over it, then roll up like a swiss roll. Cut into 1.5cm slices and put these into a deep baking dish (about 30 x 30 cm, or thereabouts). Cover with plastic and leave overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, take the buns out of the fridge and let them rise for about an hour, until starting to look puffy. Heat the oven to 180C.
While you're waiting, put the 300ml coconut milk in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat, stirring, until it just begins to bubble. Pour this mixture over the buns and put the dish into the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden colour, surrounded by a sticky caramel. Let them sit for 10-15 minutes before eating to make sure they have soaked up lots of the lovely syrup.
Makes at least 16 decent-sized buns.
These are best eaten the day they are made, though you can put any leftovers in the fridge and reheat them the next day. But in my experience, leftovers are not an issue.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The great kitchen makeover

For the first time in 10 weeks, our house is a tradesperson-free zone. There is no need to scramble out of bed before they arrive, no need to skirt around ladders and buckets of plaster and dropsheets. It's lovely.

There's more chaos to come in a week or two (flooring) and we are still missing a bedroom door (among other things), but at least the kitchen is done. And now I can show you!

Here's 'the journey' as Kevin McCloud would say....


It wasn't a majorly fancy makeover - we - or rather, the nice builder - knocked out the old pantry, then we got a new one installed on the other side of the kitchen. It might take a village to raise a child, but it took five men more than two weeks to get the pantry sorted. Well, actually, in the end it took one man who knew what he was doing about half an hour to sort it. He was a top bloke.

Major credit also has to go to my beloved, who replaced all the horrible 80s melamine joinery with nicely painted plywood facings, which ended up costing about $200 rather than the $2000+ we'd been quoted elsewhere. He also ripped out the grotty cabinet above the bench by the sink and got rid of the grimy shelf on the other side. Oh, and he carefully crafted a wooden benchtop wotsit to cover the hole where the old extraction unit was. Even the builder was impressed by that.

The only task left is to sort out the cake tins and that cupboard where plastic containers and empty jars go to breed. If you have any tips on dealing with those issues, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Miso and lemon mousetraps

Do you remember mousetraps from when you were a kid? I couldn't wait to make them when the Small Girl was smaller, mainly so I could eat them myself. There's something about salty, savoury Marmite that goes so well with slightly scorched bread and cheese. But I've found something that goes even better - a mega-umami hit of miso. I know it sounds unlikely, but one bite and you'll be hooked. The only thing that makes it better is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice on top. Trust me, it's a winner.

Miso And Lemon Mousetraps Photo And Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Miso and lemon mousetraps
The beauty of these mouth-watering morsels is that you can make a whole trayful to serve with drinks when  you are unexpectedly pressed into hostess service, or you can make a whole trayful and call it dinner on those nights when all you want to do is collapse on the sofa. You can use any kind of bread you like - baguette, a coarse-textured country loaf or even a cheeky gluten-free number, but nothing too wholegrain-y. Keep the slices about 1/2 a cm thick for best results and only toast one side so you get the soft/crunchy texture thing happening. I've kept quantities vague, but keep to the suggested ratio of miso to butter. Don't forget the lemon, either. Any leftover miso-butter mixture can be kept in a covered container in the fridge.

sliced bread, as above
1/2 cup white miso
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
50-100g tasty cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 juicy lemon

Preheat the grill and line a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Lie the slices of bread on top, then put under the grill until golden. Don't do what I do and wander off, unless you have an unlimited supply of bread to replace the charcoal that those forgotten slices will become. Take the tray out of the oven and turn the slices over, so the toasted side is facing down.
Put the miso and butter in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Generously spread the non-toasted side of the bread with this mixture, then scatter some grated cheese on top. Return the tray to the grill and toast until the cheese is crispy and the edges of the bread are darkening.
Let cool briefly before serving with a squeeze of lemon on top.  These are best eaten the day they are made.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Treat me: Chocolate potato cake

I've never understood the fuss about St Patrick's Day. I'm all for a knees-up, but Guinness-supping and River-dancing leaves me cold (especially when it's done by people who are about as Irish as I am). However, I'll take any excuse to make a cake and this one - which contains potato and a good slug of Irish cream liqueur - fits the bill nicely.

St Patrick's Day Chocolate Potato Cake With Irish Cream Frosting - Gluten-Free Photo And Recipe Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Chocolate Potato Cake With Irish Cream Icing
This is the sort of cake that Mrs Doyle would go into rhapsodies about. It's light, luscious and gluten-free - and no one will believe you when you tell them it's got potato in it. Give it a light dusting of icing sugar before serving or you can really push the boat out and smother it in Irish liqueur-laced cream cheese icing. If time is short, just make yourself a bowl of the icing and lie on the sofa, channelling Father Jack.

200g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
1 tsp whiskey (or vanilla extract)
4 eggs, at room temperature
120g ground almonds
30g cocoa, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200g mashed potato (1 large potato, approximately)

Irish Cream Icing
150g cream cheese, at room temperature
50g butter, at room temperature
60ml Bailey's Irish Cream
4 Tbsp icing sugar

Heat the oven to 175C and grease and line a 23cm ring tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, while continuing to beat. Add a spoonful of the ground almonds along with each egg - this will help prevent curdling. When all the eggs have been added, fold through the remaining ground almonds, cocoa, baking powder and mashed potato until combined.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer comes out cleanly. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out to a rack to cool.

To make the Irish Cream icing, put the cream cheese, butter, Irish cream and icing sugar in a small bowl (or in the mini bowl of a food processor) and beat or whizz until smooth. Dollop generously on the cold cake.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I'll leave you with this classic taste of Father Ted...


Monday, March 10, 2014

Five fast family dinner ideas

The thing about having a food blog is that people always think you are having something exciting for dinner. People often ask me what I'm planning to eat and until very recently I would admit that I had no idea because my beloved was in charge of dinner. Sure, I was mostly in charge of shopping and thinking ahead, but he did the leg work on the nights I was working. It was great.

Things have changed and now I'm home first and it's not the cushy number I thought it was. Among other things it means - oh no! - that I'm now in charge of dinner all the time.

If you have a similar role at your place, here are five fast family dinner ideas to make your after-work life more balanced. Don't forget to pour yourself a G&T when you get in, you deserve it.

Chicken Salad And Crunchy Noodles Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

1. Chicken and crunchy noodle salad
This was our favourite fast dinner this summer. The noodles - I pretend to myself that they aren't deep-fried - turn a salad and some protein into something exciting and fun. You can do it with any kind of protein you like - I do it most often with chicken thighs or pork schnitzel, but fish or even pan-fried tofu are good too.
To make this when you get home from work, marinate about 600g sliced chicken thighs in a splash of soy sauce, a spoonful of marmalade or apricot jam, a clove or two of smashed garlic and a teaspoon of sesame oil (if you are really organised you can do this before you go to work). Turn the oven on to 180C and line a small baking tray with foil, then baking paper. The foil keeps the tray clean (less washing-up) and the baking paper stops the chicken sticking to the foil. I favour using the oven, rather than the stove-top, because it offers more hands-free time. However, if your oven is slow to heat up, or you get home very late, then by all means shelve my oven-cooking instructions below for your own stovetop methods.
So - stick the chicken in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked. Meanwhile, assemble a collection of salad fixings (leaves, shredded seasonal vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, whatever) on a large platter. Toss through a little vinaigrette. When the chicken is cooked, scatter it on top, then sprinkle over the crunchy noodles. Serves four.

2. Rhi’s sausages: This is an idea that the lovely Rhi left in a comment once. Throw some roughly chopped good sausages, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, garlic, rosemary and onions into a roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 200C for 30 minutes, then toss in some chunks of oil-drizzled baguette and bake for another 10 minutes until the bread is golden and crusty. You can extend or shrink this to suit however many mouths you have to feed - though be warned, they will all eat more of it than you think.

3. Homemade fish and chips:  Turn the oven to 200C. Scrub some potatoes and cut into thin wedges. Put in a plastic bag with a couple of tablespoons of oil and smoosh about until the wedges are coated. Tip onto a lined baking tray, sprinkle over some salt and pepper. Bake for 35 minutes, shaking occasionally. Meanwhile, line a small baking tray with foil. Lay some fresh fish fillets on top, then drizzle over some olive oil, a bit of lemon juice and grind over some salt and pepper. Switch the oven to grill and put the fish in to cook for about five minutes (leave the potatoes in the bottom of the oven, they will be fine). Serve with steamed beans, cherry tomatoes and lots of lemon wedges.

4. Bacon and egg pie: This easy bacon and egg pie takes five minutes to make and - if you use really good bought pastry, like this one - it feels like a real treat. If you’re really lucky, there will be some leftover for lunchboxes the next day.

Fish And Flatbreads Or Wraps Photo Credit Lucy Corry

5. Fish ‘n flats: Not to be confused with style for harried mothers website Fox in Flats, fish ‘n flats is another insta-dinner. Grill or fry fish as above (I prefer oven grilling, as it saves on smell and washing a frying pan; my beloved says frying gives you more crunchy bits, which is also true). Serve with flatbreads (homemade or bought), hummus (ditto), crunchy salad stuff. In my experience small children will eat all sorts of things if they can wrap them up in a flatbread.

What do you eat on busy days?

Friday, March 07, 2014

Treat me: Coconut Crumble

I've never understood why people get cross when recipe writers in magazines or newspapers advocate the use of new or 'fancy' ingredients. Why? Surely, if you love food, then shouldn't you love hearing about new things, and figuring out things you can do with them? Maybe I'm strange like that.

Coconut Sugar, Coconut Flour, Coconut Oil And Desiccated Coconut Image

Anyway, ever since I discovered coconut sugar I've been going a bit mad with it. Partly this is to stop myself eating it out of the jar or sprinkled on my yoghurt, but mostly because it's fun. And delicious! And even if all that stuff about it being super-good for you isn't wholly true, we can't be saints all the time, can we?

Fruit Crumble Vegan Gluten-Free Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Coconut Crumble
I could tell you that I love this for its so-hot-right-now coconutty-ness, but the reason I am really hooked on it is that it takes less than 20 minutes to make - and cook. That means you can even make it for breakfast and still not be late for work. Do you need any more encouragement? Ok then, it's also vegan and gluten-free. Happy now?

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 - 1/2 cup coconut sugar
about 2 cups fruit - I favour frozen berries for the speed factor, but you could use any cooked fruit. Poached pears would be nice...

Heat the oven to 200C. Grease a shallow sided pie dish or similar with a bit of coconut oil, then tip in the fruit. Stir the coconut flour, sugar and desiccated coconut together, then mash in the coconut oil until it is reasonably evenly distributed. Taste - if you have a very sweet tooth you may want to up the sugar to 1/2 a cup. Tip this mixture evenly on top of the fruit, then put the dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, until the fruit is hot and the crumble is golden brown. Serve with a generous dollop of whipped coconut cream or Greek yoghurt. Serves four.

Have a great weekend everyone x

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Be my guest: Lavender and Lovage

One of the most serendipitous things that happened to us on our great European adventures last year was meeting up with Karen Burns Booth of Lavender and Lovage. There we were, mooching around in southwestern France, when Karen replied to an out-of-the-blue email I'd sent her. When we worked out there was less than 100km between us, we hopped in the car and sped over.

It was blisteringly hot - the photos we have of that day make us all look like we're on the verge of heat exhaustion - yet Karen and her husband Malcolm welcomed us with open arms and a sumptuous afternoon tea. It was one of the nicest, least expected, things that happened to us.

Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth
When she's not hosting impromptu visitors, Karen is a force to be reckoned with. She's a freelance foodwriter, an extremely prolific blogger, a social media whiz and the proprietor of a charming French B&B. She also makes an extremely fine cup of Yorkshire Tea, even in rural France in 40-plus degree heat. In case you haven't come across her blog, here's a little bit more about her.

What's your blog about?
Seasonal and local recipes with the emphasis on French and British cooking, with the odd drop of gardening, vintage kitchenalia, historical recipe research, book reviews and travel. Sort of food and European lifestyle!

When did you start it? Why?
After I lost my regular byline in a monthly UK magazine, Country Kitchen, I needed a creative culinary outlet to share my recipes and photos, so set up my blog. Regular readers of the magazine followed me and I am now writing for magazines and newspapers again, as well as online food sites.

Lavender And Lovage Strawberry Curd Recipe  Photo Credit: Karen Burns Booth
Fresh Strawberry Curd (Photo: Karen Burns Booth)
Do you have any culinary training or professional experience?
I am self-taught and have my grandmother and mum to thank for an early start! They were and are in my mum's case, both amazing cooks and incredible bakers, all of which seems to have passed down to me, for the most part! I have taken short cookery courses, but nothing major.

Who's your food hero?
I know it's a bit old hat, but Delia Smith was my first food hero and inspired me to try new things, as well as Elizabeth David and Dorothy Hartley.

South African Street Food Photo Credit: Karen Burns Booth
Karen's 'Bunny Chow' (Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth)
Masterchef and TV food shows - hot or not?
Masterchef used to be hot, but not now so much, well for me anyway... and although I like some TV food shows, there are TOO many of them now, which has diluted the quality in my humble opinion.

What are your three favourite posts on your blog?
My most recent post about Bunny Chow, South African Street Food, a post about Fresh Strawberry Curd and the last post I really love is my Little Victoria Lemon Daisy Cakes Recipe.

Little Lemon Daisy Cakes Photo Credit: Karen Burns Booth
Little Victoria Lemon Daisy Cakes (Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth)
What's your day job? What else do you do?
My blog is almost my day job now, along with recipe development for major UK brands. I am also a freelance writer and have more and more work nowadays, so, my day job is a food writer and food stylist. We also have a B and B in SW France that we run with cookery school courses, fine dining weekends and local wine tasting trips.

Tell us about another blog you love.
I hate questions like this as I LOVE so many blogs and follow hundreds! But, a recent discovery, that I LOVE is Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things - she is an Aussie blogger who is generous with her comments on other blogs, is a fabulous photographer and has some amazing recipes. But, there are lots more out there that I love too!                
Low Calorie Cauliflower Crust Pizza Recipe And Photo: Karen Burns Booth
Low-calorie cauliflower crust pizza (Photo credit: Karen Burns Booth)
Who do you cook for?
I cook for Malcolm, my husband, and my daughter Hannah when she is home, as well as some feisty free-range chickens and two cats - Cherie who is a Korat cat and Nina who is a Burmese Blue. I also cook for my parents when I am back in North Yorkshire in England.

What's for dinner tonight?
It's a fast day today (I am on the 5:2 diet) and I am making my famous Low-Calorie Cauliflower Crust Pizza, but for yesterday, which was a feast day, we enjoyed good old bangers and mash with a shallot and cider gravy!  

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Halloumi, peach and pepper salad

Late last year I got my arm twisted into a podcast interview with the lovely Natalie Cutler-Welsh from If Only They Had Told Me. Now, this is nothing against Natalie, but it was probably a mistake to do it after a very long, stressful day at work. It was probably even more of a mistake to do it while reclining with a glass of wine. I'm hoping that's the reason why I sound like a garbled fool who can barely remember her own name. If I sound like that all the time, well, I guess I have a voice best suited for print.

But every cloud has a silver lining and one of the best bits about recording the podcast was that Natalie, a non-cook, told me about a salad her friend had made that night involving halloumi and peaches. I can't bear to go back and listen to the podcast, but I've managed to make my version of the salad. Without a hint of shame, here it is.

Halloumi Peach And Mint Salad Photo Credit: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Halloumi, peach and pepper salad
We always have a packet of halloumi in the fridge. It's a guaranteed insta-meal for those times when there seems to be nothing else to eat. Peaches and red peppers are both in plentiful supply at the moment - and this salad is the perfect combination of sweet, salty, soft and crunchy. 

250g halloumi, patted dry and sliced into 1cm-thick pieces
2 ripe peaches, washed and sliced into wedges
2 red peppers, washed, deseeded and sliced
a handful of fresh mint, shredded
a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Panfry the halloumi in a non-stick pan until golden brown on the outside. Remove from the pan and slice each piece into two, lengthways. Let cool briefly.
Put the peaches and peppers in a bowl, then toss through the mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Drape the halloumi on top. Grind over some black pepper and serve. Makes a small side salad for four or a light lunch for two.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Treat me: Raw raspberry lamingtons

You might think I married my husband for his wit, good looks and charm, but there's more to it than that. What sealed the deal is was that his mother makes the best lamingtons in the world. Once I realised he was the heir to a freezer full of chocolate-dipped, cream-filled spongy delights, there was no turning back. 

Raw Raspberry Lamingtons

More than a decade down the track though, I've come to realise that there are other lamington-makers out there. In fact, there are hordes of them, all of them making exotic lamingtons like there's no tomorrow. They've been whipped into a coconut-dusted frenzy by an adorable English flight attendant by the name of Peter, who is no slouch himself in the lamington department.

Peter is such a champion of lamingtons that for the last four years he has devoted himself to reinventing them every February. Don't tell my MIL, but I think he could give her a good run for her money. In the meantime, he's thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of us. And so without any further ado, I bring you my raw raspberry lamingtons...

Raw Chocolate Gluten Free Lamingtons

Raw raspberry lamingtons
These are not your ordinary lamingtons - there's no sponge, no eggs, no sugar and - gasp - no cream. These are lamingtons, 2014 style. They're raw, gluten and dairy-free, and contain no refined sugar. But there's plenty of coconut, chocolate AND raspberries - for those of you who can't decide whether a lamington should be brown or pink. I was inspired by this recipe, but took it in a completely different direction. The ultimate test was when I asked my brother-in-law to try one. "These," he said, "are dangerous. Is the recipe going on your blog?"

100g ground almonds
120g dessicated coconut
4 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp real maple syrup or honey
60g (about half a cup) frozen raspberries

Line a small plastic container (like a takeaway container) with plastic wrap and set aside.
Put all ingredients in a food processor and whiz until it clumps. Press this mixture into the prepared container and leave in the fridge for at least an hour, until firm. You can leave it for a day or so if you like, it won't come to any harm, though you may accidentally eat some of it.
When you are ready for stage two, remove the coconut mixture from the fridge and cut into small bars. Gently melt 120g dark chocolate with 1 tsp of coconut oil (I do this in a heatproof bowl in a warming oven, but you can use a microwave on low or a double boiler) and set aside to cool slightly.
Put the coconut in a small bowl and line a tray with baking paper.
Dip the bars into the chocolate, then roll them carefully in the coconut. When you have finished, put them in a lined, lidded container and put them in the fridge before someone comes by and gobbles the lot. Makes about 12-15, depending how much gets eaten along the way.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good things: February 2014

Ice creams. Fish and chips. Sand castles. Sand in everything. February has turned out to be the month that January should have been. And boy, am I glad about it.

Fish And Chips From The Waimarama Store, Hawkes Bay

Very early readers of this blog might recall the summer holiday we took three (THREE!) years ago. We had such rose-tinted memories of that stay (despite the fact that it rained a lot) that we went back for a few days at the beginning of the month.

Waimarama Beach Hawkes Bay

We shopped at New Zealand's best Farmer's Market, ate New Zealand's best fish and chips, went for swims and made a lot of sandcastles. It was a proper, old-fashioned summer holiday.

Even better, my sister came to stay and brought with her a shiny new ice cream machine and a batch of this ice cream. I've thought about it often ever since.

Emma Galloway's Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream

Back home, we harvested our own tomatoes, which have thrived despite inclement weather and neglect. I listened to this completely charming interview with Wellington's best French patissier and made a mental note to visit his little shop more often.

Homegrown Tomatoes

The pantry is in - and filled - but I've decided to wait for the big reveal until the painters have finished, because the rest of the kitchen is such a tip I can't bear to show it. I'm sure you can wait a little longer.
In the meantime I have more cupboards to clean, more dust to vacuum, and an urgent appointment with a glass of wine in my garden while the cicadas chorus around me.

What have you been up to this month?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Treat me: Frozen yoghurt iceblocks

This recipe - if you can call it that - is direct from the 'I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier' files. If you've ever wondered how to make your own nutritionally sound, outrageously simple and utterly delicious popsicles/ice blocks/ice lollies/freezer pops/icy poles, I have the answer.

But first, here's a beach scene to put you in the mood...

Worser Bay, Looking Towards Cook Strait And Seatoun, Wellington

This photo, taken last night, is meant to distract you from the fact that while my amazing homemade frozen yoghurt popsicles are genius in icy form, I have been unable to take a decent photo of them. Try as I might, they just turn out looking wrong. So if you really want to see what they look like, you'll need to make them yourself. And, as I'm about to show you, it's probably the easiest thing you'll do all weekend. Here's how.

Frozen yoghurt iceblocks
You need four things to make these frozen treats: Greek yoghurt, good jam (or a variation thereof), iceblock moulds and about two hours. My iceblock moulds are Tupperware ones and, to be frank, they are weird. The shape is good, but the supposedly clever handle thing makes them hard to hold. I'd say that was a design flaw, wouldn't you? I've seen some much simpler looking ones at the supermarket for about $5 - I'm thinking of trading up.
My first attempt was made with the last spoonful of some gorgeous apricot and vanilla jam made by my lovely sister. Since then I've made them with some not-homemade but still good blackcurrant jelly, lemon curd, and a sprinkle of chopped nuts and chocolate. There are no limits - just stick to the quantities I've outlined below.
My iceblock moulds take about 60ml (roughly 1/4 of a cup) each - so these quantities are to suit. But you can scale them to fit your needs (and any leftover mixture can be frozen in a little plastic container or eaten on the spot).

1 cup/250ml full-fat Greek yoghurt
1/4 cup/60ml high quality jam (or lemon curd, or chocolate/nuts as detailed above)

Stir the yoghurt and jam together until well combined. Taste - remember that some of the sweetness will be lost in the freezing process - and swirl through a little more jam if desired. Pour into iceblock molds (this amount will fill five or six) and freeze for one to two hours.
Unmould - dipping them in just-boiled water usually helps - and enjoy.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why is airport food so bad?

As of last November, I commute by air one day a week. I'd like to say that this was via private jet, or helicopter, but alas, it's not. I know there are worse ways to travel (I usually fall sleep on the flight home, and you can't do that when you're driving), but it's not at all glamorous.

Cathay Pacific Children's Meal
What Cathay Pacific think kids will like to eat: soggy 'chicken' nuggets, peas and corn. 
This week, thanks to the freak fog that smothered Wellington Airport, it was downright depressing. There's nothing worse than being 45 minutes into a 55-minute flight and having the pilot tell you that you're going to have to return to where you came from. Actually, there is - it's getting back to the point of origin, discovering that you are one of about thousands who has to book a new flight for the next day and then discovering that there is not a single hotel bed to be had in the entire city. But I digress.

What has really struck me in the last few months of regular flying - and especially in the last 24 hours - is the absolute revolting-ness of airport - and airline - food. I used to think that things would be better if only I had access to an airport lounge, but I've since realised the food there is not. At Auckland Airport's domestic terminal there are about seven options. The best of the lot is a sushi place, followed closely by a juice bar and a so-called salad outfit, but for the most part the food is distinctly average.

Wellington is not much better. In fact, it's probably worse. Yes, it has two Mojo coffee outlets (Mojo is like the Starbucks of Wellington) but everything else falls somewhere on the spectrum between stodge (doorstopper muffins, pies, wraps) and slop (lurid 'curries').  

Chicken Lasagne At Air New Zealand Koru Club
Koru Club chicken lasagne - so bad it's good
I used to think that things would be better if only I had access to an airport lounge, but I've since realised the food there is not any better. It's institutional, boarding school-style stuff - which perhaps suits the mostly male, middle-aged, clientele - though I must admit I harbour a secret, disgusting, love for the chicken lasagne served at the Auckland Koru Lounge most Tuesday nights. I feel terrible after eating it though - do you think they design this food to make you even more uncomfortable at altitude, or am I just greedy?

None of this ticket-hall or air-side food is as bad as the stuff you get onboard long-haul flights - the Cathay Pacific children's meal pictured above was the lowpoint of our holiday last year (their other meals are ok, but they need to seriously overhaul the kids' food), but it's still not good. I know airports have a captive audience and - obviously - there is a large sector of the travelling public who really like McDonalds, Subway and Dunkin' Donuts. But do the rest of us have a voice? And how can we be heard?

Which airline or airport has the best food, do you think? And which has the worst?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fried egg crumpets

About 20 years ago, when I had just moved into my first flat, my flatmate Geoff specialised in what he called 'egg windows' - a fried slice of bread with an egg in the middle of it.

Geoff's dad, an army major, had showed him how to make them when he was a kid and Geoff was a total pro. Then an architecture student, he cut the 'window' out of the bread with exacting precision, and he had the timing down pat. Alas, that was probably the apex of his cooking skills. His other memorable culinary moment was the time he came home drunk, put a tray of oven chips on to cook and fell asleep on the sofa. We were saved by the neighbours calling the fire brigade, but the chips were not so lucky.

I'd forgotten all about Geoff, egg windows and the fire until I saw Maya Adam show how to make what she called 'Egg in a hole' as part of the Child Nutrition MOOC run by Stanford University. Here was the egg window, transformed into a fast, nutritious breakfast for a child. It was genius. But even more genius is my fried egg crumpet - a fast, nutritious(ish) and utterly delicious anytime meal for everyone. Here's how to do it.

Egg In A Hole Using Crumpets

Fried egg crumpets
One of these might do for breakfast, but I think you need two for lunch. The holey nature of the crumpet means it soaks up a) butter and b) egg, so there are lots of textural contrasts - soft, silky egg and crunchy crumpet edges. Add something green on the side and you might even be able to call it dinner.

You need:
An equal number of crumpets and eggs - let's say two per person
A good knob of butter and a splash of olive oil to stop the butter from burning
A heavy frying pan with a lid
A round cookie cutter or small glass (about five cm in diameter)
Salt and pepper
Sriracha sauce or some other spicy condiment
Grated Parmesan, optional

Cut the middle out of the crumpets with the cookie cutter or glass. You can eat the middle bit as a cook's perk now, or toast it to eat later, or (sacrilege!) throw it away.
Melt the butter and oil in the heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Put the crumpets in, holey side down, and cook for a couple of minutes, until golden. Flip over and let the smooth side cook for a minute.
Carefully crack an egg into the hole of each crumpet. Don't worry if some spills over the sides, this is no big deal. Put a lid on the pan and cook, covered, for about three minutes, until the egg white is set and the outer edges are getting nice and crunchy. Carefully flip over to cook the other side until it is just set to ensure a runny yolk (obviously cook it for longer if you prefer egg yolks to be firm).
Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with salt, pepper and grated cheese, if using. Dollop on the spicy sauce and enjoy!

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