Tag Archives: dinner

The fragrance of home

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I bought this beautiful mimosa and mandarin soy fragrant candle today. It got me thinking about the little things that make my home special; fragrance, food, wine friends and music. I know I gain a renewed sense of wellbeing when I throw open the windows and let fresh air in. Clean laundered crisp, cotton white sheets blown through with the wind and sunshine. Fresh from the oven baking, cooling on the bench until its time for friendship & afternoon tea. Slow, slow cooking on the stove with the assuring smell of comfort that dinner is under control. Light, open the curtains, I am blessed my little kitchen is positioned to soak up the last of the days rays. Views, if you aren’t ready to invest in art – buy flowers. Vitality in a jug, what a visual feast and pleasure they are, the star of the show in even the dullest of space.  And if you missed the florist, cheat like me and spray some lavender water or diluted essential oils around. It instantly erases yesterday and create a clean and fresh smelling room.  Music, sing, dance, tv -no way, no ads, no radio, yes to jazz, world music, nostalgic old school music – I love this. I love creating an atmosphere of relaxation and pleasure. Good food, call up some friends, what its Monday? excellent. Have a dinner party, don’t save anything for a special occasion, open that special bottle of wine today, celebrate, what’s the occasion?. Its Monday, Monday is the occasion, Dress up! dress for life. Put on some bright lipstick, a sequins dress and heels. The silver, the crystal, the fine china (who has fine china these days?). Open all the windows, air the house, light a candle, arrange some flowers, prepare something delicious to eat, open the wine, invite some friends, dress up – be special. Turn the tv off, play the guitar/ukulele/piano/bongo drum. Ok you don’t know how, invite someone who does? I am sure my friend Jill will come and play the ukulele for you. Breathe in the good fragrance of home…a holiday…exotic destination?. No. home is wonderful. Play, eat, drink, dance, sing until you fall into those fresh sheets. Home is very satisfying.

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October 12, 2013 · 7:31 PM

Seafood French bounty

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Fresh shellfish, salmon and fish from my local fish market is such a lovely treat.

I have been cooking from a new cookbook la cigale, which is a collection of French classic recipes from owner Elizabeth Lind who pioneered the French market and bistro in Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand. The recipe for a French style seafood cream bound chowder caught my eye. It is French style with the mussels initially cooked in apple cider. This forms the basis for the stock which you add to the celery, shallot, carrot roux. My four hungry Man guests were silent as they started the meal. I accept this as a nod of approval when there is silence. Tonight I have the seven hour lamb leg due to be ready any minute, again from the same book. I have been re-enthused for some decadent French cooking. Pork terrine is next on my wish list.

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July 6, 2013 · 4:46 PM

Traditional roast lamb

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Across the world roast lamb has a cultural place in the homes and hearts of all meat eaters. So many variations and all delicious, however they are prepared. In our home I am a fan of a wet Greek style roast lamb cooked long and slow with tomatoes until the lamb is so meltingly tender it can almost be eaten with a teaspoon. The only addition required is some cooked orzo stirred through the tomato gravy and salty feta cheese crumbled over the top until it amalgamate in with all the delicious lamb juices. My second favourite is a Provencal style wet roast studded with rosemary, garlic and anchovies, wrapped tightly in parchment paper so it cooks slowly and sweats in all the divine juices. All you need to serve this with is some nutty, cooked barley, cherry tomatoes and lightly steamed silverbeet, a little shaving of parmesan cheese over the top is lovely. I am forever on the search for new ways to roast a lamb leg.

These holidays my darling husband has been requesting a traditional lamb roast. A harking back to a New Zealand tradition of meat and three vegetables and accompanied with a mint sauce; perhaps gravy. Traditional does not have to mean dry overcooked meat and boring over boiled grey old vegetable. I couldn’t help myself when I made this so decided to jazz it up a little.

I used a Rachel Allen easy meals cookbook recipe as a guide. She recommended slicing potatoes, red onions and parsnips and tossing together in the roasting tin with olive oil,  adding finely chopped rosemary and season. I then lay the seasoned lamb leg over the top of the vegetables and roasted in a preheated 180c oven for 1 1/2 hours.  Once the lamb was done I rested it and increased the heat to finish the potatoes in a hot 220c oven. All the lamb juices soaked into the potatoes and went lovely and crispy. This easy to make mint sauce – 3 tbsp chopped fresh mint, 1 heaped tbsp caster sugar, 50 ml boiling water, 1 tbsp lemon juice – stir and sit for 10 minutes; made all the difference to the meal as only fresh mint can. The sides were green beans lightly steamed and then tossed with toasted almonds and sateued garlic and anchovies for a great savoury flavour. The carrots were roasted with the meat in a separate tin with maple syrup, olive oil and sea salt and pepper. I am with Nigel Slater when it comes to cooking and savouring the rustic crispy sticky pieces. This roast was superb.

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January 2, 2013 · 7:24 PM

For the love of dill

A week ago I was craving the herb dill. My modest herb garden at home supplies me with my usual kitchen staples; flat leaf parsley, coriander, thyme, mint, sage and rosemary. However dill is one thing I do not currently grow. I managed to buy some from my farmers market and made some lovely meals infused with the fresh uplifting aniseed taste, fennel fragrance of this under used herb. Its appearance is wiry thread like leaves which look so pretty sprinkled or stirred through a dish. I have been cooking up  a storm from cook book writer Diana Henry. This idea came from her book effortless cooking http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Cook-Simple-Diana-Henry/9781845335748 I have cooked about 15 recipes from this book in 3 weeks, I highly recommend it for a good variety of everyday recipes that are simple yet full of flavour.

Baked beets, Jersey bennys with onions, sour cream, dill & salmon

There are still bags of beetroot for sale at the farmers markets and it makes me feel virtuous to feed freshly roasted beetroot to my family especially as I am sure I am doing something special for my husbands poor liver after too much winter wine drinking. I had to share this recipe as it was very easy to put together and can be easily assembled and eaten at room temperature.

To make the beetroot you will need: 750 grams raw beetroot (try to get small ones if possible), 4 tbsp olive oil, sea salt and pepper, 2 red onions, 150 ml sour cream, 1 tbsp chopped dill.

1: Wrap the unpeeled beetroot in a foil parcel, drizzle with half the olive oil, season and put in a roasting tin. Cook in an oven preheated to 180 degrees until tender. (How long this takes depends on the size of your beetroot) – it could take as long as 1-2 hours. Put the onion wedges in a small roasting tin, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, season and roast in the same oven for 20-30 minutes. The onions should be tender and slightly singed at the tips.

2:When the beetroot is tender, peel each one (or leave the skin on as I have in the picture above) and quart or half depending on their size. Season the beetroot and put on a serving dish with the onions. Daub the sour cream over the vegetables and sprinkle with the dill. Serve hot or at room temperature.

3: I boiled new small waxy potatoes for 15-20 minutes until tender and added a little butter to warm through them. To serve I placed the potatoes in wide shallow pasta bowls, spooned the beetroot & onions on top and placed some chunks of smoked salmon on top. Very Scandinavian!.

With a little fresh dill leftover I made a spring green risotto the next night with courgettes, asparagus and dill. This was lovely for a change to my usual risotto.

Spring green dill risotto

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Filed under babies, cooking, fish, food, home cooking, potatoes, recipes

Right time, right place – out of the rubbble of Christchurch

In my opinion if not one of the most exciting and progressive things that has happened to Christchurch since the February earthquake has been
the opening of the Cassels & Sons Brewery & Cafe at the Tannery Woolston http://casselsbrewery.co.nz


This new start venture reads like one of those classic kiwi business ventures, father and sons home brew beer over a unique wood fire in the back
yard and over a beer decide let’s start a boutique brewery. After a few setbacks and two major earthquakes which nearly decimate there business with vision they decide to push forward and rapidly expand the brewery into a prime restaurant, cafe, bar & entertainment music venue.

With the choice of the crème  de la crème of the Christchurch hospitality staff out of work they recruit them all, Barista Tonto from ex Vivace Cafe fame, chefs, bakers, front of house  staff.

We are now utterly spoilt for a premium destination for most importantly  boutique beers, wood fired pizzas, rustic food, sumptuous cabinet food that  would not be out of place in any international city. I adore this place, it  opens seriously early in time for all day breakfasts (try the chilli baked beans on hot buttered toast), serves up lunch, affordable cabinet food by a  clever mother and son kitchen team. The salads are vibrant and piled high on  platters, think Otto Lenghi style http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk/.

 The Dinner menu is thoughtfully written, wood fired pizzas inspired by local place  names, how tempting does Horotane Pear, Blue Cheese, Thyme & Smokey Bacon  wood fired pizza sound?. Check out the website for a line up of entertainment in the form of live music acts, this is bound to fill the void  for  entertainment deprived locals that the loss of CBD has left. This is what a  true local food & drink place should be like; children are welcome with  highchairs and a big old cane basket full of wooden toys and books. I get the innate sense that this is just the beginning for the Cassels and this Brewery/Bar/Cafe/Restaurant/Entertainment venue is filling the gap perfectly and will be here for a long time to come….in fact it feels as if it has always been.

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Filed under breakfast, cafes, earthquake, food, travel

From the burnt palm of my hand to lovely leftovers

I burnt my hand on sunday night, I picked up a hot pan handle that had come straight out of a 200º oven. I was desperate for icy cold pain relief, a small plastic container of frozen beetroot risotto came to my aid. After 4 hours of clutching the palm of my hand to the frozen beetroot container I took some frozen mince and hugged it to sleep on my sore, burnt hand. I know it sounds fairly gross, as In the morning I was hunting around the bed for the frozen mince much to my husbands horror. With no recollection I managed to sleep walk in the middle of the night and place the partly defrosted mince back in the fridge!. Very bizarre, I know. It worked though, to my relief my burn has healed really fast.

I made this most earthy beetroot risotto back in June and made so much I froze the leftovers. Did you know you can freeze risotto, defrost it, then either shape it into little patties or much quicker; dump the whole lot into a fry pan and stir fry it with a table-spoon of olive oil. After a hectic multi tasking Career/Mother/Wife working day, dumping defrosted leftovers into a hot frying pan seemed like a great idea!.

I can never quite bring myself to buy takeaways, I get hit with takeaway buying remorse. The guilt and then disappointment, for their lack of taste and the lethargy that overcomes once eaten. That is what happens when you eat good food, you become a terrible food snob.

Little Meatballs, home-made tomato pasta sauce, beetroot risotto & freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This recipe is hardly culinary inspiration and I more like culinary apathy as far as I am concerned, but it sure beat takeaways eg fish and chips or a salty, greasy stir fry.

Recipe for fellow fatigued weekday cooks

RECIPE Meatballs

Beef mince , Sea salt, pepper – combine

  1. Shape into little balls and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes
  2. Pan fry in a little olive oil, Drain on absorbent paper.

I have been finding this simple home-made stock cupboard tomato pasta sauce so handy. All you will require is a 400 gram can of diced italian tomatoes, garlic clove, teaspoon sugar, sea salt, 4 tablespoons olive oil, (Basil optional)

  1. Pour olive oil into a small saucepan on medium heat, add squashed & peeled garlic clove for a few minutes till it sizzles and you can smell the garlic. Take care you do not burn it. Pour in the can of tomatoes and juice. add sea salt, sugar to taste. Cook over medium to low heat for approx 10-15  minutes till the olive oil has amalgamated into the tomatoes and you have a thick chunky tomato sauce. Add fresh herbs eg;basil if desired.

You will never buy bottled pasta sauce again. This is how the italians make their pasta sauce in a hurry. It is so simple.

I then piled the risotto onto a plate, spooned over my meatballs, scattered the chunky tomato sauce over and sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Filed under cooking, food, home cooking, recipes

Baked seafood potato

I had forgotten how good a humble baked potato could be. Thank you DISH magazine for the inspiration to make this scrummy baked potato.  I love it when a recipe breaks out of the box, smoked fish and prawns got me excited!.  Baking four agria potatoes in the oven for 1 hour at 200° was hardly cooking, exactly the kind of meal I felt like cooking on a lazy sunday evening. This recipe called for the  200 grams of smoked tarakihi & 300grams of raw chopped prawns to be simmered in a cup of milk, a garlic clove and sea salt for five short minutes. All that left was to cut the tops of the potatoes off and scoop out the potato leaving the potato shells intact.  My two-year old could do the next step, mash potato with 1 tablespoon of whole grain mustard, half cup of sour cream, sea salt. Dot butter and sprinkle  freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top and grilled in the oven till golden and hot.  This meal was as wholesome and satisfying as it looks, perfect simple Sunday night supper.

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Filed under cooking, fish, food, home cooking, recipes