Tag Archives: italian

Converted for Crepes

I am so excited by my latest purchase a crepe pan. I saw the crepe pan for sale at www.mercato.co.nz and have always been afraid of attempting making crepes, they fell into my too hard list. They seemed so delicate and not having the right equipment I have never tried. The crepes were a breeze to make in this pan. I made 10 lovely silky thin crepes, no disasters. I then followed Tessa Kiros recipe for Cannelloni made with soft home-made crepes, wrapped with a rich cinnamon infused meat sauce, rolled and covered with a bechamel sauce and sprinkled in freshly grated parmesan cheese then baked until bubbling and oozing. Every mouthful of this was so decadently tasty and felt perfectly balanced with a green salad.

cinnamon infused slow cooked meat sauce encased in my lovely crepes, awaiting the bechamel sauce and home-made tomato sauce.

The recipe calls for the tomato sauce to be pushed and scattered amongst the bechamel sauce.  It looks so pretty.

Recipe for Meat Canneloni 

Make sure you have a morning set aside, this can be prepared ahead and baked when ready. I made mine on a sunday afternoon.

  • The crepes:3 large eggs
    150g plain flour
    50g butter, melted plus extra butter for frying
    250ml full cream milk
    pinch of saltIn a medium bowl whisk the eggs, add the flour and salt and whisk in. While whisking add the melted butter. Slowly add the milk, whisking until you have a smooth crepe batter. Now put this aside to sit for about 20 minutes. When the batter has rested, heat a small non-stick frypan over medium to high heat and place a little butter in it. As soon as butter has melted, add half a large ladleful of batter to the pan and tilt the pan around until the batter covers the bottom of the frypan. Fry until the underneath is golden and then flip and cook the other side until golden too. Remove from the pan and place on a plate. Continue this process until you have used all the batter. Put the crepes aside until you are ready to use them. If preparing the crepes in advance, allow to cool and cover with cling film and place in the fridge.The tomato sauce:

    1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly smashed
    2 tbsp olive oil
    400g tin of diced tomatoes
    4 basil leaves

    In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and garlic together until you start smelling the garlic odour. Then add the tin of tomatoes and salt to season. Bring to a simmer and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes until the diced tomatoes have broken down. When the sauce is nearly ready add the basil and 1/2 cup water. Optional puree sauce when finished – I didnt. This sauce can also be made in advance, and set aside, or once cooled place in the fridge.

    The meat sauce filling:

    3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 500grams minced beef
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cinnmon stick
  • 1 tablespoon worcester sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon quality smoked paprika (buy from speciality shop)
  • 185ml white wine
  • 400gram tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 handful chopped italian leaf parsley

For the mince sauce, heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onions over medium heat for 8 minutes until the meat starts to brown, stirring often to prevent sticking and to brown all the mea. Add the wine and cook until it has all evaporated. Add the tomatoes , cook for a few minutes and then add 375ml (1 1/2 cups) of water. Season with salt. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Add the parsley for the last ten minutes.

The bechamel sauce:

60g butter
40g plain flour
550ml milk
freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Over a lowish heat, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth and continue cooking and stirring for a couple minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Slowly add the milk a bit at a time, whisking and adding more milk until all the milk has all been added and the mix is smooth. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring this sauce to a boil, and simmer for about 5 minutes, while constantly stirring. When it is ready it will be thick and smooth.

Time to prepare the canneloni:

In addition to the above ingredients, you need 50g grated parmesan cheese.

First, heat up your oven to 180 degrees celcius. Prepare a 20cm x 30cm baking dish by greasing it. To construct the canneloni, place a thin layer of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Place a crepe on a flat work surface, and spoon about 2 heaped tablespoons of the meat sauce along one edge of the crepe and roll up. Place the filled crepe in the baking dish so it fits snugly. Continue this until you have either used all the crepes or have used up all the space in the baking dish.

Once all the crepes are lined up in the baking dish, spread the rest of the bechamel sauce over the top. Sprinkle on the tomato sauce and top with the grated parmesan.

Bake for about 40 minutes until the top is golden and oozing. Let it cool down so its not piping hot. Serve with a freshly dressesd green salad and crusty bread if desired.


Serves 4-6



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Meaning; Fervour, Zest, Enthusiasm…

I think this would be one way to sum up how it is when I get together with my best friend Omima. We finish each others sentences, turn up wearing the same dress, read the same magazines,  love the same interior decoration it goes on and on – we joke we are long lost twins however she was born to a Iraqi Mother and I was born to a Kiwi Mother. When she moved to Auckland 2 years ago we have desperately missed our catch ups!. So we had a big catch up over an honest Italian meal when I visited Auckland recently at Gusto Italian Restaurant in Ponsonby.

Panna Cotta

Omima and I were salivating over the set course meal for $95 but Omima has a good excuse for eyes bigger than our stomachs at 28 weeks pregnant. We reined our appetites in and settled for home made Ravioli and Ragu on flat ribbon pasta and saved space more importantly for these delicious deserts. Long after the desert bowls were licked clean and we were deep in birthing conversation that we realised the restaurant had emptied and I was speaking quite loudly!.

Tiramusu - translates Italian for pick me up!


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Good effort for a Monday

Potato gnocchi

I have always been a fan of gnocchi. A tasty little dumpling made with potato and infamous for being stodgy and bland. Yet if you hand make gnocchi in the traditional italian way you will be amazed at the results.  Which may I say are absolutely nothing like the frightening little balls of preservatives and stodge that they sell in the fresh pasta section and aisles of the commercial supermarket. The method is quite simple, so simple I attempted making these on a Monday night, it was quick and succesful. I am addicted to cans of italian Cherry tomatoes at the moment. They are so luxuriously delicious and really add the x factor to what ever I add them to. I used a can of these to make an excellent sauce to accompany my gnocchi .

Potato Gnocchi with Cherry tomatoe sauce

This recipe came from Tana Ramseys cookbook – Home made (I have made a few alterations to the original text)

Ingredients –

  • Floury Potatoes I used Agria, peeled and cut into even-sized pieces
  •  200g flour plus extra for dusting
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

For the Tomato sauce

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • can of cherry tomatoes in juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small handful of fresh basil, roughly torn
  • salt & black pepper

Serves:4  – Prep time:15 minutes – Cooking Time:35 minutes plus 30 minutes chilling


  1. Steam the potatoes for 20-25 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, lightly flour a baking tray.
  2. Remove the potatoes from the steamer and place in a large mixing bowl. Tip in the flour, eggs and parmesan and mash together well using a hand-held mixer or I used my polish potato mouli  (like a giant garlic press but presses potatoes into fluffy mash). Season this with salt. Tip: do not mash these in a food processor it will turn your potatoes to glue.
  3. Using well-flavoured hands, divide the mixture into flour equal portions. One at a time, using your floured hands, roll out each portion on a floured surface into a sausage shape measuring about 2.5cm/1 inch in diameter. Cut each sausage into slices about 1.5cm/5/8 inchs thick. Keep flouring your hands and the knife as you work. Push down each side of the gnocchi on the back of a grater or I used a fork to make an indentation.Pop in the fridge for 30 minutes or more before cooking.
  4. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a pan, add the chopped garlic and saute for about 30 seconds, just long enough to flavour the oil, take care not to burn the garlic. Remove the garlic from the pan and discard. Add the canned tomatoes and cook over a gentle heat until they begin to soften and split. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Just before serving you can add the basil or use the basil to garnish the top of the dish as I did.
  5. Cook the gnocchi in small batches, adding them to already well salted boiling water. As the gnocchi rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon and place on a warmed plate to drain. Divide between four bowls and serve with the tomato sauce.



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Healing through food

What a pure joy and distraction it has been to plan, prepare, cook and serve food that comforts the soul, soothes the stress and anxiety of living through a major life change and trauma that an earthquake can wrought.

Today is nearly 9 weeks on from the Christchurch 6.3 earthquake and my husband has been joking “You really are trying to find healing through food”, not that he complains when he  is dished up in his own words inspirational, tasty, delicious and excellent meals”. In fact eats like a king in splendour. I told my Dad who was in Australia about all the cooking I had been doing and he joked I suppose you are 90 kg now!”.

 Its amazing at night from my kitchen we usually have lovely city views over Christchurch and the city. I had a dinner party last saturday night and the favourite topic was being discussed, earthquake war stories. My guests were absolutely amazed when I pointed out that there is now a big black dark hole in the middle of the view where the city lights usually sparkle. It is like ground zero – but its our WHOLE city centre. Our city is still cordoned off, closed, guarded by army, security and fences. 181 people lost there lives, other lost limbs, jobs, houses. I don’t think anyone feels like things are back to normal yet. These are some of the dishes I have been making.

Flat fish fillet of freshest Sole pan-fried very simply in the most delicious smoky spanish, lemon, garlic, paprika butter sauce. Here it is served alongside leftover TIAN (see my previous post for the recipe). This fish recipe was from Apples for Jam -Tessa Kiros cook book.

Photos are not the best, these were taken on my blackberry in dim light and my other camera is on the blinker.

Trusty shepherds pie, as comforting and satisfying as a hug from your Grandma!. Old fashioned, basic, tasty and just perfect in the most uncomplicated way.

New Zealand (French-way) Onion Soup. I had never made this wonderful soup and I am not sure why ever not, as it is simple, simple, simple. If money was tight after the earthquake this is one way to make your food $ go further yet eat like a french aristocrat. One 1kg bag of white onions $3.99, Good bought beef stock and I added two cups of my home-made chicken stock to lighten the flavour a bit, the biggest splurge which I could not resist was the hunk of Gruyère cheese which I melted dreamily over my sliced baguette. Thanks Annabel Langbein who I referred to for the soup idea. I had three different recipes going, and every cook agreed not to take any shortcuts when it came to cooking the onions down and ensuring they are silky, sweet and sexy. My cousin Brad Pitt (see previous Brad Pitt Post) came over to enjoy the soup with us and he gave it a 10/10 and he should know after travelling far and wide to the best restaurants!.

Slow cooked shoulder of lamb with apricots, chilli & chickpeas on carrot yoghurt rice – recipe from Everday Sunday Ray McVinnie

Thank goodness for my kitchen, the familiarity and rythym of the knowledge that 9 out of 10 times if I follow a recipe I will turn a pile of ingredients into a fabulous meal that can be enjoyed by the ones I care about.


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Tian of South Island NZ Vegetables

Tian of vegetables baked with olive oil and herbsTian- I just like the sound of it. A fancy european name for baked vegetables.  A TianI believe is actually referring to the type of  heavy earthenware pot they cook this dish in France. Recently I have been making variations of this traditional dish, which has origins in Italy and France. I found the first recipe in Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course cook book. I then realised I had previously enjoyed a similar recipe by New Zealand MasterChef judge, Chef and foodwriter Ray McVinnie from his new cookbook http://www.mags4gifts.co.nz/everyday-sunday. This version was delicious and included a cup of cooked rice:  I added cooked brown rice which gave a lovely nutty flavour. Nutritious addition of lightly cooked silverbeet, two eggs beaten made a complete vegetarian meal of this dish. I do highly recommend this easy way of bakingto help use up all the late summer/autumn aubergines, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes which seem to still be in abundance and well priced at my local farmers market.

Recipe extracted from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course cook book – Tian of Mediterranean Vegetables baked with Olive Oil and Herbs (Serves 8-10)

  • 3 small aubergines, about 700g
  • 900g very ripe tomatoes, peeled
  • 600g courgettes, 4 spring onions, thinly sliced or 1 onion very thinly sliced, 125-175ml extra virgin olive oil

  • 2-4 teaspoons freshly chopped herbs (e:g) Rosemary, thyme or I used Basil, sea salt & cracked pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c
  2. Prepare the vegetables: cut the aubergines in 1cm  slices, sprinkle them with good quality salt and leave to degorge for 15-20minutes. Rinse and pat dry with kitchen paper. Drop the tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for ten seconds then peel and cut in thick slices. Slice the courgettes at an angle in 1 cm slices.
  3. Drizzle a tian or shallow baking dish with half the olive oil, sprinkle in the spring onions and some chopped herbs, arrange the aubergine slices alternatively with tomatoes and courgettes. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle over a little more marjoram. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through. (Keep an eye on them:you may need to cover them with tin foil if they are getting too charred.) Sprinkle with parsley and serve.


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A bit of this, a bit of that

Improvisational Salad

Prosciutto, Pan fried Haloumi, mizuna lettuce, red and yellow baby roast beetroot with Pedro Ximenez sweet sherry sauce sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice, cracked pepper and sea salt of course…There was some extra virgin oil too. This salad was one of the best things I tasted in 2010! believe it or not. The flavours were intriguing yet not so in a weird way but they really seemed to work it was extremely moorish. You should give it a try.  

So following on from my last post about the sexy vegetables I bought home from the market which were just too good to eat which became ornamental art in my kitchen for 12 hours. Well I did get hungry and I ate them. The photo above is how I put them altogether. Now I ALWAYS use to freelance in the kitchen and create my own dishes since I was a teenager and into my early 20’s. However in my quest to further my kitchen cooking knowledge and skill I have purposely restrained myself to following recipes as I think it is so easy to fall into the trap of staying in your comfort zone and cooking from your own knowledge and what you are comfortable with and never really pushing out and finding new ways of doing things. It can be hard work following a recipe sometimes, I believe I have read it activates that part of your brain which helps with fighting off and slowing dementia (not that I should be worried about that at 30!). I guess I am putting myself through a self-taught home cooking school – like some very other well-known cooks who learnt in the same way. This is the beauty once you confidently know which flavours and ingredients can  balance and go together you can take off the training wheels (cookbooks) and the world of cooking is your oyster. Heres to freelance cooking!.

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All with the comfort of not leaving home.

I love the fact I can Armchair kitchen travel to the mediterranean via my cookbooks. I have just finished reading a fiction book (not a cookbook) by american author Luanne Rice titled Deep Blue Sea for beginners. It is set at a romantic villa on Italy’s Isle of Capri. There are wonderful paragraphs where friends and family gather in the evening light under the scented Bougainvillea to share in simple italian meals which are enjoyed at a long table on the cliff side patio, overlooking the azure waters of the mediterranean. Reading this book had me reaching for all my italian/greek cookbooks I could find to dig out inspiration for recipes to create food which would evoke the same mediterranean smells from my New Zealand Kitchen. I may not be on the Isle of Capri but I see no harm in fantasies, for a few hours I was on the Isle of South Island of the Long White Cloud.

These are some of the dishes I prepared for my family after this week of mediterranean inspiration!.  I bought five stunning long skinny eggplant at my local Lyttleton Farmers Market and was wondering what to do with them when I found this excellent little recipe for preparing eggplant in a marinate from the cookbook Lucio’s liguarian Kitchen.

Recipe for Marinata di melanzane – Marinated Eggplant

  1. Wash 5 long skinny eggplants (aubergines) and then boil in plenty of water for 4-5 minutes. I find it helps if I place a plate over the eggplant to weigh them down and stop them from floating to the surface. Drain and pat dry and slice thinly in to discs.
  2. Whisk 150ml of extra virgin olive oil, 30ml of white wine vinegar, 2 garlic cloves chopped, pinch each of dried thyme oregano, 1 small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Combine dressing with eggplant you may layer in a small dish. Set aside in a cool place for 3-5 hours, checking after 1 hour that it is not becoming too dry, if it is add some oil.
  4. serves 4  (This would be delicious on bruschetta bread too. )I also roasted red and yellow peppers/capsicums and chopped these up into long strips and added them to the leftover eggplant marinate as a side dish for dinner tonight.

 I found this brilliant book, lets say it is like The Bible of Greek food – Vefa’s Kitchen published by Phaidon . It weighs a ton, it is 700 pages long!. This book is going to become a permanent fixture amongst my cookbooks. The author covers off every bit of greek cooking plus more that you could imagine. I became mesmerised by the photo of lamb, currants, mint, parsley, pine nuts cooked in apples covered with a white sauce and baked in the oven. My daughter loved this dish as much as my husband and I did. I served it alongside a traditional unadulterated pure greek salad. To achieve this you MUST use only the BEST feta cheese, salty ink black olives, miniature sweet romaine lettuce quartered, spray free tomatoes, old-fashioned lebanese cucumber and I scattered some baby greek basil (A grower from the Horotane valley below my house has been growing this is has a very small leaf). I tossed the salad gently with a little lemon juice and a little of the dressing from the marinated eggplant.  This meal was exceptionally delicious, have I said that already. 

This is my adapted recipe for Meat stuffed Apples.


  • 12 very small or 6 very large eating apples
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 500g ground lamb mince
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 medium grain rice
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons currants
  • pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sauce
  1.  Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy based pan. Add the onion and ground lamb breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon and for 6-8 minutes until lightly browned. Add the fresh chopped herbs, cinnamon and half the stock. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the meat from the heat and stir in the almonds, rice and currants. (The nutmeg is to go into the white sauce.)
  3. Take the lamb mixture out of the heavy based pan and add the apples skin side down. pile the lamb mixture on top of the apples pour the remaining stock over. Cut a piece of baking paper which will fit the pan and put the paper under a tap to damp and screw up in a ball like you are making a pilaf and place this baking paper tightly over the apples and meat mixture to seal in the moisture and heat. Put a lid on the heavy base pan and simmer on the stove on a low to medium heat low enough it will not catch the bottom mixture and burn. Simmer for approx 15 minutes.
  4. After this time place in the hot oven covered with baking paper and lid and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Then take out of the oven take the lid and baking paper off and cover in the white sauce and place back in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the whole dish is hot, golden and ready to enjoy. 

The authority on Greek Cooking

A serving for a worker.




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