Monday, December 14, 2009

Make and bake biscotti

Was reading facebook messages the other day and saw someone was after a biscotti recipe so thought would be good to post one.

These are hard biscotti, like criplingly expensive cafe ones, only very cheap. Also easy to make - dentist is expensive though! so might want to dunk em in coffee!

If you want softer biscotti - the crumble or shortness comes from fat - use a recipe with butter in it. These'll continue to get harder over a couple of days and they keep well so make good prezzies.

You can mix and match with other flavours, also good chocolate dipped or swizzled with lemon icing.

Cranberry spice biscotti

These pretty biscuits are hard biscotti ideal for dunking in coffee or a hot chocolate. They make a great homemade gift or long lasting nibble to share with guests over the festive season. The recipe makes at least 25 so you’ve enough to give away and still enjoy some yourself.

1 egg
1 egg white
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup pistachios
½ cup dried cranberries/Craisins
1 tsp of vanilla essence
1 tsp mixed spice
1 ¾ cups self raising flour
Non stick baking paper

Pre heat the oven to 180°
Beat the egg, egg white and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture has become pale and frothy. Stir in the vanilla, spice, flour, nuts and dried fruit. Place the baking paper onto a baking tray.
Knead the dough lightly and form into a flattish log. Bake for 25 minutes then remove from the oven and allow to cool. The log will have cracked a little on top, this is normal.
Using a serrated knife slice the biscotti in to 5mm slices – you should get roughly 25 -28 from a log. Place the slices in batches onto a cooling rack, put the cooling rack onto a baking tray and carefully place in the oven. Cooking the slices on the rack allows the hot air to circulate around the biscuits eliminating the need to turn them. Bake them for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool and store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Cheer

Feeling happy, hair not too awful, work starting to ease off, only a few school lunches left to make and have super gorgeous Christmas tree.

Love the tree, whole family allergic to it naturally, cat obsessed with trying to drink tree water and needles already everywhere, also got migraine trying to untangle lights.

We all like tree and Christmas music so made mince pies as might as well go whole hog - in fact if I eat many more will resemble hog!
Thought you might like recipe so am attaching.

Christmas Mince pies
Makes around 14 regular size with stars on top, or more if you do some as mini’s. Pastry needs cold butter, cold water and a cold rest in the fridge.
Handling or kneading the pastry will make it greasy and tough, so be gentle and you’ll have ”melt in the mouth” short pastry for your mince pies.

FYI I always make a double batch, but we are very greedy.

For the pastry
1 heaped cup of plain flour
Pinch of salt
100 g butter
1 dsp sugar (for sweet pastry)
1 egg yolk
Splash of cold water

For the filling
¾ tub of fruit mince- approx 1 big cup full

Icing sugar to dust

Put flour, salt and butter into food processor and pulse until fine crumbs form or rub butter into flour with your finger tips.
Add sugar, egg yolk, and water and pulse or mix with the blade of a knife until just combined. If the pastry is over worked it will be tough, if it is crumbly add more water.
Wrap the pastry in paper or cling film and rest it in the fridge for 1/2 an hour before rolling out.
Pre heat the oven to 190°
Use a cutter or glass to cut pastry discs to fit your pans.
Grease the pans then line with the pastry discs. Spoon a teaspoon of fruit mince mixture into each one – don’t overfill or they’ll spill over and stick to the pans.
Top with a star or other pastry shape.
Bake for around 15 minutes until pale golden. Remove from pans while still warm and place on a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container and serve warm or cold. Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dressed for success

Outfit for books and bubbles finally sorted - had session with clothes stylist in posh North Shore clothing store specialising in garments that can be worn several different ways, lots of draping, tying and such like.

Clothes lovely but I am midget - still waiting to grow legs. Instead of looking like catwalk model looked just looked like cat tangled up in bundle of rags.
Session not total washout as concluded I look better with edges - tailored clothing rather than floaty drapey stuff I so admire.

Looked in own wardrobe and dug out black dress, teamed with lovely new cardie bought on sale previous week and fish net tights... thought it was OK.
Hair no longer looking like fright wig either - much improved.

Kerre Woodham was MC in Amazing silk dress from World, Fab, V.V. expensive shoes and had special hair appointment for event... It was all very nicely done, with nibbles and such like.

Laughed so much during Kerre's bits, looked like I was having seizure. She is very funny, there is nothing, absolutely nothing she wont share with 350 total strangers. If you get the chance to go to one of these nights, even if you don't like authors, its worth it for laughs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No more tears

Hair still warcrime today so had emergency rescue appointment with different salon. Parted with another large chunk of money but can now go out without hat. Hurrah!
Was good to know was not alone in hair horror saga.
Very comforting that others have been there too, and while emotionally scarred are now able to function in society, given sufficient time and chocolate.
Thanks for being there for me. Kia Kaha.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A crying shame

Have just stopped crying to write blog - had hair cut today. Spent long time on net finding picture of hairstyle I liked, messy, chunky bob type thing. Very excited when got to hairdresser as stylist seemed completely confident with cutting etc until came to actual styling.

Much hair lying on floor, small amount still attached to scalp. Straitening followed, then tousling, then straitening then more re arranging, spraying and petrifying till finally took pity on stylist. Said was fine and handed over credit card for large chunk to be added to monthly statement. Left salon looking like electrocution victim, was sobbing before half way home.
Very glad took car not bus.

Washed hair immediately, hopeful that I could get it to behave, dried it, yelled at self in mirror, cried and flailed fists uselessly on bed, straitened, blow dried, cried some more, sobbed on son, sent tragic text to daughter. Put in clip.
Removed clip as looked like Russian special needs gymnast - not helping tragic hair at all.

I know on scale of catastrophic events is not tsunami or famine or fire but still very upset.
Like hairdresser very much, usually gets it pretty near what I want, so am not about to throw fit, but needed some moral support to get me through -also some crisps, and some wine, maybe won't look so bad after crisps and wine...has this ever happened to you, what did you do???

Thursday, November 19, 2009

As I mentioned on face book - cheesecake recipe Mmmm,worth every calorie!

White chocolate and berry cheesecake

Cheesecakes are so decadent and this one is a stunner, made loaf style and drizzled with berry syrup.

Serves 10

300g white chocolate
250 ml cream
500 g cream cheese
50 g caster sugar
1 packet ginger nut biscuits crushed with a rolling pin to form crumbs
60 g butter melted

For the syrup – use some in the cheesecake and the remainder to decorate it
2 cups frozen mixed berries
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
A small squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp arrowroot
1 tbsp cold water

Line a loaf tin with cling film so it completely covers the inside of the loaf tin and there is enough over- hang to wrap over the top when filled.
Melt the white chocolate gently in a bowl set over a small saucepan containing simmering water – stir frequently, and when beginning to melt, turn off the heat and allow the residual heat to completely melt the chocolate.
While the chocolate is melting make the syrup. Place the frozen berries, sugar and water in a small saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, mix together the arrowroot and tbsp of cold water and stir into the berry mixture. It should begin to form a slight gel.
Beat together the cream cheese, cream, caster sugar and white chocolate.
Spoon a layer of the cream cheese mixture into the tin then drizzle in some of the berry mixture, add another layer of cream cheese mixture and some more berry syrup, continuing in this manner until the cheese mixture is used up. Retain some berry syrup for decorating the cheesecake when set.
Mix the melted butter into the ginger nuts. Gently bang the loaf tin on the bench so the mixture settles well into the corners of the tin then pack the crumb mixture on the top, pressing it down firmly. This layer will form the base when the cheesecake is turned out.
Fold the excess cling film over the crumb crust and refrigerate the cake for 6 hours or overnight.
To serve gently loosen the cake then up-turn onto a serving platter, remove the cling film and drizzle with remaining syrup. Serve in slices.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What not to wear

Gaah. Am speaking at lovely books and bubbles event next week and have no idea what to wear.
Would buy something but am hopeless shopper. Shopping MoJo ruined by years of abject poverty. Now always trying to buy fictional Ultimate Garment. Ultimate Garment is one suitable for Banquet, Barbecue and bush walk, has built in flattering Nancy Gantz type arrangement and no ironing needed. As Ultimate Garment does not exist, end up buying cake or delicious almond croissant Mmmm.Mmmm

When was v.v. poor would get by wearing Tshirt with dg logo, in manner of company uniform but will not suffice in this instance, as is hoity toity champagne type event.

Publicist suggests wearing "jeans and a sparkly top, what you'd wear to a party..."
Clearly no idea that last party I attended completly populated by 14 yr old boys and comprised skateboarding DVD's, delivery pizza and farting contest - not a sparkly top in sight.

Tried out shopping on saturday, went to nice Milford mall with lovely shops, greeted many times by chirpy assistants saying how are you, hows your day going, many many times.
Raked through racks but all seemed too long, too short, too shiny, to tiny, too expensive - tried on expensive one anyway - liked a lot (must have been skinny mirror.)
What should I do?
Borrow - again
Buy Sparkly top and wear with slightly too tight jeans (lay off cake in interim)
Buy whole outfit - what and how much is normal amount to spend on such outfit?
all suggestions gratefully recieved.

Monday, November 9, 2009

music as medicine

Felt very glum on Sunday, had to do hours of prep for photo shoot second weekend in a row, and just wanted to crawl back to bed with family sized box of favourites and wallow.

Stiff upper lip girl that I am, I dragged myself around, working, but keeping up constant stream of moaning and complaining until 16 yr old daughter suggested putting on some music to cheer me up. I barked at her to choose something, cheerful as couldn't bear any melancholy or gloom as was generating enough of my own.

Seconds later house filled with Christmas music. Teenager had decided happiest thing was Christmas- nearly made me cry as was V. happy that she thought of this. Lovely Christmas songs and thoughtful daughter made me think Life not so bad really, as lots to look forward to, also teenagers not so bad either.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

photo shoot glamour

I've just spent the last two days doing the photography for a new dg cookery book. Often people think that photo shoots are glamorous, but the reality is so far from that.
The shopping alone is torturous. Supermarket, butcher and fruit and vege shop, meticulously checking that you have every ingredient you know you need, and a good selection of others that you think you might - it takes hours, you really don't want to behind me in queue.

Then it's into the kitchen to prepare as much of each recipe in advance, as is possible. I also must orchestrate the order in which the dishes will be shot, we shoot 10 recipes a day, so we have to have several on the go at different stages of readiness the whole time- it's complicated for someone like me with the attention span of a small flying insect. And just imagine the dishes!

After a 5am start, there is more cooking to do. Plus rough sketches of how each shot might look with the props that have been supplied by the props stylist. Today there were backgrounds to paint, linen to iron...Its housework on hyper drive - I don't even iron my own clothes, how did I end up in a job that requires ironing!

Shooting started at 10.00 am today and went solidly without a break till nearly 5pm. Tomorrow I'll prep another 10 dishes,repeating the whole routine,supermarket, butcher,vege shop, prep, plan ... on wednesday we'll shoot those dishes, and then well do it all again next week...

Oh and there are no bright young things dashing out to bring me a mocha latte or mop my brow - damn!
I imagine Jamie and Nigella have whole teams of people bringing them coffees and such like, but we are all a bit more "number 8 wire" here in NZ - these pictures were taken when we shot Delicious, with the charming and talented Aaron Mclean driving the camera. Gives you a good idea of what it looks like at my place this week.All the props will stay in the living room till we finish the shoot - thousands of dollars worth - hope the kids don't kick the ball around in here.
Think of me next time you flick through a recipe book and don't even glance at the pictures.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

drink to your good health

Last night I watched an interesting investigation into the efficacy of vitamins,on TV 3.
I’ve never really bought into the whole supplements thing myself. It always seemed like a bit of a scam. Research from university studies years ago showed that vitamin supplements were a poor source of vitamins and no substitute for a healthy diet so we opted to spend our limited resources on food rather than capsules and I am gratified that experts concur that this is the only way to achieve optimum nutrition unless you have an underlying medical or genetic problem.
What I didn’t know, and this show highlighted, was the danger supplements posed to healthy, health conscious people.
The bottom line is that if we want to have optimum nutrition we need to eat more fruit and vegetables. The idea that we can top up or compensate for poor nutrition with vitamin supplements is not just incorrect it’s dangerous. Did anyone else see the program? Will you be chucking out the multivitamins and whipping up a smoothie instead?

Basic Smoothie

200 ml cold milk
¼ cup yoghurt – fruity or natural
½ banana fresh or frozen
½ cup additional fruit such as frozen berries -blue berries or raspberries, fresh berries such as strawberries in season, peaches or even apricot nectar (berries are full of antioxidants, blueberries in particular, and vitamin C)
Honey to sweeten if required (or a teaspoon of molasses, great source of iron and B vitamins)

Place all ingredients in blender and whiz to combine. Frozen banana becomes ice cream like in texture, adding natural sweetness. Berries need not be defrosted, as smoothies are best drunk cold.

Freeze any leftover mixture in Popsicle moulds.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Oh Fudge!

Friends brought a tin of Russian Fudge around when they came for dinner the other night and it's presence is now dominating my every thought.
Even as I write this I can feel myself tilting subtly in the direction of the pantry like a plant growing towards the light. I put the Fudge in the cupboard out of sight because I thought if I couldn’t see it; it wouldn’t have any power over me. But Russian Fudge has its own gravitational pull and its addicting power cannot be underestimated. This stuff should come with a warning.
Eating doesn’t really describe my relationship with fudge, it’s more like I absorb it, and it takes me over, slowly dissolving on my tongue and permeating every taste bud, every nerve ending.
As the butter and sugar migrate into my nervous system I feel an almost drug like calm and I’m swept up in gentle waves of molten sugary bliss. Just as I’m about to slip into unconsciousness it fades, in an instant every molecule will have dissolved leaving me with the echo of the memory of sublime pleasure, and then the craving starts again, just one more little piece…Heaven help me, I think I need to join a group!

Edmonds Russian Fudge – make at your own risk!

I can’t take any credit for this recipe; it’s been around for donkey’s years. We make the one from the Edmonds book, so it may differ slightly from the one you grew up with, nevertheless full marks to whoever originally invented it.
Russian fudge has to be beaten well, we normally take turns with the beating otherwise the arm is likely to seize up. But it’s worth the effort. Mmmm

675 g sugar
½ cup milk
½ can sweetened condensed milk
125 g butter
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp golden syrup

Place sugar and milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil, add condensed milk, butter, salt and golden syrup. Boil for around ½ an hour stirring frequently. Beat until thick, about 5 minutes. Pour into a shallow greased tin and cut when set.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thinking about going veggie

I saw a t shirt in wellington recently that really made me laugh – it had a butchers diagram of a whale, with all the portions neatly labelled and carried the heading ”whales are delicious and nutritious”. It was a joke – but I really shouldn’t have to explain that.
Every now and then I consider swearing off meat for good and becoming a vegetarian. It is un questionably a healthy way to eat and I am quite content to eat meatless meals provided they are tasty. I will not eat tofu, ever, but then nor will I eat window putty or tile grout or blu Tak. I stopped eating foods based on their pure nastiness around the time that the boys in primmer 4 decided the turquoise crayon was the most vile therefore the only one worth eating, having worked my way through a whole carton of crayola, I was undone as Mathew Caules proceeded to eat the entire skin of an orange without puking and no one but no one could beat that.

The trouble with so much vegetarian food is the puritanical greenie- ness of it. Why does the spicy vegetable pie have to be imprisoned in cement crust made from fair trade organic gravel? Why can’t it come wrapped in melt in the mouth flaky puff pastry? And why does the person serving it always have dread locks, harem pants and complicated vegan sandals on? It’s not helping people like me take it seriously.

Tonight I’m making spinach and ricotta calzones for dinner, with nutmeg, garlic and a crunchy crust, they’ll be delicious, but I can already feel there is hot a bacon butty waiting in the wings…