Sunday, December 19, 2010

spoiled for choice

One of my biggest challenges after over a decade as food writer, developing hundreds (and hundreds) of recipes, is what to make when people come for dinner.
Am worried people expect impressive Michelin star restaurant type stuff -"flambe of organic baby unicorn in honeysuckle souffle, with truffled rhino horn jus and an oxygen foam"- or some such fancy schmancey stuff.
But fact is I only do "family food". I made my name stretching one chicken breast and 1/2 can of beans into 4 course dinner for 6 - while knocking out a batch of scones and recycling the recycling. Am very happy to eat anything I didn't have to make myself - invite me around for cheese on toast and I'm thrilled! but I suffer from serious performance anxiety at home.
Earlier in year to solve problem I developed my own Help menu. I chose a couple of recipes that were interesting and tasty and made same dishes for each lot of visitors -worked really well until last week when realised we had friends coming who had already had that menu!
Horrors- practically had night sweats trying to decide what to make! Feel very silly as actually really like having a house full of people, enjoy cooking for them, just hate making decisions (also not wild about cleaning but is another story).
Finally after far too much deliberation decided to do leg of lamb, as is a treat for us (anything not mince is treat for us actually). Marinated the lamb in yoghurt and herbs and slow roasted it. Served with crispy garlic roast spuds and a couple of salads. Dessert was old fave Hazelnut meringue roulade.
Was all really tasty, and had an enjoyable and convivial evening. Best of all though- have now sorted out next years help menu! Yay - just cant invite same people for dinner for another 12 months so sorry to those two couples- will be happy to have you to dinner again in 2012.

Here is my recipe for slow roasted leg of lamb - Mmmm - great winter or summer.

Yoghurt Baked lamb with Rosemary, mint and lemon

I love lamb and prefer to team it with seasonings that enhance rather than mask the delicate flavour of the lamb. This yoghurt marinade ensures the meat is tender and juicy and forms a tangy crust, I marinate it for a minimum of 5 hours or up to 24 hours.

Serves 6 -8 adults

1x 2.5 leg of lamb on the bone
1 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt
1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary – a couple of big sprigs
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
zest and juice of ½ a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt

Cut several slashes into the plump side of the joint. Combine the yoghurt rosemary, mint, lemon juice, zest, oil and salt and mix well.
Coat the lamb with the yoghurt mixture working it gently into the slashes. Place the lamb in a plastic bag and wrap it so the yoghurt marinade cant slide off the meat. Place in the fridge and allow to marinate for 5 hours or up to 24 hours. Give it a bit of a massage from time to time.
Pre heat the oven to 180, place the lamb into a roasting pan, salvage as much of the yoghurt marinade as you can from the bag and spread over the meat. Bake the lamb at 180 for 20 minutes then reduce the temperature to 170 and bake allowing 20 minutes per 500g so roughly 2 ½ hours.
Allow the lamb to rest for 10 -15 minutes before carving.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

food of love

I always encourage people to teach their kids to cook, as is essential life skill and frankly am terrified that one day I may depend on them to feed me when I am old and infirm and if they cant cook I'll die of malnutrition or worse food poisoning! But is not only kids who need to learn.
Anne and Bill have been married 60 years. They have strict division of labour, common to their generation. Anne cooks and runs house, Bill looks after finances and plays golf.
They raised 4 boys, and enjoy a quiet and comfortable retirement. That was until a fortnight ago. Anne fell while watering garden, savagely breaking several of her 84yr old bones, 4 surgeries later she was finally on the road to recovery and Bill was tired of toast. Survival instinct kicked in and he found himself in the unfamiliar territory called kitchen. Never having attempted to cook anything other than eggs or toast he decided to roast a chicken.
With great pride he regaled Anne during visiting hours of his achievement. He'd successfully cooked a chook. Anne was amazed, how did he do it ?
Apparently there were instructions printed on the pack and Bill had simply followed them. In all the years she's cooked for him she'd never needed to look and he'd never needed to cook.

Don't you wish you'd married Anne? I'd even wear the ugly golf trousers if it meant coming home to a cooked meal everyday - sigh. anyway heres how I cook a chook

To Roast a Chicken

A roast chicken is one of the simplest and most satisfying dishes, the house will smell wonderful while it cooks, and once you’ve mastered the basic technique you can try all sorts of variations.

Pre heat the oven to 180ยบ
Allow 20 minutes per 450g plus an extra 20 minutes at the end.
Make sure the chicken is fully defrosted, pat it dry with a piece of kitchen paper and place it in a roasting pan. Sprinkle the bird with a little salt and pepper and put it into the pre-heated oven.
During the cooking time baste the chicken with the juices in the pan, use a large spoon and carefully spoon the hot pan juices over the whole chicken, this helps it to brown evenly and keep it moist.

When the cooking time is completed pierce the plumpest part of the chickens thigh with a sharp knife and press the flesh firmly, have a look at any juice that comes out, it should be clear. If there is any pink juice at all cook the chicken for another 20 minutes then check it again. If you have allowed 20 minutes per 450 g plus another 20 it should be fine.

Remove the chicken from the oven; cover with foil to keep it warm then let it rest for 10 minutes before you cut it up. This will allow the meat to relax and will be more moist and tender to eat.

Roast chicken is delicious hot or cold, serve with gravy or chutney, hot roast vegetables, mashed spuds or salad.

Hints and tips: Rubbing the skin with butter before it cooks will make it extra golden and crispy but does add extra unnecessary fat.
Adding lemon or orange segments to the cavity inside the bird will help keep a big bird moist as it cooks, herbs and garlic will infuse flavour and bacon strips placed over the breast of the bird will keep it moist and flavoursome.
Marinades and barbecue style sauces will all add variety to a roasted bird as will dry spice rubs or some liquid in the pan while the bird cooks, you could use stock, wine, or a combination.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Was totally inspired by one of our FB followers losing 65kg. Asked her if she would allow us to share her story and she generously agreed. I love that she is making good "lifestyle choices" rather than dieting. Simple substitutions, and moderation rather than deprivation seem to have been the keys to Michelles sucess - as well as her own determination of course.
This approach gets the big thumbs up from me and it clearly works - just look at the pictures. Thanks Michelle.

Hi Sophie,
I am emailing you in response to your post on facebook.
This Christmas will mark 4 years since I was 150kg. I was a size 28 and could not do up my shoes. It wasn't until I saw the christmas photos that I realised just how bad things had become. I started on Weight Watchers, by having to count my points I learnt to totally change the way I cooked - I discovered that I don't need oil to make crisp roast potato. I also learnt to make wise changes - I love food,and I love to cook and entertain, and I don't like to miss out, so I have had to adapt many recipes.
Instead of cream in a sauce I use reduced cream, coconut flavoured reduced cream instead of coconut cream. Instead of oil I use a little red wine vinegar on my roast vegetables, and there are plenty more changes I have made.
I still have treats but when I do, I will have a vegetable stirfry for dinner. I have also learnt that breakfast is important - when I was at my biggest I didn't eat all day, but as soon as the kids went to bed I would eat a full days worth of food in 1 hour.
I used to eat a packet of chippies a day (a large pack) but I have discovered poppadoms, which I cook in the microwave for 30 seconds each - done this way there is no oil and they are great with some salsa. As a sweet treat I will have a few marshmallows but I will always put them into a bowl and then put the packet away so I am not tempted!!
As of this morning, I now weigh 83.9kg and am a size 10 - 12.

Thank you and kind regards


Monday, October 18, 2010

gun powder treason and plot

Have been thinking about Guy Fawkes night, and traditions around dubious fire work festival.
I am perfect example of why fireworks should not be sold to children, as liked nothing better than hunting out change to spend at corner shop on strings of bright red "tom thumbs" like little dried chilli's, or bigger, louder, hotter "double happy's" which were flung with gay abandon off verandah, or hidden in letterbox, or occaisionally, if Jason from over road was round, held between teeth -(where were my parents?)
Sounds terrible I know, but everyone did same back then. Recall one wild guy fawkes night being handed lit roman candle by adult and told to RUN! firework gushed incandecent stream of flame and sparks, like comets tail behind me as I tore around garden in dark.
Would undoubtably have been horribly maimed if I fell, or firework malfunctioned, but as neither happened moment is enshrined as glorious childhood memory. Felt like Tinkerbell trailing sparkles across the sky. Little frisson of danger made it all the more exciting.

But God forbid anyone hand MY kid lit incendiary device! My kids (to best of my knowledge) have never chucked fireworks off a verandah or exploded them between teeth (I haven't told them I did this). Nor have they ever traveled in car on someones lap, or in boot,or on back of a trailer, all perfectly normal. albeit dangerous, back in dark ages when I was youth.

Accidents and fires are constant concerns, and pets quake in fear - although chance to get own back on large scary "jump out and bark at you" dogs up driveway has significant appeal...

I will always love smell of fireworks and enjoy writing my name on the night with silver sparkler, but increasingly appreciate that freedom to purchase and let off highly flamable and dangerous explosive devices in close proximity to home and loved ones, is not a freedom I feel worth fighting for.
I will however fight to the death for my right to eat sponge cake with strawberries and cream, toffee apples, pavlova and treacle toffee on fireworks night. Also love watching kids faces as they stand around bonfire toasting marshmallows, and listening to teens mocking and scorning then in next breath cooing with delight at starry display bursting to life above them.
whether its at home or a display,memories will be made and gunpowder will turn to golden stars before your eyes. And just when its all about to end there is sponge cake with better be sure to save me some!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Snack time at mother Hubbards

Have spent school hols waging war with boy/man/child over contents of pantry, or in his opinion lack of.
He simply refuses to acknowledge that ingredients are actual food, so complains constantly that I am starving him.
Apparently every other house is bursting at seams with snack foods, and all contain Fridges and freezers yeilding treasure trove of goodness to which young uns apparently are granted unlimited access.
Is constant source of shame to him that he is famished, and as he is son of foodwriter, I should be suitably shamed for not providing adequately. Will me all my fault if he gets malnutrition ...

Who are these people he knows with bulging cupboards? and what are they filled with??? And how do they afford it when milk is more expensive than petrol and a basic loaf of bread is $3.00. Don't they know how hard they are making it for the rest of us!

Have to admit that last week I was starting to waiver, begining to think maybe I should ingulge him, as is goodish lad, and makes me laugh (sings "you're beatiful to me" while I'm in dressing gown with scary morning hair, and says things like "my beef is not with you old woman" when he is cross about something).

Fortunatley had not yet caved in, as came home the other afternoon to find he'd cooked a platter of potato wedges for himself and friend ! Gaah! you'd have thought they'd discovered cure for Cancer! so pleased with themselves, posturing around the kitchen talking bollocks about seasonings and such. Was like they'd unleashed their inner Gordon Ramsay with a pinch of oregano and some cayenne pepper.
But was not the end of it, awoke next morning to smell of burnt butter.
Man child had made pancakes. From scratch. Flour, baking powder, eggs, milk, sugar, whisk...and all over again with the smugness, never mind its my recipe. Apparently better pancakes were never enjoyed by the male species, than those produced that morning!

Also noticed the toasted sandwich maker made an appearence and as there have been no further complaints about lack of food, is safe to assume they worked out how to plug it in and turn it on.

It would be easier no doubt to buy noodles and pies and frozen pizza's and such, but believe wholeheartedly that he'll be better off in the long run knowing how to roast a pan of wedges or knock together a batch of pancakes, and while he may never thank me for making him cook, one day I may have a daughter in law who will!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Flight or fright

Had a lovely Japanese home stay student a few years ago who described her job with airline as "fright attendant". I thought was very apt as have spent years dreading getting on planes after horror flight involving alarming amount of plummeting.
Was small plane, and situation not improved by cabin enjoying clear view of pilot fighting to keep plane upright whilst wiping sweat/tears? from his face. Man behind me was sobbing volubly, while cabin mates held hands across the aisle or scribbled notes to loved ones... self too terrified to do any of above, just prayed all would be well - which it was. But result was that henceforward boarding what is essentially just big tin can full of explosive material and hanging far far above ground for hours at a time, shifted from the logical side of my brain (which was only very sparsely furnished to begin with) into emotional side of my brain. Any suggestion of getting on plane stimulated instant rush of adrenaline to the terror and tears departments.
Fear of flying was not actually huge impediment for many years, as could barely afford to take bus let alone fly anywhere, but business has grown, and in last 2 years have had to fly several times a month sometimes several times a week.
First few times was total embarrassment- begging for medicinal alcohol from attendants before seat belt sign even lit. Sobbed noisily all over long suffering publicist after 5 flights in 4 days, and shrieked with terror on "vomit comet" leaving Wellington on a windy day, but even I can see I'm getting better.
Used to have to talk relentlessly to unsuspecting passengers to distract myself from slightest bump. So would know more about them than their gynecologist at the end of a 50 min flight. God help you if seated next to me on a long haul.
New I was doing well when headed off to Invercargill - Southland NZ last week - Flew from Auckland to Christchurch then had to change to small plane to go the final distance. Cant say I enjoyed flight, but was OK. Invercargill was cool (literally 5 degrees), lovely people and a unique and fascinating landscape. My biggest concern was that flight took as long as flying to Gold Coast only when landed was SOOOO not in Brisbane!
Am quite proud of self as am not brave or adventurous sort.
Wondered if others had conquered or were in process of facing a fear?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Warm spiced orange juice

I made this warm punch for my daughter’s 15th birthday party, the kids loved it.
Spiced orange juice is fragrant and delicious, and is an alcohol free special drink that will be enjoyed
by adults and kids alike. It is the perfect drink for chilly evenings or mornings.

2 litres orange juice or a combination of
apple and orange
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp mixed spice
¼ cup brown sugar
5 whole cloves

Pour the juice into a large saucepan and add the spices. Warm gently for around 20 minutes then serve hot in mugs or small cups. For a party or big group make a big batch and keep it warm in the slow cooker or crock pot.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fat girl Fit

Is no secret that I am greedy girl. Am also vain girl and always worried about fat backside.
Spent years dieting, and was expert dieter by adulthood, having majored in disordered eating during teens. Learnt calories were the enemy from my mum who was always either on diet or falling off one, she loved food and was terrific cook, but always dieting.

I did Atkins diet, Israeli Army diet, cheese and raisin diet, soup diet, bread diet, raw food diet, Weight watchers, F plan, liquid diet meal substitutes and more. Just got plumper every year. Dieting doesn't work, research shows dieting alone makes you fatter in long term. We just cant live on diet forever so when we stop we gain back not only what we lost, but more besides. So depressing - 10 lb baby hadn't helped any either.
Gradually started to exercise - doing long vigorous walks several times a week but took sooo long, picked up the pace and began to run a bit - on the down hills and stuff. Gradually built up to running several hilly kms a time and felt good about being able to "run for my life if I had to".

About 6 years ago was so fed up battling bulge I decided to join gym and determined if I was going to do it (as was v.expensive) would really have to use it. Wanted to get off diet merry go round for ever. I did 12 week intensive program at Gym to kick off, went 6 days a week, pushed myself hard and lost 7 kgs. I have kept off 5 of them and am fit (but not slim). Discovered that having some muscles makes you look trimmer, and exercising when fit is invigorating- is agonising when unfit. I never imagined I could be fit "gym type person" ! No one more surprised than me.

Found I got sick less, had more stamina for physical demands of job and developed healthier eating habits. Now am huge exercise advocate and wish I'd done this way sooner

I avoid useless calories -eg: don't drink juice, soft drinks unless sugar free or much alcohol. Never ever eat candy bars or boring biscuits, or bought pizzas, very rarely eat takeaways, sugary cereal etc. But relish lovely piece of cake or yummy dinner.

I look for active opportunities, activity of any kind . Many of my recipes are really healthy (I wrote for Healthy Food guide for several years). Bake as is fun and is food to be shared. Because it's not forbidden I don't need to "pig out".
I use lite olivani for baking unless special treat, and use very little oil in cooking - saving calories for where they really count - ie CAKE!

Want to change your shape? want to keep up with the kids? just want to feel better?

Get pair of trainers (I started with Warehouse ones), some cheap leggings (2 for $25 in Glassons- go halves with a friend) and some running shorts for over top (to disguise wobbly thighs and cover dimply skin) and a good bra!!! (Kmart is pretty cheap) - girls only obviously

When kids are at sports practice walk/jog round the park
Walk everywhere you can and break into jog, every now and then
See if each time you can jog one letterbox further than last time
Keep walking shoes in car - if you have time to kill - slip em on and do lap or two of car park
Put fast music on Ipod - if you play slow music you'll move slower
Meet friends for a walk and finish at cafe for coffee instead of meeting in cafe - talk as you walk
When weather is too bad try a group class at YMCA or community centre or gym
If you have injuries try Aqua walking at local pool
make it do-able. No way am I going running at 5am on winter morning! be realistic and succeed
Healthy choices aren't expensive - health care is...

Love to know what you think re fit v fat etc

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trash or treasure

Am feeling Old today - my beloved nephew El had birthday today - turning 20 which makes me, well Older than 20 anyway.
El has promised to take me dumpster diving sometime, he and friends are waging private war on waste by clambering into supermarket dumpsters and "recycling" - or um, "re appropriating"?? dated but perfectly good food. Boxes of chocolates, loaves of bread, packets of fancy biscuits... is not because they're stingy (although they are poor - students all of them), same boys won't hesitate to offer food to homeless person or clothes or whatever. Dumpster diving is way of hitting back at corporate waste and ridiculous consumerism.

Rich is appalled I wan't to do this. So wont tell him - will wait till there is football on telly.
Also will not get in actual dumpster myself as already mentioned, I am old, and not so able to clamber out in hurry if necessary. Don't want close call like prince William nearly getting run over by rubbish truck when doing homeless experience. will be lookout person, and will run very very fast if approached by security guard as dumpster diving not actually encouraged by supermarkets. Do want to see for myself though, also would like to have free boxes of chocs.

Why is there so much waste when food prices so high? Why are these things not "on special" so we can choose to buy them cheap - is high wastage driving prices up? Do you think El and his friends are wrong or should discarded food be "fair game"? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Retro baking - Rock cakes rock

Rock cakes

One of the first things I baked as a child – some people call them “childrens cakes” because they are so easy and quick to make, they are ideal for impatient eager young bakiers. Rock cakes are a bit like a fruity sweet scone – excellent with a cup of tea or a glass of milk.

1 cup of plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking powder
50 g butter or olivani
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup currants
¼ cup sultanas – or a tablespoon of candied mixed peel
1 egg – lightly beaten
a pinch of mixed spice
a splash of milk -1-2 tbsp should be enough
Pre heat the oven to 200°

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs or stir in the sugar, baking powder, spice and dried fruit. Mix in the egg and just enough milk to make the mixture moist enough to clump together. You can make rock cakes in the food processor, pulsing the mixture to as not to over- mix it and pulverize the fruit .
Place mounds of mixture onto a cold greased baking tray – this quantity makes approximately 8 Rock cakes but you can easily double it.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until turning golden.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slow learner

Had another go at slowcooking. Bought big piece of corned beef from butcher who actually makes it by soaking in Brine - Old School style.
Read facebook posts and determined to cook mine in gingerale, with juice and zest of 1/2 an orange, a bay leaf , and large pieces of kumara, swede and carrot around outside.
5 hours on high - beef is cooked. Tastes just the same as if I'd boiled it. Veges are soggy and v. Salty. Served with brocoli and saute potatoes.
Will not bother doing again unless have to go out in early evening and cant cook in usual manner as was no noticable advantage to doing it slow.
Personally couldn't use slow cooker for dinner everyday as am crying out for some scrunch and crunch on my plate after only 2 days. Is like eating toddler food -would have been good when tooth was sore though.

Will continue to experiment but am just not liking the textures and missing smell of sauteed onion and garlic and sizzling meat, crispy edges, and crunchy toppings.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Slow cooking for un believers

Am trying to unlock the mysteries of the slow cooker. So many people passionately defending them, I must be missing something. Am not food snob, so will try to get over myself and give slow cooker a workout.
Bought house brand size 16 chook on special in big yellow supermarket. Made homemade BBQ sauce - not too much liquid as advised by- well everyone.

Used 1/3 cup tomato sauce, 1 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 2 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp apricot jam - Yup made it up as I went along, was tangy and tasty.
Browned whole chook in frying pan then put in slow cooker, slathered on sauce and cooked on high about 5 hours. house smelt like rest home on muggy day - one of the things I most dislike about slow cooking, steamy, damp nappy smell.

Chicken was cooked and tender without disintegrating - so was happy, (have had chicken just fall bits in slow cooker - not tender, overcooked).
Feeling encouraged, scooped out sauce - which had multiplied substantially, skimmed the fat and thickened with cornflour, poured over chicken and mash and happily ate.
Did not taste blurry or bland.

Next time I will not brown chicken first, instead will try removing breast skin, so less fat, and sauce can permeate meat (I hope). Will also try adding some veg. overall a good result from an unbeliever.

Monday, May 24, 2010

let them eat cake

Went to a seminar last week and learnt that we eat 25% more sugar a day now than we did in the 70's. Yikes!
Seminar was interesting despite being packed with dietitians and such like. I was starving so made a dash for the afternoon tea table as soon as break was announced.
Caterers had provided colourful array of chilly sliced fruit and healthy oaty looking bars. Obviously trying to score points with dietitians.
Miracle of miracles, I spotted one lone triangle of ginger crunch buried among the scroggin slice. Must have slipped in the pile by accident. I snagged it naturally,and was well into daily quota of sugar and fat before fatal mistake of gloating to my friend Claire that I'd got the only bit of slice with icing, next thing I know I'm sharing it. (Is easy to forget Claire is dietitian cos she actually likes food. most seem to treat it as mortal enemy).
One of the speakers at seminar is Head of public relations for McDonalds. Surprising the dietitians didn't stone her there and then. Was quite interesting that McDonald's have tried to sell healthy stuff, but people just don't go to Macca's for salad or cereal. Good that 50% of happy meals are now sold with a healthy option like fruit or water, but I kinda understand. While I personally haven't eaten Macca's in 8 years and don't plan to. When I go out I want the choice, all junk is clearly not good, but all healthy is no fun either and if I do choose the oat bar, then can I have a glass of wine with it?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Have detected a worrying tightness around waistband of jeans. Concluded that diet high in cake is not entirely to blame as is actually genetic fault. Am simply to short for my appetite. If had legs several centremetres longer and a waist, would be able to spread the load over a greater area of mass. As it is, am still waiting to grow legs!
Also think fibres of denim contract when not in frequent use - has been too hot for jeans so havent worn them for months. I am sure this phenomena is not unique to my jeans. Anyone else have similar experience?
I will research it on google while enjoying my morning coffee break - Flat White and White chocolate and macadamia brownie.

White chocolate and Macadamia brownie

This slice is luxurious yet super easy to make. Macadamias give it an engaging scrunch, and the finished brownie has the delectable fudgey-ness of a traditional brownie with creamy white chocolate instead. It’s a natural partner for raspberry coulis, great coffee and company.

225g butter or margarine
220g good quality white chocolate – I use a whole tablet of Cadbury Dream
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1¼ tsp vanilla essence
2 cups plain flour
½ cup coarsely chopped raw macadamia nuts

Pre heat the oven to 180°
Line a Swiss roll or slice tin with non stick baking paper.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a low heat , when melted add the sugar and stir well, then remove from heat and add the white chocolate, broken into pieces.
Stir the mixture until the chocolate is completely melted, it may have a curdled appearance at this stage, don’t despair.
Mix in the eggs one at a time and stir in the flour, vanilla and the chopped nuts. Pour into a well-greased and lined sponge roll or slice tin. Bake in a moderate oven at 180°C for 35 minutes.

Cool and cut into 24 fingers. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

D.I.Y or is that D.I. whine?

Ever found that watching TV makes you feel like you have done stuff you haven't?

Like Jeremy Clarkson thinking he could speed round formula one race track, cos he'd done it lots on PlayStation- Twit!.

I had my first experience of wallpapering last week. Was pretty sure I'd be good at it as have watched it being done many times on TV and looks pretty easy on 60 minute makeover.

A week later, every muscle in my back and shoulders is still sore, I'm flaking wall paper paste from my elbows despite numerous showers, and a clump of my hair is lodged in the hinge of the ladder.

We have steep, high sloping ceilings. Is very wobbly at top of ladder and paper sticks to everything except wall, there was complicated pattern to match and ... it wasn't remotely fun. Worse, I'm not nearly as good at it as had assumed I would be. Very disappointing. Feel like suing TV for misrepresentation! If I'd known it would be hard, I'd have got Rich to do it.

Far more satisfying to do something really easy that looks Wow, and that you can eat afterwards, So made banoffee pie, used Dulce de Leche - caramel (see previous blog), a biscuit crust, and whipped cream, sliced banana and grated chocolate on top. So easy, totally yum and looks good too. You can use pastry if you prefer and bake it blind before filling with caramel. I like crumbly -ness of biscuit crust. Will put quantities up later- but any biscuit crust will do.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche is rich creamy caramel sauce - boiling an un opened can of condensed milk for 3 hours creates beautiful caramel. It is nicer than the ready made one which always tastes wrong to me.

I think from memory in the slow cooker it took 5 hours on high and 7 on low but not 100% sure from memory. Once cooked you can store un-opened.

Always keep the can covered with water while simmering - to prevent the can from rattling in the water (which can be annoying when you consider that it'll need to be in there for several hours) put a rag under the can.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ash Wednesday?

Have been away a lot lately. Being away on my own as is a bit lonely but had lovely experience on Saturday when busing around distant city.

Love the bus! so much more fun than driving and so much less terrifying than flying. Also get to talk to interesting people.
Lady sitting next to me on return trip was utterly charming, youngish and somewhat quirky. She kept putting fingers in her mouth. I wondered if like me she had problem tooth so asked. Teeth fine actually, just having a good "poke around". Happy to engage in conversation she asked where I was from. I replied from Auckland, just away for a few days working... New friend was shocked as she could never live in Auckland because of all the snow. I tried to assure her that in my 40 odd years as an Aucklander it has never snowed nor come remotely near it but she was convinced saying "No too much snow, all the time, I couldn't bear it"! Think maybe she had confused Auckland with Alaska??
I learnt many interesting details about her, including fascinating detail about her hair - which she said she could feel growing and was clearly annoying her. (hair was quite short actually). Apparently it grows an inch a night, amazing! She planned to grow it down to her knees. I said was good as wont take long at all at that rate! She plans to use long long hair to tickle a boy she likes. Was really disappointed when conversation had to end at my stop. Every moment was pure delight!
Last night was telling family about bus friend while making dinner and hot cross buns when realised my diary and other paperwork had caught fire from gas hob. Diary was merrily ablaze - a sight that made me surprisingly happy. Also daughters birthday wish list, now burnt down to 1/4 its original length - also a happy sight.
Husband was really cross but kids and I in hysterics, only made him crosser actually and us more hysterical with laughter. Hot cross buns seem even more appropriate. If you look closely you may see ashes in the top of the picture.

Hot Cross Buns (way better than bought ones!)

This recipe makes around 24 great buns. You can use granulated yeast or instant yeast. I made these using 1 ½ sachets instant yeast, mixed into the flour. Then add the warm liquid. If using granulated yeast follow the instructions in the method.

2 cups warm water
¼ cup Condensed Milk
2 tbsp Dried Yeast granules
5 cups Plain flour
3 tsp mixed spice
3 tsp of cinnamon
½ tsp of salt
1 cup currants or raisins or a mixture
½ cup of mixed peel
50 g of softened Butter
2 eggs

Blend the water and condensed milk together and stir or sprinkle on the yeast, set it aside for about 10 minutes, the warm sweet liquid will gently bring the yeast to life, when it is frothy looking it is ready to use. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, mix in the dried fruit and peel, then make a hole in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture along with the softened butter and eggs. Stir until combined then turn out onto a floured bench and knead it lightly. This is a moist dough so add extra flour as you knead until the dough is smooth. Put it in a greased bowl and cover with greased cling film (I spray the inside of a supermarket bag with cooking spray and then pop the bowl in). Leave in a warm place till dough doubles in size this should take around 40 minutes. Punch the dough then give it a quick knead. Divide into 24 portions and roll into balls. Place on a greased oven tray and cover with the greased plastic from before. Leave them for around half an hour or until doubled in size.

To make the crosses
½ cup Plain Flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp butter
About 3-5 tablespoons of water

Blend the ingredients together; the mixture needs to be soft enough to be piped. If you haven't got a piping bag, put the mixture into a plastic bag, squeeze it down to one corner then snip a tiny bit off the corner of the bag so you can squeeze the mix through the hole making crosses on the top of each bun.
Bake at 200°c degrees for 15 minutes then brush with sugar glaze and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes or until they look cooked.

Sugar Glaze
2 tbsp Sugar dissolved in ¼ cup warm water.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

a sense of perspective

Haven't blogged for a while as have had builders in. Sooo exciting!
We could finally insulate the fridge we refer to fondly as home.
Also retaining walls, so can access veggie garden without crampons, and other general repairs to stop rotten bits are falling off carport onto visitors.
Builder started 3 weeks ago. Half the house is in bits, teenage daughter living in garage in tent, hallway and 3 rooms gutted, dust and dirt everywhere - me trying to work in mess and noise.
Progress slow.
Serious concerns arose last week when Gib went up. Much tension- finally we called assessor in and all work halted.
Assessment says everything has been done wrong - thousands of dollars already spent. Builder incompetent. Retaining has to be removed and re done, all interior work has to be re done - sigh.

Was very upset - depressed, and stressed, as also have dodgy tooth thing going on - never one thing at a time!
Had visit from new - lovely highly recommended builder who came to NZ as refugee from Cambodia. In course of looking at sorry mess that is our house, he told his story.

When 8 years old whole village was force marched to killing fields - told they'd be executed ...mass graves ... only just saved from execution by arrival of Vietnamese Tanks...

Decided then and there not to cry about my broken house. Have never had to march my children to anything worse than dentist appointment!
Is only house and am lucky to have one. We have roof -(OK - not many walls -but that can be fixed). We have freedom and we have food in cupboard. Also now have sense of perspective. While there are some things that even cake cant fix, it could be a lot worse.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Carnival Cupcakes

This is a really easy, all in together mixture that makes light golden cakes that are firm enough to decorate, makes a tin full.

1 1/3 cups self-raising flour
A pinch of salt
100gr soft butter
½ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 dessertspoon of lemon juice
Grated zest of lemon
Dash of milk

Pre heat oven to 190°c.
Line mini muffin pans with paper patty cases.
Combine all the main ingredients together in a bowl and beat until absolutely smooth - about 1-2 minutes.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pans and bake for 15 -20 mins or until well risen and golden.
When cool, combine the glace icing ingredients, using only as much water as you need to make a spreadable icing. Ice the top of each cup cake with icing and decorate as desired.

Press a smartie or other coloured sweet into the glace icing.
Sprinkle with hundreds and thousands and silver balls.
Sprinkle with decorator shapes – available in supermarkets and cake decorating shops
Make a thick butter icing, from 175 g icing sugar and 25 g soft butter beaten together, colour and flavour as desired and roll out between two sheets of non stick baking paper, refrigerate till firm then cut out shapes and designs using cutters, stick on with a dab of glace icing (alternatively you could buy a pack of ready made fondant icing from the supermarket and use instead.)

Butterfly cakes
When cool take a knife and cut a cone shape out of the top of each cake and fill the cavity with lemon curd or jam. Cut the little cone of cake in half and place it at angles on top of the lemon curd like butterfly wings then dust with icing sugar.

Dana's Chocolate Cupcakes

You know this recipe already, but you might not know that it makes great cupcakes
We believe this recipe is now one of the most frequently made recipes in the country. When people bring their cook books to dg cooking classes for me to sign, the page with Dana’s chocolate cake is always the most splattered and tattered, I even had a lady tell me she made it for the Sultan of Brunei’s household while doing a stint as their cook! It cuts neatly and freezes well too.

Preheat oven to 180°C

1 2/3 cups flour
1½ cups sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda – yes baking soda! (see cooks tips)
1 tsp salt
1½ cups of trim milk
100 g melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Pour into the prepared patty cake cases and bake until firm and springy, this will depend on the size of the cases but probably at least 20 minutes.

Classic Chocolate Frosting
250 g icing sugar
100 g butter
1/3 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
milk to mix

Place butter and dry ingredients in processor, pulse to combine then add a dash of milk and pulse again, continue until you achieve a soft spreadable icing then add vanilla.

Cook's Tips

We get so many emails from people who believe we have mistakenly said baking soda when we mean baking powder. Some have been so sure they have made it with baking powder.

Why use baking soda not baking powder?
Both baking soda and baking powder are leavening agents added to baked goods before cooking to produce carbon dioxide and cause them to 'rise'. Baking powder contains baking soda, but the two substances are used under different conditions.
Baking Soda is pure sodium bicarbonate. When combined with moisture and an acidic ingredient (e.g. yogurt, chocolate, cocoa, buttermilk, honey), the resulting chemical reaction produces bubbles of carbon dioxide that expand under oven temperatures, causing baked goods to rise. The reaction begins immediately upon mixing the ingredients, so you need to bake recipes that call for baking soda immediately, or else they will fall flat!


If you find your cupcakes come out a bit “wonky” on top, here are some suggestions to help produce lovely rounded ones

Cupcakes overflow while baking – try only filling your baking cup ¾ fill.

Cupcakes crack on the top – your oven may be too hot

Cupcakes are uneven on top – eg higher on the left hand side – this may be caused by the fan in your fan-forced oven pushing the mixture as it rises, some batters are very delicate (gluten free for example) – try turning off the fan and cooking them on the classic bake setting.

Rolled Icing

The white cup cakes show stamped icing – to achieve this effect we used Pettince ready-made icing which we rolled, cut to size using cookie cutters and stamped. We used a a stamp sheet as well from a cake decorating specialist supplier – this is a silicone sheet with a pattern – ours is all circles, impressed on it. You simply place the sheet on to the icing and roll with a rolling pin.
We also used wooden stamps from Trade Aid for the pretty paisley pattern.

We used pink food colouring in a variety of strengths for both the butter cream icing and for colouring the rolled icing, and we also used glace icing on some of the cup cakes.
If you don’t have any flower cutters you can purchase ready-made icing flowers and edible glitters etc from cake decorating suppliers

Making your own Icing

Glace icing

1 cup icing sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice or a drop or two of artificial colour and flavour such as raspberry or peppermint

Butter Cream icing

100 g unsalted butter
175 g icing sugar
Flavour and colour as required
Beat the butter until it is light and fluffy then add the icing sugar a little at a time beating well until it is all incorporated. The finished butter cream will be stiffer than whipped cream but a light and pale so can easily be coloured.

Monday, March 1, 2010


We are renovating – Grrrr. Hate hate renovating.

I have builders in drinking copious coffees and generally clogging up car parking area with many many more vehicles than there are actual builders.
Have been baking for them each day in vain hope they’ll appreciate effort and put walls back in house. Kids rooms previously had no insulation, now situation Far Worse – no walls!

Teenage daughter is currently residing in tent in garage. Tent is to prevent crud falling on her when asleep. Living conditions very poor, but teenage daughter emerging from garage in shorty pyjamas each day at least ensures presence of builders, and lively if brief, spurt of hammering type activity.

Have fed them brownie, caramel pecan slice, chocolate berry muffins and today was scones - as nearly out of everything else and is shopping day but not till later.
Scones, cheap and easy and builders not particularly discerning. Not like judges on NZ’s hottest baker show on telly. Am mystified though that contestants had trouble with scones as soooo easy!

Here is good recipe – bad scones? No excuse!

Scones take only around 20 minutes to make from scratch. They cost less than $2.00 to make and provide 12 – 15 filling fresh scones. They will provide energy from carbohydrate, and are not high in fat like pies or biscuits. You can top them with butter, jam, marmite or cheese (leave out the sugar and add grated cheese to the mixture too if you have it.) If you have a processor then they’re even easier to make.

Pre heat the oven to 210˚C
3 cups plain flour and 3 tsp baking powder or 3 cups self raising flour
3 tbsp butter or table spread
A pinch of salt
A dessert spoon of sugar
Approximately 1 cup of milk (sour it with a squeeze of lemon juice if you have it)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl then rub in the butter so it resembles bread crumbs. Add the liquid and mix quickly and gently to form a soft dough – do not knead as this will make the scones tough. Pat the mix together and roll out to rectangle roughly 2.5 cm thick. Slice into squares or use a cookie cutter or glass to cut out rounds.

Place on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 -12 minutes until well risen and slightly golden. Scones are best eaten fresh, leftovers can be frozen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The New Book!

Sneak preview of the new book, 100+ tasty $10 meals is due for release on April 1st. If you want to pre order a signed copy for delivery first week of april you can do that via the website

muffin break

Just made lovely lovely banana walnut muffins. Can do this as have freezer full of black bananas.

Black banana is NOT exotic new variety.

Is what you get when you have far more bananas than you can use!

Filmed a TV commercial about healthy breakfasts and was given many many bananas by lovely banana company - would have been churlish to refuse - after all Free stuff!

made banana cakes, ate them, made more and gave some away, finally froze remaining bananas as utterly sick of banana cake - who knew that could happen? Cake is like oxygen to me. Anyway now utterly fed up with avalanche of frozen banana's cascading onto floor every time I open freezer. So made up new recipe.

Spicy banana walnut muffins with crunchy nut crumble topping. Had one warm with coffee - sooo good.

Muffins freeze well - as do bananas so don't actually have to eat whole batch- but probably will.

Banana walnut crumble top muffins

Muffin mixture begins to rise as soon as you add liquid to it. For the lightest muffins ensure you have everything else ready before adding the wet ingredients to the mixture. In this case, grease the pans, and make the topping first.

2 cups self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp mixed spice
½ tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup mashed banana 1-2 bananas
100 g melted butter or olivani
1 cup milk
1 egg

1/3 cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp pl flour
1 ½ tbsp butter

Pre heat the oven to 210°
Grease a 12 cup muffin pan.
Prepare the topping by pulsing the ingredients together in a processor or rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your finger tips then mix in the chopped nuts.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, spices and chopped walnuts. Mash the bananas and set aside. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and add the milk, mashed banana and a lastly the egg.
Fold into the dry ingredients using a large metal spoon. Do not over mix. Spoon into the prepared muffin pan and top each muffin with a sprinkle of the crumble topping.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden, well risen and springy when gently pressed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day Biscuit Bouquets

To make biscuit bouquet you will need:

Tin, vase, pot or other wide mouthed container

Sand or pebbles

Polystrene/styrofoam - left over from packaging, if you don't have any, see if you can scrounge a chunk from an electrical store or some other retailer whose product is packaged in polystrene.

Popsicle sticks, wooden skewers or heat proof chopsticks

Decorated biscuits/cookies

To make the base, fill your chosen container 1/3 full of sand or pebbles. Pack the top with polystyrene.

Prepare the biscuits:

125g butter of shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 egg yolk
1 tsp of vanilla

Wooden or bamboo skewers

Non stick baking paper

Glace Icing

1 cup icing sugar

Squeeze of lemon juice or a drop or two of artificial colour and flavour, such as raspberry or peppermint

Decorations such as silver balls, celebration sprinkles, icing flowers, small candies ...

For filled biscuits - strawberry or raspberry jam and a dab of glace icing

Makes around 30+ frosted biscuits depending on size.

Preheat oven to 180C

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix well, then stir in the flour and mix to a form dough. Knead the dough then lightly roll out on a floured surface slightly thicker than you usually would. Cut into shapes using decorative cutters. Insert skewers almost all the way through each cookie. If you are making jam filled cookies, use a small cutter to cut a shape from the centre of half the biscuits. Skewers will be inserted in filled biscuits once baked. Place prepared cookies on baking trays covered with non stick baking paper and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until lightly golden.

Combine the glace icing ingredients, suing only as much water as you need to make a spreadable icing. Ice the top of each cooled cookie with icing and decorate as desired. Sprinkles, silver balls, edible glitter ....

For jam filled biscuits, remove from trays and when cool spread the 1/2 biscuits with jam. Add a few dabs of glace icing around the edge, position a skewer in the middle ensuring it is not visible, then top with the biscuits that have no centres. Sticking them in place with the dabs of icing.

Cooks tip: If you haven't got the right size cutters, improvise with a drinking glass for the biscuits and use a screw top bottle cap to cut out the centres. Raid the kids' playdough cutters and see what they've got.

To assemble the bouquet, carefully insert the skewers into the polystyrene with tuille, curling ribbon or tissue paper.

If the cookies are not likely to be eaten immediately, you can individually wrap them in clear cellophane and tie with curling ribbon to keep cookies fresh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

bra bra black sheep

Holiday is pretty much distant memory now. Work phone is ringing all the time-so escaped to gym to have some time to myself and do some "damage limitation". Took really good book to read while on cross trainer - love to read, so workout almost enjoyable.

Changed into industrial strength, gravity resistant, workout under garments- Bra is guaranteed to force 10 on Richter scale. Donned leggings, shorts,t.shirt etc. Placed pretty, lacy little bra into gym bag. Dumped clothes, keys etc on top and left bag in locker room.

Workout completed. Descended into stygian darkness of car park, got keys and handbag out of gym bag and headed to shops for ingredients. Eyes not adjusted to gloom so didn't notice that lacy bra had attached itself to hand bag zip.

Proceeded to saunter round shops trailing incriminatingly sexy undergarment off back of hand bag. Was paying for kaffir lime leaves before I noticed!. Had to stuff bra into smallish hand bag. Sooo embarrassed. Like walking through crowded restaurant with dress tucked into knickers. Gaaagh! Cannot tell my family as am already figure of fun.

Oh - Kaffir Lime leaf was part of excellent fragrant chicken curry. Froze the rest of the leaves along with surplus lemongrass stalks- both freeze well. Recipe is for Taste magazine, and is delish. But will not be able to make again once frozen kaffir lime leaves run out as cannot show my face in shops again - will have to move!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The tide is out

Am having lovely holiday with kids and one true love. Went camping, soooo relaxing.
Daughter spent whole time staking out power points to re charge phone, but aside from that was quintesential kiwi camping experience. Had New Years eve bonfire on beach, fireworks, berry picking, long walks, large ice creams and lots of lying about reading.

Home now and life is still bit like being at beach as tide goes in and out each day. Tide in this case though, is number of children present. Low tide is when its just our own. "Tide is out" means no kids here at all, "high tide" means we have lots of extras, mostly in form of 14 yr old boys.

Was nearly washed away by sudden high tide last week as boys with skateboards flooded in from every direction. Tide has since receeded taking my boy with it and leaving behind only wet towels, dirty plates, empty fridge and a broken jandal.

But enough coastal analogy - have a day to myself, a car and a credit card and am thinking about trying on shoes.
Am able to do this as feet are only part of me that has not "retained water" over summer. Have french painted toe nails too, so simply must try on shoes, or nail polishing will have been waste of time!

Is good to do something enjoyable before year hits full speed. If money was no object would obviously go to Paris for day and um, try on shoes. But am not Russian Billionaires squeeze so will settle for number one shoe warehouse, followed by coffee and cake. Will worry about "water retention" problem next week, still have some clothes I can fit.

If you were me today, with car, credit card (within reason) and no kids, how would you spend day?