A Corny Story

I love sweetcorn. I love cheap and seasonal food. I love being in New Zealand in May when the harvest is coming to an end and there is a glut of corn cobs available everywhere, sometimes less than 20c for each kernel encrusted delight.

Corn on the cob cooked incorrectly can be soggy, waterlogged and tasteless or burnt and dry. I am surprised by the amount of times I have had corn that has been very substandard as it is sooooo easy to cook!

My fool proof way to cook corn on the cob is also very simple and more flexible than a sub prime mortgage company pre 2007. It is forgiving on timing (you can easily double the cooking time if something else isn’t quite ready) and temperature (cook for longer on lower temperatures and less on higher).

When buying corn, choose cobs that feel heavy for their size and are free of mould or insects.

Step 1

Don’t peel your cobs, get the whole cobs and run them under the tap for 5 minutes or so. If you live in an area where water is precious, place them in a sink full of water for a similar length of time.
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Step 2

Put the soaked cobs still in their skins in an oven between 140C and 200C (don’t worry if it is a bit hotter or cooler).

Step 3

If you are cooking at around 160C, cook for around 10-15 minutes minimum to 30 or so minutes maximum. Adjust timings for hotter or cooler ovens. In an emergency (is there really such a thing as a cooking emergency?) after 30 minutes, dip the cobs in the sink full of water again and return to the oven – it should buy you some more time.

Step 4

Peel cobs and dress with butter, salt and pepper (or for a fat free version that is surprisingly good, squeeze lime and sprinkle with smoked paprika).

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Really Fast Chocolate Frozen Yoghurt

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When I die, I will no I have arrived in heaven if there is an ice cream parlour on every corner. I have always loved ice cream since I was a child. It creates a sense of excitement deep inside me that no other food can come close too. It reminds me of sunny days by the sea, shopping trips to city department stores (my mum would take me to the Bentall’s cafe for ice cream as a treat/bribe), a special ending to lunch or dinner and riding my bike one handed licking a cone in the other.

I love all sorts of ice cream (or frozen dessert as some will call the wider genre!) from frothy, soft Mr Whippy or frozen custards, to zesty frozen fruit blocks and poles to luxurious, gourmet concoctions containing salted popcorn (thank you Heston!). My favourite type has always been chocolate and as I have aged, my preference is for the darker and more bitter variety. When we lived in Sydney, I had a really funky, top of the range ice cream maker, one of those where you don’t even need to freeze a bucket as it has a built in freezing unit. You can crave ice cream at 11pm and have your own batch in a cone ready to eat by 11:30pm

My wife has noticed that our daughter has inherited my zeal for the frosty delights and whenever we go anywhere always asks for an ice cream. Just today, pondering aloud, Mrs Jamie asked me how we break it to the little girl that you shouldn’t expect ice cream every day – I told her she probably needs to work on me first as I could see no error in the statement.

So I dedicate my post today of my favourite recipe for Rapid chocolate frozen yoghurt to my daughter – we share a pleasure that your mother will never understand!

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Serves: 6 small portions (or 4 normal ones)

Ingredients

100g 70% cocoa dark chocolate
100g icing (powdered) sugar
1/2 cup double (heavy) cream
250g Greek yoghurt
1 tsp good quality vanilla essence
1/2 tsp salt

Method

1) Break up chocolate into as small bits as possible and place in a large microwave proof bowl.
2) Heat chocolate on high until it has melted into a smooth paste. It must not get too hot otherwise your frozen yogurt is ruined. The best way to do this is to watch it as it heats and open the door to stir it around every 20 seconds or so.
3) Once melted, slowly, pour in a couple of spoonfuls of cream and combine well with the chocolate. Pour in the rest of the cream and whisk well until smooth.
4) Whisk in the rest of the ingredients until well combined
5) Add to your ice cream maker and churn until set.
6) Serve on its own, or it does go extraordinarily well with raspberries.

Bay Of Plenty Two Ways Trevally

My problem in life is that I always like to have my cake and eat it. Whenever we eat out, I manage to narrow down what I would like to two dishes. I always then either hope or persuade my wife to order one of my choices so that I can order the other.

So, after buying up some locally caught Trevally in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand, I had a head and heart debate – do I steam the fish in a nice paper bag in the oven, or do I batter the stuff and fry it? As I couldn’t decide, I did both (more correctly, I started doing just the steamed and changed my mind halfway through to do both), and although a little frenetic, was surprisingly easy. I could have reduced the frenzy a little by deciding I was going to do both styles before, and also not messing up a batch of batter first – but where would the fun have been in that?

The end result was great, the crunch of the battered fish contrasted wonderfully with the slippery pak choi and the steamed fish. My wife as usual took in her stride that the meal she ended up with was not necessarily what I disappeared unto the kitchen to create.

I was happy as I had my cake and ate it…

Serves: 2

Ingredients

4 small fillets of trevally, weighing around 125g each

For the steamed trevally:

1 red onion, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
25g butter
1 small fennel bulb, finely sliced
Handful of fresh parsley
1 tsp dried chilli flakes

For the battered trevally

¾ cup of flour
A good few grinds of pepper
½ tsp salt
Enough cold beer to make a thickish batter (around 125ml I guess). Note: I used a Monteith’s Radler beer. Any hoppy lager style beer should do the trick, I think also a Belgian white beer would work really well too.
Rice Bran Oil for frying

To serve

1 head of Pak Choi, chopped
2 tsp Ketchup Manis (Indonesian Sweet Soy Sauce)
1 clove garlic
2 tsp sesame seeds

Method

1) Preheat oven to 160C
2) Rinse or cut any bloody bits from the trevally – they will go grey when cooked
3) Place a large piece of baking paper on a baking tray – it should be large enough so you can fold it over on itself to make a parcel.
4) Place finely chopped fennel, onions, chilli, butter and parsley on paper
5) Put two of your trevally fillets on top of the vegies and butter and add the lemon juice and zest on top. A grind of salt and pepper won’t go astray here too.
6) Fold the excess paper over on itself and make a nice little parcel. Pleat the paper where the edges meet to make as tight a seal as possible (don’t stress if it isn’t perfect).
7) Put all of the bok choi ingrediants in a foil parcel alongside the fish paper parcel
8) Whack both in the oven for 20 mins
9) Put the flour and salt and pepper in a bowl
10) Add enough beer to form a thickish batter (around the consistency of salad cream)
11) Let batter rest for 5-10 minutes
12) Heat around 1cm of oil in a heavy based frying pan.
13) Dip each trevally fillet in the batter and then slowly lower into the oil
14) Cook for around 90 seconds on each side until batter is crisp and golden
15) To assemble finished dish, place bok choi on centre of a plate, then with a fish slice, put one fillet of steamed fish (and some of the fennel and onion) on top. Finish with a battered fillet and serve with a slice of lemon and maybe a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Tomato, Rosemary and Lentil Soup

Today was one of those (typical?) New Zealand days that begins as one season and finishes as another. We left our house in an orchard in Whangerai in the Northland region to head to Pathia in the Bay of Islands. I remarked to my wife just how warm the day was as I gazed out over the sun beating down on the avocado trees and planned on making a salad with the avocado windfalls we had gathered and some other stuff we planned to pick up from one of the numerous fruit and vegetable stalls that dot the sides of most of new Zealand’s roads. Stopping off as planned, I bought some great heirloom tomatoes, potatoes and some great looking rosemary which was a steal at 50c for a nice sized bunch. The weather was still great, I guess around 26C and not a cloud in the sky.

Cut forward an hour and we arrived at our new holiday house in Paihia. Everything was great with the place, except the weather had changed, it was now blowing a gakle, grey skies and probably nearer 10C than 15C – not really salad weather I thought as I watched my wife gamely pulleingbags from the car and chasing colouring books blown around by the strengthening wind.

It really felt like an autumn evening, similar to some northern hemisphere bonfire nights of my childhood. Nothing works better in this weather than homemade soup, especially if you have some stock you have made yourself to give a depth of flavour that canned soup can only dream of.

I used the tomatoes, rosemary and onions I had bought that morning and added some lentils found in the holiday houses store cupboard.

Served with some buttery toast, the cold was soon banished and we were ready to fight another day – summer will probably return in a few hours (and go again a few more after that…).

Serves – 4-6

Ingredients

500g of really ripe tomatoes – skin them if you like (or a can of plum tomatoes)
750ml or so good quality chicken stock (or use vegetable stock for those who prefer/insist!)
1 cup red lentils
1 large onion, finely diced
4 whole cloves garlic
30g butter
3 or 4 sprigs rosemary
2 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Dollop of soured cream to serve

Method

1) Melt butter in a large pan over a low heat and gently sweat the chopped onions and garlic cloves until the onions are soft and transparent. Keep the lid on the pan. If it looks like things are going to burn, add a half ladle full of stock and put lid back on.
2) Add cup of lentils and stir around so they get covered in the buttery onion mixture.
3) Raise the heat to medium and chuck in a ladle or two of stock. Stir around until the lentils have absorbed the liquid.
4) Add the tomatoes and stir until they have broken up and things are bubbling. If things look like they are burning, add a ladle of stock.
5) Add paprika and rosemary and stir around.
6) Add the rest of the stock and stir occasionally until pan boils.
7) turn down heat slightly and simmer with lid on for around 30 minutes until lentils are tender and consistency is that of a nice thick broth.
8) Remove sprigs of rosemary and garlic cloves from pan and taste.
9) Add salt and pepper to your preference and serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and buttery toast.