I cringe that I have committed at least one of these sins…
Sorry Conor 😦
I cringe that I have committed at least one of these sins…
Sorry Conor 😦
I remember when I was a young lad that a public holiday would always bring relatives scurrying together from all over the country to gather at my grandparents house. Chief amongst these holidays were Christmas and Easter. I think it had something to do with the double public holiday that meant (as was the case in late 1970s and early 1980s UK) that everything would stop, work, shopping and regular life. The only things that would occur would be cooking, eating, drinking and the playing of games.
The games were my favourite part of the festive season, particularly hours spent playing cards (and watching others playing). Card games would often go on until the early hours and would be sustained by my dear grandmother producing seamlessly endless platters of tasty sandwiches made with home made bread and home cooked meets. Favourite amongst these was the home cooked ham, so different from supermarket bought wet, flabby insipid pink blancmangey stuff that was in vogue at that time. Firm, with a hint of smoke, mustard and honey, it really only needed a smear of chutney to make a great sandwich.
Even though there will only be a few of us together for Easter in Gisborne, New Zealand this year, I still cant resist cooking a holiday ham – I justify that we will get plenty of meals from it, but really it gives me a chance to indulge in some introspective nostalgia and remember the laughter and fun filled holidays of my childhood – Happy Holidays.
Serves: Around a million rounds of late night sandwiches
2.5 – 3kg smoked gammon joint (size is not key here!).
About 20 peppercorns
Around 10 cloves
2 Star Anise
4 Bay leaves
2-3 Tbsp Maple syrup
2-3 Tbsp English mustard
For the glaze
2-3 Tbsp Manuka Honey
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp English mustard
2 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp oil
Several good grinds of black pepper
Serve hot with eggs and chips or cold with your favourite salad, cheeses, crusty bread and chutneys.
We have pretty much finished touring around the South Island (Mainland?!) of New Zealand – a spectacular experience. New Zealand never fails to delight me in so much as you can drive for a couple of hours and find yourself in somewhere very different from where you just left – and you can do it repeatedly.
Whilst driving through the ‘Catlins’ the most southerly part of the South Island between Dunedin and Invercargill) it was getting near lunchtime and we happened across a fantastic café – the Niagara Falls café. Although the middle of summer, it was freezing and blowing a hoolie of a gale. The menu was brilliant, and I picked the Blue Cod for which the area of the cold southern oceans are famous for. The fish was cooked perfectly and was served quite simply so that you could taste the delicate flavours.
A couple of weeks later when we were in Wellington, I saw Blue Cod at a market and still hankering for the flavours of the Catlins, thought I would recreate what I had been served. The recipe is really easy and even people that (say that they) don’t really like fish will eat it. If you are scared of cooking fish as some people seem to be, then give this one a go…
4 x 150g very fresh fillets of Blue Cod (You could use any other delicately flavoured firm white fish, just make sure it is super fresh – always talk to the person serving you the fish and be nice to them!)
50g butter for frying
Zest and juice from 1 large or 2 small lemons
1glass of unoaked Chardonnay
30 – 50g butter (I know, a second lot…)
Salt and pepper
Accompany with buttery mashed potatoes and wilted spinach
In a large, heavy pan melt 50g butter on a medium heat
As butter starts to foam, add your fish fillets.
Leave to fry gently for around 2-3 minutes until flesh is going opaque on top.
Turn fillets over with a palette knife to avoid them breaking up
Fry for a further minute or two
Add lemon zest and juice to pan, then remove fish and place on top of plated spinach and mash
Add glass of wine to pan and reduce down until you have around 100-150ml of fluid.
Add butter to pan and season to taste
Pour sauce over fish and serve immediately
Beginning our three month tour of New Zealand, the first place we landed was Dunedin, in the south of the South Island. The place is a bit of a foodie mecca and my wife was gracious enough to buy me an evening cooking course with one of Dunedin’s best chefs Judith Cullen.
Talking with Judith, she told me all about a great Farmer’s market held down by the (disused) railway station every Saturday morning. I of course went and was amazed by the great selection of fresh produce available. We visited in mid February (late summer) and there was an impressive selection of local vegetables. The stars emongst these organic gems seemed to be the avocadoes, corn cobs and fantastic tomatoes. They were all abundant and at great prices.
As often happens, I buy what is in season, good and cheap. Much to my wifes frustration, I rarely shop with a meal in mind, or if I do, I will end up changing it halfway through my shop. I create meals from what is available (sometimes I have great diasters, sometimes amazing successes).
Having returned to our holiday rental in Dunedin’s Mornington suburb pleased with my haul of vegetables and some great fresh herbs, my wife reminds me that we need something to go with all the veg – your daughter needs protein! (I had intended to get some great New Zealand lamb, but got carried away with the green stuff).
Quick as a flash I had a brainwave “I thought we would use up the rest of the roast chicken in the fridge”. I had got away with it.
Picking the meat off the carcass of last night’s chicken is a particular pleasure, finding all the delicious juicy bits that seem to have grown overnight.
So here is my recipe for a delicious summer meal that can be cooked quick as a flash…
Around 2 cups of cooked chicken
Small bunch of taragon
Salt & Pepper
Around 200g ricotta cheese
A little chicken stock or water (30-60ml)
2 sheets puff pastry (make your own if you have a spare 9 hours or so, otherwise use ready made)
Optional – a handful of chopped mushrooms
For the Dunedin Salsa
About 15-20 dried cherry tomatoes (very easy to make your self or use sun dried tomatoes)
2 ripe avocadoes
Small bunch coriander
2-3 Tbsp Caramelised balsamic vinegar
3-5 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
4 or 5 pickled ‘pepperdew’ peppers
1 tsp smoked paprika
Corn from 2-3 cooked cobs of corn (or one large can)
Salt & pepper
Set oven to 185c
Combine cooked chicken, tarragon, ricotta (and mushrooms if using).
Add sufficient stock/water to loosen up the mixture a little without making it too runny. Exact quantity depends on how runny your ricotta is, how dry your chicken is, which way the wind is blowing etc, etc.
Taste mixture and season to your preference.
Divide ready made pastry sheets into two equal sized rectangles.
Add a good dollop of your filling into the lower half of each rectangle.
Wet the edge of the pastry all around and fold over the rest of the rectangle to make a square with the filling in the middle of it.
Press the moistened edges of the pastry together firmly with your fingers tips. Once pressed all round, fold over 5mm or so of the pastry on the 3 press together sides to make a neat edge.
Brush the filled pastry square with water all over and make a couple of holes or slits in the top.
Transfer your pastry slices onto a baking paper lined tray and place in oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Whilst cooking, prepare the salsa
Chop avocado.pepperdew peppers and cherry tomatoes into smallish pieces.
Chop coriander roughly
Combine the rest of the ingridents together in a large bowl and then add the stuff you chopped up.
Taste and season
Serve the slices warm with a good portion of the salsa – have salsa spare as everyone always seems to want seconds…
As you may have noticed, there has been a bit of a gap (to say the least!) between blog posts. There have been many reasons (read excuses here): Christmas, New Years, Goodbyes, Hellos, travelling around Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. The truth is I have been swept along in the moment and lost my blogging mojo. I really want to post, but somehow it keeps dropping down my to do list.
As I have alluded to above, we have been doing a lot of travelling around in 2012 – a fantastic experience and one that has allowed us to experience so many amazing things in such a short space of time. My wife is an avid blogger and has made a pretty good job of recording our adventures.
Anyway, I resolve afresh to blog my recipes more often
Please stick with me!
So, we are now back in the UK and merrily entering into the fray of the festive season. A christmas cake is baked, menus planned for the various family and friend celebrations and excess is being happily anticipated.
My little girl frequently likes to help me out in the kitchen, what she lacks in technical ability, she makes up for in abundance with enthusiasm.
A lot of friends and neighbours have given her some great gifts, so we thought we would return the favour with something crisp and festive that goes well with the seasonal fare, whether that be a schooner of sherry, cup of coffee or pitcher of egg-nog.
These Christmas Cookies are easy to make and great fun for kids to get involved with – a very useful way to use up half a day or so if you are faced with bored kids and wet weather over the holiday season.
They taste buttery, sweet and crisp and can be decorated in an understated way with a dusting of icing sugar, but I’m sure the kids will be able to create some altogether more dazzling creations with access to food colourings, icing and edible decorations.
300g White Sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract (or 3 tsp ground giner)
500g dairy free margarine (butter is ok for those that are not baking dairy free!)
750g plain flour
2 egg yolks
1 cup of icing sugar
3 Tbsp water
1. Place sugar, vanilla/ginger, egg yolks and margarine/butter in a large bowl and mix until pale and creamy – you may want to use an electric mixer (or if you need to use up time, get the kids to mix using a whisk or fork!).
3. Using your hands as sparingly as possible, combine into a slightly dry dough and divide into two or three large discs of dough.
4. Wrap discs in clingfilm and place in fridge for 30-40 minutes
5. Take discs out of fridge and roll to the thickness of a pound (or euro) coin.
6. Turn on oven to 170C.
7. Cut out shapes using a small cutter and place on a lightly floured baking tray (or 3!).
8. Bake for around 8 minutes until just golden – all ovens are different so adjust if necessary.
9. Leave cookies to cool on wire rack.
10. Mix together icing sugar and water until you have a thickish paste.
11. Divide icing into several small pots and colour as apopropriate.
12. With a teaspoon, place small amount on each cookie and spread around until thinly dispersed.
13. Place sprinkles and edible decorations on the icing whilst it is still tacky so they will stick.
14. leave cookies to dry for an hour or so.
15. Divide up into small batches, wrap in cellophane sealed with a bow and make your friends and neighbours smile.