Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt 2

It's not that we're giving the gorgeous Diana Henry the cold shoulder so early in our relationship at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but we are giving her a bit of a frosty reception this week.  Yes, we're going "Icy Cold" and coming up with all manner of icy, chilled and frozen treats.

Now, I've told you before, I'm sure, that my dessert of choice pretty much any time of year is a frozen one, so I needed little encouragement to break the ice cream maker out of the cupboard and get churning.  Since I love ice cream, and Diana has loads of ice cream and sorbet recipes in her repertoire, making a bit of frozen magic together seemed inevitable.

My favourite new cookbook, A Change of Appetite, offered lots of gorgeous sorbets which have now been bookmarked, but it was the Greek yoghurt and apricot ice cream that took my fancy.

When apricots are at the height of the season, I usually roast them in batches with a little butter and brown sugar.  The butter and brown sugar more or less turns to caramel and the flavour of the apricots really intensifies.  Then I freeze them in batches to use in ice creams and smoothies all year long.

Roasted Apricot Gelato 2

In the original recipe Diana uses dried apricots and stews them in apple juice, before pureeing and mixing with the yoghurt.  With summer (and apricot season) just around the corner, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to use up one of my remaining bags of roasted apricots.  Diana recommends straining the pureed apricots, to avoid getting "bits" in the ice cream, but I'm personally a bit of a fan of the bits - it reminds me that I'm eating something with real fruit in it - so my apricots got a simple blitz with the food processor only.

When I made this Roasted Apricot Gelato, way back when, I didn't really think it could be improved on.  But I can honestly say that this frozen yoghurt version is a distinct improvement.  I love the slight tartness of the yoghurt with the richness of the roasted apricots.  The yoghurt and creme fraiche provide all the creaminess you would normally get from a custard based ice cream, and is a whole lot quicker and easier to make.  I also like to think that this is a healthier option than a regular ice cream - that may possibly be deluded, but I like to believe it.

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt 1

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from A Change of Appetite
Click here for the free recipe card

6x medium-large fresh apricots
brown sugar

400g (14 oz) Greek yoghurt
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
2 tablespoons runny honey

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Cut apricots in half - remove and discard the stones.  Place apricots cut side up in an ovenproof dish that is just big enough to fit them quite snugly.  Sprinkle each apricot half with a little brown sugar, and top each with a small knob of butter.

Roasted Apricot Gelato 1

Place in hot oven and roast until the apricots have softened and started to collapse, and the sugar and butter have merged with the oozing fruit juices to become almost the consistency of caramel sauce.

This will take about 30 minutes, and it is helpful to baste the fruit with the juices half way through.  Allow to cool completely then, using a food processor or stick blender, blitz to a puree.

Add yoghurt and creme fraiche to the apricot puree and blitz again until combined.

Churn the mixture in a ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instruction.  Halfway through the churning process, drizzle in the honey.  Serve straight away or freeze for a few hours to firm up.

Roasted Apricot Frozen Yoghurt 3

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links (who knows, you might even want to join the journey and cook along with us) ...

Diana Henry badge 1A

... or check out A Change of Appetite and Diana's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Lesley at eat, etc ..., Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf

Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf 1

So far at I Heart Cooking Clubs we've cooked with some great chefs:  Nigella Lawson, Mark Bitman, Giada de Laurentiis, Jamie Oliver, Tessa Kiros, Rick Bayless, Madhur Jaffrey, Yotam Ottolenghi (my favourite), Donna Hay, and Nigel Slater.  I'm excited now to tell you that a new chef joins the line up this week - we will spend the next six months cooking with Diana Henry.

Raised in Northern Ireland, and now living in London, Diana started cooking when she was just six years old, and has never looked back.  She is not just a passionate and adventurous cook, but also a gifted food writer.  Diana has published eight stunning cookbooks, writes a regular column for The Sunday Telegraph's Stella magazine and several other magazines, has her own website and appears on UKTV's Market Kitchen.

Diana talks a lot about the sense of connectedness that food and cooking gives her, something I relate to completely.  To welcome Diana this week to the IHCC fold I turned to her Date, Apricot & Walnut Loaf Cake from her latest book, A Change of Appetite.  In this book she turns towards lighter, fresher, healthier dishes (without any compromise in flavour) inspired often by dishes of the Middle East, Scandinavia, and the Far East.  There are some stunning recipes in this book, and I swear I want to make nearly everything.

I can imagine that if I could sit down in my kitchen for an afternoon with Diana, we would find a great deal to talk about.  Of course there would be coffee, and cake (there has to be cake), and this delicious loaf packed full of dried fruit, seeds and nuts would fit the bill perfectly.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe - don't I always?!  In the original recipe, Diana has you soften the fruit in apple juice and cook it down to a puree - I opted for an infusion of apricot tea and date syrup instead - but really you could use any fruit juice or even just water for that matter.  I cut down the amount of sugar just a little, and I used coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.  In the original recipe, Diana uses a mixture of regular flour and malted brown flour (which is not available here) - I used all wholemeal flour instead.  Lastly, because thoughts of apricots and dates and date syrup always transport me to the Middle East, I used pistachios instead of walnuts.  Once again, you could really use any kind of nuts that you like.

An important note here - my loaf tin is a tiny bit bigger than that called for in the recipe, so I didn't get the nice big slices that I was hoping for.  It also took quite a bit less cooking than that specified in the recipe.  The recipe offers a cooking time of 1-1/4 hours, but I noticed that mine smelled like it was done after about 45 minutes - a quick check, and I found that it was indeed ready, in fact ever so slightly over-done.  This could have been because of my larger tin size, but my tin was not that much bigger that it would have taken half an hour off the cook time I don't think, so I suggest that you keep a close eye on the time.

This is a deliciously moist and flavourful loaf, so fragrant with spices that your house will smell like Christmas while it's baking.  Like anything of this nature, this is fabulous with a generous smear of butter (although entirely unnecessary), and I found that it kept well for a week.  The only reason it lasted so long around here is that someone else in the house is not fussed on apricots - in most normal households I would expect this to be gone in a few days!

Apricot, Date & Pistachio Loaf Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Diana Henry
from A Change of Appetite
Click here for the free recipe card

1 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup apricot tea
1 tablespoon date syrup
175g (6 oz) butter
130g (4.5 oz) brown sugar
grated zest of 1x orange
1x large free-range egg
225g (8 oz) wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
generous grating of fresh nutmeg
1/3 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
generous handful of pumpkin seeds, plus extra for the top
generous handful of sunflower seeds
sprinkling of sesame seeds

Put dates and apricots in a small saucepan with the apricot tea and date syrup.  Set over medium heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until softened to a thick puree - 10 to 15 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Also melt butter and leave it to cool.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Grease a 22cm x 12cm x 6cm (8" x 4-3/4" x 3") loaf tin, and line the base with non-stick baking paper.

Add the cooled butter to the date and apricot mixture, along with the brown sugar, grated orange zest, and the egg.  Mix together well.

Place the flour in a large bowl with the baking powder, mixed spice, nutmeg, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Mix together well, then add the fruit mixture and mix until everything is just combined - don't over-mix.

Tip everything into the prepared baking tin, using a rubber spatula to even out the top.  Sprinkle over the extra pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.  Place tin in the preheated oven, and bake for up to 1-1/4 hours or until golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

If you would like to get to know Diana Henry a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links (who knows, you might even want to join the journey and cook along with us) ...

Diana Henry badge 1A

... or check out A Change of Appetite and Diana's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Lesley at eat, etc ..., Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

Sweet New Zealand Badge A

I'm also linking this post to Tea Time Treats, hosted by one of my favourite bloggers - the lovely Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and The HedgeCombers.  The theme this month is vegetables, and technically there's no vegetables in this recipe, but I've been wanting to join in here for ages, so I'm taking the creative leap that since this loaf contains pumpkin seeds that's near enough :-)

Tea Time Treats

Monday, October 6, 2014

Roasted Aubergine, Red Pepper & Garlic Dip

Roasted Aubergine, Red Pepper & Garlic Dip

This is always one of my favourite times of the month - Secret Recipe Club reveal day.  That day when I, along with all my fellow participants, get to reveal our assigned blog (that person we have been "cyber stalking" for the last month) and the dish we have made from their blog.

But I do have a confession to make.  You see, I have committed the worst possible SRC crime - yes, I was supposed to post this a couple of weeks ago, but made a total mix up of dates and left my assigned blog hanging - Amy, how will you ever forgive me?  Thankfully our host, Sarah, has allowed me to atone for my sins by putting up my post this week with a different group.

Anyways, enough about that.  My assigned blog this month was Fearless Homemaker, hosted as you are now aware by Amy.  Raised in Boston, and now living in Nashville, Amy is a self-described food and cocktail lover, enthusiastic entertainer, and crafty DIYer.  Amy has a masters degree in Positive Psychology, and works as a co-ordinator for Cultural Care Au Pair.  She is passionate about cultural exchange, and working with the American host families and their international au pairs to ensure a positive experience for everyone.

Amy had so many recipes I wanted to try (every one of them beautifully photographed), and a number of them have now been pinned for me to make at a later date, like this Slow-Cooker Chicken & Mushroom Farro Risotto, Spaghetti with Oven Roasted Tomatoes & Caramelised Fennel, and this Glazed Lemon Pound Cake.  Actually it was the lemon pound cake that I was intent on making, but with an aubergine hanging around in the veggie bin which was in dire need of being used up, it was Amy's Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper & Garlic Spread that won the day.

This was quick and easy to prepare, particularly using some ready roasted red peppers as I did - I roast loads of them during the season, and then bottle them in olive oil.  Just perfect for adding to salads, antipasto platters, casseroles, and pasta sauces throughout the rest of the year.  I skipped the onion, since we're not much fussed on it around here, and I added in a little bit of chilli paste for an extra kick, and a bit of paprika for it's lovely smokiness which I think is perfect with eggplant.

This dip is wonderful used, as Amy did, as a spread on fresh bread.  It would also be great served as a dip for other vegetables.  We used it as a rich, flavourful sauce for pasta, and would also be wonderful used as a pizza sauce - a great alternative for those who are sensitive to tomatoes.  This was so good, I made a second batch, which I've now stashed in the freezer ready for a quick mid-week meal.

Roasted Aubergine, Red Pepper & Garlic Dip
Adapted from this recipe at Fearless Homemaker
Click here for the free recipe card

1x medium sized aubergine, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes
olive oil
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
3x roasted red peppers, preserved in olive oil, drained and roughly chopped
(or 2x fresh red peppers, deseeded and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks)
2x cloves garlic, unpeeled and left whole
2 teaspoons chilli paste
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste (leave this out if you are sensitive to tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (425 degrees F).

Toss eggplant cubes and garlic cloves with a generous slosh of olive oil, and a good seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  (If you're using fresh red peppers, toss them in as well.)

Line a shallow roasting tray with baking parchment and spread vegetables in a single layer over the tray.  Place tray in the oven and roast until tender and golden - about 20 to 30 minutes.  (Keep an eye on the garlic - it can burn quickly, so you may want to remove it half way through.) Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Squeeze garlic cloves out of their skins, and add them to a food processor, along with the eggplant and peppers.  Blitz to a coarse paste.  Add the chilli paste, paprika, tomato paste, and a generous slosh of olive oil (I used the reserved oil from the roasted peppers).  Process until you reach a spreadable consistency.  Taste and season with extra sea salt and pepper if desired.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and visit the links below to check out all the other great dishes my Secret Recipe Club friends made.

Also shared at Hearth and Soul, hosted by the lovely April J. Harris.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Farewell Nigel, and a Round-up of My Favourites

If you've been following here for a while then you will most likely know that I am a regular participant and co-host at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where each six months our members elect a new chef with whom we will spend the ensuing six months cooking according to a variety of weekly themes.  You will also know that for the last six months we have been cooking with British cook, Nigel Slater, and this week is time to say our goodbyes.

This is always a bittersweet moment - a little hint of sadness as one journey comes to an end, tinged with the excitement and anticipation of welcoming in a new chef.  You'll find out more about that next week, but for now I wanted to share with you a round-up of my favourite Nigel Slater dishes of the last six months.

Warm Lentil, Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Roasted Tomatoes

Warm Lentil,Leek & Lemon Salad with Prawns & Tomatoes 2

This dish was actually inspired by Nigel's "Lentil soup, with lemon, pancetta and mint".  It turned out to be one of those dishes which, in its entirety, was so much greater than the sum of its parts, and was not just every bit as good as I expected it to be, but in actual fact exceeded all my expectations.

Roasted Potato Salad with Black Olive & Roasted Garlic Gremolata

Roasted Potato Salad with Black Olive & Roasted Garlic Gremolata 2

This was a dish which not only drew inspiration from Nigel, but also from my friend Toby at Plate Fodder.  Potatoes are par-boiled, then smashed and oven roasted with rosemary and garlic.  That in itself is a pretty good thing, but then the crispy roasted potatoes are drizzled straight from the oven with a mustardy vinaigrette, and then topped with a gremolata of black olives, rosemary, garlic and lemon zest.  A taste sensation, and the perfect accompaniment to the Sunday night roast chook.

Curried Carrot, Lentil & Roasted Tomato Soup

Curried Carrot, Lentil & Roasted Tomato Soup 1.jpg

In many ways carrots are one of my least favourite vegetables, so I'd always been a bit dubious about carrot soup.  This stunning soup, loaded with red lentils, spicy curry powder, fragrant coconut milk and slow roasted tomatoes helped me overcome all my carrot soup fears!

Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones

Pumpkin, Date & Chocolate Scones 2

Roasted Pumpkin Laksa

Roasted Pumpkin Laksa 3

This laksa is perfect for a cold winter evening.  The sweet, soft, nutty pumpkin, silky rice noodles, crispy bok choy and bean sprouts, all bathed in a gorgeously fragrant, coconut-rich broth, makes for a symphony of flavours and textures.

Gnocchi with Chorizo, Gorgonzola & Spinach

Gnocchi with chorizo, gorgonzola & spinach 2

This is the ultimate one-pan wonder.  A dish for those occasions when only a big helping of carbs, smothered in cream and cheese, and topped off with a bit of fried sausage, will satisfy, and just enough spinach to assuage the guilt - slightly!

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez Sausage & Black Olives

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez & Black Olives 3

This was easily my favourite Nigel Slater dish, and in fact one of my favourite dishes I've ever posted.  Chunks of steamed butternut pumpkin, spicy nuggets of merguez sausage, and black olives, are baked under a topping of cheesy, garlicky breadcrumbs.  Seriously, if you only ever try one dish from my blog, this would be a good place to start.

With that, it's time to say "Cheerio" to Nigel, and don't forget to come back next week to see who we'll be welcoming as our next IHCC chef.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Tender, Vol. 1 and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fricassee Salad

Fricassee Salad 1

Just when I was thinking he couldn't surprise me any longer, Yotam Ottolenghi comes along and damn nearly blew my mind.

I've been cooking and posting Ottolenghi dishes for the last four and a half years, when I first introduced him to you with this Baked Aubergine with Saffron Yoghurt Sauce and Pomegranate.  We often hear the term "genre-bending" applied to movies, novels, works of art, and pieces of music - I'm not sure if such a term can be applied to food and cooking, but if it can then I'm sure it certainly applies here.  That was a dish unlike anything I'd eaten or cooked before, and it was for me the beginning of a whole new food journey.

Over this time, I've been stunned by the wonderful flavour and texture combinations Ottolenghi pulls together.  He's introduced me to unique ingredients, which I had never previously heard of, and which have now become part of my every day pantry staples.

Yet, even though ingredients such as harissa paste, preserved lemons, pomegranate molasses, za'atar, dried Persian limes, rose petals, and orange flower water, have all now become almost "common place" in my kitchen, the flavour punch that these ingredients deliver is anything but.

So it should have come as no surprise that this dish, adapted from Ottolenghi's book Jerusalem, completely knocked my socks off, but I was still seriously "wowed" by it.

Fricassee Salad 2

In his preface to the recipe, Ottolenghi says that "This salad is a deconstruction of Tunisian fricassee - a fried bun stuffed with tuna, harissa, olives, anchovies, a spicy pumpkin relish, pickled lemon, cooked potato and hard boiled egg."  He remarks that the resemblance to the classic French Nicoise salad is no coincidence, "and is evidence of the interaction between French and Tunisian cuisines during the years of French occupation".

I made a few changes to the recipe, mostly for the sake of convenience.  Firstly, the original recipe called for fresh tuna to be gently poached in oil and then left to stand for 24 hours.  For ethical reasons, much as I love tuna, I choose not to eat it.  And, although, I thought this technique could just as readily be applied to a nice piece of salmon, I was after lunch in half an hour - not tomorrow.  Ottolenghi does suggest a good canned tuna as a substitute for the confiting process, but it turned out I had a nice piece of smoked mackerel on hand and decided that would make an acceptable alternative.  Ottolenghi's recipe also calls for boiling potatoes in water flavoured with plenty of turmeric, but again I was looking for something a little more instant.  Instead I brushed a flour tortilla (any flat bread would do) with a mixture of olive oil and turmeric, for that gorgeous golden colour, and sprinkled it with a little za'atar for good measure, then baked until crisp, and crumbled it into the salad.

I'm sure the original recipe is sensational, and I will definitely take the time to make it as written (subbing in some salmon for the tuna) very soon, but this shortcut version made a fast, flavourful lunch that ticked all the boxes for me.  The bold combination of harissa, anchovies, black olives, capers, and preserved lemons packed a flavour punch that delivered so much more than I expected.

If you own a copy of Jerusalem, you will know that every time you pick it up (constantly), there are a couple of recipes that you frequently tell yourself "I have to make that", and yet somehow it hasn't happened yet.  Our mandate this month at Tasting Jerusalem* group is to do just that.  I had a couple of recipes lined up and let me tell you this was not one of them.  This was one of the recipes that I've kind of just skimmed over so many times and, if it wasn't for the fact that I was looking for lunch and recognised that I had pretty much all the ingredients on hand, I probably would have done so again.  I'm ever so grateful that this recipe stopped me in my tracks - it's worth so much more than a fleeting glance, and has definitely been bookmarked by me now as one of the standout recipes in the book.  I hope you'll give this a try.

Fricassee Salad 3

Fricassee Salad
Makes one very generous meal, or two appetisers
Adapted from recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi
from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

150-200g (5-7 oz) smoked fish, flaked into bite sized chunks
1x flour tortilla
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
anchovies, as many as you like (I used four), roughly chopped
1 tablespoon harissa paste
capers, again as many as you like
1/4 of a preserved lemon, rind only (flesh discarded), thinly sliced
black olives, as many as you like
1x fresh lemon, zest and juice
1/2 roasted red pepper, cut into thin slices
1x boiled egg, shelled and quartered
2x generous handfuls salad greens (I used a mixture of baby spinach & cos)
1x generous handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).  Mix 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and the turmeric together to make a paste, and brush over the surface of the flour tortilla.  Sprinkle liberally with za-atar. (If you don't have za'atar, try a sprinkling of dried thyme and sesame seeds instead.)  Place on a tray and bake in the preheated oven until puffed and crispy - this will only take a few minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  It will crisp up some more as it cools down.

Place anchovies, harissa paste, capers, black olives and preserved lemon rind in a small bowl.  Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a generous slosh of olive oil (I used the oil that the roasted peppers had been preserved in).  Toss together gently to combine.

Place salad greens, parsley, red peppers, and flakes of smoked fish in a large bowl.  Season with just a touch of flaky sea salt, and add the grated zest of the lemon, along with its juice.  Gently combine.

Now add the anchovy mixture to the salad bowl, and toss gently to combine everything well.  Place everything in a serving bowl.  Arrange boiled eggs over the top, and finish with another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Serve immediately.

If you're interested in more great food from Ottolenghi check out Jerusalem and his other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.

* Have a look also at what my "Tasting Jerusalem" friends have been doing - you'll find plenty of great inspiration. (“Tasting Jerusalem is a virtual cooking community exploring the vibrant flavors and cuisine of the Middle East through the lens of “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Ottolenghi and Tamimi published by Ten Speed Press. You can follow along and cook with us by subscribing to, following the hashtag #TastingJrslm on Twitter and Instagram, liking our Facebook page or joining our Google+ Community and finally checking out all of our groups’ dishes on Pinterest.”)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lettuce & Pea Soup

Pea & Lettuce Soup 2

Spring has well and truly sprung in my part of the world and, after the dreariness of winter, the arrival of new growth and the abundance of all things green is definitely a welcome sight.  Tender lettuce leaves and the first of the season's asparagus send me rushing to the kitchen with new enthusiasm, ready to create dishes with the lightness and lushness that befits the season.

Like most other parts of the world, however, spring here in New Zealand can be a pretty changeable affair - weatherwise anyway.  Warm, sunny days one minute - cooler, drizzly days the next.  It was such a day today - cool and gloomy.  Just perfect for a nice bowl of soup for lunch, but a soup on the lighter side, a soup that positively screams spring.

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're ladling it up, making Nigel Slater soups, stews, curries and other bowlfuls of goodness.  Nigel's "Soup of lettuce and peas" from Tender, vol. I, made the perfect lunch for today.  I reduced the original recipe a bit, since I had no need to feed six people.  This amount was just right to give me two good sized bowls today, and enough left over to take to work for my lunch tomorrow.  In other changes, I swapped in some leek instead of shallot, used parsley instead of mint, and finished things off with a swirl of coconut cream since I have some left over from last night's Shrimp & Curried Coconut Risotto (one of my favourite old recipes that I come back to time and time again).  In hindsight, I think a little grated lemon zest and a spritz of fresh lemon juice would work well here too.

This recipe is ridiculously quick and easy to make, deliciously fresh, and light enough that you could actually serve this as part of a multi-course meal.  I seldom have soup other than as a meal in it's own right, but this one could definitely fit into a bigger meal without filling you up too much.  It's pretty and elegant, and I wouldn't hesitate to serve this to company.  I hope you'll give it a try.

Pea & Lettuce Soup 1

Pea & Lettuce Soup Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Nigel Slater
from Tender, Vol. I
Serves 2
Click here for the free recipe card

1/2 an iceberg lettuce (or other lettuce of your choice)
generous knob of butter
1/2 a small leek, thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups frozen peas
2 cups vegetable stock
large handful of flat-leaf parsley
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
coconut cream to finish

Separate lettuce leaves, wash thoroughly, and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add leek to the pan and saute until they have begun to soften, but not brown.

Roughly chop or tear the lettuce and add to the pan, stirring occasionally.  As soon as the lettuce begins to wilt, add the peas, stock and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the peas are cooked through and the lettuce is thoroughly wilted.

Remove from heat, and blitz until smooth either in a blender or using a stick blender.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

Serve immediately, and finish with a drizzle of coconut cream.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Tender, Vol. 1 and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.

See Ya in The Gumbo Badge    Souper Sundays Badge    Weekend Cooking Badge    Foodie Friday Badge

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Round The World 5-Stop Culinary Tour

La Boqueria 2

It's no secret that my favourite topic of conversation is food, and when I talk about this dish or that I have been creating, people often ask for the recipe.  So, when I first started blogging a bit over five years ago, it was really just a way to make that recipe sharing easy.   It was also a way to give voice to some of my thoughts about food, travel, yoga, and occasionally life in general.

Back then I never imagined anyone, other than immediate family and acquaintances, actually reading my posts.  I never dreamed that this "little hobby" would connect me with people, not only from all over my own country, but also from all corners of the globe, some of whom have touched my life in remarkable ways, and several of whom have become genuine friends.

So when the lovely Tina from Squirrel Head Manor invited me to participate in the Cross Country Culinary Tour, I was keen for the opportunity not just to tell you a bit more about myself, but also about Tina and a few of the other blogs I like to visit.

As I just mentioned, Tina hosts the blog Squirrel Head Manor, which I first discovered through the I Heart Cooking Clubs group.  Of course, like most of us, Tina loves to cook and share her delicious recipes.  Like me, she also likes a good wine with the food she creates, and often shares posts about her latest wine finds - from time to time she comes up with a New Zealand wine which always makes me smile.  Tina loves to travel, has a passion for genealogy, is a proud army mum, and also "mum" to a couple of shiba inus dogs.  Tina has a great sense of humour, and living in Florida, where I'm convinced they have perpetual sunshine (she assures me they have a winter, but I'm not buying it), you can often find her and her husband enjoying a grill and dinner on the patio.  There are many months of the year when I am insanely envious of that.

Check out this Bourbon & Brown Sugar Tenderloin, served of course with a Bordeaux Chateau Blouin.

Now I'm supposed to answer a few questions so you can get to know me better.

What am I working on currently on the blog?
Since starting my blog, I have found that there are several of my recipes that I go back to time and time again.  Having my laptop open on the kitchen bench so that I can look at the recipe is not always that convenient, so I recently had a go at creating recipe cards for the last couple of posts I published.  I was so pleased with the results, that I'm planning on revisiting a lot of my older posts and making recipe cards for lots of my favourite recipes.  I may even put together a few selections of cards for Xmas gifts for friends.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I'm not sure that there really is anything particularly unique about my blog.  I like food, I write about food, I try to take pretty pictures of food - doesn't everybody?!  My principal point of view though would be trying to encourage you, as much as possible, to develop a genuine "awareness" of what you're eating and to make food from scratch.  It's actually not as daunting as it might seem - it just requires a little bit of planning.
Why do I write what I do?
Several years ago I read a book called "The Ethics of What We Eat".  At the same time, through my regular yoga practice, I was developing greater consciousness in many areas of my life.  It might sound cliched, but that was a life changing read.  It brought into question for me many ethical issues around the food that I eat.  Questions of eating local versus imported food, supporting farmers and growers in third world countries versus supporting local producers, the environmental impact of growing and producing everything we eat, eating animal products - or not, and many, many more issues.  I could write volumes on this subject, but I'll spare you.  In short, the main conclusion I came to, was that unless I had the time to spend hours and hours researching every single ingredient I purchase, it's impossible to make an ethically sound judgement about everything I consume, and I shouldn't beat myself up trying.  I can, however, take the time to consume as little processed food as possible, and I can take the time before blithely throwing ingredients into my supermarket trundler to consider where it has come from, who might have produced it, what animal may have given up its life for it.  That "consciousness" of what I consume is what I'm passionate about, and is what I hope readers of my blog will pick up on over time.

How does my writing process work?
I'd love to try and sound like a real writer and tell you all about "my process", but in all honesty there isn't one.  Sometimes I write things in my head while I'm standing in the shower - in fact, I come up with some of my best lines in the shower.  But it's usually forgotten by the time I come to write a post. 

Now that's enough about me.  I'm supposed to now introduce you to three blogs I enjoy and visit regularly, and then it would be their turn.  I didn't have any luck in finding any fellow bloggers who wanted to participate, but I thought I would nevertheless take you on a quick "world tour" of some of the bloggers I visit regularly and who also host some of the events I regularly like to participate in.

So first of all we're heading north across the Pacific to Hawaii, where my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, is not only one of my co-hosts at I Heart Cooking Clubs, but also hosts a weekly event called Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays.  As if that wasn't enough, Deb is also one of the co-hosts of Cook the Books, and Food 'n' Flix.  On top of all that she manages to dish up plenty of beautiful, mostly healthy food, along with book reviews and the occasional restaurant review.  I have only one question for Deb - how do you do it?!!

From Hawaii, we're headed to Malaysia, where I'd like to introduce you to Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.  Joyce is another blogger I got to know through I Heart Cooking Clubs, and I love the way no matter what the theme or who we are cooking with, Joyce always manages to come up with her own "spiced up" version of things.  I read Joyce's posts and the tantalising smell of spices and curry leaves swirls through my mind.  Joyce hosts Cook Your Books, a monthly event to get you cooking out of that collection of cook books you have;  The Home Bakers, currently dedicated to baking every recipe from "Coffee Cakes" by Lou Seibert Pappas;  and co-hosts Bake Along.

Now, we're flying off to the south of France to meet the lovely Karen at Lavender and Lovage.  I first "met" Karen just a few months ago through the Secret Recipe Club in which we both participate.  It didn't taken long to discover that we had a great deal in common - a culinary history hugely influenced by our grandmothers, and a shared philosophy of cooking mostly from scratch, growing what you can, and cooking with seasonal, locally grown produce.  I have a fantasy of one day turning up in the south of France, cycling up to Karen's back door, and sitting at her kitchen table to enjoy a natter over a cuppa and cake.  Of course there would be cake, but why my fantasy involves a bicycle I have no idea, since I never ride a bike in my normal life - still that's what fantasies are for I guess.  Karen also hosts Cooking with Herbs and Tea Time Treats.

You still with me?  Next stop on our tour is Berkshire in England, where I want you to meet April at The 21st Century Housewife.  April grew up in Canada before moving to England in her early twenties.  April's blog grew out of a series of essays she wrote to help herself and other stay at home mums overcome the negativity that can often arise around being a full time homemaker.  April and her busy corporate husband travel and entertain extensively, and you'll find April's blog chock full of travel, entertaining, style and fashion tips.  April also co-hosts the Hearth and Soul blog event - a weekly event around family and comfort food posts, sustainable living posts, gardening, family, kids, crafts and DIY.

From England, we're headed across the Atlantic to visit the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace in the state of Louisiana.  Michelle writes passionately about Cajun and Creole food, as well as Louisiana music and Mardi Gras.  She is equally passionate about the coastal erosion that is changing the landscape of her home state.  And whilst there is sometimes a serious note to her posts, she more often than not truly makes me laugh out loud.  It has been said that a "really good friend is one who makes you snort when you laugh, and will still hang out with you when you do it in public".  I always imagine Michelle to be exactly that kind of friend.  Michelle hosts the weekly See Ya In the Gumbo blog event, a tribute to her great grandfather who always used to say see ya in the gumbo instead of goodbye.

There are a few others I could add to this mix, but I figure five is enough - you should all be pretty jet lagged by now.  I hope you've enjoyed this tour with me, and come back tomorrow to see what's been cooking in my kitchen.