I am very excited! My neighbour Anna has finally parted with her secret granola recipe after about six months of me trying to weasel it out of her. Anna was the one of the first people I met when we moved from New Zealand to New Jersey last year. We bonded instantly over pina coladas (ready-made box mix but who's judging?), a shared love of books and had 5 year old sons in common.
Those who know Anna well, will agree that while she has many gorgeous qualities, culinary talent is just not one of them. She will be the witty, effervescent guest at your dinner party, just not the chef! Anna's philosophy on food and cooking: 'You only need to know how to cook one or two dishes really well and everyone will be fooled...'. This granola is one of those dishes (and actually I have had a few of her other specialties and they are all VERY good - Cola Cake and Artichoke Dip to name a few).
After tasting her granola, many people could be forgiven for thinking she is this amazing earth mother-type, yoga following, health fanatic. Meanwhile, the reality is, she eats this AND Lucky Charms with equal abandon. Now, had Anna had more time, she would have written this post herself... but alas, she has been too busy cooking it for sick friends and new Moms because that's the amazing type of woman she is. This recipe makes enough to keep a family going for a good couple of weeks and also makes a great weekend gift for hostesses.
(Makes 2 cookie trays worth)
12 cups Oats or 1 large container of old fashioned (not quick cook ones)
1 cup canola or vegetable oil - measure this first so honey and syrup (coming next!) will slip out easily
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
Any nuts/seed you like - 3/4 to a cup of each: Walnuts, almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds
1 - 1/2 cups dried fruit..apricots, sugared pineapple, raisins, craisins, figs or mixed dried fruit diced into small pieces.
Pre-heat oven 250 F (Regular Bake)
Spray 2 cookie trays with cooking spray or non stick oil.Mix all ingredients [except fruit]* together in a VERY large bowl (or lobster pot if that's your largest receptacle, as Anna does) and spread out onto greased cookie trays with wooden spoon that has also been sprayed with cooking oil. Set oven timer for 20 minute intervals and bake, rotating trays periodically. Cook for approx.1hr 10 mins in total or until golden.
*NOTE: You MUST add fruit AFTER cooking otherwise you'll end up with nasty charred leather, that not even vaguely resembles dried fruit!
Let cool in trays and then spoon into jars, bags etc.
PS If anyone reading this with kids in Anna's son's class even thinks about copying her and giving this as a teacher gift, she will hunt them down...!
I love things from other people's pantries. Don't worry I'm not about to snoop into yours, and help myself to your stuff. What I mean is, I have always had a thing for vintage kitchen items. Whether it be crockery (the more mismatching the better)glasses, pots and pans or the actual cupboards themselves. My Mum has been a great source of family treasures, passing on gorgeous old tea sets to my sister and I over the years. There really is something special about sipping from a cup that your great grandmother also drank out of!
Consequently, I have developed a love for pottering in second hand stores, antique and op shops (something else I inherited from Mum!). In upstate New York there are some great antique barns that we recently discovered, full of amazing old trash and treasure or 'shabby s@#*' as my friend's husband fondly refers to it as! Yep - turns out old stuff is not everyone's [fine bone china] cup of tea!
Luckily for me, husband is also quite keen on old stuff though he usually heads to the books, tools or sporting equipment while I check out kitchen items. We have discovered a fantastic antiques centre in Coxsackie, NY
- a huge 15,00 sq ft barn full of 'everything imaginable' - including the gorgeous vintage mason jars in the photo above. I managed to sneak a few into the car last time we were up there, along with an old milk bottle, a 1950's stool and some great soup bowls.
As I wander the aisles it makes me realise how much simpler life was in previous times - and it truly did revolve around the home and in particular the kitchen. Picking up 50 year old muffin trays, I can only imagine the hundreds of people they have fed over the years. And then I start thinking of the amazing old recipes handed down, not to mention the cocktails and parties the glasses have seen...
This year, sadly, I left it a bit late to do a lot with the overflow of tomatoes from our garden. We seemed to have tomatoes ten ways (every night for about a month) but, inspired by all the lovely old preserving jars I saw recently, I managed to make a small batch of a classic kiwi relish. The recipe is from a classic Kiwi cookbook, The Edmonds Cookery Book
[first published in 1907] that no self-respecting young New Zealander either a. leaves home or b. leaves the country, without. Everyone I know has a well splattered copy that has often seen quite a bit of the world, tucked into backpacks for that other great Kiwi rite of passage, the overseas experience or OE. According to Edmonds' records, over 3,000,000 copies have been sold.
NOTE: The old jars
are great for holding flowers and trinkets but, errr probably not so great for modern day versions of all things jammed, jellied and pickled - best hit the Christmas Tree Shop [in the US - great prices!] or The Warehouse? [in NZ] and get yourself some new ones! Tomato Relish (adapted from and with thanks to Edmonds)1.5 kg tomatoes (about 3 pounds)4 red onions1 1/2 TBspns salt1 1/12 cups brown sugar 1 1/2 cups malt and about 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar3 chillies (deseeded and chopped finely)2 Tbspns wholegrain mustard1 Tbspn curry powder 2 TBspns flour1/4 cup malt vinegarBlanch, skin and quarter tomatoes and place in a bowl with onions. Sprinkle with salt and leave for 12 hours.Drain off liquid and put tomatoes, sugar, first lot of vinegar and chillies into a large heavy bottomed pot or preserving pan. Boil on low heat for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, stirring a lot! Mix mustard, curry powder, flour and second lot of vinegar to a smooth paste and add to relish. Boil a further 5 minutes.Pack into small well sterilised preserving jars. Serve with cheese and crackers, spread on bread, toast, whatever!Makes about 5 or 6 8 oz jars [4 x 350 ml jars]
We recently found a little old seafood cook book from an unknown vintage -possibly 1930's?- which the husband (a keen fisherman) was eager to try out. However looking through the recipes, I wasn't convinced. Bearing in mind, the majority of them call for tinned fish (the book is produced by a canned fish company) but when something starts off with the words, 'Open a can of salmon...' I must admit, I stop reading.
I guess I have been very spoilt growing up in a beautiful island country surrounded by water. We have always had access (whether through family and friends or the local fish and chip shop) to fantastic fresh fish and seafood [more about this in a later post]. Because their dad is a fisherman/diver, my kids have grown up loving fresh fish and we usually make our own crumbed fish bites when he comes home with a haul...[personally though, I sometimes think my kids would even eat a fried dish sponge as it is the frying that is possibly the key?!].
So it was with trepidation that I decided to try one of the recipes in the book the other night. This is a book I might add, with such culinary delights as Boiled Mackerel ['Put it on to boil in cold water, with white potatoes, and boil gently for thirty minutes'} and Salmon with Peas ['Heat the can of salmon in boiling water twenty minutes. Open the can on the side near the top and turn the fish carefully onto the platter from which it is to be served. Surround the salmon with peas, which have been heated and seasoned. Serve with white sauce.']...!! Not to mention the rather dubious sounding Sea Moss Chocolate Jelly ??!
However, the book is delightful and very comprehensive...who knew there were so many ways with tinned fish? So I have slightly adapted their recipe for Fresh Cod Fish Baked with Cheese with an old family fish pie recipe.
Best Fish Pie
This is ideal if you can get hold of smoked fish - if not, use the freshest and best fillets you can find.
2 - 3 fillets firm fish eg cod, snapper, tilapia and 1 fillet fresh salmon
4 potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
3 eggs - hard boiled and chopped
1 large gherkin(pickle) chopped
1 Tbspn capers
large handful parsley chopped
salt and pepper
1 - 1 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbspn butter
1 Tbspn flour
1 bay leaf
Chop fish into bite sized chunks and place in a frypan.
Cover with milk, bay leaf, salt and pepper and simmer 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf, place fish pieces in casserole dish and set cooking milk aside to make white sauce.
Add egg, gherkins and capers to dish.
Melt butter and cook through flour to make a roux, slowly add poaching milk, stirring til a smooth, thick consistency. Season to taste. Stir in chopped parsley. Pour sauce over fish, eggs and gherkins.
Top dish with mashed potato and bake in medium oven for 15 - 20 mins. Finish under broiler briefly to brown top (5 mins max!).
NOTE: If using smoked fish, flake cooked fish carefully into a casserole dish and omit the 'poaching in milk' step - instead just make up white sauce and pour over as above.
This week the Pantry team have been busy in 'test kitchen' mode, trying out recipes from a soon to be published book, Freshalicious by Stacey Fokas.
The book certainly looked appealing so I offered to test the smoothie recipe. Now, smoothies can mean different things to different people - either all fruit and no dairy or a mix of fruit, yoghurt, milk and often banana for bulk. My kids love them and they are a fun thing to make together...just remember to put the lid properly on your blender or risk a purple milk shower as was the case recently in our house!
Stacy's smoothie recipe had two variations:
Blueberry and Raspberry and
Strawberry Rhubarb.Both versions contained apple juice, bananas and vanilla almond milk.
Now I don't know about you, but rhubarb and almond milk are two things you don't generally have hanging out in your pantry so a quick trip to the supermarket was in order. I searched high and low and couldn't find rhubarb (seasonal??) which was a shame as I was also thinking a nice stewed rhubarb crumble might be possible with the leftovers. I did find almond milk though and another little side note - this is definitely an acquired taste - a bit like soy milk - you either love it or hate it. I like it in some things eg porridge and rice pudding but not smoothies - just too sweet.
So I prepared the drinks according to instructions and this woman must be from a big family as the recipe made about 4 times more than other similar ones and I had to do it in 3 batches (or else purchase an industrial sized blender) as the recipe called for 8 -9 cups of pre -blended products!
Kids loved theirs and wanted more (surprise surprise), I couldn't finish mine - just too sweet (again!).
I would probably make it again but substitute dairy for the almond milk and maybe add a spoon or two of unsweetened yoghurt to balance the sweetness of the fruit.
I see they have remade the movie Footloose and it was number 2 at the Box Office this weekend. This makes me a little upset as personally, I cannot imagine how you could improve on the original...that movie had it all - a great soundtrack, great dialogue, great dance scenes, not to mention possibly every teenage girl's crush in 1984 - Kevin Bacon*.
The recent onslaught of childhood and 80's movie remakes from the past few years [ The Karate Kid, Friday the 13th...The Smurfs??] has got me thinking, when are they going to bring back The Wombles??For those of you who haven't heard of The Wombles ('Remember You're a Womble'??) it was a fabulous British series from the early 1970's about a group of burrow dwelling creatures who lived in London's Wimbledon Common. The Wombles were possibly the forerunners of the recycling and re-purposing movement; picking up litter and 'making good use of the things that they found' on their jaunts around the park. An important message for kids today and one I will try to resurrect for mine! Now my favourite Womble was Orinocco, who, according to their official website was 'the fattest, greediest and laziest of the young Wombles. His favourite job [was] helping Madame Cholet to 'taste' recipes in the kitchen...' I was so obsessed with Orinocco that I wore his image on my knee high socks and would kiss his poster nightly before bed (hey I was seven!). I listened to the Wombles cassette (orange coloured, very hip) over and over til I could recite all the words to 'The Wombling Song'.Which brings me back to Madame Cholet. The only female in the original lineup, she was the cook in the Womble family - apparently styled on the creator Elizabeth Beresford's own mother and named after the town of Cholet in France. She spoke with the most hilarious French accent and was always whipping up wonderful pies for the rest of the crew from the fruits of their foraging. As it's now Autumn here and a time for harvesting and foraging in the woods (or you local Whole Foods) I was inspired by an episode of the Wombles - Madame Cholet and the Blackberries) to make a blackberry pie [blackberries being the fruit, not the brand of cellphone]. It sounds like just the sort of thing that Madame Cholet would serve to her hungry troops after a great day of rubbish collecting.
Blackberry, Pear and Almond Crumble
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries from the Common (or substitute frozen berries eg raspberries, blueberries etc)
2 pears chopped into chunks (skin on)
Half a lemon - juiced
2 - 3 Tbpns slivered almonds
3 Tbpsns flour
1 1/2 Tbspn brown sugar
1 Tbspn butter
1/2 cup rolled oats
Place blackberries, pears and lemon juice in 4 small oven proof dishes or medium sized oven dish.
In a separate bowl combine flour, sugar, butter and oats and mix with fingers to form rough 'crumbs'. Cover blackberries with this crumble and sprinkle almonds over.
Bake in oven for about 25 - 30 mins or until crumble is golden.
Serve with vanilla ice cream, cream or Greek yogurt - tiara and candlelight optional.
PS In doing a bit of research for this post I was delighted to see that The Wombles band
had reformed and played this year at Glastonbury...so maybe there is hope yet of a revival??!
My sister Annie, who lives in London, recently returned from a very cool wedding in Palm Springs (bride was American, Groom was an Englishman and the signature colour was yellow). When I emailed and asked her what the cocktail was, she replied that she couldn't remember it but would ask the bride...
...' I remember having a really cool cocktail - but must have had too many as can't remember what they were... around the pool... do you know what they were?I remember the yellow straws... and then its a blur?'.
The lovely bride Michelle, has fortunately come to the rescue with the recipe...the key ingredient - St Germain Elderflower liquer [Elderflower being a real trend in the UK at the moment, and also in parts of the Southern Hemisphere - there are 2 great Elderflower companies in NZ - check out Addmore
. For North Americans, it is definitely worth trying!! ].
The story behind the St-Germain liquer company is quite hilarious...
IN THE foothills of the Alps, for but a few fleeting spring weeks, this man will gather wild blossoms for your cocktail.
The blossoms in question are elderflowers, and the cocktail a stylishly simple creation made with St-Germain, the first liqueur in the world created in the artisanal French manner from freshly handpicked elderflower blossoms. Our story, however, does not end there.
AFTER gently ushering the wild blossoms into sacks and descending the hillside, the man who gathers blossoms for your cocktail will then mount a bicycle and carefully ride the umbels of starry white flowers to market. Vraiment.
There are no more than 40 or 50 men such as he, and in a matter of weeks they will have gathered what will become St-Germain for that year.
TO PUT THIS IN CONTEXT, we can safely say that no men will be wandering the hillsides of Poland this spring gathering wild potatoes for your vodka. Likewise, we know of no Bavarians planning to scour the German countryside in search of exotic native hops and barley for your beer. Yes, in this day and age St-Germain is exceedingly special and rare. Consequently, we are able to hand make only very limited quantities.[from St-Germain Liqeur http://www.stgermain.fr/
So I checked on their website and sadly the liquer is not available in this state...however Elderflower cordial (which is more readily available) and vodka is a close substitute.St-Germain Cocktail
2 PARTS Brut Champagne or Dry Sparkling Wine
1½ PARTS St-Germain (or mix 1 part vodka and 1 part Elderflower cordial)
2 PARTS Club Soda [Soda water]
METHOD: Stir ingredients in a tall ice-filled glass, mixing completely.
PS My sister did the design for the wedding... check out her website at http://www.thepixelpusher.co.uk/
I learnt risotto making from a lovely old woman in London who herself had learnt from one of the best, Antonio Carluccio
(an Italian chef who is big in the UK). Not sure if that two degrees of separation helps, or if I could ever hope to compete with those Italians, but I quite like making it!
Funnily enough, cooking this dish often seems to scare a few people off, but once you've made it a few times, you'll soon realise how easy it is. I know there are loads of purists out there who swear by certain types of rice - I have tried a few and think the more important thing is the technique. There is a small window of potential failure at the beginning (if you burn the rice and/or onions) and I admit I have had to redo this step a few times over the years...
Although my favourite types of risotto are probably mushroom and prawn[shrimp] (though not in the same dish!) I think you can definitely add a 'local spin' on this versatile meal. Use whatever happens to be in season in your region to keep it current. Last night's version was a way to use up the last of the beans left on our vines and a bit of ham but you can literally use anything - asparagus, spinach, cauliflower, chicken... With autumn coming up, one of my favourites is roasted pumpkin (roast small chunks of pumpkins for about 30 minutes in the oven while cooking risotto base, then combine right near the end of cooking the rice).
Below is a basic 'risotto base' that you can then add to depending on mood and season. Generally, whatever you are adding eg meat, veges, you want to cook separately and then stir into the virtually cooked rice, say in the last 5 minutes, otherwise the whole thing will turn to mush (believe me I've experienced this and it's not pretty...the words 'baby food' spring to mind).
Only 2 really important rules:
need to stand there and stir (especially at the beginning)and watch it - as my friend Mr Oliver says ...'The secret of a good risotto is to give it your undivided (and loving) attention for about 17 minutes...It's not hard. It takes a bit of time and a bit of love. In life, you can't have everything in one basket.''
2. You need to serve it very soon after cooking (risotto does not reheat well).Basic Risotto (serves 4)
1 cup risotto rice (whichever type you prefer eg arborio, carnaroli)
2 Tblpns olive oil
1 Tblspn butter
1 onion finely chopped
1/2 glass white wine
4 - 6 cups stock (vegetable, chicken) heated but not boiling
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra butter to finish
Salt and Pepper
Get your stock very gently boiling
on the stove over a low heat with a ladle ready.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan [or deep frypan] heat oil and butter and fry onion for about 5 minutes stirring often over a medium heat.
As the rice starts to go golden and release starch [a very important part in this process} add the wine. Cook until liquid is absorbed and then slowly add the stock 1 -2 ladles at a time. Stir well after each addition of stock and continue for approximately 15 minutes. You want the finished product to be firmish yet creamy.
Finally add in your chosen veges, meat etc and cook for a further 3-5 minutes. You may need to add a bit more stock or boiling water if it is too dry. Stir in grated parmesan and butter and season. Let sit with a lid on for 1 -2 minutes to absorb and serve immediately.
Conveniently placed chairs for a 'tired of shopping' boy
My son has a trait typical of many males...he is allergic to shopping. Unfortunately I now live 30 minutes from one of THE biggest shopping destinations in the world. These two things are not a good combination. However, I have discovered a way to distract him on the odd occasion that we happen to be spending a day in NYC...with food! I have found that as long as we have pit-stops along the way, he is able to keep walking the miles that are inevitable in this city.
One of my favourite neighbourhoods is SoHo. I love wandering the cobbled streets (not so great with a stroller), gazing longingly into the windows of fabulous design stores (sadly a no-go zone with under fifteens) and keeping an eye out for Kardashians or any other 'stars' that may be doing a spot of retail therapy in the area. I have also finally learnt how to pronounce Houston Street like a local [How
-ston vs Hoo
-ston for the Texan city despite the identical spelling...go figure!] I especially love Greene Street with its amazing cast iron architecture, and it was here (on one of those inevitable pit stops one day) that I discovered a delish noodle shop.
The kids (well the poor one that wasn't in the stroller) were grumbling and complaining and 'dying of thirst' on this particular hot summer day. One also needed to use the bathroom urgently, so it was fortuitous that we happened to be on the doorstep of Kelly and Ping
. After taking care of bathroom business (why are there so few public toilets in this city??) we decided to stop for a drink and snack. Coconut cookies and fresh ginger ale for them and a Thai iced coffee [sweet coffee made with condensed milk] for me.
Since that day I have also been back with a girlfriend to try their delicious noodles and can highly recommend the Bangkok Curry - an awesome green curry with chicken and eggplant. Just reading their menu as I write this up and may have to return for cocktails - the Lychee Mojito and Passionfruit Saketini really should not be missed!! Anyone free to babysit??
Cool decor and a busy wok station
Greene Street - SoHo
Image: NZ Herald
I believe in fate...there are often happenings in life that are really too coincidental not to mean something. Take our neighbour - we move to the other side of the world, from a country with 4 million people to a state
with nearly 9 million and our neighbour just happens to be a fellow New Zealander. Not only that, but we discover we grew up within an hour of one another, our Dads were both teachers (of the same subject!!) at local high schools and our Mums were both nurses (okay it was the seventies and career choices were more limited in small towns, but still...). Oh and our daughters both happen to share the same name!
So, these coincidences notwithstanding, we have become firm friends and often share great meals with Mandy and Ed. She is the decision maker in the relationship, he is the cook- an effective arrangement and we have had some delicious dining experiences with them. I will save the epic Thanksgiving meal of 2010 for another time but let's just say you never go hungry at their place.
This morning's brunch was in honor of the World Cup Rugby
game - NZ vs Argentina - that our friends had dvr'd to save us getting up at 3am to watch. Mandy's parents were also there, visiting from NZ (in time for the imminent arrival of baby number 2 in a week) so it was going to be a full house. The plan was for a leisurely breakfast, followed by the game. Ed's specialty is pancakes [his trick for cooking for crowds: use three frypans at once!]. I had said we'd bring a fruit salad but unfortunately had sent husband to the supermarket...he came back with some delicious but rock hard fruit that could possibly have done with another two weeks ripening...
Never mind - salad put together (concrete peaches, rock plums, and strangely, softish blueberries)and finished off with orange, lime and some lovely mint from the garden. As I was making it, I got slightly nostalgic for the summer fruit salads we have back home - in particular one that has become a Christmas Day favourite in our family, with papaya and blueberries. After the delicious breakfast, we settled in to watch a very nervewracking game which, luckily, saw the All Blacks
the victors... Next week the Quarterfinal with Australia - I may have to challenge my Down Under Pantry counterparts to a cook off...pavlova anyone?
Papaya and Blueberries with Mint
1 whole papaya (or substitute for any other melon, eg watermelon, cantaloupe etc)
1 punnet of blueberries
Large handful of fresh mint (chopped)
Juice of 2 limes
Chop up a papaya into 1/4 inch chunks and place in bowl. Add blueberries and chopped mint. Combine with lime juice. Chill and serve with Greek yoghurt.
I like to think of myself as a fairly okay cook and used to really enjoy braving new recipes, hosting elaborate dinners for friends and of course, making dishes from scratch. However over the past couple of years my culinary prowess has somewhat waned. The reason? Two words ...'Jake' and 'Olivia'. Now I am occasionally a cheater, like many of my fellow mum friends and actually quite proud of the fact that I no longer NEED to spend hours in the kitchen...it's all a matter of perception and having a few 'shortcuts' up your sleeve for those really busy days. Oh, and having the wonderful Trader Joes
[apologies to anyone outside the US] within an 8 minute drive is also not a bad thing!
Now I like to cook Coq au Vin as much as the next foodie, but really, would rather spend my time sitting and drinking
the 'vin' than slaving away over a hot oven for 2 plus hours. Around the birth of my second child [colic, reflux and general chaos occurred constantly during dinner preparation], I had a culinary epiphany when a friend introduced me to 'the Maggi way' ...and after that I was a convert. Now this isn't the story of a religious conversion(although Maggi does have a holy ring to it...Magi??), I'm talking about shhhhhh... packet meal mixes
being the company name. In NZ, Australia and parts of Europe there are undoubtedly millions of families that have been fed, divorces prevented and mothers' sanity preserved by their fabulous inventions ; 'meal bases' - brilliant.
My personal favourite is the Chicken Chasseur 'Cook in the Pot' which literally takes 10 minutes to prepare - basically just throw chicken pieces and the sauce and a few veges in a big casserole pot and cook in the oven for an hour or so. I sometimes bling the recipe up a bit by adding extras like real wine (as I firmly believe cooking and a glass of wine in hand are a great, not to be missed combo) fancy mushrooms and black olives but feel free to add your own surprises. This recipe has even fooled a few friends and rellies over the years.
For my North American friends, I haven't discovered a substitute for Maggi bases [though I'm sure there are probably hundreds] so I hadn't made this dish for months until I was reminded of it tonight and just 'happened' to find a packet hiding in the back of my pantry...!Easy Chicken with Wine
(or Chicken Chasseur a la Maggi if you're feeling fancy)
1 whole chicken or 6 chicken pieces (bone in)
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms (any type)
1/4 cup black olives
2/3 glass wine (white or red...whatever's on hand)
2 Tblpns tomato paste
1/3 cup water
1 packet Maggi Chicken Chasseur*
Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit (180 C)
Cut up chicken or throw pieces in large casserole dish with lid. Add sliced onion, garlic, mushrooms and olives. Mix tomato paste, water and Chicken Chasseur packet to a smooth paste and pour over chicken and mushrooms. Finally pour over wine and mix all together.
Cook in a low-moderate oven (or better yet, slow cooker) for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it becomes too gluggy.
Serve with mashed potatoes, pasta or your favourite grain.
PS Don't forget to hide the packet mix evidence after use!