Friday, 27 January 2012

Devour the Flower.

With the heat of summer finally upon us, it has been a pleasure enjoying the sweet smells, warm rays and outdoor escapades. I have continued to embrace the abundant fresh produce, and recently endeavoured to transform a blossom into an appetiser in a matter of minutes. In keeping with the theme of the Zucchini my product of choice was the trendy –Zucchini Flower. Picked fresh from mothers vegetable garden. 
The infamous Zucchini Flower.
 Despite the use of ‘Flowers’ by top Chefs around the globe. It would be fair to say that most of us are rather intimidated by these fragrant blooms. Collectively the challenge was laid out, and after seeing them feature on the menu at the famous ‘Riverstone Kitchen’ in Oamaru, I was determined to give them a whirl. And whirl they did.
After much debate about the growth patterns of the zucchini plant, we picked three luscious orange florets and were ready to roll. A jackpot from a Google search brought up a recipe requiring a Ricotta-garlic stuffing. Ideal! As I bought two ‘reduced to clear’ pots just yesterday (another of my many ‘jewish’ moments).  So the challenge was on. Fortunately this particular recipe had a profound set of step-by-step instructions and even images to follow. These were essential when dealing with the intricate and intertwined petals. 
Stuffed and ready to roll.
 The stuffing consisted of ricotta, garlic, grated parmesean, fresh basil and the best versions of your old mates S & P. The batter was an unsophisticated combination of flour and soda water. As my pot of grapeseed oil began to warm on the stove-top I battled with co-ordinating the unravelling, piping and coating of the delicate morsels. But with two extra sets of hands the load was shared and they were ready to frizzle in the scalding oil. Fry time: Max 3 mins. Possibly even 2. The vision of golden brown delights meant they were ready to leave their bath and drip-dry on the paper towel. Mission complete. Time to party. 
Deep-fried gold.
 I made a small incision through the dainty petal, only to discover a world of white, fluffy cheesy goodness. 
Oooey gooey delight
Verdict: Divine! Outclassing any other deep fried artefact I have devoured in a long time.  A collective conclusion decided the three small morsels were well worth the effort, and would be a delightful option for a fancy dinner party starter.   
The golden bunch

But for now, I’ll just recall the temporary party that went on in my mouth!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A Lavosh affair!

Lavosh. A crisp light bread inspired by our friends in the Middle East, designed to be eaten whenever, wherever and with whatever you like. Basically it’s a fancy word for a cracker. A dam good cracker at that! Inspired by the pages of Annabel Langbein I set out to create a few sheets of my own joy. 
Ingredients were promising. Just the standard cupboard staples. I opted for a combination of sesame seeds, chia seeds and rosemary. A combination the tastebuds were very thankful for. I was surprised at how much this small dough mixture made. But according to Annabel the art lies in rolling the dough out nice and thinly, so you get a light crispy texture. I prepared myself for a frustrating attempt at a thin dough with big gaping holes. I was left pleasantly surprised.

In they went and within a few minutes I had crafted my very own version of a lavish, Lavosh.  The amount of cracker products on the market these days are outrageous. Almost an entire supermarket aisle are designated to these ‘healthy snacks’. There are so many I often get confused about which ones I like, which will be appropriate for the occasion, can they be dipped or topped or dunked or what they heck to do with them. 

It was in these little beauties that I found my answer. The perfect nibble for any occasion. I had the chance to test these ‘Lavosh’ out, on a bunch of well-established, mature adults (aka. friends of the parents). Just as I had predicted they went down a treat. A few even requested the recipe. With the assumption that Annabel’s cookbook lines the shelves of most kiwi households. I left them all in her capable hands. Thanks to a simple kitchen craft we achieved yet another favourable outcome.

A personalised cracker, crafted to your liking. Easy to produce, but fancy enough to impress. Give it a crack I say.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

That's me to a Tea

As I sit here sipping on my cup of bagged Dilmah + milk. All of a sudden, I realize how unsatisfying and horrible life would be without Tea. To me, these words describe it perfectly. Liquid wisdom. Second to water, Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. (Cheers Wiki). There is something about this slightly bitter, astringent flavour that warms our insides to produce a feeling of pure bliss.

The perfect morning, the perfect cuppa.

Over the last few years tea has earned itself a sophisticated and affluent name. The range of tea available today is exceptional. A tea for every occasion, palate, country, time of day, feeling, requirement, disease, you name it- there is a tea out there that can fix it. 

The gesture of offering a cup of tea has been passed down through generations. But nowadays it is so much more complicated than just a simple ‘milk and sugar’ scenario. A person’s taste in tea, can present a great deal about their personality. Possibly even more than their coffee of choice.  I could rabbit off lists and lists of tea varieties, but that would achieve nothing more than bore you to death and provide me with a thirst for another tea. (and after my first cup, I’m already busting for the loo). It is indeed true. Tea has a natural diuretic effect.

T2- edible floating apple bits
It is only recently that it became acceptable to impart a gift of tiny wee flavourful leaves. Last year a dear friend of mine brought me a perfect example of a ‘New-age’ Tea variety. T2 – an Australian based brand, has some extravagant varieties. Flavour of choice: Strawberries and Cream. This tea had chunks of real fruit pieces, and some sort of dairy/yoghurt chunks to give off that sweet milk flavour. It was divine. Dessert in a cup.

For the classic Ceylon Tea: The debate of Bell vs. Dilmah, will be had by many. And for the time being, I will leave this question unanswered. One of my favourite things is waking up in the morning, and knowing that the first thing to touch my lips and roll down my throat will be a delicious soothing and satisfying cup of tea. It starts and ends my day. Like millions of others I am sure.

Spot my classic tea of choice (excuse the horrific Dunedin flat)

On my recent adventures to a Balinese land, we went on a tea-tasting tour. It was wonderful to examine the numerous tea-fields and appreciate the effort that is required to produce such an abundant beverage. The Ginger Tea was a highlight for me. A perfect blend of sweet (despite some serious added sugar) and spicy. Delish. Indeed it was.

Balinese tea + coffee of all descriptions

I have many Tea stories, memories, moments, thoughts, images and dreams that are locked away. Created, engraved and never forgotten by the simple act of drinking a cup of Tea. A few of my personal favourites: Dilmah (preferably leaves steeped in a pot, even better when made by my Mother), Earl Grey, Lady Grey, my newly found obsession ‘Black Adder’-Licorice Tea, T2 mentioned above, Indian Orange Rooibus (another gift from a friend), Mango Star (w. honey=even better!) and Otago Summer Fruits. I have heard rumours of a new Earl Grey, available at selected cafe's made with steamed frothy milk. Warms my heart just thinking about it.

I wish you all Joyful Sipping.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Hustle the Mussel

On my journey home from a delightful Christmas on the Coromandel, through the corner of my eye I spotted two dazzling words on the side of a cute wee caravan. Mussel Fritters. That first word had me sold. Nestled next to a stunning Pohutakawa in full bloom, with the ocean as its back drop, it was the ultimate pit stop. And stop we did.

I took the liberty of ordering the infamous Mussel Fritter. It came with a $5 price tag. Which I more than happily paid. The pregnant older sissy pulled through with the fiver. Rather cruel of me when I think about it. The poor girl wouldn’t even get to try it. But this was an opportunity I couldn’t let pass. The culinary genius’s were a Father-Daughter duo. My guess was he was passing on the secret family recipe. I watched her face full of concentration as she carefully buttered the accompanying slice of white bread. Dad gazing at her with an heir of confidence. Give it 20 years and she will be running the show.

After 5 minutes of soaking up the sea air the fritter was complete. Much bigger than I expected, but I was certainly not complaining.
Condiment of choice: a wedge of lemon, crack of pepper and a sprinkle of sea-salt. (Had a bit of a meltdown on the salt front. Dodgy lid. You can guess the rest). Time to eat. 

Note the salt.

Verdict= Fan-bloody-tastic. Perfect combination of seasoning, spices, onion, lemon and chunks of juicy mussel. I drove home a happy girl.

The abundance of fresh seafood during these Summer months, is something we Kiwi’s often take for granted. But mussel’s are always in the supy, and are perfect when you have minimal funds.My recent obsession with the marine bivalve have forced excessive consumption already this year and I don’t see it ending anytime soon. 

The latest creation consisted of teaming this guy up with another abundant summer vegetable. The Zucchini. 
I had purchased a bag of the mussels, with fritters in mind. After a quick Google search for a recipe, I came across Mussel and Zucchini fritters.

A bizarre coincidence as a friend had been telling me of her current fixation with the Zucchini fritter. Mussel + Zucchini. Rather an odd combination one might think. But all skeptic thoughts were removed after the first bite. Gorgeous to both the eye and the palate. 

A simple summer's lunch
Yet again this mollusk left me and my taste buds a very happy girl. 

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The Gift of Granola

As the festive season begins to fade in our memory. We say goodbye to the last of the Christmas treats, and ponder on the presents we gave and received. But mostly we think about the precious family time that one day a year we all get to share with our closest relatives. 
The b-e-a-u-tiful food is a highlight for most, and for our lot the day started with a delicious bowl of Simple Gourmet Granola. It has become a bit of a tradition to include a batch of this golden goodness on the Christmas menu. Served with a dollop of rich creamy yoghurt-you can't really go wrong. But apparently one large jar was not enough to feed the hungry.  Once word got out about the Pecan, Date and Vanilla didn't take long before the goods disappeared.
And those who missed out, were thoroughly unimpressed.
A mountain of hidden jewels and earthly goodness
Not only was the granola a winner with the fam. It provided the perfect gift for the few lucky souls whom were around pre-xmas. There is nothing more personal than receiving some ol' fashioned home baked goodness, that you can be dam sure was hand-crafted with love.  

If I weren't so busy nibbling on the vanilla-permeated dates and coconut ridden oat mixture, then I could have had more to share. Will definitely work on this one, for the next festive season.

No gift-wrapping required.
Check these cute-wee tartan jars. Edible gift + useful present all in one. Winning combination I say. 


Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Frugivorous in Summer

Yep, I know. What the hell does that hideous word mean?
According to my mbp dictionary Frugivorous literally means ‘fruit-eating’ and what is more appropriate than that word in Summer.
The abundance of gorgeous, colourful, succulent fruit is something to be cherished during these warm (unfortunately very wet) summer months.
Ahhh, yes please.


Whether its picking your own fresh blackberries, devouring a punnet of sweet blueberries, soaking your strawberries in balsamic and lemon or whipping up a radiant raspberry coulis we all have our favourite recipe for these delightful goodies.

But the one fruit that screams summer, in particular Christmas, more than any other is the beloved and modest Cherry. Every year I look forward to that box in the mail that somehow manages to appear in our fridge. Filled with shiny, succulent, deep red, south island cherries. Unfortunately I am too busy munching them to notice who the wonderful sender is. But whoever you are, I am most grateful! 

Summer in a bowl

But be warned: Addiction to these little beauties can be dangerous.

Despite there appeal, on Christmas my dear cousin brought to the table a very valid point. That first heavenly explosion- somewhere between a pop and crunch- is probably the best your going to get. As your taste-buds enjoy that initial sweet juicy sensation, seconds later, you are slapped in the face by a small hard rock-like ball. That dam little pip. You know the one. Left lying around the house next to the little green stick.
Now close your eyes, and visualize a big juicy apple-sized cherry-free of the pip.
Heaven in your mouth? I think so.

Take note Santa. Cause it will be the first thing on my Christmas wishlist.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy Nut Year

Excuse the pun, but I thought I would start the year off with an ode to my dear friend: The humble Nut. 
So Why nuts? 
Firstly, because after being stuck inside scrutinizing the rain for the last week, it says a lot about my mental state. Long may it stay away.
Secondly, because these beautiful pebbles of goodness, deserve their own standing ovation.

The life of a Walnut...

These ugly nodules are bursting with antioxidants. Providing far more than any other nut in its raw form. 
They offer the ideal stress-release. Get your hands on a old-school metal nut-cracker and squeeze the little-buggers til your hearts content. You will be surprised at how satisfying that final crack is. However beware of Mr frustration rearing his head- because it is dam near impossible to pull one out fully intact. 
I challenge you. 

The Brazil nut, is a champion in its own right. Taking the cake for Selenium with just two a day providing all that we need. Their meaty texture and smug crunch surrounded by the best of oils-make for a winning snack. But be aware, it can be difficult to stop at two. 

Macadamia's, Pecans, Cashews, Pistachios and of course the Peanut.
Each has its own distinctive taste, texture and usefulness. Ignore the rumours to avoid these high-fat snacks. We all need fats, and these babies are our best source. As long as you don't over do it, they have been proven to lower cholesterol and improve heart function.

So as we begin the new year, in better health. I leave you and the nuts with two words.

Get Amongst.

NOTE: I haven't forgotten the Almond. But this guy is the king of all trades. So great, he deserves his own post. Coming soon...