Sunday, 9 August 2015

How to Eat like a Royal in Queenstown: Part 1.

Not even a two-hour delay due to runway ice could have curbed my excitement for a week with my family in Queenstown. The prospect of snow-capped mountains, my very first ‘Fergburger’ and a seven course winery lunch was my kind of Monday morning mantra. The picturesque flight complete with clear blue skies and mountains that glistened in the morning sun truly took my breath away – whilst restoring my appetite to full capacity. 

Day 1. It all began in the crisp air of Arrowtown, with an Allpress coffee from Provisions (unfortunately their famous Sticky Buns had sold out!), a wander (READ: ice skate) through the quaint little town made complete with merino sock purchase and fudge tasting at The Remarkables Sweet Shop. Down a near-deserted alleyway and up the stairwell we were welcomed by the cosy, hip and hustling atmosphere of The Chop Shop Food Merchants. 

Following a classic ‘dad joke’ about the lack of chops, the rest of the menu promised some seriously interesting feasting. Confit rabbit, spiced roasted chestnuts and fried sage fettuccini complete with lemon labneh and French sorrel. Dreamy, creamy and devoured with forkfuls flying across the table. Their infamous ‘Elvis’ Corn Fritters with chilli caramel, coriander salad and a perfectly poached egg would have done the rock star proud. They tried to take it off the menu once before, but an up roar from locals meant it was there to stay. A few glasses of pinot gris, smoked pork hock hash and a savoury donut meant I didn’t even miss the Turkish eggs (another signature dish). Who am I kidding, I’m already planning my return. 

A wander around Lakes Hayes to digest lunch geared us up for the carb-fest that awaited, at The Cow - my Dad’s favourite restaurant in the world. This long-standing historic pub is hidden down Cow Lane, and serves up generous portions of ‘Pizza and Spaghetti’ to hungry families and hardcore ski-bunnies after a big day on the slopes. But the true gem in this place is their ‘Homemade Bread’ a warm wholemeal loaf slathered in garlic and herbs, served with a slab of softened butter and a giant bread knife so you can DIY! With the fireplace roaring we gorged on pizzas loaded with prawns, salami, tomatoes, olives and extra anchovies. Along with bowls of spaghetti where the seafood swam amongst the creamy white wine sauce and where chicken livers and mushrooms made the best of friends. An evening of comfort food and conversation that lead to full bellies and even fuller hearts.

Day 2. Waking up to a -7 degree morning was an experience in itself, but what it lacked in warmth it made up for in beauty. We warmed our cockles at the stunning and newly renovated Sherwood Hotel, restoring last night's gluttony with a Dynamic Vinyasa Yoga class in their very own (heated) studio. Followed by a bowl of hearty porridge in their chic refurbished eatery. Poached tamarillos and chia-cacao-nut crumble sprinkled on creamy oats was a hug in a bowl, washed down by coffee with a view. We heard a whisper that they are offering a range of yoga/health retreats - alongside food foraged straight from their kitchen garden. Guess I’ll be seeing you there.

A wander back along Lake Wakatipu in the brisk air awakened our zen senses, but nothing could prepare us for the gastronomic sensation that awaited at Amisfield. A Tuesday afternoon and this Winery/Bistro was full to the brim, and from the first bite, it was clear to see why. Our Trust the Chef menu was exceptional. From the award-winning wines, duck parfait on wafer-thin seed crackers and wild rabbit rillete to the mushroom truffle risotto. Lamb rump with roasted garlic puree, black fermented garlic and fried sage leaves blew us away, combined perfectly with two-way kumara, black truffle butter and more of those crispy sage sensations. Did I mention the wine. Two words. Pinot Noir. 

Dessert. A chocolate fondant, as it should be, rich, decadent and complete with oozing molten centre. Their take on a ‘Walnut Apple Crumble’ remains firmly engraved in my mind - beautifully plated with cinnamon cream, beetroot poached apple, candied walnut powder and balsamic reduction. Truly inspiring fare. It felt like a dream.

Not wanting the dream to end we finished the evening with a sophisticated lakeside drink at the historic Eichardt’s Private Hotel and Bar. Nibbling on squid ink battered calamari with lemon aioli and fries, cause clearly we were starving. Less than 48 hours and Queenstown had me hooked…

 TBC... x 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Mind over Mandarin.

It’s about this time each year that many of us find ourselves elbow deep in mounds of mandarins. It’s hard not to love these petite little citrus – their easy-peel ring of moon shaped segments, bursting with sweet tangy juice that squirts in every direction and enough Vitamin C to sink a ship. However, if you have found yourself a little overwhelmed by the magnitude of your mandarin haul, here are a few ideas I have been whipping up recently to put your ‘mandys’ to good use.

No surprise that first and foremost on my mind was cake. Reverting to one of my all time favourites, the Orange Almond Cake. I came up with a plan for Mini Mandarin Ghana Cakes. These cakes are all about the dense fudgy texture and having the entire fruit in the mix (skin, pith and all) means they have just the right balance of sweet, fruity, nutty-ness.  Despite my attempt to grease them with coconut oil, the little buggers stuck like glue to the tray. I managed to save the ‘extra’ bits by using them as a sprinkle. Waste not, want not people.

The synergy between orange and chocolate, works just as well with mandarins. Melting Whittakers 72% Dark Ghana with a little coconut oil, I covered my sins with the devilish chocolate drizzle and sprinkled the crumb on top. Devoured as a brunch dessert with a dollop of honey yoghurt and a mandarin flower, all was well in the world. Delving back in the archives, I stumbled upon more of these mandarin flowers, that I had previously served with black sticky rice and coconut cream.

I even managed to match mandarins with one of my current kitchen obsessions – Tahini. Playing around with the recipe by wholefoods genius Sarah Britton, from her debut cookbook, My New RootsAnother of my culinary inspirations - Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme, has showcased her recipe for Roasted Pumpkin on Black Rice with Tangerine Tahini Sauce on her blog here. Replacing tangerines with mandarins I whipped up this addictive concoction and served it alongside Roasted Brussel Sprouts in Avocado oil. Easy, nourishing and delicious.

As I delved further into the savoury side of things, I played around with a few takes on a Mandarin Asian Slaw. Nothing fancy, just your usual slaw suspects – red cabbage, carrot, spring onion and fresh herbs –both coriander and parsley. Shaking up a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, honey, mandarin juice, salt and pepper it brought new life to this vibrant salad. 

From here I mixed things up with whatever I had on hand - toasted sesame seeds, steamed broccoli, soba noodles, chopped spinach, chunks of baked salmon or a drizzle of tahini. The Fragrant Poached Chicken recipe from Kasey and Karena Bird's beautiful new cookbook - 'For the Love Of' goes so well with this slaw. Not only is that green spring onion sauce a revelation, their self-published book (!!!) is loaded with interesting inspiring recipes that make you want to lick the page and cook every night of the week. Do yourself a favour and go and purchase one now. 

Finally the perfect post dinner treat, to use up any of that leftover dark chocolate (if it has not yet disappeared). Simply melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of coconut oil in a small saucepan and then dip half of a single mandarin segment in the chocolate mix. Lay on greaseproof paper, sprinkle with sea salt and place in fridge til set.

Moral of the story don’t let a pile of mandarins get you down. Despite their annoying white pith, there are plenty of ways to get their juices flowing at every meal. And if in doubt, embrace their original state. Peel and consume one segment at a time. Mind over mandarin. 


Mandarin Ghana Cake
Recipe altered from Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake recipe here. I opted for mini cakes so used a muffin tray – but to avoid sticking be sure to use muffin liners or just stick with the cake tin!

6 medium mandarins – boiled and blitzed
150g coconut sugar (white sugar would be fine)
250g ground almonds
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder

150g dark chocolate – I used Whittakers 72% Dark Ghana
1 tsp coconut oil

Place mandarins in a pot, cover with water and boil, for about an hour or until soft. Leave to cool slightly. Drain and blitz in a food processor or blender until smooth.  
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line a medium sized cake tin (approx. 22cm) or 12-hole muffin tray.
Transfer mandarins into a large bowl, add all other ingredients and mix to combine. Pour mixture into the tin.
Bake cake for 40 minutes or until a cake skewer comes out clean. (20 minutes for the mini cakes).
Remove from oven and leave to cool for five minutes in tin then transfer to a wire rack.
In a small saucepan, preferably over a double boiler, melt the chocolate and the coconut oil until smooth.
Drizzle over the cake and serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a fresh mandarin flower.


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Welcoming Wedding Katering.

What better way to welcome the ‘Katering’ (and blogging) world back than with a wedding! Just a few weeks ago a dear friend trusted me to help feed hungry guests and create delicious memories on her special day. Honoured, a little nervous and extremely excited at the chance to attend a wedding, I put together a simple vibrant menu to be served alongside an Artisan Wood Fired Pizza Caravan!

Assembling pre-dinner cheeseboards was my first port of call. These were served on rustic wooden chopping boards, made by hand by the father of the bride. Fresh herb pesto featuring variations of basil, coriander, parsley and rocket were served in mini mason jars alongside a stunning, bright orange-hued capsicum and cashew dip. A generous dollop of creamy garlic hummus was slathered close by. All of these goodies were whipped up by the brides’ family and friends, who utilised their flourishing garden crops – making my job a breeze!

In the cheese department we opted for a Kikorangi Blue, Creamy Brie and Cumin Gouda. With the addition of fresh grapes, poached pear, quince paste, dried figs and marinated olives, they were ready to be mopped up by fresh ciabatta, wholegrain rice crackers and wafer thin crackers. As a true blue cheese lover I took far too much pleasure in portioning the giant wheel of Kikorangi and no guesses who tucked into any ‘extra’ slithers!

Salads were next on the agenda. Two varieties packed with colour, texture and plenty of wholesome vege. Putting my spiralizer to good use I transformed around forty large zucchini into a mound of zoodles/courgetti/zucchini noodles. This green noodle salad was dotted with edamame beans, cherry tomatoes, a bucket load of fresh basil leaves, roasted almonds, lemon juice and dressed in a basil garlic oil. I’m confident the return of empty bowls demonstrated salad success.

Next up was the slightly more substantial Kumara, Orange & Avocado Salad featuring a traffic light combo of colours. Roasted orange kumara, red quinoa, segmented orange, avocado, toasted sunflower seeds, fresh mint and Italian parsley all tossed together with lashings of pomegranate orange dressing. Vegan, vegetarian, diary free, gluten free but even more importantly according to grateful guests – damn delicious!

Dessert time got me barking mad…for the chocolate variety. This simple sweet treat provided a sophisticated finish to the days feasting. Using a base of the infamous Whittakers chocolate I embellished the White variety with ‘Fresh as’ freeze dried raspberries and pistachios. The creamy Five-roll Refined Milk Chocolate was topped with roasted hazelnuts, candied orange chunks and sesame seeds and the Dark Ghana Chocolate was studded with dried figs, coconut chips and roasted almonds.

Re-utilising those stunning wooden boards we finished the platters with a rainbow of melon and stone fruit featuring rock melon, watermelon, honeydew melon as well as apricots, nectarines and peaches. The quirky addition of a Donut tower, was a request from the groom. A pile of freshly baked mini donuts filled with cream and custard, was something to behold, topped off with one giant cream and jam donut perching on top.


And the part you’ve all been waiting for…the CAKE! Being the incredible lady that she is, the bride had the audacity to bake her own cake. A sticky date, pecan and coffee cake at that. It was super moist, full of warming spices and begging to be wrapped in a blanket of salted caramel buttercream. Which much to my delight was my job! Beating butter, icing sugar and salted caramel to oblivion, I lathered the four-layered cake with plenty of smooth sweetness. A light sprinkle of pecans between each layer and a single bright and beautiful sunflower was all that was required. Elegant, kind-hearted and real – just like the bride!

A huge thanks to the help of my creative assistants - Charlotte (also feature photographer) and Briana. And of course to Anna for her faith in my ‘Katering’ X x

Photo credit: Charlotte Yarnton. The genius behind the lens. X