Friday, July 29, 2011

The Auckland Food Show

Adam Liaw

Bobby at the show

Idea of the crowds

My pretty pathetic collection of stuff
Yesterday was the Auckland Food Show. Actually it was the start of the 4 day show and yesterday was the more pricey (but well worth it), preview day. 

Before I go on I want to apologise for the quality and quantity of the photos I have posted. I am having major trouble with blogger in that it won't let me upload photos, (which for this blog is essential). Although I have done extensive internet searches to remedy the problem, all I can find is that other people have the same issue and there really doesn't seem to be a solution to fix it. Therefore you may well be redirected to a new blog site as I am thinking about changing to Wordpress as it isn't much fun trying to negotiate around how to get a few of my photos uploaded onto blogger. To get these (and even then it isn't all of them), I had to go roundabout onto Picasa and then upload from that and even then it played up and wouldn't do all of them. Very, very frustrating!!!

Anyway back to the post's topic of the Food Show. This year was my first in about 3-4  years as it seems to always fall on a working day for me. This year the Thursday was the only day I could do as it is Don's birthday on Sunday and we have family coming over on Saturday. The preview day cost a whopping $38 (or $40 if you paid on the day). As you can see by the photos above, the extra cost (and probably the school holidays too), meant that the crowds were very manageable. It can get ridiculously busy on the Friday and Saturday and apparently Sunday afternoon is the time to go if you want to get the bargains. I went with my step-father Bobby and I have to say we had a blast. We went with military precision up and down the aisles determined to see everything. From my past experience there seemed to be less stalls and less to see, BUT it was still plenty enough for us to be interested and feel like we got our moneys worth...although I think the more manageable crowds made it worth the extra cost of the preview day.

We got to sample quite a few things I would see in the supermarket and not buy in case it tasted terrible. I like to make things from scratch and am very wary of anything pre-made like soups, sauces etc. While my wariness was proved correct in some cases, sometimes I was proven wrong and a particular product ended up tasting delicious. 

The problem Bobby and I had was that at the start we decided to go back to certain stalls to buy what we wanted so as to avoid having to carry anything too heavy, cold and perishable right through the whole show. However true to form for me, I either forgot what it was that I wanted to buy, or else could not find it again. Lesson time a) take my lovely red Rhubarb trolley; b) take a chiller bag, c) buy at the time and throw caution to the wind, or d) write down the stall number. As you can see I ended up with hardly anything...some lovely creme brulee fudge (from Heavenly fudge); a great goodie bag and deal for renewing my subscription to the Dish magazine; some dried blueberries (yum yum); some delicious Jamaican Hot and Spicy Jerk seasoning paste; some free Cafe L'affare coffee beans for signing up to free trade with them; and finally 3 bags of NZ made corn chips for only $5. I guess it's just as well I forgot the other things as I would have come home totally broke instead of only a little bit broke. 

We made it to one only one cooking demonstration which was the Adam Liaw one. He only got to make a couple of things which was a pity but the chicken curry looked lovely and very easy to make as did the coconut rice. Apparently he had only got off a plane and there were some ingredients he needed which they hadn't got so some of his recipes were unable to be made. However he did talk quite a bit so it was probably just as well he had the ingredient excuse as I really don't think he would have had the time anyway. It was really good to see him though as I really liked him on Masterchef last year and I think he had the same kind of energy that came across on that. Now I just have to source some fresh tumeric and galangal so if anyone knows where I might get some of that from please let me know.

Oh if anyone also has blogger and has had issues with uploading photos could you also let me know. Thanks.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cannellini Bean Dip with Parmesan, Garlic and Rosemary

SO please excuse the photo quality but I remembered at the last minute to take a photo after my little one had started to devour this dip with cries of "mum you have GOT to make this's yum!". And it is! I was trying to catch up on all the blogs I follow and came across this one from baking=love. If you get some time have a look at her blog as it is a good read and has some great recipes. I'm not sure where she got this one but it is fantastic! In fact I could see myself having it on toast and on a sammie instead of hummus. It would be good with crackers, those yummy Eta Uppercrust chips, frostiness or anything else that might take your fancy...including your finger as you try to stop yourself from eating it. It is very easy to whip up and the texture is just fantastic. If you ever need to make something in a hurry, this would be it. Give it a go because I promise you you will not be disappointed. I didn't have any parsley when I made mine and while it still tasted fantastic, I think it would add yet another level of flavour to it. Oh and just a forewarning beware the garlic breath...or you can make your partner or friends hoe into this as well then you will all be in the same boat with your potent garlic breath...just a thought!

Cannellini Bean Dip with Parmesan, Garlic and Rosemary

1 x 400g can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
1-2 tsp rosemary finely chopped (she says thyme works well too)
handful of flat leaf parsley
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil + extra for drizzling (fruity is good)
zest and juice of 1 -2 lemons (I used only one and it was enough)
2-3 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (but do this to taste)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Place rinsed beans, rosemary, parsley, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper into a food processor and blitz until just blended, leaving it a little bit chunky for texture. I made mine smooth and loved ti like that but chunky would be good too. Taste and adjust seasoning as you like it.

Drizzle over some EVOO and some freshly ground black pepper.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cinnamon Brioche

Harry holding Eli...and very happy doing so!

The very delicious Elijah
Today my friends Amy and Michelle came over for coffee and a gossip while our kids got to hang out and have some fun playing. Michelle brought over Sammie (nearly 3) and her gorgeous baby Eli who is almost 6 weeks old and is very all third children seem to be. Amy has Gwennie, who has just turned 6 and Peter who is 3. Harry and Gwennie don't get to see each other very much but when they do they get only really well and seem to just fall into being each others friend really easily...must be a bond they have.

I thought I should whip up a few things for us to eat and one of them was this brioche. I'll post about the other things in the next couple of days. Brioche is notorious for being a high-fat treat and lets face it, it's the butter that makes it special (as it always is). However one of the sites and forums I visit regularly is called Foodlovers. Helen Jackson, (who owns the website), also does the Saturday morning Kitchen and Garden Show which I love to listen to...if I'm not working and when I remember that it's Saturday. What can I say I blame it on night shift and therefore an absent mind on occasion. On this site and in her new book is a recipe for these Cinnamon Brioche and to make them even more appealing they have less butter than what you would normally find...or is it that the mixture makes a smaller amount therefore only giving the illusion of using less butter. Hmmmmm! Regardless of what the answer is, this is a very easy recipe to make and gives a lovely result. So to impress you friends, partner, family give this a go. I'll definitely be making these again.

You can find the recipe here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Baking for Nightshift- Lemon Marshmallow Slice and a Caramel Slice

See how the topping slides...

The 'by-default' Caramel Slice

So after the last post on Ginger Crunch I got to thinking about those old nostalgic things we used to bake and which were part of the everyday housewives repertoire. Having said that, while my own mother baked sporadically, we were not the kind of family who had their baking tins filled every Sunday in preparation for the long week ahead. My mum was a good baker but not a committed one. She would go in fits and starts generally making the same things which we all loved and adored. These included Afghans, Ginger Crunch, Marshmallow Slice (made with jelly crystals as mum is allergic to eggs so the egg white method was a big no-no in our house), Anzac biscuits and so on...but her all time favourite to make would be Chocolate Fudge and Coconut Ice.

I well remember those lazy Sunday afternoon when my mum would send me up to the dairy to get a big bottle of Coke (in the glass bottles which we used to be able to sell the empty one back to the dairy...fantastic recycling idea), a big bag of Bluebird Potato Chips, and on occasion a big bar of Chocolate (always Cadbury's and always Plain, Crunchie or Caramello). To put this into perspective, we weren't a well-off family and so these days were a rare treat which we all loved. They were usually accompanied by TV and a rainy outside meaning we had to stay inside. If money was a bit tight, or if my mum had the urge she would whip up a batch of fudge or coconut ice. She was the best at these! Her fudge was creamy and delicious and was always set in my Poppa's battered, old, blue enamel dish to which we would be able to grab a piece almost at will. That dish, over the years, got a real working out. To this day it is the one thing I would have really loved to have in my own kitchen for when I make my own fudge but I think it long since died... no doubt from overuse. Amazing how some things really get the wear out making them most likely to be the cheapest thing you could have ever bought.

Anyway I digress with this nostalgia. My mum made amazing Marshmallow Slice and to this day it remains to be the one thing I have hardly made and am still in search of the ideal recipe. In an internet search for one, I found this recipe on the Chelsea Sugar website. The idea of the lemon layer really appealed. I did look at the ingredients and method for the marshmallow topping and I did wonder if it would work. BUT when I cook or bake I almost always make the recipe as it is then make my adjustments with it the next time. In this case I should have trusted my instincts and gone with a different topping. While the base and lemon filling were lovely, the topping was too set and as you can see in the photo above was able to be slid off all too easily. You can find the recipe here but as I have said look for a different recipe for the topping.

When I initially made the base I made it in a tin which was too small to hold the lemon topping so I whipped up some caramel, covered it with chocolate and called it Caramel Slice. This was actually quite good as the base was soft and cake-like so was quite different to the usual Caramel Slice recipe where the base is more crunchy and dense. Regardless both went pretty quickly at work last night so they couldn't have been too bad to eat.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ginger Crunch

Any self-respecting Kiwi would know instantly what Ginger Crunch is. This has been a perennial favourite since my Grandmother's time and continues to be to this day. I first started making Ginger Crunch when I was a fact along with Anzac biscuits, this was probably the first thing I would have made independently. Of course in those 'old' days the only cookbook we had or used at my house was the good old Edmonds from which most, if not all, the biscuits and cakes were made. My favourites were Ginger Crunch, Marshmallow Slice and Yo-yo's...and I think to this day they are the things I feel most nostalgic about.

To just my humble opinion, Ginger Crunch is NOT a big thick cakey base with a huge amount of topping piled on top as you see in cafes, but is instead just what it says it is a CRUNCH! I like it to be thin and crunchy with that satisfying snap when you bite into it. The topping should taste gingery but not be so thick that it overpowers the slice. For my slice I doubled the topping as my boys seem to like it that way, but for me I would just have it nice and thin so that it complements the crispy base. 

I got this recipe from a lovely traditional book called 'Ladies' A Plate- Traditional Home Baking' which is a collection of old traditional favourites baked by ladies of of my grandmother's (and some more 'modern' ones too) generation. 

Ginger Crunch

115g sugar
200g flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
115g butter

Put the ingredients into a food processor (clearly the method has been a little modernised since my grandmother's time) and process until the mixture forms fine crumbs. Press into a shallow 30cm x 21cm tin (I line mine with baking paper).

Bake 20-25 in a preheated 180C oven until a pale, golden brown.

Immediately pour over topping over the hot base.

55g butter
1 Tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
55g icing sugar

Melt together over a medium heat until runny and well combined and the sugar is melted.

Cut while still warm then leave to cool in the tin.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chocolate, Cointreau and Orange Cupcakes....Michele's Hen's Night

Last night was my lovely friend of 30 years (makes me feels old!) Michele's Hen's night. We had a private room at a bar called Bario on Ponsonby Road and a theme of feathers, sequins, glamour. Michele and her sister Vanessa are real dress-up queens. Any excuse to dress up for something and they will be the best turned out with the best outfit for sure. Last night was no excuse. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of the night as I forgot my camera but all the girls who were there looked fantastic- especially the girls who Michele works with (which is no surprise as they are all from the art department at a good school so have a natural eye for fabulosity). Anyone who knows me will know that I don't do dress up...and I don't do sequins or anything too sparkly. However I did borrow a little dress from Michele with sequins on it so I, at least, looked a little like the part. Luckily there wasn't a male stripper, silly hen's night games or penis cake in sight. Instead Michele did her Burlesque Lollipop dance and her sister Vanessa and Francesca did a fantastic dance to Abba's Waterloo for the entertainment (Michele and Vanessa also love any chance to perform...). After that it was dancing, dancing and dancing...true to Michele's idea of a good night out. 

For the night I made these cupcakes. I used one of my favourite recipes from The Crabapple Bakery Cupcake Cookbook called Dinosaur Rock Cupcakes which make a delicious light but rich cupcake. I cut out the middle of them (using an apple corer which made it easy and symmetrical), and filled that with a chocolate Cointreau ganache, Then I topped them with an orange and Cointreau buttercream which I decorated with these little fondant flowers and edible glitter (very easy to make for maximum impact. They tasted lovely and looked part of the theme too.

I hope Michele had a fantastic night out. This friend of mine deserves nothing but the best for now and the future and I know she has picked her life partner well as he is a lovely person and perfect for her. Have a wonderful wedding in Thailand gorgeous and amazing Michele, Mike and Jake and Hollie. Love you lots xxx

Michele's Chocolate, Cointreau and Orange Cupcakes


You can find the recipe here. 


350g dark chocolate, chopped up
150-200ml cream
3 Tbsp Cointreau

Heat the cream until it just comes to the boil and pour over the chopped chocolate. Mix until smooth then leave to set to a piping consistency.

Orange, Cointreau Buttercream

150g butter
about 4-5 c icing sugar
about 3-4 Tbsp Cointreau
Zest of an orange
milk to get the right consistency

Beat the butter until pale and creamy then add the icing sugar, Cointreau and milk to get the right consistency.

Fill the centre of the cooled cupcakes with the ganache. Either cut the centre out with an apple corer or else just cut it out with a knife. Pipe or spoon in the ganache. Top with the orange buttercream and decorate accordingly.

You could omit the Cointreau if you don't want alcohol in them.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Baking for Nightshift- Ginger Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

As the work girls would attest I have been a little slack with my baking with all the other things I have had going on in the last couple of weeks. So I decided to pull my finger out and get back into action. In fact I know I have been a little removed form my Kitchen Aid as in my last food shop, for the first time ever, I didn't need any of the sugars, no flour, no chocolate and I only needed one block of butter (instead of the usual 3-4), AND we had only just run of of eggs (I go through about 5-6 dozen a fortnight...yes you heard right but we also eat a lot of eggs!). As well as that Reuben asked me about four times if I had any home-baking! 

Anyway as time was still of the essence I had to quickly pick a recipe to make and after a quick look in Tamara Jane's book Divine Cupcakes, thought these would fit the bill. I did leave out the crystallised ginger as I really don't like it, but I don't think this was a necessity to include. This recipe only has 1/4 tsp baking soda in it which I wondered if this could have been a typo. Now, having made them, I can see it isn't BUT I like my cupcakes to have a nice, light texture. These ones had more of a 'bite' to them so while not tough, were not exactly what I like. I also thought the spices could have been a bit stronger. The icing went really well as lemon does seem to pair well with ginger. But a cinnamon, ginger or vanilla  buttercream would have been great too.

I know I have to start getting a bit more adventurous with my baking now but as the next couple of weeks are shaping up to be busy too, I can only hope I get the time to make anything at all to at least placate the boys for the weekend. Hmmmm maybe tomorrow after I finish my nightshifts....surely I can find a BIT of time to spend in the kitchen... Watch this space!

Ginger Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

300g flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
150g butter
400g caster sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
160ml sour cream
100g finely chopped crystallised ginger

Oven to 170 C. Line 24 muffin tins.

Sift together the flour, soda, salt and spices.

Cream the butter until it is soft, then add the caster sugar in 3 lots beating for 1-2 mins after each. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar almost dissolved.

Add the eggs one at a time beating for a minutes after each. Add the vanilla.

Add half the dry ingredients and the chopped ginger (if using), and half the sour cream and stir until just combined. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Bake about 20 mins then cool out of the tins on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Icing (this is a little made up)

100g butter
100g cream cheese
Rind of a big lemon
About 4-5 c icing sugar
Lemon juice to get the right consistency

Put the cream cheese, lemon rind and butter into a food processor (or into the mixer) and beat until smooth. Add the icing sugar and the lemon juice to get the consistency you want. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Harry's Treat...A Day at Rainbows End

On the Gold Rush

Waiting for the Log Flume Ride

Coming down

That's Me, Hollie and Harry in the orange car

With Mama/Aunty Don

Reubs, Big Harry and Hollie on the Invader 

Part of the Invader ride...can't believe Holls did it!

Part of the acrobat show...this was to show these terrible costumes...

The smallest one...he was pretty amazing

Harry and Holls totally awed

On the little Dragon Coaster

Playing the overpriced clown game

Candy floss break

Holls and Harry on the Log Flume all by themselves

Fast asleep after a huge fun day clutching the teddy he won on a game
Yesterday we made the trek to Rainbow's End for Harry's big treat which he earned by practicing so hard for his ballet exam. He was allowed to take someone so he asked his Cousin Hollie to come. Reubs also brought a friend (big Harry), which explains the lack of photos of him as they were off and out and about for the whole time doing their own thing. We were lucky because even though it was cold, the day was nice and sunny so everything was open and working. At first the queues were small but by lunchtime they had grown somewhat meaning it took longer to get onto a ride. The little ones didn't mind though and pretty much managed to do everything they could making the most of the treat. Hollie is a total daredevil and will do everything, including this vomity-looking ride called the Invader (which the bigger boys took her on). I thought Harry would be quite conservative but as it turns out once he makes his mind up to try something, he just goes for it. We did the Rollercoaster twice in a row to my surprise but even Harry drew the line at the Invader ride! 

We stopped for lunch and to watch the acrobat show, which they loved and I have to say that the acrobat boys in particular were pretty amazing. Some of the outfits were pretty bad though (as you can see  by the photo above....very 80's fluoro!). Then we did some more rides, had the obligatory candy floss break, followed by more rides again. Harry wasn't so keen on the bumper boats as he found it hard to control the boat but Cousin Holls just went for it...amazing that girl is! Then we played some games in the arcade and to Harry's delight he won a teddy bear on one of those grabbing games. He was so really was the perfect end to a wonderful day. As you can see in the last photo he was pretty tired that night after a full day and a full weekend filled up with Walking With Dinosaurs, ballet, a birthday party, a sleep over and the day with Cousin Holls.