Tag Archives: Honey

A snack fit for a hungry hobbit

Happy Waitangi Day for yesterday to any New Zealanders out there – I hope you all enjoyed your day off and had the same beautiful weather as we did!  I was actually in the lab trying to fix up some of the cameras I need for my experiments.  It might not sound like the most thrilling way to spend a public holiday, but at least it didn’t require too much intense thinking and I knew that I’d be going for a lovely long swim once I got back.  Until a tsunami warning was put out after the earthquake in the Solomon Islands.*  Having to stay away from beaches and out of the sea thwarted my plans for a swim somewhat.  So instead,  I made a slight dent in the backlog of blog posts from the safety of our hilltop house.  Because blogging and exercise are totally interchangeable, right?

This post has nothing to do with tsunamis by the way.

Today’s recipe dates back from Kat was visiting over New Year’s.  (What blogging backlog?)  I’ve previously mentioned that we went on a little trip to Hobbiton whilst she was here.  Neither of us survive day trips without some sort of snack to keep us going – much like any self-respecting hobbit, actually – so we decided to make some homemade granola bars to take along with us.  I have a jar of raisins permanently soaking in rum, so we decided to dig into that and throw some into the granola bars.  Because why wouldn’t you?  Adding rum to granola bars obviously means that we’re winning at life.

Why would you use normal raisins when you can use rum-raisins?

Oats, nuts and (rum-soaked) dried fruit all contribute to a good snack that keeps you going, and we added some dark chocolate chips just because.  We threw in some macadamia nut butter that I had loitering in my cupboard, which turned out to be a rather excellent idea.  If you don’t happen to come across some on offer at a farmers’ market, I’d suggest almond butter or even peanut butter (although peanut butter would have a much stronger flavour).  These granola bars are pretty soft so they may crumble a little with transport, but if you wrap them up well in baking paper, it won’t be a problem.

We had planned on taking photos of the granola bars in Hobbiton…  But we got a little distracted and forgot.  Woops.

Almond, ginger & rum-raisin granola bars

Makes 12 bars
Adapted from BBC Good Food

The great thing about these bars is that all the ingredients are easily changed – substitute different nuts, different dried fruit, more (or fewer) chocolate chips or crystallised ginger, etc.  If you don’t have macadamia nut butter (I only have some because I came across some at a farmers’ market), almond butter would work well, as would peanut butter (though peanut butter will have a stronger flavour).  I used manuka honey for the flavour, but use whatever you’ve got available (or a mixture).  Soaking the raisins in rum is obviously optional, but highly recommended (unless you’re making these for kids, obviously…).  The bars are best wrapped in baking paper to transport them (they won’t stick to the baking paper), and will keep well for a few days in an airtight container (they’ll probably last longer actually, but we ate them all…).

Ingredients

100g raisins
Spiced rum
200g oats
100g slivered or flaked almonds
50g butter
50g light brown sugar
50g macadamia nut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
50g crystallised ginger
50g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Add the raisins to a bowl or jar and cover with spiced rum.  Soak for at least 1h, but the longer the better (top tip: I always keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum.  You know, for emergencies…).

2.  Line a 25 x 19 cm baking tin with baking paper (otherwise you won’t be able to get the granola bars out afterwards).  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C.

3.  Add the oats and almonds to a roasting tin or lipped baking tray, stir and toast for 5-10 mins in the oven, until fragrant.  Leave the oven on.

4.  Meanwhile, add the butter, macadamia nut butter, brown sugar and honey to a large saucepan and melt together.  Once smooth, stir in the spices, then add the toasted oats, chocolate chips, chopped crystallised ginger and raisins.  Stir together until well coated, transfer to the prepared tin, press down evenly and bake for 30 mins.  Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into bars or squares.  Wrap in baking paper to transport.

Enjoy!

Granola bars with rum.  Winning at life.

*The warning was eventually cancelled and no tsunami turned up, so nobody panic.

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Peanut butter & cocoa nib cookies

January – the month of resolutions.  The month that going to the gym or pool becomes a real mission because they’re full of people being all resolute.  The month that when you bake things, people tell you they’re on a diet which involves eating three slices of melon as a main meal (because there’s nothing tastier than an unseasonal melon), snacking on a cherry tomato should they get peckish and finishing the lot off with a tub of ice-cream for dessert.  You might think I’m kidding, but I have actually encountered somebody who followed a similar meal plan.  It didn’t do them much (any) good.  Anyway.  I digress.  January can be a tough month for bakers if people start refusing offered cake (what an idea).

No melon or cherry tomatoes in sight

We Should CocoaLuckily, Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, who is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, has come up with a solution by choosing the theme “sugar-free” – a theme which, I must admit, horrified me when I first saw it.  Not because I’m a sugar addict, but because I hadn’t finished reading the rules so I hadn’t realised that “natural” sugars such as honey or maple syrup were fine, and I was drawing an utter blank in terms of inspiration – I absolutely refuse to use artificial sweeteners.  I had visions of something like this:

I've no idea how one would make cake without any ingredients either…

I have no idea what “no ingredients fruit & nut cake” is either, but it made Kat and I laugh when we stopped off at a café in Cambridge (that’ll be Cambridge, NZ) on our way to Hobbiton.  In the end, Kat and I decided to make cookies for the challenge – the start of our friendship due to chocolate chip cookies, so it seemed fitting.  We followed the rules, but we did it the Mel way – sure, we didn’t use any sugar, but we did add a shit-tonne* of honey instead.  Totally allowed.

No sugar, but tonnes of honey.  Totally good for you, right?

These cookies gave me the opportunity to try out the cinnamon cocoa nibs that I won from the lovely Lucy over at The KitchenMaid a few months ago – cocoa nibs don’t have any sugar added to them, so they also fitted the rules perfectly.  Since we’re both fans of the combination of chocolate and peanut butter, we decided to substitute peanut butter instead of butter in the cookies, but I think this might be why they came out a little dry.  They’re excellent for dunking into a glass of milk or cup of tea though, so they were still yummy.  Next time, I think I’ll add about 25g of butter to the mix just to make them slightly moister.  I really loved the little bursts of intense cocoa flavour from the cocoa nibs – I’d never used cocoa nibs before, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

Peanut butter & cocoa nib cookies

Makes about 24 cookies
Adapted from Nana Clare’s Kitchen

These cookies came out fairly dry (not inedibly dry though!), so I’d suggest perhaps adding 25g of unsalted butter at the same time as the peanut butter in order to remedy this.  Dark chocolate chips would also work really well instead of cocoa nibs.  These cookies will keep for a few days in an airtight biscuit tin.

Ingredients

170g runny honey
130g natural crunchy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
190g all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
20g cinnamon cocoa nibs (or normal cocoa nibs with 1 tsp ground cinnamon)

Directions

1.  Butter a couple of baking trays.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan oven.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the honey and peanut butter with an electric whisk.  Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract.

3.  Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt (and ground cinnamon if using) into the peanut butter mixture and whisk until just bended.  Fold in the cocoa nibs.  Form teaspoons of dough into balls and place on the baking trays, spaced out a little so that the cookies have space to spread.  Flatten each ball slightly with a fork.

4.  Bake for 8-12 mins until golden (check they don’t catch), then turn out onto wire racks to cool.

Enjoy!

* Shit-tonnes are actual SI units by the way.  (Ok, fine, they’re really not.  But they should be.  Might make certain papers a little more entertaining to read…)

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Guinness gingerbread cupcakes

I got all excited last month about the new blog challenge dreamt up by Janine at Cake of the WeekBaking with Spirit (so excited that I entered it twice…).  Apparently I must come across as a bit of an alcoholic since it turned out that Janine expected my enthusiasm – in the September round-up she admitted/confided that she’d hoped the challenge would be “right up my street.”  For the record, that comment amused me no end – Janine clearly knows me remarkably well!  My enthusiasm for the challenge hasn’t abated, and the alcohol of choice for October is… can you guess?  It’s “beer!”  Because, you know, Oktoberfest.  Clever, eh?

Now, I have a little confession: I don’t like beer.  There are a couple of exceptions – I do quite enjoy fruit beers (although I’m not sure they really count as beer), and I’ve had one or two beers that tasted pretty good for a few sips but then they warmed up too much and the hoppy flavour started coming through too much for me to finish the bottle.  I really wish I did like beer though – I suspect that there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in good beer and I feel like I’m missing out.  And I don’t like being left out.  I think part of the problem is that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about beer, so I wouldn’t know where to start.

Luckily, Baking with Spirit is about baking or cooking with beer rather than drinking it.  I baked some rather scrumptious chocolate Guinness cupcakes about a year ago, but that’s been my sole foray into baking with beer.  I really had no idea what I was going to make, so I was sort of hoping that something would magically come to me.  And then, a few days ago, I came across a recipe for Guinness gingerbread cupcakes.  Bingo!  The combination of Guinness and gingerbread completely intrigued me – I would never even have thought to pair them together.

Boy am I glad that I tried the recipe out, because these cupcakes are phenomenal.  It’s a dark gingerbread, packed full of spices, wonderfully gingery and with a fabulous undertone of treacle that is perfectly matched by the Guinness, which comes through subtly enough but definitely adds depth to the flavours going on in the cupcakes.  They’re also surprisingly light.  I was initially going to make the recipe as one large cake, but after a stressful day I decided that cupcakes were the way forward since the piping bit calms me.  Don’t be put off if you don’t like Guinness – I cannot stand it as a drink, yet I can’t get enough of these cupcakes.

Guinness gingerbread cupcakes

Makes 24
Adapted from Tea with Bea

In the icing I used the Equagold vanilla extract with star anise that I won in a giveaway the other week as I felt the hint of star anise would complement the spices in the gingerbread, but normal vanilla extract would also work, and is what I would ordinarily have used (I don’t usually have vanilla extract with star anise).  These cupcakes will keep for a few days in an airtight container kept away from any direct heat or sunlight (the icing will get a bit melty if it gets too warm), but not in the fridge.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
250ml Guinness
250g black treacle
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
280g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch salt
1 heaped tbsp fresh finely grated ginger (a piece of about 2-3 cm)
3 eggs
100g caster sugar
100g dark brown sugar
200ml organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)

For the icing:
225g cream cheese
60g unsalted butter, softened
175g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (I used vanilla extract with star anise)
2 tbsp honey
Crystallised ginger pieces, to decorate (optional)

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Add the Guinness and black treacle to a tall saucepan (it needs to be tall because the mixture will bubble violently in the next step, and you don’t want it to overflow) and heat over a high heat.  Remove from the heat once the mixture comes to the boil, and stir in the bicarbonate of soda (this is the bubbling violently bit).  Set aside to cool completely whilst preparing the rest of the cupcake mixture.

2.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan 170°C.  Line two cupcake tins with cupcake liners or set out 24 silicone liners on baking trays.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir together.

4.  Peel the ginger and finely grate it, adding it to a large mixing bowl.  Add the eggs and two sugars and whisk together.  Make sure there aren’t any little clumps of brown sugar left, then gradually mix in the oil.  Whisk in the cooled Guinness syrup.

5.  Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula or spoon until just combined (it’ll be quite a liquidy mixture).

6.  Spoon the mixture into the the prepared liners or moulds, filling them about ⅘ full.  Bake for 25-35 mins until the tops are springy to touch and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the tins or silicone moulds and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

To make the icing:
7.  Prepare a piping bag with your chosen piping nozzle (I used a Wilton 1M large star nozzle).

8.  Whisk together the cream cheese and butter in a medium-sized bowl with an electric whisk until smooth.  Sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla extract and honey and whisk until light and fluffy.  Transfer to the prepared piping bag and pipe swirls onto the cupcakes.

9.  Chop the crystallised ginger pieces and sprinkle them over the cupcakes to decorate.

Enjoy!

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Spiced apple camomile & honey cupcakes

It may be spring soon (hurry up already!) here, but, with the exception of a couple of days last week, the weather over the last few weeks seems to think that it’s autumn.  Dull, grey and blustery.  It’s enough to make one crave apples and all those wonderfully wintery spices, even if pretty flowers are beginning to bloom instead of the leaves turning spectacular colours.  So when I decided to try out a recipe that called for camomile tea and I opened my tea cupboard to get the camomile, I was immediately distracted by a packet of spiced apple camomile.  And as simply as that, I decided to try spiced apple camomile and honey cupcakes instead of just simple camomile and honey cupcakes.  Which is perfect for those of you in the northern hemisphere where it actually is autumn.

It turned out to be a rather marvellous idea.  The flavours are distinctly autumnal and delicious but also delicate.  Without wanting to stereotype too much, I’m tempted to describe these cupcakes as “ladylike” – the lightness of the cake part and the honeyed icing make me imagine these cupcakes set out on a dainty china plate at an afternoon tea party for ladies.  The tea (loose-leaf of course, darling, and served by the butler) would be sipped from fine china cups.  There’s something about the flavours that makes me think “vintage” as well.  I’m not really sure why.  If I had a dainty vintage china tea set, it would feature heavily in this post’s photos.  My mum does, but on the other side of the world, so I can’t really borrow it.  I do, however, have a shark mug.  Which is blatantly the same thing.

See, a shark mug is totally all dainty and lady-like.  Pfffft.  I feel this has turned into a rather lady-oriented post and that I should make it clear that whilst these cupcakes may be all dainty and delicate, they’re not just for the ladies – men will love them, too.  I’m basing that statement on the reaction of my labmates – there was “mmmmm”ing all round, but the boys practically inhaled them (although that’s not necessarily unusual).  Anyway since when are cupcakes just for ladies?  Ridiculous idea.  Pfffft.  This is turning into a bit of a ramble, so just a quick note about the honey icing – I chose a set pōhutakawa honey that I picked up at the Auckland Food Show and which has been starting me in the face every time I open my ingredients cupboard.  This recipe was the perfect occasion to crack open the jar and eat a few cheeky spoonfuls whilst waiting for the cupcakes to cool use this wonderful NZ honey for something delicious.

Spiced apple camomile & honey cupcakes

Makes 12
Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

I used Twinings’ spiced apple camomile from tea bags.  Other flavoured camomile teas would probably work wonderfully (as long as they go with the honey icing) as would just plain camomile.  You could also use whole dried camomile rather than from tea bags, in which case chop it fairly finely before measuring out the 3 tbsp required. I chose a set pōhutakawa honey for the icing.  Choose a honey with flavours that will complement the camomile.  If using a runny honey, I’d suggest perhaps using 1 tbsp of honey rather than the 2 tbsp stated in the ingredients list.  The cupcakes will keep in an airtight box at room temperature for up to three days.

Ingredients

To make the cupcakes:
140g all-purpose flour
125g granulated sugar
55g butter, softened
3 tbsp spiced apple camomile (I found this to be about 9 tea bags worth)
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking soda
120 ml milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

To make the icing:
160-180g icing sugar
2 tbsp set honey
4-5 tbsp whipping or NZ pure cream (use heavy or double cream if you can get it)
Ground cinnamon, to decorate

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners or set out 12 silicone cupcake moulds on an baking tray.  Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C with a rack placed in the upper third of the oven.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg and vanilla extract.  Set aside.

3.  Add the flour, sugar, butter, spiced apple camomile, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt to a large bowl and whisk together with an electric whisk on medium speed until the mixture resembles fairly fine breadcrumbs (this takes about 5 mins).

4.  Pour half of the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk in until just incorporated.  Pour in the remaining milk mixture.  Turn the electric whisk up to a medium-high speed and beat for 1 minute, until blended well.

5.  Split the evenly batter between the prepared cupcake liners or moulds, filling each only up until about half way (you’ll need to scrape the bowl to get every last drop of batter).  Bake for 17-20 mins until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and leave in the tin or moulds for 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool completely (be very careful if using silicon moulds – the cupcakes will be fragile and can easily break apart when being removed from the moulds).

To make the icing:
6.  Once the cupcakes are completely cool, make the icing.  Whisk together 160g of icing sugar, the honey and the cream in a medium bowl until smooth.  If the icing is too runny, add a little more icing sugar as required.  Using a small palette knife, liberally spread the icing over the cupcakes (don’t try to pipe the icing, it won’t work because the icing doesn’t have a thick enough consistency – I know because I tried).  If the icing is too runny and looks like it’s going to escape, pop the cupcakes in the fridge whilst it sets.  Once the icing is set, dust with a little bit of ground cinnamon before serving.

Enjoy!

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The Olympics are over… now what? Banana mousse, that’s what.

So.  The Olympics are over and normal life has resumed.  Does anybody else feel like there’s a gaping hole in the shape of fiver inter-linked rings in their lives now?  At least it’s only for a couple of weeks until the Paralympics start (hurry up already!), but in the mean time, comfort food is clearly the order of the day.  What’s that?  The point of the games was to inspire everybody to go be sporty and all?  Well that’s all good, but people still have to eat, so comfort food wins out for today.  I’ve got the perfect comfort dessert for you – not only is it delicious, but it’s also exceptionally easy and quick to prepare…  Fast food with no McDonald’s in sight.

After last month’s excuse for a nosy snoop around other bloggers’ bookshelves, we’re going “back to the very beginning” for this month’s Random Recipes, meaning back to the original rules of randomly picking a book, then randomly picking a recipe from said book.  Simple.  I used the random number button on my calculator as usual, which directed me to book number five, which turned out to be Cuisine Express, a convenient choice since the recipes are all fairly quick to prepare, though a fair few of the shortcut ingredients aren’t very easy to find outside of France (and are usually expensive if you do), which isn’t ideal.  I needn’t have worried though, since the random number button directed me to page 146, giving me a choice of several different quick fruit mousse recipes.

As delicious and tempting as the raspberry or peach mousses sounded, it’s very much not raspberry nor peach season here, so I chose the banana express mousse.  It definitely lives up to its name as it only takes ten minutes to prepare, although it does require at least two hours of chilling in the fridge before serving.  But actually that’s great because it’s a dessert that can be prepared in advance or even the night before, which is always helpful.  The mousse itself is lovely and creamy and smooth, and the banana flavour comes through strongly, which is great.  I added some honey on a whim since I’ve got a bit of a sore throat so I’m adding honey to things left, right and centre at the moment and that was a delicious little added extra, as were the banana slices and toasted walnuts.  They’re all optional extras, but they can take this from an everyday dessert to one presentable enough to finish up a dinner party without much extra effort (always a bonus!).  Serving it in martini glasses or champagne coupes also automatically makes it look fancier.  Here’s to speedy comfort food!

Banana express mousse

Serves 4
Adapted from Cuisine Express

Although very quick to prepare, don’t forget to plan for the 2h of refrigeration.  The mousse can be refrigerated for longer, even overnight if necessary – the lemon juice keeps the banana from going all brown.  This can work as a fancy dessert served in martini glasses, champagne coupes or other fancy glassware, or an everyday dessert served in little ramekins or bowls.  The decorations on top are totally optional, but do add a little bit of pizzazz to the presentation.  Whilst brown sugar would go really well with the bananas, I decided to stick with white sugar as I’m not sure that using brown would result in the most presentable of colours.

Ingredients

5 bananas (includes 1 to serve which is optional)
1 lemon
40g caster sugar
200ml whipping cream
20g icing sugar
6 walnut halves (optional)
Honey, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Peel four of the bananas (keep the fifth one unpeeled until needed) and pop them in a blender along with the juice of the lemon and the caster sugar.  Whizz together until totally smooth.

2.  In a large bowl, whip the cream.  As it begins to firm up, add the icing sugar and continue whisking until firm.  Gently add the banana mixture to the whipped cream and carefully fold together.  Split equally between four martini glasses/champagne coupes/ramekins/bowls.  Refrigerate for at least 2h.

3.  Whilst the mousse is chilling, roughly chop the walnuts and toast in a frying pan over a low heat until fragrant.  Allow to cool and set aside until needed.

4.  To serve, peel and slice the last banana, lay three slices of banana in the middle of each individual mousse, and top with the toasted walnuts and a drizzle of honey.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Honey, wine and more wine: Auckland Food Show 2012

On Saturday I went to the Auckland edition of the NZ Food Show, held at the ASB Showgrounds.  Having never been, I wasn’t too sure what to expect so decided that I would assume it was along similar lines to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival, which is really my only other experience with a food show or festival.  And indeed it was along similar lines, although much bigger, indoors (excellent idea in winter!) and with significantly less gin, but a heck of a lot more wine – it seemed that about a third of the stands were wine stands.  There were also masterclasses (although they cost $50 to attend, so I passed) and free cooking demos organised.

There range of products on show and on sale was impressive to say the least – honey, wraps, wines and liqueurs, breads, meats, etc. etc. etc.  But there were also non-edible products such as Tupperware (since when is it all so pretty and colourful?!), knives, Skoda cars (no idea what they were doing there) and Kenwood had a huge show area that I didn’t venture into too much because everything was shiny and tempting (and expensive).  There were some very large and commercial companies there (Kenwood, Tupperware, etc.), some that I recognise from the supermarket (Hellers, Dilmah tea, Farrah Wraps, etc.) but also much smaller producers, which I was most eager to discover.  Uhm, I should probably mention at this point that I got a little distracted by all the samples and wine tastings so I have hardly any photos.  Woops.

There were plenty of chutney and jam stands, but they’ve all more or less merged into one in my memory, as have the wine stands (taking notes might have been a good idea since the number of wine stands there made things a little hazy…), and to a certain extent some of the honey stands.  The producers that really stood out for me were:

  • J Friend & Co Honey – I made a beeline (badum-tschhhh!) for all the honey stands, but this is the one that stood out for me.  All their honeys were fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed the pōhutakawa one.  They also had honeycomb available, which was wonderful.
  • Lighthouse Gin – a NZ-made gin and wonderfully smooth.  Also the only gin stand (sad times).
  • Shott fruit syrups – I love fruit-syrup based drinks, but outside of France it can be difficult to find good syrups.  These, however, were fantastic.  My favourites were the honey blackberry and the lemon, ginger and honey (have I mentioned that I love honey?)
  • Genevieve’s Cuisine pâtés – wonderfully smooth and delectable French-style chicken liver pâtés (or parfait as they call it) in a few different flavours (original, black pepper and truffle).  I hope they’ll expand their range from just chicken, because they certainly know what they’re doing.
  • Moreish butchers – a bit of an unusual butcher in that it’s entirely online, but all their meats are free range and organic.  I prefer to see what I’m buying, particularly when it comes to meat, but since I’m still looking for a good butcher here, I might give this a go, depending on their prices.  Their sausage samples were certainly excellent though.
  • Lewis Road Creamery butter – creamy and heavenly and quite possibly the best butter I’ve ever tasted.  Oh, and makes really good butter sculptures, too, in case you were wondering.  Amazing!

So there you go, that’s my little round-up of the NZ Food Show, Auckland.  If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend going along to get a taste for what’s available in terms of local products – the next edition is in Christchurch from 14-16 September, then in Wellington from 24-26 May 2013, and then back in Auckland in August I should expect (all details are on the website).  I think there might be a bit of variation in producers across the different food shows, depending on which producers are local and so on, although I’m not 100% sure about that.

Were you at the Food Show?  What were your highlights?

Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your day!

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Greek yoghurt & honey cake: Deliciousness guaranteed, sharing optional

A large portion of this blog wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my trusty electric whisk.  All the macarons, the seal cake, the meerkat cake and most of the cupcakes – basically anything involving whisking egg whites into peaks or creaming together butter and sugar (which I’m too lazy to do by hand – shocking, I know).  The whisk also had a stick blender attachment, which made it ideal – only one appliance to make both cakes and soups saves on storage space – and was why I commandeered it from was given it by my mum when I moved up to St Andrews for uni (maybe also because it was free).  I forget whether it was my mum’s just before or just after she was married, but either way, it was older than me.  By several years.  And yet it still worked wonderfully.  It served me well whilst I was in St Andrews, and I loved it to bits, but by the time I started packing for my move to NZ, it was nearing the end of its (long) life span.  The motor was clearly just a few icing sugar explosions away from giving up (I’d had a couple of scares towards the end of my time in St Andrews).  Rather than shipping it over, having it break and then having to get a new one, I figured I’d skip the first two steps, give the whisk/blender an early retirement and just get a new one when I arrived here.  Simple as.

Well… in theory.  Apparently electric whisks with a stick blender attachment are few and far between now, and those that do exist have pretty poor reviews.  Damn.  So I’ve had to buy an electric whisk and a stick blender separately, which is slightly frustrating in terms of storage, but I guess that now I can whisk egg whites or make buttercream icing and blend soup at the same time.  Because that would totally end well…  I’m just hoping that they last me a long time (although their predecessor has set the bar pretty high).  It’s taken me four months to actually get round to buying them.  Four months of getting excited about recipes until realising they require egg whites to be whisked into soft peaks.  Four months of no soup (I like my soups smooth).  A bit ridiculous really, but when I realised that my Random Recipe entry for this month involved whisking egg whites I finally had to get my act together (thanks Dom!).  And it turned out to be a fantastic recipe to test out my new electric whisk.

Following on from last month’s theme of “first and last,” the theme for this month’s Random Recipe challenge is “the middle.”  I randomly picked A Treasury of New Zealand Baking as my book, which has 232 pages of recipes, so I turned to page 116, which houses a recipe for… Greek yoghurt and honey cake with a raisin lemon syrup.  I’ve been rather lucky with my Random Recipe entries over the last few months, and it seems that the streak continues.  I’m not complaining!  The cake turned out rather scrumptious.  It’s wonderfully moist and full of flavour thanks to the syrup that gets poured over the top at the end.  It’s excellent for breakfast (the amount of whisky in the syrup is minimal and it gets simmered anyway), for morning tea, for afternoon tea and for dessert.  I can say that with confidence, because I’ve (enthusiastically) tested all those options out personally.  I know, I know, I totally took one for the team.  It also keeps for a good few days, and it’s almost tastier after a couple of days as the flavours in the syrup pervade the cake over time.  Confession: this cake is so tasty that it’s a little difficult to share.  I had originally planned to take it in to the lab, and well… that never really happened.  Ahem.  I’ve had great breakfasts this week though (it has raisins, thus it’s totally breakfast food…  Don’t judge).  I think next time I’ll tell them I’m bringing cake so that I have to actually follow through with it.

Greek yoghurt & honey cake, with a raisin, lemon & whisky syrup

Serves 8-10 as a snack, 5-6 for breakfast
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

The syrup would also work wonderfully with spiced rum instead of whisky, or alcohol-free if necessary.  It’s quite dense so it works wonderfully for breakfast or as a snack (in smaller portions) accompanied by tea.  The cake is kept moist by the yoghurt in it, so it’ll keep for a good few days (in fact, I think I preferred it after a couple of a days as the flavours of the syrup develop).

Ingredients

240g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
240g unsalted butter, softened
120g caster sugar
3 tbsp honey
Zest of 2 lemons
4 eggs
240g unsweetened Greek yoghurt

For the syrup:
180ml water
120g caster sugar
120g seedless raisins
Juice of 2 lemons
2-3 tbsp whisky
2 tbsp honey
1 star anise

Unsweetened Greek yoghurt, to serve (optional)

Directions

1.  Butter a 24cm round cake tin.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium bowl and stir together.

3.  Zest the lemons into a large bowl (keep the lemons to use the juice in the syrup later on) and add the cubed butter, sugar and honey.  Beat together until light and creamy.  Then beat in the egg yolks one at a time (put the egg whites directly into a large clean bowl for later).  Once all the egg yolks are incorporated, add about a spoonful of the flour mixture and beat in, followed by about a spoonful yoghurt, and continue alternating between the two.

4.  In a large, clean bowl whisk the egg whites into soft peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the cake mixture.

5.  Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1h05 until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 10 mins in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

Making the syrup:
6.  Whilst the cake is in the oven, start prepare the syrup.  Add all the syrup ingredients, except for the yoghurt, to a small saucepan and allow to marinate whilst the cake is baking.

7.  As the cake is cooling, heat over a low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 mins until thickened and syrupy (a syrupy syrup – my descriptive abilities amaze me sometimes).  Allow to cool a little, but not completely, and fish out the star anise.  Once the cake is completely cool, slide it onto a plate and then gently pour the syrup over the top and spread the raisins out evenly.

8.  Serve warm or cold, with a large spoonful of yoghurt if desired.

Enjoy!

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Dessert for one… Or maybe three

Cooking for one can be a bit of a pain.  I have so many bookmarked recipes that are for four or more people and not particularly easy to split.  I get bored eating the same thing several times in a row and my freezer is currently full (thanks to a recipe I tried out the other week that made enough food for 6-8 people… which I obviously didn’t forget to check before I started.  Ahem.), which I need to sort out before I start making soup for the winter.  Now I love crumbles, but all my recipes seem to be for large crumbles to feed at least six people.  I could probably eat a whole six-person crumble in one go all by myself… but just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea.  So I decided to try making myself a one-person crumble.  Cooking for one shouldn’t mean depriving oneself, it just means trying to adapt things to make smaller quantities.

I was originally going for a pear hazelnut crumble, but as I was rummaging around the fridge, I happened across an apple that was looking a little lonely all by itself, so I decided to make a two-person pear and apple hazelnut crumble.  The two-person crumble turned into a three-person crumble because the fruit turned out to be a tiny bit too much for just two ramekins.  So much for a one-person crumble…  Since I made them in ramekins it’s easy enough to just limit oneself to eating one at a time though, so it’s not much of an issue (otherwise I’d have just another spoonful, and just a little one more, and oh… where did the crumble go?  Woops.).

The flavours of pear, apple and toasted hazelnut complement each other so well, and are really the perfect autumnal combination.  I don’t think I’ve ever matched all three flavours together before, but I’ll definitely be trying the combination out again!  Since the hazelnut flavour in these crumbles absolutely shines through, I’m submitting this to this month’s AlphaBakes challenge, which is being hosted by Caroline Makes, because the random letter is “H” – H for hazelnut, but also for honey, which also features.  I’m not entirely sure whether the challenge is only for baked goods, or whether anything that has seen the inside of a hot oven is fair game.  I’m going with the latter…

Pear & apple hazelnut crumble

Serves 3
Recipe from my imagination

To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell toasty (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).  Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using.  I used a bosc pear and a braeburn apple since that’s what I had in the fridge.  If using a small apple and small pear, you could probably fit the slices into just two ramekins instead of three.  I always think that crumble is best served with pouring cream or ice cream.

Ingredients

40g flour
25g unsalted butter
4 heaped tsp light brown sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
20g porridge oats
20g toasted hazelnuts
1 medium apple
1 medium pear
2-3 tbsp Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
2-3 tbsp honey

Directions

1.  Add the sugar, flour and cinnamon to a medium-sized bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the sugar and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

2.  Roughly chop the hazelnuts and stir into the crumble mixture with the porridge oats.  Set aside.

3.  Slice the apples and pears (you might need to cut the slices into two or three to fit them into the ramekins) and mix together.  Set out three ovenproof ramekins (mine are 0.2 litres) and split the apple and pear mixture between them.  Drizzle with about 1 tbsp of Frangelico per ramekin, followed by about 1 tbsp of honey, then top with the crumble mixture, evenly split between the three ramekins.  Don’t pat down the crumble mixture, but make sure that it covers the fruit more or less evenly.

4.  Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 mins until the crumble is golden.  Serve immediately, accompanied by pouring cream or ice cream.

Enjoy!

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Fig, goat’s cheese & chocolate tartlets

This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge ingredient, hosted by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, is “cheese.”  That’s right, we’re supposed to make something involving cheese… and chocolate.  I think the most obvious way of combining the two would be in the form of a cheesecake, but I’m not a fan of cheesecake (to put it mildly).  I have made cheesecake a grand total of once in my entire life, as a birthday gift for somebody who absolutely adored cheesecake.  However, the cheesecake, which, by the way, was delicious – and I know that for a fact because Kat and Craig tested the trial run for me, and I definitely trust them to tell me the truth, especially in this particular situation – suffered a terrible fate which I’m just going to refer to as the “cheesecake incident” (but if you desperately want to know what happened, I’ll refer you to point number 4 in this post) and move on, because the incident still irks me, over a year later (in case you couldn’t tell).  Somewhat ironically, the white chocolate and lime cheesecake in question was my entry for the We Should Cocoa challenge back in March 2011.

Since it’ll clearly be a while before I ever attempt another cheesecake, I had to come up with some other way of combining cheese and chocolate.  I’ve just remembered the cream cheese Kahlúa brownies that I made a few months ago – they would also have been perfect for this challenge (a bit late to think of that now though!).  Now I must admit that I’m what can only be described as a cheese fiend, but I have never considered combining cheese (proper cheese, not cream cheese) with chocolate and I was at a bit of a loss.  For inspiration, I looked the combination up in the Flavour Thesaurus, which only had an entry for chocolate and goat’s cheese, but said that they went surprisingly well together.  Initially I wasn’t sure how I could combine the chocolate and goat’s cheese, but then I hit upon the idea of a chocolate pastry case and a goat’s cheese filling of some sort.  My inspiration sort of stopped there though, and it wasn’t until a few days later that somebody mentioned something about figs and I suddenly thought of the roast figs with honey and goat’s cheese that I’ve previously posted, and wondered if I could do something similar… but in a chocolate pastry case.  There was only one way to find out…

I picked up some delicious figs at the Farmers’ Market this morning, headed home, dug out a chocolate shortcrust pastry recipe, and gave it a go.  Conveniently, the pastry requires some resting time, so I got some reading done (though unfortunately it was really boring – the biochemical workings of elasmobranch electroreceptors anyone…?  No?  You surprise me.).  I’d never tried the pastry recipe before – it tasted good, but it was very fragile, possibly because I might have rolled it a little too thinly, so I had difficulties getting a couple of the tartlets out of their tins in one piece.  I’ll have to try it again but not rolled as thinly to see if it’s a problem with the pastry in general or just this particular attempt.  The chocolate isn’t an overpowering flavour in the tartlets, but you can definitely taste it, and it goes wonderfully with the fig and goat’s cheese filling.  All in all, except for the pastry, I’m really pleased with how these turned out!  And they would definitely make an unusual but super-tasty dessert.  Since figs are in season here (did you know that they grow figs in NZ?  I didn’t!), I’m also submitting this to the Simple and in Season blog event over at Fabulicious Food – although the pastry is a bit of a faff, they’re actually super simple to throw together.

Fig, goat’s cheese & chocolate tartlets

Makes 6 tartlets
Pastry recipe from Petits plats entre amis
Filling recipe from my imagination

The number of figs required may differ depending on the size of the figs that you are using.  The rosemary is totally optional, but it adds a subtle flavour that’s a little different and unexpected.  For the chocolate pastry, make sure not to roll it too thin as I found that it’s very fragile and quite difficult to get out of the tins without breaking.  Mini springform pans would be ideal, or silicone bakeware that can easily be “peeled off” the tartlets.  The pastry needs to rest for 2h before being used, so remember to plan accordingly!  The pastry recipe makes twice the amount required for the recipe, so either double the filling ingredients or make something else with it (it works for biscuits).  These tartlets won’t keep very well, so they are best eaten the day they are made.

Ingredients

For the pastry (makes double the amount required):
250g all-purpose flour
200g unsalted butter
120g icing sugar
50g cocoa powder
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water

For the filling:
12 medium-sized figs
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary (optional)
100g crumbly creamy goat’s cheese
6 tbsp walnut pieces
6 tbsp honey

Directions

For the pastry:
1.  Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl, and make a well in the middle.  Add the rest of the pastry ingredients, and mix together with a fork.  Then, knead together until the pastry comes together and is well incorporated (don’t worry if this seems to be taking a while – it does come together eventually).  Form into a ball, wrap in cling-film and rest for 2h in the fridge.

Assembling the tartlets:
2.  Remove the pastry from the fridge, and allow to acclimatise a little for about 10-15 mins.  Meanwhile butter six 10cm tartlet tins and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

3.  Split the pastry into six even pieces, and roll each one out individually to fit a tartlet tin.  Make sure not to roll it too thinly (no less than about 6mm).  Line the tins with the pastry, and prick it with a fork.  Line each pastry case with a piece of baking paper and some baking beans, and bake blind for 12 mins.

4.  Meanwhile, quarter the figs.  When the tartlets have been blind-baked, remove from the oven, and remove the baking beans.  Make sure that the pastry case loosens from the tin.  Arrange the fig quarters in the pastry cases (8 quarters per tartlet).  Strip the sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle the leaves evenly between the tartlets, followed by the crumbled goat’s cheese and walnut pieces.  Drizzle 1 tbsp of honey over each tartlet and bake for 15-20 mins.

5.  Once baked, allow the tartlets to cool a little in their tins (the liquid will bubble down a bit and become a little less liquid-y) before turning out onto a wire rack.  Eat warm or cooled.

Enjoy!

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Happy World Whisky Day!

Today is the first World Whisky Day!  Isn’t that exciting?  (Correct answer: yes!!  If you don’t like whisky, bear with me, or just skip this paragraph).  So the day is supposed to be all about celebrating world whiskies, which is wonderful, except that it’s a Tuesday, so as much as I’d love my day to involve tasting lots of whisky, my day will actually consist of sitting at my desk and pulling my hair out whilst trying to understand exactly how one goes about calculating the strengths of magnetic and tide-induced electric fields and trying to organise the logistics of transferring some rays down to the aquarium.  I clearly very much chucked myself into the deep end for my Masters.  Woops.  Anyway, I digress.  So today is not likely to involve much whisky-drinking for me (perhaps a wee dram this evening as I finish unpacking and tidying everything away), I decided to add some whisky to the recipe I’m sharing today.  Because whisky-eating is the next best thing, obviously.

This month’s Random Recipe challenge theme of “lucky number 17” was chosen by Choclette of the Chocolate Log Blog – we had to choose the 17th book on our bookshelves.  The only flaw was that my cookbooks spent most of the month in a box somewhere between Edinburgh and Auckland, and thus not terribly accessible.  So I decided to adapt the rules to doing the 17th recipe in a food magazine that I’d bought on arrival to try and get an idea of what is actually in season here (since it’s the total opposite of the Northern hemisphere and I felt like a total foodie criminal buying apricots in March…).  Well, it was the 17th recipe that I could actually feasibly make (so I didn’t count the recipes that required a food processor, electric whisk or barbecue), which ended up being poached stone fruit with cinnamon honey syrup.  Helloooo delicious-sounding recipe!

As I mentioned earlier, in honour of World Whisky Day, I decided to add some whisky to the recipe.  I used Milford 10 year, which is a New Zealand whisky, since I know absolutely nothing about NZ whisky and figured this would be a good excuse to make a start on that.  This turned out rather delicious, and makes such a wonderful late summer dessert.  It’s so easy to make as well, and can easily be prepared in advance and served cool, or warmed up.  The addition of the whisky was perfect, too, and comes in as a subtle flavour.  I’m submitting this recipe as a second entry to this month’s Simple and in Season blog challenge, since all the ingredients are in season (although it’s coming to the end of the stone fruit season – sad times!), and are definitely local (unlike the mangoes in my mango and chocolate muffins) – even the whisky!  Now that I’ve been reunited with my cookbooks, next month I’ll be back to the proper Random Recipe rules, I promise!

Poached stone fruit with a honey, cinnamon & whisky syrup

Serves 2
Adapted from Food (February March 2012)

I used Milford 10 year whisky, but use whatever good whisky you have available, preferably one with fruity, honey undertones.  The original recipe also used apricots, but I couldn’t find any nice ones, so I just used nectarines and plums, but this would work with most stone fruit.  The total poaching time depends on how ripe the fruit are, so try to choose ripe but still quite firm fruit.  If you want to add a bit more of a whisky kick to it, stir some through the syrup once it’s been taken off the heat.

Ingredients

375ml water
50g light brown sugar
85g liquid honey
4 tbsp whisky (optional to add more at the end)
3 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 peaches
4 plums

Directions

1.  Add the water, sugar, honey, whisky and spices to a medium saucepan (make sure it’s large enough for all the fruit to fit) and bring to the boil.

2.  Turn down the heat, add the larger stone fruits and allow to simmer for about 2 mins before adding the smaller stone fruit.  Allow to poach for 5-15 mins, depending on how ripe the fruit is to start with, until just tender.  (The plums that I used were ready in about 5 mins, but the nectarines took nearly 15 mins.  If the plums start to be too tender, remove them into the serving bowl.)

3.  Remove the fruit into a serving bowl or individual dishes, and return the syrup to the heat.  Simmer down until the reduced by about half.  Remove from the heat and stir in 1-2 tbsp whisky (optional) before spooning over the poached fruit.  Serve with yoghurt, ice cream or dainty little biscuits.

Enjoy!  And happy World Whisky Day!!  (Also, drink responsibly and all that jazz…)

PS – I know that the fruit are a little too large for the martini glass and it looks a bit odd in the photos, but I didn’t have anything else that was vaguely fancy to present them in.

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