Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sweet New Zealand October Round-up

It has been my privilege to host Sweet New Zealand this month - a monthly blog event, created by the lovely Alessandra Zecchini, which offers an opportunity for all Kiwi bloggers (whether you are living in New Zealand or overseas), as well as for non-Kiwi bloggers living in New Zealand, to connect and share some of those sweet treats from your kitchen.  There have been some absolutely wonderful entries this months, and I have certainly enjoyed discovering and visiting a few blogs that I hadn't known about before.  Thanks to all of you for participating.

The first entry in was from Alessandra Zecchini from her Only Recipes blog - she shared a Dark Chocolate & Fig Cake. Alessandra was lucky enough to be able to forage a supply of figs in her neighbourhood.  Having only moved into our house a couple of months ago, I was thrilled to discover that my next door neighbour has a fig tree right beside our fence, and they don't eat them!  As soon as those little green fruit I see forming are ready, you can be sure I will be trying this cake.

On her Vegan Recipes (and best vegan dinners) blog Alessandra also shared a fresh, tropical Papaya, Lime & Mint Salad. I love papaya - it is one of my absolute favourite fruits. It is a bit of luxury to have here in New Zealand though, so I always love travelling to the tropics or Asia and having the opportunity to eat it everyday! Alessandra is right - a squeeze of lime over a piece of papaya completely elevates the flavour - love the idea of adding some mint.

Vanille from @ Down Under came up with a real ode to spring, in the form of these beautiful "edible tulips" - a lovely fresh fruit salad, served in these delicate, crispy Tulipe Biscuits.  I'm so in awe of the ability to be able to craft something so beautifully elegant - I'm pretty sure that, were I to try this, my efforts would result in something resembling shoe leather.

Frances from Bake Club came up with a Gluten-Free Vegan Date Loaf.  I love dates, and I really don't know why I don't use them more often.  Personally, I'm lucky enough not to be wheat or gluten intolerant, but I have friends and relatives who are and I'm always on the look-out for recipes to share with them or to prepare when they come to visit - this one definitely makes the list.

For some obscure reason, I hadn't visited Lisa's wonderful blog, Sunday Hotpants, for quite awhile, so it was such a delight to have her join in here at Sweet New Zealand and to have the opportunity to reconnect.  Despite everything the kitchen gods threw at her recently (I swear I would have just given up and wept), she still managed to produce this family favourite Chocolate Birthday Cake for her Dad's birthday.  Do go and read her funny and touching story and learn why this cake holds a special place in her heart - thanks for sharing it with us, Lisa.

You can always rely on the lovely Emma from my darling lemon thyme to come up with something truly inspirational.  Her blog is a place I often visit when I'm looking for inspiration - seeking something outside the box - this Strawberry, Black Pepper & Thyme Cordial is no exception.  I haven't had my first strawberries of the season yet - they're still just a bit pricey down this way - but as soon as they're abundant I will definitely be trying this combination of flavours.

Do you sometimes wonder, were the house to catch on fire, what would be one of the first things you would grab before you ran out of the house?  Or, were your house to be burgled, what one kitchen gadget would you not want them to take?  My answer would be my ice cream maker.  I love ice cream, all year round (even in the depths of winter), and I love making my own.  I'm always on the look out for a new recipe, so when Mairi from Toast submitted her Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream it went immediately into the bookmark list.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can use fresh or frozen raspberries, which makes it just perfect for enjoying all year round.

Are there any two words that belong together more than "caramel" and "chocolate"?  After Taste is a new-to-me blog, but when she shared her Baked Caramel & Chocolate Slice I knew that this was a blog I was going to want to know a little better.  This recipe seems a little different to what I would expect from a caramel slice, and I can't wait to try it.

American-living-in-Kiwiland blogger, Christina from Gninword on, is mourning the absence of pureed pumpkin in a can in this country.  She consoled herself by taking an Antipodean classic (sticky date pudding);  adding a bit of chocolate (well if you're consoling yourself, why wouldn't you?);  turning said classic pudding into cupcakes;  and topping the whole lot off with a butterscotch buttercream frosting.  Go and check out her Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake and Cupcakes - seems like she's kind of over the pumpkin thing, don't you think?

I don't know why I never think of using my slow cooker for desserts, but somehow it only tends to get used for soups and slow cooking chickpeas and beans.  I was thrilled when Barbara from winosandfoodies produced this Slow Cooker Recipe for Pears in Caramel.   This is absolutely my kind of dessert - quite apart from the fact that pears and caramel sauce are such a wonderful combination (which could only possibly be made better by the addition of some vanilla ice cream), but the idea of just popping everything in the crockpot and forgetting about it for a couple of hours really works for me!

Style-goddess, Bron Marshall faced off against a wet and wild day with Spanish Churros and Hot Chocolate. Yes, it is spring in New Zealand, but the weather can still turn to crap for another month or so.  I have eaten churros before in Barcelona - a decadent street food treat - but I have never been brave enough to try making them myself.  Bron's recipe certainly makes them sound achievable, and doesn't that photo make you want to just dive head first into that bowl of hot chocolate? Oh, come on, I know I'm not the only one!

Bunny. Eats. Design. admits to being a terrible baker.  Now I've told you before that I'm convinced that there is a gene for baking, and that by some birth defect I too am a terrible baker.  Quite possibly we were twins, separated at birth.  Still, I've got to hand it to her for ingenuity - what can you do when light, fluffy baking is just not in your repertoire?  Bake something hard of course!  These Chocolate Espresso Biscotti are the perfect solution - I'm inspired - clearly she is the smart twin.

Zo from Two Spoons made this gorgeous Pear & Kamahi Honey Frangipane Tart. To be honest, when I first saw this picture it looked decidedly outside of my skill set (note comments above), but Zo provides loads of really useful information and advice in this post - so much so that even I think I could give this a go ... maybe!  This would undoubtedly be a very classy and elegant dessert to serve for a special occasion.

These Kahikatea Cupcakes from Alessandra Zecchini were a complete revelation to me.  I have never seen kahikatea berries, and I had no idea that you could eat them.  Alessandra has baked them into a simple vanilla cupcake, and added a few more on top for decoration.  The berries look so pretty - rather like pomegranate seeds - though she says the taste is a little sweeter than pomegranate.  I need to go and find a kahikatea tree now!

"I love dates" says Alli from Pease Pudding, and so do I.  I totally love the look of these Date, Walnut & Orange Blossom Moroccan Inspired Treats and the fact that they contain no added sugar, no flour, no dairy, and NO BAKING, means surely that even I couldn't make a disaster of these.  These are so on my list of things to try.  Bunny. Eats. Design. - are you reading this?

These Pink Rose Cupcakes from Kirsten at High Tea with Dragons would have to be just about one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.  That anyone can do anything so beautiful with a simple cupcake and a bit of icing just astounds me.  Kirsten says this is easier than it looks, and includes an excellent step by step tutorial which does actually make it look fairly straight forward ... but I know my limits.  I'd struggle to create a decent cupcake to go under the icing - I totally take my hat off to you Kirsten.

Now this I know I could do.  This beautiful, refreshing Mandarin Ice Cream from Lucy at The KitchenMaid is right up my street.  At the risk of repeating myself, I love ice cream.  I love citrus flavours.  What's more this ice cream uses just three ingredients, and doesn't even need churning, so if that aforementioned burglar happens to make off with your ice cream maker you'll have no trouble with this one.

Lesley from eat, etc... set out to capture some childhood memories with a Dark Sticky Gingerbread. Gingerbread is one of my all time favourites and I can't wait to give this intriguing recipe a try.  This recipe has some surprising ingredients, which I think will ensure this gingerbread will really lend itself to my favourite way to enjoy this treat - with a dried fig compote and a piece of blue cheese.  Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it - trust me, it works!

And the final entry for the month came from Mel at Treehouse Kitchen, who produced this insanely good looking Caramel & Macadamia Cheesecake. The recipe is from the Ottolenghi cookbook, which I know is a favourite book amongst so many of us.  Despite a few kitchen disasters along the way, Mel still managed to make this look amazing, and immediately I saw this post I had to drag my Ottolenghi book down off the shelf and bookmark this recipe.

Of course, I mustn't forget my own entries, which were firstly Gabrielle's Sticky Lemon Squares.  This was an old post, but it is such a favourite of mine, and with a fair amount of citrus fruit still around, I couldn't resist the opportunity to share.

Gabrielle's Sticky Lemon Squares 1, edited 

I also shared a tart, refreshing Cranberry Sorbet - totally worth making if only to gaze upon something of such extraordinary colour.

Cranberry Sorbet

Well, that's it everyone.  I'm sure you'll all agree there are some stunning sweet treats amongst that lot, and now it's my pleasure to hand the baton off to Mairi at Toast who is going to be your host for the month of November.

Sweet New Zealand Badge

Monday, October 17, 2011

Seville Orange Spoon Sweets

Bitter Orange Spoon Sweets 3

Few things make my heart happier than a bowl full of citrus fruit sitting on my kitchen bench.  Even though citrus grows incredibly well here in New Zealand, particularly in the North Island, there is something about the colours that just scream sunshine, even on a cloudy day, and the fragrance every time you pass by, that transports me to infinitely more exotic places.  And then, when that bowl of citrus fruit actually happens to be 6 kilos of Seville oranges, well I am transported directly to heaven.  Also often known as bitter oranges, and rightly so since they are far too sour to eat, these make hands-down the best marmalade.  They have a very short season, and you generally will not find them in the shops - leastwise not here in New Zealand.  However, if you are lucky enough to know someone who is in the know (thanks Mairi) you may be able to get your hands on some.  You are going to have to wait another year now to do that though, as that very short season I mentioned just finished last week.  I have a number of projects planned for these babies, which of course I will share with you, including marmalade, bitter orange curd, burnt orange ice cream, and a bitter orange sorbet.  I've also read that the juice of Seville oranges is often used for marinading meats in a variety of Caribbean cuisines - so a bag of these will be headed to the freezer to take out for juice during the year.

As I've been telling you over the last couple of weeks, the I Heart Cooking Clubs group is now cooking with the gorgeous Tessa Kiros, and our theme this week is From the Orchard.  Well I've got to tell you that whilst most of my friends over there are in the midst of autumn (fall to them), and no doubt enjoying an abundance of fruit hanging from the trees, here in New Zealand it is spring.  That means that you sure won't find much dangling from the branches here.  Right now, although strawberries are beginning to show up regularly at the market, fruit trees are laden with nothing more than promise, in the form of blossom.  So this box of Seville oranges, which appear briefly here from September through to mid-October, could not have arrived at a better time.

When I holidayed in Greece earlier this year, I found some wonderful little coffee shops in Athens to sit and while away an hour or two.  It was a common sight, in many of these coffee shops, to see huge jars on the counter full of beautiful fruits preserved in thick, sweet syrup:  cherries (both sweet and sour), figs, grapes, bergamot, quince, my favourite - bitter orange, and many more.  They are called "spoon sweets" and, as the name might suggest, they are usually served on a teaspoon alongside a good coffee and a glass of cold water.  You can also buy the spoon sweets in jars in most supermarkets there, and I developed a real liking for having the bitter orange for breakfast on top of some toasted bread and mizithra.  Needless to say, when I came across Tessa's recipe for Preserved Fruits in Sugar Syrup in the Falling Cloudberries book I couldn't wait to try it.

This was a really fun preserve to make - I would definitely do it again - and I can't wait to try some of the other fruits now as they come into season.  I am only sharing the instructions for doing the oranges here, but Tessa's book also includes recipes for cherries, green plums and figs.

Bitter Orange Spoon Sweets 1

Seville Orange Spoon Sweets Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Tessa Kuros in
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2kg bitter oranges
400g (14 oz) caster sugar
450 ml (15 fl oz) water

You will also need:
cotton thread
piece of baking paper

Wash the oranges well in warm water, and dry thoroughly.

Using a good peeler, peel off the skin of the oranges in long strips.  Try to leave behind as much of the white pith as you can - you want only the thin skin.  If you find that your peeler takes off too much of the pith, then just lay the strips on a board, pith side up, and remove with a sharp knife.  I peeled my strips from the top to the bottom of the oranges, and got 6-8 strips from each orange.  If you prefer you can go around the circumference, in which case you will end up with fewer but longer strips, which you will cut in half.

Put the strips of peel into a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the strips have softened and are pliable.  Remove from heat and drain.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Starting at one end, roll each strip of peel up quite tightly, and using a needle thread onto a length of cotton, as though you were making a necklace.  Keep the pieces close together - this helps the strips to stay in their little rolls while they are being boiled in the syrup.  Although a little fiddly, this is fun and really quite therapeutic - also all the oils that come out of the orange peels will make your hands feel and smell amazing.

Bitter Orange Spoon Sweets 2

Put the sugar and water into a pan, along with the strained juice from one of the oranges.  Stir constantly until the syrup comes to a boil, then carefully drop in the necklace of orange strips.  Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the surface with a circle of baking paper (to keep the necklace submerged in the syrup), and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Remove the "necklace" from the syrup to a clean bowl.  Allow to stand for a few minutes until cool enough to handle, then slide the orange rolls off the thread into a sterilised preserving jar.

The syrup will have thickened up a bit during the cooking, but you can keep simmering it for a little longer if you want it to thicken some more.  When you are happy with your syrup, pour it into the jar until the peels are just covered.

Once cool, refrigerate, and use within a month.

Kali orexi

By the way, once you've harvested the peel for this recipe, don't discard the rest of the oranges - they are precious.  Juice them and store the juice to use for marinades, sorbets, or dressings.  Alternatively, you can put the whole oranges into a bag and into the freezer, and then just pull them out when you want to juice one.

If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chicken Shish Tawook with Radish Tzatziki

Chicken Kebabs 2 

When we lived in Christchurch our favourite haunt for Middle Eastern food was Sami's Cafe in Riccarton - always chicken shish tawook for my partner and falafel for me.  You may say that we are creatures of habit, but I like to think that when you find something that seems as close to perfection as you can get, why would you choose anything else?  And believe me when I tell you that Sami's falafel really are perfection - in fact if anyone knows where you can get better I'd like to hear about it.  Not only is the food here great, but Sami himself is an absolute delight - it is so obvious when you watch him working  that he pours so much love and pride into every single souvlaki he prepares - perhaps that's why they taste so good.  Needless to say, whenever we revisit Christchurch these days, a meal at Sami's is always on the agenda.  On one such recent visit Sami gave me a selection of their Sami's Kitchen range of spice blends to trial, and I'm enjoying experimenting with these (see note at the end of this post).  There are four different blends in the range, each one prepared according to recipes that have been handed down through several generations of Sami's family, and all blends are free of gluten, wheat, MSG, and other fillers.

Sami's Shish Tawook 

The first blend that I tried was the Shish Tawook, which I used to marinate some chicken pieces, which were then skewered and barbequed, and served with a peppery radish tzatziki and Chickpea, Feta & Coriander Salad which I shared with you a couple of weeks ago.  This blend of spices includes, garlic, paprika, pimento, nutmeg, cinnamon and thyme, and the resulting kebabs (according to my partner) tasted just like the shish tawook that he enjoys at Sami's.  The chicken once it came out of its marinade-bath was incredibly tender and the end result, although wonderfully flavourful, was not overtly spicy.  It is likely therefore to appeal to a variety of palates, even those that might ordinarily eschew spicy foods or be wary of trying dishes that may be foreign to them.  I think this could also work very well with a variety of seafood, especially shrimp, or as a rub to change up that Sunday evening roast chicken.

Hope you'll give this a try, and keep watching this space as I try out some of the other spice blends.

Chicken Shish Tawook with Radish Tzatziki Recipe
Makes 6 large kebabs
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

For the marinade:
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, finely minced
flaky sea salt

For the kebabs:
500g chicken thighs
6 button mushrooms
1 red pepper, deseeded and cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) squares
6 bay leaves, fresh

For the tzatziki:
2 cups Greek yoghurt (see note below)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
4-6 medium radish (depending on size), finely grated
handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Begin with the marinade.  In a medium sized bowl, mix together the spices, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and sea salt.

Cut the chicken thighs into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes, and add to the marinade.  Mix well until all the chicken pieces are thoroughly coated.  Refrigerate at least 3-4 hours, preferably overnight.

Thread onto skewers as follows:  begin with a piece of red pepper, then 3 or 4 cubes of chicken, mushroom, 3 or 4 more cubes of chicken, another piece of red pepper, and lastly a bay leaf (folded in half).

Barbeque or grill until the chicken is completely cooked through - about 15 minutes.

While the chicken is marinating, prepare the tzatziki.  Put the yoghurt into a bowl;  stir in the garlic, olive oil and lemon, and blend well.  Add the grated radish, fresh mint, a generous pinch of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Mix well, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Note:  If you are lucky enough to live in a place where you can get Greek yoghurt, then use it.  Unfortunately, here in New Zealand, although there are a number of yoghurts on the market now labelled as "Greek-style", they are still not like a true Greek yoghurt.  I find the best way to approximate it is to put the yoghurt into a sieve lined with a paper towel, place the sieve over a bowl, and refrigerate for several hours to allow the whey to drain off.

Chicken Kebabs 1 

Important note:  Although I was given the Sami's Kitchen spice blends to trial, I have in no way been paid to endorse this product.  The opinions given are my own, and you can be sure that if I wasn't happy with the product I would not be telling you about it here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cranberry Sorbet Recipe

Cranberry Sorbet

Whenever I buy a new cookbook (and I am totally not going to divulge just how often that might be), I find that there is always a stand-out recipe that really catches my eye - one that screams at me "you have to make this".  It might even be the recipe that convinces me I just have to buy the book.  It will get bookmarked;  every time I take it off the bookshelf I will remind myself that I have to make this recipe;  and yet I will often make dozens of other recipes from the book, but not the very one that had attracted me to the book.  Sound familiar?  Oh, come on, admit it - I just know that I am not the only one who does that.

Anyhow, such was the case when I purchased Tessa Kiros' gorgeous book "Falling Cloudberries", which I told you about last week.  This cranberry sorbet in fact graces the cover of this book, and I knew that I just had to make it, if only because I could not resist the idea of making something of such sublime colour.  And yet, somehow, every time I got the book off the shelf and drooled over the cover photo I ended up making something else.  Until now ... I told you last week that the I Heart Cooking Clubs group is now cooking for the next six months with Tessa Kiros, and since our theme for this week is Pot Luck it seemed like the perfect opportunity to rustle up a little sorbet.

You can use fresh or frozen cranberries for this - I'm guessing for those of you living in the northern hemisphere, you must be getting pretty close to fresh cranberry time, but here in New Zealand I had to settle for frozen ones.  On a whim, I also added a couple of tablespoons of orange flavoured liqueur.

This is an absolute breeze to make, especially with the assistance of an ice cream maker.  The result is very fresh and tart, but I find there is a certain dissonance going on that I really can't get my head around.  Now don't get me wrong - I love tart, bitter, sour flavours, but there is something about the look and colour of this sorbet that makes you think it is going to be really luscious and sweet.  With every spoonful, I find that my eyes are telling my brain that a certain fruity sweetness awaits, and indeed the first notes that my palate registers are sweet, but the finish is decidedly tart, and then my brain just feels all confused.  So, it's not unpleasant - it's actually rather nice - but it is just not what my brain thinks my mouth should be experiencing.  In all, as a dessert, I find this a little unsatisfying - there is just something about the expectation and all that confusion, that makes this not really work for me as a dessert.  However, I'm finding a nice spoonful or two mid-afternoon is an absolute delight, and I imagine it could also work really well as an inter-course palate cleanser.    I would say that this is worth making at least once, if only for the sheer beauty of it, but also I think it's good to surprise your tastebuds every so often with something they aren't expecting.  If you give this a try, I'd love to know what you think.

Cranberry Sorbet Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Tessa Kiros from
Makes approximately 1.25 litres
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

500g (1 lb) cranberries, fresh or frozen
1-1/2 cups (345g) caster sugar
3-1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons orange-flavoured liqueur (optional)

Put the washed cranberries into a pot with the water and sugar.  Stir constantly while you bring up to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the berries are soft.

Puree using an immersion blender, strain, and set aside to cool completely.  Refrigerate overnight.

Next day, add the liqueur (if using), and then process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

If you would like to get to know Tessa a little better, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up ...

IHCC Tessa Kiros Button

... or check out Falling Cloudberries and many of Tessa's other great titles available from Amazon or Fishpond NZ.


Sweet New Zealand Badge

I am also sharing this post with Sweet New Zealand, a monthly blog event created by the very lovely Alessandra Zecchini, and which it is my pleasure to be hosting this month. This is an opportunity for all Kiwi bloggers (whether you are living in New Zealand or overseas), as well as for non-Kiwi bloggers living in New Zealand, to connect and share some of those sweet treats from your kitchen.  You can find all the details, along with a linky tool to make it really easy to submit your entry right here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cauliflower Soup with Spinach Pesto

Cauliflower Soup with Spinach Pesto

I actually made this soup a couple of weeks ago and, like a lot of other potential posts, it has been languishing in draft ever since - I've got to tell you, it wasn't lonely; there's a lot of stuff there in "draftland".  Anyway, even though here in New Zealand we are now well into spring, evenings are still often cool enough to enjoy a good bowl of soup, and I know that those of you in the northern hemisphere will welcome this now that the days are definitely getting cooler and shorter for you.  So I thought I really ought to share this with you now before the opportunity is lost.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a beautiful cauliflower at my local market, and looking for inspiration I turned to one of my favourite bloggers and cookbook authors, Heidi Swanson.  Heidi doesn't know me, but she is one of those people who inspires me beyond belief.  Her gorgeous blog, 101 Cookbooks, is the first food blog I ever stumbled across and was my inspiration for starting my own blog.  Her photographs are gorgeous;  her recipes healthy, flavourful, interesting, and always reliable.  Of all the blogs I visit, she still sets the benchmark that I aspire to.  Of course I couldn't wait to get my hands on Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking (her first book), and more recently her second book - Super Natural Every Day: Well-loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen.  On her blog, Heidi has a number of cauliflower recipes, but on a chilly Sunday afternoon it was this recipe for cauliflower soup in Super Natural Cooking that really appealed to me.  I did modify the pesto a little, using toasted sunflower seeds (which I had in the pantry) instead of brazil nuts (which I didn't), and using pecorino instead of parmesan, just because I love it and there are many things in which I prefer it. I also used leeks in the soup instead of onion, such is my preference, but feel free to go either way.

Cauliflower Soup with Spinach Pesto Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Heidi Swanson in
Serves 4
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

For the pesto:
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese (I used a pecorino sardo)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt

For the soup:
3 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic
1 leek
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 large potato, peeled and chopped
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets
5 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup cream
flaky sea salt

To make the pesto, put the sunflower seeds, spinach, garlic and salt into food processor and pulse until the leaves and nuts start to break down. Then leaving the motor running, begin to add the oil in a steady stream until you have a smooth paste. Remove to a bowl, stir in the grated pecorino, taste and add a little more salt if necessary. Set aside.

To make the soup, begin by heating the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, leek, and red pepper flakes and saute for a few minutes until the garlic and leek have begun to soften. Add the potato pieces and cauliflower florets, and saute for another 2 or 3 minutes. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Remove from the heat, and puree using an immersion blender. Stir in the cream and season to taste with the flaky sea salt.

Serve in individual bowls, finished with a big dollop of the pesto.

This soup was deliciously smooth and velvety, and the little kick of heat from the chilli flakes together with the spinach pesto added another dimension to what could potentially be a rather bland dish - such is the genius of Heidi.  This makes a great Sunday night supper, served casually in a big bowl with some crusty bread, but could be equally well received as an elegant starter to a more formal meal.