Monday, April 28, 2014

Bang Bang Cauliflower

Bang Bang Cauliflower 2.jpg

You might remember that last month I told you about my introduction to the Secret Recipe Club.  In case you missed that, the Secret Recipe Club is a cooking group where each month we are assigned another blog from which we will choose a recipe to make and write a post about.  This is done in secret (hence Secret Recipe Club), so no one knows who is cooking from which blog until everyone puts up their post on reveal day.

My expectations were running high going into last month's reveal, and I can happily say I was not disappointed.  The warmth of the welcome to the group that I received from so many lovely bloggers was simply overwhelming.  Needless to say then, I could scarcely contain my excitement waiting to find out whose blog I would be cooking from this month.  Now I can safely tell you that my assigned blog is Life and Kitchen.

Lindsay is a young mum living in Pittsburgh, and I love that first and foremost she writes her blog for her small daughter, in the hope that one day "Lily will be able to read back over old posts to get recipe ideas and see a small slice of what our life was like when she was too little to remember".  Like me, Lindsay has never been much of a meat-eater, and then in January 2012 she decided to try a meat-free month.  That month turned into a year, that year turned into two, and with each passing month her awareness of the various "injustices" involved in meat production have grown stronger.  This really resonated with me.  I've flirted on numerous occasions with having meat-free months, and in the long-term I dream of potentially becoming a vegetarian, but I seem to invariably get tripped up by a pork chop or strip of bacon!  I think I would struggle to also live without salmon.  Still, like Lindsay, an awareness of both the ethical and environmental issues surrounding the food we eat is important to me.

Lindsay had so many great dishes I was tempted by - Spinach Artichoke Tarts, Baked Lemon Pasta, Pumpkin Cheesecake, Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt, Lemon Poppy Seed Baked Donuts, and many more, but you all know how much I love a good cauliflower recipe, so as soon as I stumbled across her Bang Bang Cauliflower it was a no-brainer.

In short this is cauliflower, dipped in a batter and fried until golden and crispy, then smothered in a delicious chilli sauce.  I made a couple of small changes to the batter recipe, replacing some of the regular flour with rice flour and adding some smoky paprika and ground cumin to give it an extra hit of flavour.  I also made my own mayonnaise for the bang bang sauce, and replaced hot sriracha sauce with cayenne pepper because I didn't have any hot sauce on hand.  Store bought mayonnaise is absolutely fine by the way, but if you feel inclined to make your own, it's dead easy ... In a small bowl whisk together one egg yolk with a teaspoon of water, then start to add sunflower oil to the egg yolk mixture a few drops at a time, stirring constantly until each addition of oil is fully amalgamated.  Once the yolk starts to thicken a little, you can begin to add the oil in a slow steady stream, until you end up with a very thick emulsion.  Finally, thin to the consistency you want with a little lemon juice or warm water - just add the liquid one teaspoon at a time and whisk it in well.  Season to taste with salt.  And voila - mayonnaise!


In short this dish was wonderful. Let's face it, what's not to love about a pile of batter-dipped, deep-fried vegetables, smothered in a punchy chilli sauce.?!  I happily made a meal of this - it's the perfect dish for a lazy Saturday night dinner (along with a good movie and a bottle of wine) and I will definitely be making this again.   

Bang Bang Cauliflower 1.jpg

Bang Bang Cauliflower Recipe
Adapted (slightly) from recipe by Lindsay
at Life and Kitchen
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

Bang bang sauce
1/2 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1/2 cup Thai sweet chilli sauce
cayenne pepper to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon smokey paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
2x egg yolks
1-1/2 cups cold water

1x head cauliflower, cut into florets
sunflower (or other flavourless) oil
flaky sea salt
large bunch chives, roughly chopped

Begin by making the bang bang sauce.  Whisk mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce together in a small bowl, and add cayenne pepper to your taste - cayenne can pack a bit of a punch, so begin by adding 1/4 teaspoon, taste and add more as you like.  Set aside.  (This can be made well in advance, and in fact this will make more than you need, but it will keep for ages and would make a great accompaniment to just about anything.)

Pour sunflower oil, to a depth of about 1 cm (1/2 in), into a large deep sided saute pan.  Set over medium-high heat until the surface is rippling, but not quite smoking.

Meanwhile make the batter.  Sift together the flours, paprika and ground cumin into a large bowl.  Add flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, mix lightly, and make a well in the centre.  Whisk egg yolks and water together and pour into the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.

Dip the cauliflower pieces into the batter, and immediately drop carefully into the hot oil.  Cook for several minutes, turning regularly until golden all over.  (You will need to do this in batches.)  As cooked, remove from oil, drain on a paper towel, and sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt as each batch is cooked.

Arrange cauliflower pieces on a large platter, smother with the bang bang sauce, and sprinkle over the snipped chives.  Serve immediately.

Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I did, and visit the links below to check out all the other great dishes my Secret Recipe Club friends made.

Secret Recipe Club

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mushroom, Basil & Lemon Salad

Mushroom, Basil & Lemon Salad  2.jpg

Who doesn't love a picnic?  Ok, so maybe just as there are a few Scrooges out there who don't love Christmas, I'm sure there are also a few ne'er sayers when it comes to picnicing, but for the most part a good picnic seems to be universally popular.  Whether you're six or sixty, whether you'd rather hike for several hours to some remote destination or simply throw a rug on the living room floor, there's something about the informality of a picnic which transports most of us to that "happy place".  Of course, like all good things, timing is everything.  Unless you're planning your feast on a rug in front of a blazing fire, winter time when the wind is howling and the snow is six inches deep is probably not ideal.  Likewise, I personally think that summer is not great for a picnic either - it can generally be too hot, all the ideal spots are usually completely overcrowded, and here in New Zealand at least you will spend the whole time fighting with the ants who want to eat your food and the sandflies who want to have a feast on you.  Spring and autumn though always seem to me like the perfect time to pack up the basket and head outdoors for a little alfresco dining.

Tulip Tree 2

In my part of the world, right now is absolutely perfect picnic time.  The weather is glorious.  It's still plenty warm enough to be outside in something sleeveless, but without the harsh intensity of summer's heat.  There's scarcely a breath of wind, and the light has that beautiful golden quality that is unique to autumn.  Doesn't hurt also that here in New Zealand we can experience breathtaking scenery at just about every turn - sounds braggy I know, but it's actually true.  I only have to look out my front windows for a vista which sweeps from the sea to The Grampians.  Everything is so lushly green, after last week's heavy rain, punctuated by a blaze of gold and russet as leaves turn and trees begin to shed their autumn cloaks.  If ever there was a siren call to the great outdoors, this is it, and so it couldn't be better timing that this week our I Heart Cooking Clubs' theme is "What's in your picnic basket?".

We continue to cook with Nigel Slater, and I found that he had loads of great dishes which were either suitable for, or easily adaptable to, picnic fare.  I happened to have a pile of mushrooms on hand, so when I stumbled upon his recipe for "Mushrooms with Basil and Lemon" in a Marie Claire cookbook written by Nigel I knew I'd found just the thing.  I love a raw mushroom salad - it's the kind of thing that doesn't need to be refrigerated, and only gets better the longer it sits around, which makes it positively ideal for taking to a picnic.  Layer it up in a big Agee jar, as I have done, and you have something which transports well and looks like you've done something really special.  If you want to be even more fancy schmancy, you could actually put this into several smaller jars for individual servings - just remember though that, whilst that might look cool, all that extra glass weighs something and, unless you have a party of Sherpas available to help out, you are probably going to be the one who has to carry it!

Mushroom, Basil & Lemon Salad 3.jpg

This salad gets plenty of flavour from loads of basil, parsley, and lemon, a nice bit of extra texture from crunchy coriander seeds, and a good kick of heat from some chilli.  I used a small, hot chilli with the seeds left in, but if you prefer just a whisper of heat choose a milder chilli and remove the seeds - it's totally up to you.  This would be a great salad alongside some cold chicken or smoked salmon, or something as simple as a crusty baguette to mop up all the salad juices.  It would also be great to take along to a barbeque - it won't mind sitting around, and would be delicious with grilled meats, vegetables or fish.

Mushroom, Basil & Lemon Salad 4.jpg

Mushroom, Basil & Lemon Salad Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Nigel Slater
from Marie Claire Cookbook
Serves 2-4 depending on what else you have to go with it
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

250g (9 oz) mushrooms
1x lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
large handful of basil leaves
large handful of flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 red chilli, finely chopped
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Grate the zest of the lemon into a small bowl and set aside.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a barely damp paper towel (do not wash them) and cut into quarters, or wedges if they are large.  Place mushrooms in a medium sized bowl, add the red wine vinegar and juice of the lemon.  Mix gently together and leave aside for about an hour to marinate.

Roughly chop the herbs and add to the bowl containing the lemon zest, adding also the coriander seeds, chilli, salt, pepper and olive oil.  Mix together well.

Spoon alternating layers of mushrooms and herb mixture into a clean preserving jar, pour over any vinegar or oil remaining in your bowls, seal the jar and head for the great outdoors.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has in their picnic basket this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Marie Claire Cookbook by Nigel Slater and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum, and at Cook Your Books hosted by the lovely Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.

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Lastly, I'm also sharing this post at a new to me event - Cooking with Herbs hosted by the very lovely Karen at Lavender and Lovage.  Thanks, Karen, for the invitation to participate.  Check out the links below to see all the other lovely "herby" dishes.

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chocolate & Dark Cherry Jam Roly Poly

Chocolate & Dark Cherry Jam Roly Poly 4

I've told you a bit before about the wonderful Indian family lunches we used to have at my grandparents' home when I was a kid, which may have had you wondering a little, since you can probably tell from my photo that I'm not Indian.  You see, my grandparents (and my mother), although of British descent were all born in India, and like many other Brits living in India at the time they chose to leave at the time of Partition.  Knowing that, when they arrived in New Zealand, they would have no servants here, my grandmother (who most likely had never boiled an egg in her life up to that point) called upon her cook to teach her how to ... well, cook!  Needless to say the cook taught her how to make a variety of Indian dishes which formed the basis of my grandmother's culinary repertoire.  This clearly sparked something in her, for she continued ever after to explore and experiment with different dishes, but in the end not many dishes escaped getting a bit of her "curry" treatment.  I can recall even wiener schnitzels which received a smear of curry paste either side before getting their egg and breadcrumb coating!

My mother, on the other hand, who was also a good cook and could equally whip up a great curry, tended to be a little more "Kiwi-fied" in her general culinary approach.  Like most other Kiwi households in the 60s and 70s, we largely lived on a diet of British classics - meat and three veg most nights of the week, and always dessert to follow.  Steak & kidney pie, fish & chips, scotch eggs, bangers & mash, jam roly poly, scones and trifle (at Christmas) were all regular fare in our household.

So, I certainly felt a flood of nostalgia when faced with our I Heart Cooking Clubs theme this week of "Fit for a Brit".  We continue to cook with Nigel Slater, who has so many interesting takes on classic British dishes that I had a hard time choosing what to make, but after leafing through my copy of Tender Vol. II (in the US this is published as Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard), it was Nigel's "Black jam roly-poly pudding" that rekindled a lot of memories.

Traditionally a roly poly pudding is usually steamed - in fact, it was often steamed in an old shirt sleeve, so that it was also sometimes called "shirt-sleeve pudding" or "dead-man's arm".  You've got to hand it to the Brits, don't you - they really do have great names for some of their dishes.  Care for some "toad in the hole"?  "Spotted dick" anyone?  (Sorry, couldn't resist).  Anyway, back to the roly poly.  As I was saying, it was traditionally steamed, but Nigel says he prefers his baked, and certainly any roly poly I remember from my childhood was baked.  As Nigel says, "Yes, the jam leaks a little ...", and indeed it does, but I kind of like the oozey bit of jam that escapes and creates a bit of stickiness around the edges and on the bottom.  No matter whether this is steamed or baked, however, you want a really good, well flavoured jam here, and a rich, dark coloured one is best.  Nigel suggests damson, blackcurrant, loganberry or elderberry.  I'm pretty sure the roly poly of my childhood would usually have been made with homemade plum jam, or possibly blackcurrant.  On this occasion I used a St Dalfour's black cherry.

While on the subject of tradition, I should also tell you that this dessert is normally made with a suet crust.  Suet is raw beef or mutton fat - usually the hard fat found around the kidneys - which needs to be grated or shredded before use (you can usually get your butcher to do this for you), and which like meat needs to be kept refrigerated and will keep only for a few days.  You can also buy packaged suet (Shreddo in New Zealand), which has been dehydrated and mixed with flour to make it stable at room temperature.  Obviously then you need to take some care if substituting packaged suet for fresh suet, because the fat to flour ratio will be different.  It's not clear from Nigel's recipe whether he uses fresh or packaged suet, but I imagine from the flour to fat ratio of roughly 2:1 that he uses fresh.  Either way, I couldn't find suet at my supermarket (and given the small quantity required, I probably wouldn't have bought it anyway), so I substituted with butter.  I'm not sure in what way a suet crust would have been any different, or maybe better, but I can safely say that a butter crust worked just fine.  You end up with a dough which is something like a soft scone dough, but which crisps up a bit on the outside like a soft cookie when baked.

In one final departure from the original recipe, I added a pile of roughly chopped dark chocolate to the filling because ... well, just because!  And, really, what's not to love about a buttery crust filled with jammy cherries and chunky chocolate.

Chocolate & Dark Cherry Jam Roly Poly 3

Chocolate & Dark Cherry Jam Roly Poly Recipe
Adapted from recipe by Nigel Slater
from Tender Vol. II
Serves 4
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

175g (6 oz) self raising flour
85g (3 oz) very cold butter, grated
1 tablespoon caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
160 ml (5-1/2 fl oz) cold water
70g dark chocolate, roughly chopped or grated
250g (9 oz) dark cherry jam (or other dark red jam)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (430 degrees F).

Sift flour into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the grated butter and sugar, and add the water to make a soft dough - add more water or flour as necessary to achieve a dough which is not too sticky and can be rolled out without sticking to the rolling pin.

Tip out onto a well floured bench, and roll into a 30cm x 20cm (12" x 8") rectangle.  Spread jam over the dough, leaving approximately 2cm (3/4") clear on one long edge.  Sprinkle chocolate over the top of the jam.

Chocolate & Dark Cherry Jam Roly Poly 1

Brush the long clean edge of the dough with a little water, then roll up into a long sausage and press the wet edge firmly to seal.

Lift the roll onto a parchment lined baking sheet .  Bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes or until golden.  (Note the dough is very soft - don't be alarmed if it splits in places and flattens out - this is part of its rustic charm and, as Nigel says, "it is what it is".)

Chocolate & Dark Cherry Jam Roly Poly 2

Cut into thick slices to serve.  A dollop of good vanilla ice cream is a great accompaniment, as is a generous drizzle of runny cream or custard.

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Tender, Vol. II and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Marnelli at Sweets & Brains, Sweet New Zealand is an event for all Kiwi bloggers (whether living at home or abroad), or all foreign bloggers living in New Zealand, to link up their sweet treats.

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I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum, and at Cook Your Books hosted by the lovely Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.

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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez Sausage & Black Olives

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez & Black Olives 3

At I Heart Cooking Clubs this week we begin a new culinary journey with British cook, Nigel Slater.  Nigel is determinedly not a chef, rather a self-confessed amateur cook, who prides himself on producing food which is understated, home-style cooking.  We will be spending the next six months cooking his food, according to a different theme each week - an opportunity to explore his food in depth, and get to know the vast repertoire of recipes he offers through his books, television programmes and online sources.

I have a few Nigel Slater books in my collection, which I've used a bit and always enjoyed, but I have to be honest and say that I haven't used them nearly as much as I would like to have, so I'm really welcoming this opportunity.

For this week's dish I turned to Nigel's book Tender (Vol. 1).  In this book he chronicles tales about his vegetable garden. He talks of his dreams of self sufficiency, and describes how he transformed a small city garden into something which now produces the vegetables that have become the mainstay of his daily cooking.  Each chapter is a different vegetable, and offers advice on planting and harvesting, companion flavours and seasonings, and a variety of recipes.

Not only are all the recipes very simple and "do-able" for the average home cook, they are beautifully photographed, and the book is beautifully written.  Nigel's style is very "conversational" - the kind of information he would give you if he was cooking alongside you in the kitchen, and this style extends to the titles of many of the recipes.  Who wouldn't want to try "A quick cabbage supper with duck legs", "A tart of asparagus and tarragon", "Smoky aubergines and a punchy, bright-tasting dressing", or "An extremely moist chocolate beetroot cake with creme fraiche and poppy seeds"?

Leafing through the pages, something from the pumpkin department seemed perfect for an autumn dish, and when I stumbled across Nigel's "Pumpkin pangrattato with rosemary and orange" I knew that I had found my dish.  Of course you know that I can't leave well enough alone, and when I saw pumpkin mash with sausages on the very next page, I was convinced that I somehow had to work sausages into this dish.  My initial thoughts were to use some chorizo, but having picked up some nice, spicy, merguez sausages from my favourite butcher, I thought these would be a great accompaniment to the pumpkin.  I omitted chilli from the recipe, since the merguez is already spicy enough, but of course if you want the added heat, knock yourself out, and of course if you happen to be vegetarian then leave out the sausage and throw in a small, chopped red chilli or sprinkling of chilli flakes for a bit of heat.  I threw a handful of black olives into the mix as well, because I love pumpkin and olives together, and I mixed some little chunks of taleggio cheese into the breadcrumb topping, because after all what's not to love about a crunchy, cheesy topping on anything?!

This turned out to be a great dish with which to welcome Nigel to the IHCC kitchen.  With the addition of the sausage and olives, it made a pretty substantial meal, with a truckload of flavour and texture going on - in my eyes, always the hallmark of a great recipe.  You'll find the spicy nuggets of sausage and briny olives a great foil to the tender, sweet butternut squash;  the crunchy breadcrumb topping is a perfect compliment to the softness of the pumpkin;  and every so often you get little added explosions of flavour from the rosemary and orange.

In all, this is one of the best things I think I've made recently, and I will definitely be making it again.  There's easily enough going on here for this to make a substantial meal on its own, but would also make a great side dish as part of a larger meal if you were feeding a crowd.  Admittedly, this is not quite a throw it together in 5 minutes kind of meal, but neither is it an arduous labour intensive meal either.

I often ponder the scenario of someone asking me, "if I was to only make one dish from your blog, what should I make?"  I have in my head a shortlist of dishes I would recommend, and this dish definitely makes it onto my list.  All I can say is, "if you keep this up, Nigel, you and I are going to get along famously".  I hope you give it a try.

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez & Black Olives 4

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez Sausage & Black Olives Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater
from Tender, Vol. 1
Makes 3 substantial servings, or 4 smaller servings
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

olive oil
4x merguez sausages
1x whole butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, & cut into large bite-sized chunks
generous handful black olives (I used kalamata)
3x cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
grated zest of half an orange
4 generous handfuls fresh white breadcrumbs
(for great texture & crunch, keep breadcrumbs quite coarse)
1 generous handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
50g (1-3/4 oz) taleggio cheese
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).

Put pieces of butternut into a steamer set over boiling water, and steam until just tender to the point of a knife.  This may take up to 20 minutes, but start testing after 10 minutes, as you really don't want to overcook it at this stage.  Remove steamer from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, remove casing from sausages, and break into bite-sized pieces.

Merguez Sausages

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large, ovenproof frying pan (cast iron is ideal) over medium-high heat (see note below).  Add the chunks of sausage to the pan, and cook until golden brown all over.  Remove the sausage from the pan, and set aside.  Don't discard the fat which has been released from the sausages.   (Note:  if you don't have an ovenproof pan, don't worry, you can use a baking dish later on.)

Return the pan to heat, and reduce the heat to medium.  Depending on how much fat has come out of the sausages, you may need to add a little extra olive oil to the pan - you want about 4-5 tablespoons altogether.  Add the garlic, rosemary and orange zest to the pan.  As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant, add the breadcrumbs and parsley to the pan, and stir until the breadcrumbs are a pale golden colour.  Remove breadcrumbs to a medium sized bowl, but don't clean the pan.  Break cheese into small pieces, add to the breadcrumbs, and toss gently to distribute evenly amongst the crumbs.

Return sausages, butternut chunks and black olives to the pan (or use a shallow baking dish), distributing them evenly.  Season generously with salt and pepper, and dot little knobs of butter over the top.

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez & Black Olives 1

Tip the breadcrumbs over the top of the pumpkin and sausage in an even layer, and drizzle with a little extra olive oil.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the crumbs are golden and crunchy and the pumpkin is thoroughly tender.

Pumpkin Pangrattato with Merguez & Black Olives 2

If you would like to get to know Nigel Slater a little better, and to see what everyone else has cooked up this week, then do and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links ...

... or check out Tender, Vol. 1 and Nigel's many other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, or Fishpond NZ.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the delightful Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum, and at Cook Your Books hosted by the lovely Joyce at Kitchen Flavours.

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