Monday, July 28, 2014

Chunky Monkey Cookies

Chunky Monkey Cookies 2

I've spent the last month snooping around inside the blog Baking and Creating with Avril, that being my assigned blog for Secret Recipe Club this month.  As the title of her blog might suggest, Avril likes to bake, so there was no shortage of sweet treats here to tempt my taste buds, along with a healthy serving of family friendly savoury dishes as well.  In the end, since I still had some chocolate and (now very ripe) Fair Trade bananas on hand from this hamper I told you about a couple of weeks ago, it was Avril's Chunky Monkey Oatmeal Cookies that won me over.

There are a few things I learned from making these cookies, most of which in fact has nothing to do with cookies.  Firstly, I really should not get out of bed before 10.00 am on a Sunday morning.  Secondly, if I must be so foolish as to rise before midday, I should not operate heavy and potentially dangerous machinery before I've at least had breakfast!!

Long story cut short ... we were headed out for lunch today, so I decided to get up earlier than usual and make these cookies before going out;  I also decided, somewhat foolishly, to skip breakfast.  In the interests of haste, because I am not one of those women who can get dressed and ready and out the door in half an hour flat, I decided to shortcut things a little and use the food processor to cream the butter and sugar for the cookies.  "Nek minnit" as we say in New Zealand, two inch gash across the palm of my hand and me hollering for the medic as if I was a contestant on Masterchef.

Anyway, hoping that I haven't completely skeeved you out by now, back to the cookies.

Chunky Monkey Cookies 1

I made very few changes to Avril's recipe, which she in turn adapted from a Martha Stewart Recipe.  When I think Chunky Monkey, I think bananas, chocolate, and peanut butter, so I swapped out pecans for some roasted, unsalted peanuts.  I also cut the oats back a bit - by the time I had mixed the dough together it was feeling as though the full measure of one cup of oats would make it too stiff, so I cut it back to about one-third.  There's still enough oats in here, in my opinion, to kid yourself that this is health food, or excuse yourself for having them from breakfast!

The cookies smelled wonderful as they baked, and they certainly didn't disappoint.  We couldn't wait for them to cool completely, and enjoyed a couple of warm ones for a mid-morning treat before heading out to lunch.  These were everything a good cookie should be - crispy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and loaded with goodies.

Chunky Monkey Cookies 3

Chunky Monkey Cookies Recipe
Adapted only slightly from recipe from
Baking & Creating with Avril
Made 19 large cookies
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

170g (6 oz) butter
1/2 cup Fair Trade organic cane sugar
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1x free range egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1x medium-sized, All-Good Fair Trade ripe banana, mashed
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
250g (9 oz) semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
(I used Whittaker's Fair Trade Creamy Milk Chocolate)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar, until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg, then add the vanilla and mashed banana.  Mix well.

Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt, then add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, and mix until only just combined.

Add the chocolate, oats and peanuts, and mix to combine.

Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper, and place spoonfuls of cookie dough on the tray, spacing them 5cm (2 inches) apart.

Bake in the preheated oven for 12-13 minutes until golden.  Cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Hope you enjoy these cookies 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

This post will also be shared at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollam, and at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spiced Apple French Toast

Spiced Apple French Toast 2

I love the opportunity to sleep in late and take things slow on a Saturday morning, having a leisurely breakfast so close to lunch time that it's almost too late to even call it brunch.  And if you've seen some of my previous French toast offerings (here, here and here), then you will be in no doubt that French toast is indeed one of my favourite breakfast/brunch treats.

My weekend mornings usually start with getting up around 10.00 am, making a cup of tea, and then taking tea and a stack of cookbooks back to bed (ok, I know that right now every single one of you out there with children is hating me - what can I say?!).  So this morning I was leafing through Nigel Slater's Tender Vol. II, looking for a little inspiration for this weeks blog post.  Our theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week is Off The Spice Rack, and I was thinking along the lines of something nice and spicy for dinner.

And then I stumbled across Nigel's recipe for "Early autumn apples on hot toast".  By this stage it was late morning, and with the tummy rumbling a little my thoughts made the leap from hot buttered toast to... you guessed it, French toast.

This could not be simpler for a quick brekkie treat.  Day old brioche is soaked in an eggy bath while sliced apples are sauteed gently in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, until tender and caramelised, then spooned over the French toast.  To be honest, I never would have thought of apples on toast (French or otherwise), but it was a combination that really worked, and the hot, sweet, buttery apples made a great wintery alternative to berries.  Definitely a dish I will be making again.

Spiced Apple French Toast 3

Spiced Apple French Toast Recipe
Adapted only slightly from a recipe by Nigel Slater
from Tender Vol. II
Serves 2
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2x slices day-old brioche
(or bread of your choice - a spiced fruit & nut bread would be a good choice)
2x free-range eggs
1/4 cup milk
slosh of vanilla extract
butter for frying

2x apples, cored and thickly sliced
50g (2oz) butter
2x heaped tablespoons soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
generous handful of raisins

In a wide shallow dish, mix together the lightly beaten eggs, milk and vanilla extract.  Add the sliced bread to the "egg bath", and leave to soak while you prepare the apples.  Turn bread over about half way through.

Melt the 50g (2oz) of butter in a shallow frying pan set over medium heat.  As soon as the butter starts to sizzle, add the brown sugar and cinnamon, and allow to bubble away for a minute or so, stirring constantly.  Add the apples, and saute for a couple of minutes, stirring from time to time.  Add the raisins to the pan, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, or until the apples are tender but not collapsing.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Return pan to the heat, and add another generous knob of butter to the pan.  Once the butter is sizzling, add the bread to the pan.  Cook until richly golden on one side, then flip over and repeat on the other side.

Remove the French toast to a serving platter, and spoon the warm, caramelised apples and raisins over the top.  Serve immediately.  It's not shown in these photos, but a nice dollop of Greek-style yoghurt, with a bit of cinnamon swirled through it made a nice accompaniment.

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'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, July 20, 2014

Chorizo & Calamari Salad with Black Olives & Pomegranate

Chorizo & Calamari Salad with Black Olives & Pomegranate 2

On a stormy night a couple of weeks ago a friend and I ventured out to dinner at The Boat Shed, an iconic Nelson restaurant, perched on the edge of the harbour. We decided to Trust The Chef, and as we oooohed and aaaaahed and OMGd our way through the following six or seven dishes, my mind was somewhat relieved from worrying about the rain which was bucketing in through my dining room ceiling back home.  A couple of hours in a "dry place" savouring some heavenly food was just the distraction I needed.

One dish that really delighted us both, and which has been on my mind ever since, was a zingy squid, chorizo and chilli salad.  It reminded me a little of a seafood, fennel and lime salad from Ottolenghi The Cookbook that I'd had bookmarked for ages.

Since it's Pot Luck week this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, it seemed like a good time to spend a little time with Ottolenghi and conjure up my own version of this salad, which is a little bit Ottolenghi and a little bit Boat Shed.

This made a great dish for a light lunch.  It was quick and simple to put together, and is definitely a dish I will be making again.  Had it been a nice sunny day, this would have been lovely to enjoy al fresco, but on a wintery Sunday warmed by the heat pump it still brought back memories of squid salads in the Greek islands.

Chorizo & Calamari Salad with Black Olives & Pomegranate 1

Chorizo & Calamari Salad with Black Olives & Pomegranate Recipe
Inspired by The Boat Shed and Yotam Ottolenghi
Serves 2
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2 small fennel bulbs
generous handful of coriander
1x mild red chilli, deseeded & finely sliced
handful of black olives
extra virgin olive oil
freshly squeezed lemon juice
flaky sea salt
1x chorizo sausage, thinly sliced
400g (14 oz) cleaned calamari tubes
pomegranate seeds to finish

Trim the bases and tops off the fennel bulbs, reserving a few of the feathery fronds.  Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, and then slice them as thinly as you can - a mandolin is the ideal tool if you have one - and place in a large bowl.  Finely chop the reserved fennel fronds and add them to the bowl.  Add the roughly chopped coriander, chilli and black olives.  Drizzle over extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice to taste, and season with a little flaky sea salt, again to taste.  Set aside.

Heat a little olive oil (you won't need much) in a small pan over medium heat, and saute the chorizo sausage until browned on both sides.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cut the calamari tubes into pieces about 5cm (2 inches) square, and score lightly with a sharp knife.  Toss with a little olive oil and a generous pinch of flaky sea salt.  Heat a chargrill pan over high heat (cast iron is perfect for the job) until smoking.  Grill the calamari in small batches until just done - about 1 minute on each side.  Remove from heat.

Add the calamari and chorizo to the salad.  Toss until well combined and serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

If you would like to get to know Yotam Ottolenghi a little better or any one of our other IHCC chefs, then do go and visit my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs and see what they've all cooked up for Pot Luck week ...

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... or check out Ottolenghi The Cookbook and Ottolenghi's other great titles available from Amazon USA, Amazon UK or Fishpond NZ.

I'll also be sharing this post at See Ya In the Gumbo hosted by the lovely, and very amusing, Michelle at Ms. enPlace, at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen, at Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads, and at Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollam.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Chocolate, Date & Banana Bread

Chocolate, Date & Banana Bread 2

It's no secret that making ethically responsible choices, as much as possible, about the food that I consume, is a subject which is dear to my heart, and is indeed one of the founding principles of this blog.  As such I regularly use Fair Trade products - they are always exceptionally good quality and Fair Trade principles are consistent with my own food philosophy.  So I was pretty excited a couple of weeks ago then, when a nice big hamper of gorgeous Fair Trade goodies turned up, along with an invitation to bake something delicious and join in this year's "The Big Fair Bake" event.

Trade Aid Goodies

What you don't see in the photo, is a bunch of Fair Trade bananas, which, by the time they had traveled for a couple of days to get to me, were a bit riper than I like to eat them.  So it seemed inevitable that they would be included in my recipe.  I started thinking banana cake, but to be honest I generally prefer banana bread - it usually keeps well for several days, and makes a great snack or breakfast on the run.  Once I got to thinking about adding in some dates and dark chocolate, I knew this would elevate my regular banana bread to something really special.

Chocolate, Date & Banana Bread 1

Chocolate, Date & Banana Bread Recipe
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1/2 cup coconut oil  
1/2 cup Fair Trade organic cane sugar  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
2x eggs  
13/4 cups plain flour  
1 teaspoon baking powder  
1 teaspoon baking soda  
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3x medium-sized All-Good Fair Trade ripe bananas, mashed  
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 cup Trade Aid Medjool dates, finely chopped
80g Fair Trade Whittaker's Dark Ghana chocolate, roughly chopped  

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F).

Lightly grease a 23cm x 13cm (9" x 5") loaf tin, and line with baking paper.

In a medium sized bowl mix together coconut oil and sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.  Add to the wet ingredients, and mix until just barely combined.

Add the mashed bananas, golden syrup, dates and chocolate, and once again mix until just combined - take care not to over mix.

Spoon mixture into the prepared tin, and bake for 60-65 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

I will also be submitting this post to Sweet New Zealand.  Inspired by Alessandra Zecchini, and hosted this month by Libby at Ditch The Carbs, 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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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Broad Bean Pesto

Broad Bean Pesto 1

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're whipping up Starters & Nibbles with Nigel Slater.  I knew immediately what I was going to make.  I had bookmarked Nigel's recipe in Tender Vol. I for "A green hummus" weeks ago, and this seemed like the perfect time to run with it.

I took inspiration from Nigel's recipe, but made a few changes to make more of a pesto out of it.  I didn't have the mint called for in the original recipe, so used parsley instead.  I also added in a bit of garlic, some freshly grated parmesan, and some toasted sunflower seeds.

Broad Bean Pesto 3

The resulting pesto was delightfully fresh and "springlike" - quite a joy in the middle of winter.  It makes a great snack or pass around with some raw vegetable sticks, corn chips, or spread on toasted, crusty sourdough bread.  It was also a delicious accompaniment to leftover roast chicken, and tomorrow night it will be turned into sauce for pasta.

This made a great alternative to my regular go-to hummus that I frequently turn to when I have friends around for nibbles, and this will definitely become a regular in my repertoire.

Broad Bean Pesto 2

Broad Bean Pesto Recipe
Inspired by recipe by Nigel Slater
from Tender, Vol. I
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

500g (18 oz) frozen broad beans
(if you're lucky enough to have fresh broad beans, even better)
large handful flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds
extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Bring a medium sized pot of water to the boil.  Add broad beans to the pot, return to boiling, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  (If you're using fresh broad beans, you will probably need to boil for a few more minutes.)  Drain, and refresh immediately in cold water.  Once beans are cooled, remove and discard the thick outer skins from the beans.

Place beans, parsley and garlic in food processor and blitz to a coarse paste.  Add parmesan and sunflower seeds, and blitz again.  Then with motor running, pour in extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream until you have a smooth paste consistency.

Remove from food processor, and stir in lemon juice, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

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. 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, and at Foodie Fridays hosted by Designs by Gollum.

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