Archives for the month of: January, 2012

I went for a walk this morning around the waterfront. The harbour was flat, not a sparkly-blue-come-jump-in-me sort of flat but more a dull flat, like the sea was bored. There were hardly any runners, or tourists, or families on Crocodile Bikes. There were a couple of men standing around orange road cones looking at graffiti. There were a few rowers out, their coach standing on the edge of the walkway doing a strange sort of rower Thai chi towards them. I wondered when this walk, this mundane exercise, would be over. Just as I thought that another far more exciting thought entered my head: BRUNCH! Or, more specifically, apple and oat fritters.

I walked home with a renewed sense of vigour, planning the recipe in my head as I went. I was thinking of thick fritters, flecked with the red and green of grated apple, spiced with cinnamon and sweet with honey and apricots. Would it be melodramatic to say that the harbour suddenly seemed more exciting, more blue, more alive with activity??

The basic recipe for these fritters comes from Chocolate and Zucchini. I’ve made this carrot version a few times with oats, leaving out the nutritional yeast and using an egg as a binder. (As long as the eggs are good quality and from free range hens I see no reason to leave them out of my diet.)

Once home, I soaked several chopped dried apricots in a cup of hot water with a tablespoon of honey. In a bigger bowl I mixed 100 grams of rolled oats, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of allspice. I grated one and a half apples. After 15 or so minutes the apricots were softened slightly and nicely sweetened. I stirred the apricots, honey-water and apples into the oats. Taste a pinch at this point, for sweetness. Mix through a beaten egg, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

In the fridge the rolled oats absorb the sweet, spicey, appley water, growing larger and softer, sticking together like Bircher muesli mush. Mmm, doesn’t that sound nice? But, then you melt a knob of butter in a fry pan and mould a heaped spoonful of oat mush into palm sized fritters into the pan. Distract yourself for a moment; empty the dishwasher or make a pot of coffee. Look back at your fritters and see the oats near the heat of the pan begin to bind together as if made with flour. The oat fritters develop a delectable crisp outside with a soft, mealy centre.

I served these oat fritters with yoghurt and a drizzle of apricot jam. Around the plate I sprinkled a small handful of roughly chopped cinnamon sugared almonds which Francesca made. (Recipe to come – they are addictive.)

Makes about 5-6 fritters.


We may have over extended ourselves with the bounty of Central Otago. But when apricots are $4/kilo it is hard to resist this pink-gold downy fruit.

During our last few days in Central Otago we were trying to use up leftovers: half a packet of lady fingers, a near full bottle of overly sweet pear cider which seemed to taste strangely of bananas, a sheet of puff pastry and several egg yolks. Plus the heaving box of apricots.

Two surprisingly successful desserts emerged from these ingredients.

Apricot Gallette: I baked about a dozen apricots, cut in half and stones removed, in the strange pear cider and about 5 tablespoons of icing sugar until just beginning to collapse and the liquid almost froths around the edges. I greased a round cake tin, laid the sheet of pastry in the bottom and placed the cook apricots, draining off the liquid, on top of the pastry. I then folded down the edges of the pastry to make a sort of cap encasing the fruit.

apricot gallette

Apricot Trifle-thing: We stewed another 10 or so apricots, halved and stones removed, with several tablespoons of granulated sugar in about 1/2 cup of water. Once the apricots were cooked and soft we drained off the liquid in a wide bowl. To the liquid we added a dash of peach schnapps and dipped about 100 grams of lady fingers, laying them in a rectangular dish. Stewed apricots on top of the soaked sponge and then we made a vanilla egg custard. In the fridge to set overnight. We learnt from these experimental-no-recipe desserts that everything improves after a night in the fridge.

After two days in the boot of our car we feared the apricots were beginning to deteriorate; in spite of the wet, miserable and windy Wellington weather.

Apricot Jam: 2.7kg of apricots, 2.7kg of sugar, 2 1/2 cups water makes a lot of jam. Upon opening a jar there is the scent of overly ripe, sweet apricots and dessert wine. The jam is the colour of roaring, licking flames. The flavour is sharp and sweet and intense. This jam serves as a reminder that summer continues in other parts of the country.

A pork and sauerkraut stew for the New Year… New Book Random Recipe Challenge from Dom at Belleau Kitchen.

The book is Austrian Specialties – possibly the most obscure cookbook I have ever bought: a pocket size, glossy paged book that looks to be a relic of the 1970s, but, in fact, was published in 2003. The book boasts to be a culinary tour through all the Austrian provinces and features recipes like bread soup, wine soup, deep fried vegetables – the photo shows a plate of golden lumps in various sizes; a carrot, a mushroom and a broccoli floret each cut in half to show the vegetable encased in batter. There is smoked ham baked in a sourdough case. There are seven different recipes for dumplings. Several of the recipes end with ‘F.Y.I’ and historical information of the dish.

I bought this little gem of a book at the Boxing day book fair in Alexandra, Central Otago. It was 10am and 26° degrees. As we entered the town hall there was the musty smell of old books, and probably slightly sweaty patrons. The cookbook section was full of New Zealand classics like the Edmonds and every edition of Alison Holst, as well as an abundance of microwave cookbooks. But the $2 Austrian Specialties caught my eye; I was hoping to recreate the wonderful meals I had eaten in a tavern in Innsbruck with the giant pretzel wreath hanging from the ceiling and jester characters painted on the walls.

I opened the book to page 36 for the random recipe: Szegediner Goulash (and that is the English translation.) Despite the somewhat antiquated appearance of the book, the recipe was easy to follow and produced a surprisingly delicious meal. Sweet paprika, onions, sauerkraut and sour cream seemed to mellow together in a slow, gentle simmer but, when eaten, delivered small bursts of sweet and sour. There is texture and creaminess in this dish.

We served our goulash with mashed potatoes and drank a dry Riesling. All we needed was an Apfelstrudel for dessert!

Szegediner Goulash
Or Pork and Sauerkraut Stew

approx. 750grams loin or shoulder of pork, we used pork sirloin steaks
4 medium onions
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
2tbsp shortening, we used a dash of olive oil plus a knob of butter
2 cups white veal or beef stock, we used beef
1tsp sweet paprika powder
approx. 450 grams sauerkraut
1 cup sour cream

Rinse pork under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into 2cm cubes.
Peel onion and garlic, chop finely. Melt butter/olive oil in a large pot or casserole dish. Brown pork over a “lively” heat, stirring often. Remove meat from pot into an oven proof dish and place in a warm oven.
Cook onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add paprika and let cook for a few minutes more. Return meat to the pot and half of the beef stock. Simmer in open pot at a low heat to reduce the liquid.
Drain and rinse sauerkraut. Once liquid has reduced, about 20mins, add sauerkraut to meat with the remaining stock. Stir well. Continue to simmer at a low heat for 30-40 minutes until pork is tender, stirring occasionally.
Stir through sour cream and simmer for 5 minutes more. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with potato dumplings or mashed potatoes.

My dear friend Francesca turned 21 last week. She is not a yardie or a 21 shots kind of girl (just one of many reasons why we are best friends….) so her mother, Susan, threw a lovely summer afternoon tea to celebrate. Floral patterned tea cups, saucers and matching side plates, flutes for bubbles and rounded tumblers for Pimm’s packed full of cucumber, strawberries and blueberries. Flowers on the table with beautiful plates and two tiered cake stands.

Susan made scones with jam and cream, dainty, rounded cut scones – unlike the sort of free form dollops I usually make. There were little triangle sandwiches made by Francesca’s Nana. One plate with peeled, sliced cucumber and the other – my favourite – cream cheese and chopped crystallised ginger. Francesca’s aunt made savouries, small squares of puff pastry, sliced mushrooms and pine nuts atop a creamy base.

There were meringues sandwiched togther with cream and placed in pink cupcake cases. I likened them to Marie-Antoinette-macaron meringues. Should I ever make meringues (the total mastery of baking with egg whites might be necessary) mine will be served just like Susan’s. But when hers are so light, with a wisp of marshmellow inside, not overly sweet and we have a cake tin of them at the flat I can’t see this happening any time soon…

Central Otago reminds me of the south of France, near Provence and around the Marseille coast with stark cliffs and jagged arid hills. Wild rosemary and thyme grow in abundance; the thyme covering some of the barren hills in a musky purple tinge. Pity then for the colourful array of mullets and dropped Toyota Corollas taking me out of my Provençal dream….

The land is dry and crisp in various shades of pale golds and dull browns. Yet, in this parched landscape is an orchardist’s and winemaker’s paradise. Apricots, cherries, peaches and plums – beautifully ripened near roadside stalls. And like the great wine making regions of France, rows of straight green vines stretch across the land.

View from Felton Road Vineyard

We spent 10 gloriously hot days (28-30 degrees most days) sampling the very best of the region. We visited the cellar doors of some of New Zealand’s best vineyards: Felton Road, Carrick, Peregrine, Rippon, Three Miners. Rippon was beautiful on the shores over looking Lake Wanaka – a wonderful cellar door experience. Three Miners was an exciting find. At the end of a bumpy gravel drive is a modest cellar door, more of a tin shed, but their Pinot Noir and Riesling is smooth and delicious. I am going to drink more Riesling this year.

We bought kilos of cherries and apricots, but more about these in a later post. We discovered the Gibston Valley Cheesery – a wonderfully cool room on a hot day. You can buy a cheese platter matched with Gibston Valley wines to eat outside on the deck overlooking the vines, or sample the sheep, goat and cow milk cheeses at the counter. My favourite was the Balfour, a pecorino style hard cheese.

We spent Christmas Eve day in Queenstown shopping for our feast the next day. We bought a ham, fresh salads, new Jersey Benne potatoes, baby beets, oat crackers for our cheese, plum fruit paste, croissants, marscepone, and bubbles. Georgie and I made a three layered tiramisu that night, allowing plenty of time for the sherry spiked coffee to seep through the lady fingers before dessert the next day.

We roasted the baby beets, peeling their slippery skins off once cool, staining our fingers a purpley-red. The beets were for a beetroot, feta and mint salad – a rather popular addition to our Christmas table. I read not too long ago the rantings of a woman so bored of the beetroot/feta combination that she refused to buy any cookbook that featured a recipe with the two ingredients. Beetroot and feta together is a classic pairing. We added shredded fresh mint leaves to our salad, which not only produced bright Christmas colours but gave the salad a summery feel. Orange segments in place of the mint would add a touch of sweetness.

Christmas beetroot-feta-mint salad

In fact, there are several variations of the beetroot and feta salad if you too fear they are a somewhat tired duo. Add dry roasted walnuts to the salad for a bit of crunch. Slice the feta as you would haloumi and grill it with a generous grind of salt and pepper, serve with the roasted beetroot (as per recipe below) atop grilled ciabatta or other quality bread. For another interesting salad idea add roasted beetroot, cut into wedges, and crumbled feta to cooked orzo.

Beetroot, Feta and Mint Salad

We roasted the beetroot the day before and left them overnight in the fridge covered in a generous dash of salad dressing. This enhanced the earthy, rich flavour of the beetroot.

5-6 small to medium sized beetroot
125-150 grams feta, a sharp, crumbly feta is best
torn fresh mint leaves, a small handful
salad dressing, or a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon mustard

Pre heat the oven to 180°C. Place the whole and unpeeled beetroot in a roasting dish with a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper – make sure the beets are well covered in oil. Roast for 45-60 minutes, or until the beetroot is tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool until just warm. Gently remove the skins from the beetroot, taking care not to pull off too much of the flesh. Cut the beetroot into quarters and place in a bowl. Pour over a couple of tablespoons of salad dressing and leave to sit for several hours or overnight.

Just before serving crumble the feta over the salad but do not mix or the juices from the beetroot will stain the feta. Sprinkle over the torn mint leaves.

Serve as a side with hot or colds meats, or with several other salads for a light summer meal.