Archives for category: Lunch-Snack

It takes me a while sometimes to recall the good food I ate as a child. If prompted for fond food memories I probably couldn’t tell you a great deal but over time moments from the past come to mind. Sometimes I forget it’s been a fair few years since I was seven and there’s not a hope of me remembering every evening meal and lunchbox packed. Sometimes this thought saddens me, other times, I find it a relief.

salad time

But I remember our kitchen, small and pokey with heavy wooden drawers and a smooth white door frame between the kitchen a round wooden table. I can’t remember the frame ever having a door but for me it was a climbing frame as I gripped my way to the top and would perch, my back pressed against one side, my bare feet firmly planted on the other, talking to my mother in the kitchen. I never fell.

This kitchen was eventually expanded, my climbing frame busted down and the room opened out. In the new kitchen and the old one and I suppose the other kitchens in other houses that have come since, the same sort of things happened. Hundreds of sandwiches would have been made in my childhood kitchen, oranges peeled and apples chopped, cereal poured. There would have been chocolate cake and banana cake, lasagne and roast chicken, lamb chops, mashed potatoes, tomato on toast, spaghetti bolognaise or meatballs, sausages – family food.

spring rootschickpeas and coriander

I remember special occasion foods – the marmalade glaze on the Christmas ham, the time Mum butterflied and roasted lamb and we ate outside in the middle of a summer day, roasting marshmallows in the flames of the brazier on summer nights. I’ll remember for always the avocado halves with slithers of cold smoked salmon we ate for Christmas entrée several years.

seedsdiced carrots

We had a few traditions too which I remember fondly. Every Saturday morning all four of us would do the supermarket shopping together. Even now, a family trip to the supermarket seems something to be celebrated, even if it’s just to buy yoghurt and bread. But those Saturday mornings were precious, if not exactly for wandering the aisles, but for what came after – Scottish malt loaf, toasted and slathered in butter. Our supermarket’s bakery section made the loaf, my Dad’s favourite, and often on a Saturday morning the bread would still be warm, the raisins soft and plump and the malty flavour almost caramel, the just overdone sort of caramel with near-savoury tones.

Another tradition: to shyly mock my Dad when he made his long-term go-to dinner, the same dinner he made on his cooking nights when flatting – grilled lamb chops with boiled and buttered potatoes, curried carrots and a green vegetable of some sort. Mock is not the right word, I’m not sure what is really, for we never complain – you cannot go wrong with grilled lamb chops and my Dad’s curried carrots are as good as they come. Perhaps mocking, lovingly, was our way of saying thanks for cooking Dad.

But in my food life, what has been as perennial as the grass, are my mother’s salads. She makes a darn good salad. Her green salad – mixed greens + anything really (feta, red onions, fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, apple…), the house salad, as so aptly named by Food Loves Writing, continues to be good and I’ve been eating this sort of salad for most of my life. Her roast vegetable salad, potato salad, left-over-chicken salad, warm lamb salad, beetroot salad, fruit salad, rice salad, quinoa salad, any salad Mum puts her hand to is fresh and inviting, appealing and nourishing.

carrots and spicetossorange

I learned from watching and helping Mum make salads that anything, anything in your fruit bowl, pantry or fridge, can contribute to the texture and vitality of a salad. Take this roasted carrot and chickpea salad – a can of chickpeas and the bung up carrots from the market – but together with a little bit of manipulation, cajoling, becomes something else entirely, something quite wonderful.

toasted chicksprinkled with spice

The carrots, tossed in aromatic spices, were roasted until a dusky orange while chickpeas were toasted lightly in a dry pan, the pattern they formed in the pan reminding me of an open sunflower. Big handfuls of parsley and coriander were chopped up roughly with jagged edges and the kitchen smelled fresh. I drizzled oil and ground salt and pepper over pumpkin seeds and sunflowers, these toasted in the frypan so well they almost didn’t make the salad. A spring onion for crunch and oomph, then a strong, citrus dressing. Everything together, the spices, the herbs, the buttery warmth of spiced roast carrots, the ting of citrus, the salty crunch of seeds and the smooth nutty chickpeas make every bite bright.

roasted carrot and chickpea salad

This salad is for keeps, like my mother’s.

Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Salad

3 carrots, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons oil
1 can chickpeas (about 400 grams)
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh coriander and parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 lemon, rind and juice

Pre-heat oven to 180°C. Place the carrots in a bowl with the spices and oil, toss until well combined. Pour onto an oven tray and bake for roughly 25 minutes or until tender.

Heat a frying pan. Drain the chickpeas and rinse well. Place in the hot pan and toss until warmed and slightly toasty. Place the chickpeas in a bowl with the roasted carrots, sliced spring onion and the roughly chopped herbs. Stir lightly.

Mix the seeds with a little oil, salt and pepper, then toast in a hot pan until quivering with heat. Sprinkle the seeds over the chickpeas and carrots.

Zest the lemon into a jar, add the lemon juice with a glug of oil and shake well. Pour over the salad.

Enjoy.

There was an open invitation to lunch at my flat last Sunday. The invite was worded something along these lines: “Harriet will cook. There will be food, the oven will be turned on, and Holy Crap, she will even make a trip to the market AND supermarket.” The occasion was so momentous it required me to refer to myself in the third person. I couldn’t quite believe I would enter my kitchen to do anything more than pour a bowl of cereal.

But it happened! I went to the market for fresh produce – even in the rain – enjoying the green of the spring vegetables. The people looked a little damp and and the market was quieter than usual but the vegetables looked fresh and bright. There is not a lot in the way of new season fruit at the moment – a few punnets of pale strawberries, early stone fruit yet to become juicy and fragrant and the last of the winter’s apples, their skins a little waxy from storage, but the vegetables are at their prime. Crisp asparagus spears, beautiful lettuce heads like open flowers, baby new potatoes, freshly dug, with their clear skins shining beneath the dark earth.

I wanted a simple Sunday lunch, one with easy ingredients, but one that still required actual cooking and preparation of food. I wanted to cook, to slowly put things together, to enjoy being in the kitchen. I planned my menu – a snacking sort of affair – with every recipe from Skye Gyngell’s book How I cook. This beautiful book is the latest addition to my cookbook shelf, a birthday gift from Ollie and Jason, so it is quite appropriate that Ollie was there to sample the first recipes.

Menu du jour:

Strawberries and grapes in a lemon ginger syrup
Pulled bread
Oeufs en cocotte
Lemon and poppy seed cake

I made the lemon and poppy seed cake first. Normally I avoid bagels and cakes and sandwiches with poppy seeds, preferring the stronger flavour of sea salt or herbs for savoury foods, and afraid of spending all day smiling with black dots between my teeth. But with poppy seeds on hand, I took a leap of faith, trusting Skye Gyngell’s recipe.

But a lemon cake should only be a lemon cake, I feel. The soft sweet-sharp of lemons is enough for me. It needs no crunch, or contrast in texture, no adjustment in any sense. The only crunch I like is the smallest shatter beneath teeth of a lemon juice and sugar crust.

I stand by my aversion to poppy seeds but if you enjoy this marriage then Skye’s recipe is light and moist, ideal for breakfast or afternoon tea. The cake is iced in How I Cook, but to pour a lemon sugar syrup over a cake fresh from the oven is the loveliest way to dress a cake.

Diced strawberries and halved red grapes in a ginger citrus juice were my own addition to the menu – a reminder to myself that fruit need not boring, or simply eat-in-hand. I sometimes forget that fruit, like many things, with the simplest of tinkering can be made better, can be made to sing.

The pulled bread is a recipe I am most pleased to have in my repertoire now, and to share here. Like this beer bread it comes together in a matter of minutes and is the ideal base for all sorts of extras – sweet and savoury. Cinnamon sugar woven throughout, or berry jam – sticky and concentrated in flavour – are ideas I’d like to try. Sun-dried tomatoes or black olives – strong and salty – would give this quick bread a little extra zing. Without these additions the bread is perfectly good; dense and with a good crust, it’s a mop-up-sauce, dip-in-soup, soldiers-in-eggs sort of bread.

Which brings us to our next course: oeufs en cocotte. I had been vaguely aware of this dish for a while, either known to me as oeufs en cocotte or baked eggs, I’m not too sure, but it wasn’t until I watched Rachel Khoo make oeufs en cocotte in tea cups did they jump from the periphery to the fore-front of my thoughts. Khoo used creme fraiche in her oeufs en cocotte, Gyngell, double cream. Possibly I went out on a whim, but yoghurt, strangely, was the link between each course of my Sunday lunch. I chose to use a generous dollop of thick Greek yoghurt in each teacup, atop buttered spinach, a few torn basil leaves and strips of prosciutto de parma (from Big Bad Wolf!).

The yoghurt cooked up beautifully, warm and salty and a bit like cottage cheese. Oeufs en cocotte is one of those dishes where the ingredients are so simple and so good in their natural state that it seems unlikely for anything overly wonderful to happen after 10 minutes in the oven, but that is probably why magic does indeed happen here.

Skye Gyngell’s Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

The recipe calls for a 20x11cm loaf tin – I need a bigger loaf tin so made my cake in a 20cm diameter cake tin. Apart from the lemon sugar syrup I poured over the hot cake, and the choice of tin, this recipe is unchanged from the original. Perhaps half milk, half yoghurt would be a good idea next time, and lemon juice added to the batter.

115 grams unsalted butter
175 grams caster sugar
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
35 grams poppy seeds
275 grams plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
230ml whole milk
4 large egg whites

Syrup

juice of 2 lemons
2 heaped tablespoons caster sugar

Preheat oven to 170°C. Line a 20cm cake or loaf tin with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and smooth. Add lemon zest, vanilla and poppy seeds, then sift flour and baking powder together over the mixture. Stir a couple of times, then pour in the milk and briefly stir again.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until soft peaks form. Fold a third into the batter using a metal spoon, then slowly fold in the rest of the egg whites.

Spoon the mixture into prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. While the cake is baking mix the syrup ingredients together until most of the sugar has dissolved. Once the cake is removed from the oven pour over the syrup while cake is still in tin. Leave to soak in for several minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

Cake best served warm.

Skye Gyngell’s Pulled Bread

This recipe was barely adapted from the original, save for an egg yolk wash and an extra scattering of rock salt on top before baking.

450 grams plain white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
375ml milk

1 egg yolk plus a dash of water (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk. Using one hand scoop the flour and milk around the bowl until a dough forms – the dough should be soft but not wet or sticky.

Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead lightly for a couple of seconds. Shape the dough into a long sausage, bend in the middle and loosely weave together. Make the egg wash by combining the yolk with a small amount of water.

Place dough on a baking sheet and brush egg wash over the dough. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes before reducing temperature to 200°C, then bake for a further 15 minutes. The bread should be golden on the outside and when given a tap with your knuckles should sound hollow.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool, but serve slightly warm with salted butter.

Skye Gyngell’s Oeufs en cocotte

Instead of a tablespoon of double cream in each ramekin, I used a tablespoon of thick Greek yoghurt placed on top of the spinach and beneath the egg. I also reduced by half the amount of parma ham, so 4 slices instead of 8, due to the size of my ramekins/tea cups.

200 grams spinach
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
knob of butter
a few torn basil leaves
4 slices of prosciutto de parma, or similar
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons thick Greek yoghurt
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
50 grams Parmesan cheese, grated

Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Thoroughly wash the spinach leaves and drain well. Place a large dry pan over a low heat and add the spinach. Cook briefly until the spinach has just wilted. Set aside until the spinach is cold enough to handle, then using kitchen towels squeeze all excess moisture from the spinach.

Place the blanched spinach in a frying pan with the knob of butter and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among the four ramekins then add the basil leaves. Place a dollop of yoghurt in each ramekin or teacup. Arrange parma ham on top of yoghurt, then a small grating of nutmeg. Crack an egg into each ramekin, and finish with a small amount of grated Parmesan cheese.

Place the ramekins in a roasting dish and pour hot water to come two-thirds up the sides of the dishes. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until the egg whites have set and the yolks are to your liking.

Lift the ramekins out of the bain marie and dry off. Serve on a plate with bread cut for dipping into yolks.

Serves 4.

Whenever a new season rolls around and the fresh produce definitive of that season fills the market stalls it never feels real or true until I have cooked some of it myself. There are tulips, fresh new green leaves and blossom in the gardens; I am wearing ballet flats on my feet and I never leave home without my sunglasses; and in Wellington during spring it is wild and windy. But I had yet eat to buy and cook asparagus for myself. Only then would it really be spring.

I bought a bunch of asparagus – slender stalks with dark tips, pointed and almost feathered – and cooked them the way I like best: sautéed with a drop of oil, a knob of butter, salt and a grating of lemon zest. Cooked like this the spears are al dente, a slight crunch beneath tooth. The sweet and bitter flavour mingles with the butter and the lemon. Even with the slight charring and whithering of their skin the asparagus remains elegant – long and lean.

Accompanying the asparagus was a generous slice of pork, tarragon and ostrich egg terrine from Big Bad Wolf Gourmet Charcuterie. The terrine was herbaceous, rich and flavourful, yet a perfect light lunch with a simple salad or sautéed asparagus.

Big Bad Wolf is located on Wakefield Street next to Commonsense Organics. It is a beautiful store – painted white brick, wooden tables and hanging light shades made of fencing wire. The chairs are mismatched and above the counter, hanging from the ceiling are two pieces of old gardening equipment, a pitchfork and perhaps a hoe. Hanging from these are dried salamis, chorizo, and a bunch of lavender tied with string.

But it is the charcuterie products I love – sausages, terrines, patés, rillettes, bacon, prosciutto, chorizo, Iberico ham, preserves and chutney… Everything is made on site by the skilled and innovative chefs, except for the Spanish and Italian cured and dried meats. The variety and flavours of the sausages are endless – spicy kidney and heart; salmon and sweetcorn; pork, watercress, potato and anchovy; lamb, pork, feta and roast capsicum; beef, caramelised onion and blue cheese; beef carbonara – beef, pork, mushrooms and parmesan; snail, pork and parsley; venison and raspberry; pork, saffron and leek…..

I write this as an avid consumer, but also, I’m lucky enough to work at Big Bad Wolf. On our first day we did a tasting of the terrines and patés with one of the chefs. It was 9am but a good a time as any to try duck liver parfait, hare and mushroom terrine, duck and cranberry terrine, farmhouse terrine, salmon and white fish terrine, pork, tarragon and ostrich egg terrine, chicken and thyme paté…. I knew I was going to love working there.

I hope to write more about Big Bad Wolf as new products come into the cabinets. We introduced our own bacon this week – middle bacon, chilli middle bacon, and ginger middle bacon. It is perhaps the best bacon I have ever eaten.

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…

I once read that food writing should really be called writing about eating. The food is only one part of what is the overall eating experience. It is the people we are with, the weather, the location, the sense of occasion, or lack thereof. It is our frame of mind; what, in that moment, or evening, or hurried lunch break, do we really crave.

Sometimes the circumstances of a meal are just as delightful or enjoyable, or odd as the food itself. This week I have particularly enjoyed a Thai beef rice salad: chopped tomatoes, cucumber and capsicum, finely sliced green chilli, nutty brown rice and perfectly medium rare steak. However, eating this salad while on a school trip with 70 or so kids at Titahi Bay to learn about beach safety is slightly less kosher.

Would this salad have tasted so fresh and clean, so wholesome and so lightly spiced with chilli heat if I hadn’t been eating it from a plastic container at a plastic table in the sandy and slightly damp Titahi Bay surf lifesaving club? If I hadn’t been wearing jandals, trackpants and an oversized polar fleece jersey of my father’s? The club room was full of damp and sandy children. I overheard a few jokes about SAND-wiches, jam beginning to dribble from their slightly squished cheese rolls.

Fog and drizzle rolled across the beach, almost following the waves, and Mana Island became hazy and blurry in the distance. On the beach the remains of a sand castle building competition were starting to collapse, wet sand creeping out from their carefully constructed forms – survivor island, volcano island, a two-headed sea turtle and an orange road cone covered in sand and twigs.

As I ate my salad and looked out over the water – the colour of slate – I wondered if this salad would have tasted any less delicious on a warm summer evening, perhaps sitting outside wearing a sun dress, drinking a cold beer and the Thai beef brown rice salad served on a lovely platter? Probably not.

Thai Beef Brown Rice Salad
Serves 2-3

2 beef steaks (I used porterhouse)
2 cups of cooked brown rice, warm
1-2 chopped tomatoes
handful diced cucumber
handful diced red capsicum
1 small green chilli sliced very finely
1-2 finely sliced spring onions.

Dressing:
juice of 1 lemon or lime
splash of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
salt and pepper
the remaining meat juices

Cook the steaks for 3 minutes each side. Wrap in tin foil and leave to sit for 10 or so minutes. Place the cooked brown rice and chopped tomato, cucumber, capsicum, spring onions and chilli on a platter.

To make the dressing, mix all the ingredients together, except the meat juices. Leave to rest for several minutes, if not longer, to let the flavours develop.

After the meat has rested, pour the meat juices which have gathered in the tin foil parcel into the dressing. Mix well.

Place the steaks on a board and slice. Arrange the slices of steak on the rice and pour over the dressing.

Great for lunches at the beach or a light meal outdoors in the sun.

Saturday night, before a friend’s birthday, our friend Megan came over for a quick supper. The pressure was on for this birthday to look our very best. I cannot offer a particularly lush wardrobe to my friends, but I can feed them. Saturday night I wanted something warming, homely (and with stomach lining qualities…)

I was given a few bottles of beer which I thought would make for better cooking projects than for drinking. I made a beef, tomato and beer casserole in the crockpot which simmered away all afternoon. I used another bottle of beer to make beer bread to eat with the stew.

The recipe comes from Jo Seagar’s book You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, darling. It is a wonderful quick bread with a lovely soft mealy flavour. The yeast in the beer acts as a rising agent, eliminating the kneading and time spent waiting for the dough to rise. The mixture can be in the pan, in the oven in less than 10 minutes. You could probably wipe the bench in this time too.

The bread can be made with a variety of flours, or jazzed up slightly with a stuffing: fill the tin half with the dough then add a layer of onion jam, or spinach, or pitted olives, or roasted capsicums then top with the remaining mixture.

On Sunday evening, after a long day working at Toast Martinborough, I made a toasted sandwich with sliced beer bread, some leftover beef from the casserole which I shredded with a fork and grated cheese. Perfect end to a busy weekend.

Beer Bread

3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 can/bottle of beer, made up to 500ml with water
1 handful grated cheese

Heat oven to 200°C. Quickly mix all ingredients together until just combined. Sprinkle extra grated cheese on top and paprika. Or sea salt, or rosemary, or sesame seeds or poppy seeds. Place in a greased 10x20cm loaf tin for 1 hour. (If you use a 8x15cm tin bake for 35-40 minutes.

A good friend of mine, Ollie, gave our flat a huge mason jar of plum jam made by his mother, Anna. It is the deepest purple colour, thick with glossy pieces of plum smudged into a set syrup.

I have a weakness for condiments: jams, preserves, chutneys, pickles, conserves, jellies, curds and fruit pastes. A happy fridge is one with the top shelf full of interesting jars. An eclectic collection to be paired with cheese, slathered in sandwiches, or, eaten straight from the jar. One day I hope to live in a kitchen lined with shelves of my own home-made pickles, chutneys and preserves.

Anna’s plum jam is worthy of higher things than jam on toast. In saying that, this jam has such a rich plummy taste it is like spreading the ripest, juiciest, hot-from-summer plums on to your toast.

I thought a good experiment could be to mix some plum jam through a scone mix. This turned out to be a rather nice idea. More interesting than date or sultana scones and delightfully versatile. As a breakfast scone, consider it already pre-jammed; though for a morning tea, a spoonful of cream and more jam creates quite a luxurious scone.

These scones are nubbly, as if made with bran. Take a bite and there are twice cooked plums melting into molten pockets. They are a bit rough around the edges: I’m a dollop of scone mix sort of girl, instead of a rolled-and-cut scone girl.

I think these scones could be improved by a sprinkling of demerara sugar on top before going in the oven. I am also curious to try adding ginger, powdered or finely chopped crystallised, to the mix.

Plum Jam Scones

2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4.5 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
50grams butter
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup thick plum jam

Pre-heat oven to 220°C. Sift dry ingredients together. Rub in the butter until the flour is slightly crumbly. In a separate bowl lightly stir the jam through the milk until the milk begins to change colour and the plum bits are broken up a bit. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and roughly mix.
Spoon onto a very well greased baking tray-the plum pieces do tend to stick.
Bake for 15mins until lightly browned on top.