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This is what I have been enjoying recently: batch toasted granola. It’s nothing new, or even particularly exciting, unless, like me, you think warm granola is the sort of thing to write home about. It’s got all the usual things going on: oats, dried fruit, a squeeze of citrus, maybe a few nuts and a teaspoon of honey, but it’s the process of making it that I like.

There is no recipe as such, simply throw together what is available. I like to use rolled oats and jumbo oats for a more interesting texture, but just one sort would be fine. (About 1/2 cup of oats altogether, per person.) Add cinnamon, ground ginger, perhaps some roughly chopped almonds or hazelnuts, a few sultanas or dried cranberries, a pinch of salt. Melt together a generous knob of butter, honey and a squeeze of orange in a hot pan. Add the dry granola, stirring to moisten then continue to toss. Watch the oats darken and the dried fruit plump with the hot butter.

This is such a wonderful way to start the day; to smell the toasted oats, and then to eat them all. There is something about making granola to put in a large jar and last a week, but there is something equally lovely in making a bowlfull of warm, fresh granola for immediate consumption with yoghurt and fruit.

On one occasion, when the cupboards were a little bare, I toasted only oats with a sprinkle of spice. Crank the heat and oats cooked like this deliver a depth of flavour quite unexpected. Next time I might take a leaf out of Heidi’s book and try oats this way: a toasted, souped up porridge.


At the start of June I happened to flick over to the Kitchen Maid for a blog reading fix (her blog posts are short and sweet, ideal for a quick hit), when I saw the special ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge: coffee. Oh lordy may, I thought, chocolate and coffee, my two favourite things.

When it’s been a long day, or I feel the start of caffeine withdrawal shakes coming on, I buy a coffee and a Santé bar; I take my coffee black and my chocolate near abouts. I use the chocolate like a spoon, swirling it through the coffee, then licking the melted coffee-chocolate, feeling the rose creep back into my cheeks. It’s a dangerous way to live.

Then, just last weekend, I happened to be flicking through Julie Le Clerc’s Simple Café Food, looking for something else entirely, when I saw a recipe for Turkish Velvet Biscuits, with the sub-title “coffee, coffee and more coffee”. Oh lordy may, I thought, here we go!

These biscuits fill the kitchen with the scent of coffee. Take a pinch of the mixture and there is sweetness and a bit of spice, and then, the deep bitter flavour of coffee hits you. Despite using ground coffee in the dough, and then being rolled in ground coffee and sugar before baking, the texture is quite lovely. Yes, there is a bit of a grainy quality, but in the best possible sense. The coffee sugar creates a crisp outside with a sort of airy softness in the middle.

These biscuits fall in the same camp as biscotti for me. They aren’t overly sweet, ideally served with coffee (funny, that), and would even be nice with a coffee flavoured or cream based liqueur. I’m thinking they would be an excellent match for coffee, chocolate, or perhaps maple ice cream.

Turkish Velvet Biscuits
Barely adapted from Julie Le Clerc’s recipe

The chocolate here may seem like a bit of an after-thought, but the coffee is the shining star. I think you could possibly switch out the measure of ground coffee in the mix for an equal measure of cocoa for more of a mocha flavour.

2 tablespoons finely ground coffee
1/2 cup caster sugar
150 grams butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup finely ground coffee
1 egg
1 tablespoon strong espresso
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups plain flour, sifted
50 grams dark chocolate
small knob of butter

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray.
In a small bowl mix the first measure of ground coffee with the first measure of sugar and set aside.
In a bowl cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the second measure of ground coffee, egg, espresso, all spice and baking soda. Stir through the flour until just incorporated.
Form into walnut sized balls and then roll through the coffee-sugar and place biscuits on baking tray.
Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

In a microwave proof bowl melt the chocolate with the butter. Once the biscuits have cooled, drizzle chocolate over biscuits.

Makes 20-30 biscuits depending on size.

Tuesday was a miserable night, calling for slow cooked and warming food – a venison ragoût. On nights like we have had this week; where the wind shakes the windows in their frames; there are metres of freshly fallen snow in some parts of the country; we’ve had thunder and lightening and unrelenting rain, it was such a pleasure to stand at the stove and slowly put together this meal.

In the world of food blogging there appears to be a constant need to reinvent the wheel, to take old favourites then add a bit of this, a touch of that so the original recipe is almost lost. I think this is why baking recipes are held in such high regard on blogs; swap dates for currants, white sugar for brown, all-purpose flour for whole wheat and, hey, we have something new and exciting. This is how we develop new ideas and new ways of cooking, so please, don’t get me wrong, many baking blogs share some wonderful recipes. I like the sound of these, and this, and these.

But we shouldn’t forget the everyday good things: the soups, stews, salads and grains, the humble vegetable. When prepared with tenderness and thought, they too can offer something exciting. After all, most of us don’t just eat cake. This venison ragoût with the sweetness of bacon and prunes and the subtly rich flavour of the meat is a deeply satisfying dish for a cold winter’s night.

I served the ragoût with brussel sprouts, halved and sautéed with a knob of butter, a half teaspoon honey, grating of lemon zest and a splash of hot water. Once the sprouts were lightly browned, about 8-10 minutes, I added a handful of trimmed green beans and continued to toss for a further 5 minutes.

Venison Ragoût
Barely adapted from the Silver Fern Farms recipe

1 tablespoon oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
500 gram venison fillet, diced
1 teaspoon paprika
a few sprigs of thyme
2 rashers bacon
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
a handful of prunes or cranberries
1 tablespoon tomato paste
100ml red wine
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
100ml stock

Heat the oilve oil in a frypan or casserole dish (suitable for stove-top use and with a lid). Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Put onions in a bowl and set to one side. Turn heat to medium-high and pan fry the venison with the paprika, thyme and pepper until lightly browned. Reduce heat and add chopped bacon and vegetables. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add onions back to the pan with the prunes or cranberries. Add tomato paste, red wine, vinegar, lemon zest and mustard and stock. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for one hour or place casserole dish in a pre-heated oven to 170°C for an hour.

Serve with potatoes or rice or green vegetables.

This coming Sunday the 3rd of June will mark a year since I returned from France. It has gone by so fast. I think about France often; the weekends away, the skiing, the people I met, the food I ate, the wonderful places I visited. This blog constantly reminds me of France and seems to hold me to these memories. I started blogging in France and came to find such enjoyment in the blogging community and the discipline of writing regularly.

It is so lovely then to be nominated for The Food Stories Award for Excellence in Storytelling. Sarah from More Than Greens kindly nominated me for this award. I like Sarah’s blog because, while duck confit and a perfectly medium rare steak are some of my favourite meals, I do agree with her that vegetarian food has so much to offer in terms of diversity, taste, colour, texture and health. More than just rabbit food, as she says.

The nomination for this award requires me to also nominate five other blogs for Excellence in Storytelling. Some of these blogs I have read for a while, and others I have only recently discovered. But either way, they each offer wonderful snapshots into other culinary lives.

  • Down Under – a fellow Wellington blogger, though originally from France, this blog is an interesting perspective of my favourite city
  • As Strong As Soup – I think the title is great, as are the many French cake recipes
  • Eat, etc – a recent discovery and I look forward to reading more
  • Vegetarian Ventures – I love the style of photography here
  • The Patterned Plate – the header first drew me in, now I love the writing too

Be sure to click on these links – they are great blogs.

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.

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.

I don’t feel I have ever given Italian food a real go. I like pizza and tiramisu as much as the next person but I have never been to Italy, nor a frequent eater at Italian restaurants and our cookbook collection is dominated by french cuisine. In spite of this I believe Italian food to be so much more than pizza and pasta, much like french food is so much more than baguette, snails and frogs legs. Maybe I am waiting for a life-changing trip to Italy where I can sample beautiful olive oils, baked aubergines with capers and tomatoes, or a fennel salad with Parmesan, or barbequed rabbit, and lemon and almond cake for dessert, or ricotta almond tart.

The meatballs I made this week prompted this new found appreciation for Italian cuisine. They were light, perfectly moist and simply seasoned so what really came through was the almost creamy flavour of the mince rather than any garlic or herbs in the sauce.

During one of my numerous perusals of food blogs and food articles online, I discovered the meatball is the subject of much discussion. The search for the perfect meatball seems quite intensive. In the linked article, Molly Wizenburg, author of the blog Orangette, writes:

“I’ve long felt that if I could make a great meatball, I would be set for life. There’s nothing fancy about it, but that’s the point. A meatball is about as unassuming as food can get, but when done well, it packs more flavor and more soul per square inch than anything that humble has a right to. People love meatballs. It’s a fact of life. If you’ve got a great meatball in your repertoire, you have the means to make most of the world happy.”

I almost feel like I’ve cheated… It has not taken the better part of 5 years of making and tasting every meatball I came across to achieve, what I consider, a pretty darn fine meatball.

These meatballs I served with a tomato sauce and spaghetti but they would also be great atop mashed potatoes. Or make some of the mix into patties for a sandwich with tomato chutney and lettuce.

The humble meatball really has given me a renewed enthusiasm for all things Italian.

Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

600-800grams beef mince
half a red onion, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
2-3 pieces of bread
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
a pinch of ground cumin and ground coriander

Place the bread in a small bowl and pour over enough milk to almost cover the bread. In a larger bowl place the beef mince, grated red onion, salt, pepper and egg – mix lightly.

Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread. Discard the milk and stir the bread through the mince mixture incorporating all ingredients together. (I found the back of the spoon worked well for smearing the sodden bread through the meatball mixture.)

Refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavours to develop together.

Use your hands to roll meatballs into bite sized balls. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frypan and cook the meatballs in batches, stirring frequently, until cooked through. Keep cooked meatballs in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Tomato Sauce:

2 cans of crushed or whole tomatoes (I used one of each)
3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon powdered beef stock
salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together in a saucepan, simmer to reduce.

Jo Seagar's 'Happy Birthday' Large Deep Celebration Chocolate Cake.


This is a cake worthy of celebrating in its own right. It is fudgey while maintaining a consistent crumb, it is not overly sweet: perfect for an afternoon tea treat, but as equally well matched with a soft Pinot for a winter dessert.

It is also sinfully simple. Delight in telling your guests, “oh, just something I whipped up.”


Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until it resembles chocolate soup. Ideal for pouring into the large (double-lined) baking tin. Or your mouth.

My family has been making this cake for as long as I can remember, a tried and true favourite. Yet, sometimes, I can’t help but feel like I’ve cheated. Where is the creaming and one-by-one addition of ingredients? The delicate folding? The multiple bowls and pots?

Whenever I’m in the mood for baking I find myself flicking to recipes oft-lusted after, pages which I have occasionally tenderly stroked. They are complicated recipes. Recipes to not only test my amateur baking skills but, which require I dig deep into my shallow student pockets. These may not be the best recipes by which to introduce myself.

But, can you ever go wrong with a Celebration cake? Eat a piece because it is Tuesday, because it is sunny today, because it might rain tomorrow, because yesterday I started university (for the second time). Eat a piece for this new blog.

Jo Seagar’s ‘Happy Birthday’ Large Deep Celebration Cake
From Jo Seagar‘s book You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, darling

1 3/4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup milk
1/2 cup soya or canola oil

Preheat oven to 180°C. Mix everything in a food processor until smooth and well combined. Pour into a greased and baking paper lined 23-25cm cake tin. Bake for approximately 90 minutes. Cool on rack, then ice.

As for icing, I use a chocolate buttercream icing or a chocolate ganache of good quality chocolate melted with cream.