Recipes

Italian Sausages with Tomato & Cannellini Stew

It seems appropriate that I’m currently snugly settled in a café with coffee and my laptop while the weather rages outside. Appropriate because my recipe today is another winter warmer.

Yesterday was the winter solstice in New Zealand and therefore the perfect time to share this recipe that I am extremely fond of. Not great timing for my fellow Northern Hemisphere bloggers (a heat wave has been sweeping Europe!) who won’t be putting winter warmers on their cooking agenda at the moment. But it’s great fun to store recipes away and then revisit them when the seasons change.

This dish has many things going for it – simple to make and packed with flavour being among them. And I’ve always loved a sausage. They are so comforting and versatile. But the key as with most things when it comes to food and cooking is quality. You really do need to start with a good quality sausage.

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Dinner for Two – Roasted Butternut Risotto with Prosciutto and Sage

It was only a few months ago that my fellow bloggers were posting winter warmer recipes while my own blog was alive with fresh berries and all things summer. Now the seasons have shifted and it’s been turned upside down – winter in the south and summer in the north. But there must be balance in all things.

I have no problem with the change in season. As much as I love summer I look forward to winter – for two reasons. One is boots – laugh if you will but there is something very special about the first outing of winter boots once the weather cools.

The second, of course, is winter food. By the time autumn creeps in I’ve had my fill of salads and sprightly summer food. Time for a bit of comfort – dishes cooked long and slow in the oven, hot puddings, hearty porridge for breakfast and, of course, those fabulous autumn and winter vegetables.

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Guacamole – and the incomparable avocado

If you asked me what could be used in place of avocado I’d have to reply . . . well, nothing really. Is there a substitute for avocado? It is so unique in texture and flavour that anything used in its place will come in a poor second.

As for taste, it’s difficult to describe how an avocado tastes except to say it’s neither sweet nor bitter. Some might say it has little flavour but often ingredients with subtle flavours are underrated. Think fresh mozzarella – a very subtle flavour compared to stronger cheeses but nevertheless utterly delicious. For me a big part of an avocado’s charm is its texture and how it feels in my mouth. Creamy and buttery but with a freshness that makes it so perfect for salads – and the famous guacamole.

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Mascarpone Cream with Morello Cherries and Amaretti

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of quick and easy desserts. I’d guess that my sweet tooth is at about medium strength. That is to say I tend towards savoury in general. For instance, I’m more inclined to order a starter than a dessert when I eat out (unless it’s a long and lazy evening of eating and I can fit in three courses).

But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally indulge in something sweet and sinful. For all that healthy eating is an important part of our lives, there are times when eating has to be about pleasure only.

When it comes to choosing dessert for a dinner party I more often than not go for something quick and easy but that doesn’t necessarily appear so. When a pudding looks spectacular and tastes even better there’s no need for your guests to know it took twenty minutes for you to put it together. You can simply smile and accept the incoming praise gracefully while secretly thrilled that you were able to produce so much gorgeousness with such little effort.

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Basil Pesto – and the “king of herbs”

I don’t know how I’d cook without herbs. Whether they are being used as a star ingredient, a last minute scattering for freshness or simply as a garnish, these colourful and fragrant wonders of the culinary world have the ability to bring food to life.

If asked which was my favourite herb I’d be pushed to choose one above all others. But at the top of my list are: basil, Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary, mint, tarragon.

I’ll leave it there otherwise I’ll add every herb to the list.

Basil is at the top of the list simply because for me it conjures memories of food I’ve eaten in Italy – scattered over tomatoes, tossed through hot pasta, stirred through a rich meat ragù or simply garnishing a crisp bruschetta.

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Chicken, avocado & watercress wrap – a cold chicken hero

For centuries cooks have been coming up with creative ways to use leftover meat. A couple of months ago I posted a recipe for pulled pork burritos using leftover pulled pork. A fantastic example of how the meat’s second outing need not be inferior to its first.

But perhaps my ultimate favourite in the leftover meat department is chicken. A fabulous meal is never far away when cold chicken awaits me in the fridge. Do I want to keep it cold and make a salad? Perhaps reheat it in a spicy sauce and put together a Mexican feast? Toss it through pasta with garlic and mushrooms?

And it’s not only the evening meal where cold chicken comes into its own. It makes a fantastic lunch or light meal. Earlier this week I made a tray-bake with chicken legs and tomatoes (which incidentally is one of my favourite meals and you can get the recipe here).

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Sauce vierge – perfect in its simplicity

You’ve all heard the term “less is more”. When it comes to food and cooking it’s a motto to live by. That’s not to say complex and creative dishes don’t have their place. But there are times when paring it back is essential and the key to being a good cook is knowing when to do this.

I’ve mentioned previously that when I travel to Italy the first thing I eat is a Caprese salad. Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil. That’s it. Of course you could try and be creative and add other things. But why would you? It’s perfect just as it is.

This week I’m sticking with the combination of tomatoes and basil (an outstanding combination of the food world) but move from Italian to French cuisine to bring you sauce vierge. This sauce is another example of less is more – keep it simple and let the quality of the ingredients and their flavour carry the dish.

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Natural Homemade Muesli – breaking the fast in style

When I was younger I never bothered much with breakfast. It always seemed more important to have that extra twenty minutes in bed or deal with a wardrobe crisis or whatever else cropped up to cause a delay in getting out the door.

Ironically it wasn’t until I made the decision to lose weight and eat healthier that I made breakfast a staple of my morning routine. When my husband and I returned from the United Kingdom fifteen years ago I was overweight and out of shape. I joined a gym, signed up with a personal trainer and by the following year I’d lost fifteen kilos. Considering I’m only five foot two inches tall you can imagine the massive difference this made.

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Welsh Rarebit – toasted cheese with a delicious twist

When I come across the name of a dish that is unusual, especially if the name bears little resemblance to the dish itself, I simply have to discover its origin.

I talked last week about my lifelong obsession with cheese. It’s of no surprise then that toasted cheese is one of my special standbys. It’s what I turn to when I need something delicious and comforting but can’t be bothered to cook.

But if I’m making toasted cheese and are prepared to offer a tad more effort it becomes Welsh rarebit. What, you may ask, does a name like that have to do with toasted cheese? There are a few theories floating around and no apparent definitive answer as to how it came to be in its present form.

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Homemade tomato relish – and my cheese obsession

My love affair with cheese goes back to my childhood. As early as I can remember it was my favourite thing to eat. In fact, my mother knew that when it came to her daughter’s school lunches a sandwich was not a sandwich unless there was a cheese component.

But my mother understood completely. After all, it was from her I inherited my obsession with cheese. And it is as strong today as it was when I was a child. But I find this is an obsession I can live with quite easily.

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