Recipes

Fish with Coconut & Tamarind Sauce

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is not the post I’d planned for this week. On a recent visit to my local gourmet market I had a list in my head of what I needed to pick up for dinner that evening. But it all changed when I strolled past the fish counter.

And when I say stroll past, I invariably end up stopping to see what beauties are on offer. My local market has two fresh deliveries of seafood every day. It’s important when you’re buying fish or seafood to have a reliable provider who you know will have the freshest produce.

On this particular day the ocean had brought them blue cod. Although blue cod is endemic to New Zealand it is more commonly found in the waters of the South Island and so not always available in Auckland. Such a treat when it is. I couldn’t resist. My plan for dinner that night was changed in an instant.

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Spiced Parsnip Soup – a celebration of the winter vegetable

I can’t resist starting this post by telling you how excited I am by my recipe this week. Just so excited! Can you tell? I made this soup on the weekend for Sunday lunch and it was such a triumph. I had been quietly confident when I embarked on the cook that it was going to be delicious but this parsnip soup exceeded my expectations. Don’t you love it when that happens?

I always enjoy making soups during the winter months and parsnip is a favourite. But I wanted to try something different by way of ramping up the flavour with some spices. I took care as I made it to get the flavours and level of spice just right. It was more than just right. So delicious I can only be profoundly grateful that a batch went into the freezer. It winks at me now every time I open the freezer as a small reminder that I have a treat in store.

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Biscotti and Espresso – the perfect pairing

When it comes to savoury vs sweet, I generally tend towards savoury. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a sweet treat. But I would always prefer to go for something that isn’t overly sweet.

Those who have a fierce sweet tooth are happy with a full on sugar hit. But I prefer dishes and treats that hint at sweetness without making you feel as though you’ve just swallowed several spoonfuls of sugar. And for me texture is crucial.

One of my favourite desserts is panna cotta. I love the smooth silkiness of the set cream with the familiar scent and taste of vanilla running through it. Not too sweet, a gorgeous texture and it looks beautiful. But it has to be served with something that will contrast all that smooth silkiness. Biscotti is just the thing.

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Slow-cooked Chicken with Lemon and Honey – and a childhood memory

My mother remarked recently on how often she gets a mention in my posts. It’s a happy mention when I’m talking about food and my mother. That’s because writing about food often evokes the smells and tastes from my childhood. Memories of the food we ate as a child are powerful. And not necessarily always in a good way – a bad eating experience in our younger years can linger for decades.

But I like to think the scales tip towards good memories. And perhaps my fondest of them all is my mother’s roast chicken. It was my favourite meal as a child. And not something we had too often. In those days (oh dear!) chicken was not the cheapest of meats and roast chicken was a treat.

Does everyone grow up believing their mother cooks the best roast dinner in the world? It’s certainly how I felt as a child. As soon as the chicken came out of the oven I would lift myself into position on the bench and watch as Mum deftly handled and plated the fabulous bird. She would tell you that she was lucky to get any of it on the plate if I was in range. And her roast potatoes! It was such a beautiful thing.

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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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