Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicken, Leek And Lemon Balm Pasties

The change of weather is finally here, goodbye winter. I'm so excited by these sunny days. Living by the beach has been such a novelty this year, and I can't wait until I can dip more than a toe in the water without losing all feeling in my limbs. I've also loved being out in the garden, it feels like ages since I've even worn a t-shirt as I've kind of been living in my thermals. So my last foray in the garden left me with both a slight tan, as well as the last bunch of leeks for the season. Ordinarily I would just tend to use leek in a soup, but this nice weather called for a different usage. The original recipe uses thyme, but the the lemon balm in the garden has been flourishing so I thought it'd be nice addition instead. I also used ricotta instead of double cream. The recipe is very forgiving. Btw the pasties are just as yum when eaten cold so they'd be great for picnics. You might also want to note that my pastry didn't turn out as 'puffed' as I would ordinarily like, but this was due to me using a soft margarine as it was all I had handy on the day. Like I said, the recipe is forgiving, and you could also chop and change filling ingredients like I did.


For the pastry:
300g plain flour
a pinch of salt
150g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

For the filling:
25g butter
2-3 medium leeks (about 500g) trimmed and finely sliced
1 small handful of lemon balm leaves, roughly chopped
150ml ricotta
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
400g boned chicken thigh and/or breast meat, or leftover cooked chicken, sliced
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper

To finish:
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon milk, for glazing


Make the pastry:
Mix the flour and salt, add the cubed butter and toss until coated. Add only enough iced water to combine the mixture into a firm dough (approx 8-10 tablespoons).
Use your hands to shape the dough into a rectangle then roll it out (in one direction, away from you) on a floured surface, to end up with a 1cm-thick rectangle.
Fold the far third towards you, then fold the nearest third over that (like folding a business letter). So now you have a rectangle comprised of 3 layers.
Give the pastry a quarter turn, then repeat this rolling, folding and turning process 5 more times.
Wrap the pastry in film and rest it in the fridge for 30 minutes, or up to an hour.

Make the filling:
Melt the butter in a fry pan, add the leek and lemon balm, sweat it gently 5-10 minutes until the leeks are very tender.
Stir in the ricotta, cook gently for a couple minutes then stir in the mustard and season well. Leave to cool.

If using fresh chicken, season it well then fry in oil over moderate heat until browned.

Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry until 3mm thick. Use a plate, or cake tin, as a template, and cut out four 20cm circles.
You will have to gather the trimmings and re-roll to get your fourth circle.
Spoon the leek mixture on to one half of each circle then pile the chicken on top.
Brush the pastry edges with water then fold the other half of pastry over the filling to form a half-moon shape. Crimp well to seal.

Place on an oiled or lined baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg.

Bake for approx 25 minutes at 190 Celsius, until golden brown.

Serves 4

*the inspiration for this recipe came from a chicken and leek pastie recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's awesome book "River Cottage Everyday"

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banana Hazelnut Muffins

I love muffins with gooey centres, especially ones with contrasting complementary flavours, so I came up with this recipe the other day using my standard banana muffin recipe. I especially love it as it uses yoghurt in the mix, which imparts a yummy tang and leaves the muffin beautifully fluffy; I don't like muffins that are too sweet or too dense. And the yummy nutty sweet centre is just what the muffin needs to give it extra richness. I mixed the hazelnut spread with a little water and icing sugar to create the consistency I wanted, as I believed the hazelnut spread was too dense on its own and I didn't want to risk it sinking to the bottom. It all worked out ideally and now I have a new favourite muffin. Btw these keep really well, they will stay yummy and moist for days.

Ingredients for Muffin:

  • 1 cup natural unsweetened yoghurt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 & 3/4 cups self-raising flour, sifted
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 heaped tablespoons vanilla sugar
  • chopped hazelnuts for topping

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 4 tablespoons hazelnut spread
  • 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 3 teaspoons water (depends on the viscosity of your hazelnut spread, I used Nutella and it was like concrete, so perhaps you will need less)

In a large bowl; combine the yoghurt, oil and banana.

Gradually add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Spoon half the mixture into 12 greased or lined muffin pans.

Combine the filling ingredients and place a small teaspoon-sized dollop in the centre of each muffin then top with the rest of the muffin mixture.

Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 Celsius.

Let them cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing.

These are yum when eaten warm or cold.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Orange Oxtail Stew

I did something random the other day; I bought some oxtail, because I felt sorry for it. Call me weird but it looked very lonely on the supermarket shelf, like a pitiful little kid destined to get picked last for the softball team. So I thought I'd step out of my comfort zone and take it home and try to turn it into something that I would find appealing. One day I'd like to bring some offal home, but I'm not that brave yet. Anyway, I searched the Internet and recipe books for ideas to give my oxtail a bit of a makeover. I didn't find any recipes too appealing to my taste as most things looked a bit stodgy, so I decided to combine a few ideas and came up with this recipe. The resulting stew has such a fresh flavour thanks to the orange and cardamom, and the lovely tender meat made me forget how intimidating it was in its raw state (the appealing orange hue of the sauce also helped). I think the recipe would lend well to vegetables being added, as well as (or instead of) the lentils. And apparently oxtail stews taste better after a few days so it's probably best to cook it in advance, however, I did mine just a day ahead and was great. So I really can't wait to get stuck into the extra leftovers. Ugly ducklings for the win.


800g oxtail
5 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
50g butter
2 onions chopped roughly
6 cloves crushed or chopped garlic
4 cardamom pods, remove the seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 cup yellow lentils (eg toor dal)
2 bay leaves
400g tinned peeled tomatoes (chopped)
5 cups water (approx)
1 orange, skin on, cut into eighths
juice and zest of one orange


Rinse and pat dry the oxtail.

Toss the oxtail in a combination of the flour, salt and first measure of pepper.

Heat the butter in a large heavy based dish (use a casserole dish if you plan to cook it in oven, otherwise you can just cook it on the stove top or even use a slow cooker, I used a heavy cast iron wok of all things)

Brown the oxtail slowly over a low heat. Remove the meat then add the onions, garlic, cardamom seeds, caraway seeds, pepper, turmeric and lentils. Stir well then return the meat along with the bay leaves, tomatoes, water and orange pieces and zest and juice.

Cover and simmer on stove top for 3 hours, or bake (covered) in oven for 3 hours at 160 Celsius.

Check the seasonings and also reduce the liquid if needed.

If you like, remove the meat from the bone. Serve on its own or with rice or mash.

Serves 4-5

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sesame And Couscous-Coated Chicken

We always have a stash of instant couscous in our pantry, as it's a handy item for the manthing to take on mountaineering trips, as a result...I don't actually often end up eating it myself. However, the other day I had planned to make chicken breasts for dinner but was bored with my usual method of cooking them and decided to experiment with a coating. I love cooking freestyle; grabbing whatever you have handy in the pantry or buying whatever's on special or seasonal (or unusual) at the market and supermarket, and then creating something unique that suits your needs and tastes. Sometimes this style of cooking works, and sometimes it doesn't, but thankfully this was one of those times where it worked, in fact it worked so well that I'll definitely be delving into our couscous stash again.


1/2 cup instant couscous

zest and juice of a lemon

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 teaspoon paprika

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

6 tablespoons flour

2-3 chicken breasts (skin and fat removed, washed and dried)

2 eggs, beaten


Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl, add enough boiling water to cover the couscous by 2 cm. Cover and set aside until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Dip the chicken breasts into the flour, then into the beaten egg and then roll them in the couscous mixture, patting the coating on.

Heat some oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Sear the breasts for a couple of minutes on each side then pop into an oven for 12-15 minutes at 180 Celsius or until cooked through.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pistachio and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I have a stack of Dean Brettschneider recipe books at home at the moment and had been drooling over this particular recipe for a while. Usually I tend to favour recipes that use affordable and/or seasonal ingredients, but I'm a big fan of pistachios -so despite the expense of them- I just had to try it. The manthing particularly loved them as they are a chewy and soft cookie. That said, if you prefer a more crisp crunchy cookie then just increase the baking time by a few minutes, it wont dry the cookie out.


135g butter, softened
100g sugar
100g soft dark brown sugar
1 small egg
10ml milk
few drops vanilla essence or extract
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
45g rolled oats, medium coarseness
55g pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped
140g white chocolate drops, coarsely chopped

60g pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped, for topping


Preheat oven to 175 Celsius (please note that I found this temperate a little too hot so I turned it down a smidge for my 2nd batch, but my oven is super old and perhaps is a little unreliable)
Beat the butter, sugar and brown sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, milk and vanilla essence. Mix.
Sieve the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and add them to the creamed mixture along with the rolled oats. Mix well until evenly combined.

Add the pistachio nuts and white chocolate and mix until well combined.
Use a tablespoon to scoop spoonfuls (approx 35g) then roll them into round balls using floured hands. Place them 10cm apart on a lined baking tray. Don't flatten them or they will spread too much. Sprinkle a few of the extra nuts on top.

Bake for 8-10 min until golden brown. Place on wire rack to cool.
Makes 20 large, or 40 small cookies.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Chorizo, Curry Leaf, Ginger & Chickpea Soup

Despite New Zealand heading into spring, the days and nights here are still rather chilly. Particularly down south where I live. So lately I've been hauling out the soup recipes. This one is a particular favourite because it's so simple to make yet is still very flavoursome and is great for both lunch and/or dinner (it reheats really well). The curry leaves are a great addition and I keep a stash in my freezer. If you have never come across them then check out your local Indian store, however, you could also just replace them with another herb such as dried oregano. You can even make the dish vegetarian by replacing the chorizo with a couple of teaspoons of smoked paprika. It's a very moreish soup and technically this recipe would serve 6-8, but I find it serves about 4 (as a main).


2 onions, sliced
6 cloves garlic, sliced
a handful of curry leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g cooking chorizo, peeled and cut into chunks
2 thumbs of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 x 10cm sprig rosemary, using leaves removed from stem
2 bay leaves
1 large potato, peeled and diced
300g chickpeas, either from a tin (drained and rinsed) or cooked dry chickpeas
8 tomatoes, chopped (or use canned tomatoes)


Heat the oil in a large pot.

Sauté the onions, garlic and curry leaves on a medium heat, stir occasionally until they just start to caramelise.

Add the chorizo, ginger, rosemary and bay leaves and cook for another few minutes.

Stir in the potato, chickpeas, tomatoes, 400ml water and 2 teaspoons of salt.

Bring this to the boil and cover, simmer for 30 minutes.

Season again for taste and serve piping hot.

- Recipe adapted from Peter Gordon's a culinary journey

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Gefüllter Weggen ( A lemony twist-bread with a hazelnut filling)

Since I'm of Swiss heritage it's no wonder that I'm a sucker for European baking. I remember when I was travelling in India and we visited a small town in the desert in Rajasthan, and we came upon an internet cafe that operated as a German bakery on the side. I thought this was madness, but I could see why tourists would have appreciated it; the offerings were deliciously authentic. Usually when I travel I prefer to eat the local cuisine, but the cinnamon rolls were just too tempting. I'm a sucker for 'em. So if you have a penchant for yummy authentic European-style baking, then you should give this recipe of my mum's a whirl. I've formed them as my mother would with twists on the sides, however, you could form them how you wish; you could roll the filled dough like you would for pinwheels/cinnamon rolls etc, and also glaze them while warm.

Bread Ingredients:

250g flour
¾ teaspoon salt
the grated rind of half a lemon
30g sugar
30g margarine or butter, soft, cut into small pieces
1 & 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
100ml warm milk
1/2 a beaten egg (you will use the other half later in the filling)

Ingredients For The Filling:

150g cottage cheese (or better yet, use ‘quark’ if you have access to it)
1 & ½ tablespoons semolina
50g sugar
grated rind of half a lemon
50g ground hazelnuts
80g sultanas (optional)
½ a beaten egg

Ingredients For The Glaze:

50g icing sugar (powder sugar)
½ tablespoon water
1 tablespoon lemon juice


Place the flour, salt, lemon rind, sugar and margarine/butter in a large bowl.

Dissolve the yeast in the milk then add to the large bowl along with the egg.

Mix, then knead the dough until it is smooth.

Lightly moisten the dough ball with a touch of oil and set it aside (covered) in a warm spot for 2-3 hours.

During this time you may want to get the filling ready, just combine all the ingredients.

Roll out the risen dough to a rectangle approx 20x30cm.

Place the filling down the middle of the rectangle then fold the longer sides in towards the centre, letting them overlap a little. Moisten the overlapped edges with a little water and stick them together. Flip it so the seam will lie face down on your prepared baking tray. Make 6-7 evenly spaced cuts down each side; turn the resulting flaps in opposite directions on either side (see the photo for help).

Let it rise again, at room temperature, for 20-30 minutes.

Brush with a beaten egg yolk then bake at 180 Celsius, on the lowest oven rack, for 20-50 minutes (depending on the size that you form it). When ready it will be a nice golden brown all over.

Combine the glaze ingredients and brush onto bread while it's still warm.

Makes 1, however, this recipe doubles very easily.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Focaccia Bread

I have been using this recipe for years and no longer have any idea where I acquired it from. It has definitely been a keeper though (even after trying other more 'complicated' focaccia recipes) because not only is it delicious, but it is just so unbelievably easy to prepare. There is absolutely no kneading involved...yay no messy floury bench to clean up...and the amounts of ingredients are a breeze to remember. One tip: if you use anchovies as a topping, like I have in the example above, then before baking you may like to drizzle it with the leftover oil in the anchovy jar/tin (instead of the olive oil) and skip adding any extra sea salt. The anchovy oil gives it an extra awesome flavour and helps impart a more golden crust.

  • 1 cup tepid water
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
  • 2 cups of flour
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • toppings: sea salt, rosemary, olives, anchovies, onion rings

Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water.

Add the yeasty water to a large bowl along with a cup of the flour and the salt. Stir for 2 minutes.

Add the other cup of flour and stir for 3 - 4 minutes. Don't overwork the dough, you want it to be sticky.

Set the dough aside in a warm spot for a few hours. Alternately you can also refrigerate the dough until the next day, just remove from the fridge a couple of hours before you intend to bake it.

Pour the dough onto a tray and add the toppings of your choice and drizzle with some olive oil. I like to pat out the dough by prodding it with my finger tips, I also let the dough rise a wee bit longer after adding the toppings, approx half an hour, to help them adhere better.

Bake at 230 Celsius for 15-20 min. If you like the top more golden, turn the grill on for the last few minutes.