Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Black-Eyed Bean Salad

I have become a total fan of using dried beans and legumes, it's amazing how economical they are, not to mention how tasty and healthy. My favourite at the moment is the black-eyed bean, no it's not a pea, it's a bean, and they are packed full of calcium, iron, folate and vitamin A. (Thanks Google). I think they are particularly cool because they have their own unique flavour and are yummy to munch on their own without the addition of other ingredients. That said, they are well suited to many different recipe ideas. Like this here bean salad. I guess this recipe is similar in taste to an Indian kachoomber; a salad based on tomatoes, onion, and coriander. So it would be well suited sitting alongside a spicy main course. It has a nice summery freshness about it thanks to the lemon juice and mint, and would be great to take along to a BBQ, especially as it's one of those recipes which you can just throw together, but tastes like you slaved away on it.

  • 4 tablespoons of dried black-eyed beans
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 5 black peppercorns, coarsely ground
  • salt, to taste


Soak the black-eye beans for a few hours, or overnight. Boil in salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and salt to taste. Briefly toss everything together with a fork.

Garnish with fresh mint.

Serves 3 as a side dish.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rhubarb Crumble Cake

This recipe is pilfered from Annabel Langbein. Annabel has her own tv show on here at the moment in NZ. I've seen it a few times and rather enjoyed it. She has a style of cooking that is down to earth and she likes to use seasonal ingredients,  plus her recipes are often very adaptable. Totally up my alley. So, seeing as the rhubarbs are still flourishing in the garden I thought I'd put them to good use in one of her recipes. Feel free to replace the rhubarb with some berry fruits, or any other fruit you'd like. You could also mix and match the nuts in the topping to suit your needs. The cake itself is so moist thanks to the yoghurt, and the topping has lovely contrast between the tart rhubarb and sweet nutty crumble. I've eaten this warm with vanilla ice cream, and cold with berry yoghurt, and it's also delicious just enjoyed on its own. It's a real winner.


140g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup plain yoghurt
2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 stalks rhubarb, thinly sliced, or 190g berry fruits or other chopped fruits

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup slivered almonds or any other chopped nuts of your choice
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60g butter, melted


Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Mix in the yoghurt then add sifted dry ingredients, stir until just combined. It will be a thick consistency.

Spread the mixture into a lined 25cm spring-form or loose-bottomed cake tin. I used a silicone 'tin' and had no trouble flipping it out, so this is also an option.

Sprinkle rhubarb over the top.

Combine all the topping ingredients and sprinkle over cake.

Bake at 180 Celsius for 50-60 minutes.

Let it stand for 15 minutes before turning out.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rajma (Red Kidney Bean Curry)

I've been cooking Indian cuisine for a few years now, but I'm still surprised how a small select group of spices can create a multitude of unique tasting dishes. I guess I have about 15 spices that I use from time to time in my Indian cooking, but I always make sure I'm not lacking in my supplies of chilli powder, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and garam masala, as they are staples in most recipes. So here's a simple dish that uses some of the basic spices that most fans of Indian cooking would (or should) have in their cupboards. This dish is incredible hearty and can handle a lot of chilli without it becoming overpowering. It's one of those dishes that I actually prefer to be on the spicy side. Or perhaps my tolerance for chilli is increasing. However, feel free to skip the dried red chillies if you prefer it a bit tamer.

  • 1 cup dry kidney beans, soaked overnight then cooked. (Or use two 400g tins of beans if it's more convenient).
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger paste
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes. (Or a couple large tomatoes, chopped).
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • salt, to taste


Heat some oil in a pan. Add the bay leaves and dry red chillies. Fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the onion paste and sauté until the onion is golden brown.
Next, add the garlic and ginger pastes, fry for a couple minutes then add the tomatoes (if you use tinned tomatoes, add the juices as well) and fry for a few minutes more.
Add the red chilli powder, cumin powder and coriander powder. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the cooked red kidney beans, also add some of the cooking-water along with it or just add a little water.
Cover and simmer for approx 10 minutes.
Season with salt and add more water if needed, you want it to be a thickish consistency.
Garnish with coriander and serve with rice or chapati.

Serves 4

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Modelling Chocolate, Chocolate Cupcakes and Peppermint Frosting

After recently purchasing a syringe icing set, I kinda went a little crazy at the local library and issued out as many books on cupcake and cake decorating as I could manage to carry on my walk home. I couldn't even wait to get home to start reading them and had a few near misses with power poles. I have always had an interest in decorating and crafts, not to mention an obsession with playdough as a child, so when I spotted a recipe for making modelling dough from chocolate I knew i just had to try it. It was ridiculously easy to make, and it was loads of fun watching my boyfriend attempt to create jungle animals, while I enjoyed making decorations such as roses and bows. I also experimented with pressing the chocolate onto peppermint leaves to get an imprint. It was such a fun afternoon. After we had finished 'playing' with our food, I paired the resulting creations with chocolate cupcakes that I'd frosted with peppermint icing, as I'm a huge fan of the chocolate and mint combination. If you have never tried making/using modelling chocolate you should definitely give it a go, it sure beats playdough.

Modelling Chocolate:

300g plain chocolate
150g golden syrup
Cocoa, for dusting

Melt the chocolate then stir in the golden syrup, keep stirring until the mixture thickens. Don't worry if it looks like it has separated, it will form a smooth paste on chilling. Transfer the mixture to a plastic food bag and chill until the chocolate is firm enough to handle. Knead slightly before use, and if it's sticky, use a little cocoa powder

Note: The dough can also be rolled out like sugarpaste for covering cakes, or for creating cut-outs using fondant cutters. White chocolate can even be used, just use icing sugar instead of the cocoa if you find it too sticky to work with.

Makes enough for 12 roses and 36 leaves.

Chocolate Cupcakes:

125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
2 Tbsp milk
100g self-raising flour (or use plain flour and add 1 tsp baking powder)
3 Tbsp cocoa

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and milk, and sift over the flour and cocoa, then beat until mixture is smooth. Divide between standard sized paper cases. Bake at 190 Celsius for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 12.

Peppermint Frosting:

175g butter, softened
350g icing sugar
3 Tbsp boiling water
Few drops of green food colouring
Few drops of peppermint flavouring

Beat the butter in a bowl to soften it. Add icing sugar, boiling water, food colouring and peppermint flavouring. Beat until icing is very smooth. Spread, or pipe, over cupcakes.

Makes enough for 12 standard-size cupcakes.

*Modelling chocolate recipe taken from "Cupcakes", by Sue McMahon

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Brinjal Sambal (Eggplant/Aubergine with Chilli)

Eggplants have never really appealed to me and I often shied away from eating and preparing them. It's not that I ever thought they were unpleasant to eat, but just that they were a little uninspiring, and I guess I was mostly just uninitiated to their potential. But that changed once I tasted my friend's 'Brinjal Sambal'. It is such a simple dish with only a handful of ingredients, yet it somehow brought eggplant to life for me. It has a yummy spicy freshness to it and you can control the amount of chilli to suit your needs. I've also given options for tweaking the recipe so it can be made in a hurry; it will still taste delicious even if you are short of time and/or don't wish to do much preparation.


1 large eggplant
1 onion, diced
1 tsp of garlic, onion and ginger paste (or just crush a couple cloves of garlic and a knob of ginger)
1 tsp sambal paste* (or use a teaspoon of red chilli paste)
3-4 large tomatoes, quartered (you can also substitute with a tin of tomatoes)
salt to taste
sugar to taste


Pre-fry eggplant in oil (or grill them), then set aside to drain on paper towels.
Heat oil and fry the onion, then add the ginger and garlic pastes, fry for a couple minutes more.
Add sambal and cook until oil separates, or until you can really smell the heat of the sambal.
Add tomatoes, salt, and sugar.
Once tomatoes are soft, add the eggplant and heat through and coat with sambal.

Serve with chapati

Serves 3

* To make the sambal:
Soak a handful of dry red chillis in boiling water then blend to make a smooth paste. If you want it less spicy, remove the seeds beforehand.
Note: The sambal should be fried before using; fry the sambal paste until the oil separates and then store in a container in the fridge (it will keep for a few weeks).

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Irish-Coffee Frosted Cupcakes

Usually I favour recipes and cooking methods that don't require much fuss or any special kitchen equipment. I don't own a food processor and my pestle and mortar is my best friend. I don't have cupboards full of gadgets, I don't even own a casserole dish. This is partly due to the fact that my budget only affords me an extremely slow accumulation of 'stuff', and partly because I have the time and inclination to do things the 'old-school' way.

That said, I still love to browse kitchenware stores and ooh and ahh over all the superfluous gadgets on offer. Last week was one such occasion. My friend had just invited me to dinner and I was to bring dessert. I thought this was the perfect excuse to part with some of my savings and purchase the super cute icing syringe set that I had been drooling over. To be honest, the cute tin sold it for me. I'm a real sucker for things that are functional AND pretty.

So now after my first foray into decorating cupcakes I don't know what's more fun: eating them or making them, and I reckon I will have to live off cupcakes for the next wee while just to practise my decorating skills. Oh what a shame.

I used a basic (and easy to remember) recipe for my cupcakes, as I wanted the flavour of the frosting to be the star of the show.

The Cupcakes:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar (I use vanilla sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 125g self raising flour (or use plain flour and add a teaspoon of baking powder)
  • 2 Tbsp milk

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, flour and milk and beat until smooth.
Divide the mixture between 12 cupcake cases and bake at 190 Celsius for 12-15 minutes, or until they have risen and are just firm to the touch in the centre.
Remove them from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack.

The Frosting:

  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 1 Tbsp hot water
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 2-3 Tbsp Irish cream liqueur
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting

Dissolve the coffee in the hot water, then sift in the icing sugar and add the butter.
Beat mixture until smooth.
Add the Irish cream liqueur to taste.
Pipe a swirl on top of your cupcake, or just spread the frosting on top.
Dust with cocoa powder.

Makes 12