Kumara and Chorizo Salad

Time saver: kumara is the Maori word for sweet potato but you don’t have to be in NZ to make this. This tasty salad (and variations of it) is one of my favourites. It’s pretty simple to make and delicious to eat.

I wrote this up a while ago, and since I’m now in the Northern Hemisphere and heading for summer it seems like a good time to bring it out. This is the basic recipe, you can play around and try things out. I think Mum throws in some toasted cumin seeds and does something else a little different too. Enjoy.

Kumara and chorizo salad – serves 2 (as a main)

  • 1 large kumara (sweet potato), peeled, cut into slices/wedges (about 400g)
  • 1 medium red onion peeled, cut into wedges
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g feta, cubed
  • 200g chorizo sausage
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts (optional)
  • 70g-100g rocket leaves
  • salt
  • black pepper
  1. Put kumura and red onion in roasting dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and some cracked black pepper, then mix well to ensure everything is well coated.
  2. Roast for 30 min at 200°C (390°F), stirring/turning halfway through.
  3. While that’s roasting, toast pine nuts in a small frying pan, stirring/shaking frequently to avoid burning. When browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Zest orange, then cut in half and juice it. Combine the zest, 4 Tbsp orange juice, 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and mix well.
  5. Slice chorizo diagonally, into 5mm thick slices. then fry in a frying pan till browned. (You can use a little oil to get things started.)
  6. Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, mix well to combine then serve.

Pancakes de Lisboa

Time saver: like eating soft fluffy delicious clouds.

I’ve posted a recipe for pancakes before, but since then I’ve learned a trick that bears repeating. For really soft fluffy pancakes you have to separate the eggs, beat the whites separately and then fold them into the mixture. The difference is worth the extra effort. The fact that I had to come to Portugal to learn how to make the ultimate American pancake is just one of those things.

Pancakes – serves 3-4 (makes around 9-10 pancakes)

  • 1½ cups white flour
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter (around 30g)
  • butter for frying
  • maple syrup to serve
  1. Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites into a (stainless steel if you have it) bowl ready for beating.
  2. Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites into stiff peaks ((in Portuguese they say “claras em castelo” or “claras em neve”) and set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, salt and baking flour into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre, and into this pour the egg yolks, milk and butter.
  4. Stir to combine with a fork. Start in the centre and work your way out to the sides, mixing thoroughly to combine and remove any lumps. Don’t overmix the batter. Alternatively you could use the electric beaters again – but only if you do it quickly to avoid overmixing (which results in tough rubbery pancakes).
  5. Using a large metal spoon, fold the egg whites into the batter to combine. You want it well combined but don’t mix it so much that you lose the air in the whites. It’s okay to have little pockets of egg white.
  6. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Melt a knob of butter in the frying pan and spread evenly over the frying pan’s surface.
  7. Pour a ladle-full of pancake mix (about ½ cup) into the centre of the frying pan (without tilting the pan). Cook on that side until bubbles begin to form on the surface, then flip and cook on the other side until browned (around 15-20 seconds).
  8. Serve with a generous dousing of maple syrup.

Mediterranean Meatballs

Time saver: this recipe is adapted from one of the Annabelles, I can’t remember which one. I’m pretty sure in the original recipe they use lamb mince, and that’s not my jam (but I wouldn’t stop you from doing it).

meatballs_mediumBecause the meatballs are so delicious you really only need a simple sauce – it’s been a while since I wrote this recipe up, so these days I might go for a simpler sauce than I’ve given here. Either way, it’s a delicious meal, just like mamma used to make, if your mamma was Phil.

On with the show, serves 5-6.


  • 1kg minced beef
  • 200g feta
  • 100g pitted black olives, chopped into eighths (around 25 olives)
  • 2 thick slices of bread, crusts removed (plus cold water to dampen)
  • 1 egg
  • Ground black pepper
  • ½ cup shredded fresh basil/coriander/parsley
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Additional oil for frying

Tomato sauce

  • 2x 400g tin peeled chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ c red wine
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Oil for frying onion


  • 500g pasta – e.g. fettucine, spaghetti… (plus plenty of salted water to cook in)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Optional: Small amount grated parmesan, and fresh herbs to garnish.

Prepare sauce:

  1. Heat oil in a small pot, then sauté the onion and garlic till clear.
  2. Add the tomatoes, sugar, oregano, thyme, salt, wine, black pepper.
  3. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from the heat, and either blend in a blender, or use the stick mix to create a smooth, lump-free sauce.
  5. Return to a low heat and simmer gently. Add more wine/salt/pepper if required.


Prepare meatballs:

  1. Put the mince, olives, egg, fresh herbs, and olive oil in a large bowl.
  2. Add the feta, crumbling it into small pieces.
  3. Moisten the bread with cold water, squeeze it slightly so it no longer drips, then crumble into the bowl.
  4. Combine all the ingredients thoroughly.
  5. Shape meatballs and place on a plate. About 1 large tablespoon at a time, rolled quickly between your palms to make a meatball. (Should make around 28-30 meatballs of this size.)


  1. Heat oil in a large hot frying pan.
  2. Fry the meatballs until cooked through, turning every 2-3 minutes. This should take around 8-10 minutes, but may take longer depending on the size of the meatballs and heat of the pan.

To finish:

  1. When the pasta is cooked, drain it quickly and return it to the pot. Stir through the tablespoon of olive oil, coating it (and preventing it from sticking).
  2. Dish up the pasta into large bowls.
  3. Dish out the meatballs on top of the pasta.
  4. Cover the meatballs with the pasta sauce.
  5. Optionally, sprinkle a little grated parmesan on the top, and garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs.
  6. Don’t forget a glass of red wine.

Peanut butter mousse cupcakes

Time saver: Phil does his bit for the obesity epidemic in New Zealand.

First off, this recipe isn’t my own, the credit goes to Ms. Humble of Not So Humble Pie, with her Dead Man’s Peanut Butter Cupcakes. I’ve made them a couple of times now, so this is just a record of my attempts to adapt them to the New Zealand market.

When I was younger I used to watch Sesame Street, and back then, the Cookie Monster really loved cookies. These days I think he says things like “Cookies are a sometimes food”, which is kind of a sell out for a creature whose life is devoted to the finding and devouring of cookies. Be that as it may, today kids, I’m here to say ”Peanut butter mousse cupcakes are a sometimes food”. If you eat these regularly they will probably kill you. Fair warning.

The first I knew about these was when a young friend of mine (Jonathan DeGenius) gave me one to try. I didn’t know what I had, so I took it home and halved it with my wife. I think we nearly cried. Here’s the email I sent immediately afterwards:

Subject: “Amazing awesome deliciousness, or something to that effect…”

“Hey Jonathan, that subject line is from my wife who just had half of that cupcake. We both agreed it was the best cupcake we’ve ever eaten. The peanut mousse is incredible.”

After finding out where he’d got the recipe from I couldn’t wait to make them myself, and so I did. The cupcakes were brilliant, but I did notice a few things. When you follow the original recipe, it kind of feels like you’ve buying every possible dairy product imaginable. (You basically are, it uses: sour cream, butter milk, butter, cream cheese, and regular cream.) The other thing is that you’re left with the somewhat daunting task of disposing of 24 substantial cupcakes. (Once your friends hear about them it’s not actually that hard to offload them.) As well as that, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t pipe enough peanut butter mousse onto each cupcake to use it all and was left with quite a lot of it in a bowl in the fridge. I took care of that with judicious use of a dessert spoon over the next few days, culminating in what was either an absolute high or low point (you be the judge) where I re-melted the remaining chocolate coating and then ate the mousse, dipping spoonfuls of it into the liquid chocolate. Hopefully I can save you from that same awful fate.

Anyway, I figured that with such a decadent topping you could probably get away with a much simpler cupcake recipe. It should also be possible to make a smaller quantity of the peanut butter mousse, using quantities that fit better with the quantities sold in New Zealand shops. Also, if the cupcakes were mini-sized they’d be a bit less daunting for your wimpy friends.

So, when I made these for my brother’s birthday, I used a simpler cupcake recipe, and scaled down the peanut butter mousse. As it turns out, Ms Humble has already given a peanut butter mousse with reduced quantities in her Dead Man’s Peanut Butter Pie recipe. So you could just go and read that recipe, however, if you prefer the metric system (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) read on…

Peanut butter mouse cupcakes – makes around 36 mini-cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 125g butter, softened
  • ½ cup white sugar (caster or granulated)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup white flour (if using self-raising flour, omit the baking powder below)
  • ¼ cup cocoa (I used Dutch cocoa, if you don’t have it just use normal cocoa)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1-2 tsp natural vanilla essence
  • 36 mini-cupcake cases (paper, or if you can find them, the foil ones are even better)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C (160°C if fan-forced).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in the eggs.
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Add the milk and vanilla essence and stir to combine. (You could do all of this in a food processor if you were so inclined.)
  4. Place the cupcake cases in mini-muffin tins, then use a couple of teaspoons to spoon the mixture evenly into the cases. The cases should only be about half full, since we only want the cupcakes to rise as high as the edges of the cases (everything else will be chopped off).
  5. Bake for around 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
  6. Using a sharp bread-cutting knife, cut anything higher than the edge of the cupcake case off the top of each cupcake. This is to give you a nice flat surface to pipe the mousse onto.

Peanut Butter mousse

  • 1½ cups fresh cream
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 250g cream cheese (not spreadable, not low-fat, if you’re worried about that, don’t make these cupcakes)
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter (this is around 275g)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  1. Add the sugar to the cream, and whip until fairly firm, then set aside.
  2. Combine the cream cheese, icing sugar and peanut butter and beat till smoove. (This sticky mixture had a tendency to climb up my beaters, so I had a spoon handy to push it off it got too high.)
  3. Add the whipped cream to the mix, and beat on low until just combined.
  4. Put the mousse in the fridge to chill (or freezer if you’re in a hurry, but keep an eye on it), and lick the egg beaters clean. Sigh with delight.

The cupcakes are ready, the mousse is chilled. Time to align those synergies.

Peanut butter mousse cupcakes

  • 250g milk chocolate (I used Whittaker’s Creamy Milk Chocalate – 33% Cocoa) (if you want to be sure to have enough chocolate, maybe consider getting another 50g bar just to be safe)
  • 2 Tbsp flavourless oil (I used rice-bran oil – yes this seems strange, but it solves the problem of tempering the chocolate, and means you can bite into the cupcakes without the tops shattering)
  1. Line the cupcakes up on your bench.
  2. Equip a large piping bag with a round tip (I used one with an 11mm wide opening), then carefully spoon the peanut butter mousse into it. (If someone else is around, get them to hold the bag for you.)
  3. Pipe some mousse onto the top of each cupcake – place the tip just above the centre of each one, hold it steady and pipe out a big blob (so that it almost reaches the edge of the cupcake), then raise the tip a little and pipe out a second smaller one. Don’t worry if they’re not perfect, no one will care.
  4. Put them in the freezer as you go to firm the mousse up for the next stage.
  5. Once all the cupcakes are safely in the freezer, break the chocolate up and put it in a small microwaveable jug/bowl, along with the oil. Microwave it carefully (it should take around 1 minute) until melted. Stir to take care of any remaining lumps. (If you don’t have a microwave you can melt it on the stove using a double-boiler technique, melting the chocolate in a metal bowl sitting over a small pot of water, heated gently and stirring constantly.)
  6. Transfer some of the melted chocolate to a small tumbler/rammekin – you want something fairly short and narrow that you can lower the tops of the cupcakes into.
  7. Take the cupcakes from the freezer (maybe in batches of 12), carefully lower each one mousse-first into the melted chocolate, down to the edge of the case (but not over the edge or it makes it hard to get the cases off). Lift it up and let the excess chocolate run off, then set down on the bench. Because the mousse is cold the chocolate should set fairly quickly. Transfer the cupcakes to the fridge as you finish each batch. Top up the tumbler with more chocolate as needed. Repeat until finished.
  8. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them. If you want to you could take them out 30 mins before eating to bring to room temperature. They should last for a couple of days in the fridge, but you probably won’t need to find that out. Enjoy!

Beef Casserole

Time saver: rich and hearty, this casserole is perfect for winter.

Casseroles are great, you do all the work up front, then leave them to do their thing and come back to reap the benefits. This recipe can be embellished as much as you like (obvious changes are including button mushrooms, swapping beef for chicken, adding bacon…) but provides a good flavourful meal as is.

I served it with creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. A kumara mash would also be great, and most vegetables will go with it.

Beef casserole – serves 4

  • 600g rump steak (or blade/chuck steak but you’ll need to cook it for longer)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock (I use Campbell’s liquid stocks)
  • 1 cup red wine (I prefer strongly-flavoured ones, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornflour, mixed with a little cold water
  1. Heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Trim fat from meat, then cut the steak into smaller pieces (whatever size you like really).
  3. Dice the onion, cut the celery into crescents, peel/wash the carrots and cut into rounds.
  4. Add oil to a large saucepan, then heat on a hot element. Brown the steak in batches, and set aside.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the onion and celery to the same saucepan and cook till softened (3-5 mins).
  6. Put the steak back in the saucepan, and then add the tomatoes, wine, beef stock, herbs, sugar, salt, and black pepper to taste. Stir well, and bring to a simmer.
  7. Once the oven is hot, transfer the contents of the saucepan to a lidded casserole dish (I use a ceramic-coated, cast-iron “Dutch oven”) and place in the middle of the oven. Cook for 1 hour (or more, if using chuck/blade steak consider cooking for up to 2 hours).
  8. Prepare whatever else you’re going to serve it with. I would normally serve it with mashed potatoes (or a kumara and potato mash) and some sort of lightly-boiled/steamed green vegetable, e.g. green beans, brocolli etc.
  9. Just before it’s time to serve, remove the casserole from the oven. Dissolve 2 tsps cornflour in a little cold water and mix well, then add it to the casserole and stir it quickly through to thicken it. Replace the lid and leave it to sit for a couple of minutes before serving. Enjoy!