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.
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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.

Meatballs

  • 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

Pasta

  • 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.

PUT A LARGE POT OF SALTED WATER FOR THE PASTA ON TO HEAT

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.)

PASTA SHOULD BE PUT IN THE POT TO COOK AT THIS POINT

  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.

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!

Hot Cross Buns

Time saver: as the current of cold water moves up the coast, the stage is set for one of nature’s great events: the hot cross bun run… (apologies to David Attenborough and the sardines).

hot cross buns platedEvery year on Good Friday my mother cooks up an enormous batch of hot cross buns, which are basically all devoured on the spot within minutes of leaving the oven (and some sooner than that). Warm and delicious with that sticky sugar glaze, they never last for long. When we were kids we weren’t that keen on the ones with fruit in them, so Mum kindly left it out of half of them. After a while I realised I could maximise my hot cross bun consumption by diversifying, so I’d eat the fruit-free ones until they ran out, and then branch out into the fruit ones. Eventually I came to prefer the fruit ones, but for that sugar glaze I’m happy to go either way.

Today I’ll share with you the recipe she uses. She originally heard it over the radio and diligently wrote it down. This is the version she dictated to me over the phone when I moved away and had to start making my own. (Slightly modified to fit my format.)

The buns it makes are different to the ones you’ll buy in a shop – for one thing, they’re best eaten fresh (although you can freeze them). They’re at their very best when eaten straight out of the oven. You shouldn’t have any problem finding people to help you do that. You can make them with fruit, or if that’s not your (or your kids) thing, you can leave it out (try buying them like that…).

Hot Cross Buns – makes around 30

For the buns:

  • 5+ cups plain white flour (split into two parts, one of 2 cups, one of 3 cups)
  • 1-2 Tbsp yeast (e.g. 1 Tbsp dried active yeast, 2 Tbsp Surebake yeast)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 50g melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mixed fruit
  • 2 Tbsp mixed spice
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp flavourless oil (e.g. grape seed or rice bran oil)

For the crosses:

  • ½ cup plain white flour
  • 2 Tbsp flavourless oil
  • water (just enough to form a smooth paste)

For the sugar glaze:

  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 Tbsp water

In a large bowl mix together 2 cups of flour, the yeast, brown sugar and salt. Combine the cold milk and boiling water in a jug, then add to the other ingredients and mix well. (I use a large flat wooden spoon for this and it works well.) Leave for 3-5 minutes (for the yeast to activate).

Add the melted butter, egg, mixed fruit, mixed spice, cinnamon, and at least 3 cups flour into the bowl and mix well. Keep adding and mixing additional flour until you have a firm enough dough to start kneading. If making fruit-free ones then obviously leave out the fruit. If making half and half, then don’t add the fruit at this stage. Halve the dough at the “knead lightly” stage (after the first rise), and knead ½-1 cup of mixed fruit in then.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board/bench and knead for 5-10 minutes (depending on texture) until the dough goes from lumpy and resistant to silky and smooth. Add extra flour as you knead it (hah).

Put the dough back into a clean bowl (ideally the old bowl, recently washed in hot water so the bowl is warm), with 2 Tbsp flavourless oil. Turn the dough so it is well coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put into a sink half-full of bath temperature water. Leave for 30-60 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size. While you wait, turn your oven on to heat on its lowest setting (for me this is 90°C). Turn it off about 10 minutes before you continue with the next step.

Knead (very) lightly, and cut into 30 even sized pieces. (These are quite small, so can be made into 28 or fewer if larger buns are desired.)

Form into a round by pushing the dough through a circle formed by the thumb and index finger of the left hand. Put into greased pans or cake pans, leaving room for buns to double in size. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the warmed, turned off oven. Leave to rise until just a little more than doubled in size. (Up to an hour, in fact, sometimes longer.)

Remove the buns from the oven 20 minutes before you plan to cook them, so you can pre-heat it to 230°C. (I use my oven’s high bake setting, which runs the element on the bottom, and one on the side with a fan. There’s no way to turn off the fan in my oven.)

To make the crosses, mix together ½ cup flour, 2 Tbsp oil and just enough water to make a paste that can be piped, or squeezed through a plastic bag with the corner snipped. It can be quite hard to judge this, but a smooth paste is essential. (Too wet though and it won’t hold its shape once piped onto the buns.) Pipe the crosses on just before baking – do all the horizontal lines first, then all the vertical lines.

hot cross buns uncookedTurn the oven down to 220°C when the buns are put in. Cook for 10-15 minutes. (They brown quickly on the top. If removed too soon they may be too doughy in the middle. If the look like they’re browning too much you can put tin-foil, or baking paper over the top.)

To make the glaze boil together the sugar and water. Dissolve the sugar in the water while heating, stirring constantly until sugar crystals are dissolved, then bring to the boil. (Do this just before you take the cooked buns out of the oven.) Brush this mixture over the buns as soon as you take them out of the oven. (If glaze looks a little crazed it’s because it was cooked too long, or there was too much sugar to amount of water, but this doesn’t affect the taste too much.)

Serve immediately with plenty of butter, using a knife to separate the buns if necessary (and a spatula/fish slice to remove them from the pan).

hot cross buns tray cooked

Eggs Benedict

Time saver: poached eggs, smothered in hollandaise sauce, could this be love?

Eggs benedict with baconThis is kind of a cheeky post-one-get-one-free deal, but I couldn’t let my Hollandaise Sauce post go without talking about Eggs Benedict in a bit more detail. I used to think of these as a cafe breakfast, but with a little bit of effort you can match or better what you’ll get at most cafes.

You can mix it up a bit but the key components tend to be: some sort of lightly-toasted bread base, a layer of filling (generally either bacon, ham, smoked salmon, or spinach), a poached egg, and then a generous serving of hollandaise sauce. I think traditionally a split English muffin is used for the base, in the photo I’m using toasted artisan bread, and lots of cafes in Auckland seem to use toasted Turkish bread.

The trickiest part to eggs benedict is probably the timing. You want to serve everything hot, so that means you need everything ready to go at the moment of assembly – eggs perfectly poached, bread lightly toasted, hollandaise rich and creamy, and your filling ready to go (easy if it’s smoked salmon, a bit trickier if doing bacon or spinach). There’s not really a lot you can do expect practice to get a a feel for it. If you prepare the hollandaise sauce beforehand (or, shock horror, use one from a pouch/jar) you can set it aside ready to go. You could also pre-poach the eggs, then just heat them when you’re ready to go (though in some ways this is more work).

For this recipe I’m going to refer you to previous recipes and tie them all together.

Eggs Benedict – serves 2 (makes 4 portions)

  1. Prepare the hollandaise sauce according to the recipe and set aside.
  2. Get bread ready for toasting, but don’t toast it yet.
  3. If using spinach you want it wilted, so I’d recommend steaming it gently, you should set this up now (i.e. heat the water, don’t actually put the spinach in the steamer yet). If using bacon (or ham and you want it heated) you should heat the frying pan now.
  4. Start poaching the eggs.
  5. Put the toast on – you don’t want it too crispy or it’s too hard to cut (but it shouldn’t be bread either).
  6. If using smoked salmon, relax, otherwise, quickly fry bacon/ham (should only take a couple of minutes). If using spinach you want it just wilted – do this in the steamer now.
  7. Remove the eggs from the water, drain and trim away any ragged edges. By this point your toast should be ready and you’re good to go.
  8. Assemble with toasted bread first, then a layer of your filling, then a poached egg, then a good 1-2 Tbsp hollandaise sauce on top (it should make a sort of smooth dome on top of the egg). Crack a little black pepper over the top and enjoy.