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.

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

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus

Time saver: wrapping things in bacon is kind of cliché, but luckily that doesn’t stop it from making things delicious.

This is a great one for summer, and is pretty quick and easy to prepare. I cooked mine in the oven tonight, but you can also do them on a grill, in a frying pan, or of course outside on the barbeque. If you’re doing them on the barbeque or in a frying pan, you may want to use tooth-picks or skewers to hold it all together.

I used dry-cured manuka smoked bacon from the Grey Lynn Butchers, and it was truly delicious. John Campbell has been known to shop here (I’m not sure if that’s an endorsement or not – you might want to pick your times to avoid bumping into him).

You can serve these with a meal, or just enjoy them on their own. For a variation you could also try wrapping individual asparagus spears with prosciutto (if you’ve come into money or something).

Bacon-wrapped Asparagus – makes 6-7 pairs

  • 250g fresh asparagus (should be around 12-14 spears)
  • 200g streaky middle bacon (you need one strip per 2 asparagus spears)
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C (I used “fan-grill”, which heats the top and side elements, while running the fan).
  2. Trim the woody ends of the asparagus spears, then place asparagus on a plate.
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil over the asparagus, then turn them to get them evenly coated. Season with a little freshly cracked black pepper (and salt if you want it – though the bacon may be salty enough).
  4. Divide the asparagus into even-lengthed pairs, then wrap a strip of streaky bacon around the middle of each pair. Depending on your bacon you should be able to cover the middle half of each asparagus spear.
  5. Place the asparagus on a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper on it, arranging them so the loose ends of bacon are held under the asparagus. (Alternatively, you can thread a couple of tooth-picks or skewers through to hold the bacon in place.)
  6. Place the baking tray in the oven, and cook for around 10 minutes. Remove when the bacon is cooked and the asparagus is still al dente.

Ruby’s Prawn and Vege Fritters

Time saver: these come to you from my friend Ruby. It’s like a complete meal, in a fritter.

Close up prawn and vege frittersI was going to make these a few times and settle on a combination I liked, but it turns out that if I wait until I do that, I’ll never get another post up (and that would make baby pandas cry).

This recipe is copy and pasted more or less verbatim.The quantities are a little vague, so you sort of get to interpret it however you want to. When I made it I think I used a bit too much cabbage (I used about 1/8th of one), and next time I wouldn’t cut the prawns so small (I used about 200g prawns, next time I’d go for a bit more than that). I also didn’t have coriander (well I do, but it’s bolted and lost all its leaves), so I used fresh parsley and a few mint leaves instead.

They’re pretty tasty, and I’m sure you can tweak the recipe to take it wherever you want. (E.g. you could add a bit of crushed garlic and ginger, and then add a bit of lemon or lime juice and a dash of fish sauce to the sweet chilli sauce you serve them with for a more Thai flavour, etc.) If you want to serve it as lunch/dinner, all you need is a bit of a side salad to dress it up. Anyway, here you go:

Ruby’s Prawn and Vege Fritters – serves 3-4

They can be as big or as small as you want (I prefer smaller ones – they tend to cook a little better) makes around 12 – give or take, depending on size.

  • 1½ cups standard flour
  • ¼ tsp of tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp chicken stock powder
  • 1 egg
  • water to mix (between ½ to 1 cup of water) depending on what consistency of fritter you like
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chives
  • spring onion
  • cabbage (finely chopped)
  • carrots (finely chopped)
  • fresh coriander
  • 5 large prawns (or as many as you like!) (Phil’s note: I’d go with at least 250g prawns, and don’t cut them too small)
  • sweet chilli sauce
  • oil for frying
  1. Chop up the veg (as much or as little as you like).
  2. Make batter with top ingredients (Phil’s note: put flour, tumeric and chicken stock powder in a bowl, make a well in the middle and crack the egg into it, then pour water into well, mix well with a fork, starting in the middle and working out till the batter is smooth, season with salt and pepper).
  3. Add veg and roughly chopped prawns to batter and mix well.
  4. Cook in hot oil. (Phil’s note: heat around 3 Tbsp oil in a frying pan over a high heat, then spoon heaped tablespoons of mixture in to the frying pan and flatten slightly to make a round fritter. Cook on each side until golden brown, then serve. I got about 20 fritters doing that. I recommend using peanut oil for a bit of flavour, but otherwise use whatever you have.)
  5. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Prawn and vege fritters

Garlic chilli prawns

Time saver: prawns are so hot right now.

Garlic Chilli PrawnsWhen we last visited Waiheke my aunt made us these delicous prawns for lunch. (Along with a bunch of other stuff, we were spoiled.) I asked her how she’d made them and I’ve been copying her ever since. I didn’t get an exact recipe, but the ingredients and method are hers (just not sure about quantities).

Raw prawns work best, but if you can’t get them/find them then you can get away with pre-cooked ones. I take the easy option and use shelled, de-veined prawn cutlets. If you want to do all the hard work yourself you can buy whole prawns. Just be sure to remove everything but the tail, and don’t forget to slice down the middles of the backs to remove the vein.

Chilli flakes don’t have the same heat as fresh chillies, but you can alter the quantity according to your tastes. Bought ones are fine, but I made my chilli flakes from home-grown chillies. Just cut chillies in half and de-seed, then dry them out either in a low oven (over an hour or two) or in a hot-water cupboard (over a week or two). Then pulverise in a blender to get appropriately sized flakes. (If you’ve got a proliferation of chillies this is a good way to use them up – it takes a lot of fresh chillies to get even a small quantity of chilli flakes.)

Feel free to alter the quantities to suit – the recipe scales well. Besides lunches you can also serve these as a tapas style appetiser.

Garlic Chilli Prawns – serves 2 (for lunch)

  • 250g shelled, de-veined prawns
  • 1/2 tsp or 1 clove crushed/finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt, to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Heat frying pan on high heat.
  2. Add oil, and heat briefly, then add garlic, stir and cook for a few seconds.
  3. Add prawns to the frying pan and sprinkle chilli flakes over, then cook, stirring frequently.
  4. Cook for around 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat. (Raw prawns will change colour, with the tails going red. Cooked prawns will already be red – in that case you just need to heat them through, but they’ll probably still take 2 minutes or so to do that.)
  5. Season with salt, then serve with lemon wedges and bread.