Pineapple and coconut mille feuille

[serves a decent crowd, say 12 people].

Okay, let’s get one thing straight- it’s really just a slightly fancy, slap happy custard square. But a tasty one, at that. We always seem to have custard in the fridge- I don’t know if it’s a hang up from having little babies in the house. These not-so-little-now babies are still avid custard eaters, when all else fails- it is a safe bet and a custard dessert is nearly as good as Santa! And who can go past filo pastry? [“Ha, I hope you have your vacuum cleaner on hand”. That was what my sensible [and cheeky] mum said, when I told her what we were having for dessert. I’d forgotten about that bit, when I last ate filo in 2005]. All crumbs aside, I have nothing but love for that golden, crunchy and messy deliciousness.

millefeuilleMillefeuille2The custard and pineapple can be done days ahead of time, the filo needs to be done the day of. Caramelising pineapple is a great way make your pineapples last [nearly] forever. Sitting in the syrupy goodness enhances the flavour even more. Serving this custard square shortly after you’ve assembled it is best. But sometimes the ducks just don’t line up, in which case your filo might be a bit soft and chewy, as opposed to super crunchy- but still a crowd pleaser.


C U S T A R D :

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4-1/2 cup / 2-4 fl oz. maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
  • 250 ml / 8.5 fl oz.coconut milk
  • 250 ml / 8.5 fl oz. milk [feel free to alter these quantities, depending on how much milk or coconut milk you have to a combined total of 500 ml ]

Whisk egg yolks, cornflour, maple syrup and about 1/4 cup of above milk mixture together in a bowl and set aside. Heat remaining milks in saucepan over low- medium heat, until almost boiling. At this point, add egg yolk, cornflour, milk and maple to saucepan, whisking continuously until custard thickens. Sometimes this can take a little while, but be patient! In my experience shortcuts are never worth the risk, where custard is concerned. Once you think it’s thickened nicely, place clingfilm snug over top of custard [so you don’t get a rubbery skin on it]. Leave to cool somewhere, until you’re ready to assemble. This custard keeps for a good week in the fridge. [Just do the [very scientific] sniff test before you serve it to your custard square party participants].

C A R A M E L I S E D   P I N E A P P L E :

[adapted from David Lebovitz’s Spiced Caramelized Pineapple]

  • 1/2 pineapple, diced into 1cm thick pieces [but feel free to use the whole lot, just double the other ingredients]
  • 1/2 cup / 4 fl. oz rum, pimms or whatever liquor you have in the cupboard [I used Malibu for a coconut kick]
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup / 3 oz. apricot jam [or marmalade]
  • 1 tsp each cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg
  • a drizzle of maple syrup

Heat oven to around 150˚C / 300˚F / gas mark 2. Place pineapple in a baking roasting dish, big enough that they fit and each piece gets to roast in the juice. Mix all other ingredients together in a bowl and slosh over top of pineapple. Place in oven, checking on it from time to time [every 15-20 mins], turning the pieces and re-coating them with the syrup. This can take around 2 hours- but you can sort of stop and start the process if need be by removing from the oven, or turning temperature down. Once pineapple is looking golden and caramelised- and the syrup sticky and mostly absorbed, remove from heat. Once cooled, place in an airtight container and store in fridge. Pineapple is best served at room temperature, so remember to pull out from fridge a couple of hours prior to serving.

F I L O :

  • 12 sheets of filo
  • 50 g / 1.7 oz melted butter
  • Icing sugar to dust

Heat oven to 170° C /  330° F / gas mark 3 . Lay one sheet of filo out, brush with butter and dust with icing sugar before adding the next sheet. Once you have a made a pile of 4 sheets, slice into 12 even sized rectangles. Place on an oven tray and bake until golden and crispy. Repeat this with remaining sheets, until you have baked 3 full oven trays of 12 rectangles.


T O   A S S E M B L E :

  • 1/2 cup / 4 fl oz. cream, whipped
  • icing sugar, to dust
  • 1/2 cup / 4 fl oz. creme fraiche
  • handful of mint, finely chopped
  • toasted coconut

Get all your components and set them out in area with a decent bit of workspace, ala Subway. Beat up your cream and mix through with custard. Lay out 12 of the rectangles and spread custard over each of them  [use a piping bag if you can be bothered, otherwise just slap a couple of spoonfuls on each piece]. Roughly break up pineapple and add a few pieces on top of custard. Add filo rectangle lid to each of the custard piles. Repeat above step, placing last batch of filo lids on top of each pile. Dust each custard stack with icing sugar. Mix creme fraiche and mint together and add a small dollop a top each rectangle. Finish each stack with a small piece of pineapple, some toasted coconut and a mint leaf.

Bring a plate? Oh yeah, you just aced dessert.

Millefeuille3

 

 

why we love: twenty seven steps

TSS

 

 

T H E   B A C K S T O R Y : 

Every once in a while, you’re fortunate enough to befriend people who are beyond genuine, and just so clever it’s not funny. And you feel compelled to share their cleverness, because they’ve inspired you. But the most admirable thing of all is witnessing their sheer dedication- because of course these things don’t happen without painstaking hard work. This is my clever and ace people corner. I hope you enjoy meeting them.

A dose of inspiration: Emma, Paul and Twenty Seven Steps.

The minute I met Emma, I knew I liked her- and that sooner or later, we’d be friends. Emma and her Paul are the friendliest, funniest and most down-to-earth people you could ever hope to meet.  They are in the business of serving you delicious food, filling your glass and making you feel like the most important person dining in their restaurant. But not with a fuss, because that’s not their buzz. So far, they’ve earned a pretty sparkly track record. Just five or so years back, they were making their first move on the hospitality scene. They parted ways with their baby ‘The Little Bistro’ in Akaroa earlier this year, but they left a fan club and legacy in their wake. [Yep, me included!] Twenty Seven Steps really stepped things up a notch. It was big, bold and brave. And they have executed it with confidence and finesse. A short hop up two flights of stairs [twenty seven, to be exact] off picturesque New Regent Street in Christchurch and you are welcomed into the warm ambience of their restaurant. It is sophisticated, refined- yet completely unpretentious. Quietly impressive, this place is them, personified.

But they’re not inclined to get distracted by the compliments, nor the fanfare. They actually just love to serve up the tastiest, most wholesome food that is thoughtfully put together and beautifully presented- delivered to your table by the loveliest human being who could easily be your next best friend.

TSS2TSS5TSS4

But don’t take it from me, Zest magazine rated Twenty Seven Steps in their top 10 Christchurch restaurants for 2015. And they’d been open less than 3 months. Bravo Emma, Paul and team!

Go and see them, go and see them, go and see them!

16 New Regent Street, Christchurch                                                                                                                                         www.twentysevensteps.co.nz

P.s Ironically there are no photos of food, namely because I’m a weirdo about taking photos of food in public. Not that anyone there would have blinked an eyelid. But I promise you, the food was completely delicious.

xx

TSS3

Bad bananas: the breakfast of champions

For as long as I can remember, we have had pikelets with banana in the batter. Imagine my devastation when I discovered, in my teenage years, that pikelets weren’t actually supposed to include banana! Horror of horrors! Obviously, it comes down to personal taste- if you aren’t a fan of banana, you might want to sit this one out. As for me, having sampled the best, I can’t go back. Hands down, banana is best [wink, wink].

Which brings me to my next point- about them bananas. My sister-from-a-different-mister averted me to a phenomenon a while back: there is either a banana bounty or banana famine in the fruit bowl every week. Considering the quantity purchased doesn’t change from week to week, this can lead me only to conclude that the fickle clientele at this hillbilly restaurant are to blame. So, this is a great way to use up those unloved, b-b-b-b-bad bananas that haven’t taken anyone’s fancy. Thankfully, it’s not a complete tragedy, because as far as baking is concerned, the ‘badder’ the banana, the better!

Pikelets

 

B A N A N A   A N D  C H I A   P I K E L E T S [WITH MAPLE, MINT AND LIME DROWNED FRUIT]:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large or 2 small bananas [mashed]
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1/4 chia seeds [or leave them out if you don’t want crunchy bits in your pikelets]

MAPLE/MINT/LIME SYRUP:

  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/6 cup water
  • a handful mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 kaffir lime leaves, squeezed in your hand to crush them a bit
  • Fruit, sliced/diced: anything that takes your fancy. Apple, pear, orange, banana, strawberries- summer has so much fun fruit on offer.

Put maple syrup, water, mint and lime leaves in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 or so minutes. Then take off the heat and leave mint and kaffir lime to infuse.

Pre heat frypan over mild/moderate heat. Add butter to pan, you’ll add this to mixture once it’s melted.

Place egg and sugar in mixer and beat together until fluffy. Add mashed banana and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients [minus chia seeds]. Mix yoghurt in milk. With mixer on a low speed, add dry ingredients alternatively with milk and yoghurt. Add melted butter. Finally, stir through chia seeds.

Add spoonfuls to the pan, and heat until pikelet starts to bubble through, then flip over. They should be golden brown. Cook until you’ve used all the mixture.

Strain maple mixture then pour over fruit and toss to coat. Pile a few pikelets up, spoon some fruit and maple magic over the top. Top with a generous blob of yoghurt and serve with some fresh mint. Banan-o-rama!

pikelets3Pikelets6Pikelets4

You can make these in advance [store in an airtight container], just heat them through before serving if they need a soften up. They’re even good for freezing. Bad banana pikelets were made for yo’ lunchbox. And hey, if that fruity part sounds like a bit of a palava, you can even just eat them with butter. Yummo.

P.s I’m pretty excited it’s elderflower season, can you tell? xx

 

Chewy caramelised onion and silverbeet flatbreads

FlatlayflatbreadSpring weather arrived, all of a sudden this week. So, what better way to celebrate than evenings parked around a campfire? You do need a bit of time to rustle these up and let them proof, but once the prep is done you’re over halfway there. They went down a treat- and were very forgiving of the haphazard cooking arrangement. There’s nothing more hunter-gatherer than cooking on an open fire, right?

All this smoke-infused goodness you get from a fire, I realise, is a certain privilege of living in the sticks. When your neighbour doesn’t call the fire brigade because you’ve got flames jumping and smoke billowing in your backyard- primarily due to the fact they live so far away! So, alternatively [and perhaps more sensibly] a BBQ will do just as nicely- and a heavy bottomed skillet/frypan will do just as well too. But maybe eat them outside, once they’re cooked? I swear it’s the best way to enjoy them.

I acquired a sourdough starter over a year ago [and have never looked back], this forms the basis of these breads- but you can absolutely whip these up minus the sourdough [just look for the brackets in bold below].

Flatbreads tray

F L A T B R E A D S :

  • 3/4 cup sourdough
  • 1 tsp dried active yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup warm milk

[Without sourdough: instead use 2 tsp active dried yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 cup warm milk]

  • 1 egg [lightly beaten]
  • 2 tablespoons natural unsweetened yoghurt
  • 3 cups flour [you may need to add more as you go, so don’t put it away yet!]
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • about a cupful caramelised onions [or if you don’t have them, a few hearty spoonfuls of chutney]
  • 25g butter
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 6-8 leaves silverbeet/spinach/kale/some kind of leafy green
  • Oil for cooking
  • Freshly ground salt/ground cumin to sprinkle on breads, the final touch
  • A stash of baking paper

METHOD:

Dissolve dried active yeast in water and milk- leave in a warm place for about 10 minutes, until fluffy.

Stir flour, salt and cumin together in mixer with dough hook [of course, you can do this with elbow juice- you will have the best looking biceps around!] Add sourdough, yeast in water/milk, egg and yoghurt and  beat/knead until incorporated. Once you get a smooth dough that pulls away from sides, cover and place in an oiled bowl. [I put it back into the cake mixer bowl- you’ll need to do more mixing later.] It should be a solid but soft dough- if it is too sticky, add more flour in gradually until you think it looks right. Leave to rest somewhere warm, until puffy and about doubled in size. [I walked away and forgot about it for a couple of hours, easy peasy].

[You’ve got a couple of hours to do this bit while the dough is rising- so just fit it in when you get a second]. Melt butter in saucepan, add garlic until lightly aromatic. I chopped the stalks off the silverbeet, rolled the leaves up together and with scissors, roughly chopped them straight into the pan. Heat through until wilted.

Once your dough has risen- add silverbeet mix [including any juicy bits] and caramelised onions [or chutney] to dough and mix through. It will turn slightly sloppy here, so once it’s all incorporated, add another 1/2 cup [or so] of flour until soft- but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. On a floured bench, divide dough mix into 12. Roll these into balls and leave to sit for about 30 minutes. Roll them out, sprinkle with flour as required to stop them sticking.

Flatbreads

COOKING:

If you’re rolling and not cooking straight away, I found it easier to manage these breads with baking paper layered in between. So rip off a bunch of baking paper squares to get you started. As you finish each bread, place on paper and add a new sheet to the pile before adding the next. These breads can be frozen like this [so long as you give them enough time to defrost and sort of puff up again before cooking].  Heat a slosh of oil in your frypan/BBQ to medium heat, you’ll need to do the same before cooking each one. Place bread in frypan [if you can’t get the baking paper off, don’t worry- you’ll be able to peel it off as bread cooks]. Once edges are golden and bread puffy, flip over onto other side. Douse breads with salt/cumin mix- aaaaand they’re ready to eat!

We wrapped ours around some crumbed schnitzel and a 5 second throw-together salad. But serve with any salad or slaw, chargrilled meat/sausages [if meat happens to takes your fancy] and some cumin and lemon mayo. Yum!

Flatbreadshand

ThatsawrapAnd, that’s a wrap! xx

 

Playdough

So, I may have been rudely awoken hours and hours ago. I’ll probably have green hands for the next 3 days. And I may have just acquired another year… but tell me it ain’t all worth it for that cake. Playdough cake

Wunderbar

Meet: Wunderbar. As Kristin has fondly called it.

Fruitywunderbar

A hearty slice with a fruity middle. The fruit and date combo means it requires very little added sugar. You won’t miss the sugar, promise! I sloshed a bit of earl grey, date and caramel sauce on the bottom [Just as an aside, whip some of this up, stash it in your fridge and keep it up your sleeve. One sauce, 101 ways. I swear!]

W U N D E R B A R :

CRUMBLE:

  • 1 cup wholegrain oats
  • 1 cup coconut thread
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts [peanuts/almonds/pistachios or whatever takes your fancy. I used peanuts]
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 100g butter

THE MAGIC IN THE MIDDLE:

  • 2 pears or apples
  • 8-10 chopped dates
  • about 1/2 cup earl grey tea [or just water will work fine too]

METHOD:

Heat oven to 180 degrees/160 fanbake. Line a 25 x 20 cm tin [or a brownie sized slice tin works just as well, mine measures 27 x 18cm].

Place dates in small saucepan with tea [or water] and simmer gently for around 5 minutes until most of the liquid has reduced and dates look sort of mushy. While dates are doing their thing, peel and finely slice pear or apple. Then add this to date mixture and allow to soften for a couple of minutes. If it’s starting to dry out, add a little bit more liquid- but you want it as thick and pulpy as possible.

Mix dry ingredients together. Melt butter, then stir through dry ingredients. Pour half of crumble mix into slice tin, spread evenly over bottom. You’ll need to push it down and sort of stick it together. Place in oven for around 8-10 minutes, or until golden on the edges.

The fruit mix should be done by this time, once you’ve pulled crumble base out of the oven, you can spread it on top of the crumble base. [I doused the crumble in a bit of that caramel sauce I mentioned up there prior to adding the fruit, but you could add chopped chocolate in it’s place- or omit it altogether. If you are using caramel sauce that seems a bit too runny, you can always add a bit of flour to achieve a thicker consistency].

Once you have your fruity magic on top of the base, you can crumble the remaining dry mix evenly over the top and place back in the oven for a further 8-10 minutes [or until golden on top]. It holds together best when cool, so best to chill before slicing.

Serve with yoghurt and a dusting of cinnamon. Wunderbar, literally!

wunderbarplate

 

Earl grey, date and caramel sauce

caramelsauce1

This has become one of my staples over winter. The earl grey really makes this sauce sing. It may not be the prettiest sauce you’ve ever seen, but it makes up for it in the taste department! The method is nothing short of cheating, but unlike a ‘proper’ caramel sauce, it lets the dates do most of the sweetening. It’s perfect poured over cake and desserts, stirred through a bit of yoghurt and we’ve even used it as a topping on donuts.

I’ve gone a bit mad adding tea to things lately, but I have got into making a pot of tea and ‘sharing’ it between cooking and myself! We drink an earl grey type mix in our house, but you could absolutely substitute for some other citrus-y, fragrant black tea.

S A U C Y   S W E E T N E S S :

THE DATES:

  • 6-8 dates
  • 1/2 cup earl grey tea

AND THE REST:

  • 100g butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 50 ml cream
  • 50ml-75ml earl grey tea
  • 1 decent teaspoon vanilla
  • a pinch of salt [if you so wish]

METHOD:

Roughly chop dates and add to saucepan with tea. Simmer until soft and mushy and a small amount of tea remains. Transfer to food processor [or use stick blender] and blitz to a smooth consistency.

Melt butter in a saucepan, add brown sugar and dates, and stir until incorporated. Add cream and remaining tea and simmer gently for about 5 or so minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt [optional].

This makes quite a thick sauce when cooled- but will become more runny when warmed slightly. Just bung it in the microwave for a few seconds at a time until it is the consistency you want. This sauce still has flecks of date in it- but I’m a bit rustic and okay with that. To make it prettier and fancier you could strain the the sauce once cooked to get those bits out. Saucy!

caramelsauce

 

winner, winner: leftover dinner

I’m a big fan of leftovers. Half the prep has been done the night before- I mean, what’s not to love? Fried rice is a great way to jam in heaps of wholesome goodies, I swear if there was a dinner version of a lolly scramble- fried rice would be IT.

So, the remaining coconut rice and roasted pumpkin from last nights curry has become beef fried rice.

Lastnightsleftovers

Lastnightsdinner2

F R I E D   R I C E :

RICE AND STUFF

  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • chopped vegetables [I used carrots, celery, beans, peas, corn, but let your imagination run rife!]
  • about 2 cups of cooked rice [I used medium grain]
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 500g schnitzel [sliced and soaked in honey soy marinade], but just as delicious with chicken, prawns or without!
  • a few rashers bacon, grilled and crunchy and roughly chopped

EGGY GOODNESS [not compulsory, but tastes pretty damn delicious]

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

MUSHROOMS AND SPINACH [again, not required, but a nice way to include some extra veggies]

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Knob of butter or dash of oil
  • 10-12 diced mushrooms
  • good handful of baby spinach [or the big stuff even silverbeet, just slice it up a bit]

TO SERVE

  • pile mushrooms and spinach on top of your rice
  • sliced radish, cucumber, roasted peanuts, coriander [if you have any], a few of those awesome crunchy noodles

METHOD: [lots of these things you can do in advance, so you can just put your feet up and eat crunchy noodles until 6pm]

Place rice on a shallow tray and cover with a tea towel [just to dry it out and help it stick together]. Clean and chop vegetables and place aside. Crush garlic, grate ginger and place aside in a separate bowl.

Heat a large heavy based frypan over medium heat. Add a dash of oil. Once hot, add your vegies and stir fry for a few minutes until bright and slightly softened, with a few crunchy brown bits in parts. Remove from pan and place aside. Pour half your eggy mix into pan and cook it as you would a pancake. Cook for a couple of minutes each side, then remove. Repeat with remaining egg mixture. Find a chopping board or spare piece of bench and slice this into long, thin strips and add to vegetable bowl. In another pan, turn the heat up to medium-high and cook the beef [bearing in mind it will all be heated through again, so don’t overcook]. Remove and keep warm.

For the spinach and mushrooms: heat butter or oil in a small saucepan, add garlic and brown. Add mushrooms- cook until softened, then add spinach and heat through until wilted.

In your large pan, heat 1 tsp oil and brown the garlic and ginger for 1 minute- then add the rice. You might need to add a bit more oil here, just to stop the rice sticking. Stir continuously so the rice is evenly fried and to stop it sticking to the bottom. Once it looks nice and golden, add the soy sauce and stir through. Finally, add the bacon, meat, egg and vegetables until mixed through and toasty hot. Season as required [although the soy sauce is pretty salty so it really only needs a sprinkling of pepper]. Serve with garnishy things, and eat!

This is not exactly an ‘authentic’ fried rice- but it tastes great and a leftover winner!

 

Lastnightsdinner1

How did we end up here?

I guess you could say we’re ‘accidental’ farmers, of sorts. We took a bit of a gamble a few years back and left the city for the sticks- but we’ve never looked back! Country life has a grounding sense of ‘home’ and a calming simplicity. That’s not to say it’s not chaotic at times- especially when we are snowed in, and without power for days. But we’ve learned to love it, and just roll with it. I mean, what else can you do?

Marshmallows