Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I'm away on holiday until the 10th of January.

First to my brother's house in the Waitakeres, then to Lake Tarawera

and after that to Acacia Bay on Lake Taupo

Have a lovely Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Panforte 2010

As well as Florentines, I made some panforte to take to my brother's at Christmas, and also to post to a friend. I already posted about the stuff last year, but here's this year's batch:

Almonds, brazils, half a bag of mixed nuts, chopped ginger, chopped glacé cherries, a bit of chocolate, and chopped candied peel this year:

They seemed to take an age to cook.

But I eventually got them out of the oven …

… and sprinkled with icing sugar:

Number one has already been posted to my friend Ian, and number two is sitting in my suitcase waiting to go to Auckland.


This year I'm going to my brother's place in Auckland for Christmas. We're doing Christmas day at his house, then we're packing up the kids and the dog and the boat and our parents' ashes, and going to Tarawera and Taupo for a holiday. While we're there we're going to tip Mum and Dad over the side of the boat into Lake Taupo. Mum always intended to do this with Dad's ashes, but didn't get around to it before the Alzheimer's struck, so we decided to save him up and do them both at once. Mum died this year, and Christmas seemed like a good time to do it.

I'm heading on up there late on Christmas Eve, so I thought I'd better do a bit of baking to contribute to the festivities. Stuff that keeps - I don't want to be fussing around in the kitchen the day I leave.

I've made this recipe before, and it's a goodie. It's in The Chocolate Cookbook, by Christine France.

You start off mixing 120ml of cream (I used milk, I didn't have any cream - it worked fine), 50g butter, 50g sugar and 30 ml honey …

… in a pot, and heat it, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Then you bring it to the boil and add in 150g flaked almonds, 50g chopped candied peel, 75g chopped candied ginger …

40g flour, and 1/2 tsp ground ginger.

You mix it well …

… then drop teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet, flattening them out as much as possible …

… and bake them in a 180°C oven until they're browned and bubbly but not burnt. About 10 minutes. If they're not cooked enough they'll be soft, but you can put them back in the oven if this happens.

I stirred some dried cranberries into half of my mixture:

Because things like cranberries don't soak up moisture, you can add extra bits and pieces within reason - the biscuit mix does have to cover everything to stick it all together.

Once the biscuits are baked and cool, you need to cover their backs with melted chocolate. I discovered the easiest way to do this is to put the chocolate in a plastic bag …

… then microwave it gently, taking it out and squishing it around often, until it's just melted. Then you can cut a small hole in the corner of the bag and pipe the chocolate onto the biscuit, using the bag to spread it around:

I used a lot less chocolate doing it this way than I have before, and the cleaning up is a breeze - just throw the bag away.

One tin of Florentines waiting to go into my bag:


Florentines (from The Chocolate Cookbook)

120ml cream (I used milk)
50g butter
50g granulated sugar
30ml honey
150g flaked almonds
40g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
50g diced candied peel
75g diced stem ginger
50g plain chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I omitted this)
150g bittersweet chocolate, chopped ditto
150g white chocolate, chopped ditto too. (I only used the dark stuff)

Preheat oven to 180°C, grease to large baking sheets (I used silicone mats)
Melt the butter, honey, and cream together over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and stir in everything else except the bittersweet and white chocolate.
Drop teaspoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets a good distance apart. Spread each round as thinly as possible with the back of the spoon.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until the edges are golden brown and the biscuits are bubbling. They burn easily, so be careful. Bake all the biscuits in batches.
Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet until they're firm enough to move. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Melt the bittersweet chocolate, and spread over the bottoms of half of the biscuits. Leave to set on a wire rack, chocolate side up.
Repeat with the white chocolate on the remaining biscuits.

My Christmas clothes.

My work Christmas party was on Friday.

I wore the same dress as last year, but with a circular skirt on it instead of the pencil one I split last year.

I went a bit crazy with the poinsettias this year. I got a $3 pot of fake ones from Spotlight, beheaded them, and attached two to each shoe-heel, and one to a hairclip. I felt like a walking Christmas tree.


I have some in my garden.

Or had some. They didn't last long after they were picked.

I'm trying to establish them, but they keep growing through the fence to my neighbour's garden.

Ham and mustard terrine

I've been wanting to try this ever since I saw it on Masterchef Australia. They used it as part of a modern twist on Eggs Benedict. I can't find the recipe on the original site, but it was on this Junior Masterchef one - it is pretty easy.

Except that we can't get ham hocks in summer, so I had to make my own. Once that was done though, the rest was a piece of cake.

Ham hocks into a pot of water …

… with a couple of lumps of my frozen sweated carrot, onion, leek, and celery mix …

… and a big sprig of thyme:

Then simmer …

… until the meat falls off the bones. Drain the hocks …

… and strain the stock (biff the veges and save the stock for something else). Remove the meat from the fat and bones.

Mix large amounts of mustard and butter …

… I didn't have any seeded mustard, but this Dijon was fine …

… and mix into the meat with some roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley …

… until it's well combined:

Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap …

Then press in the meat mixture. Cover with more plastic …

… and something stiff that fits neatly into the tin. Top with something heavy …

… and refrigerate until set.

I had a couple of slices with poached egg and griddle scone:

Yes, I have a peculiar way of eating poached eggs - I always eat the white first, then burst the yolk over my bread or equivalent.

Most of it I sliced and took to my friend Stephen's as my contribution to lunch:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pressed barley

Which, according to the Cooks Thesaurus and  Wikipedia, is not barley at all.

I saw it in an Asian supermarket in town and, as I love barley, bought it to try.

It seems to cook very quickly, which is a big plus.

I used it instead of rice in a fried rice sort of thing. Or fried pressed barley.

With mushrooms, broccoli, red asparagus, …

… a small onion, sliced, …

… and a few halved cherry tomatoes:

Then I sprinkled on a little curry powder and gave that a fry …

… before adding the cooked barley stuff:

It tastes and feels a like like ordinary barley, but maybe a little bit fluffier feeling? I don't know. It definitely cooks faster. I'd be interested in finding out what other people do with it.

Kumara with wasabi

I seem to have no time just lately. I've been baking and cooking and wrapping presents but have had no time to post here.

This is a meal I made a couple of weeks ago. My brother had been visiting a friend in Melbourne and came back raving about kumara (sweet potato) with wasabi. Here's my take on it:

A kumara …

… boiled until soft …

… put through a ricer …

… then mixed to a dough with an egg, a little flour, and some grated wasabi.

Here's my wasabi plant:

This is the bit I picked:

And the root peeled, ready for …

… grating:

I forgot to take a photo of the dough until half of it was already gnocchi …

… or at least half way …

… to being gnocchi:

I  cooked them …

… and fried up some mushrooms and zucchini …

… mixed in the drained gnocchi …

… and tossed them around until they were browned and a little crispy on the outside …

… then I ate them:

They were nice, but I couldn't taste the wasabi at all. Maybe it doesn't like being cooked - the kumara my brother had was just mashed with the wasabi added at the last minute.