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This is a super easy soup that full of freshness and packs a real flavour punch. I was first introduced to this at Leiths with Lucy. The same place that introduced us to the best ever crumble recipe.

This is the kind of soup that is enjoyable all year round and is very versatile. For fully loaded green goodness leave out the fish or go with the unsmoked variety if it isn’t your thing.  Or if it really really is, up the ante by adding crispy pancetta as a garnish at the end (just make sure you keep an eye on the saltiness by continuously tasting and adjusting the seasoning). I’ve also added some lemon juice and zest to keep it light and fresh. I urge you to give this a go, you won’t be disappointed if you’re after something healthy yet filling.

Smoked Haddock and Spinach Soup (adapted from Leiths) serves 4

Smoked Haddock and Spinach Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced as thin as possible (to cook quickly)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 litre stock (fish, chicken or vegetable – whichever you have on hand)
1 bag of spinach (approx 200-250g)
300-350g un-dyed, smoked haddock, skin removed (any smoked or unsmoked fish fit for poaching will do – ask your fishmonger if you’re not certain, but do make sure you get fresh and un-dyed)
grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
juice and zest of half a lemon (unwaxed)

1. Put the oil in a large saucepan over a low heat and add the potatoes and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes making sure the potatoes and garlic don’t brown or catch.

Potatoes cooking

2. Add the stock, bring to the boil. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked (5 minutes or so). **Keep in mind that if you are using smoked fish, go easy on the salt, you can always add more if needed once the fish has been added**

Spinach

3. Add the spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the spinach has just wilted. Remove from the heat and give it a good stir.

Wilted Spinach

4. Add the soup to a blender in batches and pulse to liquidise. **You need to be very careful when you’re doing this as the soup (and steam) is hot. So tightly cover the lid with a tea towel so that your hands don’t get splattered and scorched**

5. Return the soup to the saucepan and reheat slowly over a low heat.  At this point, taste and add some water if the soup is too thick or salty for your liking.

Spinach Soup

6. Gently add the fillets of fish and leave them to poach without stirring for 3-4 minutes. Once the fish has cooked (just turned opaque throughout) gently break up the fillets into large chunks.

Smoked Haddock

8.  Add the lemon juice. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper or a squeeze more lemon.

9. Serve piping hot with a sprinkle of lemon zest over each bowl. Tuck in feeling incredibly healthy and virtuous! x

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I’m a big fan of proper home-made custard and I love baked cheesecake, so when I saw this recipe from Moro Restaurant it not only sounded intriguing but also something that I was pretty sure I’d like to eat. I’ve made it a few times now and it’s become a firm favourite.

The top develops a lovely golden coloured crust in the same kind of way that rice pudding does. The middle is a light sponge and the bottom; a wobbly, thick and lemony fragrant custard. It’s quite unusual in a very delicious, comforting and rich but somehow light way. The perfect dessert when you’ve got people over for dinner; chilled in the summer or served warm in the winter.

Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios (serves 6)

Moro's Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios

Ingredients
– 3 large eggs, separated
– 70g castor sugar
– 2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways
– 350g plain greek yoghurt (not too thick)
– finely grated zest of 1 un-waxed lemon and orange
– juice of 1 lemon
– 20g plain flour
– 30g shelled unsalted pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and put a large dish of water  on the middle shelf to warm (creating a bain-marie). The dish needs to be wide enough to fit a 25cm cake tin in and deep enough to allow the water to come half way up the side of the tin. A roasting tin is perfect.

2. Grease the cake tin and line with baking paper.

3. In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 of the sugar for at least 5 minutes until thick and pale.

4. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pods and add to the bowl along with the yoghurt, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour, and mix well.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form.

6. Gently fold the whites into the yogurt mixture until just combined. Pour the mixture into the cake tin.

7. Carefully lower the cake tin into the bain-marie, making sure that the boiling water comes halfway up the tin. Bake for 20 minutes.

8. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios evenly over the top of the cake and continue cooking for a further 20 minutes or until the top is light brown in colour. The correct consistency of the cake should be as described above; light sponge on top with a wet custard below. Leave the cake in the tin until you’re ready to serve.

9. Serve with yoghurt or creme fraiche and seasonal berries or stoned fruit. I served mine in the above picture with some cherries I’d pitted and marinated in a glug of balsamic vinegar, sprinkling of brown sugar and shredded mint leaves. Passionfruit or raspberries are great as well.

Here is my tribute cake to the ABs and a wonderful result on Sunday – World Champions! We ate this in celebration not before taking this very bad pic in low light – but you get the idea! The actual cake is this one with the icing coloured black after much trial and error!

It was my dear friend Amanda’s birthday a couple of weeks back and as I’m a bit useless and hadn’t got around to sending her a pressie, I was more than happy to rise to the challenge of providing her with inspiration for the stacks of brown rice she apparently has in the pantry instead.

So here you go Mands, a scrummy Japanese inspired dish which goes really well with the slightly nutty and crunchy attributes of brown rice. And don’t be put off by the long recipe this is really quick and super simple. Happy Birthday!

Japanese Chicken and Brown Rice Salad – serves 2
 

Ingredients
– 300-400g skinless, boneless chicken – breasts or thigh (about 2 standard sized breasts)
– 250g brown rice
– 3-4 spring onions
– half a cucumber
– 1 pepper – any colour
– half an avocado
– sunflower oil
– salt and pepper
– sprinkling of sesame seeds (optional)

for the marinade
– 3 tablespoons soy sauce
– 3 tablespoons mirin (Japanese rice vinegar)

for the dressing
– 4 tablespoons mirin
– 2 tablespoons caster sugar
– 1 tablespoon sunflower oil
– extra soy sauce and mirin to taste

1. Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl.

2. Slice the chicken into strips about 1cm thickness and add to the marinade. Stir to ensure the chicken pieces are completely coated with the marinade and set aside while you prepare the rice.

3. Place the rice in a sieve and run under cold water for 30 seconds to rinse.

4. Place the rice in a saucepan, cover with plenty of cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes until the rice is just tender but still has a nice bite to it. Drain and leave to cool in the sieve to dry it out.

5. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and with a teaspoon, scoop out all the seeds. Dice up the cucumber and add to a big serving bowl.

5. Chop up the spring onion, pepper and avocado and add to the cucumber. At this point you can add any other favourite salad vegetables you have on hand. I added fresh broad beans which I placed in rapidly boiling, salted water for 2 minutes, drained and ran under cold water to refresh. I also added some Hijiki which is a Japanese sea vegetable high in fibre. It’s dried to begin with and quick and easy to prepare by following the packet instructions. It added a nice textural contract to the crunchy vegetables and rice.

6. Now get a fry pan on medium heat, add a touch of sunflower oil to the pan and add the chicken pieces. You don’t want to crowd the chicken so fry in batches if necessary. This stops the meat from stewing. Once the chicken has been added to the pan, sprinkle some sesame seeds over the pieces and drizzle any remaining marinade over the meat as well. Don’t move the chicken around as it will naturally detach from the pan once it’s nicely caramelised and ready to be turned. It will only take a few minutes. Turn and sprinkle with more sesame seeds. Once it’s cooked through (another few minutes), check that the juices run clear and then remove from the pan and set aside to rest and cool slightly before adding to the other salad ingredients.

7. To make the dressing, add the mirin and sugar to a small pot and gently warm until the sugar has dissolved. Add the sunflower oil and taste. If it’s a bit too sweet for your liking, add a tablespoon of soy sauce. Taste and add more soya sauce or more mirin as necessary.

8. Once the dressing tastes just right, place the rice in a small bowl and pour the dressing over it. Stir and then add the rice to the main serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

9. Cut up the chicken and add to the serving bowl and toss. Or leave if you like chunkier pieces and place portions of the rice and salad mix in serving bowls and place the chicken on top.

You can substitute the chicken for pork or salmon and the brown rice for white long grain rice.

lemony summer chicken

The end of summer holidays, everyone is back to school and the leaves already seem to be turning a rusty hue. However, the abundance of late summer vegetables such as courgettes, capsicums and tomatoes allow us to hold onto summer for a few precious weeks longer. I’m determined to fend off autumn for as long as possible and this baked chicken recipe with its summery mediterranean flavours is the perfect way to do it.

What’s great about this dish, is that you can mix it up, substitute the feta for halloumi, change-up the vegetables or experiment with different herbs. You can even leave out the olives or cheese if you don’t have them. Basically, it’s one of those helpful ‘use whatever you’ve got’ dishes. Even better, you just pop it all in a baking dish, whack it in the oven and pour yourself a wine while you wait for the chook to cook. And that’s what we all need when holidays are over and it’s back to reality!

 

Lemony summer chicken serves 2

Ingredients
– 2 courgettes, sliced in half lengthways
– 1 capsicum, sliced
– 2 chicken breast fillets, skinless and boneless
– 200g feta, thinly sliced (or halloumi)
– handful of Kalamata or black olives (preferably pitted)
– 5 sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano
– ¼ cup olive oil
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed
– cracked black pepper
– lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon (unwaxed)
– handful of small ripe tomatoes (cherry toms are best)

Method
1. Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).

2. Lay the courgettes in the bottom of a baking dish. Place the chicken breasts, capsicum and slices of feta on top of the courgettes.

3. Sprinkle over the olives and sprigs of thyme.

3. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, garlic, black pepper, lemon zest and half the lemon juice. Taste and add the rest of the lemon juice if you think it needs extra tang. Pour the dressing evenly all over the chicken.

4. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes and continue baking for a further 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

6. Serve with a simple green salad and a few extra lemon wedges.

Now, fingers crossed the weather improves this weekend and we can squeeze in a couple more BBQs!

favourites

I am always coming across things I really like and want to share with my friends and I love it when one of my friends recommends something back. So while I sit here at work on a Monday staring out the window as the sun shines in, procrastinating, I thought I’d share a few things that I have come across recently that I’ve enjoyed or know I will.

1. loved our girls day out here yesterday – Londoners go before the summer fades so you can sit amongst all the gorgeous plants whilst feasting on delicious tarts, salads and sweet treats
2. looking forward to visiting this market 
3. love these re-usable coffee cups 
4. new favourite band! Pumped Up Kicks should be the forthcoming NZ summer anthem!
5. enjoying these guys too! Thanks for the CD Reagan and Becks 🙂
6. what a beautiful blog
7. my face has been loving this amazing oil for a while now and I love the story behind this great Kiwi brand. Thanks Kathryn & B!
8. another Kiwi inspiration, Anna’s cookbook is rivalling Plenty as most used in Casa Kilburn right now.
9. the most delicious coconut water I’ve tried, loving it instead of milk or water in my morning smoothies
10. hunt down this chenin blanc from Vouvray, Loire – perfect summer drinking

Next up, a versatile baked chicken dish you can tweak with whatever you’ve got in the fridge!

Talk soon x

The wonderful selection of fruit and vege at our local farmers market gets me excited every week at the moment. I think this is partly because the summer produce season in England is so fleeting. Asparagus lasts all of about 4 weeks and delicious English strawberries even less. So we treasure the juicy tomatoes, the fat broad beans and the bright plump raspberries just that little bit more. In stark contrast, summers in New Zealand seem to last and last.

When I think of summer, it’s always of Northland circa 1988. The school holidays along with the heat and humidity seem endless, and we’re playing cricket or riding around on our BMXs with all the neighbourhood kids at our bach up north. The other thing that epitomises summer for me is corn. Mum and Dad used to grow corn in our backyard. Next to the tennis court. In the middle of town. Yep, slightly random I know. Of course, back then, to an eight year old, totally normal! And what’s not to love about an endless supply of fresh corn on the cob! We also had a Pawpaw tree outside the back door, so there you go.

So for me, fresh corn means long, hot summers. Corn bought with the husks still on, boiled in salty water and slathered with butter and more salt. Or drizzled with a mixture of olive oil and soya sauce before grilling on the BBQ, yum.

Corn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, what I’ve been doing a lot lately, is simply cutting the fresh kernels off the cob, toasting them for a minute or two in a fry pan before adding them to salads.

Sweet corn, avocado and quinoa salad

 

When I can’t be bothered with the toasting bit, I just add them raw. A few days ago I came across this simple guacamole-style avocado dressing and all I could think about was how well it would go with corn, fritters to be exact! But instead of waiting for the weekend to make my favourite brunch meal, I made this quick salad instead and topped it with the avocado dressing.

The dressing is so creamy and delicious, you’ll keep having to remind yourself that this is healthy. Which is great because you will want to have seconds and this is one meal where you definitely can! Here’s the recipe:

Sweet corn salad with avocado dressing
Serves 2-4 as a light main meal, 6-8 as a side dish

Sweet corn and green bean salad with avocado dressing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingredients
2 ears sweet corn, husked
– 1 big handful salad leaves (rocket, watercress and lambs lettuce are good choices)
– 3 big handfuls green beans, ends trimmed
– 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
– 1 small bunch of chives, finely chopped
– 1 small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
– 1 handful of pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds or a mixture of both

Avocado Dressing
– 1 clove garlic, crushed
– 1/3 cup thick Greek yogurt
– juice of half a lemon
– 1 avocado
– sea salt to taste

Method
1. Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil. Add the green beans for 1 minute, drain and refresh with cold water. Drain again and leave to cool completely.

2. Put a fry pan on medium to high heat and sprinkle in the pumpkin or sunflower seeds without any oil for a couple of minutes until they are nicely toasted. Keep them moving in the pan so they don’t catch.

3. Husk the corn and cut all the kernels off. Add to a large salad bowl along with all the other salad ingredients. Toss gently.

4. To make the avocado dressing, puree the garlic, avocado, yogurt and lemon juice together with a hand blender or mash with a fork thoroughly. Add a pinch of sea salt, taste and add more salt if necessary. Cover the dressing with cling film to stop the avocado from browning if you’re not planning to serve the salad immediately.

5. When you’re ready to serve, add the dressing to the salad and gently toss to coat everything evenly. Taste and season again if needed.

I added some warm, sliced grilled lamb and crumbled feta to turn this salad into a more substantial dinner. You could also add some nuts to the pan when you’re toasting the seeds, walnuts would be especially tasty. A sprinkle of cumin to the avocado dressing would be nice too. The ideas are endless!

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